Blog

January 17th, 2017

2017January17_VoIP_BMalware delivered via email should be the least of businesses's worries. Aside from common malware, businesses have to protect their VoIP systems from call jacking, eavesdropping, and denial-of-service attacks. So how exactly can you protect your business from these serious threats? The answer: a session border controller (SBC) with the latest security patches.

What is it? In a nutshell, an SBC is a dedicated hardware device or software application that acts as a gatekeeper of your VoIP network, controlling how phone calls are initiated, conducted, and terminated. Much like a firewall, an SBC examines voice messages transmitted as IP packets and prevents unauthorized sessions to the network. This protects your business from call jacking, eavesdropping, and denial-of-service attempts.

But even though most businesses deploy SBC, many tend to leave it unmanaged, rendering it ineffective against new and emerging VoIP-based attacks. To make sure this doesn’t happen in your business, consider the following security best-practices with SBC:

Update frequently Security threats are ever-evolving, and your security systems need to do the same. Set aside one hour per week to check for security updates and distribute them company-wide. To avoid disrupting daily operations and consuming large amounts of bandwidth, we recommend performing updates during off-hours.

Enable real-time alerts Whether via email or text, your SBC product should alert you when something happens, when it has blocked a call, and why. These alerts will let you know about any attempted attacks and will notify you when your SBC is due for an update.

Assess SBC performance To find out whether your SBC is routinely blocking threats, make sure to periodically evaluate its effectiveness. If a third-party is managing your VoIP systems, have them perform a security test to identify possible vulnerabilities within your system.

After the security assessment, your provider should compile a report about SBC performance and recommended solutions and updates you should install to mitigate security risks. This allows you to close up any security holes well before a malicious hacker exploits them.

Educate staff Understanding why you need to update your SBC is a good first step in defending against a variety of VoIP-based attacks, but that’s no silver bullet. Aside from technical attacks, businesses need to train staff to spot cunning threats like vishing, a social engineering scam whereby hackers attempt to obtain sensitive information via phone calls.

Installing an SBC is important, but it can give businesses a false sense of security. As we mentioned, the cyber security landscape is ever-changing. So if you’re not taking a proactive role in updating and assessing your SBC, then your business might suffer for it in the near future.

To avoid spending a lifetime recovering from successful voice attacks, contact us today. We take the time to ensure your SBC is up-to-date and your business is safe.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic VoIP
January 13th, 2017

img-windows10-170px-op2 Windows 10 had a rough year. It’s been flooded with numerous complaints from users claiming that they were "tricked" into upgrading Windows 7 and uncontrollable OS updates. The new year is a time for new things, and that’s exactly what Microsoft is planning to do in 2017. It’s been speculated that Microsoft plans on addressing certain issues, but there are still many that are left unattended to.

A patch and a glitch away Users couldn’t escape the glitches in the frequent Windows 10 updates, which caused an array of problems such as frozen systems, broken webcams, and even PCs being unable to secure an Internet connection. In light of the patching dilemma, Microsoft is offering more options to defer updates. In fact, a leaked preview shows a new option to pause updates for up to 35 days via a switch in the Settings menu.

OneDrive placeholders Since the launch of Windows 10, many users have eagerly awaited Microsoft to re-introduce this beloved feature to the operating system’s built-in OneDrive cloud storage service. In Windows 8.1, placeholders (aka Smart files) allowed users to see all their OneDrive files, whether or not they were stored on the device. Making its return in Windows 10 File Explorer when using OneDrive, the feature shows user files stored locally as well as on the cloud.

Owning up to the update fiasco Not only is Microsoft addressing the various complaints it received, but it’s also owning up to some of them. Just before Christmas, Microsoft’s chief marketing officer, Chris Capossela, admitted that the company had gone too far when it tried to get Windows 7 and 8 users to upgrade to Windows 10. This referred to Microsoft’s decision in early 2016 to change the design for the user prompt for its Get Windows 10 app, the software responsible for scheduling upgrades. The user prompt was altered so that clicking X to close the window causes the user to unknowingly agree to a Windows 10 upgrade. This change puts Microsoft in direct violation of its own user experience guidelines for developers on dialog box design.

“Within a couple of hours of that hitting the world, we knew we had gone too far,” recalled Capossela. “Those two weeks were pretty painful and clearly a lowlight for us.” It was then that Microsoft reversed its decision on tweaking the pop-up, so clicking on X would dismiss the upgrade.

It seems that 2017 is the year that Microsoft will start listening more to its users and addressing their complaints. Maybe: Hopefully this renewed strategy will benefit users sooner rather than frustrate them later. Contact us and we’ll keep you up-to-date with the latest Microsoft updates.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic windows
January 12th, 2017

2017january12_security_bRansomware, Trojan horses, spyware and malware are things small businesses like yours don’t ever want to come across. While the term cyber security was once thrown around to scare businesses into purchasing security software, today’s sophisticated threats can leave immense impact, something that antivirus solution alone can’t handle. With that in mind, we’ve rounded up top cyber attack statistics that prove you need managed services in order to remain safe and operational.

The numbers

Small businesses are not at risk of being attacked, but worse, they’ve already fallen victim to cyber threats. According to Small Business Trends, 55 percent of survey respondents say their companies have experienced cyber attack sometime between 2015 and 2016. Not only that, 50 percent reported they have experienced data breaches with customer and employee information during that time, too. The aftermath of these incidents? These companies spent an average of $879,582 to fix the damages done to their IT assets and recover their data. To make matters worse, disruption to their daily operations cost an average of $955,429.

The attacks

So what types of attack did these businesses experience? The order from most to least common are as follows: Web-based attacks, phishing, general malware, SQL injection, stolen devices, denial of services, advanced malware, malicious insider, cross-site scripting, ransomware and others.

Why managed services?

Managed services is the most effective prevention and protection from these malicious threats. They include a full range of proactive IT support that focuses on advanced security such as around the clock monitoring, data encryption and backup, real-time threat prevention and elimination, network and firewall protection and more.

Not only that, but because managed services are designed to identify weak spots in your IT infrastructure and fix them, you’ll enjoy other benefits including faster network performance, business continuity and disaster recovery as well as minimal downtime. One of the best things about managed services is the fact that you get a dedicated team of IT professionals ready to assist with any technology problems you might have. This is much more effective and budget-friendly than having an in-house personnel handling all your IT issues.

Being proactive when it comes to cyber security is the only way to protect what you’ve worked hard to built. If you’d like to know more about how managed services can benefit your business, just give us a call, we’re sure we can help.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic Security
January 11th, 2017

2017january11_business_bOver the previous months, you’ve probably heard about new and disruptive trends like virtual assistants, smartphones, and automation technologies. Some of these IT solutions may even be placed on top of your business priority list. However, with floods, fires, and power outages just around the corner, disaster recovery and business continuity plans should always have a place on your annual budget.

DR isn’t a huge investment A common misconception about disaster recovery is that it’s a large, bank-breaking investment. Expensive secondary data centers, networks, and server maintenance usually come into mind when a business owner is confronted with the idea of business continuity. And while that may have been true in the past, establishing a strong disaster recovery plan today is as simple -- and as cheap -- as going to a cloud-based disaster recovery provider and paying for the data and services that your business needs. Subscription pricing models are actually incredibly low, meaning you can have minimal downtime while still having enough to invest in new tech.

Onsite backups just won’t cut it Although you might feel secure with a manual backup server down the hall, it is still susceptible to local disasters and, ultimately, does very little in minimizing company downtime. When disaster recovery solutions are hosted in the cloud or in a virtualized server, restoring critical data and applications only take a few minutes.

Business disasters can be man-made, too Even if your workplace is nowhere near frequent disaster zones, cyber attacks and negligent employees can leave the same impact on your business as any natural disaster can. Setting a weak password, clicking on a suspicious link, or connecting to unsecured channels is enough to shut down a 5-, 10-, or even 50-year-old business in mere minutes.

Sure, installing adequate network security is a critical strategy against malicious actors, but last year’s barrage of data breaches suggests that having a Plan B is a must. A suitable disaster recovery plan ensures that your data’s integrity is intact and your business can keep going, no matter the malware, worm, or denial-of-service attack.

Downtime will cost you A business without a DR plan might come out unscathed after a brief power outage, but why risk the potential damages? Either way, downtime will cost your business. First, there’s the general loss of productivity. Every time your employees aren’t connected to the network, money goes down the drain. Then there’s the cost of corrupted company data, damaged hardware, and the inevitable customer backlash. Add all those variables together, and you end up with a business-crippling fee.

So, if you want 2017 to be the best year for your business, make the smart choice and proactively take part in creating your company’s business continuity plan. Your business will be in a better position financially with it than without it.

Keep your business safe, recover from any disaster, and contact us today.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic business
January 10th, 2017

2017january10_socialmedia_bWith communication apps such as Skype, WhatsApp, and Slack aiming to conquer audio and video calling, what is a social networking giant like Facebook to do? In a move to enhance its already ubiquitous Messaging app, Facebook is all set to follow suite and occupy a space alongside some of the most dominant VoIP apps in the market, particularly in desktop group video calling.

No one gets left behind

In group chats, there’s always that one person who gets the joke last, or reads it last, and so feels left out. With Facebook’s group video chat, this never has to happen as every participant in the group can be connected at the same time. The functionality is still in the “small test” phase, which means certain details are still being ironed out. When it fully launches, though, expect a considerable portion of Facebook Messenger users to consider moving their Skype group video conversations to Facebook.

Potentially compelling benefits

Since introducing its audio calling capability in 2013, Facebook has worked hard to keep up with the competition. Facebook’s introduction – and potential domination – of desktop group video calling might signal the end of times for Skype and other players. For one, Facebook and social media user growth hasn’t shown signs of slowing down. Moreover, most users of internet telephony might inevitably see the advantages of using a single platform for their social media activity and online communications.

Possible user reservations

Users who prefer a communication tool that creates zero distractions in their chats might not opt for Facebook when conducting group video conferences. Facebook is, first and foremost, a social media platform, which serves as a springboard for important news updates, personal anecdotes, and funny cat videos. Not everyone will prefer all those distractions while in a business meeting.

Those looking for a clean communications tool might find the wealth of content a bit overwhelming. In addition, employees of small companies in need of a free communications tool might not immediately warm up to the idea of surrendering their Facebook profile as an official point of contact.

If there’s anything Facebook has proven, however, it is the ability to improve upon previous versions by adding or removing details to enhance user experience. Users may not always be pleased with the updates, but that hasn’t slowed down the billion-user company’s popularity. If the newly introduced desktop group video calling function proves efficient, Facebook might persuade even more users to lean towards its messaging tool.

With many options to choose from, the only thing left for people to do is discern which platform best serves their communications needs. For advice on which VoIP platform is best for your business, contact us today.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic Social Media
January 9th, 2017

img-ipad-170px-op2There’s nothing worse than hardware vulnerabilities that put even the most cautious of users at risk. We could lecture you about how even unimportant tablets with little to no personal information are still a security liability, but until Apple releases a patch to the iPad’s newest vulnerability, everyone who owns one is at risk of losing control of his or her data. Let’s take a closer look at what you need to know.

iPad owners who find themselves in the unfortunate situation of having their device stolen have the option to activate Apple’s Find My iPhone feature from icloud.com. If an iPad has this setting turned on, its GPS can be activated from any web browser to inform the owner where it is located.

Furthermore, if a user is concerned that the tablet may have been stolen, he or she can remotely lock the device. From the moment it is locked, the device can only be accessed by logging into the corresponding icloud.com account.

It’s a wonderfully intuitive feature, and tens of thousands of iPad owners have prevented data theft since it was first introduced by Apple in 2010. Unfortunately, security researchers recently announced a critical flaw that allows common thieves to totally bypass the remote lock feature simply by flooding login data fields with too many characters.

Apple is aware of the issue and has taken steps to address it with an operating system update. The latest version of iOS has fixed the issue for iPhones, but not for iPads.

Although we anticipate a patch to fix this flaw in the near future, the best way to avoid this predicament is to keep valuable data backed up separately from your iPad. One of the Find My iPhone options is to remotely wipe the device, which means as long as you aren’t permanently losing valuable data, the worst case scenario is losing nothing more than the tablet itself.

The more mobile our technology becomes, the more susceptible it is to physical security threats. It’s important to secure your devices not only from networked threats, but also from everyday ones, like someone nabbing your iPad while you step away from the table to order a coffee. For across-the-board security solutions and consulting, get in touch with us today.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic Apple
January 6th, 2017

2016january6_webandcloud_bThe crystal ball certainly won’t be making an appearance anytime soon, so it’s time to start preparing for the far more realistic technology trends of the coming year. Investing in the right technology could be the thing that sets you apart from your competitors in the coming year, and all it takes is a little research and education. Until someone invents a crystal ball, you’re stuck with our professional projections on the state of web services in 2017.

#1 On-premises servers will survive another year

Cloud adoption will most likely continue its stellar rise, but that doesn’t mean it will be hard to find affordable service for your in-house server or data center. Based on a recent survey of companies that utilize cloud services, nearly half will continue operating some sort of on-site data management in response to perceptions of security or compliance concerns. We may not believe those worries are well-founded, but that does mean hybrid clouds will continue to be a popular option.

#2 Fewer headlines about machine learning, but more services

Because machine learning requires so much data and processing power to solve everyday problems, an increase in cloud services and vendors in 2017 will also mean an increase in machine learning. But “AI” is so 2016, and consumers will soon tire of it. If you’re selling a service that utilizes this technology, you might want to rebrand it. And if you’re looking to use it internally, definitely don’t pay 2016 prices.

#3 Voice commands will get better

With the proliferation of cloud computing and high-speed internet connections, analyzing voice commands is much easier than when it took place in localized environments after hours of training software to recognize your speech patterns.

Although better voice command technology may not mean much for running a business, big vendors like Amazon releasing development kits and application program interfaces does mean you have the opportunity to make your products and services more accessible via popular consumer technology such as Alexa.

#4 The Internet of Things (IoT) hasn’t peaked yet

Marketing experts are just as certain that consumers are feeling oversaturated with references to machine learning as they are that IoT hasn’t yet reached its full buzzword potential. If prices of connected devices come down, and their functionality improves, you can bet “IoT” will be one of the most profitable keywords of the year. If this technology doesn’t integrate with your products or services, there’s significant potential for its rise to stardom to make in-house business automation a whole lot better.

#5 Containers won’t just be a fad

As a subset of virtualized computing, containers unshackle applications from the constraints of single operating system compatibility. And with several vendors jumping into the market in late 2016 (such as Amazon Web Services), it’s a trend that we’re fairly confident will grow next year.

The market for web services may seem too fickle to gamble on, but as a small business owner, you don’t have much of a choice. Technology is essential to reaching new customers, operating efficiently, and remaining competitive with your business rivals. If you’re ready to start the new year with a new outlook on these technologies, call us today.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic Web & Cloud
January 5th, 2017

2016december26_hardware_bWhen you have a great idea, it’s natural for you to want to share it with others. Technology, however, works at a different wavelength. Before you put your software out there, you want to make sure you've got all your bases covered. Keep reading to learn the vital considerations you need to address before jumping to sell a new hardware.

There is a fine line between successful licensing and a failed attempt. You certainly don't want to risk selling prematurely, when the software doesn't yet have enough appeal in a large market to succeed. On the other hand, you don't want to "lose" the market altogether by selling the sale rights to someone else who will “overtake” the product.

Questions to Ask Before you Commit to Licensing Anything

Before you make the decision to take your hard-earned product and send it to the masses through licensing, consider:

The value of your new product and its potential

If you believe you have a truly unique software, it may be best to keep it under wraps and exclusive to your company. However, if it is a product in a highly competitive area wherein technology changes quickly, it may be worth thinking about how best to capitalize on the changing market.

Its fit on your business market

If your software is a time management program and you run an internet security firm, there's a chance that you may have to spread yourself thin to market the new product and maintain your own business focus. In this case it might be smart to find a company to license your product that is more aligned with the product's purpose.

The levels of licensing

It is possible to allow a company to license your product on a non-exclusive basis, which will allow you to maintain control of the product in some form. The decision to pursue licensing of a software or hardware should be made carefully.

If you need advice on what to do with a new software or piece of hardware created by your business, give us a call. We can help you maximize the benefits of your design.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic Hardware
January 4th, 2017

2016january4_virtualization_bMigrating your business’s data, applications and other critical resources to the cloud requires time and a bit of money. Performing a large-scale migration to Amazon Web Services delivers many benefits and is a cost-effective solution that most businesses should adopt. Given its potential to increase your company’s efficiency, there are factors that need to be considered when moving to the cloud. Here are some of the most important ones.

Preparation for migration

  • Is everyone within the organization on board with this major move? Are your employees adequately equipped with knowledge about the cloud? And, since large-scale transfers involve big data, would your security framework be able to deal with potential security threats during the transition? Can your company handle the inevitable expenditure that goes with investing in the cloud? These are just some of the points you have to consider when preparing for large-scale migration.

Reasons for migration

  • One of the most compelling reasons to virtualize tech capital is the need to meet your business’s increasing demand for efficiency, which could lead to greater profitability. Other reasons could include change of organizational leadership or a shift in business structure that necessitates storage recalibration. Regardless of your reasons for migrating to the cloud, you as a business owner should have a clear understanding of why you’re doing it, and make sure everyone understands why it is so important.

Size of resources to be moved

  • Using Amazon Web Services’ cloud storage gives you the benefit of eliminating the costs of buying your own storage infrastructure and it introduces an element of anywhere-anytime access to your business’s data and/or applications. That said, you must consider how much you’ll be transferring, and use it as your basis for moving. Knowing the amount of IT resources you’re freeing up lets you allocate more cost-effectively and allows your technology staff to focus on more innovative pursuits.

Migration requirements

  • Which specific data, servers, or applications need to be migrated? Does your company need large-scale migration, or can it survive on moving only a small part of your resources to the cloud? Perhaps, a subsidiary could survive without having to be moved to the cloud. When migrating to the cloud, you’d be remiss not to think of these tiny details.

Impact to the business

  • Temporary downtime is something you have to be ready for. You might need more time or you might need to consider alternatives for the brief interruptions that come with migration, and of course budget can be a major factor in your decision to move. You can save your business from unnecessary obstacles by first assessing its ability to handle these situations.
Recalibrating the management of your technological resources for scalable storage solutions in a cost-saving platform is not without its challenges. Your business and its stakeholders’ call for greater efficiency cannot be ignored. After considering these factors for a large-scale migration, you might realize that despite a few minor bumps, the benefits to your organization will far outweigh the projected costs, and that there’s nowhere to go but up (in the cloud).
Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

January 3rd, 2017

2016january3_offce_bCommunication might be the key to personal relationships, but collaboration is the key to business connections. That’s why many small- and medium-sized businesses are looking into Office 365, a productivity and collaboration-enhancing software that allows employees to stay productive on-the-go. Recently, Microsoft announced some new Office 365 features, and we’ve rounded up the four latest updates:

Real-time collaboration in PowerPoint

Users will now be able to share a PowerPoint deck and update documents with others in real time. This means you’ll be able to see edits as your colleagues make them. Microsoft was committed to expanding real-time co-authoring of a company’s native applications, with Microsoft Word already rolling out this feature beforehand. Currently, real-time collaboration is available for PowerPoint on Windows desktops for Office 365 subscribers in the Office Insider program and for PowerPoint Mobile on Windows tablets.

Move attachments to the cloud and share with colleagues in Outlook

According to Kirk Koenigsbauer, corporate vice president for the Office team, this feature allows users to transform a traditional document into a shared cloud document within Outlook. Previously, Outlook users could only attach cloud-based documents to an email, but this new feature makes it easier to send large files and to collaborate on those files with ease.

Users can upload files into their own OneDrive or a document library as part of an Office 365 group and then designate sharing permissions for the email recipients. The new feature is currently available in Outlook on the web as well as Outlook on Windows desktops for Office 365 subscribers.

Mobile notifications for changes to shared documents

With this new update, users will be notified when any cloud documents in Word, Excel and PowerPoint are being shared or edited. These notifications let you know when changes are being made, even if you are away from a particular document, so you’re always connected and know when you have to act. This feature can be integrated with the activity feed on Windows desktops, and help businesses improve user collaboration. Koenigsbauer says that Microsoft will continue working on the notification feature “to provide more detail and transparency around shared document activity in the future.” Sharing and editing notifications are available for Word, Excel, and PowerPoint users on Android and Windows Mobile for Office Insiders. This feature will be available for commercial users in all Office mobile applications in the coming months.

Find, open, and save documents in a Shared with Me and Recent Folders tab

Microsoft’s “Shared with Me” tab in Word, Excel, and PowerPoint makes it easier for enterprise users to find and open shared documents without having to leave the app you’re working in. At the moment, the Shared with Me tab is available on Windows desktops and Macs for all Office 365 subscribers, iOS and Android devices included. And soon, it will be available on Windows Mobile. And the “Recent Folders” tab -- used to help quickly locate files as well -- is now available in Word, Excel and PowerPoint on Windows desktops for Office 365 subscribers in the Office Insider program.

Technology has become an integral part of modern businesses, and investing in the right IT resources is needed in order to achieve success. With the latest additions to Microsoft Office 365, small- and medium-sized businesses will enjoy enhanced staff collaboration, increased corporate productivity, and an overall competitive advantage.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic Office