Blog

February 23rd, 2017

2017February23_Hardware_BWhat harm could possibly come from printing a document? According to some researchers who performed a large-scale analysis of printer attacks, a lot. These could be in the form of Distributed Denial-of-Service (DDoS) attacks, which are as devious as they sound, or attacks made through extracted print jobs. Today, we unveil the mechanics of this new cyber threat.

Which printers are prone?

Based on the study made by Ruhr University Bochum researchers, printer brands such as Hewlett Packard (HP), Brother, Dell, Samsung, and several others are prone to different types of cyber attacks. Online printers from these brands could serve as cyber criminals’ path in which to steal credentials, corrupt a printer, or leak sensitive data from printed documents obtained through a printer’s memory.

Printers serve the basic purpose of turning computer documents into paper and have never been a typical entry-point of hackers’ attacks. Government and corporate offices, business establishments, non-profit organizations, and homes own one, and when you think about the fact that most printers are linked to computer owners’ internal networks, this expansion of cyber theft to printers begin to make even more sense.

How can attacks be made?

Researchers identified security vulnerabilities that would enable hackers to corrupt common printer languages such as PostScript and PJL, which they could then use to launch Distributed Denial-of-Service attacks or reset the corrupted printer to its factory defaults, also termed as ‘protection bypass.’ Other ways in which hackers could exploit their access are through print job manipulations, which could lead to minor cases of printing corruptions or persistent printing distortions, and information disclosure, the leaking of sensitive information.

What safety measures are being developed?

The researchers who discovered the vulnerabilities developed the PRinter Exploitation Toolkit (PRET), a program designed to determine if a printing device is a likely target. This toolkit ‘connects to a device via network or USB and exploits the features of a given printer language, and is complemented by a wiki page that documents attacks made. It’s worth noting that more printer models and brands haven’t been tested due to the team’s lack of resources. But with this open-source toolkit, vulnerabilities of many brands and models may soon be identified.

Stealing information online is far from being a novelty in cyber security. But to do so through printers requires a special set of skills. It’s too soon to tell whether this form of cyber thievery is going to pose serious threats in the future, but regardless of how further studies progress, failing to implement security protocols for your network can cost you dearly. Get ready for any security threat by contacting our security experts now.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic Hardware
February 22nd, 2017

2017February22_Android_BBack in May 2016, Google gave us a sneak preview of Android Instant Apps, a feature that loads a web-based version of an app instead of installing it. Today, the feature is available for limited testing on Google Pixel and certain Android devices. If you want to try out Instant Apps, follow the steps below.

Activating Instant Apps To enable Instant Apps, go to your phone’s Settings menu, find Google under the Personal category, then select Instant Apps under Services and toggle it on.

Since this feature has limited availability some Android users might not have this option. Reports indicate that Google Pixels running Android 7.1.2 and Nexus 6P devices with Android 7.1.1 installed are able to access Instant Apps.

However, don’t worry if you don’t have any of these phones. Google usually rolls out new updates in waves, so make sure to update your Android OS as often as possible and check for the Instant Apps feature every week.

How to use it If you manage to activate Instant Apps, simply go to Chrome, search for an application -- so far, Wish, Periscope, Viki, and Buzzfeed are the only Instant Apps available for testing -- look for a search result that includes the word Instant, then click on Open App.

Once you’ve loaded up the app, you can use it like you would any other local app. For example, you can open up the Wish Instant App to access your online shopping account, browse through product catalogs, and even make a purchase right from your phone’s web browser.

But if you want a local version of the application, pull down the Instant Apps Menu and tap on Install.

What’s the reason for the new feature? The lack of quick and easy access to applications dramatically slows down app adoption rates. Sometimes users just want to access an app quickly, get what they need, and move on.

Another case for Instant Apps is when users are dealing with a crowded WiFi or 4G/LTE connection. In these situations, downloading full applications would take too long, whereas Instant Apps give you access to only what you need without using too much bandwidth.

And although the Instant Apps feature is still in its testing phase, it does present eCommerce and online services companies with new possibilities to market their applications and their business.

The only downside is, users have to be patient for just a bit longer to get their hands on Instant Apps. Fortunately, we’re always on top of the latest Android and Google developments. Contact us today, and we’ll make sure you get Instant Apps the moment it rolls out to all users.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic android
February 21st, 2017

2017February21_Virtualization_BData storage may be one of the easiest facets of virtualization to explain, but that doesn’t make it immune to problems arising from confusion. There are a few things that can cause virtualized data storage to underperform, and most of them can be easily fixed by technicians who know their stuff. Read on to find out whether you might have fallen for one of these mistakes.

Poorly structured storage from the get go

Within a virtualized data storage framework, information is grouped into tiers based on how quickly that information needs to be accessible when requested. The fastest drives on the market are still very expensive, and most networks will have to organize data into three different tiers to avoid breaking the bank.

For example, archived or redundant data probably doesn’t need to be on the fastest drive you have, but images on your eCommerce website should get the highest priority if you want customers to have a good experience.

Without a virtualization expert on hand, organizing this data could quickly go off the rails. Ask your IT service provider to see a diagram of where your various data types are stored and how those connect to the software-defined drive at the hub of your solution. If there are too many relays for your server to pass through, it’ll be a slower solution than the non-virtualized alternatives.

Inadequately maintained virtualized storage

How long will your intended design last? Companies evolve and expand in short periods of time, and your infrastructure may look completely different months later. Virtualized data storage requires frequent revisions and updates to perform optimally.

Whoever is in charge of your virtualization solution needs to have intimate knowledge of how data is being accessed. If you’re using virtual machines to access your database and move things around, they need to be precisely arranged to make sure you don’t have 10 workstations trying to access information from the same gateway while five other lanes sit unoccupied.

Incorrect application placement

In addition to watching how your data is accessed as the system shifts and grows, administrators also need to keep a close eye on the non-human components with access to the system. Virtualized applications that access your database may suffer from connectivity problems, but how would you know?

The application won’t alert you, and employees can’t be expected to report every time the network seems slow. Your virtualization expert needs to understand what those applications need to function and how to monitor them closely as time goes on.

Deploying any type of virtualized IT within your business network is a commendable feat. However, the work doesn’t stop there. Without the fine-tuning of an experienced professional, you risk paying for little more than a fancy name. For the best virtualization advice in town, contact us today.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

February 20th, 2017

2017February20_VoIP_BThe list of benefits that accompany a VoIP migration is long and conclusively proves that internet-based telephony is better than its analog predecessor. What is slightly less decisive however, is whether the liberating mobility of VoIP requires you to set up desktop phones at all. Read on for a few tips on making the right decision at your organization.

Question #1: How often would employees answer work numbers from their mobile devices if you purchased desktop phones?

We’ve all been there, you see a great new feature and automatically jump to the conclusion that you don’t need legacy technology. Just because call-forwarding and follow-me features are convenient, doesn’t mean you should use them exclusively. If employees would use desktop phones for more than half of their calls, you probably don’t want to skimp on handsets.

Question #2: Do your employees ever take calls from their personal numbers?

If employees are already handing out personal numbers to customers and clients, the transition to taking work calls on their mobile device is far more likely to go smoothly. If not, you need to clarify what’s expected of employees during off hours before making the decision to go 100% mobile.

Question #3: How much texting, emailing, and messaging do employees do from their personal mobile devices?

Similar to question #2, how much business is already taking place on mobile devices will play a big factor in transitioning to a mobile environment. If your team is taking calls at their desk, but sending the majority of their text-based correspondence from mobile devices, getting rid of desktop phones may actually be a more streamlined approach.

Question #4: Do you want employees to focus on desktop integrations during calls?

Don’t forget about the profitable ways you can integrate a desktop phone with customer relationship management software, productivity tools, and call tracking. Most of these won’t be nearly as effective when 100% of calls are taken from a mobile device.

Question #5: Does your company have a mobile device management system in place?

Unless your organization already has a full-fledged BYOD plan, it’s not prepared for the onslaught of security risks associated with connecting your business data to your employees’ personal devices. In an all-mobile environment, every single employee device would need to be set up with a personal profile and a work profile to keep the two data streams separate and secure.

Question #6: What are employee experiences with call quality on mobile devices?

Preconceived notions from employees about VoIP call quality can play a tremendous part in a mobile device transition. If employee devices are older, run-down devices, there may be problems with getting the most out of your VoIP solution. And even if your organization is providing the mobile devices, employees may still be looking to complain to colleagues, and even customers, about the “reduction” in call quality -- even if there’s none to speak of.

The sexiest answer isn’t always the right one when it comes to technology. Going all-in on a mobile call strategy may sound great as a headline, but it’s not a project to be taken lightly. However, if it still sounds worth it you, we’re the team to make it happen. Contact us today to get started.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic VoIP
February 17th, 2017

2017February17_Office_BMicrosoft churns out new Office 365 features for users almost every month. Last year, there were several additions to Word, Excel, and PowerPoint that further enhanced user experience. This year, Microsoft will likely introduce new features that can benefit businesses. If you want to stay on top of new Microsoft features and experience these advantages yourself, then the Office Insider program is for you.

Early access Similar to the Windows 10 Insider program, the Office Insider program grants users early access to new features, security updates, and bug fixes months before they are available for the general public. Office Insider is available on two levels: the fast ring, where updates are rolled out more frequently but tend to have more issues, and the slow ring, where features are released slower but have little to no software bugs.

The features you have to look forward to include:

  • Calendar.help - When you sign up for the Office Insider Program you are immediately eligible to beta test Calendar.help, a machine learning feature that uses Cortana to schedule important calls, meetings, and events. When you need to set up an appointment over email, you can simply list your contact, add Cortana to the Cc: line, and state your meeting preferences.
  • Outlook - In January 30, Microsoft has increased Outlook 2016’s collaboration options. Insider subscribers can upload locally saved email attachments to OneDrive and collaborate with other employees.
  • Surface Pen - Surface device users in the Insider program can resize, rotate, and move objects in Word, Excel, and PowerPoint with the Surface Pen.
Competitive advantage Because you’re getting early access to new applications, you’ll have more experience with the features compared to companies who wait for the general availability update. For example, you can test updates like PowerApps -- a feature that allows businesses to create software without knowing how to code -- and decide whether it’s right for your company months before other general users have worked with the product.

In other words, when your business can access and take advantage of Office 365 Insider features early, you’re essentially setting your company ahead of the competition since ‘late’ adopters will need to spend time getting acquainted with the new patch.

Feedback The final benefit of the Office Insider program is that you get to voice your opinion on the upcoming features, raise awareness to certain software issues, and provide ideas on how Microsoft can make things better.

Overall, enrolling in the Office Insider program can open up your company to a wide variety of productivity-boosting features. The only question you have to ask yourself now is: Do I want to be at the bleeding edge of tech innovations?

Contact us today to find out how you can get on the inside and know the latest in Office updates.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic Office
February 16th, 2017

Windows-170px-02If your small- or medium-sized business has yet to get a Windows 10 upgrade, fret not! Microsoft has just announced the good news. The tech giant is bringing back free Windows 10 upgrades exclusively for SMBs that passed on the previous offer. If you’re still doubting about getting that upgrade, these additional facts might help you change your mind.

They’re extending the free upgrade to this segment of customers to help them get to Windows 10,” said Wes Miller, an analyst at Direction on Microsoft, specializing in complex licensing rules and practices. Much like the 12-month upgrade deal that ended last August, this offer applies to personal computers running on Windows 7 or Windows 8.1. The only difference is, the offer is exclusive for businesses that have subscribed to one of the Windows Enterprise plans.

According to Nic Fillingham, a small business product manager: "Customers subscribed to Windows 10 Enterprise E3 and E5 as well as Secure Productive Enterprise E3 and E5, can now upgrade their Windows 7 and Windows 8.1 PCs and devices to Windows 10 without the need to purchase separate upgrade licenses."

The Windows 10 Enterprise E3 and E5 subscriptions are priced at $7 per user per month and $14 per user per month, or $84 and $168 per user annually. Unlike Microsoft's historical licensing -- which permanently licensed the operating system on a per-device basis -- the E3 and E5 subscriptions are per-user licenses, and payments must be maintained to run the OS. This was introduced to target customers that didn’t want to sign a long-term volume licensing agreement.

In order to qualify for a Windows 10 Enterprise E3 or E5 subscription -- which are delivered through a CSP (cloud service provider) -- devices must already be running on Windows 10 Pro. SMBs could upgrade their devices for free last year if those devices ran older Windows 10 versions, and SMBs can upgrade the devices they newly acquire this year if those devices are already equipped with Windows 10 Pro.

"When the CSP originated, the only qualifying OS was [Windows] 10 Pro Anniversary Update," said Miller. "You had to be on 10 Pro. So, if you missed the consumer upgrade window, you would have to buy the underlying 10 Pro license." It’s this license that Microsoft is giving away to customers subscribing to Windows 10 Enterprise E3 or E5. The acquired license is “perpetual” and will be tied to the specific device. “This means the license will not expire or be revoked if the customer chooses to end their Windows cloud subscription in the CSP program," added Fillingham.

Since the upgrade is considered a subscriber benefit, a PC upgrade might be needed -- from Windows 10 Pro to Windows 10 Enterprise -- and if the user isn’t already covered by an E3 or E5 subscription, an additional $7 or $14 monthly is needed to run the system. Miller stated that the likeliest reason Microsoft brought back the free upgrade was to get more people onto the User Subscription License (SL). Providing upgrades from older editions makes more of a customer's PCs eligible for use under the SL model of E3 and E5 (which is licensed per user, not per device). Another motivation could be to promote a partner-centric CSP.

Microsoft has officially confirmed the Windows 7/8.1-to-Windows 10 Pro upgrade offer is a permanent addition to the benefits for subscribers to Windows 10 Enterprise E3 and E5, and not a time-limited pitch. If you’re still hesitating or would like to ask some more questions, feel free to give us a call anytime!

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic windows
February 15th, 2017

2017February15_Security_BShopping around for a managed IT services provider is tough. You’re looking for a business to manage extremely complex and delicate technology, so they can’t be expected to get into the nitty gritty details of DNS-layer security, intrusion prevention systems, and encryption in their marketing content. But one thing does need clarification: What exactly are “proactive cyber-security” measures?

Understand the threats you’re facing

Before any small- or medium-sized business can work toward preventing cyber-attacks, everyone involved needs to know exactly what they’re fighting against. Whether you’re working with in-house IT staff or an outsourced provider, you should review what types of attack vectors are most common in your industry. Ideally, your team would do this a few times a year.

Reevaluate what it is you’re protecting

Now that you have a list of the biggest threats to your organization, you need to take stock of how each one threatens the various cogs of your network. Map out every device that connects to the internet, what services are currently protecting those devices, and what type of data they have access to (regulated, mission-critical, low-importance, etc.).

Create a baseline of protection

By reviewing current trends in the cyber-security field, alongside an audit of your current technology framework, you can begin to get a clearer picture of how you want to prioritize your preventative measure versus your reactive measures.

Before you can start improving your cyber-security approach, you need to know where the baseline is. Create a handful of real-life scenarios and simulate them on your network. Network penetration testing from trustworthy IT professionals will help pinpoint strengths and weaknesses in your current framework.

Finalize a plan

All these pieces will complete the puzzle of what your new strategies need to be. With an experienced technology consultant onboard for the entire process, you can easily parse the results of your simulation into a multi-pronged approach to becoming more proactive:
  • Security awareness seminars that coach everyone -- from receptionists to CEOs -- about password management and mobile device usage.
  • “Front-line” defenses like intrusion prevention systems and hardware firewalls that scrutinize everything trying to sneak its way in through the front door or your network.
  • Routine checkups for software updates, licenses, and patches to minimize the chance of leaving a backdoor to your network open.
  • Web-filtering services that blacklist dangerous and inappropriate sites for anyone on your network.
  • Antivirus software that specializes in the threats most common to your industry.
As soon as you focus on preventing downtime events instead of reacting to them, your technology will begin to increase your productivity and efficiency to levels you’ve never dreamed of. Start enhancing your cyber-security by giving us a call for a demonstration.
Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic Security
February 14th, 2017

Apple-170px-02Support is defined as providing assistance, encouragement, or comfort to help someone achieve a certain goal. For Mac’s version of Microsoft Office, support comes in the form of add-ins that aim to enhance user experience. Although usability testing is currently underway, you can still read about the latest developments here:

Office add-ins are applications running within the suite’s constituent programs that provide features not available by default. In terms of usage, they’re similar to browser extensions, but add-ins are tailored to the tasks users carry out in Office programs such as Word, PowerPoint, and Outlook. For example, one popular add-in allows users to look up words and phrases on Wikipedia without leaving Word. Another introduces additional chart types that can be used in Excel.

Add-ins are usually free, but some require either a one-off payment or a monthly subscription. If Microsoft wants its Office Store to flourish, it makes a lot of sense to provide support for add-ins to the Mac version of the Office Suite. According to a report from MS Power User, to access add-ins, Mac users need to be members of the Insider program and opt into its Fast Ring. From there, you should check that the installation of your Office for Mac is build 170124 or later.

You can find the “Add-ins” option from the Insert menu in Word, Excel, or PowerPoint, and then select the store. Once at the storefront, find an add-in you’re looking for and install it. Currently, there’s no word on when add-ins will be available to all Office users on the Mac platform. But if the functionality is ready for public testing, it’s safe to assume the official release is already on its way.

If you have further questions or would like to be notified of the latest advancements, feel free to get in touch with us!

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic Apple
February 10th, 2017

2017February10_Business_BWith our busy schedules, we all could use more time to ourselves and loved ones. Getting back home in time for a real meal is now a luxury for many. Thanks to productivity tools like Google’s G Suite and Microsoft’s Office 365, we’re able to regain some of our lost time. But unless money is no obstacle, you need to choose one over the other. So, should you go for G Suite or Office 365? We’ll address all crucial factors below.

Cost and commitment G Suite offers two pricing plans: $5 and $10 per user per month. The $5 plan offers company email addresses, video and voice calls, integrated online calendars, online documents, presentations and spreadsheets and more.

The $10 plan offers all the features of the $5 plan plus unlimited storage or 1TB per user for less than 5 members, advanced admin control panel for Google Drive, and audit and reporting insights for Drive content and sharing, to name a few.

  • Office 365 offers a number of pricing plans, including:
  • Office 365 Business Essentials ($5.00 per user per month)
  • Office 365 Business ($8.25 per user per month)
  • Office 365 Business Premium ($12.50 per user per month)
  • Office 365 ProPlus ($12.00 per user per month)
  • Office 365 Enterprise E1 ($8.00 per user per month)
  • Office 365 Enterprise E3 ($20.00 per user per month)
  • Office 365 Enterprise E5 ($35.00 per user per month)
We’ll compare two plans from Office 365 with the same pricing as G Suite below; you can find more details about Office 365’s other plans here.
  • Office 365 Business Essentials will cost $5 per user per month with annual subscription. Monthly subscription will cost $6 per user per month, meaning you’ll save $1 user per month with G Suite.
  • Office 365 Enterprise E1 will cost $2 less than G Suite’s $10 plan
Applications

Google Apps are designed for cloud-based collaboration. For instance, Google Docs lets you make permanent changes in the file or provide feedback using “suggestion” mode. Other advanced features in G Suite include machine intelligence in Google Calendar (which helps you find a time when invitees are free), Dynamic layout suggestions in Google Slides, and better file management and granular content ownership.

Microsoft apps, on the other hand, are designed based on desktop versions of their products with enhanced cloud capability -- you’ll be able to use cloud versions of Word, PowerPoint, Excel, Outlook and more while still being able to work offline. More advanced integration with Microsoft’s cloud solutions like SharePoint, Dynamic CRM, and Azure are also available.

Security

G Suite leverages machine learning capabilities to detect suspicious logins and block most advanced types of spam. It automatically scans every email attachment before you download it to prevent the spread of viruses.

Office 365 utilizes Exchange Online Advanced Threat Protection (ATP), a new email filtering service that targets specific advanced threats like unknown malware and viruses in real time to protect against malicious URLs.

Email

While both Office 365 and G Suite offer a clean interface, the difference lies in the way emails are organized. Gmail lets you apply multiple labels to an email and offers 30GB of storage space across Gmail and Drive.

Office 365 uses classical folder structure to categorize emails and offers a 50-GB inbox in addition to 1-TB storage space. Unlimited storage is also available in its Enterprise E3 $20 per user per month plan.

Third-party integration

G Suite’s integration with CRM, productivity and customer service software gives you plenty of options. Unfortunately, the same can’t be said about Office 365, as Microsoft hasn’t been adopting a developer integration approach when compared with Google.

Support

Both G Suite and Office 365 offer 24/7 phone and email support. However, G Suite also offers live chat support and forums to seek clarification, give feedback and request additional functionality.

To sum up, G Suite is a better solution if you need native integration with third-party apps and support for various operating systems and devices. Despite that, Office 365 makes sense if you prefer a number of options when it comes to your pricing plans or need integration with other Microsoft cloud solutions. No matter the solution, maximizing productivity is imperative to stay ahead of competitors. If you need help finding the right solutions to enhance efficiency, just give us a call; we’re happy to help.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic business
February 9th, 2017

2017February9_WebandCloud_BThe web browser battle has been raging for decades. The feud between Internet Explorer and Netscape has long since passed, and now we’re dealing with a much larger field of competition. Today, there are at least four browsers vying for domination, and we’ve broken down each one by its pros and cons.

Google Chrome

By just about any metric, Google Chrome has been the browser of choice for most internet users over the last couple years. It’s easy to use and its graphics interface has a low profile. However, if you want to customize Chrome with extensions and apps, there are more than enough options. The bottom line is: this is the best browser for users who spend a lot of time in G-Suite documents, or want the security benefits of frequent patches and updates.

Apple Safari

We might as well start off with the one, glaring drawback of Safari: It’s available only to Apple users. However, if you are working on a macOS or iOS device, Safari has a lot going for it. Ad blocking is built right into the browser, as well as RSS support for aggregating lots of information in one place. And because tabs can be automatically synced across all your Apple devices, we highly recommend Safari for anyone in a Mac environment.

Microsoft Edge

Note that Edge is a different browser than Internet Explorer. The latter still exists, but we’ve decided to skip it for various reasons. Although Edge works only on Windows 10 systems, it has two things going for it. First, Microsoft has announced a feature that will incorporate virtualization into Edge to quarantine downloads for testing before they’re opened on your computer. Second, the Windows 10 browser comes with some fantastic Office 365 integrations. We highly recommend Edge for users working in a business enterprise environment.

Opera

We’ve saved the most controversial for last. The Opera browser isn’t one of the most popular browsers available, but it does deserve consideration. Although it requires more customization and under-the-hood-work than its competitors, its privacy settings are unmatched. With a built-in virtual private network feature and some of the most robust ad blocking on the market, Opera is a great way to take a break from cookies and targeted advertisements.

Choosing a web browser may seem like such an inconsequential thing, but just think about the rate of cloud adoption. If you plan on utilizing more software-as-a-service solutions in the coming years, one tiny feature in a browser could make all the difference. Contact us today about planning your cloud deployment over the coming years.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic Web & Cloud