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January 20th, 2017

2017January20_Virtualization_BOne of the core principles of virtualized technology is the ability to quarantine cyber security threats easily. For the most part, vendors have been winning this security tug-of-war with hackers, but that may change with the resurrection of a long-dormant piece of malware that targets virtualized desktops. If your business employs any form of virtualization, learning more about this updated virus is critically important to the health of your technology.

What is it?

Back in 2012, a brand new virus called “Shamoon” was unleashed onto computers attached to the networks of oil and gas companies. Like something out of a Hollywood film, Shamoon locked down computers and displayed a burning American flag on the display while totally erasing anything stored on the local hard disk. The cybersecurity industry quickly got the virus under control, but not before it destroyed data on nearly 30,000 machines.

For years, Shamoon remained completely inactive -- until a few months ago. During a period of rising popularity, virtualization vendors coded doorways into their software specifically designed to thwart Shamoon and similar viruses. But a recent announcement from Palo Alto Networks revealed that someone refurbished Shamoon to include a set of keys that allow it to bypass these doorways. With those safeguards overcome, the virus is free to cause the same damage it was designed to do four years ago.

Who is at risk?

As of the Palo Alto Networks announcement, only networks using Huawei’s virtual desktop infrastructure management software are exposed. If your business uses one of those services, get in touch with your IT provider as soon as possible to address how you will protect yourself from Shamoon.

On a broader scale, this attack shows how virtualization's popularity makes it vulnerable. Cyber attackers rarely write malware programs that go after unpopular or underutilized technology. The amount of effort just isn’t worth the pay off.

Headlines decrying the danger of Shamoon will be a siren call to hackers all over the globe to get in on the ground floor of this profitable trend. It happened for ransomware last year, and virtual machine viruses could very well turn out to be the top security threat of 2017.

How can I protect my data?

There are several things you need to do to ensure the safety of your virtual desktops. Firstly, update your passwords frequently and make sure they’re sufficiently complex. Shamoon’s most recent attempt to infect workstations was made possible by default login credentials that had not been updated.

Secondly, install monitoring software to scan and analyze network activity for unusual behavior. Even if legitimate credentials are used across the board, accessing uncommon parts of the network at odd hours will sound an alarm and give administrators precious time to take a closer look at exactly what is happening.

Ultimately, businesses need virtualization experts on hand to protect and preserve desktop infrastructures. Thankfully, you have already found all the help you need. With our vast experience in all forms of virtualized computing, a quick phone call is the only thing between you and getting started. Call today!

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

January 19th, 2017

img-calendar-170px-op2Calendar sharing is one of those mundane yet vital components of effective scheduling. The task of sharing one’s calendar hasn't always been easy, and many wonder why. Microsoft has recently improved upon its calendar sharing features in Office 365 for all users, and here are some of the reasons you should accept the latest advancement with open arms:

Simplicity Users’ first impression of the new model is that it’s much simpler. To share your calendar, simply click the Share option in the calendar menu bar and then enter the names of people with whom you wish to share. With a few clicks, you can decide who gets to see your schedule and how much of it they can view. On top of that, you’ll be able to nominate users who create appointments or accept meeting requests on your behalf - when the update rolls out in early 2017.

What sharers get to see Once a user accepts a sharing invitation, the calendar is then added to the set they open. The invitation needs to be accepted using an updated client in order for the embedded instructions to be properly processed. Depending on how much you're willing to share, the calendar allows you to either show full details of your schedule or just certain parts of it.

Mobile devices included Besides the new sharing interface, this model extends into mobile devices where Outlook for iOS, Android, and Windows 10 Mobile will be able to view and edit shared calendars for the first time. And because calendar events are time-sensitive, changes will be executed and synced immediately, ensuring that your calendar is always accurate.

Immediate synchronization is available for OWA and mobile clients. For Mac users, Outlook continues to use periodic synchronization. This is used to share calendar information with users outside of your Office 365 tenant.

Updates: Outlook for Mac Known as the black sheep of the Outlook family, implementation features of Outlook for Mac generally differs from the way things are done in other clients. Fortunately, Outlook for Mac’s calendar sharing function is being upgraded, with changes that include:

  • Intuitive UI to match other Outlook clients, including the addition of an Accept button to simplify calendar sharing invitations.
  • Shifting away from the Mac-specific local linked calendars, roaming shared calendars reads data from Exchange Online to ensure the same set of shared calendars are visible across all devices.
  • Immediate synchronization will replace periodic synchronization.
Even the tiniest details -- calendar sharing included -- have the potential to greatly impact the outcome of your business. If you have questions or concerns about managing various aspects of Office 365, feel free to get in touch today.
Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic office
January 18th, 2017

2017January18_Android_BVoice-powered AI systems are enjoying a resurgence. With improved bandwidth, both on desktops and on mobile devices, software vendors can easily relay complex voice commands to the cloud to be analyzed by more powerful computing software. Everyone has seen Siri do it on Apple phones, but how many realize that Android has its own AI, Google Now? If you’ve got an Android phone, pick it up and give a few of our favorite voice commands a whirl!

Before you can start playing with Google’s AI, you need to turn on the service. On your Android device, press and hold the home key at the bottom of the screen, then swipe upwards. This will open the Google Now interface. Tap the search bar at the top of the screen, then the Google icon on the left-hand side of the search bar.

From there, tap the three stacked lines in the upper left corner of the screen, followed by Settings, and then Voice. Once you’ve toggled the “From any screen option,” saying the phrase “Ok Google” any time your phone is unlocked will prompt it to start listening for a command. Turn it on and try some of the examples below!

Tip #1: Reminders

Google Now can certainly help with information discovery, but what about when you just need a little help managing your calendar? The phrase “Remind me to [action] + [time]” is all you need to set a quick reminder before you have a chance to manually add it to your calendar.

And if you’re not sure when you need to be reminded, ask Google to set the notification based on location. “Remind me to buy eggs next time I’m at Safeway.” If you have location services turned on, your phone will prompt you next time you're near the store.

Tip #2: Anything involving your clock app

Whether you want to “Set an alarm/time for [time]” to achieve productivity goals, or you need to know “What time is it in [location]” before calling a client in another time zone, Google Now can essentially perform any task from your native clock app with a simple request.

Tip #3: Convert/calculate anything

As the business landscape becomes more and more globalized, we’re constantly calculating currencies, units of measurement, and simple sums. For example, “What is X dollars in euros?” could help you easily convert the price of an invoice, or “How many kilometers are in X miles?” could shorten the time required to calculate how much material you need to order for a new product.

Tip #4: Retrieve documents from Gmail

Searching Google from your desktop, you may have noticed that important documents from your email account occasionally show up at the top of a search page. That’s because Google can recognize official documents such as flight itineraries, hotel receipts, and utility bills. Just say “Show me my flight to Phoenix” and Google Now will pull it up immediately.

Tip #5: Basic phone commands

The majority of the applications that came with your phone can receive voice commands. “Take a photo,” “Open acme.com,” “Turn on Wi-Fi,” and “Open Salesforce1,” are just some of the ways you can minimize the time you spend tapping your phone.

There are dozens more, and while such small tasks may seem silly, they represent a fundamental shift in the way we interact with our technology. Smartphones should help you do more, but if you can’t find what you’re looking for, it’s just a waste of time. Spend a few moments tinkering with your Google Now and give us a call today to find out more.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic android
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