Why Cheap Routers/Firewalls Just Don’t Do The Trick

It is a misconception among many businesses that using a cheap, basic router/firewall is sufficient for day-to-day operations. But it is important to realize that there is more to it than just price – especially since more often than not, going cheap will only get you what you pay for (or maybe even less). In business, protecting important information and data is paramount. This is why it is recommended for any sort of business to invest in a security system that will prevent any cyber-attacks that might be launched against you. Unfortunately, though, it’s lost on many that a security system is not just made up of one single thing – software, better staff, better hardware, et cetera. A good and solid security system is composed of several factors working together to create a virtual chain that envelops your business and keeps it safe. And one of the most underestimated links in this chain is the router/firewall. Many businesses are content using the most basic and cheapest option available on the market, without realizing that their security chain is only as strong as its weakest link. And if you make do with a cheap router/firewall, odds are you’ll get what you pay for – not much. While basic routers might work fine for homes or individual users, it is a much different scenario when it comes to business operations where basic just doesn’t cut it. Plus, there’s more at stake with business data, so why take the risk with cheap routers that lack the proper security features? With viruses, malware, and the cyber thieves behind them continuing to grow and evolve, it is important that you understand what it takes to protect your system and your data – and invest in the best solution. Remember that it can take only one incident, one infiltration, to bring your whole business down. We realize that every system is different and every business has its own specific needs, so if you want to know more about getting the right router/firewall for you, please don’t hesitate to contact us.

Which Smartphone Works Best for You?

With the mobile phone trend evolving into an all-around multimedia device, many people have seen the need to have a smartphone – for different reasons. That is why there are so many different smartphones that cater to different kinds of people with different needs and uses. It’s important to know what you need, and think things through before buying so you can get the smartphone that works best for your purposes. For many people these days, smartphones have become more of a necessity than a luxury. Being able to stay in touch through constant access to the internet and the thousands of mobile smartphone applications available has made smartphones an indispensable tool. But with the boom in smartphone use, there also comes a conundrum for many: Which smartphone should I get? With so many choices out there, it’s becoming difficult and confusing to pick the right one. Here are a few quick and simple tips that you might find useful when canvassing the market: 1. Know what you want. What do you need a smartphone for? Each handset has its own strengths and weaknesses. There are smartphones that integrate email and web browsing and put more focus on multimedia such as audio and video – while there are other no-frills, no-nonsense models that trim features down to those that are the most basic and essential. 2. Consider your carrier. Carriers are important because there are some smartphones that are only available with certain carriers, or carriers that limit certain features of a particular smartphone. You do have the option of getting an unlocked phone (meaning the device does not come with carrier requirements), but this has its own set of pros and cons that you have to weigh as well. 3. Get a feel for your choices. Nothing beats actual experience, so visit local stores to get the physical feel of each phone. Is the keypad big (or small) enough for you? Is the device too thick or too thin? Do you like the user interface or is it too complicated for you? These are just some of the questions that you can answer once you get an idea of how it actually feels to use them yourself. 4. User feedback is important. Talk not only to sales people but also to other people you know. Your friends and acquaintances have actual experience with various smartphones, so ask them what concerns and issues they have with their particular models. If you have additional inquiries about how you can better use your smartphone for your business, please give us a call and we’ll be happy to assist you.

Still using XP? Might be Time to Plan for an Upgrade

It is inevitable to have to upgrade any kind of software sooner or later. This is now true for Windows XP, as Microsoft has announced a discontinuation of support for the operating system in 2014. Microsoft recommends upgrading to the newer Windows 7 OS, which is something worth considering as early as now. Part of using any sort of software is the inevitable need to upgrade. Most if not all software needs to either be replaced and upgraded as the demands of the market entail more efficient processing of the various data and information a business handles. Such is the case with Windows XP. While many continue to use this proven straightforward operating system, Microsoft has decided to stop support by the year 2014. Microsoft further recommends upgrading to its latest OS, Windows 7, in order for users to continue to receive OS support. While there are some lines of business applications that have not been upgraded to work with Windows 7, most have — and there are alternative approaches. Also, your business needs the security and protection that only a current, up-to-date operating system can provide. We understand that changing your OS will entail some expense, including new licenses, hardware, and some training. Fortunately, these things are designed to help you operate more efficiently and increase your productivity in the long run. But such change will take time, and if you are interested in starting to plan for an upgrade now, we’ll be happy to sit down with you and develop an upgrade process that meets your specific needs.

Switch to VoIP Phones for your Business

Switch to VoIP Phones for your business and reap the benefits of using a unified network for voice and data. Voice-over-Internet Protocol (VoIP) is basically technology that allows you to make and receive calls over data networks. Instead of traditional phone services which channel analog signals such as the sound of your voice over copper wires, VoIP converts these sounds to digital form first — so that they can be sliced, diced, packaged, and routed over a digital network. Because VoIP technology uses the same ideas behind data networking, and allows the use of the same networks used by computers, voice traffic can also be routed through the Internet as well. Suddenly you can now dramatically reduce the cost of voice communications, as well as achieve creative combinations of both services to create new applications for use. With today’s advancements in technology, and the constant lowering of prices as technology achieves mass adoption, VoIP is now within easy reach for most businesses — even small ones. In fact, many have already made the switch to an all-VoIP infrastructure, using a combination of VoIP phones and VoIP communication systems. Here are ten reasons why you may want to consider switching to VoIP for your phone and office communication systems: VoIP can allow you to dramatically reduce the cost of communications, especially for interstate or international communications, since everything can go through the Internet instead of having to go through expensive long distance toll charges. You can make and receive calls from multiple devices — for instance, on a dedicated phone, your PC via a software-based phone, or even a mobile phone with VoIP capabilities. It’s easier to add extensions to your phone. You can provide a local number or extension for all your staff without additional costs or cabling. VoIP allows companies to maximize investments already made in their network infrastructure. The same network that handles the flow of data such web access and email can now accommodate voice as well — no need to add and maintain additional wires and devices. VoIP allows your employees to be more productive and efficient by giving them the ability to receive and make calls anywhere with a data connection. VoIP reduces the complexity associated with having to manage multiple networks and devices for communication. A company can potentially set up their office network so that each employee can use a single device such as a computer or a smart fixed or mobile phone to handle everything from email, chat, messages, faxes, and more. You can use VoIP as a tool for real-time collaboration along with video conferencing and screen sharing. You can potentially unify your communication channels, streamlining communications and information management — for instance, marrying email with fax and voice in one inbox. You can employ presence technologies that come standard with VoIP phones and VoIP communication systems. This technology can tell colleagues about your presence or give you info on the status and whereabouts of your staff. You can employ intelligence into how your calls are handled, such as: providing automatic call routing based on the number, time of day, etc; providing an interactive voice response when a call comes in, such as voice prompts that guide callers; call reporting; and more. VoIP is certainly a technology that has come of age. It’s cheap, ubiquitous, and easy to use. Interested? Contact us and we can help you make the switch to VoIP for your business today!

iPads in the Office

Citing numbers released by Apple recently, it has been reported that nearly 86 percent of Fortune 500 companies in the US report deploying or testing the iPad . Many large companies are clearly looking at the iPad as something not just for leisure or entertainment but also for business. Are you considering doing the same? Read on to find out how you can put the iPad to work for your business. The iPad for many is a revolutionary device in that it brings the full power and experience of computing into a form that is easy to hold, easy to transport, and easy to use. Manufactured by Apple, the device uses the same operating system as its earlier iPod Touch and iPhone devices. And just like its smaller brethren it does away with conventional input devices like the mouse or keyboard, instead requiring just the user’s fingers to touch, navigate, and interact with the operating system and installed applications. Key to the success of the device has been the availability of thousands of applications from third-party software vendors – in fact, nearly a hundred thousand of them . These applications range in categories from entertainment, media, education, and even productivity and business. Using these productivity and business applications for the iPad, you can effectively use these devices in the workplace. Here are some specific work scenarios in which you may want to consider the iPad in your business operations: For presentations. Because of its portability, the iPad makes a great device for showing and sharing presentations. Applications like Apple’s Keynote allow you to import and edit PowerPoint presentations. Accessories allow you to connect the device to a monitor or projector. If you’re thinking of doing virtual presentations, there are iPad apps that allow you to do that as well — letting you stream your presentation via the Internet. For Communication and Collaboration. The iPad has built-in applications for emailing, plus more can be added to support audio and even video conferencing. If you want to manage meetings, the iPad’s built-in calendar and address book apps make it a great replacement for a planner, while its larger screen makes it easier to read and manage than your cellphone or smartphone. It has built-in support for third-party mail and calendar applications like Microsoft Exchange, Google Mail, and Calendar. You can also download and use additional applications to help you manage your tasks, monitor projects, share files, post and read stuff in your social networks, and much more. For field assignments. The iPad’s light weight and portability make it a great companion while out on the road. You can install and configure VPN clients to securely connect to your office network when in the field, or use any of the business applications you use in the office — especially cloud-based ones. Again, using the built-in productivity tools you can use the iPad to manage your itinerary while on assignment. For travel. As a travel companion the iPad is unmatched, with a wide breadth of apps for managing flight and hotel booking information, expenses, and more. Use the built-in tools to manage your travel itinerary, and use the communication and collaboration tools to check on progress at the office. During lulls, breaks, or after office hours, easily shift modes and use the iPad as a media viewer or news reader for information and entertainment. Industry-specific apps. There are dozens more business cases in which the iPad can be put to work. For example, as a store or point-of-sale display, or even a point-of-sale device. Companies are using it to replace manuals, and schools are using it to replace stacks of books. There are many more ways the iPad can be used for business. Are you considering using it for your business as well? Do you know of other uses? Let us know!

Save Files Directly to the Cloud

Do you ever wish you could save files you find online directly to a cloud storage service provider? With this handy new free tool called Cloud Save you can. Cloud Save is available for the Google Chrome browser at the Google Chrome webstore. After you install the extension in Google Chrome, you will find a new menu item when you right-click or try to download files in your browser. The menu item allows you to send the file (without having to download to your harddisk) directly to popular web-based services including Dropbox, Google Docs, Facebook, Flickr, Picasa, and more. Simply right-click a file, then decide where you’d like to send it. Related materials: Google Chrome webstore

Pause a Powerpoint Slideshow Easily with Handy Keyboard Shortcuts

When presenting in front of an audience, sometimes it’s necessary to pause your PowerPoint slideshow for a few minutes to highlight a point, answer audience questions, or to simply take a break. Instead of leaving the presentation or covering the projector lens with a piece of paper, you can press “B” to show a black screen or “W” to show a white screen.

New Flaw Called “Cookiejacking” Allows Hackers to Hijack Cookies in IE

Users of Internet Explorer beware: security researchers have found a new flaw in the popular Microsoft browser that allow hackers to commit something called “cookiejacking”, which enables them to steal information and data from IE cookies from any website. Despite a few flaws, Internet Explorer remains one of the most commonly used browsers in businesses today, making it a ripe target for hackers looking for security flaws to exploit. One such flaw has been discovered recently by a security researcher in Italy. Dubbed “cookiejacking”, the flaw allows hackers to hijack a cookie of any website, thereby allowing them to gain access to passwords, credit card information, and various other data stored in the cookie. The flaw is found in any version of Internet Explorer in any version of Windows. However, users must first drag and drop an item before the exploit can be activated. It might sound like a bit of a stretch, but hackers are known for their creativity, so expect that a seemingly appropriate situation will be presented in which you will find it perfectly normal to do a drag-and-drop action. Microsoft responded to the threat by labeling it as “low risk”, citing the level of user interaction required for cookiejacking to occur. It did, however, encourage users to be more vigilant and alert, as well as to refrain from clicking suspicious links and visiting dubious websites. Regardless of what platform or OS you use, there is always the constant threat from cyberattacks – all it takes is one attack to break through and put important business data at risk. It is essential to always educate users on how to avoid being victimized by scams and hacks, and to have the right security software to ensure that your company’s information is safe and secure. If you are interested in user training for security and / or better security protocols, please give us a call and we’ll be happy to draw up a custom security blueprint that’s tailor-made to meet your needs.

Find out your IP Address

Sometimes you need to find out your IP address for networking, troubleshooting, gaming, or tech support purposes. There are two IP addresses you may need to consider — your “external” IP address (the IP address the rest of the world sees to locate your computer or network) and your “internal” IP address (which identifies your particular computer in a shared network). Finding your external IP address is easy. If you are connected to the web, just launch your browser and type: “whatismyip”, and your browser should redirect you to the website whatismyip.com which will provide you this information for free. To find out your internal IP address, just go to the Windows command prompt, or go to the Windows Start Menu and click on Run, then type “cmd”. Next, simply type “ipconfig” in the command prompt and then look for the string of numbers right next to “IP Address.”

User Education in the Fight Against Malware

With the security software of many businesses becoming more and more advanced these days, cyber-thieves are resorting to socially engineered cyber-attacks to bait unsuspecting employees with scams like phishing to infiltrate IT systems. This is why it is important to train your employees against becoming victims of such underhanded strategies. One of the things many people fail to realize is that securing business data from malware and other sorts of cyber-attacks doesn’t stop with implementing the right security software. These days, cyber-criminals also use all sorts of tricks to bait unsuspecting employees into being catalysts for malware entering your system. Reports cite that as much as 60 percent of cyber and malware attacks on businesses are done through social engineering – meaning that instead of a direct attack on your system, hackers are using ploys found on email and social networks to get people in your organization to unwittingly introduce malware into your IT infrastructure. This is why it’s equally important to put emphasis on training your employees to recognize common cyber-attack strategies such as phishing, or how to use proper virus scanning software so any external or thumb drives they plug into their computers are malware-free. Remember, it only takes one mistake from a gullible employee to open the gates of your system to keyloggers and other sorts of malware and viruses. Keeping your company’s IT system safe is an investment. Getting the right security protocols and then training your employees to not only use and respect these protocols but also be more aware about security risks goes a long way in keeping your data safe and your operations stable.