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November 21st, 2011

Long-term cost-effectiveness. Simple, but comprehensive and updated solutions. Dependable and stable. These are just some of the advantages of using Managed Services to deliver efficient and custom designed IT solutions that meet your specific needs.

Many large businesses prefer the use of Managed Services to meet their IT needs, but many smaller organizations continue to be skeptical of this solution. Here are five reasons that will make you think twice about dismissing Managed Services:

Managed Services help control costs. In any kind of business, it's important to be as cost-effective as possible. Especially in IT, where unbridled or poorly managed systems cost way more that they're worth, it's essential to have a system that works with your budget but doesn't compromise on quality. Managed Services is the most feasible and practical way to accomplish that, especially in the long term.

Managed Services help you deal with increasingly complex IT solutions. With both hardware and software components of IT systems constantly evolving, businesses with limited resources may very well find themselves left behind after a while. But with Managed Services, you are able to enjoy the advantages of the latest IT solutions at a fraction of the cost – enabling you to provide the best possible service to your clients.

Managed Services give you a better, more dependable IT infrastructure. Especially for smaller businesses, it can be tedious to maintain an in-house IT arm; and you run the risk of stretching resources too thinly, which can compromise the quality and output of your IT department. Managed Services allow you to have a stable and dependable IT arm that's dedicated to meeting your specific needs in a cost-effective manner.

Managed Services offer more comprehensive and complete IT solutions. More often than not, small and undermanned IT departments are more of a burden to the organization they belong to – errors are more likely to occur, response and problem solving is a slow process, and staff members are probably overworked and underpaid, making them both unhappy and less productive. Managed Services, on the other hand, are completely the opposite, allowing you to utilize efficient and comprehensive solutions that are tailor-made to fit your specific requirements.

Managed Services help you maintain compliance. With the marketplace becoming more and more competitive, meeting different regulatory compliances has become a fundamental need. From Sarbanes-Oxley to the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA), smaller companies can often find themselves lost. It’s Managed Services that helps these companies not only fully understand the requirements of these regulations, but also comply with them.

If you want to know more about how Managed Services can directly benefit your day to day operations, please do not hesitate to give us a call – we'd be happy to sit down and discuss a custom solution that works for you.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic General Tech
November 14th, 2011

For businesses, social networks like Facebook and Twitter can be used to connect your businesses with the general public. But through a unique social networking platform called LinkedIn, you have access to a symposium or conference of sorts, where you can connect with fellow professionals and businesses.

Among the many social networks on the World Wide Web today, one stands out from the pack: LinkedIn. It stands out because it is one of the few (if there are any like it to begin with) that uses the principle behind social networking but adapts it to suit business and professional purposes.

If regular social networking sites like Facebook and Twitter can help a business, LinkedIn can do so even more since it is specifically targeted for businesses and professionals. With LinkedIn, you make contacts that are more relevant to your line of work minus the clutter, noise, and nonsense compared to the more social feedback, comments, and discussions you are inevitably going to have from content you put out on Facebook and Twitter.

Another advantage to LinkedIn is that you are more likely to connect with people and businesses that help you move forward be it additional staff, suppliers, or clients. The site's recommendation feature and referrals from other contacts will help you find what you are looking for faster. Also, you are able to better connect to people who are in your own industry or are doing similar things, allowing you to better assess what else you can do to give your business an added edge.

Using LinkedIn is a definite advantage, regardless of what business you are in. If you are interested in knowing more, please don't hesitate to contact us so we can sit down with you and talk about various custom LinkedIn strategies that meet your specific needs.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic General Tech
November 5th, 2011

While online banking can be a very convenient way for your business to manage and keep track of finances, a weak security system can make it more possible for cyber-thieves and hackers to steal your hard-earned money. It is important to make sure that all possible steps are taken to prevent this from happening.

Online banking is a tool that many businesses utilize because of the ease, efficiency, and convenience it offers. Especially when it comes to small and medium-sized businesses, online banking is a great way to manage and track finances for day-to-day operations.

However, the increase in online banking also has the unfortunate effect of luring unsavoury parties such as cyber-thieves and hackers who target and steal from the businesses who use it. This is why security experts are urging companies to beef up their security systems to keep them safe from cyber and identity theft. The more companies rely on the internet, especially when it comes to managing finances through online banking, the more prudent it is to take steps to prevent that hard-earned money from being stolen.

One tip experts give is to establish proper protocols for transacting with the bank, such as requiring two people to verify a transaction before it is approved. This helps create a checks-and-balance system that hackers will be hard-pressed to get around. Having a dedicated workstation used for only online financial transactions is also recommended, as this lessens the likelihood of it being infiltrated by Trojans, viruses, spyware, and other malware that may come from the machine being used for other purposes. Having the right anti-virus and anti-malware software as well as regularly updating it can also go a long way in keeping your online banking transactions safe from unfriendly eyes.

Your finances are the lifeblood of your business, so if you are interested in how you can make your online banking experience safe and secure, we'd be happy to sit down with you to discuss security solutions that are tailor-fit to your specific requirements and needs.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic General Tech
November 1st, 2011

While there is truth to the sentiment that social networking sites like Facebook can put a damper on productivity in a business setting, it is also true that Facebook can be used to help a business become a bigger online presence in its chosen market and help establish better rapport with potential clients.

When it comes to Facebook, the usual default attitude of businesses is to shun it completely. And while there is merit to the argument that social networks, Facebook especially, can hamper and derail productivity in an organization, there is also a lot Facebook can do to help your business grow.

Reports cite that as many as 800 million people around the world are on Facebook that's a larger-than-life audience that makes marketing experts giddy with excitement. When you think about it, Facebook presents a huge marketing opportunity for you and your business to connect with a lot of people who may become potential clients in the future. Think of having a Facebook page as a mini-website of sorts, one that supplements and complements your main website.

Since it's a medium to establish rapport with potential clients, experts suggest that a business Facebook page must contain more interesting content related to your business, of course designed to attract readers and visitors, rather than hard-sell information about your products and services. Your Facebook page serves as a complement to your website, not a duplicate of it. If you consistently serve up interesting and useful information, people will then go to your website to see what you're all about.

Also, don't hesitate to establish more personal relationships with people who visit your Facebook page the 'likers' and the people who comment and ask questions. Answer queries promptly and make yourself visible. One of the points of having a Facebook page is so people won't feel intimidated by a stiff corporate front a Facebook page tells them that you're a company that's willing to hear them out and listen to what they want.

If you want to know more about how to use Facebook pages to help your business grow, please give us a call and we'll be happy to sit down with you to draw up potential strategies to increase your online presence and potential client base.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic General Tech
October 3rd, 2011

Statistics are showing that small and medium-sized businesses are being targeted by hackers on an escalating scale. The reason for this is smaller businesses tend to have lax and weak security, making them much easier and quicker to steal from.

In physics, there's a concept called 'the path of least resistance'. The meaning is plain enough objects that move in a system take the path where they will encounter the least challenges and hurdles in order to quickly move to wherever they are going.

Apparently, the same principle applies to hackers nowadays. Instead of targeting larger firms for that big 'score', hackers are now considering it more feasible and much easier to victimize smaller firms and companies, even for a much smaller amount of money.

Why is that? First, smaller companies generally have much more vulnerable IT systems. Security is minimal or average at best, and the hackers don't get as much heat or attention when compared to trying to breach the much more complicated, state-of-the-art security systems of bigger firms and businesses. Take a small newsstand business in Chicago: cyberthieves were able to install a Trojan in the cash registers which sent swiped credit card numbers to Russia. When the jig was discovered, Mastercard subsequently demanded an investigation – at the expense of the business owner – and the proprietor had to shell out a hefty $22,000.(i)

A survey in the United States reveals that more than half of small or medium-sized businesses believed that they ran no risk of being victimized by hackers, and less than half of the respondents had security systems in place.(ii) That looks like a path of least resistance, as far as hackers are concerned.

The loss of a few thousand bucks may not be much for a big business, but it can make a significant dent on the profits and sustainability of smaller organizations. And in the case of implanted viruses that steal credit card information, your reputation can also take a big hit. So if you want your business to stay truly safe before it's too late, please contact us so we can discuss options and blueprints to make your business secure.

References: (i) and (ii)

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic General Tech
September 28th, 2011

It's common for many businesses to forgo upgrading their systems when new software comes along it's not only expensive, but why change something that's been serviceable and reliable so far? However, considering that studies and tests are showing that Windows 7 and Windows 2008 R2 are significantly outperforming their predecessors, it may be time to at least consider beginning a gradual upgrade.

One of the standard expectations when using technology is the inevitable need to change and upgrade. Technology moves forward on the principle that things that already seem great can be made even better and more often than not, the improvements are worth the change.

This principle applies to the operating system and SMB platform you may be using now. While it may have served you well so far (after all, if it ain't broke, why fix it, right?), that doesn't mean that things can't get any better and in a measureable way that improves your productivity. With systems like Windows 7 (which isn't exactly 'new', since it's been around for a good while) and Windows 2008 R2 gaining ground in the market and proving their worth, it may be time to start thinking about moving up and upgrading your current software.

Here are some thoughts to start the ball rolling: studies and tests have shown that Windows 7 and 2008 R2 outperform their predecessors in almost every conceivable situation. And considering Microsoft's recent announcement that they will discontinue support for Windows XP by 2014, the possibility of needing to upgrade becomes more pressing. Like it or not, you will eventually get left behind as technology marches on.

Of course, we realize that it's not as simple as waving a magic upgrade wand and that's that. It's important to understand the way you do business in order to accurately assess how an upgrade will affect your operations. So please contact us and we'll be happy to sit down with you and find ways to implement an upgrade in the most efficient and cost-effective manner possible.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic General Tech
September 26th, 2011

Are we in a post-PC era as Apple would have us believe? Or is it a PC-plus world as Microsoft maintains? Some believe we are witnessing the dawn of a new era in which devices and operating systems will dominate our computing habits. Read on and weigh in with your opinion.

Last year, Steve Jobs, then CEO of Apple, proclaimed the beginning of what he called the "post-PC" era. This, just after news of stellar numbers for Apple, surpassing Microsoft in market valuation for the first time in recent historylargely on the back of strong sales from its iPhone and iPad computing devices, threatening to displace the market for traditional desktop PCs according to many analysts. In some ways this is an ironic turn of events, considering that it was this same CEO and company that ushered in the PC era to begin with, more than thirty years ago.

But in that era, it was really the IBM PC that was the iconic symbol of that period. In August of this year, the IBM PC celebrated its 30th anniversary, which was introduced nearly five years after the arrival of Apple's own desktop devices. But again in an interesting turn events, for nearly twenty of those thirty years, it was actually Microsoft and Intel, and not IBM, that reaped the benefits of the success of the PC device. It was Microsoft's Operating System and Intel's chips which earned the lion's share of profits from the rise of the Desktop PC, not the manufacturers and assemblers. And as PCs decline as Steve Jobs predicted they will, this has prompted even the largest PC manufacturers such as HP to reassess their future.

But is the PC truly dead, if not dying? Even one of the IBM PC's original inventors thinks so. In an interview with IBM Executive Mark Dean, who was one of the IBM PC's original engineers, he predicts a day when the desktop PC will go the way typewriters did when desktop PCs came along. They will still be around for several years, he says, but in the future people will primarily use handheld or mobile PCs for work and play.

That may be true, but the future is not here yet. Earlier, Microsoft gave a statement that it still expects over 400 million desktop PCs running its operating system to ship this yeara business well worth over $19 billion dollars for the company. There are still several things that a Desktop PC, in particular those running Windows, can do better than handheld or mobile devices today, such as:

  1. Running business applications. Although many applications may be moving to the cloud, many business-critical applications such as accounting and financials, operations, project management, and customer management still require a Windows PC.
  2. Content creation. Have you ever tried to create a blog post, edit a photo, or animate or render a movie from a tablet? It may be possible but it's still not easyeven for the pros. Most will still be doing their work on desktop workstations for still several years in the foreseeable future.
Do you agree? Are we in the beginning of a post-PC era or do you think it will be a PC-plus era as Microsoft believes? Weigh in and let us know!
Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic General Tech
September 22nd, 2011

padlockRemembering all of your online passwords can be a difficult task. It's just too hard to track all of the online accounts we have, especially as more and more specialized services become popular yet need secure access. Read on to learn about tools that may be able to help.

A few months ago, news and social networking sites warned users of the website RockYou that their account and password may have been compromised. Security firm Imperva warned users that a hacker may have made off with an alarming 32 million accounts from the social gaming website. While this is nothing new, what's interesting is the results of the security firm's analysis of the accounts and passwords stolen.

From the data that they were able to gather, it seems that a great number of users still tend to use insecure passwords for instance, passwords with lengths equal to or below six characters (30% of users), words confined to alpha-numeric characters (60%), passwords that include names, slang words, or dictionary words, and trivial passwords (consecutive digits, adjacent keyboard keys, and so on--50%). These types of passwords can easily fold in the face of automated brute force attacks designed to guess users’ passwords.

The reason these sorts of insecure passwords continue to be used may be simple. It's just too hard to track all of the online accounts we have, especially as more and more specialized services are introduced and become popular. While in the past users may have only needed to memorize their email and possibly their bank's password, today they must contend with passwords to access each of their favorite social networking sites, blogs, phones, photos, games, documents, news sites, bank accounts, expense tracking services, stores, books, and dozens of other online services.

The question for many is how can we possibly remember all of these passwords, especially if we’re using different highly secures ones (that are therefore not easily remembered) at each site as recommended? Here are some quick tips to help you be able to recall and easily manage them:

Use desktop password management tools. There are several desktop tools available that can help you manage and safely store your passwords by requiring you to download software that stores your passwords encrypted on your hard drive. You only need to provide one "master" password to access the rest. Examples of such tools include Keepass, LastPass (free and fee versions are available), 1Password for Macs, and more. These tools give you the feeling of security since your password information is stored solely within your device – but be aware that should that device get lost, stolen, or hacked, you can lose your password information as well as open yourself to attack.

Store your passwords in the Cloud. An alternative is to use password managers that are solely accessible online and are hosted in the Cloud. These work the same way as desktop password managers but with the extra benefit of not having to download and install software on your PC. Another advantage is that they are available on any device or system as long as it is connected to the Internet, and losing your device does not put your passwords at risk. Examples are tools like Clipperz and LastPass. Be warned, though, that these sites can themselves be hacked, as LastPass experienced a few months back.

Use Browser Plugins. Some tools work as add-ons for your browser. Examples of such tools are many. Some generate passwords on the fly, some store the information within your PCs, and others store it in the cloud as well as sync it to your device. These services offer a compromise between solely desktop bound password tools vs. purely online ones. They are however often tied to the browser you use.

Trust a single site with your Identity. Another alternative is simply entrusting the security of your online identity to a single provider who hopefully has the resources to manage it in a more secure manner than you can on your own. These include large sites like Facebook, Google, and Yahoo, which often allow many third-party sites to use your identity at their own sites with your permission. If you don’t trust these sites, you can manage such an online identity on your own from sites such as OpenID. This way you only need to secure and manage one password and identitywhich shares this to other sites as you see fit. The disadvantage of course is that not all sites may use or be compatible with these federated identity management systems. You may also have to consider the possibility that these large sites may become compromised themselves.

Managing your passwords can be a pain. Hopefully these tools can help you do so more efficiently and more effectively. Do you have other suggestions? Do you need assistance in setting these up for you or your company? Let us know we're happy to help!

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic General Tech
September 19th, 2011

hand holding phone while dialingWhen someone who identifies him/herself as a representative from Microsoft calls you out of the blue, be wary. A new scam involves people posing as Microsoft employees and scaring victims into paying for bogus service and giving up credit information, by telling them that their system has been infected by a virus or that it's running too slowly.

You have to give it to scammers for constantly finding new ways to victimize people. One such new scam has been making the rounds recently, and more than a few people have fallen for it. This particular modus operandi involves a person calling you claiming to be from Microsoft customer support, and insisting that you have a virus or that you need to install a certain program to help speed up your system.

Actually, Microsoft will NEVER call you up unless you ask them to. And when they do call, they will not ask for credit or personal information, and they will always have a support reference number assigned to you which you should already have beforehand from filing a report or request for support from Microsoft. While it's possible that Microsoft MIGHT call you unsolicited if they have a new promotion or products, but they'll NEVER call to alert you regarding the status of your computer system.

Knowing scammers, it's highly likely that you'll see this scam applied in various forms in the near future a call from your bank, credit consultant, or even IT support. The best thing is to have the proper security protocols in place so you can verify the identity of the people who will call you, as well as keep your system safe.

Having the proper security system in place will do wonders for your business not to mention your peace of mind. And it's not just in terms of hardware or software: don't discount the human factor as well. Please give us a call if you'd like to know more, and we'll be happy to discuss a security system that's tailor fit for your specific needs.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic General Tech
September 16th, 2011

When new IT is released in the consumer market first, gains widespread popularity, and is then adapted by businesses for business use, it's called IT consumerization. While many see the pros of this practice, few see the cons - and in business, it's important to know both sides and understand not only how it will affect you, but also how to respond to it.

"People say you have better technology at home than at work. That's true. Thirty-seven percent of U.S. info workers are solving customer and business problems using technology they master first at home, then bring to work."i

So says Vahé Torossian, corporate vice president of the Worldwide Small and Midmarket Solutions and Partners (SMS&P) group at Microsoft. His comment illustrates the growing trend in IT referred to as consumerization, which is when new IT comes out first in the consumer market and is then adopted by business organizations.

With more and more organizations adopting this trend, many companies find it hard to catch up with everything else that comes with the package. For some, consumerization works fine and is beneficial, but there are also those whose operations become more open to risk because of it.

It's become quite clear that, at the very least, companies need to look at both the short and long term effects of consumerization on the way they do business. Studies should be completed on its effects, and policies need to be developed to properly address the trend. The benefits can be significant, but the risks such as the increased vulnerability of your system due to decreased security when work is done outside the office can pose a serious threat as well.

While the general consensus is that new trends mean better business, it's the way you handle the details that determines how they affect your organization and your productivity which is why it's best to fully understand the trend and its impact on you. We encourage you to give us a call so we can sit down with you and discuss strategies and policies you can use to respond to consumerization based on your specific needs.

i Reference

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic General Tech