One major advantage of the cloud is that it allows users to easily share files. Although, due to just how easy it is to share files, this advantage may also prove to be a disadvantage, especially when inexperienced users are the ones doing the sharing. The next time your business shares a file with a cloud-based file sharing service, be sure to account for these three risks.
Files Shared to Accounts With Poor Password Security Virtually every cloud service provides individual users with their own account in order to use the service. Each account is protected by a password, often times selected by the user. It is this password that stands between a hacker and the account information, which often includes files sent to the account by multiple users.
As you’re probably already aware, a lot rides on the strength of a password. Hastily made passwords can be easily cracked, and while you may have the most complex-secure password known to man, what guarantee do you have that the person you’re sharing the sensitive file with isn’t using the password “12345”?
From the perspective of an enterprise utilizing the cloud service for file sharing, the security of all the data stored in the cloud is only as good as the weakest password. Therefore, IT administrators will want to take action and make sure that every password connected to sensitive data in any way is strong, and that no sensitive data gets shared to an account with poor password security.
Files Shared With Unauthorized Hardware An employee may think nothing about accessing their company cloud account using an old laptop at home that isn’t cleared with IT, and that’s a problem. Every new device that connects to your network opens up one more access point to your data. While this might not be much of a concern with a device that’s been cleared by IT, an unapproved device may be riddled with malware or have weak security protocols.
Think for moment if an employee is traveling and decides to check their company email over public Wi-Fi, or they may use the public PC found in the hotel lobby to send and receive files via their company cloud account. You can see how a seemingly innocent move like this can so easily put all of the data connected to the company’s cloud service at risk.
The Security of the Cloud Service Provider Itself While you may have taken painstaking measures to secure your company’s cloud hosting solution, a random cloud-based file sharing service utilized by an employee may not have such high security standards. This can prove problematic, especially if multiple employees are utilizing multiple file sharing solutions. This is one reason why it’s a smart move to assign a designated cloud-based file sharing solution for your company. Otherwise, your employees may take matters into their own hands and share company files using whatever file sharing app is found on their mobile devices.
With these risks in mind, it’s imperative that you have a secure and uniformed file sharing solution in place. To get started with implementing such a solution, you’ll first want to ask questions like, who should be able to move files? Who is allowed to receive them? What protection needs to be in place when those files are on the move and at rest?
Your workstation has all of the applications that you need to make it through the workday, but sometimes you’ll be pleasantly surprised by finding a program that you didn’t know was on there. If you’re looking for a specific application, or you just want to see what programs are installed on your workstation, be sure to keep reading for this week’s tip.
The Start menu may have once been absent from the main family of Windows operating systems, but it’s back in Windows 10, and better than ever. With Cortana integration and a built-in search feature, you’ll have no trouble finding exactly what you need, when you need it. We’ll go over some of the ways that you can navigate the Start menu to find your organization’s mission-critical applications in a quick, easy-to-find way.
The first way you can do this is by simply typing for the application that you’re looking for in the Search bar. This is the easiest way to find a specific app, but if you don’t know how to spell it, this might not be the easiest way or the ideal way to find it.
You can also just look through the complete list of programs that are on your computer easily enough. Just click on the Start menu and look in the right column--you’ll see your most used apps at the top, and toward the bottom, you’ll see an alphabetical list of programs on your computer. While you could scroll through these right now, just click on one of the letters in the headings, like A, and see what happens.
You’ll see the alphabet appear, which can be used to find the app that you’re looking for. If you know the first letter of the program, just click on it and you’ll be directed to a list of all programs on your PC that start with that letter. It’s convenient for when you need to find something, but aren’t quite sure where it is.
In general, you can count on Windows 10 to be a big improvement for your organization’s technology infrastructure, whether you’re hoping to improve your user experience or just want to upgrade to the latest operating system.
Are you looking to take advantage of Windows 10 for your business? If so, give us a call at (732) 360-2999. We’ll work with you to ensure that your organization’s technology assets are running at maximum capacity.
Or, if you can’t get enough of our technology tips and tricks, feel free to subscribe to our blog.
A previously known malware called Ghost Push now has a component that has caused countless problems for over a million Android users. This component, called Gooligan, is the source of the trouble, and it adds to this chaos by infecting over 13,000 new devices every day.
Gooligan can steal the authentication tokens that are used to access information stored by Google’s most common offerings. Among these are Google Drive, Google Docs, Gmail, and the G-Suite.
Rather than using the vulnerability to steal data, the criminals seem content with just using the devices to install malicious apps from the Google Play store to generate ad revenue. In fact, according to reports, this primary reason to use Gooligan brings in about $320,000 every month for the fraudsters, which makes Gooligan perhaps the largest Android breach in its history.
Of course, we bet that you’re breathing in a sigh of relief, thanking your lucky stars that Gooligan hasn’t shown any signs of stealing data. When you think about it, this is pretty incredible, as Gooligan could potentially be accessing sensitive information that is stored anywhere on your Android device. Even Google believes that Gooligan is focused more on accruing revenue rather than stealing data, claiming “The motivation… is to promote apps, not steal information.”
Google has taken the initiative and removed apps that include Gooligan from the Play Store, but who knows what other threats are out there, just waiting to be installed on a device? Keeping these threats in mind is key, especially when you have employees using their own mobile devices to access company data. If your employees access the Play Store on their devices, you need to educate them on the effects of Gooligan and how to avoid becoming a victim.
This is why it’s so important that your organization is ready to handle employee devices by following a strong Bring Your Own Device policy. If you don’t already have a BYOD policy in place, be sure to implement one as soon as possible--one that requires any employees using their own devices for work purposes to go through IT and ensure that security protocol is followed closely.
Think of your business technology like a car. Sure, it’s a great way from getting from one location to another, but if it breaks down, you’re in big trouble financially. Even worse, you’re stuck without a vehicle for a certain amount of time. Can you imagine purchasing new hardware and losing precious productivity due to downtime?
Here are three ways that your technology failures can be just as painful as your car troubles.
Technology and Cars are Expensive Your IT budget should be able to take into account the price tags on all of your mission-critical hardware solutions. If it doesn’t, you’re flirting with disaster. If you lose a server unit, your budget could be set back several months. This is one of the reasons why flexible payments are in such high demand among small businesses.
Compared to an automobile, you’re in a similar position. If you take proper care of your car, it can last for a respectable amount of time, depending of course on the make and model. If your car breaks down, it is expensive to fix. Constantly fixing your car becomes difficult to maintain, making smaller payments a better option.
Technology and Vehicles Are Both Necessary While there are some exemptions, most offices will rely on their technology to carry operations. This is mainly due to technology becoming so prevalent in the business environment. Organizations use it to automate workflows and provide near-constant access to information or applications, making it not only required, but essential. If your technology breaks down, it’s unfortunate, but you won’t be able to access certain information until you’ve solved the issue.
Just like technology, your vehicle is needed to “make progress,” bringing you from one place to the next. Organizations in areas which have access to public transportation may not have to rely so much on vehicles, but the comparison still stands. If the subway is broken down, well… you’re still out of luck.
Technology and Vehicles Need Expert Attention If you’ve ever tried to fix your car yourself, with no prior mechanical skills and only a handful of online tutorials and articles, you will still struggle. If you aren’t sure where your engine oil goes, you should probably leave your vehicle maintenance to an expert who knows what they’re doing. technology issues are in a similar vein of technical issues that need to be addressed by professionals. If you let just anyone tinker with your technology, you could experience more downtime than you’d prefer--particularly if the troubleshooting turns into more trouble.
Your cell phone rings while you’re in the middle of a meeting. Do you answer it? Regardless of if you do or not, the fact remains that it’s embarrassing and that it shouldn’t be happening in the first place. Thankfully, for Android users, you can turn your phone’s volume up or down by scheduling it.
An unexpected ring on your cellphone could disrupt countless types of meetings, but if your phone fails to ring at a critical time, you could miss an important phone call. This constant struggle to control your volume is something which you know you could do without, but how do you schedule your Android’s volume? Thanks to a third-party app titled Volume Scheduler, you can preset volume adjustments based on the time.
This works great when you know you have certain meetings or events coming up. If you know a meeting is coming in the afternoon, you can set the specific time of day when your phone’s volume will be decreased. If you think you’ll need to answer the phone in the event of an emergency, your phone will still be activated so you can make sure that whoever calls you will be able to reach you. It’s a great way to make sure that you don’t look like a jerk when your ringtone interrupts your employees during an important meeting.
This free app also makes sense from a financial standpoint. Since you pay nothing for it, and it works based on the device’s time settings, it won’t accrue any data charges or have any effect on your battery life. This is great, considering how you can know for sure whether your phone will be turned up or turned down.
Of course, another option that you can look into on Android is its Do Not Disturb feature, which lets you allow exceptions for certain notifications on your mobile devices, like alarms and emails. It’s a good way to keep your phone quiet at night while you’re trying to sleep.
What are some of your favorite ways to keep your phone from going off during inopportune times? Let us know in the comments, and be sure to subscribe to our blog for more great tips and tricks.
There are remarkably few people on the planet capable of filling an entire workday with 100 percent productivity. The human body simply needs to be refreshed. Fortunately, there are a variety of techniques and technologies that let you do just that!
Give the Pomodoro Technique a Try The benefits of a break can give an employee a definite advantage in completing the rest of their daily tasks, especially if a single task drags on and on for the majority of their day. Allowing their brain to take a rest from this single initiative and focus elsewhere, even briefly, can help prevent them from becoming sluggish and unproductive.
This is where the Pomodoro Technique comes in. Invented in the 1980s by Francesca Cirillo, and named for the tomato-like shape of a kitchen timer, the Pomodoro Technique’s claim to fame is the division of available time into work and break periods. The idea is to not only keep the brain fresh throughout the day, but also to better manage the amount of time spent on each task. After all, a deadline is often a very effective way to promote a focus-benefitting urgency in order to complete a goal.
The Technique dictates that a practitioner work dutifully for a set amount of time, break for another set time, repeating this pattern throughout their day.
Apps that Might Help
ClearFocus: An Android app-based timer, ClearFocus uses the Pomodoro Technique without calling it the Pomodoro Technique. A user can set timers dedicated to certain tasks, and the app will count down until it’s time for a break, or to move on to the next task.
Focus Booster: Available online or as a native download, Focus Booster also applies the Pomodoro Technique to benefit the user’s focus, with the added benefits of time tracking and reporting for use in a business setting. However, it is not a free solution. Subscriptions start at a rate of $2.99 per month.
PomoDone: Another native web app that’s also available for download, PomoDone is another timer that a user can configure to suit their schedule, once it is established how long the subscription will be available.
Get Up and GoA great way to make sure that your break gives you a break from your task is to use it for exercise. Whether or not sitting is all that bad for you, it’s an accepted fact that a bit of movement certainly can’t hurt. If one of your business perks is a gym membership or access to a company exercise facility, commit to utilizing it whenever possible and stick to that schedule.
Of course, not all exercise requires equipment. A simple walk outside can give the body the break it needs and your brain the bonus of a change of scenery.
Apps that Might Help
Wherever Workout: This Android app gives suggested exercise regimens for an assortment of scenarios, including a workout that can be done in the office. With options that range to accommodate almost any environment, you can get in a healthy bit of activity, wherever you happen to be, and all for free.
Workout Trainer (Android and iOS): Another free-to-install app, Workout Trainer provides detailed descriptions of a variety of exercises, including those that can be done in the office. Plus, there is very little risk of performing an exercise incorrectly, as Workout Trainer provides plenty of resources to ensure that the user knows how to properly perform an exercise.
Pedometer & Weight Loss Coach: (Android and iOS)This app serves as a simple step and calorie counter. Once this free app is open, it will track the user’s steps, no matter where they happen to go. Its “History” functions can even provide a pattern of behavior that can be used to make better decisions.
Just BreatheWorking in an office environment can admittedly be stressful. There are deadlines to meet, clients to appease, not to mention the savage jungle of office dynamics to navigate on a daily basis. The thing is, stress isn’t always part of the ideal state for productivity. As a result, employees need to have the chance to collect themselves and clear their heads. Breathing exercises have a long history of allowing just that. In fact, it may include some of the methods we’ve already discussed. The main focus here is that everyone is different, and may relax in different ways.
Apps that Might Help
Calm: A simple web app that allows the user to listen to some pleasant ambient noises in order to catch their breath and refocus for a moment. Just for a moment, however, as Calm allows them to preprogram a periodic noise to remind them of where they are and what they need to be doing.
Breathe2Relax: (Android and iOS) If an employee ever feels the need to just take a few deep breaths and refocus, this app can not only inform them on the adverse effects stress can incur within the body, it also provides access to some deep-breathing guides to stabilize their mood.
Smart Breathe: (Android and iOS) Another deep-breathing app, Smart Breathe simply guides the user through a few simple, centering, deep-breathing exercises. While limited in its accessibility, this app does what it sets out to do. It also doesn’t hurt that the app is free to download and try out.
We all deserve a break every now and then, but there’s no reason that these breaks shouldn’t be used to our advantage in the workplace. These apps, and the strategies they rely on, might help even the most stressed and unproductive employee refocus on the task at hand.
Data security is arguably one of the most important parts of running a business, especially when personally identifiable or confidential information is being shared across your network. Yet, some businesses continue to ignore security in favor of a “more convenient” approach which doesn’t hinder operations. When implemented properly, your security not only augments operations, but secures your organization’s data infrastructure.
One of the key ways that businesses secure information is through encryption. Encryption is when data is obfuscated so that hackers who steal information cannot read it. Encryption is best used combined with other security measures like a firewall and antivirus software--solutions designed to prevent data from being stolen in the first place.
Here are three reasons why encryption protocol is necessary for your business’s data infrastructure.
Encryption Improves Security As we just mentioned, encryption is absolutely necessary, regardless of what kind of data your business dabbles in. You can’t take any risks, and encryption is just another preventative measure to take against the never-ending horde of cyber attacks. You can consider encryption a failsafe mechanism for your business’s data. In other words, even if hackers manage to get around your security measures, the encryption protocol will scramble your data so that it can’t be read. At this point, it becomes a matter of whether or not the hacker deems your data worthy of the time it would take to decrypt it. It’s safe to say that most hackers would rather go for data that garners a higher ROI.
Encryption Augments Compliance You might be surprised to hear this, but encryption is actually not required for compliance with the various compliance laws like HIPAA. For the most part, compliance laws only call for the implementation of preventative solutions like firewalls and antivirus. However, it’s still important to consider encryption, as it’s certainly better than letting unencrypted files get stolen and sold on the black market.
Encryption Isn’t Necessary--It’s Expected When you work with services that require sensitive information, do you expect that your information will remain secure? After all, it makes sense for a service like PayPal or Amazon to keep your payment credentials encrypted and secure from hacking attacks. Now, apply this to your own clients. They likely expect the same for credentials and data that you store. It would be a shame for you to report to your clients that their data has been stolen because your infrastructure lacked encryption. This is a situation that could cripple your reputation and lose you valuable clients.
While online shopping is great for finding exactly what you need, you still need to remember that cybercrime is a major problem and that you need to be careful of where you plug in your financial information. Here are some best practices that can help to keep you safe this holiday season while bargain-hunting.
Stick to What You Know Which site would you trust more with your financial information: a well-known online retailer like Amazon or a small obscure manufacturing plant somewhere halfway across the world? Even if the perfect gift takes some work to find, it’s important that you don’t invest in the wrong seller. Large organizations like Amazon and Walmart have far too much to lose to be lousy with their customers’ information, and as such, they take measures to protect against cybercrime and identity theft. Plus, they have the capital to invest in such an endeavor, meaning that they can easily afford to grant proper security to their users (not to mention it’s often required).
Small sites don’t necessarily have these resources lying around, so they may wind up both ripping you off and leaking your credentials to hackers.
Still, it’s important to keep a close watch on the address bar for any page where you’re asked to input financial or personal information. Make sure that the site uses the correct domain, and that the product you’re paying for comes from a verified and trustworthy source. It’s easy for hackers to make fake sites to mislead unwary shoppers.
Look for the Padlock While you’re checking out the URL, take a closer look at it. Does it begin with HTTPS? This signifies that the URL has additional security protocol, making it more secure to add your credit card information or personal details to a form. You’ll also notice that there’s a padlock icon somewhere in the address bar.
Basically, if you’re going to input any financial information at all into a website, you should check to ensure that it’s both encrypted and legitimate. Sites that don’t have the green padlock are more likely to have their data stolen while it’s in transit, so you want to avoid sites like these.
Be Mindful When Mobile Smartphones make it easier than ever to do your shopping from anywhere in the world. However, you need to be careful about connecting to a Wi-Fi network while out and about. Public Wi-Fi is known to be less secure, so you want to be extra cautious that your activity isn’t being monitored and that your data isn’t being stolen. You never know when a hacker might be using a public Wi-Fi connection to exploit the holiday season.
By staying informed and safe, you’ll be sure to enjoy the holidays as they’re meant to be enjoyed.
Like it or not, millennials will make up a large part of your workforce in the near future. In your own business, you may have noticed quite the difference in the way that millennials approach work compared to other members of your staff. One of the biggest differences that you might have noticed is that millennials have no problem job-hopping. According to a recent study, one of the biggest reasons why millennials leave a company is due to outdated technology.
Granted, you might notice that this doesn’t necessarily apply to millennials exclusively. Anyone who is experiencing technology troubles will, of course, be frustrated. It’s not abnormal for an employee to expect a working workstation, and if you provide them with the technology they need to succeed, chances are that you’ll experience less turnover and your employees will be loyal.
A Future Workforce Study by Dell and Intel examined millennials and found that 42 percent of them have no problem leaving a company that can’t provide them with quality technology to do their job. This particular report examined 4,000 full-time employees from many different industries in ten different countries. The same study found that 51 percent of millennials think that virtual reality and Internet of Things devices will play a major role in the future work environment, completely eliminating the need for face-to-face meetings.
One of the reasons that this theory floats is because, when you think about it, employees are consumers at heart. Plus, when you consider the fact that millennials have grown up using technology, it makes sense that they expect things to just work for them. While millennials might not understand your IT budget, you should at least try to understand the root of their frustration with technology issues. Take the time to explain how and why things work so that you don’t have to take even more time to find a replacement for a resigning employee.
Losing a good employee due to technology troubles is less excusable than ever, now that it’s so easy to keep your technology up to date. You can take advantage of the best technology solutions “as a service,” meaning that all you have to do is pay by the month for comprehensive IT support. It’s now easier than ever to get exactly the type of support you need at a reasonable price, allowing you to bypass massive up-front costs that break budgets.
Basically, you need to think about it in the grand scheme of things rather than short-term. If your server fails to function properly, you need to be able to restore it as soon as possible. Otherwise, you experience crippling downtime which can break your budget. Preventing it from happening in the first place by taking advantage of proactive maintenance and management is the ideal choice. You can take this one step further by replacing old and ailing technology regularly, so that you’re always using new and improved systems.
Network security is an important, yet complex practice. For small and medium-sized businesses, it can be challenging to understand and implement solutions that cover such a complex subject. However, it doesn’t have to be. There are many security solutions out there, and they can generally be found in one convenient package.
We’re talking, of course, about a Unified Threat Management (UTM) solution. It’s a well-known and exceptionally helpful security tool that manages to take care of most threats that can access a network. However, unlike some other security solutions, the UTM not only focuses on eliminating current threats to your infrastructure, but also preventative measures designed to keep your system safe and secure.
We’ll discuss the components of a quality UTM, so that you can know what to look for when shopping around for a security solution.
Firewall A firewall is a basic security measure that anyone who uses a computer should be familiar with. You can think of a firewall as a virtual bouncer that keeps the bad data from entering your organization’s network, while still allowing good data through. A firewall, however, needs to constantly be updated with threat definitions in order to remain effective, and some seemingly-benign data might still get through.
Antivirus An antivirus solution works well alongside a firewall; it can detect and destroy potential threats before they can do harm to the infected system. Alongside a firewall, antivirus software is a critical component of any computing infrastructure--particularly in the business sector.
Spam Blocking Spam is one of the preferred modes of transportation that hackers use for their malware, and there’s a very good reason for that. It’s because spam allows users to “go incognito,” so to speak, and mask their identity through the use of email spoofing and other methods. Hackers commonly use what are called phishing attacks to trick users into downloading malicious files or accessing suspicious websites. A spam blocker can keep the majority of spam out of your inbox, eliminating this threat. Plus, spam is just annoying in general, even if it’s not malicious.
Content Filtering Not all web content is safe to browse, and even a good employee could accidentally visit an unsafe website that contains malicious code. In instances like this, a content filter keeps your infrastructure safe. Also of note is that content filtering can restrict access to specific sites on a per user basis--perfect for the problem employee who can’t seem to stay off of social media.
Email may be crucial to the functionality of your business, but at times it can seem like your inbox is far beyond your control. You might find yourself throwing away hours on end just to clean up the pile of unread messages in your inbox. Thankfully, with a bit of effort, you too can free yourself from an overburdened inbox.
Here are three ways you and your employees can save time and resources by wasting less time on your emails.
Make Time to Read Your Inbox While it might be exactly what you dread, there’s no other way to clean up your inbox. You need to go through it and read the messages that you’ve received, important or not. Many business executives receive so many messages a day that the sheer thought of keeping up with them sounds impossible. This is why you have to make time to go through your inbox. Remember, nobody can do it other than you.
A good strategy is to check it in the morning, in the afternoon around lunch time, and at the end of the day. Eventually, you’ll start to chip away at your inbox to the point where the emails you receive are much more manageable.
Unsubscribe from Email Listings Another great way to clean your inbox is to cut down on the amount of new messages you receive in the first place. In your Internet misadventures you may have subscribed to online news sources or e-newsletters that send promotional messages to your inbox. You can unsubscribe from these services by looking for the unsubscribe link in the message. This should direct you to the website’s account settings, where you can unsubscribe yourself from receiving any more messages. Just be sure that the link is legitimate and not a cleverly disguised phishing scam.
Implement a Spam Blocking Solution Spam is a major problem for all businesses, but even more than that it’s a security problem. Hackers tend to send malware in unsolicited email messages. If your users don’t know any better, they could accidentally expose your network to potential threats.
With a spam blocking solution, you can keep your inbox safe and secure from dangerous or time-wasting spam messages. The ideal solution is capable of keeping these messages out of your inbox in the first place, eliminating the need to comb through them.
If your business is sick of dealing with spam and the necessity of cleaning up inboxes, Net It On can help. Through proactive technology solutions, we can vastly improve the way that your organization functions.
As though computing systems apparently weren’t under enough threats, security researchers have discovered yet another potential vulnerability from a truly unexpected source. The sounds your hard drive makes can give a properly-equipped hacker everything they need to gather data from your machine, including any encryption keys you may have in place.
Targeting the hard drive’s actuator, DiskFiltration malware can decipher the sounds that the actuator makes as it writes data to the drive’s platters, assuming the malware is paired with the correct device.
Fortunately, this method does not look to be a promising option for hackers to make use of. For one, the hack will only work if the recording device is within six feet of a system for an extended period of time, as the data rate caps out at 180 bits each minute. Furthermore, this method of hacking is only effective against hard disk drives, as solid state drives make no sounds for DiskFiltration to filter through. Therefore, to avoid falling victim to DiskFiltration, there are some relatively simple precautions to take.
Encourage employees to keep an inventory of their desktops. Since the physical component of DiskFiltration requires a very close range, chances are it can be avoided if a worker just keeps track of the things on their desk, keeping unfamiliar devices away from your system. Make sure your employees remain vigilant of threats, both online and in person.
Consider upgrading to SSD. Without the physical noise of a mechanical hard drive, DiskFiltration is rendered useless. Plus, your systems will receive a boost in stability in general from the moving-part-free hardware.
If you upgrade to an SSD, you are that much better defended against a new variety of threat, as well as given the opportunity to prepare for similar threats before they advance.
Businesses rely on analytics more every day, with one of the primary reasons being that they’re exceptionally helpful for developing artificially intelligent technology systems that can aid in their missions. One of the qualities of a good AI program is machine learning, which is the ability of a system to look at information to identify and learn from trends. In fact, this practical aspect of AI is one of the reasons why it’s becoming popular in the business setting.
What is Machine Learning? The main idea of machine learning is to sift through a huge amount of data to find applications for it in the real world. An algorithm is what determines how the system will use the data collected. Either the program uses the data as it sees fit, or it can be told to use it in a certain way. Here are three ways machine learning is used, as reported by TechRepublic:
Supervised learning: The "trainer" will present the computer with certain rules that connect an input (an object's feature, like "smooth," for example) with an output (the object itself, like a marble).
Unsupervised learning: The computer is given inputs and is left alone to discover patterns.
Reinforcement learning: A computer system receives input continuously (in the case of a driverless car receiving input about the road, for example) and is constantly improving.
In some cases, “deep learning” may be used in order to provide a different approach to big data. Deep learning uses algorithms layered in ways that allow systems to process data and reach predictions. If you think that sounds familiar, that’s because it is--the big difference between deep learning and machine learning is that deep learning doesn’t rely on the assistance of users.
How It’s Being Used One of the best ways to understand how machine learning is being used is by looking to IBM’s Watson, the Jeopardy-winning robot. Another example is Google DeepMind, which can use machine learning to excel at the complex board game, Go. Furthermore, Amazon and Microsoft have machine learning platforms that can be used by organizations that want to build their own machine learning tools.
In terms of practical business use, machine learning can be applied in several ways. Some organizations have implemented automated help desk solutions which use “chatbots” to answer frequently asked questions. Others, like Dominos, have innovated to allow customers to place orders through Facebook Messenger and Twitter, using intelligent technology that can alter orders and suggest favorite menu items. Even Uber, the ride-hailing app that’s making waves in the industry, is using chatbots to help users request rides and receive updates.
Notice a pattern? Machine learning is being used by organizations that don’t have time to deal with individual questions, or by those who deal with tedious or repetitive tasks. Of course, not every client wants to talk to an automated chatbot, so the support extension still has a lifeline to hold onto for a while to come.
If your business wants to focus more on operations, you can optimize the way you handle your technology solutions through outsourced IT management. Net It On provides several services that keep your operations in mind. You shouldn’t have to be pulled away from your work just to resolve a technology problem.
When it comes to making progress on your organization’s future, your IT budget presents your business with a major roadblock. We bet that it would feel great to eliminate the stress associated with your IT budget. Here are three ways that you can plan for your business’s future and keep that IT budget slimmed down.
Build an IT Roadmap If you want to make the best decisions for the future of your hardware and software procurement, you can’t make these choices on a day-by-day basis. An unexpected server or workstation failure will be a major detriment for your organization. You’ll probably have to invest in new systems which will break your budget.
An IT roadmap can easily resolve this issue. By working with a trusted network administrator or IT technician, you can plan out how you want to allocate your resources across the next one, five, or ten years. This is a great way to make sure that your hardware and software refreshes aren’t unexpected or budget-breaking. Furthermore, with an IT roadmap you can guarantee that your budget is flexible enough to work around major changes.
Minimize Downtime Downtime is a major disruption that most organizations consider to be the biggest waste of time and resources. Downtime is any situation where your business cannot operate at full capacity, either due to a loss of personnel, Internet connection, or mission-critical resources. As such, technology failure is a major cause of downtime, and eliminating these issues is key to maximizing the value you get from your IT budget.
This problem is simple to eliminate, as a backup and disaster recovery is capable of practically eliminating downtime caused by hardware failure and technological troubles. BDR provides comprehensive, consistent access to several modes of data backup, including both on-site and off-site options. Furthermore, in the face of disasters like floods and fires, there’s no better way to get back in the game. BDR can restore your data directly to the BDR device from the cloud, drastically cutting down on time spent resolving issues.
Outsource as Much as Possible While it may seem like a good idea to handle as much IT maintenance as possible by yourself, this is a dangerous practice that can lead to lost time and assets down the road. Let’s use an analogy to explain why it’s best to have professional technicians working with your technology: would you rather have a trained pilot fly a commercial airliner, or fly the plane yourself for free after reviewing a quick online tutorial on how to operate the mechanism? That’s right--you’d probably select the actual pilot with the years of training.
Outsourcing is a way for businesses of all shapes and sizes to obtain skills that they may not be able to take advantage of otherwise. In particular, IT maintenance and management translates well to an outsourced service. Hiring new in-house technicians means adding new salaries to your budget, whereas outsourcing provides an affordable alternative in the form of monthly payments for services rendered. You can take your IT’s capital costs and turn them into operation costs.
Implementing a cloud solution is a difficult choice for many businesses, primarily because it represents a change in the way your organization functions. If you make a rash decision before doing your research, it might lead to downtime or a decrease in operability. Therefore, it’s important to understand why businesses move to the cloud, as well as what’s available for implementation.
Why is the Cloud Such a Great Investment? Organizations have found that the reliable access to data and applications is too good to pass up--especially considering that all you need is an Internet connection and a mobile device. The increase in mobility and productivity has provided countless businesses around the world with the ability to break down workplace barriers. Professionals who were once limited to the office can now work wherever--and however--they want.
We wish it were as simple as explaining how the cloud works, but it’s not. There are several different types of cloud solutions, and the one you want to use will vary depending on what you have planned for your cloud. Here are the three different types of cloud solutions, including their advantages and disadvantages.
Public The public cloud is usually offered by a third-party cloud provider, and the basic definition of it is that it’s a shared online space where users can store files and applications. Users can only see their own storage space. These solutions are for consumers, but some offer additional features for businesses or enterprises. The public cloud is ideal if your business doesn’t have someone on-hand to take care of an internal cloud system. Since it’s maintained by professional technicians within the provider’s organization, you won’t have to deal with updates or maintenance.
However, the public cloud provides limited control of your data, and you can’t take additional security measures that you might be able to with the private cloud.
Private The private cloud is generally hosted in an on-site location on company hardware, but some cloud providers will partition off a section of their infrastructure for private cloud clients. If you choose to host your own private cloud, you’ll be responsible for the upkeep, management, and maintenance of it. This is usually only possible if you have an internal IT department with the technical knowhow, but managed service providers offer a workaround in most cases.
If you want a hands-off private cloud solution, but still want the security benefits, a hybrid cloud can work well for you.
Hybrid Hybrid clouds are a combination cloud solution that combines the previously mentioned services into one dynamic package. A hybrid cloud keeps your data safe while minimizing the amount of maintenance your business must perform. Hybrid clouds can be private clouds managed on-site by an outsourced IT provider like Net It On. Or, we could host your private cloud on our own servers--whichever you prefer.
Social Media allows businesses to share their brand with the outside world in entirely new ways. While the benefit of social media is that everyone and their mother is on it, the problem with social media is that everyone and their mother is on it. People put all sorts of information on their accounts, which translates into a major security risk in the form of targeted phishing attacks.
Social media urges people to share information about their lives with others on the Internet. If you think about it, this trend has shown people that, despite the countless threats that can be found on the Internet, it’s “okay” to share information with others who want to contact you. This causes people to put their trust in social media, which can have dangerous side-effects. In particular, it makes them vulnerable to phishing attacks performed by hackers. Plus, you need to take into account that all of your employees likely have social media accounts, and that they share their contact information with anyone who can view their profile.
This becomes another vector that a hacker can use to exploit your business. Even if your business blocks access to these websites, employees will use these sites off of your network, be it through mobile devices or otherwise. Hackers could pose as an employee’s old friend, reaching out for the first time in ages--perhaps asking for a small loan. Or, maybe they’ll ask employees for sensitive credentials or personally identifiable information. Either way, you can bet that any compromised accounts will attempt to spread malware through suspicious links or advanced phishing attacks designed to target the user’s trusting nature.
After all, social media can be trusted, right? Wrong.
Too many businesses think that social media is simply another waste of time, rather than a legitimate threat. It’s a matter of perspective; users aren’t going to suspect that threats could lie on trusted websites like social media accounts; and the more connections someone has, the more potential outlets for hackers. The reality of the matter is that threats come in all shapes and sizes, and will take whatever measures needed to steal sensitive data or infect machines with malware. Plus, the more employees you have, the greater your chances of encountering situations like the aforementioned scenarios.
Is your business nervous about experiencing social media attacks? Your first line of defense is to educate your employees on security best practices. This includes how to identify incoming threats, especially through social media websites, where hackers could pretend to be someone familiar. It’s your responsibility to ensure that your employees understand how to keep themselves safe both in and out of the office.
You should then augment your best practices by implementing a content filtering solution from Net It On. A content filter can keep your employees from accessing risky or time-wasting websites, which includes social media like Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and so on. Furthermore, you can block access to social media on a per user level to keep the problem employees in check.
Cyber threats are everywhere. If you’re one to travel, then you’ll encounter many of these threats on public Wi-Fi networks. Therefore, remote workers need a secure way to access company files. Here are three tips to protect your digital assets while traveling.
Connect With ConsiderationPublic hotspots are a problem, especially for corporate data. One of the favorite ways for hackers to steal information from unsuspecting users is to create their own Wi-Fi network that mimics the name of an establishment’s official network. For example, if you’re staying at the Motel California and attempt to connect to its Wi-Fi, you are given the options of MOTEL_CALIFORNIA_GUEST or MOTELCALIFORNIA_FREEWIFI. In a fictitious scenario such as this, it may be difficult to determine which connection is legitimate.
Just to be sure, confirm which network is real by asking the establishment’s staff. Plus, if the Internet connection claims to require a software update, disconnect and inform management immediately.
The Briefer, the Better The longer that you’re logged in to a wireless connection, the more time you’re giving hackers to access your data. If you’re not using the Wi-Fi for any particular reason, disconnect from it and log back in at a later time. This practice might be annoying, but it’s much more secure than staying connected longer than you need to.
Rely on Your Own Resources If you have a mobile data plan that can sustain your usage, you should use that connection to create your own hotspot rather than relying on a potentially unsecured connection. At the very least, you’ll significantly decrease your chances of falling victim to a hack attack.
Bonus tip: Be sure to keep your devices close at hand. This includes storage solutions, especially those that are unsecured. If you have to leave your devices alone for any period of time, be sure to keep them locked away in cases, just to be safe.
Traveling doesn’t give you an excuse to ignore data security. By taking advantage of the proper layers of protection, as well as a security solution like a Virtual Private Network, you can make sure that your data is safe while you’re on the go.
Every business is different, and will require technology solutions specifically designed with their organization in mind. However, it can often be difficult to implement new solutions, especially if you don’t know what your options are. By taking a careful analysis of your current IT assets, as well as where you plan to be in the next few years, you can accurately gauge your business’s expectations and implement the right solutions.
There are a few concepts that technology solutions should meet for SMBs; functionality, interoperability, and flexibility.
Interoperability and Functionality Your organization needs technology that works with other solutions that your organization provides. This can be difficult to gauge, especially since managing your business comes first and handling your IT comes second. Or, rather, it should be this way for a business owner, but it’s often the case that managing IT interferes with business operations. Since you don’t have the time to properly vet a solution, it might be tempting to implement it before you know it’s compatible with your infrastructure. It’s best to consult a trusted technician before implementing new technology solutions, as doing so without first understanding compatibility can cause wasteful downtime.
Plus, it helps to have professional technicians on-hand who can help your business identify good technology deals. Without having an intimate knowledge of the latest technology, it’s easy to purchase new hardware or software and have it fall short of your expectations.
Scalable, Flexible Solutions In particular, cloud and communication solutions are designed to retain a certain flexibility for the consumer. This means that they are easy to scale to your business’s specific needs, and you will only pay for services that you want, rather than expensive bundles. Think of it like cable television; sure, it’s nice to have, but not when it also comes with several other functions and services that you’ll never use, but are still paying money for. You can see a great parallel to this type of saving in regards to cord cutters, who favor services like Netflix and Hulu Plus compared to spending much more on cable.
Some of the many IT solutions that are both flexible and scalable to meet your needs include:
Virtual helpdesk and support
Productivity suites and software as a service
This flexibility is what keeps organizations coming back to managed IT services, as it allows organizations to create solutions that are specific to their needs. Doing so guarantees them that they will have solutions put into place that can be increased or decreased with demand, or with corporate growth.
It should also be noted, it can be difficult to implement solutions without having a solid goal in mind, especially if you’re hoping to grow. Using an IT roadmap can dramatically increase the return on investment of your business’s technology solutions, as it takes into account your goals and how your business adjusts to growth.
As we hear news about large-scale hacks and data breaches, there’s a temptation to picture attacks like those in television shows and films like Mr. Robot, Live Free or Die Hard and other works of fiction. These attacks are often carried out by criminal geniuses or nefarious nation-states, utilizing of a crippling zero-day vulnerability or superbug to bring society to its knees.
While such stories can make for great entertainment, is this trend toward huge, sophisticated hacks in fiction representative of real life? As it turns out, apparently not.
Penetration company SafeBreach released the second edition of their Hacker’s Playbook, which describes the experience the company’s researchers had as they simulated almost four million methods of data breaches between January and September of 2016. Those that succeeded were analyzed to establish how the hacker entered the system, how they moved about the system, and how they stole data away.
The results were surprising, to say the least. The most successful attacks that were run were those that have been around for years. The old “.exe file in the email attachment” trick was effective in a quarter of all attempts that were tested, and assorted malware-distributing exploit kits and zip files tested to be very effective as well. In short, the vast majority of vulnerabilities came--not from the cinematic doomsday plots of superbug-wielding geniuses--but from the old, tried-and-true issues and user errors. Oftentimes, measures meant to stop malware aren’t configured properly, leaving a system exposed and underprotected.
So what does this mean for your business?
Quite a bit, actually. Reflecting upon such trends, it is essentially guaranteed that a hacker could make off with whatever data they could want. However, businesses can still take preventative measures against this by implementing the proper solutions (like firewalls and spam blocking tools), educating their employees as to the threats that are out there, and properly maintaining their systems.
So you have elected to relocate your operations to a new office space. While this can be a great way to make progress toward a variety of goals, there are important considerations you need to take into account during your search to find a space that is just right for you and your business’s needs. What follows is a list of factors to keep in mind as you narrow your real estate search.
Building Systems Not all office spaces are created equal, and so some will have some functionality that others lack. Does the office you’re considering feature enough space for not only your employees, but also for the on-premises infrastructure? Is the HVAC system powerful enough to keep your technology cool enough and your staff comfortable enough to function properly? The ability to install a backup generator is an important consideration to take into account as well depending on the importance of uptime. An extremely important factor, while not always immediately considered, is parking. Will your workforce have enough parking space for all of its members at any given time?
Cables (Phone and LAN) If you are moving 25 workers into a new office, you’ll need drops for their workstations to plug in to. Have the network cables been tested? How are they ran? There are many factors to consider when running networking cable, such as; making sure they aren’t ran around florescent lighting and power cables, terminating and labeling them properly, and it’s always been a good practice to run two drops for each desk in case something goes wrong.
With a wireless solution, you could get away from using some of the network cables, but setting that up requires some planning as well.
As far as phone cables go, with good network cables you could consider VoIP, which eliminates the need for separate phone cables and utilizes your network and the internet to make and receive calls.
Efficiency and Expenses This will require a bit of math and comparative consideration, as factors other than price must be accounted for in determining the best value for your company and its needs. One key example is a property’s load factor, or how much space is used up by other features that prevent utility (like hallways, restrooms, and elevators). For example, let’s consider two properties that each have total areas of 15,000-square-feet. The cheaper of the two has an 18 percent load, while the more expensive has a 7 percent load. Despite the higher price, the second option may actually be the more economic decision as the lesser load would allow more resources to fit inside the office’s walls.
Furthermore, there are the other costs associated with being a tenant in someone’s building--maintenance, energy, and the other costs that are added to the rent--that should also factor into deliberations. Is the building equipped with features to cut costs that would otherwise increase the cost of occupancy?
Management Concerns If a building you are looking into houses more than one business, ask yourself, “What other businesses operate here?” Are any those that you would consider your competition, a factor that would almost assuredly create some tension down the line. Talk to some of the other tenants about their experience in establishing themselves in that building. Are the building utilities well seen to? The janitorial staff will need to be proficient and efficient at their jobs, elevator and climate-control systems will need to be reliably operational. Parking will need to be accessible and conveniently located for everyone.
These are all considerations to take into account as you move your business into a new location. However, one consideration that stands above all is how you plan on moving your organization’s mission-critical technology. Net It On can help evaluate your new location and compare it to the infrastructure you already have running to make sure moving doesn’t cause major hangups in your productivity.