Wednesday, June 30, 2021

Tip of the Week: Deciphering Your Computer’s Power Options

 Granted, you’re probably most interested in your computer when you’re using it. However, it is very important to consider what you do when you walk away based on the list found in the Power section of the Start menu. Let’s go over what each of these options actually does.

Your Options

Opening the Start menu and clicking Power, you’ll most likely see the following options:

  • Sleep
  • Hibernate (subject to the hardware used or any group policies that may be in place)
  • Shut Down
  • Restart

Each option activates a different process that will best serve you in different situations. While Shut Down and Restart should be somewhat obvious—one turns off the system, and the other one completely shuts down all processes and brings them all back up to full power—the two remaining options may be less clear. Let’s review the times you should use these remaining options, Sleep and Hibernate.


When your computer is in Sleep mode it is technically still on, just at an inactive state. This means that resuming work is a speedy and efficient process… once the monitor and peripherals wake up and full power is restored, you’re back in business.

This speed can be attributed to the use of your RAM to store all the data on your system while the computer sleeps. Unfortunately, this method also exposes your data to risk as a loss of power for any reason could wipe this data with no recourse on your part. Make sure you’re regularly saving your progress!


In between putting your computer to sleep and fully shutting it down, Hibernate basically enables you to turn off your computer while still retaining the fast pickup time that sleeping the system offers.

This is done in a similar method as Sleep would, with the exception that the actual drives are used to store your activity and processes instead of RAM. In doing so, your data is more protected, but could easily fill your hard drive with unneeded data.

To revive a device from hibernation, all you must do is press the power button again.

Your Needs Will Dictate What You Use

…or, your organization might. Your options could very well be limited by the hardware installed in the system you use or by your organization’s admin options. Therefore, Hibernate may or may not be an option for you to use.

Monday, June 28, 2021

Demystifying Blockchain Technology

 Cryptocurrencies--especially those that have recently surged into relevance--rely on blockchain technology, but what many people do not know is that blockchain is far more than a way to exchange digital currencies. In fact, cryptocurrency was just the beginning. Let’s take a look at the other practical uses for blockchain technology, including what it is and how it can help businesses.

First, let’s break down what blockchain is and what it does.

What Is Blockchain Technology?

In its simplest form, blockchain can be described as a public record or ledger used to keep track of exchanges known as transactions. Thanks to the way that blockchain works, once a transaction is logged to the ledger, it is extremely difficult to change. This effectively makes hacking null and void.

Here’s the general gist of it; a blockchain networks thousands of computers together that each have to individually verify every single transaction on the ledger. This regular sealing and beginning of new files makes hacking extraordinarily difficult. In order to successfully carry out an attack on a blockchain, the hacker would have to infiltrate every single computer--thousands of them--and the correct record would have to be changed on each of them. It’s a lofty task for even the most seasoned cybercriminals; and when you consider that they cannot be detected while going through this process, it almost seems like such a task is hardly worth the effort, from a hacker’s perspective.

Blockchain also helps to preserve privacy and resist outside authority. Since it is distributed over such a large network and built on pseudonyms, it is a tad harder to pin down compared to other computing systems.

The creator of Bitcoin and blockchain technology, who goes by Satoshi Nakamoto, intended for the network to be permanent and immutable, meaning that wherever the 21 million Bitcoins traveled would always be known and recorded. There are presently 18 million Bitcoins claimed and established in the blockchain, and unlike other resources out there, Bitcoins are finite in nature.

Since its initial inception, several applications have been built using blockchain technology, many of which are held by private companies and organizations. Due to the way blockchain works, the security depends largely on the size of the network, making these somewhat less secure by comparison. Still, they are quite popular, and it is easy to see why.

How Can It Be Used?

Blockchain technology can help companies keep track of critical information that keeps operations moving in an effective and efficient way. For example, the pharmaceutical, food distribution, and freight shipment industries all benefit from this concept.

The very fact that the blockchain cannot be altered outside of the previously outlined scenario makes it ideal for guaranteeing authenticity. The chances of it being altered are so slim that it’s practically impossible, which makes certain business processes much easier to handle. Here are just a few of the benefits blockchain poses for businesses:

  • Improved Efficiency: The blockchain can help businesses track and organize activities which makes analytics far easier to perform. This can save tons of time that might otherwise be spent trying to track down all of the data involved in the process.
  • Accountability: If you encounter issues within your business, having your data in such an organized environment will make handling them much easier. The ledger created by the blockchain can help your organization identify losses and their causes, which could prevent legal issues from spiraling out of control in court.
  • Simpler Auditing: Regulations are everywhere these days, and having a rich and detailed history of each transaction is effective for ensuring you comply with them. This makes the idea of an audit much less intimidating, as you know that each transaction is part of an immutable record and concrete in nature.
  • Comprehensive Data Integrity: You don’t need us to tell you the value of having a solid data trail. The fact that blockchain can provide this speaks volumes for how valuable it can be for any business in any industry.

What are your thoughts on blockchain technology? Do you have any ideas for how you might implement it for your business? Let us know in the comments, and be sure to subscribe to our blog for the latest on how businesses and enterprises are using emerging technologies.

Wednesday, June 23, 2021

How to Optimize Your Technology Budget in 2021

 After 2020, it is understandable that many businesses would be seeking out a way to recoup a lot of the expenses and losses that the year’s events likely incurred upon them. This has led many to turn to their IT investments as the sacrificial lamb. While we are undeniably biased, we would argue that there are better ways to streamline your business’ expenses in terms of its IT than to simply cut them outright.

Based on findings shared in Flexera’s 2021 State of Tech Spend report, let’s go over a few other means to streamline expenses that many businesses are following now.

Adapt to the Changing Times

It should come as no surprise that the past year encouraged a lot of businesses to put new technologies and utilities in place to help support their workflows. These technologies were largely the kind that could encourage a workforce’s mobility away from the traditional workplace by enabling remote operations and work-from-home strategies to be adopted.

This led to significant investments into solutions like cloud computing, which is where 30 percent of IT spend is now directed with a corresponding 36 percent decrease of investments into on-premises solutions. However, what happens when “business as usual” once again becomes the norm?

Frankly, it isn’t likely that it ever will.

The statistics make it clear that technologies like Software-as-a-Service and public cloud are the direction that businesses are now moving, accelerated in their trajectory by recent events. According to Flexera’s survey, 57 percent of their respondents saw some increase in their utilization of SaaS solutions and 49 percent increased their use of public cloud. Meanwhile, IT spend decreased significantly in on-premises software, server investments, and data center usage.

Options like SaaS and public cloud promote a few choice benefits for businesses, as they enable some significant mobility amongst a workforce—allowing these businesses to accomplish productive operations with their team members working remotely, as necessary—as well as some serious customizability in terms of scale. Both can significantly benefit the business looking to make the most of its costs.

Identify Less-Than-Optimal Investments

Having said this, the cloud is the cause of a lot of wasted IT budgets. A 2019 report by Flexera also reported that about 35 percent of cloud spend is wasted through mismanagement, with the rapid changes that characterize cloud services and missed opportunities to claim discounts contributing to these challenges.

Unfortunately, these trends have not changed much in the time since this data was compiled. Flexera’s updated data shows that today’s waste comes in at around 30 percent. To try and minimize this waste, it is necessary to reexamine any investments you’ve made thus far—not just to identify ways that you can get more mileage out of those you’ve maintained, but to also ensure that you’re not maintaining licenses and such things that have since gone unused.

Reconsider How You Host Your IT

At the end of the day, it really boils down to the value that you’re getting from your technology. When all your expenses are accounted for and examined critically as you consider the value and utility that expense has resulted in, you may find that your entire strategy is holding your business back.

We mentioned already that IT investments are shifting, the preeminent strategy no longer being to host critical infrastructures on-site. There’s a good reason for this: cloud-hosted technology simply delivers more value to a greater number of businesses.

In many ways, onsite IT just can’t compete with decentralized IT in terms of value… particularly when viewed through the lens we’ve all shared over the last year. Of course, this is assuming that enough attention is paid to your cloud investments as time passes. Balancing these costs will likely—almost certainly—result in positive outcomes for your business’ finances moving forward.

Monday, June 21, 2021

Have You Considered Hosted VoIP as a Practical Solution?

 Many businesses experience a similar scenario when dealing with their telephony—one where an extremely expensive solution limits their capabilities… unless, of course, they are willing to fork over more of their available budget. VoIP, or Voice over Internet Protocol, is another option that can help fix both issues at once. Let’s take a few moments to review how VoIP does this, and what this can do for your business. 

VoIP in Review

While VoIP has seen a huge rise in popularity amongst residential customers as telecoms have updated their infrastructures, the protocol is at its heart a business solution. By co-opting your existing broadband service to route calls and other data, VoIP effectively reverses the precedent set by dial-up Internet services. Nowadays, chances are good that even the most novice of private users has some experience with VoIP, thanks to tools like Facebook Messenger, Skype, and Facetime.

These services are good in their own right, but when the time comes, businesses need a tool that can cope with the high volume of calls such organizations often see. That’s where VoIP comes in, offering enterprise-level utility at a price point that small businesses manage every day.

Why Hosted VoIP?

I know, I know… telecoms and the solutions they provide are all the same. They cost a lot, generally offering little, and maybe meet some of the needs that your business has. Fortunately, this is far from the reality of VoIP. Let’s touch on three reasons that VoIP is a much different (read as: better) option for a business focused on its future:


VoIP is a less expensive option than the traditional phone system. It’s as simple as that. In addition to being able to consolidate two major operating costs into one, the upfront costs required to adopt VoIP in the first place are minor. In fact, a smartphone can be used as a VoIP handset, allowing you to pare down your costs even further.


VoIP is also an inherently flexible solution, meaning that it can be adapted to a business’ unique use case and situation exceptionally easily. Take the process of adding new users to your VoIP implementation: there are no dedicated wires to run or renovations to make for the sake of phone service. VoIP is plug-in-and-play in a very literal sense, so connecting it and setting it up can be accomplished in minutes.


Finally, we can’t talk about VoIP without discussing just how many features it offers as a direct result of its reliance on the Internet, in addition to call quality alone. VoIP also offers:

  • Audio and video conferencing
  • Call forwarding
  • Personalized extensions
  • Call routing
  • Call recording
  • Automated receptionist
  • Call queues
  • Instant messaging
  • Text messaging
  • Integrated voicemail

…along with many other features that could directly play into your business’ successful operations.

Wednesday, June 16, 2021

How Important is Socialization Between Your Remote Team Members?

 Remote work is a more popular option than ever, considering how businesses have needed to adapt, but that isn’t to say that this option hasn’t experienced some challenges. One major drawback has been the impact that the situation at hand has had on the cumulative mental health of your team. There is some cognitive dissonance associated with working together while separating—largely because the casual conversations that generally come with working together have been lost.

This might not be the best thing for your business. Let’s go over why, and what you can do about it.

What Can Isolation Do to Your Team Members?

When a person is hired by a business and integrates into the team, it may not be the result of that company’s mission statement or philosophy or what have you. Rather, it may simply be the fact that they’ve grown attached to the people they’re working with. The bond between teammates can become very powerful and, as a result, more collaborative.

This is what presents a challenge when a team is spread out. The casual conversations that help to form and maintain this collaborative bond become more challenging to participate in, oftentimes eliminating them entirely.

This has led, in turn, to strained relationships due to the lack of this socialization.

Improving the Remote Socialization Amongst Your Team

With the use of today’s solutions, these issues can be significantly minimized. Rather than restricting the approved use of business collaboration tools to strictly business, it could be better to encourage your team members to use them to keep in touch through idle conversation. Many tools, like the gaming collaboration app Discord, Zoom, and Microsoft Teams, have been co-opted by businesses as means of enabling persistent communicative capabilities.

Whatever it is that you decide to implement, you need to support it with repeated encouragement so that your team knows how important it is for them to pick up on it. Without these efforts, such changes may not take.

Monday, June 14, 2021

Massively Key Benefits of Managed IT

 Most businesses that have chosen to use managed IT services have found that their technology works better than it did before partnering with their provider. It’s not just a group of people sitting around fixing computers, however, there are some real strategies in place to allow for this to happen. Today we’ll give you a brief overview of the services we offer.


Your Business Technology

The managed service provider’s job is primarily to support your IT infrastructure and network to ensure that your technology is working optimally. Do we fix computers? Absolutely, but the lion’s share of the time is spent on helping our clients build and maintain the IT infrastructure that can effectively support their business. We do this with several services. Let’s take a brief look at them:

Remote Monitoring and Management

We are of the opinion that when “IT” comes around and tinkers with the machines while your staff is working, it can be a massive distraction. So if we are installing new technology, we’ll be there outside of working hours so as not to cause downtime.

Our staff instead uses state of the art technology to monitor your entire IT infrastructure to keep your technology running properly. If we find an issue, we fix it, or at the very least bring it to your attention before it becomes an operational problem. Broken technology is bad for the bottom line, but downtime is worse. Downtime is a thief and it keeps coming around. With remote monitoring and management tools, we do what we can to stop the thief in its tracks. 

Regular Reviews

A lot can change in a short period of time. Technology evolves and so does your business. That’s why we like to sit down for regular reviews with your decision makers to understand what your business’ goals are and how technology and technology-related services can help you meet your goals. 

Vendor Management

Vendors are necessary for every business, but they’re kind of like having an annoying neighbor. They have a tendency to come around and call too often, and basically take up a lot of time that you could use to be focusing on your business. Consider how much time you’ve been on the phone or have visited with one of your vendor's sales associates in the past month? It’s more than you probably would have liked. Even if you like the rep, there are plenty of other things you could be doing. The same goes for getting technical support from your vendors.

Vendor management is just that: we run your technology vendor relationships. It provides the consistency you would get if you did it yourself, but it takes the responsibility off your shoulders. With the knowledge we glean from the regular review process, we know what’s best for your business and we’ll ensure we carry out your wishes to a T.

Patch Management

Every business uses some type of software, some firms use hundreds. One thing is certain about software, it needs to be updated regularly. Otherwise there will probably be some type of vulnerability on your network. If exploited, this can turn really ugly, really fast. Today’s hackers don’t need much wiggle room to ruin your fiscal year. Our technicians regularly patch all of your business’ software to ensure that the IT you are using isn’t a time bomb.

Backup and Disaster Recovery

One of the simplest services any IT serviced firm provides, and one of the most important. We offer our backup and disaster recovery service which provides incremental backups of your business' data and we store it both onsite and in the cloud to ensure that no matter what happens to your business, that your data is still safe and ready to be recovered quickly. 

Fix Computers

Well, we do fix computers both in our workshop and, if the need arises, at your place of business. This is a no-brainer, but with all the remote tools we provide, that includes a help desk solution, you shouldn’t expect to see us milling around your office causing a distraction. 

Wednesday, June 9, 2021

Tip of the Week: How to Generate Strong Passwords That You Can Actually Remember

 Passwords are effectively the cornerstone of your business’ data security—if they aren’t up to muster, your protections could crumble. Unfortunately, many users shortchange their passwords to try to make them more convenient, also making them more convenient for cybercriminals. Let’s see how we could (and should) make passwords as effective as possible.

Threats Against Your Passwords

There are two different ways that an attacker will generally try to undermine your password:

  1. Using trickery to fool your team members into sharing their password.
  2. Using tools and malicious software to deduce and/or steal the correct credential.

Because of this, it is important that you ensure that all the passwords that your users have in place are strong enough to resist both methodologies.

Balancing Strength and Memorability

Considering this, it makes sense to keep the following ideas in mind as you put together your passwords and password policies:

  • If a password cannot be guessed, stolen, or deduced, the hacker will likely try any and all possible combinations until they get a match in what is called a brute force attack.
  • A password’s security and that same password’s resilience against being brute forced are two different things.

For an optimally secured password, you must consider both of these ideas.

Using This Information to Optimize Your Passwords

There are a few standbys when it comes to password best practices that are likely familiar to you:

  • A password needs to be longer, ideally over 16 characters in length when allowed
  • These characters need to include a combination of non-consecutive letters, numbers, and symbols
  • These characters don’t represent any common words or numbers, private information, or any publicly accessible details

In addition to these precautions, we must consider how attackers break into passwords through brute force attacks. To help avoid that outcome, your passwords need to be sufficiently complex as well.

Approximately 40 percent of passwords in use only contain lowercase letters, which enterprising cybercriminals are well aware of and use to their advantage throughout their brute force attacks. They do so by first only checking combinations of exclusively lowercase letters, making their efforts much faster. Each additional variable adds to the difficulty the hacker will have decoding it, potentially convincing them to abandon their efforts before success.

Of course, you still need to remember these passwords, so if you can’t commit it to memory it isn’t going to help you, either.

As a result, an idea has come around that a truly ideal password is made up of a few randomized words with random alphanumeric substitution and capitalization sprinkled throughout them, padded out with symbols. After all, each variable we incorporate makes the hacker’s job that much more of a challenge and could foreseeably stymie any automated efforts to bypass the password long enough to render the search impracticable.

So, in light of this, a good password might look something similar to this:


Taking this password into closer consideration, we can see why it would be nigh impossible to guess, without being impossible for a user to remember. However, its varied construction also means that a brute force method would have to go through an extensive list of permutations before eventually landing on this precise combination.

So, if you’re up to the challenge, it makes sense to consider making your passwords look something like this from here on out.

The Matter of Remembering These Passwords

Of course, using a separate example of a password like this for each account you have is a considerable feat—daunting for most people. A password manager can make it much simpler to keep to these best practices.

A password manager is a specialized software that securely stores your active passwords for you to use, locking them behind a single master password. That way, you can keep to password best practices without having to remember dozens of different passwords.