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January 13th, 2017

img-windows10-170px-op2 Windows 10 had a rough year. It’s been flooded with numerous complaints from users claiming that they were "tricked" into upgrading Windows 7 and uncontrollable OS updates. The new year is a time for new things, and that’s exactly what Microsoft is planning to do in 2017. It’s been speculated that Microsoft plans on addressing certain issues, but there are still many that are left unattended to.

A patch and a glitch away Users couldn’t escape the glitches in the frequent Windows 10 updates, which caused an array of problems such as frozen systems, broken webcams, and even PCs being unable to secure an Internet connection. In light of the patching dilemma, Microsoft is offering more options to defer updates. In fact, a leaked preview shows a new option to pause updates for up to 35 days via a switch in the Settings menu.

OneDrive placeholders Since the launch of Windows 10, many users have eagerly awaited Microsoft to re-introduce this beloved feature to the operating system’s built-in OneDrive cloud storage service. In Windows 8.1, placeholders (aka Smart files) allowed users to see all their OneDrive files, whether or not they were stored on the device. Making its return in Windows 10 File Explorer when using OneDrive, the feature shows user files stored locally as well as on the cloud.

Owning up to the update fiasco Not only is Microsoft addressing the various complaints it received, but it’s also owning up to some of them. Just before Christmas, Microsoft’s chief marketing officer, Chris Capossela, admitted that the company had gone too far when it tried to get Windows 7 and 8 users to upgrade to Windows 10. This referred to Microsoft’s decision in early 2016 to change the design for the user prompt for its Get Windows 10 app, the software responsible for scheduling upgrades. The user prompt was altered so that clicking X to close the window causes the user to unknowingly agree to a Windows 10 upgrade. This change puts Microsoft in direct violation of its own user experience guidelines for developers on dialog box design.

“Within a couple of hours of that hitting the world, we knew we had gone too far,” recalled Capossela. “Those two weeks were pretty painful and clearly a lowlight for us.” It was then that Microsoft reversed its decision on tweaking the pop-up, so clicking on X would dismiss the upgrade.

It seems that 2017 is the year that Microsoft will start listening more to its users and addressing their complaints. Maybe: Hopefully this renewed strategy will benefit users sooner rather than frustrate them later. Contact us and we’ll keep you up-to-date with the latest Microsoft updates.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic Windows
January 12th, 2017

2017january12_security_bRansomware, Trojan horses, spyware and malware are things small businesses like yours don’t ever want to come across. While the term cyber security was once thrown around to scare businesses into purchasing security software, today’s sophisticated threats can leave immense impact, something that antivirus solution alone can’t handle. With that in mind, we’ve rounded up top cyber attack statistics that prove you need managed services in order to remain safe and operational.

The numbers

Small businesses are not at risk of being attacked, but worse, they’ve already fallen victim to cyber threats. According to Small Business Trends, 55 percent of survey respondents say their companies have experienced cyber attack sometime between 2015 and 2016. Not only that, 50 percent reported they have experienced data breaches with customer and employee information during that time, too. The aftermath of these incidents? These companies spent an average of $879,582 to fix the damages done to their IT assets and recover their data. To make matters worse, disruption to their daily operations cost an average of $955,429.

The attacks

So what types of attack did these businesses experience? The order from most to least common are as follows: Web-based attacks, phishing, general malware, SQL injection, stolen devices, denial of services, advanced malware, malicious insider, cross-site scripting, ransomware and others.

Why managed services?

Managed services is the most effective prevention and protection from these malicious threats. They include a full range of proactive IT support that focuses on advanced security such as around the clock monitoring, data encryption and backup, real-time threat prevention and elimination, network and firewall protection and more.

Not only that, but because managed services are designed to identify weak spots in your IT infrastructure and fix them, you’ll enjoy other benefits including faster network performance, business continuity and disaster recovery as well as minimal downtime. One of the best things about managed services is the fact that you get a dedicated team of IT professionals ready to assist with any technology problems you might have. This is much more effective and budget-friendly than having an in-house personnel handling all your IT issues.

Being proactive when it comes to cyber security is the only way to protect what you’ve worked hard to built. If you’d like to know more about how managed services can benefit your business, just give us a call, we’re sure we can help.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic Security
January 11th, 2017

2017january11_business_bOver the previous months, you’ve probably heard about new and disruptive trends like virtual assistants, smartphones, and automation technologies. Some of these IT solutions may even be placed on top of your business priority list. However, with floods, fires, and power outages just around the corner, disaster recovery and business continuity plans should always have a place on your annual budget.

DR isn’t a huge investment A common misconception about disaster recovery is that it’s a large, bank-breaking investment. Expensive secondary data centers, networks, and server maintenance usually come into mind when a business owner is confronted with the idea of business continuity. And while that may have been true in the past, establishing a strong disaster recovery plan today is as simple -- and as cheap -- as going to a cloud-based disaster recovery provider and paying for the data and services that your business needs. Subscription pricing models are actually incredibly low, meaning you can have minimal downtime while still having enough to invest in new tech.

Onsite backups just won’t cut it Although you might feel secure with a manual backup server down the hall, it is still susceptible to local disasters and, ultimately, does very little in minimizing company downtime. When disaster recovery solutions are hosted in the cloud or in a virtualized server, restoring critical data and applications only take a few minutes.

Business disasters can be man-made, too Even if your workplace is nowhere near frequent disaster zones, cyber attacks and negligent employees can leave the same impact on your business as any natural disaster can. Setting a weak password, clicking on a suspicious link, or connecting to unsecured channels is enough to shut down a 5-, 10-, or even 50-year-old business in mere minutes.

Sure, installing adequate network security is a critical strategy against malicious actors, but last year’s barrage of data breaches suggests that having a Plan B is a must. A suitable disaster recovery plan ensures that your data’s integrity is intact and your business can keep going, no matter the malware, worm, or denial-of-service attack.

Downtime will cost you A business without a DR plan might come out unscathed after a brief power outage, but why risk the potential damages? Either way, downtime will cost your business. First, there’s the general loss of productivity. Every time your employees aren’t connected to the network, money goes down the drain. Then there’s the cost of corrupted company data, damaged hardware, and the inevitable customer backlash. Add all those variables together, and you end up with a business-crippling fee.

So, if you want 2017 to be the best year for your business, make the smart choice and proactively take part in creating your company’s business continuity plan. Your business will be in a better position financially with it than without it.

Keep your business safe, recover from any disaster, and contact us today.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic Business
January 10th, 2017

2017january10_socialmedia_bWith communication apps such as Skype, WhatsApp, and Slack aiming to conquer audio and video calling, what is a social networking giant like Facebook to do? In a move to enhance its already ubiquitous Messaging app, Facebook is all set to follow suite and occupy a space alongside some of the most dominant VoIP apps in the market, particularly in desktop group video calling.

No one gets left behind

In group chats, there’s always that one person who gets the joke last, or reads it last, and so feels left out. With Facebook’s group video chat, this never has to happen as every participant in the group can be connected at the same time. The functionality is still in the “small test” phase, which means certain details are still being ironed out. When it fully launches, though, expect a considerable portion of Facebook Messenger users to consider moving their Skype group video conversations to Facebook.

Potentially compelling benefits

Since introducing its audio calling capability in 2013, Facebook has worked hard to keep up with the competition. Facebook’s introduction – and potential domination – of desktop group video calling might signal the end of times for Skype and other players. For one, Facebook and social media user growth hasn’t shown signs of slowing down. Moreover, most users of internet telephony might inevitably see the advantages of using a single platform for their social media activity and online communications.

Possible user reservations

Users who prefer a communication tool that creates zero distractions in their chats might not opt for Facebook when conducting group video conferences. Facebook is, first and foremost, a social media platform, which serves as a springboard for important news updates, personal anecdotes, and funny cat videos. Not everyone will prefer all those distractions while in a business meeting.

Those looking for a clean communications tool might find the wealth of content a bit overwhelming. In addition, employees of small companies in need of a free communications tool might not immediately warm up to the idea of surrendering their Facebook profile as an official point of contact.

If there’s anything Facebook has proven, however, it is the ability to improve upon previous versions by adding or removing details to enhance user experience. Users may not always be pleased with the updates, but that hasn’t slowed down the billion-user company’s popularity. If the newly introduced desktop group video calling function proves efficient, Facebook might persuade even more users to lean towards its messaging tool.

With many options to choose from, the only thing left for people to do is discern which platform best serves their communications needs. For advice on which VoIP platform is best for your business, contact us today.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic Social Media
January 9th, 2017

img-ipad-170px-op2There’s nothing worse than hardware vulnerabilities that put even the most cautious of users at risk. We could lecture you about how even unimportant tablets with little to no personal information are still a security liability, but until Apple releases a patch to the iPad’s newest vulnerability, everyone who owns one is at risk of losing control of his or her data. Let’s take a closer look at what you need to know.

iPad owners who find themselves in the unfortunate situation of having their device stolen have the option to activate Apple’s Find My iPhone feature from icloud.com. If an iPad has this setting turned on, its GPS can be activated from any web browser to inform the owner where it is located.

Furthermore, if a user is concerned that the tablet may have been stolen, he or she can remotely lock the device. From the moment it is locked, the device can only be accessed by logging into the corresponding icloud.com account.

It’s a wonderfully intuitive feature, and tens of thousands of iPad owners have prevented data theft since it was first introduced by Apple in 2010. Unfortunately, security researchers recently announced a critical flaw that allows common thieves to totally bypass the remote lock feature simply by flooding login data fields with too many characters.

Apple is aware of the issue and has taken steps to address it with an operating system update. The latest version of iOS has fixed the issue for iPhones, but not for iPads.

Although we anticipate a patch to fix this flaw in the near future, the best way to avoid this predicament is to keep valuable data backed up separately from your iPad. One of the Find My iPhone options is to remotely wipe the device, which means as long as you aren’t permanently losing valuable data, the worst case scenario is losing nothing more than the tablet itself.

The more mobile our technology becomes, the more susceptible it is to physical security threats. It’s important to secure your devices not only from networked threats, but also from everyday ones, like someone nabbing your iPad while you step away from the table to order a coffee. For across-the-board security solutions and consulting, get in touch with us today.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic Apple
January 6th, 2017

2016january6_webandcloud_bThe crystal ball certainly won’t be making an appearance anytime soon, so it’s time to start preparing for the far more realistic technology trends of the coming year. Investing in the right technology could be the thing that sets you apart from your competitors in the coming year, and all it takes is a little research and education. Until someone invents a crystal ball, you’re stuck with our professional projections on the state of web services in 2017.

#1 On-premises servers will survive another year

Cloud adoption will most likely continue its stellar rise, but that doesn’t mean it will be hard to find affordable service for your in-house server or data center. Based on a recent survey of companies that utilize cloud services, nearly half will continue operating some sort of on-site data management in response to perceptions of security or compliance concerns. We may not believe those worries are well-founded, but that does mean hybrid clouds will continue to be a popular option.

#2 Fewer headlines about machine learning, but more services

Because machine learning requires so much data and processing power to solve everyday problems, an increase in cloud services and vendors in 2017 will also mean an increase in machine learning. But “AI” is so 2016, and consumers will soon tire of it. If you’re selling a service that utilizes this technology, you might want to rebrand it. And if you’re looking to use it internally, definitely don’t pay 2016 prices.

#3 Voice commands will get better

With the proliferation of cloud computing and high-speed internet connections, analyzing voice commands is much easier than when it took place in localized environments after hours of training software to recognize your speech patterns.

Although better voice command technology may not mean much for running a business, big vendors like Amazon releasing development kits and application program interfaces does mean you have the opportunity to make your products and services more accessible via popular consumer technology such as Alexa.

#4 The Internet of Things (IoT) hasn’t peaked yet

Marketing experts are just as certain that consumers are feeling oversaturated with references to machine learning as they are that IoT hasn’t yet reached its full buzzword potential. If prices of connected devices come down, and their functionality improves, you can bet “IoT” will be one of the most profitable keywords of the year. If this technology doesn’t integrate with your products or services, there’s significant potential for its rise to stardom to make in-house business automation a whole lot better.

#5 Containers won’t just be a fad

As a subset of virtualized computing, containers unshackle applications from the constraints of single operating system compatibility. And with several vendors jumping into the market in late 2016 (such as Amazon Web Services), it’s a trend that we’re fairly confident will grow next year.

The market for web services may seem too fickle to gamble on, but as a small business owner, you don’t have much of a choice. Technology is essential to reaching new customers, operating efficiently, and remaining competitive with your business rivals. If you’re ready to start the new year with a new outlook on these technologies, call us today.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic Web & Cloud
January 4th, 2017

2016january4_virtualization_bMigrating your business’s data, applications and other critical resources to the cloud requires time and a bit of money. Performing a large-scale migration to Amazon Web Services delivers many benefits and is a cost-effective solution that most businesses should adopt. Given its potential to increase your company’s efficiency, there are factors that need to be considered when moving to the cloud. Here are some of the most important ones.

Preparation for migration

  • Is everyone within the organization on board with this major move? Are your employees adequately equipped with knowledge about the cloud? And, since large-scale transfers involve big data, would your security framework be able to deal with potential security threats during the transition? Can your company handle the inevitable expenditure that goes with investing in the cloud? These are just some of the points you have to consider when preparing for large-scale migration.

Reasons for migration

  • One of the most compelling reasons to virtualize tech capital is the need to meet your business’s increasing demand for efficiency, which could lead to greater profitability. Other reasons could include change of organizational leadership or a shift in business structure that necessitates storage recalibration. Regardless of your reasons for migrating to the cloud, you as a business owner should have a clear understanding of why you’re doing it, and make sure everyone understands why it is so important.

Size of resources to be moved

  • Using Amazon Web Services’ cloud storage gives you the benefit of eliminating the costs of buying your own storage infrastructure and it introduces an element of anywhere-anytime access to your business’s data and/or applications. That said, you must consider how much you’ll be transferring, and use it as your basis for moving. Knowing the amount of IT resources you’re freeing up lets you allocate more cost-effectively and allows your technology staff to focus on more innovative pursuits.

Migration requirements

  • Which specific data, servers, or applications need to be migrated? Does your company need large-scale migration, or can it survive on moving only a small part of your resources to the cloud? Perhaps, a subsidiary could survive without having to be moved to the cloud. When migrating to the cloud, you’d be remiss not to think of these tiny details.

Impact to the business

  • Temporary downtime is something you have to be ready for. You might need more time or you might need to consider alternatives for the brief interruptions that come with migration, and of course budget can be a major factor in your decision to move. You can save your business from unnecessary obstacles by first assessing its ability to handle these situations.
Recalibrating the management of your technological resources for scalable storage solutions in a cost-saving platform is not without its challenges. Your business and its stakeholders’ call for greater efficiency cannot be ignored. After considering these factors for a large-scale migration, you might realize that despite a few minor bumps, the benefits to your organization will far outweigh the projected costs, and that there’s nowhere to go but up (in the cloud).
Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

January 2nd, 2017

2016january2_healthcarearticles_bQuick, name an industry that hasn’t been vastly improved by new technologies. It’s not easy to do, and would be especially difficult to argue when discussing medicine, where hi-tech advancements make everything possible from transdermal glucose monitors to genome sequencing. Healthcare technology also extends to the patient experience, such as with these five integrations that make medical treatment more convenient.

Putting the words “healthcare technology integration” together opens things up pretty broadly, so what do we mean by it exactly? In this instance, we’re not talking so much about complex surgical procedures or hi-tech medical devices; the focus here is more on IT, or “information technology,” in the healthcare realm.

It may not sound as impressive as some of the sci-fi-seeming technological advances like anesthesiologists’ iPads that use “perioperative information management systems” to track the patient’s well-being during surgery; or the “Argus II” bionic eye, which takes a video signal from a pair of sunglasses and transmits it to retinal implants. But the improvements technology integrations are making to the patient experience are no less significant.

Timely Reminders

In the past, healthcare providers had but one “convenient” way of reminding patients of upcoming appointments. Phone calls are fine, but even with the advent of robo-calls, connections can be missed and messages can fall through the cracks. Today, your doctor’s office can reach you via more expeditious “e-methods” like email, chat, and text message. They also afford patients an interactive option where they can confirm dates and times with a click of their mouse or a tap of their screen.

Informed Decisions

Integrating technology into your healthcare routine will never replace the advantages of meeting your physician face-to-face, but it certainly makes it easier for you to manage your wellness. For example, there are apps that give you on-demand access to your medical records and patient history -- with features like real-time chatting with your doctor, therapist, or nurses -- allowing for better, faster decision making when it comes to your health, all without an actual appointment.

Painless Prescriptions

Here’s one area of patient care where new apps are truly simplifying things, making communications between you and your doctors and pharmacists completely hassle-free. In many cases, the process for getting the right drugs at the right time can be totally automated; gone are the days of calling in scripts or dropping them off and waiting. Welcome to the new age of software programs that manage your meds, automatically refill them, and keep you on track to better health.

Personalized Care

Everyone has a different approach to staying fit or recovering from illness, and in the world-wide-web era, search engines are a part of most people’s repertoire. But the data you find online won’t be tailored to your precise situation, and certainly won’t be 100% trustable. Thankfully, a slew of sophisticated health-tech apps are integrated with wearable devices to give you accurate, up-to-the-minute info on how you’re doing with your stress management, heart health, or temperature regulation.

Convenient Claims

The historically labor-intensive, oftentimes irritating undertaking of filing medical claims has been seriously improved upon by technology in recent years. Thanks to cloud computing, your doctors and insurance carrier can collaborate on your behalf using secure, encrypted apps that result in faster processing and far less paperwork. You’re even able to enter your insurance info ahead of time, and stay up-to-date throughout the process with automated status updates.

Technology integration in healthcare is improving the ways we prevent diseases, perform surgeries, and deliver treatments. But the innovations with the most significant day-to-day influence are the ones that provide patients with access to reliable, real-time information. That’s where patient outcomes, perhaps, have been advanced the most -- right before our [bionic] eyes.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic Healthcare
December 29th, 2016

2016december29_windows_bMicrosoft Edge has recently been changed and updated. While this is nothing unusual, what is unusual is the sudden choice to no longer be as Adobe Flash-friendly as it once was. The blocking of Adobe Flash by Microsoft's primary web browser can have significant repercussions for businesses and web users alike. As a business owner, you may wonder whether your website and your various bells and whistles will be affected by these changes. In order to understand what is going on with Microsoft Edge and its relationship with Adobe Flash, get to know more about the rationale behind the decision as well as how your business may be adversely impacted.

The primary purpose behind the recent changes made to Microsoft Edge is to make it more competitive with the popular Google Chrome web browser. Among efforts to do just that is the change to how Adobe Flash works on the Edge browser. Now, instead of Adobe Flash plugins playing and loading immediately when a person navigates a website, the application will be blocked.

An alert will come up near the address bar, letting users know that Adobe Flash has been blocked and will give the option to run the add-on or continue blocking it. For businesses that use Adobe Flash throughout their websites, this can be a frustrating change as visitors will need to take an extra step to access the full website.

However, there are numerous legitimate reasons for these changes to the Microsoft Edge browser. The most important of these issues is the fact that Adobe Flash is a security risk and is easily hackable, making it more likely for information and control to be lost to web users. Another issue is the fact that Adobe Flash is a big drain on battery life for computers and other devices.

The theory is that Adobe Flash is on its way out, and that newer, better systems are on their way in. As of now, Windows Insider users are the only ones with access to these updates, but soon the updates will go global and be made available to all users. In fact, Microsoft plans to eventually automatically load HTML5 web information first without loading Adobe Flash content at all.

Because so many sites use Adobe Flash, this can mean major renovations to existing web content. If you worry about the impact this will have on your business, contact us for immediate help and assistance in maximizing your website usability before these changes go live for all Microsoft Edge users.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic Windows
December 28th, 2016

2016december28_security_bIt's scary to think you can be simply browsing the Internet when WHAM! a screen pops up out of nowhere claiming that you have been hijacked and will need to pay a bitcoin to free your computer. Unfortunately, ransomware like this is not uncommon. But now there's a new, more devastating virus that asks victims to pick other victims to replace them in order to get their computer information back safely. Read on to find out how Popcorn Time is turning the ransom game on its head -- and how you can protect yourself from it.

Ransomware is nothing new. Cybersecurity miscreants have been taking advantage of online users for years by requiring payment to "unlock" a victim's computer. What Popcorn Time does differently is give users the option to spread the virus to two other victims in the hopes that they will pay the ransom -- a tactic that promises to double their money at the expense of your sense of morality (and at the expense of your friendships as well).

The Cost of Popcorn

When you inadvertently download this ransomware, you will be met with a screen that explains that your files have been hijacked/encrypted, and that to get them back you will need to pay one Bitcoin for a decryption key that they keep stored remotely. The Bitcoin fee is usually more than $700, a hefty price to pay during any season but particularly difficult for those infected during the holiday season.

Spread the "Holiday Cheer" and Hope they Bite

What makes Popcorn Time unique is the option victims have to take their cost away by allowing the ransomware to affect two of their friends for a chance to get a free decryption code. Of course, it works only if both friends pay the ransom, which leaves you looking (and feeling) like the Grinch.

Avoiding Popcorn Time this Season

The easiest way to avoid downloading ransomware is to stay off of sites that might contain questionable files. However, this is nearly impossible for modern users, and many hackers are getting good at making their files look legitimate. Limit your exposure to potential ransomware by keeping your software up-to-date and your computer protected with a security program from a reputable company (for example Norton or Symantec). If you need to learn more about how to avoid running into ransomware while you're online, give our professional cybersecurity consultants a call. We'll keep you away from the popcorn this season.
Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic Security