Blog

September 12th, 2016

2016september12_iphone_cApple loves dramatic product reveals, and unfortunately that often means long wait times for new devices and software. Consumers have had plenty of opportunities to read about how great iOS 10 is, albeit with no official release date to accompany it. However, after putting another Apple keynote in the books, we finally have our answer. Whether it’s a list of compatible devices or tips for the updating process, you’ve come to the right place.

In keeping with its yearly mid-September schedule, the next update to iOS will be released on September 13th around noon (depending on your time zone). Before updating, it’s a smart idea to begin charging your phone and connect to a wireless network. Once you’re all set for the lengthy download and installation, go to your Settings dashboard, then tap General, and finally Software Update. This screen will give you detailed information on the latest update and the option to ‘Download and Install.’

As we’ve seen in the past, not all Apple devices can handle the RAM-hungry features of a new operating system. If you’re still holding onto any iPhone model older than the iPhone 5, you won’t be able to download the update. Unfortunately, the same goes for the original iPad Mini and the Retina/third-generation iPads. And although they’re not too common nowadays, the sixth generation iPod Touch will get iOS 10, while anything older will not.

We’d be remiss if we didn’t warn our readers, however; just because your device is eligible doesn’t mean updating it is the best idea. Older hardware wasn’t designed with the requirements of current software in mind, and updating may result in a significant slowdown of your phone or tablet. Furthermore, despite going through a beta stage, there’s no guarantee that all the bugs have been worked out of the system yet. We recommend waiting a day or two until Apple’s servers aren’t overburdened and other users have had a chance to suss out any problems.

Something as simple as updating your phone can become immensely frustrating if you’re not fully prepared. And despite what you may think, no task is too small for us to consider. If you think helping you update your phone, or even just configuring it to receive work emails is too mundane for your neighborhood managed services provider -- think again. Stop searching for the iOS update menu and call us today.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic Apple
September 9th, 2016

2016September9_AndroidPhone_CWhat gets you out of bed each day? Is it the smell of freshly-brewed coffee or the sounds of bacon sizzling on the pan? Now apply this toward smartphones: What gets you really worked up? Could it be the new, sleek design or its upgraded selfie camera? Regardless of the reason, we are all drawn to novelty like moths to a flame. Android has recently debuted its latest OS, Nougat, and here are the 9 features that you may or may not have known about:

Split-screen multitasking

With the new split-screen multitasking view, users are able to use two apps simultaneously. Hit the overview button and select the app you want to use to the top of the screen, then the second one beneath it. Windows are resizable as well.

Out with the old and in with the new (emojis)

The update comes with an additional 72 new emojis to the roster, with brand new characters such as the selfie, bacon, and even an avocado emoji as well. On top of skin tone variations, 14 new emojis are added to the “animals and nature” category and 12 to the “activities” category.

Customizable quick settings

Quick settings, aka the school of shortcuts, are now fully customizable. This means you can rearrange them or even add new ones as you see fit.

Notification reply

The latest update allows you to reply to notifications without the hassle of switching apps -- totally ideal for quick replies to emails and texts.

Quick Switch

This new multitasking feature allows you to quickly shift between your two most recently used applications. Simply double tap the overview button to toggle between the two.

Split-screen gesture shortcut

Ideal for power users, the split-screen gesture shortcut generally requires a few steps for activation. There is a hidden setting that allows you to do the same with just one gesture. Start by enabling the “Systems UI Tuner” by tapping the settings icon from the notifications shade. Wait for a vibration and then let go to activate it.

From there, go to Settings > System UI Turner > Other > Enable split-screen swipe-up gesture and turn the setting on. From there, you can switch to split-screen from any app by simply swiping over the overview button.

Advanced notification controls

Enable the setting for “Power notification controls” by going to System UI Turner > Other > Power Notification Controls. This allows you to prioritize settings by the application as well as designate the actions a notification can take.

Data Saver

The Data Saver mode reduces the amount of data your applications use in the background.

Call blocking

Numbers that you’ve blocked from texting and calling are now shared with other applications, ensuring that the same numbers will remain blocked across all applications.

Much like when you move residences, the intricacies of a newly updated operating system require patience and a willingness to learn new things. After a while, you get used to the system and the novelty wears off quicker than you can say ‘Nougat.’ If you have any questions concerning the aforementioned updates, do not hesitate to get in touch with us. We’ll get you the answers in no time.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic android
September 8th, 2016

2016september8_virtualization_cWhile virtualization still has a host of security advantages over its localized counterparts, it isn’t exempt from the attention of cyber attackers. Most recently, one of the industry’s leading software vendors, VMware, was forced to release a patch for a critical vulnerability that allowed underprivileged users to attain access to administrative rights. Let’s delve deeper into exactly what this means and what you need to do.

Since its first software release in 2001, VMware has remained the leading provider of virtualization platforms, with most sources estimating double-digit leads in market share over the nearest competitor. By creating virtual environments stored on a network server or in a cloud environment, the company has given their clients the ability to create workstations, software, and even networks that can be utilized remotely. Fast forward to today, and VMware is working overtime to maintain its reputation by preempting software security vulnerabilities.

Obviously, when delivering any kind of specialized privileges over a network, adequate protection is of the utmost concern. In this case, two services for managing mobile clouds (vIDM and vRealize) were found to be vulnerable to exploits wherein users with minimal rights could cheat their way into full administrative privileges.

The security team at VMware elaborated that when executed in just one of the two services, this flaw would not be considered critical. However, when combined, it could pose an imminent threat to the security of your cloud infrastructure. To amend this oversight, ask your managed services provider or IT staff to update vIDM and vRealize to their most recent versions (2.7 and 7.1, respectively) as soon as possible. If this can’t be achieved in a realistic time frame, blocking port 40002 would act as a temporary workaround.

Sufficient security requires by-the-minute responses to the latest breaches and exploits. By partnering with us, you’ll never need to worry about checking in regarding patches or breaches you read about in the news. Instead, you’ll be hearing about them from us when we come around to install the updates. Choose the safe option -- contact us today with any of your virtualization needs or questions.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

September 7th, 2016

2016September7_MicrosoftWindowsNewsAndTips_CThe heart of a lady is not easily won; a man can’t rely on his looks or wallet to make a girl fall head over heels. He must charm his way into her heart. Let’s say that a computer user is the woman, and that ransomware, the man, is the dreamboat that has worked his way through all the woman’s defenses. How? He looked the part. This is how ransomware weasels its way into IT -- because it doesn’t seem to pose a threat. Beware of Fantom, the most recently detected ransomware that is a master at deception.

AVG security researcher Jakub Kroustek recently spotted Fantom coded atop an EDA2, a ransomware-building kit that was open-sourced but eventually taken down. EDA2 contained certain flaws that allowed researchers to obtain decryption keys from its C&C server, yet these flaws have since disappeared, indicating that Fantom coders might have found and fixed them before anyone else had a chance to.

Very little is known as to how Fantom is distributed. As for the method of deployment, cybercriminals plant the file onto the target’s computer via spam email or exploit kits. Fantom-infected files are named criticalupdate01.exe; they utilize a “Windows Security Update” to prompt targets into running the file.

After activation, the ransomware starts by locking the user’s screen while displaying fake Windows Update graphics, complete with a fully-functioning percentage-based loading timer that mirrors the original Windows Update screen. However, beneath this pleasant facade, Fantom is encrypting your files right before your eyes. Luckily, the temporary lock screen is removable before it reaches 100% -- simply press CTRL+F4. Unfortunately, the encryption process remains intact.

The MalwareHunterTeam states, “The ransomware uses classic ransomware encryption by locking files using an AES-128 key and then encrypting this key with a dual RSA key, with the private key stored on the crook's server, and a public key left on the user's PC.”

In order to retrieve the private key to unlock your files, you must contact the perpetrators by email. The email address is listed in the ransom note that appears after the process of encryption is complete. Fantom displays ransom notes in the form of HTML and TXT files, while changing the user’s desktop with a custom screenshot that lists the contact details. Lastly, after completing all its operations, Fantom cleans after itself by running two batch scripts wiping all the installation files clean.

Ransomware isn’t new, but the ways that cybercriminals utilize them are. Who would’ve thought that the ever so familiar Windows Update window has fallen prey to malicious intent? Pretend that you’re the Little Red Riding Hood and that the wolf is the ransomware that cybercriminals have disguised as your grandmother. They no longer wait to trap you, instead, they wait for you to walk straight into one instead.

The issue of ransomware is as extensive as it is meticulous. If you have any questions about Fantom or would like to request more information, feel free to get in touch with us! Give us a call or send us an email. Our dedicated staff are more than happy to help.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic Windows
September 5th, 2016

2016September5_HealthcareArticles_CThe tech industry is littered with buzzwords: overused jargon generally meant to inspire feelings of hope and accomplishment. Not all have positive connotations however, and data compliance is one of those spooky buzzwords that many small- and medium-sized businesses have scant specific knowledge about. What better way to gain a clearer understanding of the consequences of noncompliance than a high-profile case on the subject? We’ve compiled a brief synopsis of the case here.

As the largest fully integrated healthcare system in Illinois, Advocate Health Care Network’s mismanagement of electronic medical records (EMR) came as quite a shock. Regardless of your feelings on such a sizable provider being unable to maintain secure EMRs, what can’t be argued is the precedent set by last month’s $5.5-million settlement.

How exactly did it come to such a historic penalty? The answer is threefold. Firstly, Advocate failed to perform the risk assessments mandated by HIPAA regulations -- an oversight that could have potentially prevented the other two infractions. Secondly, Chicago’s premier healthcare network failed to obtain proper written agreements with each of the business partners who had access to its data, which may have gone unnoticed if one of its associates had not been the subject of a security breach.

The final infraction, and arguably the most directly relevant to Advocate’s internal security policies, was the unsatisfactory safeguards in place on two stolen laptops with confidential medical information. While the breach of its business partner’s network only put 2,000 EMRs at risk, the stolen computers had access to almost 4 million.

So, if you’re tired of vague platitudes about ‘penalties for lax data compliance’ or the ‘liability risks of mediocre security,’ this is your answer: inadequate preventative measures, unfit business partners, and poor internal security protocols can spell millions in damages. Unfortunately, this isn’t just an aberrant case -- the total punitive damages for HIPAA noncompliance in 2015 totaled $6.2 million; after just over eight months into 2016, they currently stand at $20.3 million.

Keep your company’s name off the growing list of companies that didn’t have suitable systems in place when it mattered most. Our EMR management practices provide a full suite of care for your data records; from prevention to end-point security, your information is safe with us. Our proficiency in the healthcare IT industry spans a wide variety of experiences and know-how. Contact us today. We’d love to tell you all about it.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic Healthcare
September 2nd, 2016

2016September2_Security_CThe next time you visit Dropbox.com, you may be asked to create a new password. Why? Back in 2012 the cloud storage firm was hacked, and while it thought only email addresses had been stolen, new evidence has come to light that user passwords were compromised, too. So if you’ve been using Dropbox since that time but haven’t updated your password, the company advises you to do so ASAP.

Despite the unfortunate incident, Dropbox has implemented a thorough threat-monitoring analysis and investigation, and has found no indication that user accounts were improperly accessed. However, this doesn’t mean you’re 100 percent in the clear.

What you need to do

As a precaution, Dropbox has emailed all users believed to have been affected by the security breach, and completed a password-reset for them. This ensures that even if these passwords had been cracked, they couldn’t be used to access Dropbox accounts. However, if you signed up for the platform prior to mid-2012 and haven’t updated your password since, you’ll be prompted to do so the next time you sign in. All you have to do is choose a new password that meets Dropbox's minimum security requirements, a task assisted by their “strength meter.” The company also recommends using its two-step authentication feature when you reset your password.

Apart from that, if you used your Dropbox password on other sites before mid-2012 -- whether for Facebook, YouTube or any other online platform -- you should change your password on those services as well. Since most of us reuse passwords, the first thing any hacker does after acquiring stolen passwords is try them on the most popular account-based sites.

Dropbox’s ongoing security practices

Dropbox’s security team is working to improve its monitoring process for compromises, abuses, and suspicious activities. It has also implemented a broad set of controls, including independent security audits and certifications, threat intelligence, and bug bounties for white hat hackers. Bug bounties is a program whereby Dropbox provides monetary rewards, from $216 up to $10,000, to people who report vulnerabilities before malicious hackers can exploit them. Not only that, but the company has also built open-source tools such as zxcvbn, a password strength estimator, and bcrypt, a password hashing function to ensure that a similar breach doesn’t happen again.

To learn more about keeping your online accounts secure, or about how you can protect your business from today’s increasing cyber threats, give us a call and we’ll be happy to help.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic Security
September 1st, 2016

2016September1_Hardware_CIf your last business presentation was dim, faded, or encumbered by bulky equipment, it’s probably time for a new office projector. And like any hardware purchase, that means a host of new specifications and measurements need to be learned to avoid sinking money into a useless lemon. If you’re in the market for a quick and painless rundown of what makes a projector worthwhile and what makes one unnecessary, we’ve compiled a number of factors here. Keep reading for our advice on buying a new office projector.

Brightness

If you haven’t had any hands-on experience with projectors yet, brightness will undoubtedly be the first thing you notice. Although no projector will ever match the brightness of an LED or LCD television, with some informed shopping you can easily mitigate this unfortunate drawback. A ‘lumen’ is a measure of brightness listed under the specifications of any new projector. Anything over 2,000 lumens should be appropriate for small-group presentations in a low-light room. For larger meetings with more ambient light, 3,000 lumens should be able to negate any added burdens. No need to go any higher than that unless you expect to host more than 100 viewers and let a little light into the room.

Resolution

While brightness may be the first thing you notice, resolution is probably the first thing you think of. Before deciding on a resolution, give some honest consideration to how essential it is for the projector’s intended use. If the plan is to set it up in the conference room for Excel budget presentations, WXGA (or 1280x800) should be plenty clear. This resolution is the most widely compatible with the dimensions of modern laptop screens and will making swapping the content source a piece of cake. However, if you have an existing projector and/or screen, you may want to stick with your existing XGA (or 1024x768) resolution. Of course, there is always the option for the gold standard. Whether it’s an overinflated budget or true necessity, HD (1920x1080) will provide you with the best possible resolution for your projections.

Portability

Behind their bolted-in conference room companions, portable projectors are some of the most popular for business professionals. In addition to brightness and resolution comparisons, make sure to examine how valuable portability is to you. Increased portability often brings a significant reduction in image quality and may not ultimately be worth it. If you’re forging ahead with a mobile option, some of which are small enough to comfortably fit inside your pocket, make sure whatever you choose has the ability to read data from a USB or SD storage device. There’s no reason to buy a model compact enough to leave the backpack at home unless you’re utilizing all its added bonuses. This means you might have the option to purchase a mini-projector with a battery integrated into the device; just remember that it's unlikely you’ll have the picture quality or features to truly enjoy video and multimedia presentations.

Extra Features

What would any piece of hardware be without a few cool extra features? Top of the line projectors have a myriad of specialized add-ons that might be just what you need to make your final decision. We’ve already talked about USB and SD storage, but what about an iPhone or Android dock incorporated directly into the unit? And if that doesn’t tickle your fancy, cut the cords entirely with wireless-enabled projectors. Regardless of whether it’s one of these options, or something like internal storage capacity, always thoroughly test any special features before letting them factor into your final choice. There’s nothing worse than basing a decision on a total misnomer.

Our customers often forget to utilize one of our most useful service options: hardware consulting. If you’re ever in the market for new equipment at your organization, or need advice on how to get the most of what you currently have, don’t hesitate to ask. We’re an office full of gadget geeks who love the opportunity to talk about the latest and greatest the industry has to offer. Contact us today!

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic Hardware
August 30th, 2016

2016August30_Web&Cloud_CDespite a relatively no-frills platform, Dropbox has remained one of the most recognizable names in cloud storage. Apparently after nearly ten years in the market, it’s ready to move on to bigger and better things. Titled ‘Paper,’ the company’s newest service will take direct aim at Google Docs and Office 365 by offering real-time document collaboration and editing. So if you’re in the market for such a service, or just want to see how it stacks up against your current provider, you’ve come to the right place.

First announced one year ago, Paper promised to be an elegant and straightforward tool that focuses on the minute details. The average user hasn’t had much to go on since then as Dropbox kept everything under the shroud of a closed beta, but that’s no longer the case. With the release of iOS and Android apps, the mobile and desktop versions of Paper are moving into the open beta stage.

What sets Dropbox’s service apart is how it liberates users from the constraints of document file types. Whereas other services force you to classify what you’re making, Paper is a completely blank canvas that provides the tools to create a document outside the boundaries of presentations, memos, and spreadsheets. Think of it more along the lines of creating a website, with photos, text, video and even HTML code all working together through an intuitive snap-in user interface.

In addition to fundamentally shifting how we think about document creation, those at Dropbox want us to take a closer look at how we collaborate with each other. Live chats, comments and document notifications bring a depth of communication that Paper’s competitors would be hard- pressed to match. And although they’ve been kept intentionally clean and toned down, all these features are now available as push notifications for mobile devices in an attempt to keep everyone in the loop, 24/7.

Ultimately, what makes Paper a worthwhile consideration is its overarching philosophy and goals. Dropbox doesn’t want a segmented platform where teams need to jump between different windows and services; they want to create a virtual meeting room with a fully functional whiteboard where everyone can create, store, and collaborate on documents simultaneously.

It’s easy to get lost in the echo-chamber of big-name technology solutions. Professional advisors recommend the services and solutions they know customers will recognize and trust, while end users just don’t have the time to research all the available options. Fortunately for you, we believe being on the cutting edge of new technology means thinking outside the box and acting as the authority on oft-neglected third options. When you’re in the market for a new IT solution, call us -- the team with more suggestions than the first two hits on Google.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic Web & Cloud
August 29th, 2016

2016August29_SocialMedia_CThe ocean has a strange way of making you feel so small; so does a Twitter account with virtually no followers. It does become quite hard for your small- to medium-sized business to establish a strong online presence when they are surrounded by singers and supermodels with their own collection of trending hashtags. This is the part where you’d wish you had come across a genie lamp; while waiting for that to happen, take Twitter’s new dashboard app out for a spin.

According to Noah Pepper, Twitter’s product and engineering manager, “For businesses, Twitter is a place to share news, tell stories, and have conversations that support, educate, and delight their customers.” On top of that, he states that “It's a place for authentic interactions – but we know that creating these kinds of connections isn't always easy for businesses that are time and resource-constrained.” Because of this, Twitter has developed a brand new application that helps lighten your social media load -- enter Twitter Dashboard.

Twitter Dashboard specifically caters toward small- to medium-sized businesses, helping them to establish a fast, efficient and affordable means to manage their online presence. It helps you easily track and engage with audiences. The free app is still in the beta phase but is available to all businesses in the United States via iOS devices. There’s also a desktop web version as well.

With the help of Twitter Dashboard, social media managers can schedule tweets and set up customized feeds with the sole purpose of tracking what’s being said about a particular business. There are tools in the app that aids in tracking keywords as well as brainstorming ideas for potential tweets.

Here are some examples from Noah Pepper:

  • Say you work at a restaurant. You can come up with something like, “Your team is as unique as your business. Tweet a surprising fact about one of your team members.” This helps remind you to share some of the recent recognition your chef has received.
  • Or if you are an interior designer, when you see the tweet “Share the love. Like and Retweet kind words from your customers,” you’re prompted you to Retweet the next customer’s reaction to one of your projects.
Twitter Dashboard may not be of much use to savvy online marketers, but for those who have just dipped their toes into social media, it might help build the confidence needed to take flight. And this is exactly what Twitter needs if it's aiming to increase overall platform engagement.

Small- and medium-sized businesses should seize every opportunity they can to grow. Leverage the power of social media and see your company spread its wings and fly, soaring amidst the chirp of the blue birds tweeting. For further questions about Twitter Dashboard, feel free to give us a call, follow us, tweet us or give us a direct message -- we’re always ready to help.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic Social Media
August 26th, 2016

2016August26_BusinessIntelligence_CAs the saying goes, “absence makes the heart grow fonder.” If oceans were to separate you from your loved ones, what would you do? Would you communicate as much as you used to? Would you still check in from time to time? Now, apply this sentiment to your business; what would happen if communication with your customers broke down? Following up on orders or keeping track with progress would become a nightmare - it’s time for CRM software to save the day:

Since every business differs in terms of size, there is no one-size-fits-all when it comes to CRM. Thus, varying corporate sizes require unique CRM software that best addresses requirements. We’ll be taking a look at ideal CRM software options for the following categories: businesses in general, very small businesses and ones that are free.

Best CRM Software for Small Businesses: Salesforce

Salesforce has long been considered one of the top-tier CRM solutions, mainly due to its cloud-based nature coupled with full-featured capabilities that cater to businesses of every size. Typically, Salesforce is synonymous with larger enterprises, but that doesn’t mean small- and medium-sized businesses are denied the same perks. Enter Salesforce’s small business edition: with it, SMBs can utilize the robust set of CRM tools at an affordable rate.

Salesforce Small Business Solutions offer packages that are tailor-made for small businesses. With it you’ll be able to fully utilize all that Salesforce has to offer. In order for your company to really thrive, your CRM should be equipped with features such as lead generation, contact and opportunity management, sales forecasting, workflow automation as well as collaborative tools -- all of which can be found in Salesforce. Also, the software is cloud-based, meaning that you can access data and files anywhere at anytime via mobile devices.

Best CRM Software for Very Small Businesses: Insightly

Underneath its simple and navigable facade lies a CRM software that is abundant with capabilities, all of which fit the bill for microbusinesses. Aside from the fact that it has the vital components small businesses really look for in CRM software, it’s also highly scalable to accommodate the growth of your company. Furthermore, Insightly is currently one of the more affordable CRM solutions on the market; there’s even a free version if you wish to test the waters. There are also paid plans available at a fraction of the price when compared with other CRM software solutions.

Even with the free version or paid plans that start at $12, Insightly doesn’t compromise utility with affordability. It comes equipped with all the vital CRM capabilities any microbusiness would need. This includes detailed sales reports, opportunity, contact and project management as well. It’s also scalable to meet the needs of your business as it grows. To top it all off, it’s a cloud-based CRM software allowing you to access data anywhere at anytime via Internet-enabled mobile devices.

Best Free CRM Software: Zoho CRM

Not having to pay for Zoho doesn’t necessarily mean it won’t deliver the necessary capabilities required from CRM software. Zoho CRM provides your business with all the core functions it needs. Moreover, it allows you to onboard up ten users for free. Courtesy of Zoho CRM’s mobile app, you’ll be able be access data regardless of time or location. Here are some of the other features that the free version of Zoho CRM has to offer:
  • 360-view - all the vital information is stored and displayed, allowing you to make the best business decisions. This includes contacts, sale cycles, pipelines, and discover trends. It also helps you identify opportunities.
  • Automation - spend less time dealing with mundane tasks by automating tasks such as lead generation, contact management, calendars and even call logs.
  • Collaboration - Zoho CRM doubles as a social media platform integrating with Twitter and Facebook to link contacts to their social media accounts. This allows you to see their updates as well as the interactions you’ve had on social media right from your dashboard.
  • Analytics - you can track sales as well as measure both business and employee performance via a range of reporting capabilities.
  • Security - with Zoho CRM, you are given full control over who can do what with the software. Besides creating individual user profiles, you can assign roles and even restrict access.
Unlike farms, the main component to a company's growth isn’t fertilizer and sunshine. Instead, it’s competent CRM software that allows your business to reach its full potential. If you have any questions on customer relationship management software, feel free to get in touch with us. We’re more than happy to not only provide answers but also be part of your success.
Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic business