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2017 IT Essential #1: A Disaster Recovery Plan

Published by on February 20, 2017 in

5_Security_MeasuresWhen disaster strikes, organizations need to put their business continuity plans into action and recover their IT systems as quickly as possible. Failing to do so can mean serious financial and reputational repercussions. Despite this, investments in disaster recovery are set aside each year for high-tech IT investments, and every year companies and employees continue to suffer for it. Here are some reasons why disaster recovery is well worth your time, effort, and resources in 2017.

DR isn’t a huge investment
A common misconception about disaster recovery is that it’s a large, bank-breaking investment. Expensive 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 as having a secure, compliant cloud-based disaster recovery provider like TECHLINQ. Agreement pricing models are actually comparatively low, meaning you can have minimal downtime while still having enough to invest in new technology.

Onsite backups alone 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 both locally and in the cloud, restoring critical data and applications is a much less time-consuming process.

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, extended downtime will cost your business. First, there’s the general loss of productivity. Every time your employees lose the ability to access network resources, 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 cost.

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 to set up a TECHLINQ Backup agreement.



4 Predictions for Web Services in 2017

Published by on February 6, 2017 in

5_Security_MeasuresThe 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 Voice commands will get better

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.

#3 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.

#4 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.



Predicting Cyber-Threats in 2017

Published by on January 23, 2017 in

Cyber-ThreatsAs 2017 rolls in, the threat of more formidable cyber attacks looms large. Hackers and the cyber police will spend a lot of time outsmarting each other, while consumers of technology, individuals and businesses alike, anticipate the best security plan that can guarantee they sleep soundly at night. When it comes to defending against cyber-attacks, forewarned is forearmed. Here are some of the threats we predict in the coming year.

Increased threats on cloud technology

Cloud service has numerous benefits to businesses. They make data storage, collaboration, and processing more efficient; they enable employees to work faster; and they help operations flow smoother. Cloud technology’s popularity is expected to rise well into the next few years, but as demand increases, so does the dangers presented by cyber attackers.

Ransomware will be more complex

Ransomware incapacitates computer systems by locking down files and preventing access for ransom. In its 2016 Threat Predictions report, security software company McAfee predicts a peak in ransomware attacks next year. Although they also predict it to recede by mid-year, damages to vulnerable cloud-dependent infrastructures can be great and costly. Most alarming in the prediction, however, is that in the coming year ransomware attacks will be more complex due to new elements.

Ransomworms, which use advanced victimization techniques to mine further data within an already compromised network, are expected to put an even crueler spin to an already formidable malware. Doxing, on the other hand, affects avenues such as social media and any place where sensitive, easily identifiable information can be extracted to serve the ultimate purpose of extorting money.

More threats to IoT (Internet of Things)-enabled devices

It is also predicted that 2017 will see attacks made on IoT-powered devices, which will make life harder for those who depend on technology that makes life easier. It targets medical devices and Electronic Medical Records, “connected cars”, basic domestic tools, and tech-driven wearables, such as smartwatches and fitness trackers. The danger posed by this intrusion is fully capable of corrupting information stored in your devices.

Advanced cyber espionage

Cyber espionage is by no means a novelty. In 2017, it’s expected to hold sway in cyber-threat prevention measures as it becomes even more complex. It encompasses all sectors of society, including individuals, private organizations, government institutions, and entire countries. Perpetrators will have the means to bypass networks by attacking firewalls and wreak havoc in their victims’ network. Fret not, for there will be measures in place to detect this threat also in the coming year.

Hackers are one of the most cunning criminals to have ever existed. While the cyber-police and the defenses they put up are no slouches, threats to security systems can still make technology-dependent individuals and businesses quiver. Although damaged networks can be repaired, compromised privacy restored, and stolen data returned, the amount of damage that hackers can cause might be irreparable and/or result in a significant dent in your IT infrastructure and budget. The value of a network security system makes itself known when you least expect it, which is why security should be a top priority.

Are your systems protected from these predicted remarkable feats of hacking? Call us if you want to discuss security services that are best for you.



Choosing the Best Small Business Computer

Published by on January 4, 2017 in

5_Security_MeasuresYour employees are some of your business’s best assets. With that in mind, it is imperative that they work with high-performance computers that will unlock their full potential and contribute to your business’s profitability. If only it were that simple. Selecting a computer often involves several factors such as mobility, quality, and price – there are simply too many things to consider. Choosing the right computer requires careful thought, and this is what we’re here to discuss.

Laptop or desktop?

Laptops are highly portable, efficient, and inexpensive. If these are the most important qualities your business requires in a computer, then by all means, choose them. Clearly, desktops aren’t built for mobility, but what they lack in portability, they more than make up for in storage, processing capacity, and security. Although laptops make perfect sense for small businesses with great need for portability, they are much more prone to security threats and are not as easy to upgrade and maintain, unlike desktops.

Processor

The Central Processing Unit (CPU), determines the speed at which you can access your data and perform business-critical tasks. Speed is measured in Gigahertz (GHz), and a processor that runs from 2 to 4 GHz should be plenty for small enterprises. Arguably the most important item on the list of a computer’s specifications, the processor plays a crucial role in your computer’s speed and efficiency.

Storage

As critical hardware components, hard drives indicate how much information you can store and use. Storage capacity typically ranges from 128 gigabytes on “light computers”, all the way up to 2+ terabytes on more critical machines. If your business doesn’t need to store large files such as videos and images, and will be used mostly for email and a few applications, 250- or 500-GB storage should do the job. (If processor speed is number one on your list of computer requirements, it’s followed closely by hard drive storage.)

Operating System

Operating system (OS) decisions often boil down to choosing between Windows or Mac. It might help in your decision-making to know that Windows remains the most widely used OS mainly due to its high compatibility with business software, not to mention, its relatively cheaper price. Macs can perform just as brilliantly as Windows-operated systems can. And although Macs are usually more expensive, they’re well known for their own outstanding features, such as being less prone to crashes.

Other Components

Not to be confused with storage drives, a computer’s Random Access Memory (RAM) is only used to run open applications. It is responsible for keeping your computer performing at optimum speeds, especially when you’re working with several applications or programs at once. For small businesses, a 1200-2600-MHz RAM should suffice. The higher the MHz of your RAM, the higher its performance will be. To keep your basic programs running, 4-8 gigabytes of RAM is often satisfactory.

Ready to Buy a New Computer?

Deciding which computer to buy is an important business decision. While there are a handful of factors to consider, what you aim to accomplish in your business’s day-to-day operations should be your main consideration when choosing a computer. Businesses that require plenty of remote and mobile work should consider laptops. Those that require regular transfers of large datasets could benefit from the increased storage capacity associated with desktops.

Do you need expert advice in choosing the best computers for your small business? We’re happy to guide you in every step of your purchase decision. Give us a call today.



Old Malware Still Poses a Serious Risk to EMRs

Published by on December 12, 2016 in

5_Security_MeasuresComputer technology firm Symantec is warning consumers that an infamous trojan virus still targets healthcare data across the United States and around the world. This infamous piece of malware hides among image files downloaded with pirated software. Read on to learn more about the Stegoloader infection, how it might target your business, and what you can do to keep it at bay.

What is Stegoloader?

The trojan known as Stegoloader infects machines through product key generators packaged with downloads of pirated software. Small companies have been targeted by the malware, particularly those in the healthcare industry — and to a lesser extent, the insurance and technology sector.

Steganography is a cyber-attacker term for hiding malware inside an image file. Once the image is opened on a vulnerable machine, the program gathers information and crawls through the network looking for weaknesses. Although Stegoloader doesn’t appear to be a particularly sophisticated program, it can devastate your business by stealing electronic medical records as well as installing a secondary piece of malware to pilfer banking information.

Anthem and Premera Blue Cross are two big-name victims of the widespread malware. Symantec believes that Stegoloader’s creators plan to sell healthcare data because they’re more lucrative than other information types. Symantec also believes the cyber attackers are opportunistic, taking advantage of companies that download pirated versions of popular software.

How to Avoid becoming infected by Stegloader

Because the Stegoloader trojan often lurks in illegal product key generators and illegitimate software, the best way to avoid infection is to stay away from sites that offer pirated software. Other than that, we recommend educating your employees on safe practices, avoiding unknown image files and quarantined backups, and updating operating system and antivirus software as often as possible.

When business owners download pirated software, they’re trying to cut corners to save money on business applications and technology consultants. But not only are they getting themselves in trouble with cyber attackers, they’re also breaking the law. If you’re looking for a better way to protect your company and keep your information safe, contact us today.



5 Security Measures Made Easy

Published by on December 5, 2016 in

5_Security_MeasuresLet’s face it, keeping yourself free from online threats can be a pain: using different passwords for every site, changing them every three months, using advanced encryption, the list goes on and on. You either end up paranoid of being online or giving up altogether. We’ve organized 5 simple cybersecurity measures that we promise anyone can implement.

1. Two-Factor Authentication

Did an attacker get your password? With two-factor authentication they’ll still need your mobile device to do any damage. Here’s how it works: every time you log into a service that requires a password, the service will send a code to your mobile device for another layer of authentication. Nowadays, most internet services have this option: Google, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Skype, Slack, etc. Check a full list here to see if you could be using two-factor authentication on any of your online accounts.

2. Password Manager

Say goodbye to the bygone era of memorizing a long list of different passwords for the various websites and services you use. Password manager software may have been around for a long time, but it’s still a viable solution for improving your login integrity. After installing it, all you need to do is create one secure master password and let the software do the rest. It will store and encrypt all of your passwords in one place for future reference and help generate random, more secure passwords for any new logins.

3. Keep All Software Up to Date

Update all of your software and your operating system as often as possible — it’s that simple. New versions come with better protection and fix any newly discovered loopholes. If you are too busy or can’t find the time to do it, check for an automatic update option. Any excuse for postponing updates will feel a lot less valid when it means a security breach or system crash.

4. Disable Flash Player

Adobe Flash Player may be what allows you to play Candy Crush during your work breaks, but it has boasted such a poor security record that most experts recommend that users block the plugin entirely. Most internet browsers have the option to block Flash by default, while allowing you to enable blocked content you deem acceptable by simply right-clicking and selecting Run this Plugin.

5. HTTPS Everywhere

When dealing with technology, long acronyms tend to scare off novice users before they even make it to step two. But don’t panic, there’s only one step to this trick. ‘HTTPS Everywhere’ is a browser extension that forces your browser to automatically navigate to sites using a secured encryption, if the site allows it. The thing is, a significant percentage of websites offer HTTPS connections but don’t present them as the default. When that’s the case, ‘HTTPS Everywhere’ gives your browser a gentle nudge in the right direction.

While in-depth security measures need to be implemented and managed by experts, little steps like the ones listed here can be just as important. Check back often for more helpful cybersecurity tips, but if you have more urgent security needs for yourself and your business, our experts are ready and waiting to offer a helping hand.



VoIP Redefines Business Calling

Published by on November 7, 2016 in

VoIP_CallingTraditional mobile calling plans may not be heading the way of the dodo bird quite yet, but there is a viable threat to their existence. The challenge comes from VoIP, and while it’s only in its nascent stages, it is foreshadowing a dark future for Telecoms’ costly monthly plans, spotty call quality, confusing invoices, and questionable customer service.

In technical terms, VoIP is a broadband phone service that uses the internet instead of a public switched telephone network (PSTN). In simpler terms, VoIP stands for “Voice over IP” which is another way of saying “making phone calls over the internet instead of over traditional telephone lines.”

 

 

Here are some statistics on internet-based communications that really show where the trend is heading:

  • Telecom companies are losing an average of 700,000 landline customers per month
  • Skype’s 300 million users spend an average of 3 billion minutes per day on calls
  • During its annual stockholders meeting, Apple CEO Tim Cook stated that there are 15 to 20 million FaceTime calls every day — and this was back in 2014

Why the big numbers?

Surely you’ve noticed that you incur no charges when using an application like FaceTime for that quick face-to-face with your associate who’s away on business, or for the video conference with your clients who are stuck at LAX after a cancelled flight. But phone calls for free aren’t the only advantage of VoIP. Many of us utilize it because it has features and benefits that make it a more attractive alternative to the phone company’s usual mobile calling plans.

Take the VoIP functionality in Apple’s latest version of its iOS operating system (iOS 10). Apps like Skype and Facebook Messenger are so well incorporated that they work just like the iPhone’s own phone application. Incoming/outgoing calls interface just like your regular phone, your contacts are fully integrated…You can hardly tell the difference.

So as consumers and businesses continue to recognize the benefits of VoIP and default to applications like FaceTime, Skype, Facebook, Line, or Viber for their calling needs, will conventional providers like AT&T, Verizon, Rogers, Bell Canada, etc. get squeezed out?

Can you ditch your legacy voice plans altogether?

It’s food for thought, and even if you don’t abandon them entirely, there are plenty of reasons to make broadband internet phone service a part of your day-to-day operations. And not only on your smartphones and other mobile devices.

Did you know that small businesses that change over to a VoIP network can save up to 40% on their local calls and up to 90% on their international calls? Or that a recent piece in PC World indicated that a business with 30 users on its calling plan saves nearly $1,200 per month when switching to VoIP?

Add in features like call recording, call-routing, conference call bridges, auto attendants, and virtual faxing and it’s easy to see why roughly 31% of all businesses now employ some type of internet-based VoIP telephone system.

So if you have a good-quality internet connection and you’re intrigued by the prospects of moving your business away from your local phone company’s services, we’re here to help. Call us today and together we’ll develop a robust VoIP solution that delivers cost savings, provides state-of-the-art functionality, and presents a professional image to the world.



GMail Tricks for Effective E-Mail Management

Published by on October 24, 2016 in

Hybrid_CloudThere are a lot of web-based email platforms in the marketplace. Many come and go, but there’s a reason Gmail has crossed the 1 billion monthly active user milestone and is still standing strong as one of the world’s most popular web-based email clients. It’s extremely easy to use and is always up-to-date and secure, courtesy of Google. But if you’re just using Gmail for sending and receiving emails, you’re really missing out on some of its nifty features that allow you to manage your email more effectively. Here are some tips to make the most of Gmail.

 

Unsend emails

Ever had that moment when you’re in a hurry to type up an email and send it off only to notice a few seconds later there were a couple of mistakes? Maybe you’ve forgotten to attach a file or misspelled a word. Heck, you may have even sent it to the wrong recipient! Don’t worry, we’ve all been there. This is the moment where Gmail’s ‘Undo Send’ feature will become your new best friend. You can activate this by clicking on the gear icon on the top right hand corner of Gmail, then go to Settings. Scroll down to ‘Undo Send’ and hit the ‘Enable’ box. Now you have up to 30 seconds to click the ‘Undo’ button that will pop up once your email’s been sent.

Create to-do lists

Gmail provides an easy way to create a task list that you can use to keep track of all the things you have to do in a minimizable window. This way you won’t have to send yourself an email and clutter your inbox every time you need to remind yourself to do something. Adding a to-do list is easy; simply click the ‘Mail’ menu in the upper left corner of the Gmail window and choose ‘Tasks’. A small window will appear in the bottom right corner of the page, and here you can type in your tasks and check the boxes once you’ve completed each of them.

Prioritize emails

Some emails are too important to be buried in a crowded inbox. This is where you can use Gmail’s Star feature to your advantage. Adding stars is a way to single out emails that need to be read later or require a follow-up. You might already know that clicking the yellow star beside the email will highlight the line and makes the message easier to find. But there’s a way to take things up a notch. Navigate to ‘Settings’ and scroll down to the ‘Stars’ section. Here you can drag the stars from the ‘Not in use’ row up to the ‘In use’ row to make them active. Once you’re done, hit ‘Save’. You could use the blue star for emails that need a follow-up, red for problems, question mark for the ones that require clarification and so on.

Use canned responses

Have you ever had to answer the same questions sent by clients over and over again? Well you’re in luck. Gmail has a productive hack that allows you to create and send off repetitive messages in just a few clicks. Activate it by heading over to ‘Settings’, ‘Labs’ and click the ‘Enable’ button in the ‘Canned Responses’ tab. Now type up a response email. Click the arrow in the lower right corner of the message box and select ‘Canned Responses’. You can add common phrases, sentences or email bodies that you find yourself using a lot, whether for marketing inquiries, sales pitches or client requests.

With these Gmail features you can save time, get more things done and become more productive. If you want to learn more about Gmail or any other Google apps, please get in touch with us today.



4 Ways That Hybrid Clouds Benefit SMBs

Published by on October 3, 2016 in

Hybrid_CloudHere on earth, clouds are relatively simple phenomena: visible masses of water vapor making their way across the sky. But in the world of IT, “the cloud” is a bit more complex, referring to technology that allows businesses to take a more hands-off approach to managing their IT resources. And the “hybrid cloud” is rapidly becoming the most popular variety.

Hybrid clouds are a combination of private clouds (where data and applications that require tighter controls are hosted either internally or privately in the cloud space); and public clouds (which are operated externally by third-party providers with the express purpose of reducing a company’s IT infrastructure).

A recent “State of the Cloud” report indicates that 71% of all cloud users are now implementing hybrid cloud solutions, mainly because the ways in which they benefit small- and medium-sized businesses are so numerous. Here we’ve highlighted what we consider to be the 4 most significant benefits of hybrid cloud solutions.

Cost efficiency

Does your industry go through seasonal workload increases? With a hybrid cloud solution, you’ll be able to easily handle spikes in demand by migrating data from maxed-out on-premise servers to scalable, pay-as-you-go “servers in the sky” whenever needed, without incurring any extra hardware and maintenance costs.

Adaptability

Having the ability to choose between on-site/privately-hosted cloud servers and ones on the public cloud gives you more than just cost flexibility. It also gives you the capacity to pair the right IT solution with the right job, like keeping smaller projects on your local or private cloud, while utilizing the more robust computing resources on offer from the public cloud for your bigger projects.

Scalability

What exactly does this common IT buzzword mean for your organization? In a nutshell, it means that the hybrid cloud allows you to “scale up” or “scale down” on an as-needed basis. So if there are last-minute demand increases that your hardware can’t support, or if you’re simply planning for future expansion, hybrid cloud solutions allow for on-demand increases or decreases in capacity.

Security

Last, but certainly not least, are the security advantages of a hybrid cloud solution. SMBs are able to host within the private cloud their more sensitive data such as an e-commerce website or HR platform, while using the public cloud space for less sensitive data where it’s more cost effective and there is less likely to be major problems should there ever be a security breach.

SMBs can set up their hybrid cloud model in a few different ways, depending on their precise needs and the types of providers available to them:

  1. By employing one specialized cloud provider who offers “soup-to-nuts” hybrid solutions
  2. By integrating the services of a private cloud provider with those of a public cloud provider themselves
  3. By hosting a private cloud themselves and then adopting a public cloud service which is incorporated into their infrastructure

So as more of our customers’ IT infrastructure moves to the cloud, we’re adapting and developing innovative ways to maintain hybrid cloud environments. What this means for you is we’ve got the know-how to provide outright cloud solutions, or at the very least the expert consultation you need, to ensure that your day-to-day operations transition to a hybrid cloud solution without interruption and in a cost-effective manner. Contact us today to learn more about the benefits that the hybrid cloud can bring to your business.



Don’t Let Hackers Fool You With These Tricks

Published by on September 19, 2016 in

Hackers_FoolAccording to several reports, the volume of malicious cyber attacks has significantly increased recently. And even though our devices have the latest network security systems, hackers have a cunning trick up their sleeves — social engineering. Unlike malware and other viruses, social engineering tricks people into divulging sensitive data to hackers. Unfortunately, businesses are also vulnerable to various social engineering tactics. As a business owner, you should be vigilant of these common scams used by hackers.

Phishing
Phishing scams are perhaps the most common type of social engineering attack. Usually seen as links embedded in email messages, these scams lead potential victims into seemingly trustworthy web pages, where they are prompted to fill in their name, address, login information, social security number, and credit card number.

Phishing emails often appear to come from reputable sources, which makes the embedded link even more compelling to click on. Sometimes phishing emails masquerade as government agencies urging you to fill up a personal survey, and other times phishing scams pose as false banking sites.

Tailgating

What’s the best way to infiltrate your business? Through your office’s front door, of course! Scam artists can simply befriend an employee near the entrance of the building and ask them to hold the door, thereby gaining access into a restricted area. From here, they can steal valuable company secrets and wreak havoc on your IT infrastructure. Though larger enterprises with sophisticated surveillance systems are prepared for these attacks, small- to mid-sized companies are less so.

Quid pro quo

Similar to phishing, quid pro quo attacks offer appealing services or goods in exchange for highly sensitive information. For example, an attacker may offer potential targets free tickets to attend a sporting event in exchange for their login credentials. Chances are if the offer sounds too good to be true, it probably is.

Pretexting

Pretexting is another form of social engineering whereby an attacker fabricates a scenario to convince a potential victim into providing access to sensitive data and systems. These types of attacks involve scammers who request personal information from their targets in order to verify their identity. Attackers will usually impersonate co-workers, police, tax authorities, or IT auditors in order to gain their targets’ trust and trick them into divulging company secrets.

The unfortunate reality is that fraudsters and their social engineering tactics are becoming more sophisticated. Nevertheless, the best way to avoid these scams is knowing what they are and being critical of every email, pop-up ad, and embedded link that you encounter in the internet.

To find out how you can further protect your business from social engineering attacks, contact us today.



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