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May 20th, 2015

Cloud computing has a number of advantages. The more basic and compelling reasons include the following:

Reduced Cost

Cloud computing reduces a number of costs. A few of the more obvious ones include:

  • the cost of maintaining a network
  • the cost of adding higher powered computers and servers
  • the cost of software
  • the cost of hiring high level IT personnel, etc.

Reduced Training Needed

It also reduces training needed for your staff because so many network tasks and other computer maintenance tasks can be automated. Network maintenance costs are included in the cloud computing fee. You don’t need to employ IT experts.

Increased Connectivity

Users can connect from the field with cloud computing. This can make field staff more efficient in their use of time. It also makes customer service more effective.

Increased Software Friendliness and Reduced Costs

Software is provided by the provider of the cloud computing service. There is no cost to install it and a new license on each computer in your company. Alternatively, there is no need for a site license for the software. Time to install upgrades, do software maintenance and related tasks is eliminated.

With the software and data hosted by the cloud computing provider, your staff can work on the same documents. You do not have multiple copies of the same documents on various computers in your office. Everybody is looking at the same up-to-date documents.

Lower Computer Hardware and Maintenance Costs

Cloud computing providers have many client companies. That makes the use of their computers more efficient. There is not as much idle computer time.

Cloud computing providers regularly upgrade their equipment keeping their systems running at maximum speed and reliability.

More Data Protection

Cloud computing companies have redundancy. They have multiple backups so you are never without your data. Any hardware or software problems are invisible to your company. There is no down-time. There is no scramble to fix the problem. The cloud provider takes care of it.

Security is at a maximum. With the centralized computing model in the cloud, their staff and their systems are protected with the best software and hardware security in the world. They have the resources for the best IT personnel in security and other IT fields.

Adjustable Service Levels

Your company can adjust services and access as needed, keeping costs down.

Contact us at Myers Network Solutions to examine how Cloud Computing can make your business life easier, less expensive, and more efficient.

May 14th, 2015

VPN – a Virtual Private Network – is the ultimate cloud computing safety net. It creates an encrypted channel of communication. It prevents hackers and malware from being able to read any intercepted information.

Extend Your Business Network Worldwide

A VPN can connect you to anywhere in the world through the internet. You have complete privacy from anyone outside your network. VPNs have made leased lines obsolete. Leased lines are expensive and are now unnecessary.

Unlike leased lines, VPNs are easy to scale to any location. As with other internet usage, physical distance is not an issue. Costs to add a location are negligible.

A VPN Gives You Complete Safety

With VPNs, you are still using the internet, but in a way the makes you effectively invisible.

VPNs are common when a company has employees or other key personnel in the field or in a branch office. If they are somewhere else in the world they can log in in complete safety. Private company documents and other data can be transferred in both directions without interference.

Connect Two or More Offices Into a Bigger Network

A VPN can connect an individual to your internal network. With a site-to-site VPN the local area networks or two or more offices can be connected together as if they were one bigger network.

VPNs make remote employees more productive. They can log in to your local network in complete safety.

A VPN Even Makes Public WiFi Safer

If an individual employee in the field is in the unfortunate position of having to use a public WiFi access point, a VPN can make that experience a safe one. There is no need to risk your data, passwords, or any other private information.

Myers Network Solutions can set up your Virtual Private Network, greatly increasing your data safety and employee productivity. If you currently have leased lines, we can reduce your costs with more modern technology.

May 13th, 2015

Here is a list of programs and services you probably didn’t realize are all cloud computing services:

  • Dropbox
  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Google Mail (gMail)
  • Yahoo Mail
  • LinkedIn
  • SalesForce
  • Pinterest
  • Microsoft Office 365
  • Amazon CloudDrive
  • Microsoft OneDrive
  • Evernote
  • Google Apps
  • Youtube
  • Cisco WebEx
  • iCloud
  • HubSpot
  • GoogleDrive

These are all cloud computing. In every case, the data you are viewing on your computer screen is on a server computer located somewhere on the internet. The data is not on your local computer or network. All of these services and more keep data on their servers for you to store, use, and view.

If you don’t use cloud computing you have different security issues than if you do use it. All computers and networks should be equipped with software and hardware firewalls, anti-malware software – antivirus, antispyware, antirootkit, etc., a good password set up, and so forth. More is here: How safe is your data in the cloud – tips to keep it safe.

Cloud computing has many benefits discussed here: Cloud computing lets your business interact more with your customers and here: what are the various cloud computing models – which is best for your business.

There are several security issues to be considered when using cloud computing. Most are common to non-cloud computing networks. Protecting your data is paramount.

Issues include unauthorized access and related password issues and data loss. With unauthorized access, data can be stolen, passwords can be used to access bank accounts. Confidential records can be accessed.

Sometimes the way multiple programs and cloud sites are connected to automate tasks can create more vulnerability. If the connections are not set up properly, a problem on one can affect connected accounts and data. For example, many programs can be set up to automatically save data to Dropbox. If a program connected to Dropbox gets compromised, everything in Dropbox could be accessible.

Precautions are necessary for safe cloud computing. Many of these are necessary for a safe network even without cloud computing. The ones that are useful in both instances are marked with an asterisk – *.

The interconnections of various apps should be audited regularly* so any vulnerabilities can be addressed.

Strong and varied passwords*. More detail is here: How to come up with effective passwords and what can happen to your network if you don’t.

Training of personnel to avoid social engineering* such as phishing discussed here: Why is phishing spelled that way and what is it?

Let Myers Network Solutions install the best anti-hacking solutions on your network*.

Keep passwords and access authorizations current*. Make sure access to sensitive data is allowed for only people who truly need it. Job duties sometimes change. Employees leave and are replaced.

Let Myers set up your network for automated continual back-up*. Having am up-to-the-minute backup as well as other slightly older backups protects you even if the worst happens. Data can be restored quickly.

If your business network has WiFi, security is sometimes overlooked. Having good security features enabled there greatly reduces vulnerability.

Further, if anybody is logging in to your network from the field and is using a public WiFi spot, that can make your network substantially more vulnerable unless good practices are followed. This is also true if they are logging in from home.

Myers Network Solutions is expert at protecting your network from vulnerabilities. We protect your data and your business.

May 12th, 2015

Microsoft’s new browser was shown in its entirety for the first time the first week of May.

Why Would Microsoft Create a New Browser Program?

Internet Explorer, the Microsoft browser included with every Windows installation for decades has a lot of programming code that is there only to maintain compatibility with some very old programs. That has been removed from Edge. ActiveX, a part of IE that made it somewhat vulnerable, is also gone as are Browser Helper Objects and VisualBasicScript. Third-party toolbars built for Internet Explorer are also gone.

In addition to the added vulnerability already mentioned, these also reduced performance/speed in IE. PDF and Adobe Flash are still supported in Edge. Other browsers such as Chrome, Firefox, and Opera also support them.

Compliance with HTML and Other Website Coding Standards

Internet Explorer also had a long-standing problem of non-compliance with internet standards, specifically HTML and other parts of standard browser coding. Those differences are also be gone in Edge. With Internet Explorer, website programmers have had to write duplicate code for IE and other browsers to ensure proper operation. The other browsers were compliant. It was IE that was different.

Windows 10 and Browsers

Windows 10 will include Edge, but will also still include Internet Explorer. It will be available for those who need it. It will continue to have further security updates. There will be no further feature improvements however.

Edge has already proved its speed superiority over IE and other competitive browsers, Firefox and Chrome. As a comparison to IE 11, Edge was twice as fast. IE had become very slow in comparison to Firefox and Chrome.

Microsoft Edge Advantages

Unlike Internet Explorer, Edge will allow developers to write extensions to add features to their websites. There are a number of other features for developers that will become available this year.

It is reported that Windows 10 will be a free upgrades for owners of Windows 7 and 8. That is a highly unusual move for Microsoft and certainly a boon for users. Let’s hope it is true.

A number of other features are also been added for Edge users. You can even add personal notes to specific viewed internet pages. They are saved for future use and can be shared with others using Edge. Cortana functions as a digital assistant, streamlining many tasks.

Edge can’t be installed yet since it requires Windows 10 to run.

Before converting to Windows 10 or Edge, contact us at Myers Network Solutions so we can make sure none of your existing software of other settings will “break” when you convert.

 

May 8th, 2015

Traveling with Your Smartphone or other WiFi enabled device can be threatening to your privacy. The geographical area where you travel can increase or decrease the threat.

The more obvious threats are primarily:

  • your device getting stolen
  • your password(s) and other data being picked up by a hacker, including bank account vulnerability
  • damage or destruction to the device

There are some precautions that will greatly reduce the likelihood of any of these dire events.

Keep Your Device with You at All Times

Having a standard routine, as much as is possible, guarantees your device will always be with you. Not all hotel personnel are honest and could take a device if you leave it in the room. Attaching the case and device securely to your clothes prevents theft when in a crowded area.

Part of keeping your device with you includes not checking it in at the airport or other travel facility. Don’t pack it away in luggage. Luggage is opened and examined by security personnel. Some have ‘sticky fingers.’

Keep Your Device in Its Case

When you travel, your routines are disrupted. Your sleep schedule is often askew. It is easy to drop your device or forget it somewhere. Keeping it in its case hides it, protecting more desirable models. It also keeps it where it won’t be dropped.

Block RFID Signals with Special Cases

This is more to protect various credit cards and the like. Some cases are designed for travel and are extra rugged or even waterproof. Some cases are made from woven metal fabric. These block RFID signals so high tech thieves can’t get close to you and scan any device or RFID cards without your knowledge.

Be Wary of WiFi

If WiFi doesn’t require a password, don’t use it. Better still, cell phone companies offer devices that attach to USB slots on computers and provide cell phone internet service for your computer. Make sure they have encrypted passwords and data. Those are safer than many WiFi systems. They let you log in at a non-obvious location and can be used almost anywhere. You are therefore not going where the thieves congregate at WiFi locations.

Smartphones should have a way to require all transmission to be encrypted. Check with you carrier. Set up a password for every function on your smartphone. Make its use impossible for anybody but you.

Don’t Bank Online

Don’t bank online if possible. Hackers can’t get your bank account password if you don’t log in. Yes, this is inconvenient, but safer. Phone your bank if you can’t find a bank with reciprocal services.

Social Media – Facebook, Twitter, etc. – Shows You Are Not Home

Showing where you are on vacation gives tech savvy thieves an engraved invitation to rob your home. They know you are a long ways from home. You told them.

If you log in to a ‘safe network’ and the network requests that you install ‘security software’ or a ‘security feature’, say no and log off off immediately. Don’t use that network again. Inform the owner that there is a problem.

Myers Network Solutions provides this as a service to its readers. We can secure your business network, increase it efficiency and streamline your business.

May 8th, 2015

Would improved communication and collaboration with your customers be an advantage to your business? If your product is a custom or complex one, the answer is probably yes.

The features of cloud computing that increase communication with customers and information exchange include:

  • document sharing that allows concurrent editing – includes status updates, billing, and pur­chasing.
  • being able to collaborate on a moment’s notice, whether in the same building or half a world apart
  • Strong security features, including encryption, to protect sensitive data

When the advantages of cloud computing are used, several areas improve:

Customer Relationships

Your customer gets their product or service faster. If a problem arises, your customer is immediately aware and can take appropriate action so their operations are not affected. You can collaborate to come to a consensus and a solution. This builds trust. Your customers know you are working for them.

Business Efficiency

Your business is internally more efficient – operations are smoother. Easier sharing of informa­tion eliminates miscommunication and speeds up tasks. Duplication of effort is eliminated. Employees who have time freed up can address other needed functions. Your customer is better served.

Faster Decisions

When current data is readily available and all personnel are up to date on information, only analysis, possible conferring, and final decisions are necessary. Verifying data and making sure nobody is caught unaware of the present situation are unnecessary. The need for conferences with those involved is also less likely. In many cases, they are already informed and ready for the next step.

The expertise of Myers Network Solutions is available for your business relationships.

May 7th, 2015

Accurate communication is the life blood of any business. Cloud computing, when used properly, makes coordinating activities much easier.

Contrary to first impressions, cloud computing can reduce spending while simultaneously increasing effective communication.

The Most Common Business Communication Methods

What are the most common internal communication methods in a typical business? As you would expect, the overwhelming favorite is email. It is convenient and requires little, if any, training.

Running far behind in second place is texting – usually with mobile devices. Used still less are file sharing and web meetings.

Everybody is familiar with email. It is easy to use, and can be used any time. In addition, documents can be attached and the same email can be sent to multiple people.

Texting, although available on computers, is usually used only on mobile devices.

The typical method of file sharing is used where there is no central repository of company documents that can be accessed by appropriate company personnel. Although it can work, precautions have to be taken to avoid multiple and varying copies of the same document(s).

Web meetings require more organization and scheduling. However, they can be very effective in keeping everybody up to speed and equally informed. They take time to plan – time you may not think you have.

Web meetings can save time in the long run. This is especially true when participants are not all in the same location. They can save time by maximizing cooperation and avoiding internal mis-communication. Everybody is “on the same page.”

Skype and GoToMeeting are two examples of simple cloud based meeting solutions. Web meetings can also use mobile video cameras to show participants and processes to share.

The Weaknesses of the First Three Methods and How to Avoid Them

Emails and texting can leave people out of the loop. It is easy to unintentionally omit somebody with a need to know. However, emails and texting are both quick and convenient. Having your network set up for specified people to receive all emails and texts on certain subjects can avoid that pitfall.

File sharing, such as attaching documents to emails, can omit people who need to stay informed. As mentioned above, also important is avoiding multiple and varying copies of the same documents.

All documents can be hosted on the company network server, or on a computer elsewhere that acts as the program’s host. The problem of multiple varying copies of the same document can be eliminated. That is effective file sharing.

Each employee accesses the server-based documents from their own computer. When they save changes, the changes are in the document on the server or external computer. That is the same document any other authorized employee accesses.

Some software will allow simultaneous editing of the same document. Databases are a common example.

Dropbox, although not a typical cloud solution, is a good illustration of a proper use of file sharing. Everybody accesses the document at Dropbox, not the copy on their own computer. With Dropbox, unlike cloud-based software, you are still using the software program on your own network or computer to open the document.

Cloud computing is the process of using software that is hosted elsewhere. It is more extensive than Dropbox. Google Apps is a well-known example.

If documents and programs are hosted on your own network server, programs that are designed to allow multiple simultaneous users are required. For example, with a multi-user spreadsheet program, two or more people can use it at the same time. The program is on the server, not on each desktop computer.

Myers can help you set up the best solution for your business, reduce software costs and create document consistency.

May 7th, 2015

Most people are familiar with the threats of malware, hacking, and the like. Fewer are aware of security precautions that are necessary with applications. Application is another name for a computer program.

Application security involves software, hardware and procedures to be followed by company personnel.

One of the more important factors is whether your applications are accessible from the internet. In other words, is access restricted to those at your physical location with direct connection to your network, or can any programs be accessed from elsewhere?

Application security is the use of software, hardware, and procedural methods to protect applications from external – and internal – threats.

Many programs have security measures built in. However, they still need to be properly configured for adequate protection.

Programs can be accessed and used to steal, delete, or modify data.

What are some measures to be set up for protection?

Firewalls, both software and hardware

Network hardware – routers – have built in firewalls. If the settings are correct, they are a good foundation for security. A router shows up from outside as only one computer. The addresses of individual computers in your network are blocked.

A software firewall is a program written for that specific purpose. Many security software companies offer such software. Most have numerous adjustable settings to customize them to your needs.

Password Protection

A basic and fairly standard protection feature is the use of passwords to access various software features. Software can be set up to limit access to various subdivisions of data. Each employee or others with access can see only the data pertinent to their function. How much of the data, if any, that can be altered is also controllable.

Encryption / Decryption Features

Some programs also have the ability to encrypt and decrypt data. Since the data is encrypted for transmission, even if a hacker somehow intercepts the transmission, the data is jibberish. The data is of no use to the hacker. Of course when the data is received by an authorized person, it is decrypted back to its normal usable format.

Biological ‘Passwords’

A recent development is the use of fingerprints, eye recognition and the like. If done well, it is beneficial. However, there is the possibility of mis-read. That is especially true if the reading equipment isn’t top of the line.

Other Standard Security Measures

In addition to the measures described above, there are anti-virus, anti-spyware, and other anti-malware programs whose functions are well known.

Myers Network Solutions can review, adjust, and maintain your application security, freeing you to optimize your business operations. We can also train your personnel in procedures that keep your data secure. Don’t depend on only an annual security check.
May 5th, 2015

At small to medium sized companies members of top management sometimes create the biggest risks to data security. How could this be? Are they dishonest?

No, it is not dishonesty that is the problem. It is almost always done unknowingly.

What are the unknowing ways members of top management could be putting their company at risk?:

  • top management have access to all data in the company
  • names of members of top management are easy to find by those outside the company
  • sometimes security can be lower priority than it should be
  • mis-matching computer hardware and software with security software and hardware

Let’s look at why these are problems.

Top Management Have Access to All Data in the Company

If the account of a member of top management is hacked, the hacker has access to all company data.

Names of Top Management Are Easy to Find by Those Outside the Company

Many people, sometimes including leaders of companies, create an email address that uses their real name at the name of their company. For example, [email protected]. That email is easy to guess by a hacker, making cracking your account easier. Make up an email address that is known only to those you provide it to.

In addition, if your email address is guessed, fake emails can be sent to other personnel in your company. Since they look like they came from company leadership, the employee will provide the information that is requested.

Fake emails that appear to be from company leadership can also be sent to those outside your company for any number or nefarious reasons.

Sometimes Security Can Be Lower Priority Than It Should Be

Not all top executives in a company realize how critical good security is. Either they don’t realize what damage can be done, or don’t realize how vulnerable they can be.

Mis-matching Computer Hardware and Software with Security Software and Hardware

Running multiple operating systems on a company network can create non-obvious vulnerabilities. Security software may work great in Windows, but not on Macintosh or some mobile device operating systems.

Myers Network Solutions is equipped to make sure your network is secure. Since we specialize in that task, we stay at the forefront of network technology. We take the burden off of you.

May 4th, 2015

Malware is software that is created with a malicious intent. It is created to steal money or information from you. When information is stolen and sold to other criminals your money will be be stolen by a third party.

There are a number of varieties of malware, usually organized by the way they spread. Most look for sensitive data – user names, passwords, and other data that compromises your network and your finances. Some are designed to be purely destructive of your data.

Data theft is also a concern for businesses with proprietary data. Theft of customer data is a concern for any company.

Some malware can install itself and use your network to send out more malware to other computers on the internet. That makes finding the original source of the malware very difficult. It also marks your network as unsafe.

Sometimes the stolen data is even relayed through multiple networks belonging to unsuspecting owners before it gets back to the malware writers.

Phishing

Phishing is usually email. It is designed to fool you. The intent is for you to mistake it for communication from a company you do business with: a bank, a credit card company, a social media site, a shipping company, etc. The creators of this type of email will steal logos and other identifying information from the real bank or other company’s website to make their email look official.

More information on phishing and how to avoid getting scammed is in another article: Why is Phishing Spelled That Way and What is it?

Viruses

This is the best known type of malware, at least by name. Viruses modify or destroy data on the infected computer. They have existed for a long time. Anti-virus programs have become so good that the threat level from viruses isn’t quite as severe as it used to be – if you have protective software. Other types of malware are a bigger threat.

Myers Network Solutions can help you avoid these dangers and those listed in part 2 of this article. Knowing which protective software and hardware is the most effective will keep you safe. We can protect your network and give you peace of mind.

Part 2 is here: Types of Malware and Other Threats – How to Recognize and Avoid Them (Part 2)