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March 15th, 2017

2017March15Hardware_AMost people have a vague idea of what a network firewall does. But some business owners are easily fooled by promises of quick and easy solutions that can be installed and managed right from your desktop. In the software vs. hardware debate, there’s a clear winner when it comes to your security. Let’s take a look at what the differences are and why they matter.

Software firewalls

Calling a piece of software a “firewall” is a bit of an exaggeration. Installing it on a local hard drive is more like locks on a door than impenetrable walls. When data is scanned for threats by a software firewall, the information it contains has already been passed through your router, network switch, and finally your local hard drive.

Once the whole cycle has finished, software firewalls can prohibit risky activities based on blacklisted IP addresses, known malware definitions, and suspicious application requests.

Although these solutions do have value, they can’t guarantee that malware won’t spread to other systems before each packet of data can be scanned, unless they’re standing guard at your business’s gateway to the internet. And whenever the computer with the firewall is powered off, everything it protects is left unguarded.

Hardware firewalls

Because the drawbacks of a software-based firewall are centered around their inefficient network position, a hardware solution is the safer option. Hardware firewalls sit directly behind your router, so every single packet of data coming from the internet must pass through your gatekeeper before landing on any of your internal drives.

Most of these solutions include far more sophisticated controls than just web filtering and basic data scanning. Like most developments in the IT industry, newer hardware firewalls focus on “intelligent” functions that analyze huge datasets to recognize malware and cyberattacks based on irregular activities instead of relying solely on cataloged viruses and attack vectors.

Another benefit of hardware firewalls is that they’re always on. There’s no need to worry about whether the workstation hosting your solution will crash because these devices are built for 24/7 protection. The only downside to this type of solution is the level of monitoring and maintenance it requires. Hardware firewalls are extremely complex and managing them is no easy task.

“Cloud” firewalls

The most recent, and undoubtedly best, solution to network perimeter security are “cloud” firewalls. These are on-site pieces of hardware with software interfaces that can be managed remotely by certified security professionals.

This service model means that experts will monitor your network performance and security for anomalies while your team goes about its business as usual. No need for onsite tweaks and updates -- all of it can be done remotely.

You may hear a lot of experts telling you that the age of on-site hardware has passed and everything can be done in the cloud. Remote administration may be the next wave in network services, but the need for hardware will never go away. If you need someone to manage your physical devices, contact us today.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic Hardware
February 23rd, 2017

2017February23_Hardware_AThis is not a question often asked by anyone who has ever used a printer. Given the increasing sophistication of hackers’ capabilities, the discovery that cyber thievery can, in fact, be performed through some popular printer brands hardly comes as a surprise. One study reveals that at least 20 printer models are vulnerable to Distributed Denial-of-Service and other types of attacks. Let’s take a look at this chilling development in cybersecurity.

Which printers are prone?

Based on the study made by Ruhr University Bochum researchers, printer brands such as Hewlett Packard (HP), Brother, Dell, Samsung, and several others are prone to different types of cyber attacks. Online printers from these brands could serve as cyber criminals’ path in which to steal credentials, corrupt a printer, or leak sensitive data from printed documents obtained through a printer’s memory.

Printers serve the basic purpose of turning computer documents into paper and have never been a typical entry-point of hackers’ attacks. Government and corporate offices, business establishments, non-profit organizations, and homes own one, and when you think about the fact that most printers are linked to computer owners’ internal networks, this expansion of cyber theft to printers begin to make even more sense.

How can attacks be made?

Researchers identified security vulnerabilities that would enable hackers to corrupt common printer languages such as PostScript and PJL, which they could then use to launch Distributed Denial-of-Service attacks or reset the corrupted printer to its factory defaults, also termed as ‘protection bypass.’ Other ways in which hackers could exploit their access are through print job manipulations, which could lead to minor cases of printing corruptions or persistent printing distortions, and information disclosure, the leaking of sensitive information.

What safety measures are being developed?

The researchers who discovered the vulnerabilities developed the PRinter Exploitation Toolkit (PRET), a program designed to determine if a printing device is a likely target. This toolkit ‘connects to a device via network or USB and exploits the features of a given printer language, and is complemented by a wiki page that documents attacks made. It’s worth noting that more printer models and brands haven’t been tested due to the team’s lack of resources. But with this open-source toolkit, vulnerabilities of many brands and models may soon be identified.

Stealing information online is far from being a novelty in cyber security. But to do so through printers requires a special set of skills. It’s too soon to tell whether this form of cyber thievery is going to pose serious threats in the future, but regardless of how further studies progress, failing to implement security protocols for your network can cost you dearly. Get ready for any security threat by contacting our security experts now.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic Hardware
February 8th, 2017

2017February8_Hardware_AIn the near future, the Internet of Things (IoT) is expected to usher in an era of connectivity and efficiency on a global scale. Many small- and medium-sized companies, however, assume IoT has no application to their business. To dispel those false assumptions, we’ve compiled a list of four ways your business can benefit from using IoT devices.

Improved logistics With IoT sensors, supply chain management and order fulfillment processes improve markedly to meet customer demand. For example, sensors on delivery containers and trucks in transit give managers real-time status updates, allowing them to track their items and ensure they reach the right location at the right time.

Streamlined inventory IoT also presents automation opportunities for businesses that need to manage and replenish their stock. When data recorded from IoT devices are tied to your enterprise resource planning (ERP) system, you can accurately monitor your inventory, analyze purchase and consumption rates of a particular product, and automatically reorder items when IoT sensors detect that supply is running low. This minimizes out-of-stock incidents and prevents excess stock build-up.

Fast payment Given how most payments are done electronically via point-of-sale systems or the internet, IoT has the potential to revolutionize the way businesses process transactions. We’re already seeing a few examples of this today as ApplePay not only allows users to purchase goods and services using smartphone applications, but through wearable technology as well.

Soon enough, IoT devices might even allow restaurants and retailers to register or charge their customers the moment they walk through the door.

Market insight Businesses that can somehow make sense of IoT-collected data will gain a competitive edge. Marketers, for example, can gather valuable insight into how their products are used and which demographic is utilizing them the most. This information can then inform future marketing efforts and give businesses more direction on how to improve their products and services for their customers.

Although businesses will certainly face many challenges in implementing the Internet of Things, those who manage to overcome them will reap all the benefits of this burgeoning technology.

Want to know if an IoT deployment is right for your business? Contact our certified IT consultants today.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic Hardware
January 23rd, 2017

img-cloud-printing-170px-op1When you picture cloud computing and printing devices, you might think of endless copies of clouds flying out of the printer. But that analogy wouldn’t quite apply for Google’s Cloud Print service, though. This cloud-computing hybrid allows you to access both regular and internet-enabled printers through the Internet. What are the benefits? Are they worth looking into? Read on for additional insight.

First things first, the printer needs to be connected to your primary computer (the one you’ll use to access the printer in the future). Once connected, the computer can be added to Cloud Print. If it isn’t already installed, you need to install Chrome for Windows or Mac. From there, type chrome://devices into the address bar to bring up devices Chrome can work with. Click “Add printer” and make sure the printer you want to link is ticked.

From the same screen, you’ll be able to configure printer settings. Click Manage next to any of the listed printers to upload new print jobs, rename or remove printers, or share a printer with someone else. This allows you to give certain people access to your printer.

If you need to print something off your mobile device, you can do so with the Cloud Print app on Android, where a print option should appear in the Sharing menu. It’s slightly trickier on iOS, but you can still cloud print from Google’s iOS apps using the Google-recommended file management, transfer and printing application PrintCentral Pro to bridge the gap. And as expected, Cloud Print works seamlessly with Chromebooks as well. Just choose Print from the main menu and voila!

If you’re interested in hearing more news on Google’s Cloud Print function or staying up-to-date on the IT world, feel free to let us know.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic Hardware
January 5th, 2017

2016december26_hardware_aSo you've got the next big thing in technology sitting in your office: a program you customized for your business or a hardware you came up with on the side. When is the right time to license your product for outside sale? Read further to learn the ins and outs of licensing and why the best decisions for your business can often be contrary to common sense.

There is a fine line between successful licensing and a failed attempt. You certainly don't want to risk selling prematurely, when the software doesn't yet have enough appeal in a large market to succeed. On the other hand, you don't want to "lose" the market altogether by selling the sale rights to someone else who will “overtake” the product.

Questions to Ask Before you Commit to Licensing Anything

Before you make the decision to take your hard-earned product and send it to the masses through licensing, consider:

The value of your new product and its potential

If you believe you have a truly unique software, it may be best to keep it under wraps and exclusive to your company. However, if it is a product in a highly competitive area wherein technology changes quickly, it may be worth thinking about how best to capitalize on the changing market.

Its fit on your business market

If your software is a time management program and you run an internet security firm, there's a chance that you may have to spread yourself thin to market the new product and maintain your own business focus. In this case it might be smart to find a company to license your product that is more aligned with the product's purpose.

The levels of licensing

It is possible to allow a company to license your product on a non-exclusive basis, which will allow you to maintain control of the product in some form. The decision to pursue licensing of a software or hardware should be made carefully.

If you need advice on what to do with a new software or piece of hardware created by your business, give us a call. We can help you maximize the benefits of your design.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic Hardware
December 8th, 2016

2018december8_hardware_aYour 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), or simply processor, 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, 6-8 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 definitely go for 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.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic Hardware
November 23rd, 2016

2016november23_hardware_aAfter the recent Dyn attack that took Netflix and other major websites down, business owners are vigilant about ensuring the security of their network and devices connected to the “Internet of Things” (IoT). A new scanner from Bullguard promises to warn owners of potential entry points for hackers. Keep reading to learn more about Bullguard's IoT Scanner and how it can help you keep your company data secure.

The Dangers of IoT

The "Internet of Things" is a relatively new phrase that basically refers to a network of connected devices. The network might include your computer and smartphone, but could also include apps that you have downloaded, your Fitbit, a remotely monitored home security system, routers, printers and any other wireless device that needs an internet connection. Although all these devices are but convenience items, they can also be potentially dangerous considering how much personal and business information is stored on your personal computer, which is connected to the same network.

How can I protect my IoT devices?

Every device that connects to the internet must connect through your network. If you are technologically challenged and have only a laptop in your office and a couple of desktop computers scattered throughout the building, chances are you don't worry too much about the security of your connection. It's easy to install a firewall and antivirus program that will keep your network connection secure. But internet security isn't that simple for the business owner anymore.

The internet security vendor Bullguard has released a new tool that business owners can use to locate any vulnerabilities that might be found on their network. The program uses on online directory to double-check whether your device uses an "open" or unsecure port to connect to your network. If it determines that your network or any of your devices are connected with an open line, it gives you the location of the detected vulnerability.

What can the IoT Scanner Do?

While the scanner only points to places of invulnerability and does not attempt to fix anything, it provides the information you need to take that next step. Many times the real danger of a smart device is that it connects to your network without your knowledge, allowing hackers an "open door" to wreak havoc. Knowing where the hackers might enter can keep you vigilant to fix that breach.

Scanners like this are exactly what we hope to accomplish with our blog. We want you to provide you with useful tools that help educate you about your network and your IT, while also showcasing what we can do for you as an outsourced IT consultant. Bullguard’s IoT scanner will help you get one step closer to enterprise-level security, but we’re the partner you need to cross the finish line. Get in touch with us to start making improvements today.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic Hardware
November 8th, 2016

2016november8_hardware_aRunning a small business takes an intelligent, resourceful person. From day one you must make important decisions in all areas of business, from the marketing strategy chosen for a product to the brand of printer you will use to print out flyers. One of the biggest decisions you will make in the early stages of a business involves your SMB’s computer hardware, particularly whether to invest in a desktop computer or a laptop. Read on to find out how to make this decision for your company.

Portability

Modern desktop computers aren't nearly as immobile as they used to be. In many cases the screen is thin and light, and all-in-one desktops are easy to unplug, move and plug in on the road. But there are still places the desktop cannot go. Laptops allow you to go anywhere, even places without electricity. But this ability to take your work anywhere can be counterproductive by creating more stress on employees who think they must work all the time.

Memory/Speed

Desktop computers often have more memory than laptops, and they’re faster speeds due to better processors. This is now changing as a result of advancing technology, but until the cost of high-powered laptops becomes affordable to the general public, the desktop computer is going to provide businesses with more speed. If your employees’ work is limited to word processing and emailing, laptops should be enough. However, anything more will probably require a desktop machine.

Security

An SMB’s computer hardware needs to be secure to ensure that private company information doesn't end up in the wrong hands. On a desktop computer, the hardware is easier to defend against malware and adware. It’s also more physically secure because the desktop is often kept in one location and not easy to snatch. If you do choose the laptop route, make sure to have strict policies on how to protect machines that leave the office.

Price

Traditionally, the laptop has been cheaper and available to more people. This is true particularly for smaller notebook-style laptops. But desktop computers are becoming more affordable as more people have access to them through local channels. With a capable IT service provider, cost probably won’t be a deciding factor between the two options.

Quality

Although laptop computers provide the convenience of portability, over time they’re prone to problems with the battery and charging cord. They are also easily damaged. By contrast, desktops are generally more sturdy. But when they do experience a problem, it often leads to expensive repairs.

Final Recommendation

The desktop versus laptop debate is an old one, with supporters on both sides touting the advantages of their choice to all who will listen. A growing company really needs a combination of both types of computers. However, a desktop computer will be generally more reliable for the fledgling company owner to start with. Laptops should be added as budget permits to provide that extra portability and convenience.

If you have questions regarding the best choice for your company, give us a call. We'll be happy to provide you the assistance you need to improve your business.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic Hardware
October 21st, 2016

2016october21_hardware_aIn today's world, WiFi has become a necessity both at work and at home. People across the world use it to learn, work online, communicate through social media, stream videos, and more. But we all know that the internet can sometimes be uncooperative. And in an increasingly interconnected world, we need reliable tech resources that help keep us online. One of the technologies dedicated to making this happen is Google and their new WiFi system.

WiFi everywhere Google WiFi is able to offer fast WiFi across your home or business. Today, people install WiFi expecting it to simultaneously support multiple devices that might even be engaged in high-bandwidth activities such as VoIP and live streaming. The problem, however, is that the WiFi signal is often affected by the thickness of internal walls and the distance from the router. Google alleviates this problem by developing a WiFi system that’s expandable.

You can add Google WiFi points in different areas of your office to spread a strong network signal throughout your entire company. Google uses WiFi mesh technology, where every Google WiFi point builds a high-powered signal where all points combined offer the ideal path for data. As a result, high-speed WiFi is built across the house as all points connect to each other to broadcast a strong, high-speed connection. This means your company can say goodbye to slow downloads, poor call quality, and service interruptions.

Automatically optimize your connection Google WiFi can also keep operating at high speeds. It employs Network Assist Technology, a feature that automatically optimizes your wireless connection, keeping it fast without any fussing or manual adjustments on your end. Just imagine taking your office laptop or your iPad from your desk to the meeting room, without experiencing internet connection problems. Google’s Network Assist feature allows your devices to seamlessly transition between Google WiFi points in real time, meaning no delays or dead spots.

Manage your network with an app Google WiFi also comes with a companion app for when you want to manage your network. Available on iOS or Android, the WiFi manager app allows you to reduce bandwidth usage for a particular website, or pause the WiFi connection on certain devices when they’re not in use. You can also prioritize bandwidth for specific devices connected to your network so that you can conduct important VoIP conference calls without any interruptions.

Of course, when it comes to WiFi, security and privacy are top priority. With that in mind, the Google WiFi manager app comes with enhanced security and privacy settings that enable easy management of cloud content, user access control, wireless encryption systems, and automatic updates to keep your business safe at all times.

There’s no telling how well Google WiFi will perform in the market, but if your company values advanced security systems, fast internet speeds, and an easy-to-manage network, then Google WiFi is definitely hardware you should have.

Want to stay on top of the latest hardware trends and developments? Simply give us a call today to find out more.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic Hardware
October 6th, 2016

2016october6_hardware_aStarting a business is a big step for entrepreneurs in the IT industry. However, this comes with a myriad of challenges, most of which relate to capital and resources. Among them is the availability of proper equipment. The equipment used in a company determines how smoothly the business will run and must be up to date to ensure success. Because acquiring the proper equipment is expensive, companies often resort to what is called ‘Hardware-as-a-Service’ (HaaS). It’s important to consider all of the advantages of this solution before making a decision, and we’ve compiled such a list here.

Upfront Capital

The main benefit of HaaS is that it enables businesses to conserve on upfront capital expenditures. By replacing these high costs with a lease structure and low monthly payments, resources can be redirected toward other budget items. As a result, the business will have more resources that it could have otherwise used to purchase the computers.

More modern hardware

For businesses with outdated equipment, HaaS is an easy workaround for them to upgrade their IT hardware. A service provider can supply the latest equipment at a lower monthly cost, and when their client’s machines age, upgrades can be provided without fear of incurring additional costs. By choosing this route, SMBs won't have to deal with disposing their old equipment. The service provider will take full responsibility for that.

Taxes and accounting

When it comes to tax payments, businesses that opt for HaaS are also at an advantage. Equipment will be listed as a service from a vendor rather than a capital expense -- thereby decreasing their tax liability. SMBs will enjoy all the benefits of cutting-edge equipment, without the taxes that usually accompany it. HaaS allows companies to get the equipment they need without running the risk of incurring more debt. Having a balance sheet with less debt is beneficial to the business, as it provides the business with secure financial services to expand.

However, when it comes to HaaS, it is important to consider what sort of technology the business needs. For example, if there is a substantial need for equipment, the best option is to choose HaaS rather than incur debt from purchases. For more information on managed IT solutions and outsourcing your technology difficulties to the experts, contact us today.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic Hardware