Blog

March 24th, 2017

170px_img_shutterstock_398463913Slack is a well-known, cloud-based collaboration tool that helps your team communicate better and be more productive. Microsoft Teams is Window’s own version with a twist. It’s been reported that prior to its release, a gigantic update was rolled out that equipped Teams with a bevy of features that will definitely make a difference.

Smarter meetings The latest addition to Microsoft Teams is Scheduling Assistant, responsible for finding the ideal time to schedule a meeting. It takes into consideration the schedules of all members, and suggests the best possible time for all attendees. Needless to say, whereas Teams allowed users to schedule only intra-team meetings, Microsoft now supports one-on-one meetings. If you want to steer clear of Skype, read on.

Bots, bots, and more bots With the latest update, bots are now capable of tapping into conversations happening in a team as opposed to a separate chat. To activate team bots, simply type “@” and begin interacting with the bot from there. Microsoft is also working on adding a Bots tab to Teams. This allows you to keep track of all the bots that have been added to a certain team while allowing you to discover new tabs as well. Other bot-related improvements include:

  • New bot gallery - the gallery displays a complete list of all the available bots on Microsoft Teams. Alongside the gallery is where you can add bots to one of your teams.
  • Discover bots via search - simply click on the search bar at the top and select “Discover bots”. From there click on a bot to start chatting, or click “Add” to add it to a team.
  • Add a bot with an @mention - to add a bot to a channel, simply type “@” in your compose box, then select “Add a bot”
Public teams With public teams, anyone from your organization can join the team, unlike the private teams which are open only to specific members. Public teams will show up when a user is trying to join a new team, and you can also turn your existing private team into a public team (and vice-versa).

When it was launched in November 2016, Teams was a relatively minimal service. But in just four months, it’s become a lot more powerful and stable. Microsoft Teams has been available to Office 365 Business Essentials, Business Premium, and Enterprise E1, E3 and E5 users since March 14th. If you have any questions, don’t hesitate to give us a call!

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic office
March 23rd, 2017

2017March23Windows_BMicrosoft has quietly begun doing the unthinkable: inserting advertisements into your File Explorer. The last place anyone ever expected to see a OneDrive promotion is right alongside their ‘My Documents’ folder, and we expect the first thing they’ll think is, “How do I turn that off?” Read on to find out how.

Who is getting these ads?

Right now, we’re still unsure of how widespread Microsoft’s new advertising strategy goes. Not every Windows workstation has started displaying File Explorer banners, and based on some overwhelmingly negative reactions online, the campaign might get shut down before it even reaches your desktop.

However, even if you have yet to be targeted, you can quickly and easily disable these ads right now.

How do I turn them off?

At the moment, these pushy promotions show up only in Windows’ File Explorer window, so that’s where we’ll begin. After you’ve opened a new window, there are only five steps to boot them off your screen:
  1. Select View from the ribbon along the top of any File Explorer window.
  2. Click Options on the far righthand side.
  3. In the new window select the View tab.
  4. In the Advanced Settings window pane, scroll down and deselect ‘Show sync provider notifications’.
  5. Click Apply and close the Folder Options window.
That’s all it takes! Keep in mind that we highly recommend the services Microsoft chose to advertise with this move. Office 365, OneDrive, and others are all great cloud platforms for safely working and collaborating from any device in any location -- we just don’t want to see advertisements for them when we’re hunting down sales records.

When you’re in the market for the Windows tips and tricks, this is the best blog on the web. If you’re looking for something a little more robust however, our managed services are second to none. Get in touch with us today to learn more!

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic Windows
March 22nd, 2017

2017March22Security_BWe’ve gotten so caught up discussing ransomware prevention with our clients that we’ve neglected to mention that several strains have already been defeated. In fact, there’s a decent chance you can actually decrypt all your data for free. Always make sure to check these lists before responding to a cyber attacker’s demands.

The state of ransomware in 2017

It’s been almost 30 years since malware was first created that could encrypt locally-stored data and demand money in exchange for its safe return. Known as ransomware, this type of malware has gone through multiple periods of popularity. 2006 and 2013 saw brief spikes in infections, but they’ve never been as bad as they are now.

In 2015, the FBI estimated that ransomware attacks cost victims $24 million, but in the first three months of 2016 it had already racked up more than $209 million. At the beginning of 2017, more than 10% of all malware infections were some version of ransomware.

Zombie ransomware is easy to defeat

Not every type of infection is targeted to individual organizations. Some infections may happen as a result of self-propagating ransomware strains, while others might come from cyber attackers who are hoping targets are so scared that they pay up before doing any research on how dated the strain is.

No matter what the circumstances of your infection are, always check the following lists to see whether free decryption tools have been released to save you a world of hurt:

Prevention

But even when you can get your data back for free, getting hit with malware is no walk in the park. There are essentially three basic approaches to preventing ransomware. First, train your employees about what they should and shouldn’t be opening when browsing the web and checking email.

Second, back up your data as often as possible to quarantined storage. As long as access to your backed-up data is extremely limited and not directly connected to your network, you should be able to restore everything in case of an infection.

Finally, regularly update all your software solutions (operating systems, productivity software, and antivirus). Most big-name vendors are quick to patch vulnerabilities, and you’ll prevent a large portion of infections just by staying up to date.

Whether it’s dealing with an infection or preventing one, the best option is to always seek professional advice from seasoned IT technicians. It’s possible that you could decrypt your data with the tools listed above, but most ransomware strains destroy your data after a set time limit, and you may not be able to beat the clock. If you do, you probably won’t have the expertise to discern where your security was penetrated.

Don’t waste time fighting against a never-ending stream of cyber attacks -- hand it over to us and be done with it. Call today to find out more.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic Security
March 21st, 2017

2017March21Apple_BCybersecurity experts stumbled into a ransomware variant late last month, but this one doesn’t target Windows devices. The malware, known as OSX/Filecoder.E, encrypts Mac data like any cryptolocker strain many businesses have seen in the past. However, unlike normal ransomware that release files after the Bitcoin ransom is paid, this new strain makes no such promises. Read on to find out what you can do about this ransomware.

According to ESET security researchers, even though the Filecoder ransomware was written in Apple’s programming language, the malicious code is not as potent or as skillful as other viruses. In fact, it’s so poorly written that hackers never developed a method to retrieve the encryption key once the ransom has been paid.

In any case, whether you’re dealing with Filecoder or some other ransomware, we advise against ever giving in to the hacker’s demands.

Avoid Filecoder So far, Filecoder isn’t given out via phishing emails like most ransomware; instead, it’s distributed on Torrent sites and goes by the name “Patcher.” Therefore, it’s best to stay away from these highly unregulated (and mostly illegal) websites and stick to trusted app stores like Mac, Microsoft, and Google.

Even if the ransomware is not sent out via phishing campaigns, you should still be careful of any unsolicited emails with strange file attachments in case the malware authors decide to branch out.

Install preventive measures Like with any other malware, being proactive with your cybersecurity solutions is the best way to defend against Filecoder. Install reliable antivirus software, intrusion prevention systems, firewalls, and update systems whenever possible.

You must also maintain backups and have a disaster recovery plan to keep your business running in the off chance that ransomware or any other cyberattack successfully infiltrated your systems.

Defeat the ransomware Given the ransomware’s shoddy code, security researchers have found a way to decrypt files without paying. Free cracking tools like PKCRACK can recover Filecoder-encrypted data if you have one original version of the affected files. The recovery process, however, does require some programming knowledge, so contact an IT expert or a managed services provider to unlock the ransomware for you.

Filecoder may not be the strongest malware around, but this could just be the start of Mac-based attacks. To protect your business from the onslaught of cyberattacks, you need security experts. Contact us today.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic apple
March 17th, 2017

2017March17Business_BIf business value is all about the long-term health and well-being of your company, there are few things more important than getting your product into customers’ hands swiftly and efficiently. Thankfully, modern technology has revolutionized these tasks and how you add value to your business. Let’s take a look at one of the most recent examples.

First off, we need to clarify that inventory management systems (IMSs) are not the same as order management systems (OMSs). The former is a solution for analyzing your sales history as a means to forecast demand for your product and the materials you will need in the future, while the latter is all about the here and now.

What does an OMS do for you?

One of the toughest things about managing an eCommerce store is juggling a growing number of sales, each at totally different steps in your shipping process. An OMS service is all about organizing your orders into a coherent and manageable workflow. Here are just some of the difficulties it helps you wrangle:
  • Your eCommerce store can be connected to your inventory. If something is out of stock, it can be reflected on your site so customers aren’t misled about the availability of your product.
  • Payment authorizations can be automated and integrated with your shipping services.
  • You can provide reports to your customers about their order's shipping status. From intra-warehouse movements to on-the-truck updates, one page will have all the information they need.
  • Products and materials can be automatically restocked once they dip below a certain threshold.
  • Refund and returns can be automatically processed by your OMS.
And like any industry, there are dozens of OMS platforms with niche functionalities that may be better for your specific business model. The most important thing is that you find a solution that decreases the most tedious organizational tasks for tracking your store’s orders.

The cloud-based OMS

Orders are streaming in at all hours of the day, and you can’t guarantee that you’ll always be in the office when you need to check the status of an order. A cloud-based OMS stores all your information in a centralized location so you can access your information from home, the warehouse floor, or even while waiting for takeoff.

The cloud is generally one of the most reliable ways to add value to your business. There are dozens of platforms, just like OMSs, that require virtually no hardware and allow you to pay for exactly what you use. For advice on which solutions are best for your business, and how to deploy them, call us today.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic Business
March 15th, 2017

2017March15Hardware_BSoftware solutions are almost always more user-friendly than hardware solutions. There’s no need to worry about cabling, firmware, and power consumption. But when it comes to firewalls, a software solution just can’t measure up to its hardware counterpart. Make sure you have all the facts before deciding which is right for you.

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
March 10th, 2017

2017March10Virtualization_BNobody’s perfect, even IT technicians. We’ve seen plenty of people interpret software-defined networking and network virtualization as the same exact service, but it’s time we clear up the difference. It’s small, but it could be the difference between major cost savings and a small increase in functionality.

Software-defined networking (SDN)

Managing storage, infrastructures, and networks with high-level software is something IT technicians have been doing for a long time. It’s a subset of virtualization and it is one of the oldest strategies for optimizing and securing your IT hardware.

Despite its popularity, SDN does have one major drawback -- it needs hardware to do its job. SDN allows you to control network switches, routers, and other peripherals from a centralized software platform, but you can’t create virtual segments of your network without the hardware that would normally be required outside of an SDN environment.

Network virtualization

Evolving beyond SDN was inevitable. Whenever a technology can’t do it all, you can bet someone is working hard to fix that. Network virtualization uses advanced software solutions to allow administrators to manage physical hardware and to create virtual replicas of hardware that are indistinguishable to servers and workstations.

Network virtualization simplifies the field of network design. You can reduce spending on expensive hardware, reconfigure network segments on the fly, and connect physically separate networks as if they were in the same room.

A virtualized network may sound like an exciting technology that doesn’t have much use at small- or medium-sized business, but that’s exactly the beauty of hiring a managed services provider! We provide enterprise technology and advice as part of your monthly service fee. Call today to find out more.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

March 8th, 2017

2017March8Office_BOffice 365 Business, Business Premium, Enterprise E1, E3, and E5. Each of these Office 365 plans offer different features and services. Implement the wrong one, and you may end up with a solution that doesn’t fully meet your company’s needs. To help your business select the right Office 365 license, we’ve summarized and listed the different features of each plan.

Business or Enterprise? If you’re running a cloud-first business, you’ll have to decide between Office 365 Business and Enterprise. Both may have access to Office Online and OneDrive, but there are some notable differences between the plan.

For one, Office 365 Enterprise E3 and E5 plans have unlimited archive and mail storage space, while Business plans have a 50-GB storage limit and don’t provide archive access from the Outlook client.

When it comes to SharePoint, Business plans are short on enterprise search, Excel services, and Visio features. Additionally, unified communication solutions, Power BI, and Delve analytics are also missing from the Office 365 Business offering.

Although it may seem like Enterprise subscriptions are superior -- and in some ways they are -- Business plans are perfect for smaller companies running on a tight budget. Office 365 Business and Business Premium cost $10 and $15 per user per month respectively, while E5, the biggest Enterprise plan, costs $35 per user per month.

As a general rule, start looking for Enterprise plans when your employee headcount exceeds 50 people and users require more storage space and solutions.

E1, E3, or E5? If you do opt for Office 365 Enterprise plans, you’ll have to examine the features and choose one of three plans (E1, E3, and E5) that suits your needs.

E1 offers basic enterprise solutions such as Outlook and Word, OneNote, PowerPoint, and Excel online for only $8 per user per month. Apart from this, users also get access to SharePoint Team sites, video conferencing, and Yammer for enterprise social media.

E3 provides all E1 features and adds data loss prevention, rights management, and encryption to ensure business security and compliance. While E5 is a full enterprise-grade solution with all the aforementioned features plus analytics tools, advanced threat protection, flexible Skype for Business conferencing, and unified communication solutions.

Small- and medium-sized enterprises will usually select either E1 or E3 subscriptions and decide to add third-party applications to meet cloud security and VoIP demands. But if you have the resources and prefer a fully-managed suite of Microsoft applications, E5 plans are the way to go.

Migrating to an Office 365 platform is a big step, and if you’re still undecided about which plan to opt for, contact us today. We don’t just provide Office 365, we assess your business and find the best solution that meets your budget and objectives.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic office
March 7th, 2017

170px_shutterstock_435798766Cortana, Microsoft's voice-activated personal assistant, is extremely helpful for day-to-day tasks. Whether you need her to reschedule a meeting or draft an email, she’s always happy to help. If you're dealing with several time-consuming tasks, use these Cortana commands to make your life a lot easier.

Hey, Cortana Before asking her to do anything, we need to get Cortana's attention by clicking or tapping the Cortana button on the taskbar. If you do not see Cortana on your taskbar, right-click the taskbar and go to Cortana > Show Cortana icon. To enable 'Hey, Cortana', simply say "Hey, Cortana," followed by your question. If you're using a Windows Phone, you can press and hold the search button to activate Cortana.

Basics tasks If you’re looking to launch a program or open a website, simply use the word ‘Launch’ or ‘Open’ followed by the website’s name. Make notes by uttering the words ‘take a note’ or ‘note it down’. As for making drafts, start with ‘Write an’ followed by email or text and end with the contact name and the message itself. Lastly, ‘Show me emails from [contact]’ will display all the texts or emails sent from the specified contact.

Scheduling/Reminders It’s important for small- and medium-sized business owners to stay on top of their schedules. Take a glance at your calendar events with commands such as ‘How’s my schedule looking?’ or ‘What do I have next week?’. Add or move appointments with ‘Add’ or ‘Move’ followed by the appointment and time. Reminders are easily scheduled by uttering the words ‘Remind me’ followed by whatever you need to be reminded about and when.

Search If you can’t locate the file you need, don’t worry. By asking Cortana to ‘Find’ a document, video, or picture on your device from a specific time frame, she will sift through everything quickly to find what you need. You can easily initiate search queries with ‘Can you find’ followed by whatever you are looking for. You can even look at basic search results without having to open a browser window: Simply ask whatever question you have and enjoy combing through the results.

Window’s voice-activated personal assistant, Cortana, helps you accomplish daily tasks with ease and efficiency -- but only if you use the right commands. If you have further questions or would like to know more Cortana commands, feel free to contact us. We’re ready to help!

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic Windows
March 6th, 2017

2017March6Healthcare_BHealthcare providers have a lot on their plate: Caring for patients is first and meeting compliance regulations comes at a close second. Hospitals and smaller practices truly benefit from technology experts coming on-site, installing all the right IT systems, and leaving clearly outlined instructions, amounting to a swift and inexpensive process. Of course, they still have to maintain a small and functional IT team that can look after minor issues.

The rising popularity of healthcare software

When cost-effective, not to mention convenient, services and applications such as subscription-based Software-as-a-Solution (SaaS) services for healthcare are readily available, is it still practical to carry the weight of your own business’s technology? Apparently, not so much.

A study by a market research firm indicates the rising popularity of SaaS among healthcare companies. According to their forecast, ‘the global healthcare cloud computing market is anticipated to grow rapidly and will post a CAGR (compound annual growth rate) of more than 21% during the forecast period.’

From assisting healthcare professionals in performing administrative tasks with basic computing tools, healthcare software developers have introduced products that are now used in major medical procedures. While software developers are still very much in the business of developing healthcare software for administrative tasks, many have shifted their focus to specific medical fields.

Why healthcare providers are shifting to the cloud

The reason for the shift is simple: a greater need for efficient healthcare systems. Per the study, one of the many fields in which cloud-based healthcare software has crucial presence is cardiology, a branch of medicine that certainly benefits from efficient data storage and retrieval systems, particularly in tasks such as accessing current and historical patient data.

Also contributing to the increased popularity are the facts that much less support is needed for maintenance, and much less investment is needed for medical software licensing and related expenses.

Is cloud computing good for the healthcare industry?

Without a doubt. Rules coming from HIPAA and the United States Office of Inspector General, and others have strict technology requirements for healthcare providers. Compliance regulations change so fast and, often, these amendments serve to benefit the welfare of the public and to some extent, the healthcare providers themselves.

Healthcare providers in the Americas are predicted to take a huge chunk of the growing healthcare cloud computing market, and given their influence on the progressive healthcare industry, the rest of the world will soon adapt.

As innovations in the field of medicine continue to emerge, so will the technology that complements them. Doctors, healthcare administrators, nursing, and medical technology staff need reliable healthcare IT, and this slow and steady ascent to cloud computing can only benefit the healthcare industry as a whole.

For compliance concerns in which technology plays a key role, healthcare — and any regulated industry, really — need dynamic and inexpensive technology. Need recommendations for the right SaaS solutions for your business? Contact us today.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic Healthcare