Don’t Ever Let Your IT Company Do This To Your Computer Network

Today, when companies need to be lean, nimble and brutally efficient to survive in a competitive marketplace,cutting unnecessary costs is paramount. Unfortunately, it can be easy when you’re on a tight budget to accidentally strip away components of your business that may seem gratuitous but are actually essential to your success.

One of the first things that often ends up on the chopping block in the frenzy to save money is IT. Instead of continually investing in managed IT services, where professionals carefully maintain, protect and update your network month to month, some businesses decide that the best way to keep their technology running smoothly is to simply leave it alone, calling up a professional only when something breaks down.

Of course, this approach forgoes monthly costs and shaves off a fair few dollars from your technology budget in the short run. But while this approach may seem cost-effective, it opens up your business to a huge variety of technological crises, from expensive network outages to cyberattacks that may cripple the very future of your company.

The Problem With A ‘Break-Fix’ Strategy

It can be hard to imagine the huge list of problems that might arise within your network. So, it’s an understandable strategy to wait to do something until an issue becomes a serious problem. At that point, they bring in a professional who – charging by the hour – attempts to suss out and repair whatever may be broken.

It seems like a logical approach, but unfortunately, it’s littered with huge hidden costs. If you’re calling an IT expert only when something in your network is broken, only your most urgent technological needs are

addressed. When your technician is being paid an hourly wage to fix a specific issue, there’s no incentive to be proactive with your system. They won’t recommend important, money-saving upgrades or updates, and they will rarely be able to detect a crisis before it happens.

What’s more, the approach “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” very likely leaves huge holes in your security and drastically magnifies the costs of an IT meltdown. If they’re only arriving in the midst of crisis, there’s hardly ever an opportunity for the break-fix technician to strengthen the barriers between you and the hordes of hackers clamoring for your data. They’re on the clock, being closely monitored to fix the problem and then go away. Meanwhile, the security landscape is constantly changing, with criminals and security experts in a back-and-forth arms race to stay abreast of the latest developments.

Without someone managing your system on a regular basis, your protective measures are sure to become woefully out of date and essentially useless against attack.

Why Managed IT Services Are The Answer

When you turn your IT needs to a managed services provider (MSP), you’re entrusting the care of your network to a team of experts who have a real interest in your success. MSP engineers regularly monitor the health of your system, proactively preventing disaster before it enters into the equation and hurts your bottom line.

Beyond this preventative care, MSPs do everything they possibly can to maximize the power and efficiency of your equipment, implementing only the best practices and the latest software and updates.

When you invest in an MSP, you may have to invest more funds initially, but likely you’ll save tens of thousands of dollars in the long run by avoiding cyber-attacks, downtime and hourly rates wasted on a technician who doesn’t really care about the future of your business. When you choose an MSP, you’re not just choosing a superior and healthier network – you’re choosing peace of mind. Call us today at 800-421-7151 to learn more about our Managed Services. 

Does Private Browsing Secure Your Data?

If you’re getting targeted with surprisingly relevant ads, there’s a chance your internet activity is being tracked and analyzed by market researchers. While this doesn’t bother most people, private browsing mode can offer you some protection against online marketers and would-be data thieves.

What is private browsing?
Your web browser – whether it be Chrome, Edge, Firefox, Safari, or Opera – remembers the URLs of the sites you visit, cookies that track your activity, passwords you’ve used, and temporary files you’ve downloaded.

This can be convenient if you frequently visit certain pages, can’t remember your login details, or if you’re trying to recall a website you visited a few days ago. But if someone else uses or gains access to your computer, your most private (and embarrassing) internet activities are exposed for anyone to see.

With private browsing – also called Incognito Mode in Chrome and InPrivate Browsing in Edge – all the information listed above does not get recorded. In fact, all the websites and information you accessed in the private browsing session is immediately discarded without a trace as soon as you close the browser. This can come in handy when you’re using a public computer because you’re instantly logged out of all the accounts after closing the window.

Your cookies also won’t be tracked. In a normal browsing session, sites like Facebook will inundate you with highly targeted ads based on the sites and pages you’ve visited. But in private browsing mode, your internet activity won’t be used against you by marketing companies.

Another benefit of private browsing is you can use it to log in to several accounts on the same site, which is useful if you need to log into two different Google accounts at the same time.

Limitations of private browsing
Although private browsing does prevent your web browser from storing your data, it doesn’t stop anyone from snooping on your current activities. If your computer is connected to the company network, system administrators can still keep track of what you’re browsing even if you’re in Incognito Mode.

Also, if spyware or keylogger malware is installed on your computer, hackers will still be able to see what you’re doing online. Even though private browsing has quite a few benefits, you shouldn’t solely depend on it for online privacy.

Your computers must be equipped with Virtual Private Networks that encrypt your internet connection and prevent anyone from intercepting your data. And don’t forget to scan your computer for viruses with a strong anti-malware program to keep spyware and other malicious web monitoring software at bay.

If you want to know where you can get these solutions or learn more about web browser security, call us today at 800-421-7151. We have the tools and expert advice you need to prevent anyone from snooping on your internet browsing.

Prep for IT Incidents with External Support

Regardless of your best office IT strategies, it’s nearly impossible to thwart every type of cyberattack. And when they do happen, most businesses depend primarily on their internal resources and personnel. On the other hand, some organizations have realized the risks and complexities involved and have sought external support from leading industry specialists. Here are reasons why you should, too.

Access to new technologies and industry experts
Managed Services Providers (MSPs) are equipped with resources most small businesses can’t afford. They employ teams of experts in fields ranging from cybersecurity to data management to networking – all available for you on an outsourced basis. For example, an MSP provides advanced security software and applications that can help your business avoid the risks of cyberthreats.

They also work with industry tech leaders who provide insights into upcoming hardware and software products in the market. This ensures you receive updated recommendations on the latest technologies so you can use them in your business, and they often come with deals that you wouldn’t normally have access to.

Knowledge from past breaches
External IT support providers have been helping businesses recover from all kinds of tech disasters since the dawn of hackers. They now have enough knowledge to prepare Data Backup and Disaster Recovery plans for you. This way, you and your team would still be up and running after suffering from an IT emergency without disrupting much of your business operations.

External support providers’ experience with data protection will ensure your systems are monitored around the clock so your security systems are always functioning properly to keep cybercriminals at bay.

Run your business with ease
You don’t specialize in technology, so you don’t have the skill or the experience in dealing with digital felons. You also know how vulnerable your business is online and won’t dare do anything to jeopardize it. That’s why external support is such a great asset – you’ll be able to manage your business without any worries because your external IT provider will keep it protected. Give us a call at 800-421-7151 to see how we can keep your mind at ease.

Best Uses of Alexa in a Business Setting

Individual users find plenty to like about Amazon’s AI technology Alexa. It’s a great way to control smart home devices and perform small tasks like make shopping lists and answer phone calls. But Alexa also gets things done for business users, and here we’ll list some of the most useful.

Create and manage to-do and shopping lists
You have meetings to attend and deadlines to meet. Alexa has a straightforward To-do List feature that helps you stay on top of all your tasks. It’s ideal for busy professionals who prefer a no-frills checklist that allows them to simply view completed items, or to edit or delete items on the list.

You can also seamlessly sync third-party applications like Any.do and Todoist, which offer more features for organizing tasks, adding subtasks and folders, creating reminders, setting due dates, attaching files, and prioritizing items.

To connect to a third-party app:

Go to alexa.amazon.com or access the Alexa app
Go to Settings > List, click Get Skill
Click Enable
Log in to authorize the app
Alexa also has a default Shopping List that works exactly like the To-do List. It lets you add or delete items that can be browsed in the Amazon store and searched for in Bing.

Reorder office supplies
Ordering supplies on an Amazon smart home device is especially convenient because you would have already set up an Amazon account. When voice shopping with Alexa, you can either add items to your Amazon cart (“Alexa, add toner to my cart”) or directly order a single item (“Alexa, reorder toner”) without having to lift a finger.

When you place an order, Alexa checks product availability, walks you through Amazon search results, and asks you to confirm or cancel the order. Voice shopping is enabled by default, but it can be disabled in Settings > Voice Purchasing in the Alexa app.

Sync your calendars
One of the best ways to maximize Alexa in the office is to sync it up with your calendars. You can view scheduled appointments, set meetings, or have Alexa read the day’s entries with simple commands like “Alexa, what time is my next meeting?” or “Alexa, when is the company barbecue?”.

To add a calendar:

Go to alexa.amazon.com or access the Alexa app
Click Settings > Calendar
Select a calendar from the available platforms: Google (Gmail and G Suite), Apple (iCloud), or Microsoft (Office 365 or Outlook)
Log in to your account
Set a timer
A Pomodoro timer is a productivity enhancement tool that works by prescribing ideal work intervals and breaks. For example, you can set a timer that reminds you to take a 15-minute break for every hour worked, and setting this up in Alexa is easy.

To set a single timer:

Say “Alexa, set a work timer for 60 minutes.”
After the work timer finishes, say “Alexa, set a break time for 15 minutes.”
To set several timers at once, say:

“Alexa, create a work timer for 60 minutes.”
“Alexa, create a break timer for 15 minutes.”

But of course, due to the listening technology of Alexa, users should not expect 100% privacy. Here are a few ways that you can protect yourself from Alexa hearing and recording anything you don’t want her to hear:

Always Mute your Echo when Not in Use – The mute/unmute button can be located at the top of the device. Unmute and Alexa is no longer listening.
Don’t connect sensitive accounts to your Echo – This has proven to be a problem for users on multiple occasions.
Erase old recordings – If your Echo is connected to your Amazon account, as it should be to get the most out of it, you can manage recordings. This can be done by logging into Amazon’s website and navigating to “Manage my device.” You can delete both individual queries and/or the entire search history.

The commands we’ve included here work for simple instructions, but you can modify them and use tons of other Alexa commands to suit your purpose. If you need recommendations on how you can work smarter with AI and other productivity tools, get in touch with us today at 800-421-7151.

Outlook Tips to Increase Productivity

Microsoft is constantly updating and improving its Outlook email program, and some users struggle to keep up with all the new and exciting features. Look no further if you wish to catch up on the latest productivity-enhancing tricks.

Clean Up your inbox
No matter inbox how meticulously organized your Outlook inbox is, there’s always room for improvement. For a little computer-assisted help, try the ‘Clean Up’ feature.

From your Inbox, click the Home tab and choose from Outlook’s three Clean Up options:
Clean Up Conversation – Reviews an email thread or a conversation and deletes redundant messages.
Clean Up Folder – Reviews conversations in a selected folder and deletes redundant messages.
Clean Up Folder & Subfolders – Reviews all messages in a selected folder and its subfolder, and deletes redundant messages in all of them.

Ignore (unnecessary) conversations
An overstuffed inbox is often caused by group conversations that aren’t relevant to you. The Ignore button helps you organize your inbox and focus on relevant emails.

Select a message, then click Home > Ignore > Ignore Conversation. You can also do this by opening a message in a new window and clicking Ignore under the Delete function. To recover an ignored message, go to the Deleted Items folder, and click Ignore > Stop Ignoring Conversation.

Send links instead of a file copy
Help your colleagues save storage by sending a link to a cloud version of a file instead of the file itself. This is particularly useful when sending massive files. You can also set permissions to allow recipients to edit and collaborate on linked files in real time.

Upload the file you wish to send on OneDrive and send it to your recipients. From the message box, click Attach File > Browse web locations > OneDrive.

Improve meetings with Skype and OneNote
Outlook allows you to combine Skype’s HD video and screen-sharing features with OneNote’s organizational and project planning functions. It’s easy:

Go to the Meeting tab in Outlook, then click Skype meeting and send the link to participants. After the meeting has started, select Meeting Notes (under the Meeting tab) and choose whether you want to Take notes on your own or Share notes with the meeting.

Tag contacts
To get the attention of a specific person in a group email message, use the @Mention function. This works particularly well for mails to multiple recipients or for if you simply want to convey the urgency of your message.

In the email body or meeting request, type the ‘@’ symbol followed by the first and last name of the person you wish to tag (e.g., @firstnamelastname).
To search for emails you’re tagged in, select Filter Email from the Home tab and choose Mentioned, then choose Mentioned.

These are just a few strategies for getting more out of Microsoft’s email platform. To unlock Outlook’s true potential, you need the support of certified IT professionals. Give us a call today at 800-421-7151.

HTTPS is Something to Care About

For all the time we spend discussing the complexity of internet security, there are a few simple things you can do. Avoiding websites that aren’t secured with the HTTPS protocol is one of them. It’s a habit that can be developed with a better understanding of what the padlock icon in your web browser’s address bar represents.

HTTPS Encryption
Older web protocols lack data encryption. When you visit a website that doesn’t use HTTPS, everything you type or click on that website is sent across the network in plain text. So, if your bank’s website doesn’t use the latest protocols, your login information can be intercepted by anyone with the right tools.

HTTPS Certificates
The second thing outdated web browsing lacks is publisher certificates. When you enter a web address into your browser, your computer uses an online directory to translate that text into numerical addresses (e.g., www.google.com = 8.8.8.8) then saves that information on your computer so it doesn’t need to check the online directory every time you visit a known website.

The problem is, if your computer is hacked it could be tricked into directing www.google.com to 8.8.8.255, even if that’s a malicious website. Oftentimes, this strategy is implemented to send users to sites that look exactly like what they expected, but are actually false-front sites designed to trick you into providing your credentials.

HTTPS created a new ecosystem of certificates that are issued by the online directories mentioned earlier. These certificates make it impossible for you to be redirected to a false-front website.

What this means for daily browsing
Most people hop from site to site too quickly to check each one for padlocks and certificates. Unfortunately, HTTPS is way too important to ignore. Here are a few things to consider when browsing:

If your browser marks a website as “unsafe” do not click “proceed anyway” unless you are absolutely certain nothing private will be transmitted.
There are web browser extensions that create encrypted connections to unencrypted websites (HTTPS Everywhere is great for Chrome and Firefox).
HTTPS certificates don’t mean anything if you don’t recognize the company’s name. For example, goog1e.com (with the ‘l’ replaced with a one) could have a certificate, but that doesn’t mean it’s a trustworthy site.

Avoiding sites that don’t use the HTTPS protocol is just one of many things you need to do to stay safe when browsing the internet. When you’re ready for IT support that handles the finer points of cybersecurity like safe web browsing, give our office a call at 800-421-7151.