Posts in Networks

Cisco Spark Demos

September 13th, 2017 Posted by Best Practices, Communication, Data, Devices, Networks, Newsletters 0 thoughts on “Cisco Spark Demos”

Communication is about more than simply being able to dial or send a message to employees or partners. It’s about being able to message, meet, and call instantly in a way that strengthens relationships and increases productivity.

And now communication needs to be agile. Mobile. Collaborative. All thanks to mobile devices and evolving innovations in infrastructure and applications for voice, video, messaging, and content sharing. The Cisco Spark service makes instant communications and live meetings possible through a deeply integrated set of industry-leading communications tools for an unmatched collaboration experience—that only the Cisco cloud can deliver.

Message. Meet. Call.

With the Cisco Spark solution, you can:

Message: Business messaging lets you prepare, share, and iterate on content. Enjoy 1:1 and team messaging in virtual rooms with persistent content and context for team interactions. Cisco Spark services break down communication barriers and make it incredibly simple to work with anyone.

Meet: Connect teams and meet customers easily with the added benefits of messaging and content sharing before, during, and after the meeting. It’s easy to schedule or join a meeting at the main office, a branch office, at home, on the road, or from a room-based video system. Every meeting is video-centric. Users shouldn’t have to think about what type of conferencing they need before scheduling; after all, it’s just a meeting.

Call: The service enables voice and video communications via mobile, desktop, and room-based devices. Simply connect your existing PSTN1 services to Spark to enjoy one-touch directory dialing and join meetings from anywhere on any device. Mobile users get features such as single number reach, single voicemail service, video services, and the ability to seamlessly move between devices during a call.

 

Designed for the Way You Do Business

The Cisco Spark service delivers a powerful set of communications services for all the ways you need to communicate. Maybe you’re a startup business with an ad hoc solution, or you have an outdated key system or PBX and want to upgrade. Perhaps you’ve already made the move to IP or deployed a cloud-based service and want to expand your capabilities even further. Cisco Spark will take your communications to the next level by providing the benefits of a complete business collaboration service for everyone in your company: one service, one experience, for everyone.

 

The Next Step

To learn more about how the Cisco Spark service can transform your communications, please contact the Think specialists to schedule a demo! Contact our sales team at sales@thinknettech.com if you would like to schedule or hear more about the Cisco Spark Board.

Tech is Changing the Way Our Kids Learn

September 13th, 2017 Posted by Best Practices, Cloud, Community, Data, Networks, Newsletters 0 thoughts on “Tech is Changing the Way Our Kids Learn”

Digital technology is revolutionizing many parts of our lives, whether it’s communications, transport, entertainment, personal finance or even shopping.

Education is no different, with advancements in digital tech transforming the way students learn in schools around the world.

While Chromebooks have become commonplace in many classrooms, there is a range of other cutting-edge technologies that also have the capacity to radically alter the way schoolchildren learn.

 

Virtual Reality in the Classroom

Virtual reality (VR) is tipped to be a breakthrough technology in the entertainment industry, but it’s also forecast to have a big impact on education.

That’s because the release of relatively low-cost VR headsets has enabled teachers to create unique and interactive 3D environments that can bring classroom lessons to life.

For schools, one major application of VR is that it allows teachers to transport students to locations where they are studying, including for a diverse range of subjects such as history, geography, and science.

VR also has particular utility for science subjects, since VR can make difficult concepts comprehensible via its unique visual and immersive qualities.

However, like any disruptive technology, there remain barriers to VR becoming an everyday fixture in classrooms, with one of the largest being its relative unfamiliarity to students and teachers.

 

More 3D Printing in Schools

3D printing, which turns digital 3D models into solid objects, is another emerging technology touted as having a bright future at schools across the globe.

In particular, 3D printing has the potential to assist teachers by providing them with 3D visual aids to illustrate complicated concepts, improve interactive learning and boost class engagement.

It also has applications in design, fashion, and engineering faculties within schools, particularly since those industries are already making use of – and being impacted by – the exciting technology.

Like many cutting-edge technologies, 3D printing faces challenges before it becomes an accepted part of classrooms. Likely obstacles include justifying the return on investment, managing access to a limited resource and incorporating 3D printing projects into the classroom.

 

Cloud Computing and Smarter Classrooms

In addition to VR and 3D printing, cloud computing is on the rise within classrooms. The practice involves storing and accessing data over the internet, instead of via a local hard drive.

Cloud computing has several positive educational outcomes because it cuts IT costs, increases accessibility and fosters collaboration between students.

It has become popular with teachers and students, especially in science, social studies, and languages fields, where the sharing of information between students over the internet is important.

Meanwhile, schools have adopted interactive, or “Cisco Spark”, boards in the classroom in recent years. These interactive tools usually include touch-sensitive screens, making them ideal for children. The boards can also be linked to tablet devices and computers.

Already used in many developed nations, proponents of this technology say it leads to a more interactive class environment, with a teacher able to build a lesson plan into the board’s software, while children can rewatch the lesson at home. It’s a long way from blackboards and chalk.

Let the Think specialists help you and your company! Please contact our sales team at sales@thinknettech.com if you would like our recommendations or a quote.

How Secure Is Your BYOD Policy?

August 8th, 2017 Posted by Best Practices, byod, Data, Devices, Networks, Newsletters, Phone, Security, Staff 0 thoughts on “How Secure Is Your BYOD Policy?”

It only takes one unsecured device that’s plugged into your network to lead to a network breach. That’s why it’s so important to have a bring your own device (BYOD) policy.

BYOD has its pros and cons, and organizations that already have a policy in place or are contemplating implementing one need to tick some boxes to make sure it runs as smoothly and securely as possible.

 

The Upside

BYOD has obvious advantages for staff who like the convenience and familiarity of working on their own devices. It could also lead to productivity gains, as users have an affinity for their own personal devices and how they use them.

Personal laptops, tablets and smartphones are usually more cutting edge, given that companies often don’t update their desktops for years on end. BYOD also allows staff to carry only one or two devices around with them, rather than different ones for work and personal use.

BYOD policies can save organizations money, as they don’t have to spend as much on their IT hardware while allowing workers increased mobility.

 

The Downside

Having said that, BYOD practices are not free from security concerns. More and more mobile devices provide greater scope for ways to breach a company’s IT infrastructure.

Some employees may not be as stringent as they should be about the information they bring home that could be highly sensitive or confidential. Once they take it out of the office, there’s nothing stopping them from sharing it across devices, networks, emails or even showing it to their family and friends.

Disgruntled employees about to walk out the door pose an even bigger threat. If they are leaving to work for a competitor, BYOD makes it easier for them to take intellectual property with them. Alternatively, if an employee uses a smartphone to access the company network then loses it or it’s stolen, an unauthorized person could retrieve unsecured data on the device. Staff can also sell their devices or give them away and forget to wipe company data beforehand.

 

And the Essentials

A good BYOD policy should contain two critical components: an application or software program for managing the devices connected to your organization’s networks, and a written agreement that clearly states the responsibilities of employers and staff.

For example, IT departments wishing to monitor the use of personal devices must ensure that they only monitor activities that access company information.

Software developers and device manufacturers are constantly releasing security patches and updates for threats such as viruses and malware. BYOD policies should have the necessary processes in place to automatically apply those patches across all the agreed BYOD devices.

Additionally, organizations can simplify the whole process by limiting the number or make of devices allowed in their BYOD programs and the systems they have to support. Supporting a broad range of devices could become an administrative nightmare.

The IT department should also have permission to remotely wipe the device if it’s lost, the employee leaves or if it detects a data breach, virus or any other threat to its infrastructure.

BYOD should satisfy employees and management alike, as long as there’s a clear understanding of everyone’s responsibilities. Before settling on the best BYOD policy for your organization, it’s worth getting input from HR, IT, finance, legal and anyone else who has a stake in the matter.

 

Let the Think specialists help you and your company! Please contact our sales team at sales@thinknettech.com if you would like our recommendations or a quote.

Ask the Engineer – Online or Desktop?

July 19th, 2017 Posted by Best Practices, Cloud, Data, Desktop, Disaster, Internet, Networks, Newsletters, Security 2 thoughts on “Ask the Engineer – Online or Desktop?”

In our last newsletter, we asked our readers about what topics they had the most questions about and we shared those questions with our technical team.  This month is about online bookkeeping programs.

Reader Question:  Online bookkeeping programs – how secure are they? What is the probability of someone hacking into your personal or business information through them vs. the probability of a desktop bookkeeping solution? Are there minimum security requirements across the board for online bookkeeping providers and, if so, are they realistic and effective at protecting information?

Ask the Engineer Response:

Software that you run online or through your desktop is vulnerable to security threats, so the real question is, “Is online software more secure than desktop software”?

For most SMBs, the answer is yes.  To understand why, we’ve compiled some information about all the vulnerabilities of using software.

 

Desktop Software:

Desktop software vulnerabilities are all located in one place, on your desktop or laptop. This is your point of access for everything; the point of storage for your accounting software, your data files, and your point of connection to the internet.

Sadly, many businesses don’t realize the importance of security. From technical measures such as anti-virus and firewalls to physical means such as locked doors and anti-theft cable solutions. Businesses also spend little or no time/money on educating their staff about best security practices.

Your office computer is faced with a greater range of internet-based attacks than online software would. Keep in mind that it is also much more susceptible to physical dangers such as fire, flood or theft.

If an emergency does happen, do you have a game plan to restore your software? Probably not, according to most SMBs. Backup is treated as an afterthought for many businesses, but this process could save you many hours or days when you need to return to full operation. Check out our other article to read more about backups, disaster recovery, and business continuity – Fire is a Real Threat.

 

Online Software:

Online software points of vulnerability are shared between the vendor and the user. It is still the user’s responsibility to secure the point of access while viewing the software though.

The good news is that the storage of the accounting software and the data file is not the user’s responsibility, but the vendor’s. These software companies have enterprise grade data centers with highly advanced defenses that run your online software.

Behind the scenes at one of these data centers would make any SMB server room look like a kid’s playroom.  The facility would be protected by guards while access would be regulated by key cards, fingerprint recognition, and iris scanners. There would also be a physical protection system that would include firefighting defenses, generators in case of blackouts, and flood resistant areas.

These data centers would have numerous, lightning fast high-speed internet connections. Their networks would be protected around the clock by current security technologies with a team of IT security specialists.

Online software companies store your data on the same server as hundreds of other businesses, so there is also security in anonymity.  If a server fails it can automatically push your data onto another server. You can imagine the detailed backup procedures that these companies have in case a software bug causes a crash. The best known online software programs only have several hours of downtime in a whole year.

No matter what the threat is, going with online software is usually a safer bet than a desktop program. Hackers are intelligent and have sophisticated methods for penetrating files.  They have two main ways of hacking into online software from the user’s computer. One is a password guessing program that cycles through billions of sequences until they get a match. Otherwise, they nose around on a network until they can grab a password that passes between the desktop and the data center.  The most successful forms of hacking have nothing to do with online software itself. The weakest link in the chain is usually the user.

But, these advanced attacks are practically impossible against online accounting software that’s distributed by mainstream vendors.

You can minimize the risk of a breach by:

  • Using a complicated password and keeping it somewhere secure.
  • A password manager is great for storing difficult passwords.
  • You should never, ever reveal your password. If someone asks, there’s a good chance they don’t have the best intentions.
  • Don’t use public computers, stick with your own laptop or computer.
  • As tempting as it is, don’t use public wifi networks. These public wifi networks can be compromised.

For more information, please contact our engineers at 888-98-THINK.

Think IT Town Hall Helps Locals with Tech Advice

March 17th, 2017 Posted by Best Practices, Community, Data, Desktop, Devices, Hosted Services, Internet, Microsoft, Networks, Newsletters, Operating System, Security, Services 1 thought on “Think IT Town Hall Helps Locals with Tech Advice”

Matt Glick and Prudencio Dimas from Think have over three decades of experience in the IT world working side by side with organizations, both large and small, to understand and resolve ongoing IT challenges.  Their understanding of network infrastructure, design and implementation was offered to participants of the TechKnowledge 2017 Conference in a Town Hall forum.  Topics such as servers, backups, disaster recovery, cloud storage, Office 365, virus protection, malware, ransomware, and security best practices were all discussed.  Matt and Prudencio fielded a range of questions but it was obvious what was the most concerning topic among the group.

Ransomware and backups.

The duo talked about best practices when it comes to backups and ransomware for almost an hour with the group. It was a very productive session and their favorite question came from Diana Murray, Manager for ASAP Accounting & Payroll, Inc.  Ms. Murray asked “What are the three most important elements of IT when talking about small business?”  We thought we would summarize their answers below.

1. A layered approach to security:

Matt brought up an older Blog post Think published entitled “Is Your Security Layered Like Your Bean Dip?”  It says you should layer your security like a seven-layer bean dip.  Just one layer at the bottom, and it just not as enticing.  But when you get all those layers, working together, it’s an explosion of excellence!  And even more important, the layered security approach tells us the more hoops a hacker has to jump through, the less likely they are to be successful.

2. Backups are key:

Matt posed a few questions business owners should consider when it comes to their backups.  What kind of backup you have is just as important as what is being backed up.  Is it file level backup?  Do you have a full image?  And, what is your expectation of downtime in the event that you do deal with a server crash?  And, he reminded everyone there to be realists.  Emergencies happen.  So, anticipate that they will happen and be prepared.  Practice.  Exercise your backup recovery process; test and retest it, so you have time to work out the kinks.

3. Standardization:

Prudencio explained IT standardization is a strategy for minimizing IT costs within an organization by keeping hardware and software as consistent as possible and reducing the number of tools you have that address the same basic need. It may take the form of ensuring that every computer has the same operating system, or of purchasing hardware in bulk so that every PC in your office is the same make and model. By streamlining your IT infrastructure, you can simplify decision­ making and minimize purchasing and maintenance costs.

Thank you to the Chamber of Commerce for organizing this event for our community and for asking Think to be involved.

Tech Knowledge Conference 2017

February 22nd, 2017 Posted by Best Practices, Community, Data, Desktop, Devices, Hosted Services, Internet, Microsoft, Networks, Newsletters, Operating System, Security, Services 0 thoughts on “Tech Knowledge Conference 2017”

The Durango Chamber of Commerce will host its 3rd Annual Tech Conference on Wednesday, March 15th at the DoubleTree Hotel featuring keynote speaker Jeff Walker.

There will be a variety of breakout sessions throughout the day which include topics about cyber security, email marketing, makerspace, web policies, digital marketing, facebook marketing, hackathon, and much more. Think Network Technologies is a sponsor for the Tech Conference, but they will also be a presenter for one of the breakout sessions.

Matt Glick(CTO) and Prudencio Dimas(Solutions Architect) will be holding an “IT Town Hall” on March 15th from 2:30 – 3:20p in the Silverton/Purgatory room at the DoubleTree Hotel. You’ll be able to ask Think’s senior engineers all your business tech questions about servers, backups, disaster recovery, cloud storage, Office 365, virus protection, malware, ransomware, security best practices, and IT policies.

As CTO of Think Network Technologies, Matt manages network operations, business development and provides guidance to the technical team.  He brings more than 18 years of experience delivering technology solutions to regional private and public sector accounts. Matt has a Bachelor’s of Science in Sociology and Environmental Science from Fort Lewis College.  He started his career in Seattle, where he worked for a corporate consulting company and got his start in systems administration.  He pursued further education at Colorado Mountain College for Microsoft Server OS, Directory Services and Architecture; completing MCSE, MCSA and MCP certifications.  He also completed the Cisco CCNA, CCDA and CCNP certification coursework while being employed as a network administrator for a school district in Roaring Fork Valley, CO.  In 2002, Matt returned to Durango to start his own venture, thus the inception of Think Network Technologies.  His understanding of network infrastructure, design and implementation has benefited Think’s customers in finding solutions to fit the business requirements in both smaller and larger environments.

As a Solutions Architect at Think, Prudencio plays a role in nearly all phases of the IT service delivery life cycle, from the initial consultation and needs assessment, to implementation and ongoing solution support. Prudencio got his start as an intern while earning an Associate’s Degree in Information Technology. Prudencio is well rounded with experience ranging from small computer repair shops to networks of five thousand plus endpoints.  His primary focus is on windows systems administration and he carries certifications in Microsoft and Cisco technologies. In 2012, Prudencio left the IT world behind for 6 months of world travel. When he returned, an opportunity with Think brought him to Durango where he works side by side with businesses large and small to understand and resolve ongoing IT challenges.

Please contact Think’s IT specialists at sales@thinknettech.com if you have any questions or concerns.

Specialists vs Generalists

December 16th, 2016 Posted by Best Practices, Data, Hosted Services, Internet, Networks, Newsletters, Operating System, Security, Services 0 thoughts on “Specialists vs Generalists”
The best IT services providers are specialists, not generalists.   Whether their specialty is an industry or a type of service, specialization gives them the knowledge to serve as experts in the field.  Their expertise gives credibility and confidence to the customer, immediately.  Specialists, are experienced, usually identify the issues faster and anticipate problems better, and bring a wealth of knowledge they’ve gleaned from similar clients. (Swift, 2016)

(more…)

The Apple Doesn’t Fall Far From the Tree

November 9th, 2015 Posted by Best Practices, Networks 1 thought on “The Apple Doesn’t Fall Far From the Tree”

By: Alicia Hernandez, Think Technical Writer

It is a phrase I hear almost daily as an IT Professional: “What do you mean my Mac won’t work with ____?” Feel free to fill in the blank with pretty much any business application you have in your business’s technology environment. Why is it that your usually brilliant IT staff has such a hard time with Apple products? Clearly they need more training, right? Well, probably not!

The Apple vs. Windows problem is real

This is literally a global issue where end-users insist on buying an Apple product instead of a Windows-based product to use as their every-day business computer, only to find that the majority of the applications that they rely on to do their job does not work on their new Apple. IT departments and their customers are butting heads over the Apple vs. Windows discussion almost every company, and yet, those customers are almost always left wondering why.

The next sentence in this conversation usually goes like this: “But you can make it work, right?!” Unfortunately, usually not. You see, professional applications are usually developed for the sole purpose of providing a specific business service/functionality to a specific business niche. As a software development company trying to sell a business application to the greatest number of businesses as possible, they have to write that application with a standard list of requirements of the computer for it to run on.

Take a look around your office, and you will most likely see Windows-based computers on every desk. Software development companies know that this is the case, so they develop these professional applications to run on Windows-based computers.

The exception here might be a computer-generated graphics company and applications written for this specific business niche. It is not a secret that Apple has the upper hand in the graphics business, therefore the software development companies within this niche are, in fact, developing their software with the standard list of requirements for an Apple computer.

Steve Jobs and Bill Gates

Steve Jobs and Bill Gates

The guts and the skeleton of an Apple computer and a Windows computer are just different. And applications are developed with the specific guts of one of these computers in mind. Unfortunately, business applications continue to be developed to work on Windows-based computers because of a simple economic factor: supply and demand. There are more businesses running a “Windows Shop” than an “Apple Shop.”

I promise, your IT department is not part of some conspiracy to help Bill Gates conquer the world. That business application just REALLY does not work on your new Mac!

For advice and support on building a strong business network, contact Think Network Technologies.

End of the Road for Windows Server 2003

June 12th, 2015 Posted by Best Practices, Networks, Services 0 thoughts on “End of the Road for Windows Server 2003”

By: Alicia Hernandez, Think Technical Writer

Ladies and Gentleman, this is the final curtain call for Windows Server 2003. Microsoft announced a long time ago that July 14, 2015 will be the end of the road for Windows Server 2003.

Granted, it isn’t like at 12:00 A.M. on 07/14/2015 your WS2003 box will shut down, never to boot up again. But it does mean that Microsoft will no longer support WS2003. Here’s what this end of life date really means for you and your business if you are still on Windows Server 2003.

What this means to your business

When Microsoft stops “supporting” a product, in this case WS2003, it means they will no longer release any more patches and fixes. This includes those important security patches that help keep your [very vulnerable] Microsoft infrastructure [relatively] safe from viruses and hackers. Maybe this doesn’t seem like that big of a deal to you and I, but unfortunately the Payment Card Industry does. If you are a merchant required to maintain PCI standards and compliance on this WS2003 box, you will officially be out of compliance on July 14, 2015, and “likely blocked by any partners or customers.”

If you haven’t started your migration planning, you really need to do so as soon as possible. Some tools have estimated an average of 200 days to migrate off of WS2003, mostly depending on the applications running on your server, where you want to migrate to (WS2008, WS2012, WS2016, etc.), and the problems that you will run into along the way. Common problems include 1) Kernel hooks, 2) 32-bit apps, 3) Obsolete/abandoned apps, and 4) 16-bit dependencies.

In the meantime, if there is absolutely no way you are able to migrate off of WS2003 before July 14, 2015, you should prepare for a costly extended maintenance plan. Microsoft might charge upwards of $600 per incident per server for updates/patches. And other third parties will be jumping on this money train to offer their own variety of extended support. So yes, you really need (and WANT) to get off of Windows Server 2003 ASAP!

For more answers to WS2003 end of life questions, ITworld put together this FAQ sheet for you.

________________________________________
Think Network Technologies
3067 Main Avenue Durango, Colorado 81301
970-247-1885 Fax 970-247-0883
www.thinknettech.com

The Virtual Desktop – VDI at a Glance

June 12th, 2015 Posted by Hosted Services, Networks, Services 0 thoughts on “The Virtual Desktop – VDI at a Glance”

By: Alicia Hernandez, Think Technical Writer

The concept of Virtual Desktop Infrastructure (VDI) has been around for years, yet adoption and deployment rates have missed the predictions-mark year after year. As Tom Rose pointed out in his post The History of VDI “…the running joke is that 20XX will be ‘The Year of VDI’…” But virtual desktops aren’t going anywhere, and maybe 2015 is YOUR year of VDI.

What is VDI?

VDI is a solution similar to its more common big brother, virtual servers, where multiple desktops are hosted on a single piece of hardware and then accessed by the end user on a smaller, more mobile system. Desktop virtualization splits out the applications and operating system from that big box that you rest your feet on in your office and layers them within a single physical server usually housed in a data center.

virtual desktop infrastructure

Virtual desktops


These virtualized desktops can then be accessed from any system at any location, provided the right security, permissions, and credentials are set up. The end user powers up whatever device they are using (thin client, laptop, mobile phone, etc.) and accesses their virtual desktop through the provided software icon or link. While there are many VDI software solutions out there, Citrix and VMware are the two most common options.

So why VDI?

The key to this solution is to save time and money on necessary hardware and desktop management. Technology changes rapidly and software applications are requiring more and more resources (RAM, Storage, CPU, etc.), therefore desktops need to be replaced often – usually every three to five years – and beefed up to meet the resource needs of the software it is running. This can be very costly.

A VDI solution, though costly up front, will hopefully save you time and money in the long run by reducing your desktop hardware sprawl and the manpower it takes to maintain those numerous desktops.

So where do you start? Write down your VDI goals, calculate your ROI for VDI, research your options, and plan your VDI pilot project. TechTarget has a great series of Guides linked within Beginner’s guide to VDI project planning to help walk you through this stuff. It is daunting at first, but some simple planning and research can really go a long ways when it comes to determining your VDI plan. If you’re still confused or just don’t want to do the work for you, Think is always just a phone call away!

________________________________________
Think Network Technologies
3067 Main Avenue Durango, Colorado 81301
970-247-1885 Fax 970-247-0883
www.thinknettech.com

CONTACT US

888.98.THINK
970.247.1885
3067 Main Ave. Durango, CO
101 W. Main St. Farmington, NM
7483 E. Visao Dr. Scottsdale, AZ
5700 Washington St. Denver, CO

JOIN OUR TEAM

Join our team of hard-working, fun-loving, technology experts.

View Careers

© 2018 Think Network Technologies, LLC. All rights reserved.