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March 4th, 2015 Posted by Best Practices, Security, Whitepapers 0 thoughts on “SPRING CLEANING YOUR DIGITAL WORLD”

Going Beyond the Household

By: Alicia Hernandez, Think Technical Writer

The middle of February had many of us hiking in the 60+ degree sunshine, concerned about water for the year, and generally preparing for spring and summer. Spring … was in the air! Along with the freshness of spring comes our desire to also freshen up the house with a little “spring cleaning.” But how about tidying up your technology this spring too? Here are a few spring cleaning tips for your digital life.


Back It Up

Your PC data, your phone data, your photos, and even your music should all be backed up regularly. You never know when the next disaster will strike or when the blue screen of death will ruin your day and destroy your data lifeline.

A few weeks ago my less-than-a-year-old Samsung Galaxy S5 phone died on me. No warning signs, no blue screen of death, nothing…it just died. And my very first thought was “$h!+. I have not backed it up lately.” Yes, I took a lot of flak from my fellow technologists about not regularly backing up my data, but I am normally great at backing up my computer files. I am the person who has an external hard drive that backs up my external hard drive that backs up my laptop, along with three flash drives that I carry with me and regularly back up important files. So this was a rude reminder that backups are no longer limited to just my computer. Back up everything, including your phone.

External hard drives are fairly inexpensive and any size from 120GB – 500GB would be perfect for your most important files. Kristy Ellington of Popsugar recommends copying your files over and then storing that external hard drive in an airtight fireproof safe to ensure its safety. Depending on the criticality of your data, you may want to consider backing up nightly, weekly, or monthly.


Change Those Passwords

For many of us, changing our password every 90 days is a little extreme. For most of us, we’ve never changed our personal email password since the day we set it up. So this spring, you should seriously consider updating and changing all of your online passwords – email(s), bank accounts, credit card accounts, social media accounts, etc. Think about all of the breaches and hacks happening in the world right now and protect yourself with an updated, strong password.

Consider using phrases rather than single words, and include a combination of capital letters, numbers, and special characters. For instance, my Wells Fargo password is Eye<3M0nk3y$! (I heart monkeys!). Ok, that really isn’t my password, but it is a good example of a phrase with a crazy combination of letters, numbers, and characters.


DO NOT WRITE YOUR PASSWORDS DOWN! Or store them in an Excel file. There are plenty of password vaults out there that you can store your passwords in and only have to remember a single “Master” password to open the vault. Check with your anti-virus to see if one comes with your subscription or consider something like KeePass for your personal and professional password safekeeping.


Other digital spring cleaning items to consider and for more information see Popsugar’s 31 Straightforward Ways to Spring Clean Your Tech:

  • Auditing/Cleaning your social media accounts
  • Adding a second monitor to increase productivity
  • Organize your computer “Desktop” by moving files into folders
  • Finally download and install all of those computer updates
  • Delete any unused Programs from your computer or Apps from your phone
  • CLEAN your suuuuuper dirty smartphone
  • Organize and clean out your email inbox



March 4th, 2015 Posted by Best Practices, Internet, Security, Whitepapers 0 thoughts on “CYBER ATTACK: HOW DO YOU RESPOND?”


By: Alicia Hernandez, Think Technical Writer.

With all of these massive data breaches happening within some of the largest companies in the world, I cannot help but think it is only a matter of time before something happens within my company. I’m sure you have the same fear too…and if you don’t, you should! Think about it. Those large companies have all the money in the world at their disposal to throw at a secure, compliant, over-the-top infrastructure to protect their customer’s data. And yet, they still get breached. Maybe there’s no easy answer as to what to do to avoid an attack, but here’s some tips on surviving an attack.

Now-a-days with mobility being a driving factor in the success of our business, it is also opening up more holes for the bad guys to get in. Cisco refers to this as the “any-to-any challenge [in which] people work inside and outside the network on any device, accessing any application and in multiple clouds” (p. 2, 2014). Attackers are exploiting every vulnerability possible, and are far more patient than we would expect. The recent Anthem breach reportedly happened over the course of 6+ months, until finally the attacker was able to compromise the account of a Database Administrator for the company which gave them the keys to the kingdom.

Your reaction and response to a breach can be the difference between closing your business doors for good or saving your reputation and being able to continue on with your customer’s trust. For a more thorough guide, I recommend the Online Trust Alliance 2015 Data Protection & Breach Readiness Guide, along with more great information on their website



Whatever you do, don’t try to cover up your breach! Communicate promptly and truthfully with your customers – if you know the extent of the breach or if you are still investigating, tell them. Then, implement your incident response plan – if you don’t have one, you need one.

Contain your problem! Clean up the systems and cut the access of the attacker. DO NOT DESTROY ANY EVIDENCE!

Fix your problem! Take your time and do it right the first time. There is nothing worse than trying to rush back into being open for business and finding that you are still compromised.

Recover! Utilizing your disaster recovery plans (that you now have after reading our December article on DR), restore your systems and data and reopen for business.


Utilize Your Resources

Vendors, security consultants, and tools are out there to help you. Be willing to spend the money in order to save your business! It will not be cheap, but it will be worth it. They will also help you identify the necessary facts, documentation, and event logs that will be crucial to the investigation.


Lawyer Up

There is no way around it, there will be legal implications following a data breach. According to Network World, lawyers will help with notice issues, working with law enforcement agencies, investigations, and other policies and procedures for reporting the incident that are governed by either the state or the industry.



Notify your insurance agent immediately. Remember that documentation will be vital to your investigation and your claim, including documentation on the cost of the remediation.


Do not be fooled. Be prepared. The size of your business does not exclude you from the masterful hands of the attackers. Data – anyone’s data – has a hefty price tag attached to it. Your secured systems are always at risk and sometimes there’s no stopping the bad guys, so the best thing you can do is be prepared for a breach.



Slow Internet?

February 5th, 2015 Posted by Best Practices, Whitepapers 3 thoughts on “Slow Internet?”

By: Alicia Hernandez, Think Technical Writer

“You don’t really know someone till you’ve seen them surf the web with a slow internet connection.” Truer words have never been said, and I’ve got two simple tips to help rescue you from replacing your desktop monitors every other month.

We’ve all experienced that dreadful spinning icon – the hourglass, the arrow, or whatever clever icon your browser-of-choice uses – that informs you that your fricking (or other choice word) Internet is slow again. And some of us have actually witnessed a coworker literally lose it on their monitor while waiting for their application to open, their file to download, or their YouTube video to stop buffering. Destroying monitors is obviously costly for your organization, but a slow network has thousands of dollars in hidden costs associated with it as well.

Your organization’s network is like the blood that runs through your body. It delivers life to all of your outlying limbs – remote offices, remote workers, and remote customers – as well as everything in between! Many of you even have ecommerce set up on your network allowing you to accept forms of payment from your customers. So, if your network is slow or, God forbid, DOWN, you can now imagine how it is literally costing you money.
Slow Internet
If you’re like the majority of us, you do not have hundreds of thousands of dollars in your budget to beef up your network and pipe in a ridiculous amount of bandwidth to fix everything. So here’s a two quick tips that you probably can afford and even work on immediately to help you out.

    1. Monitoring: It is very helpful to have some form of monitoring on your network to understand all that is going in and out of your pipes. There are open source monitoring tools out there – do not be afraid to use them! With monitoring set up correctly, you can identify problem applications and users by looking at bandwidth utilization, and proactively address the problem before it disrupts your entire business.


  1. Control the Problem: Once you’ve identified those top talkers, you can set company policies limiting their usage (i.e. YouTube) or network policies limiting their bandwidth or setting their priority. For example, Email is a critical application and should have a high priority and a greater bandwidth allowance than Facebook or YouTube. Identify other business-critical applications as well as cannibalizing applications and set your priorities and policies accordingly.

If you need additional help with understanding or addressing your network problems or needs, Think is always available to assist!


Sassy ‘lil SaaS

February 5th, 2015 Posted by Hosted Services, Whitepapers 0 thoughts on “Sassy ‘lil SaaS”

By: Alicia Hernandez, Think Technical Writer

There is just something so intriguing about the hosted service offerings that end in “…aaS”! Get your mind out of the gutter! I was talking about the convenience and peace of mind to have someone else responsible for the services that you offer or are in need of. Continuing our crusade with hosted services, this month we will chat about SaaS, or Software as a Service.

If, and that is a big IF, you have a Software Developer working for your business, I am willing to bet he or she does not have the time to develop that great-idea-of-a-program you just thought of in the shower this morning that would make your job so much easier. I’m also willing to bet that someone else has already developed it and perfected it. And maybe, if you’re really lucky, they offer SaaS – a fully hosted solution to make your job even easier. Suddenly you are thinking that you need a piece of that SaaS and are ready to sign on the dotted line.

Not so fast there buddy. Take a second to consider these three things before jumping on the SaaS bandwagon:

  • Is it cheaper?
  • Is it easier?
  • Is it secure?


Obviously, the cost of a hosted service is going to be more expensive than if you were going to just buy the software. Do not let the price tag scare you away without thoroughly evaluating the total cost of the alternative – including the use of your datacenter/office space, your hardware, and your personnel. Internal costs that are often overlooked when shying away from the price of a SaaS solution include:

  • Real Estate or Datacenter space – a difficult one to put an exact number on, but consider:
    • Actual cost of space (some companies rent out datacenter space or need to consider space in the office for another server)
    • Cost of cooling (more servers = higher costs)
    • Cost of power
  • Procurement of hardware
    • Server infrastructure
      • Disk space/storage
      • Memory
      • Server/OS licensing
      • Maintenance costs
      • Ongoing support costs (Personnel/Systems Administrators/etc.)
    • Network infrastructure
      • Bandwidth capacity
      • Capacity on existing hardware?
        • Price per port
      • Need to add hardware?
        • Purchasing costs
      • Ongoing support costs (Personnel/Network Administrators/etc.)
    • Implementation – one-time cost of actually setting up the hardware and implementing the software
      • Cost per hour of the following:
        • Project Manager (not always necessary)
        • Systems Administrators
        • Network Administrators
        • Application Developers (if available)
        • Desktop Technicians
        • End-user training

All of these bullet points could add up to a significant amount of time and money that are typically on-going costs for as long as you must run the software on premise. When doing a cost comparison between a hosted solution and an on premise solution, you should definitely try to compare apples to apples and consider these points listed above when possible!

Ease of Implementation

In addition to cost, it may also behoove you to consider the ease of implementation. Some on premise software implementations can be a nightmare. And never believe the vendor’s word on the ease of implementing their solution – every vendor will try to tell you how easily their product integrates with the products already running smoothly in your environment. The truth is, this is more of a myth than a reality. Sometimes, it is just easier to save your IT department the headache of introducing a new dog to the pack and allow the vendor to take on the risk and nuisance of the implementation.


Always, always, always be vigilant with your company’s data. If you are not asking questions about security best practices, regulations, or the proprietary of your data, you are opening yourself up to breaches. At a minimum, you should ensure the SaaS vendor is PCI certified, provides data encryption options, and secure modes of transmit if you are planning to send your PII data into their systems! Always, always, always be vigilant with your company’s data. Yes, it is worth repeating!

SaaS is definitely a great opportunity for you to get that new application for your business up and running without the pain of procuring hardware, installing, and implementing it all on your own. And while the cost may seem to be more, be sure you are comparing the total cost of ownership, as well as considering the ease of implementation, and the possible security positives that you may gain by having it fully hosted.



January 16th, 2015 Posted by Services, Whitepapers 0 thoughts on “WTH is P2V? LMK! SMH!”

By: Alicia Hernandez, Think Technical Writer

Whatever you do, do not look at your teenager’s phone and try to decode their text messages! Teenagers have more acronyms than your local IT Shop. On the other hand, maybe you should know their language, in which case you should check out this article 28 internet acronyms every parent should know. Decoding our message is much easier, and probably a question many of you have asked!

What the hell (WTH) is Physical-to-Virtual (P2V)? Let me know (LMK)! Shaking my head (SMH)!

Many of you have one or more physical server towers that look like a regular home PC tower hidden in a closet in your office or maybe under your desk. These physical boxes represent your company’s datacenter, as they are the gatekeeper of your data, and are probably the most important pieces of equipment in your office due to the data that resides on them! Some of you have an actual datacenter from which you run all of your organization’s operations infrastructure, including servers, network components, and maybe even some storage/backup arrays.

Now, the big question is to P2V or not to P2V! Why would you virtualize your servers? How would you virtualize your servers? And, can you virtualize your servers yourself or do you need to hire someone… (Errr hmmmm…pssst…like your good friends here at Think)…to tackle this beast for you? Just like every other answer that IT typically spits out, it depends on what you’ve got! We will outline the general things to consider for you here, along with providing some good articles for you to follow up with if you’re still interested.

Why P2V? Maybe you are considering the big purchase of some virtual appliances, or you are going with the wave of the future and pursuing IaaS (see this month’s article on IaaS, SaaS, and PaaS), either way, the time has come to move the data. First, it is important for you to know that a physical-to-virtual migration is literally copying all of the files from the operating system (OS), the applications, and the data from your physical machine to a virtual machine. Some of the benefits of this option include:

  • Cleaning up “server sprawl,” “server footprint,” or whatever fancy term you want to use. Basically, you’re eliminating the number of physical server towers lying around your office or your datacenter.
  • Reducing risk of failure and data loss from the clunky old boxes (server towers) that no vendor in their right mind will provide “maintenance support” for! In other words, it is out of warranty!
  • For those boxes that still have life left in them, you can repurpose them – more servers for new applications, or a new storage box for backups, disaster recovery, and business continuity.

But there are risks that also come with a straight P2V migration. For instance, since you are copying OS files, you may run into the same bugs and problems that you had with the physical server. Other issues that copy over include inadequate hardware configurations (memory/disk space), operating system configurations, application bugs, and even security vulnerabilities and/or malware, Trojans, or viruses that have embedded themselves in your old system. Getting around these problems could be accomplished by doing a fresh build on the new virtual machine – new OS install and configurations, fresh install and configuration of applications, etc. – and then copying over just the necessary data.

Performing a P2V migration is easier now than it has ever been. There are a number of tools out there to help you do it, including Microsoft’s System Center Virtual Machine Manager (SCVMM) – although, beware, their newly released Microsoft Server 2012 Hyper-V R2 release does not offer the “Convert Physical Machine” option as it does in SCVMM – and VMware’s vCenter Converter. But a highly recommended reading that provides a few great tips for those of us running a Small Business Server 2011 (SBS) system is Are P2V conversions still worth doing? by Rick Vanover. Rick provides some great tips about “Avoiding the Gotchas” in performing a P2V conversion. And as always, we here at Think are always just a phone call away to help you with your P2V migration, your Cloud Services, or any other IT-related questions you may have!


IaaS, SaaS, and PaaS – A Whole Lotta…

January 16th, 2015 Posted by Services, Whitepapers 0 thoughts on “IaaS, SaaS, and PaaS – A Whole Lotta…”

By: Alicia Hernandez, Think Technical Writer

WhaaaaaaaT? That’s a lot of aaS to squeeze into a single article! So this month, we’re going to focus on IaaS, and please keep a lookout for SaaS in February and PaaS in March. Who knows, by April, there may be more aaS offerings that Think can help you with.

No, we’re not talking about squats or lypo – we’re not helping you with THAT! IaaS is short for Infrastructure as a Service, and is an option for companies to outsource equipment such as storage, hardware, servers, and networking components. Hosted services such as IaaS, SaaS, and PaaS are proving their worth, as small and large companies alike are seeing the return on investment of these services.

IaaS, also known as HaaS (Hardware as a Service), can certainly be costly, so beware of the shock value. But before you go updating your datacenter and replacing the old hardware in your office or datacenter, evaluate the total cost of ownership (including employing System Administrators) and you too might come out ahead of the game with IaaS.

Where to begin? If you’re feeling overwhelmed, do not feel bad! There is actually a PHD offered for Cloud Economics, so this is not for the faint of heart. There are a lot of players in the hosted services game, and the differences go far beyond just price. You should consider things such as hardware VPN, software VPN, security, encryption, SLAs, downtime, uptime, ease of use, and additional platform services. Dan Sullivan of Tom’s IT PRO wrote the following bits and pieces to help you in your decision for the right provider:

  • Distinguishing features of top providers:
    • Amazon EC2 Cloud (Amazon AWS): “ offers specialized services aimed at well-established needs (Slide 2)”
      • Most supplementary services!
      • Compute & Storage + multiple database options, message queue services, a MapReduce platform, data workflow system, and dedicated hardware security modules (HSM)
    • Microsoft Windows Azure – does not just offer Microsoft operating systems!
      • “…done its part to ensure even users who are not seasoned system administrators can get started in the cloud (Slide 2)” with their self-service management console
      • Mobile applications, media processing, and distribution
      • Support two-factor authentication
    • Google Compute Engine – more of a simple approach
      • The ability to run and analyze terabytes of data will make it an appealing option for big data analysis, especially for those who prefer to work with SQL rather than MapReduce
    • Rackspace
      • Supporter of OpenStack, the open source cloud platform
    • IBM SmartCloud and HP Cloud
      • Customers who want both public and private clouds
    • RightScale and Cloudyn
      • Also offers management services and resource optimization services

If you’re interested in reading Dan’s full article to learn more about the complexity of choosing your managed service vendor, it can be found here. Or, take all the frustration and headache out of choosing between these companies and check out Think’s offerings! You may just find the right solution for you and your company lies within hiring someone else to do the hard work for you.


Practices to Make BYOD Simple and Secure

December 19th, 2014 Posted by Whitepapers 0 thoughts on “Practices to Make BYOD Simple and Secure”


In October’s newsletter we looked at endpoint security as a whole, and how the BYOD Era is changing how companies are protecting their networks. As a reminder, BYOD stands for Bring Your Own Device and has to do with employees using their own personal devices for work reasons. To follow the BYOD topic, this month we’ll talk about protecting a business’ data and networks through programs and policies. These practices, along with endpoint security that was previously discussed, help companies protect themselves while enabling their employees to be productive with personal devices.

Consumerization is having a major impact on IT departments with company employees wanting to use the device of their choice to most efficiently get their work done. Supporting and protecting against numerous, unknown devices can be challenging. Because of this, organizations are moving towards implementing company policies that allow employees to embrace BYOD. When employees have the ability to work on the device they want, they are not only more productive, but also mobile with Wi-Fi almost everywhere one turns. This white paper will look at what practices are needed for organizations to empower people to choose their own device, how to protect important data, how to reduce costs, and simplify BYOD management.

People are going to bring their own devices from home to work whether there is a BYOD policy in place or not. Studies have shown that the average employee connects around four devices to the corporate network at some point in their employment. This is a large shift from when the only device connected to the network was the company-provided desktop PC. Employees are now connecting laptops, smartphones, tablets, and other devices to optimize mobility, performance, production, and size.

A BYOD strategy that encompasses both technology and policy is what is needed to protect the ever-important enterprise network and the data on it. Looking at the technology part of the strategy, employees need to be able to access business applications and information on these devices in a secure manner. Due to licensing, non-standardization of hardware and software, and sheer volume of devices, IT departments cannot simply install applications on all of the personal devices coming on the company network. One of the best approaches is to implement device-independent computing through mobility management, desktop virtualization, and secure file sharing with remote support services. This allows employees to have a single-click, secure access to all of their applications and data needed for work across various locations, networks, and devices. IT also gains control as they have the power to limit access to certain applications or resources while having the peace of mind in knowing that BYOD devices are secure on the business’ network.

Employees are able to access vital data from remote locations while not posing a risk to having that data hacked or lost. A strategy like this one also helps with cutting costs as problems with devices are handled as a whole rather than on a case-by-case basis. It also eliminates the

problem with lost devices or terminated employees as IT managers can shut off access to select devices whenever needed. In addition to your technology strategy for BYOD, the policy strategy is just as important. A few elements to consider when creating your BYOD policy include eligibility, acceptable devices, deployment, and support and maintenance.



The first consideration in a BYOD policy should be eligibility – which employees can use BYOD devices. This should be spelled out clearly in the policy and managers should be ready to answer requests from other employees who may not be eligible. Some possible ways to determine eligibility are: it is a privilege for certain employees, it is demanded by employees, or it is a requirement for specific jobs. To help which employees may need it as a requirement, look at the type of work, how often they need to remotely work (travel), and if they need consistent access to business-critical data.


Acceptable Devices

Next, businesses should look at what devices are allowed. Desktop virtualization opens the door to almost any device because it is possible, for example, to work on a Windows desktop on a devices that is not Windows-based. Business mobility management helps IT greatly with security because it can manage any device and terminate access to any that are lost, stolen, jail broken, or pose a risk to the network. As discussed before, a rise in productivity can be expected as employees are able to work on what devices they want, not what they are given.



One of the most important keys to BYOD management is the rollout of the policy. Employees should be notified of the program and given time to let them decide if they want or need to participate. Training may be needed when explaining the responsibilities involved in BYOD with how data can be accessed and used. Lastly, work and business should be kept separate even though they both may be done on the same device. Work emails should not be sent from personal accounts and vice-versa.


Support and Maintenance

This part of the policy can be tricky as many employees see the IT department as the “fixers of everything technology-based.” A good BYOD policy will spell out exactly what type of maintenance that the IT department can help with in terms of BYOD devices. This not only protects the IT department from being inundated with support calls, but it also frees up their time to work on more productive projects. An example of what maintenance policies to write, one company provides help with wireless connectivity, antivirus/malware software, and any help with how to gain access to information or use the mobile management system. All other problems, the IT department should know where to direct the user to get help. For example, if an employee cracks their screen on a personal device, it is not the IT department’s job to fix it.

By handling maintenance in this fashion, total costs for maintenance is reduced because people take better care of the products they own than the ones that are company-owned.

In summary, when creating a BYOD strategy, there are a variety of different strategies and policies that a business can implement. The key is finding the right mix of available technology strategies and business policies that provides the most protection for your data and the firm’s network. Employees should also be able to access the files that are needed on their device. Without this, the benefits that BYOD provide are limited. Some key things to keep in mind when creating a policy is that it should empower people to choose devices they want to work on. It should protect key information and make it clear who is allowed to access the network and how to do it. The BYOD Era will continue to change and grow so be sure to begin to formulate a strategy if you haven’t already done so.


(Thanks to Citrix White Paper – A guide to selecting technologies and developing policies for BYOD)

Any questions about any of the services discussed in the article or any help needed when formulating a plan can be directed to Think at [email protected].

A Disaster Recovery Plan for You

December 19th, 2014 Posted by Best Practices, Whitepapers 0 thoughts on “A Disaster Recovery Plan for You”

By: Alicia Hernandez, Think Technical Writer

Do you remember a time when there were no computers in the workplace? A time when office walls were lined with filing cabinets taller than the average woman? Ok, maybe many of you do not remember these times, but I know some of you can take a stroll down memory lane with me. The fact is, whether or not the data was written, typed, or printed on paper, it has always existed and has been the blood that delivers oxygen to your company.

Today, you may still have a filing drawer or two, but the majority of your company’s lifeline is stored somewhere on a piece of technology. Do you simply store it where it lands in some computer or server within your office? If you are nodding in agreement to that last question, this article is for you. The idea here is to help you build a basic backup and recovery system to provide a relieving sense of continuity for your business. And we shall call her Disaster Recovery.

The cold, hard truth:



Let’s keep you from being one of these failed businesses! This daunting, but necessary, plan is so much simpler than it used to be. Do not let the horror stories of 2005 scare you away. Back then, building a disaster recovery plan required hundreds of thousands of dollars and an off-site location to back your data up to, additional hardware and software, and even additional manpower, all in the event a plane crashed through your building. I apologize for the harsh analogy, but that truly was the event that many large companies planned for after 9/11.

Today, we have the all-powerful Cloud! This simple solution, while not perfect for everyone, does provide small businesses an off-site disaster recovery option that only large companies were privy to in the past. It is important that you do your research—a good read to start with is Disaster recovery explained, by Jacob Gsoedl—find the best solution to meet your needs, build your blueprint, BACK THAT DATA UP, and as always, feel free to contact us here at Think with any questions or DR needs that we can help you with.


1ADP Advanced MD (2013). Build a disaster recovery plan.



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