Posts tagged "smart"

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 [email protected] if you would like our recommendations or a quote.

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 [email protected] if you have any questions or concerns.

WordPress Sites Hacked Due to Exposed Vulnerability

February 8th, 2017 Posted by Best Practices, Hackers, Internet, rest api, Security, wordpress 0 thoughts on “WordPress Sites Hacked Due to Exposed Vulnerability”

WordPress 4.7.2 was released last Thursday, January 26th. If you have not already updated, please do so immediately.

A WordPress bug called REST API Endpoint allowed more than 100,000 websites to be hacked over the past two weeks. According to security firm Sucuri, websites have been hacked solely because the admins did not make an update to their WordPress as advised by the company. The exploit allows hackers to update content published on a WordPress website running with the 4.7.0 or 4.7.1 versions.

The security flaw, a zero-day vulnerability which affects the WordPress REST API, allows attackers to modify the content of posts or pages within a website backed by the WordPress content management system (CMS).

The reason the vulnerability wasn’t made public at the time of WordPress 4.7.2’s release was the real worry that malicious hackers might race to exploit the flaw, attacking millions of blogs and company websites. We have here, but not before a few headlines on Data Center Knowledge were altered to read “Hacked by (insert group name here)”. Sucuri also warned that version 4.7.2 may not automatically update even if that feature is turned on in WordPress.

MuhmadEmad, a Kurdish anti-ISIS hacktivist working for the Kurdlinux team, has hacked thousands of websites, leaving a message praising the Kurdish Peshmerga forces. This is not the first time the Kurdish hacker targeted websites leaving a message saying ‘Long Live the Peshmerga’. On Monday, the National Treasury Management Agency (NTMA) said that its official website was hacked by MuhmadEmad. “The perpetrator also posted a picture of the Kurdish flag, and wrote ‘long live Peshmerga’.”

To avoid your websites from being hacked with this exploit, Cyber Security professionals have requested to update to the latest WordPress version 4.7.2.

Please contact our sales team at [email protected] if you have any questions or concerns.

Page Versus Screen – Is There a Balance?

February 8th, 2017 Posted by Best Practices, Data, Desktop, Devices, Internet, Newsletters 0 thoughts on “Page Versus Screen – Is There a Balance?”

For years, the debate has raged, but research hasn’t been able to prove one way or another if we retain information better when we’ve read it from a physical page – in a book, magazine or newspaper– than when we’ve read it online, with a tablet, mobile device or other screen.

And hopefully it never will, with ‘screen time’ such a big part of our lives. Computers and mobile devices are versatile and make information more accessible, so striking a balance between children’s appetite for information and their ability to digest it is crucial for primary, secondary, and even tertiary educators.

So, is the page mightier than the screen? Should we choose one over the other, or can we still find balance?

Page or Screen?

Leading researchers believe that there is a tangible relationship between text written on a physical page and the way the brain responds to and retains what is written on that page. Studies in the early 2000s indicated that students performed better in exams when they had studied the information for tests from textbooks and other printed sources. However, a 2013 survey by the UK National Literacy Trust found that over 52% of students aged 8–16 preferred reading on electronic devices, and only 32% preferred print. In fact, research indicates the next generation of students are reading well on digital devices.

In reality, banishing the screen is a near-impossible task. With students issued laptops at all ages, and doing more of their research and homework online, the screens are here to stay whether they’re helping or not.

So, the question becomes: How can educators deploy screen time for best effect?

Technology in the Classroom

Implementing simple strategies like giving students extra time to familiarize themselves with the devices they’ll be using before reading texts mean they won’t be distracted by functionality while trying to concentrate.

Screens and e-readers should be used in the same way as printed text – one device per student, not one shared among a group. This way, students will be more easily immersed in learning – without the distraction of tussling with a neighbor over ownership.

Although it can be both a blessing and a curse, connecting devices to the internet allows for more collaboration, enabling students to compare how their fellow pupils are engaging with a text. For example, sharing information online (for example, by allowing students to see which passages in a text their peers have highlighted, or by making students’ digital annotations visible to their classmates) can help the whole class to improve their understanding of a text.

This should be balanced with an emphasis on the importance of each student developing their own understanding, so teachers need to keep track of their progress by continuing to ask questions of individual students.

The future success of ‘digital natives’ using devices more frequently in their learning will rest in the same place it always has done – in the quality of the materials, in the ways educators implement them and in the way students are nurtured to use them effectively.

Let the Think specialists help you and your company! Please contact our sales team at [email protected] if you would like our recommendations or a quote.

Traditional Typing Skills in the Digital Age

February 8th, 2017 Posted by Best Practices, Desktop, Devices, Newsletters, typing 0 thoughts on “Traditional Typing Skills in the Digital Age”

Handwriting is in decline as students increasingly use digital forms of writing throughout their lives – from their personal communications through to their essays. Does this mean learning to touch-type is now a vital skill? Perhaps not – there’s researching suggestion that knowing how to touch-type doesn’t necessarily make you a faster or more accurate typist.

Although many students will be happy and effective muddling along with their own ‘hunt and peck’ strategy, there are benefits to be gained from a typing course beyond just speed and accuracy.

A high words-per-minute rate may no longer be a requirement for finding a job, but being able to type quickly and accurately may help students make sure their hands keep up with their thoughts, letting them express themselves more confidently and study more effectively.

Early typing skills

With children becoming computer-literate at younger and younger ages, keyboard skills are increasingly important even in early primary school to prevent bad habits from setting in.

Encourage students in the early years to use two hands instead of one to type, and to use the hand that sits closest to the letter they are typing – letters to the left of the keyboard with the left hand and vice-versa. Color coding the keyboard with stickers can help them quickly and easily identify which half of the keys to hit with a right or left hand finger.

Encourage students to use their thumbs for the space bar so they don’t get in the habit of moving their hands too much, but it doesn’t matter at this early stage if they’re not using all ten fingers. The key is to get them familiar with the keys, and thinking about how to reach them as quickly as possible.

Intermediate typists

Students in the middle and upper levels of primary school – whose hands can more easily reach across a keyboard – could start learning more structured techniques, and to incorporate more of their fingers.

A fun challenge to test progress could be to practice writing texts without looking at the keyboard. Students often become used to looking at both text and keyboard at once by typing on touchscreens, and so may not realize that they’re relying on seeing the keys all the time.

Adding touch-typing to lessons

With curriculum testing moving online, now is the perfect time to reintroduce touch-typing courses. The vast array of inexpensive, fun and educational typing software, games and online resources makes it easy for educators to start teaching this valuable skill today.

Let the Think specialists help you and your company! Please contact our sales team at [email protected] if you would like our recommendations or a quote.

Technology Disposition

January 17th, 2017 Posted by Best Practices, Community, Data, Desktop, Devices, E-Waste, Newsletters, Operating System, Security, Services 0 thoughts on “Technology Disposition”

Donate or Recycle Your Electronics, But Don’t Throw it Away!

Donating and recycling your electronics is the best way to help the environment by conserving resources and natural materials. It is critical to make sure you are donating and/or recycling electronics safely and correctly.

Computers, printers and other electronics contain a variety of unsafe and toxic substances, that when discarded improperly can pose risks to our health and the environment. These products are also made from valuable resources and materials, including metals, plastics, and glass, all of which require energy to mine and manufacture. Donating or recycling consumer electronics conserves our natural resources and avoids air and water pollution, as well as greenhouse gas emissions.

Contribute your old computers and phones to groups that will fix and clean them and put them back into circulation. Even the oldest computer—something you consider the most obsolete of digital dinosaurs—can probably be used by someone.

 

While it’s great to recycle parts, your old and unwanted gadgets can be incredibly useful to someone else. These non-profits and programs work to refurbish and deliver cellphones and other electronics to those in need.

Call2Recycle: Call2Recycle program is a free and easy way for earth-conscious folks like yourself to get rid of your old batteries and cellphones.

National Coalition Against Domestic Violence: You can donate your unwanted cellphones to the NCADV, which partners with Cellular Recycler for the collection of used electronics and uses proceeds from refurbished gadgets to help stop domestic violence.

Many local non-profits would be happy to take your old computers, devices, printers and other electronics. The La Plata County Humane Society Thrift Store is one of those non-profits that would gladly take your electronics off your hands.

Another concern is the destruction of all data on any hardware you are disposing. Obviously you do not want any of your data or your customer’s data getting in the wrong hands. Think can wipe sensitive data from your hardware before you choose to donate or recycle it.

Where to Recycle Your Old Electronics?

Can you bring your electronics to any recycling facility? Before you do, you should check to see if your recycling facility has a E-Steward Certified as well as IS14001 Certified because that means they comply with e-waste recycling standards as well as being environmentally responsible. The Durango Recycling Center holds both of those certificates and that’s where Think Network Technologies recycles all of their computers, monitors, devices and other electronics. They only accept e-waste on Saturdays or if you’re a business you have to call to schedule a drop-off.

If you are a client of Think and located within city limits we will pick up your recyclables. We’ll make all the arrangements for you. Please call us at (970)247-1885 if you would like to hear our prices.

Here are some more articles and websites about recycling e-waste.

EPA (Environmental Protection Agency)

Mashable – 4 Ways to Recycle Your Old Gadgets

PC Mag – How to Recycle Your Technology

E-Stewards for Recyclers

Durango Recycling Center

Let the Think specialists help you and your company! Please contact our sales team at [email protected] if you would like our recommendations or a quote.

10 trends to watch for in 2017

10 trends to watch for in 2017

January 5th, 2017 Posted by Best Practices, Data, Desktop, Devices, Newsletters, Operating System, Security, Services 0 thoughts on “10 trends to watch for in 2017”

Smart machines are getting smarter, and a new IT reality has dawned.

The machines are rising. Artificial intelligence (AI) has proven it’ll be no fun at a party, having taken down the world’s best player at the difficult strategy game Go. If that makes you anxious, good news: virtual reality (VR) is being used by doctors to help patients with anxiety. We live in interesting times, so what’s going to be especially interesting to watch this year?

so what’s going to be especially interesting to watch this year

So what’s going to be especially interesting to watch this year

 

1. Security concerns increase

The only novelty in this prediction is where the danger is coming from: increased reliance on IoT means more breaches of security and privacy.

2. AI and consumer experience

Even big players are only scratching the surface when it comes to using machine-learning to improve customer service. Look for:

  • Much more personalized customer interaction
  • More social presence
  • Immediate answers to consumer queries

3. Better cross-browser compatibility

Less sexy than AI but fundamental, W3C (world wide web consortium) specification, and (maybe) better JavaScript libraries could see cross-browser compatibility issues become a thing of the past. Good news if your business does business online.

4. Increased VR activity

Who doesn’t want to be in VR when it’s new and shiny and has applications as far-ranging as therapy and gaming? Microsoft, Facebook, and Google have put a waterfall of money into VR, but it’s the startups you want to watch. Will VR be the cornerstone of the next Microsoft or Apple?

5. Mobile grows

By 2020, 70% of the world’s population will have a smartphone. If you’re still asking mobile browsers to pinch and squeeze, it’s time to act.

By 2020, 70% of the world’s population will have a smartphone

By 2020, 70% of the world’s population will have a smartphone

6. No more money for IT

You can watch the rise of AI and VR, but this might not be the year you get to invest in them. Spiceworks, a network of IT professionals, -has surveyed the IT world and confirmed that IT budgets will be flat (or down) in 2017, and they’re not expecting to take on new employees, either.

7. Laptops eating desktops’ narrow lead

Consumers have long bought more laptops than desktops. Now, companies are budgeting more for laptops, bringing the budgets for both to par according to Spiceworks’ network data and surveys.

8. Windows 10 business adoption to exceed 70%

Over 10 weeks in 2015, 11% of organizations said yes to Microsoft’s offer of a free Windows 10 upgrade. By halfway through last year, 40% were onboard. The trend line suggests 73% of organizations will be using Windows 10 by July.

9. “Cloud first” strategies will drive adoption of Windows Server 2016

Windows Server 2016 offers improved virtualization features, better security, more advanced software-defined storage functionality, and better integration with popular cloud services. That will drive adoption, although it won’t be until Windows Server 2008 reaches end-of-life in 2020 that its successor will dominate.

10. Don’t hold your breath for OS upgrades

Flat budgets will mean delays in upgrading operating systems. More than half of businesses are running at least one copy of Windows XP somewhere, despite it reaching end-of-life in 2014.

Let the Think specialists help you and your company! Please contact our sales team at [email protected] if you would like our recommendations or a quote.

Start the year on a secure note

Start the Year on a Secure Note

January 5th, 2017 Posted by Best Practices, Data, Desktop, Devices, Newsletters, Operating System, Security, Services 0 thoughts on “Start the Year on a Secure Note”

9 hardware and software vulnerabilities you should address now.

Research from Spiceworks, a network of IT professionals, highlighted more than 70% of respondents rated security as their top concern for 2017. Here are nine things that should be keeping you up at night…

70% of respondents rated security as their top concern

70% of respondents rated security as their top concern

 

Aging hardware

Sure, software is the greater risk, but many hardware vulnerabilities are software-based. Older equipment is often without built-in security features like:

  • Unified Extensible Firmware Interface (UEFI) with Secure Boot
  • Self-healing basic input/output system (BIOS)
  • Pre-boot authentication (PBA)
  • Self-encrypting drives

That’s why you should be auditing and planning to remove:

  • Computers with conventional BIOS, because they can’t run Secure Boot, which helps to prevent malware loading during the boot process.
  • Computers without pre-boot authentication or a trusted platform module (TPM), which stop the operating system from loading until the user enters authentication information, such as a password.
  • Old routers, which can have serious vulnerabilities.
  • Drives that don’t self-encrypt. Self-encrypting drives (SEDs) need a password (in addition to the OS login password), and the technology automatically encrypts and decrypts data on the drive.

On a side note, old drives leave you vulnerable in another way: you could lose data when they fail, which they will.

you could lose data when they fail, which they will

You could lose data when they fail, which they will

Tired software

Getting your hardware straight will almost always involve spending money, but fixing up software could be as simple as running those free updates you never got around to. Here’s what to look at:

  • Unpatched or out-of-date operating systems: Windows XP has been beyond its support period for nearly three years but is still running all over the world despite there being no updates, no technical assistance, and limited efficacy with anti-virus. And old operating systems always have fewer security features than new ones.
  • Unpatched or out-of-date productivity software: It’s highly risky to run unpatched versions of Microsoft Office, especially older versions like Office 2002, Office 2003, and Office 2007. They can give a hacker access to the rest of a system, with particularly catastrophic consequences if the user has administrative privileges.
  • Legacy custom applications: If running an old version of Office is a risk, imagine the danger of running legacy custom software, particularly if you’re no longer doing business with the vendor (or the vendor is no longer in business). When your legacy software was being coded, the vendor probably wasn’t thinking of the sort of security attacks that are common today.
  • Unpatched web browsers: No browser is entirely free of security vulnerabilities. Common vulnerabilities include URL spoofing, cross-site scripting, injection attacks, exploitable viruses, buffer overflow, ActiveX exploits, and many more. Always, always run the most recent version.
  • Out-of-date plug-ins: Everybody loves a plug-in, but they have a high potential for disaster, especially if you’re not running the latest versions.

Let the Think specialists help you and your company! Please contact our sales team at [email protected] if you would like our recommendations or a quote.

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)

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