Posts tagged "software"

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.

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 sales@thinknettech.com 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 sales@thinknettech.com 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 sales@thinknettech.com if you would like our recommendations or a quote.

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.

Let’s Talk About Compatibility

April 16th, 2015 Posted by Services, Staff 0 thoughts on “Let’s Talk About Compatibility”

By: Melissa Glick, CEO
Think Network Technologies

According to the Chinese Zodiac, I am a Lion and my business partner (and brother) is a Snake. The male snake is intelligent, wise, but his weakness is that he is not good at talk or communication. The female tiger is open-minded, frank, and cares for others but may lack teamwork.

According to the online quiz I just took, we are 30% compatible as business partners and should steer clear. Ha! Oh well. The damage has been done. We are humans and we make it work, and it seems to work well.

But, what about compatibility with technology? It’s a little harder to hash it out over a whisky neat when you are talking about software and hardware. Sometimes things just don’t go together.

From left:  Business partners Matt Glick, Peter Glick, Melissa Glick at Octane Raceway in Scottsdale, AZ, April 2015

From left: Business partners Matt Glick, Peter Glick, Melissa Glick at Octane Raceway in Scottsdale, AZ, April 2015

We see it a lot. A client conducts their own research, talks to a friend, or reads some misleading information online. In an attempt to save money, they cut corners and as a result, time, money and other resources are wasted.

As your trusted IT advisor, we want to keep you happy…very happy. If we steer you in the wrong direction, you won’t use us. We always offer you honest advice. Unfortunately, sometimes the suggestions do not cost what you may have expected. That’s when the cheaper alternatives make their way into the picture, the client suffers downtime, and in the end they wish they would have opted for the original recommendations.

For example… Software like AutoCAD and Adobe Creative Suite demand a lot of power.

  • Is that going to work with the consumer grade PC you bought?
  • Will your needs outgrow your equipment?
  • Do the features and specs of the equipment you are sourcing yourself, meet the requirements of the network?

Basic computers, routers and switches can be limiting and can cause conflicts. Purchasing add-ons down the road can get costly — not to mention the time it takes to troubleshoot the issues.

We have your best interest in mind and you don’t even have to buy the equipment from us. We will happily give you advice because the better the overall compatibility between us, the better our experiences will be.

CONTACT US

888.98.THINK
970.247.1885
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101 W. Main St. Farmington, NM
7483 E. Visao Dr. Scottsdale, AZ
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