How to Get Your Devices to Play Nicely Together: Home Networking Help

How to Get Your Devices to Play Nicely Together: Home Networking HelpHome Networking

Why can’t we all just get along? You’ve probably thought that before. But the sentiment is also one that goes through our heads when we’re trying to set up home networking. When cables and passwords abound, we can’t help but wish it was easier to get all our devices to play nicely together. Here’s help.

Desktop computers. Laptops. Tablets. Network printers. Routers. Modems. Smartphones. Smart speakers. Media players. Gaming systems. Homes today have many, if not all of these. Each has all sorts of features, and they’d be even more useful if they connected to one another. If only it wasn’t so challenging to get all our devices to relay information between each other reliably.

Home networking can bring so many benefits. You might enjoy:

  • accessing emails on all your devices, wherever you are;
  • being able to share files, photos, and other media with any other networked device;
  • viewing a baby photo album from your computer on your Smart TV during a Sweet 16 birthday party;
  • printing from your smartphone or other devices, even when not connected to the device via cable, using AirPrint or Google Cloud Print;
  • backing up all computers in the house to a centralized location via the network;
  • securing your activity on all devices at home with a protected Wi-Fi network.

Yep, all that sounds pretty great, but we’re right back where we started. How do we get our devices to do all that?

What Your Home Network Needs

First, take a moment to imagine connecting all the computers and smart devices in your home via cables. Ack! As if you want more cables snaking around your home! You don’t want to feel as if you’re rooming with Medusa.

So, you’ll be looking into a wireless home network to connect your devices to the internet and each other. That means setting up a modem and a router (we’re assuming you already have an internet service provider).

The modem is what connects your network to the internet. The router connects your devices to each other and to the internet through your modem. The router communicates the wireless signal between your devices and the modem. A gateway option combines the modem and router functions in one device.

If your home is spread out over several floors or square feet, or you have to deal with thick walls, you might have difficulties at home with Wi-Fi dead spots. Great! You’ve made all this effort, and it’s still not working! You could try a mesh network. Instead of making one device do all the signaling, a primary router and many smaller satellites (or nodes) relay the signals with equal power.

Securing Your Home Network

When you get your devices connected, you’ll want to secure your home network. Taking these simple steps helps protect your personal information and prevent cyber-attacks.

First, change the default passwords on your modem and router, and choose something more complex than “123456,” “password,” or “letmein.”

You’ll also want to set up a guest network if the router supports it. This allows visitors to access the Wi-Fi without you having to share access to your main network.

Also, rename your Wi-Fi network so that it isn’t obvious that it’s your house. For example, if you live at 920 Hassell Place, you wouldn’t name it 920Hassell. Or, if you’re the Wilsons, don’t name it WilsonNetwork. Don’t make it easy for someone trying to target you to identify which network they are trying to hack.

You like using all your devices, but getting them all networked seems like a headache. Still, once you have a home network set up, you’ll wonder why you waited so long. Don’t put off the convenience any longer. We can help you get all your devices playing together nicely and securely.

Contact us today at 319-227-7000!

2019-10-08T13:40:08-05:00October 11th, 2019|Uncategorized|0 Comments

5 Best Practices for Buying Technology for Employees

5 Best Practices for Buying Technology for EmployeesBuying Technology

Buying technology for personal use can be exciting once you get past the price tag. Yet there are many factors to consider when investing in technology for employee use.

There are many digital tools available to improve the day-to-day way people do their jobs. Providing the right tech can increase productivity, streamline processes, and improve employee engagement. Yet determining which solutions are smartest for your team takes work.

Investing in a technology that doesn’t suit the needs of your staff can hurt your business:

  • Learning a new technology takes time away from other mission-critical tasks.
  • Employees resent the change when the tech further complicates their day.
  • Staff feel unheard and disrespected when asked to use digital tools that don’t help.
  • Disgruntled employees disengage, which hurts customer experience.
  • Employees look for an easier way to do their work and may change work environments as an answer.

Best practices for buying employee technology

Providing the best technological tools supports a more productive, energized, and motivated workforce. These best practices help bridge the gap between IT ambition and actual employee experience.

Know how work gets done

Many decision makers think they know how work is done, but they haven’t actually been in the trenches in years. Looking at the metrics to analyze process efficiency isn’t enough. Purchasing officers need to understand the employee’s daily journey. They need a good answer to the question “how is this technology going to make my work experience better?”

Understand the IT environment

Just as technology is evolving, the work environment is adapting too. Before buying employee technology, determine where people are working most. Are they in the office or remote? Do they sit all day at a desk or need to be on the move? Are they customer-facing? Or do they need more collaborative tools with internal teams?

Don’t make any IT purchases without weighing up whether the technology can handle the use it’s going to get. If someone is going to need access to the technology on a shop floor, a brand-new desktop is going to be a bust, whereas an employee who travels all the time for work is going to prefer a rugged but lightweight laptop.

Aim for uniformity

Bringing a shiny new Apple computer into a PC environment can be problematic. Loyalty to one manufacturer or software can help people embrace new tools quicker. Additionally, it makes buying parts and warranty much easier. You’re also more likely to be able to take advantage of product integrations and interoperability.

Develop consistent relationships

If you’re buying a lot of technology at one time you may be eligible for volume pricing. Plus, if you’re returning again to a supplier you’ve worked with in the past, you could ask about a loyalty bonus.

Working with a managed service provider to find the right tech solutions is also useful. Their supplier relationships can lead to volume discounts, better-than-retail pricing, and improved warranties.

Seek employee input

New technology introduces change into the work environment, but people don’t love change, especially if they feel a new system or software is being pushed upon them. It will help to ask staff what tools or technology they want. Often they already know!

Technology is an essential part of how people experience work. It’s easy to get seduced by a bright, shiny new device or promising feature. Instead, make decisions based on whether the technology can do what you need it to do and whether it’s going to make the employees’ work environment better or worse.

Need help making decisions about the right technology for your teams? We can help.

Contact our experts today at 319-227-7000

2019-10-08T12:19:02-05:00October 8th, 2019|Uncategorized|0 Comments

Making Technology Another Target for Continuous Improvement

Making Technology Another Target for Continuous ImprovementMaking Technology Another Target for Continuous Improvement

Your business likely talks a lot about continuous improvement. It’s everyone’s goal, right? Yet “set it and forget it” is a common approach to handling business technology. Here’s why IT needs your ongoing attention too.

Your competition is increasing, and it can feel as if it is doing so exponentially. Why? There are lower barriers to entry in many businesses. The marketplace has gone global. Transaction costs are declining. Technological advances, automation, and AI are making processes more efficient and increasing productivity.

Your business can’t stand still. Don’t leave your IT sitting unattended either. Sure, the very term “continuous improvement” may have you twitching with discomfort. Not that buzzword again! Yet taking an “if it ain’t broke don’t fix it” approach to IT could be hurting your business. Settling for “alright” or relying on “the way we’ve always done it” could leave you lagging behind competitors.

Your business may not have a CIO lobbying for the latest tech, but every business can benefit from asking itself: “can we be doing this better?”. Of course, you don’t know what you don’t know. You are focusing on your industry, not all the new technology, automation, artificial intelligence, or machine learning to:

  • Innovate process
  • Automate routine, repetitive tasks
  • Increase productivity
  • Enable global collaboration
  • Streamline workflow
  • Integrate existing applications
  • Support informed decisions
  • Optimize information access
  • Enhance document, data exchange
  • Advance analysis-based action

The Value of a Strategic MSP Partnership

A managed services provider (MSP) can answer the technology questions you don’t even know to ask. Don’t rely on the old way of doing things. You don’t need to suffer through long, drawn-out processes and the inefficiency of manual work. Your business can partner with an MSP to embrace the power of digital transformation.

Protecting your business from cyber bad guys isn’t the only thing an MSP can do. An MSP can help you improve processes, exceed customer expectations, and reduce costs, all while minimizing your risk.

The MSP will get to know the ways in which you do business and your vision for the future. The MSP can help your business work smarter and reach its goals faster. Understanding available improvements, the MSP can make recommendations to fit your budget and help you become better, faster, and more agile.

Of course, incorporating continuous improvement in your technology can mean making changes to the way you work. Your employees may shudder. That’s why it’s important to work with a partner that can help you clearly articulate the value of digital transformation.

Your people will want to know “what’s in it for me,” and the MSP can help you provide the answer. Explaining how innovation will help employees do their job better or drive business outcomes is key. Working with an MSP means intentional strategy drives your technology improvements. That’s the foundation for successful implementation and adoption.

Don’t settle for a one-size-fits-all, set-and-sit approach to information technology. Your competition will be happy if you do. Instead, work with an MSP that doesn’t just keep your technology running and your systems secure. Join forces with a service provider who is your strategic partner, they’ll ensure your technology is continuously improving.

You’re not alone. Adapt with us.

Technology’s rapid pace of change was a top threat for business leaders, according to a 2017 survey of business school grads. Digital advances surpassed economic, political, and environmental changes. But you’re not alone in your struggle to continuously improve.

Turn to the experts who can answer your questions and plan strategic improvement. No matter what your industry or business size, you can enjoy our technology expertise. Talk to us about a technology assessment. Our experts will suggest options that suit your needs and help you beat the competition. Reach to us at 319-227-7000.

2019-09-03T15:46:38-05:00September 24th, 2019|Uncategorized|0 Comments

To Backup or To Archive? ‘Tis The Question

To Backup or To Archive? ‘Tis The QuestionTo Backup or to Archive

Hamlet worried about whether to be or not. You may be more preoccupied with whether backup or archiving is better for your business. You know you need to secure your data, but how? This article examines the different benefits of both options.

Back in the day, businesses kept important information on paper. They stored important records and notes in nearby filing cabinets for easy access.

When there were too many files to close the cabinet drawers any longer, someone would do a big clean out. Older, important documents would get boxed for the basement or other storage area. They might still be needed for tax, or compliance, or other reasons. But you didn’t need those files readily accessible any longer.

A similar scenario is true of digital business data. You can back it up to recover from hardware failure, cyber-attack, or disaster event. Or you might archive the data for space management and long-term retrieval.

Deciding Between Backup and Archive

When it comes to the right form of data storage you’ll need to weigh:

  • the period of time you need to keep the data;
  • what protections from loss or illicit access your method offers;
  • whether the data can be easily restored or retrieved;
  • how accessible, searchable, and quickly available the data will be;
  • any industry or compliance standards that need to be met.

The backup is a copy of your data. On a regular basis you’ll make a copy of the business data to provide you with a starting point in the event of a disaster. You’ll decide how often to backup based on how often the data changes and the importance of data currency.

Backing up data, an operating system, or application files, doesn’t delete the originals. However, your older backup may be deleted when you make the new copy. If not, the backup can have another use. It can allow users to go back and review or recover earlier versions.

It’s not a bad idea to have several backups. We recommend the “3-2-1” backup strategy. You’ll have three copies of your business data. One would be on the cloud, the other two on different devices (e.g. on your local computer and on a backup drive).

Archiving puts a copy of business data into long-term storage. This is the data equivalent of moving that box of files to the basement. Typically, the archived version becomes the only available copy of that data.

The archives’ permanent record of data may prove useful in future legal disputes. Archived data is often tagged to enable streamlined search down the road. Moving information to archive can also improve processing speed and storage capacity.

While a backup may be overwritten, archived data is generally not altered or deleted. In fact, it’s often physically disconnected from the computer or network. So, you’ll turn to a backup to restore your data if necessary, and to archives to retrieve information data.

Key Takeaway

Both backup and archive can prove useful. It’s not going to happen every day, but entire digital archives can be lost if a server is drowned by a flash flood. All the paper backups can be burnt to cinders in an electrical fire. That external hard drive could be stolen or crushed by falling debris in a hurricane.

It’s best to avoid having a single point of failure. Both backing up and archiving business data is a smart precaution. Ensure business continuity by preparing for the worst. Our computer experts can help you backup, archive, or both. Start securing your business data with our support today! Call us at 319-227-7000.

2019-09-03T15:15:06-05:00September 17th, 2019|Uncategorized|0 Comments

Why Your Small Business Needs VoIP

Why Your Small Business Needs VoIPWhy Your Small Business Needs VoIP

Why would a small business need VoIP? It’s not just another acronym to learn, Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) offers many advantages for small business. Especially SMBs that want to run with the enterprise-sized companies.

Basically, VoIP turns voice conversation into data packets sent between the two network points. Don’t worry, the person you’re calling doesn’t need to be on VoIP. The technology turns the data back into analog at the receiving end if needed.

If you’ve been on Skype, you’ve experienced VoIP. With VoIP you use your broadband Internet connection to make and receive calls. Bypassing traditional or mobile phones, VoIP users avoid long-distance or extra minute charges.

Beyond long distance savings, VoIP setups often include features such as voicemail and call forwarding, at no extra charge. Other useful features could include call forwarding, voicemail transcription, and call recording.

Plus, there’s cost savings from reducing and consolidating communications infrastructure. Streamlining voice, data, and broadband services with one provider can cut costs. With VoIP, you can also reduce your investment in setting up and maintaining traditional communications.

VoIP Enables Flexibility

Mobility is another big reason to move to VoIP. Downloading the business VoIP application turns any Internet-connected device into a VoIP phone. Business users can take their business phone number anywhere – even if they are in another country.

Calls can be forwarded from office phones to the individual’s device of choice. Really, users don’t even need a phone as they can make and receive calls from laptops or desktop computers too. VoIP definitely supports “bring your own device” workplace flexibility, which employees appreciate.

Along with flexibility, a VoIP platform is scalable. VoIP is easy to install as there’s little to no physical hardware to set up. As your business grows, your business can quickly expand the number of users. No more waiting for the telephone company to come out and add additional lines.

Plus, seasonal businesses can add or subtract lines as needed with little to no added cost.

Doing away with telephone hardware frees up space and means fewer maintenance concerns. Working with a VoIP provider, you also gain expert support and confidence your communication tech is up to date.

What About Quality, Security?

A common concern when businesses hear about VoIP is call quality. VoIP needs a good Internet connection to work well, so making sure you have high bandwidth can help. Still, when you don’t have to worry about competing traffic, the quality of a VoIP call can surpass an analog one.

Security is another concern. A VoIP business communications solution can be on-premises or cloud-based. When running VoIP over your private network, the data is as secure as any other application running on your business system. Also, most VoIP service providers encrypt calls.

Analytics Benefit of VoIP

With a VoIP solution, you gain access to more reporting and business analytics. For instance, some VoIP systems integrate with customer relationship management software (CRM) for better data and caller insights.

VoIP call monitoring, recording, and reporting capabilities are also helpful. You can drive better employee training, help identify security threats, and ensure compliance.

VoIP provides cost savings, flexibility, and operations transparency. With this technology as your business backbone, you can focus on revenue and growth.

There are many reasons to implement VoIP. Give us a call at 319-227-7000 on your traditional land line or mobile phone.

Let’s talk about giving your small business an enterprise-level communications system with VoIP.

2019-05-27T00:49:59-05:00June 18th, 2019|Uncategorized|0 Comments

Something went wrong – Outlook

Something Went WrongSomething went wrong

We weren’t able to register your device and add your account to Windows. Your access to org resources may be limited.

 

Additional problem information

Error code: CAA2002

Correlation ID: 519b386c-3d87-44ff-b13e-010401f73596

More information: https://www,microsoft.com/wamerrors

Server message: The request is missing a required parameter, includes an invalid parameter value, includes a parameter more than once, or is otherwise malformed.

 

Here are some steps you can try to resolve this issue.

  • Restart Outlook
  • Restart the computer
  • Check for Windows updates
  • Check for Office updates
  • Perform “quick repair” in Office
  • Perform “full repair” in Office
  • Create a new Outlook profile
  • Sign out of your Office account in Outlook and sign back in

If you need assistance with this give us a call at 319-227-7000 or fill out our contact form.

2019-05-20T17:25:47-05:00May 20th, 2019|Uncategorized|0 Comments

Windows 7 and Office 2010 End of Life

Windows 7 and Office 2010 End of LifeWindows 7 and Office 2010 End of Life

Worried about the looming end of life deadline for your Microsoft products? The company is ending support for several popular business tools in January 2020. This includes Windows 7. It’s a hassle but this change doesn’t have to be a bad thing. Here’s what’s happening and how to take advantage of this opportunity to future proof your computers.

R.I.P. Your Microsoft Faves

RIP Windows 7. For many businesses it’s a tough parting. As late as September 2018 some 41% of Windows 7 users still hadn’t moved on to the latest operating system.  Yet sticking with existing systems until 2020 or beyond could lead to a truly bitter end.

And Windows 7, which could be the operating system on your laptops and desktops, isn’t the only one on Microsoft’s DNR list. Are you relying on 2010 Word, Outlook, Excel, etc.? Running Windows Server 2008/R2 or Small Business Server 2011? Does Exchange 2010 control your email and calendars? All of them are reaching end of support in 2020. That’s a big deal.

Before we talk about why it’s such an issue, let’s make sure we’re all on the same page about what end of life really means.

Understanding End of Life Issues

What does end of life mean for your business? When you first buy a product, Microsoft provides mainstream support such as:

  • Offering security patches
  • Releasing design changes or new features
  • Providing complimentary support
  • Warranty claims.

Microsoft stopped all but security patches five years after the product’s release. After all, they want to put resources behind the versions they are still selling in stores.

OK, so you might be thinking, we don’t need new features or design, and we’ve never used the warranty. Plus, at this point, we’ve got everything figured out, so we can continue on without Microsoft’s help. Understanding their answers in the forums was a headache anyway!

Only in 2020, they’ll also stop the security upgrades that provide patches and bug fixes for the tools you’re using. In June 2018, Microsoft even announced but didn’t fix an OS bug. They also stopped answering Windows 7 Community forums.

Thinking you haven’t been doing updates, so this won’t make much difference for you? Try again. The updates were probably taking place without you knowing through Microsoft auto updates or we were managing them for you in the background if you are one of our managed clients. That’s not going to happen anymore.

What This Means for Business

Without ongoing security support, your business runs the risk of cyber attack.

Your users will keep working to improve processes, sell products, and increase revenues. Meanwhile, hackers will work just as hard to find weak points they can attack.

It’s a little like pest control. Ants, spiders, roaches and other bugs are always looking for a way into your home. What do you do? Try and close any gaps they might use to get in and regularly bug bomb to keep the creepy crawlies at bay.

Microsoft was once your pest control service. The company provided the fixes needed to protect your business from cyber criminals.

What a Cyber Attack Might Look Like

Once inside your network or systems these cyber criminals can have a pretty painful bite. They might use malicious software (malware) to take over your business computers. They don’t return control until you pay a ransom. Or, they might take important data for use in identity theft.

Maybe they’ll want to mess with your IT infrastructure and shut you down. Imagine a denial of service attack as a bug infestation that is so constant you are driven from your home. With the boom in cryptocurrencies, some bad actors want to leverage your computers’ processing power. You’d eventually notice your computers running slower and skyrocketing utility bills.

It’s Not Worth the Risk

Cyber security attacks are costly. Take 2017’s WannaCry attack infecting more than 230,000 computers in 150 countries. The perpetrators demanded $300 ransom per computer. The average data breach costs a company $3.86 million, according to the Ponemon Institute.  And the average denial of service attack costs a company $2.5 million.

Beyond these hefty price tags, a cyber-attack can also put your business at risk of:

  • Compliance issues
  • Massive fines
  • Costly downtime
  • Brand reputation damage
  • Customers jumping to a competitor.

Where does this leave businesses relying on Windows 7, Office 2010 and other legacy products? Let’s consider the options.

Preparing Your PCs for 2020

The good news is that you have options. The first one is not so great. Ignoring the risks, you could continue on with your Microsoft products, hope for the best. While you’re doing that, malicious actors are looking to exploit that loyalty.

A second approach is to pay extra to keep getting security updates from Microsoft. This is paying now to put off what is inevitable. After all, the company is only offering three years of extended, paid support. For example, a Windows 7 Pro User can pay $50 per device for the first year of Extended Security Updates (ESUs). The price doubles in year 2 ($100 per device) and again in year three ($200). That’s a total of $350 per device until the ESUs expire in January 2023, when you’ll be out of luck all over again.

Antivirus service providers are offering a third option. Seeing an opportunity, they’ll offer patches and bug fixes for paying customers. The problem is that these companies offer only limited, reactionary support. Plus, they’ll only be in it as long as it proves profitable, so their help could end without warning.

Looking long-term and being proactive, you’ll want to go with the upgrade option we discuss next.

Future-proofing Your PC Assets

Upgrading to the latest versions of Microsoft products is an opportunity. This investment will improve productivity while future-proofing your PCs. For example:

  • Windows 10 security updates regularly and has online users’ community and technical support. The increased operating speed and improved functionality and usability will drive productivity.
  • Upgrading to cloud-based Office 365 can improve collaboration. Users can access email, calendar sharing, and files in real time from any device, wherever they are.

Why not wait until 2020?

Why is it a good idea to begin migration sooner rather than later? Here are our top four reasons.

  1. Data breaches and other cyber threats are costly.
  2. Migrating isn’t always easy. Depending on your IT infrastructure, it could take a lot of work.
  3. Don’t scramble to find partners to support your migration efforts.
  4. By upgrading now, you gain the ability to pick a good time for your business to change over its systems.

Migrating data to a new system, securely and efficiently, takes work and know how. Call us at 319-227-7000 to handle your Windows 7 and Office 2010 End of Life migrations.

2019-05-18T18:42:58-05:00May 18th, 2019|Uncategorized|0 Comments

What Happens to Your Data When You Die?

What Happens to Your Data When You Die?What Happens to Your Data When You Die?

Death is a morbid topic most of us try to avoid. Making a will and saying we prefer cremation is the extent of our advance planning. Yet, you may want to also think about what’s going to happen to your data.

Consider your digital footprint. You have photos, files, and emails on your computer and your phone. You’re also documenting your life on social media, and sharing on more than one channel.

Your wearable technology (say an Apple Watch or a Fitbit) may be recording information too. If you have a virtual assistant in your home, it’s recording your search history and saving that data on the cloud.

Yet many of us never think “what will happen to my data after I die?” Do you want it deleted? Are there digital assets you want to share? Perhaps there is tangible value attached to some of your digital assets. At the very least, some photos and videos that may have sentimental value for those who survive you. So, let’s explore advance planning you can do to protect your digital legacy.

Personal Files on Computer or Phone

Your personal devices are password protected. While necessary, this makes it more difficult for your survivors.

Now, they could physically pull the computer or phone apart if needed. But, it’s easier to have a copy of your passwords in a secure place for someone to access in the event of your death. Another option is to use a password manager. You can designate someone as your backup contact. They will be able to gain access to your passwords should you die.

Digital Media Collections

Often, when you click the “Buy” button, you’re not really purchasing that movie or music forever. Your contract with iTunes, for instance, was only for your lifetime. Your rights expire at your death.

Cloud Accounts

Consider the personal and private data you have in the cloud, such as Google or Microsoft’s Outlook. This might include calendars, emails, GPS, documents and financial information.

Google’s Inactive Account Manager lets you make plans for your account. You decide:

  • When Google should consider your account inactive
  • What it should do with your data afterwards
  • Whether to share account access with someone (providing email and phone number)
  • When or if your account should be deleted.

Microsoft won’t provide your passwords after death. However, via their Next of Kin process someone could be sent a DVD of the data in your outlook.com account.

Other cloud providers ask for proof of death and of legal right to access. In Dropbox’s case for instance, your survivors will need a court order. Even with all this, there’s no guarantee your personal data is completely removed from the cloud. It may exist in other data-sets in system backups.

Social Media Accounts

Social media companies do not provide login credentials. Many require proof of identity and a death certificate to deactivate the account. Facebook and Instagram will “memorialize” your accounts. The public can’t see, but Friends or Followers can still view it and post memories. You can assign a legacy contact to look after the account or have it deleted.

You don’t want someone using your social account to send out spam or inappropriate photos. For instance, a sexy spam bot took over a New York Times media columnist’s Twitter after his 2015 death.

Plan ahead to protect your privacy and provide access where necessary. Think of the pain and heartache you can save your survivors by managing your digital legacy now.

Want help preserving your data legacy? We can help. Call us at 319-227-7000

2019-04-26T18:32:53-05:00May 14th, 2019|Uncategorized|0 Comments

What is the Best Way to Backup?

What is the Best Way to Backup?What is the Best Way to Backup

“That will never happen to me.” We get through our lives telling ourselves the worst won’t happen to us. It’s the same with business: “We won’t need this data backed up.” Yet, whatever your industry, secure, reliable backup ensures business as usual. So, what’s the best way to backup? Here’s help.

Why You Need to Backup

  1. Business disruptions of any kind can be costly. The disaster might take one of several shapes:
  2. Natural (e.g. wildfires, floods, earthquakes, or hurricanes)
  3. On-site (e.g. hardware/software failure, power outage, inability to access building)
  4. Employee driven (e.g. damaging mistakes or intentional sabotage by a disgruntled employee)
  5. Cyber-attack (e.g. data breach, ransomware, or distributed denial of service attack).

Regardless, the best backup solution can help reduce downtime and damage.

Approaches to Backup

There are several off-the-shelf backup options your business can use. Let’s consider the pros and cons of the most popular ones.

USB Thumb Drives: Also known as “flash drives,” “pen drives,” or “memory sticks,” these thumb-sized devices are compact and portable. But, they have size limitations compared to hard drives. Also, the mobility makes them easy to lose (which can actually set the disaster scenario in motion).

Additionally, a USB thumb drive is robust when not plugged in, but more vulnerable when attached. If someone inadvertently snaps the drive or employs too much force, they can put the data on that backup at risk.

The cheap ones also tend to be slow, which can make backing up sluggish. They are also more susceptible to failure.

USB Hard Drives: Portable hard drives increase the data storage available, often at a decent price. They are designed to be compact and mobile. You can prioritize durability, processing speed, storage volumes and more.

Hard drives are less likely to get damaged than a thumb drive. If knocked or jostled, the cables are flexible. Still, a hard drive can be prone to physical failure. Selecting an external solid slate drive (SSD) can help since it has no moving parts. Information is stored instead in microchips.

Cloud Storage: Backing up to the cloud stores data on an external, secure server. If thieves take your computers and USB backup, you can still access your data on the cloud. Cloud storage providers build in redundancy to ensure your backup remains safe.

Most cloud storage services back up to secure centers with thousands of servers storing data. Oh, and they’ll have their own server backups too, just in case they’re the ones hit by a disaster. The providers also encrypt data during transit to further ensure compliance and security.

Migrating to a third-party cloud storage service also cuts the clutter at your premises. You can count on expert help to ensure security and compliance. Plus, you can cut operational costs by offloading in-house storage or external hard drive expenses.

OK, What’s the Best Answer?

Don’t think disaster won’t strike your business. Research has found data loss and downtime are most often caused by:

  • Hardware failures (45% of total unplanned downtime)
  • Loss of power (35%)
  • Software failure (34%)
  • Data corruption (24%)
  • External security breaches (23%)
  • Accidental user error (20%).

We recommend the 3-2-1 backup strategy. This means having 3 copies of your data. Two (2) of these would be located on different devices (e.g. on your computer and on a backup drive). The other remaining backup copy (1) would be secured offsite, in the cloud.

Want to secure your data for the worst? Give us a call at 319-227-7000 to set this up.

2019-03-25T13:55:32-05:00April 23rd, 2019|Uncategorized|0 Comments

OK Google, How Safe Are You Really?

OK Google, How Safe Are You Really?OK Google, How Safe Are You Really?

Are you prompting Siri, Google, or Alexa? When you talk to a home assistant, you join a growing number of smart homes.

Smart home assistants search online, start phone calls, order groceries, play music, turn lights on. All with a single spoken command.

Research into how people use Google or Alexa demonstrates the core features. Listening to music ranked first. Checking weather and asking for general information rounded out the top three. Setting timers and reminders, asking for the news or jokes (perhaps to make up for the news?) are also common.

Yet, the question remains, just how safe are these virtual assistants? After all, having a smart speaker in your home means there is always an open microphone in your house.

Smart Speaker and Home Assistant Safety Concerns

The convenience of the speaker demands that it always be on, ready and waiting for you to say “Hey Siri” or “OK Google” Once triggered the device records the command, sends the data to servers for processing, and figures out its response.

Smart speaker users can log in to view the history of queries on their accounts. This prompts some concerns that these mega-companies will use the information for financial gain. For example, those talking about an overseas holiday might start seeing related ads on their computers.

Someone hacking into the home assistant to gain access to your personal information is another concern. Those who set smart speakers as a hub for many devices also create more points of vulnerability.

It’s difficult to anticipate all the ways the assistant could prove too good a listener. In one case, a voice assistant recorded a private conversation and sent it to the couple’s contacts list.

Steps to Stay Secure with a Smart Speaker

That candid conversation share aside, few big privacy flubs or personal data breaches have been reported. Nevertheless, if taking advantage of Alexa, Siri, or Google helper, keep these strategies in mind.

  1. Clear your history. Don’t leave everything you’ve ever asked it stored on the company server. The assistant will relearn your commands quickly.
  2. Connect with caution. It’s great to be able to turn on the TV and dim the lights without leaving the comfort of your sofa. Be wary of connecting security or surveillance devices to your home assistant.
  3. Mute the microphone. Yes, it undermines your ability to call from the closet OK, Google, what’s the weather like today? But, turning off the mic when it’s not in use stops recording without you knowing about it.
  4. Secure your network. Home assistants do their work by connecting to the Internet using your network. Ensure they are accessing a password protected network. They should use devices (e.g. modems) changed from default password settings. Also, use a separate network if possible. Such as a separate Wi-Fi name.

With a little effort you can gain convenience without worry.

Want more questions answered about setting up a smart speaker to be safe and reliable? We’re here to help. Give us a call at 319-227-7000.

2019-03-25T13:22:52-05:00April 9th, 2019|Uncategorized|0 Comments