Blog

March 24th, 2017

170px_img_shutterstock_265131059Preceding its general availability, Microsoft has recently rolled out a major update for Microsoft Teams -- Window’s version of the cloud-based team collaboration tool, Slack. The latest bundle of features will kick things up a notch, allowing you to do more than IM your manager about your weekly meeting or ask your colleagues to remove the “view only” setting on Google Docs.

Smarter meetings The latest addition to Microsoft Teams is Scheduling Assistant, responsible for finding the ideal time to schedule a meeting. It takes into consideration the schedules of all members, and suggests the best possible time for all attendees. Needless to say, whereas Teams allowed users to schedule only intra-team meetings, Microsoft now supports one-on-one meetings. If you want to steer clear of Skype, read on.

Bots, bots, and more bots With the latest update, bots are now capable of tapping into conversations happening in a team as opposed to a separate chat. To activate team bots, simply type “@” and begin interacting with the bot from there. Microsoft is also working on adding a Bots tab to Teams. This allows you to keep track of all the bots that have been added to a certain team while allowing you to discover new tabs as well. Other bot-related improvements include:

  • New bot gallery - the gallery displays a complete list of all the available bots on Microsoft Teams. Alongside the gallery is where you can add bots to one of your teams.
  • Discover bots via search - simply click on the search bar at the top and select “Discover bots”. From there click on a bot to start chatting, or click “Add” to add it to a team.
  • Add a bot with an @mention - to add a bot to a channel, simply type “@” in your compose box, then select “Add a bot”
Public teams With public teams, anyone from your organization can join the team, unlike the private teams which are open only to specific members. Public teams will show up when a user is trying to join a new team, and you can also turn your existing private team into a public team (and vice-versa).

When it was launched in November 2016, Teams was a relatively minimal service. But in just four months, it’s become a lot more powerful and stable. Microsoft Teams has been available to Office 365 Business Essentials, Business Premium, and Enterprise E1, E3 and E5 users since March 14th. If you have any questions, don’t hesitate to give us a call!

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic Office
March 23rd, 2017

2017March23Windows_AAdvertisements are invading every corner of our digital lives, but if there were one place users thought they’d be safe, it’d be Windows’ File Explorer. But that’s no longer the case. Microsoft has started advertising products inside the window users access to navigate their hard drive. Thankfully, we know how to disable these ads.

Who is getting these ads?

Right now, we’re still unsure of how widespread Microsoft’s new advertising strategy goes. Not every Windows workstation has started displaying File Explorer banners, and based on some overwhelmingly negative reactions online, the campaign might get shut down before it even reaches your desktop.

However, even if you have yet to be targeted, you can quickly and easily disable these ads right now.

How do I turn them off?

At the moment, these pushy promotions show up only in Windows’ File Explorer window, so that’s where we’ll begin. After you’ve opened a new window, there are only five steps to boot them off your screen:
  1. Select View from the ribbon along the top of any File Explorer window.
  2. Click Options on the far righthand side.
  3. In the new window select the View tab.
  4. In the Advanced Settings window pane, scroll down and deselect ‘Show sync provider notifications’.
  5. Click Apply and close the Folder Options window.
That’s all it takes! Keep in mind that we highly recommend the services Microsoft chose to advertise with this move. Office 365, OneDrive, and others are all great cloud platforms for safely working and collaborating from any device in any location -- we just don’t want to see advertisements for them when we’re hunting down sales records.

When you’re in the market for the Windows tips and tricks, this is the best blog on the web. If you’re looking for something a little more robust however, our managed services are second to none. Get in touch with us today to learn more!

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic windows
March 22nd, 2017

2017March22Security_ARansomware is everywhere. Over the last couple years, dozens of unique versions of the malware have sprung up with a singular purpose: Extorting money from your business. Before you even consider paying for the release of your data, the first thing you must always check is whether your ransomware infection already has a free cure.

The state of ransomware in 2017

It’s been almost 30 years since malware was first created that could encrypt locally-stored data and demand money in exchange for its safe return. Known as ransomware, this type of malware has gone through multiple periods of popularity. 2006 and 2013 saw brief spikes in infections, but they’ve never been as bad as they are now.

In 2015, the FBI estimated that ransomware attacks cost victims $24 million, but in the first three months of 2016 it had already racked up more than $209 million. At the beginning of 2017, more than 10% of all malware infections were some version of ransomware.

Zombie ransomware is easy to defeat

Not every type of infection is targeted to individual organizations. Some infections may happen as a result of self-propagating ransomware strains, while others might come from cyber attackers who are hoping targets are so scared that they pay up before doing any research on how dated the strain is.

No matter what the circumstances of your infection are, always check the following lists to see whether free decryption tools have been released to save you a world of hurt:

Prevention

But even when you can get your data back for free, getting hit with malware is no walk in the park. There are essentially three basic approaches to preventing ransomware. First, train your employees about what they should and shouldn’t be opening when browsing the web and checking email.

Second, back up your data as often as possible to quarantined storage. As long as access to your backed-up data is extremely limited and not directly connected to your network, you should be able to restore everything in case of an infection.

Finally, regularly update all your software solutions (operating systems, productivity software, and antivirus). Most big-name vendors are quick to patch vulnerabilities, and you’ll prevent a large portion of infections just by staying up to date.

Whether it’s dealing with an infection or preventing one, the best option is to always seek professional advice from seasoned IT technicians. It’s possible that you could decrypt your data with the tools listed above, but most ransomware strains destroy your data after a set time limit, and you may not be able to beat the clock. If you do, you probably won’t have the expertise to discern where your security was penetrated.

Don’t waste time fighting against a never-ending stream of cyber attacks -- hand it over to us and be done with it. Call today to find out more.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic security
March 17th, 2017

2017March17Business_AAdding value to your organization is very different than it was a few decades ago. Whereas business owners previously sought more tangible boosts like equipment and staff, cloud technology has totally changed the game. Now, a single piece of software is all it takes to totally revolutionize your fulfillment and shipping process.

First off, we need to clarify that inventory management systems (IMSs) are not the same as order management systems (OMSs). The former is a solution for analyzing your sales history as a means to forecast demand for your product and the materials you will need in the future, while the latter is all about the here and now.

What does an OMS do for you?

One of the toughest things about managing an eCommerce store is juggling a growing number of sales, each at totally different steps in your shipping process. An OMS service is all about organizing your orders into a coherent and manageable workflow. Here are just some of the difficulties it helps you wrangle:
  • Your eCommerce store can be connected to your inventory. If something is out of stock, it can be reflected on your site so customers aren’t misled about the availability of your product.
  • Payment authorizations can be automated and integrated with your shipping services.
  • You can provide reports to your customers about their order's shipping status. From intra-warehouse movements to on-the-truck updates, one page will have all the information they need.
  • Products and materials can be automatically restocked once they dip below a certain threshold.
  • Refund and returns can be automatically processed by your OMS.
And like any industry, there are dozens of OMS platforms with niche functionalities that may be better for your specific business model. The most important thing is that you find a solution that decreases the most tedious organizational tasks for tracking your store’s orders.

The cloud-based OMS

Orders are streaming in at all hours of the day, and you can’t guarantee that you’ll always be in the office when you need to check the status of an order. A cloud-based OMS stores all your information in a centralized location so you can access your information from home, the warehouse floor, or even while waiting for takeoff.

The cloud is generally one of the most reliable ways to add value to your business. There are dozens of platforms, just like OMSs, that require virtually no hardware and allow you to pay for exactly what you use. For advice on which solutions are best for your business, and how to deploy them, call us today.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic business
March 16th, 2017

2017March16Web & Cloud_AInternet security company Cloudflare revealed a major flaw in their system. The so-called ‘Cloudbleed’ vulnerability leaked customer information from thousands of websites, according to Cloudflare researchers. Fortunately, there have been no signs of exploitation, but that doesn’t mean you should be complacent. Here’s everything you need to know about Cloudbleed.

What is Cloudbleed? Although it’s technically similar to Heartbleed, a bug that compromised millions of websites and accounts, Cloudbleed is less severe. Google security researcher Tavis Ormandy discovered that several Cloudflare-hosted websites, including Fitbit, Uber, and OkCupid, were inadvertently leaking customer information and saving them within the source code.

For example, when a person visits a bugged Uber page, the website code could contain data and login credentials from another user who recently visited the page. The data may be hidden between several lines of code, but a skilled hacker can easily find it.

Exploiting it, however, is more difficult. The Cloudbleed bug collects random bits of data, which may or may not contain any sensitive information, making it a less attractive point of attack for cybercriminals. Over time, a cybercriminal may be able to compile enough information to exploit, but it doesn’t seem to be a viable option for targeted attacks.

The response According to Cloudflare, Cloudbleed was triggered 1,240,00 times and found in 6,400 websites between September 22 and February 18. After the bug was discovered, the internet security company quickly alerted affected websites, fixed the code, removed cached pages from search engines, and monitored client websites for any strange website activity.

Cloudflare-hosted websites also checked what data was leaked and reassured customers that there was minimal impact to their private information.

What can you do? While Cloudflare and other companies are telling everyone that the possibility of Cloudbleed attacks and password leaks is low, you should still ensure your account is safe.

Start by setting stronger passwords with a combination of letters, numbers, and symbols. Make sure to set unique passwords for every online service, especially for any of your accounts that use Cloudflare. Whenever possible, use two-factor verification to keep your account secure even if someone gets a hold of your password.

And, last but not least, contact us for any cybersecurity, cloud, and website issues. We aim to make your internet and cloud experience as safe as possible.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic Web & Cloud
March 15th, 2017

2017March15Hardware_AMost people have a vague idea of what a network firewall does. But some business owners are easily fooled by promises of quick and easy solutions that can be installed and managed right from your desktop. In the software vs. hardware debate, there’s a clear winner when it comes to your security. Let’s take a look at what the differences are and why they matter.

Software firewalls

Calling a piece of software a “firewall” is a bit of an exaggeration. Installing it on a local hard drive is more like locks on a door than impenetrable walls. When data is scanned for threats by a software firewall, the information it contains has already been passed through your router, network switch, and finally your local hard drive.

Once the whole cycle has finished, software firewalls can prohibit risky activities based on blacklisted IP addresses, known malware definitions, and suspicious application requests.

Although these solutions do have value, they can’t guarantee that malware won’t spread to other systems before each packet of data can be scanned, unless they’re standing guard at your business’s gateway to the internet. And whenever the computer with the firewall is powered off, everything it protects is left unguarded.

Hardware firewalls

Because the drawbacks of a software-based firewall are centered around their inefficient network position, a hardware solution is the safer option. Hardware firewalls sit directly behind your router, so every single packet of data coming from the internet must pass through your gatekeeper before landing on any of your internal drives.

Most of these solutions include far more sophisticated controls than just web filtering and basic data scanning. Like most developments in the IT industry, newer hardware firewalls focus on “intelligent” functions that analyze huge datasets to recognize malware and cyberattacks based on irregular activities instead of relying solely on cataloged viruses and attack vectors.

Another benefit of hardware firewalls is that they’re always on. There’s no need to worry about whether the workstation hosting your solution will crash because these devices are built for 24/7 protection. The only downside to this type of solution is the level of monitoring and maintenance it requires. Hardware firewalls are extremely complex and managing them is no easy task.

“Cloud” firewalls

The most recent, and undoubtedly best, solution to network perimeter security are “cloud” firewalls. These are on-site pieces of hardware with software interfaces that can be managed remotely by certified security professionals.

This service model means that experts will monitor your network performance and security for anomalies while your team goes about its business as usual. No need for onsite tweaks and updates -- all of it can be done remotely.

You may hear a lot of experts telling you that the age of on-site hardware has passed and everything can be done in the cloud. Remote administration may be the next wave in network services, but the need for hardware will never go away. If you need someone to manage your physical devices, contact us today.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic Hardware
March 13th, 2017

170px_shutterstock_481869511A growing number of small- and medium-sized businesses are turning to social media to help facilitate growth. The reasons are obvious, social media is easy-to-use and capable of reaching an enormous amount of users. That being said, you might be missing out on one of the fastest growing platforms available: Snapchat.

Over 71 percent of Snapchat users are under 34 years old; as of 2015, the social network boasted over 100 million active users. It’s an ideal marketing option for businesses targeting a millennial audience. If you’re still unsure about Snapchat for your small business, consider these statistics:

    • 58 percent of college students are likely to purchase a product from coupons sent over Snapchat
    • 65 percent of Snapchat users contribute content on a daily basis
    • Only 1 percent of marketers are taking advantage of Snapchat, which means you can be an early adopter and gain a competitive advantage
Snapchat is a social media application that allows users to send pictures and videos - called “Snaps” - to others. The media sent can only be viewed for 10 seconds or less (you can specify the length), after which it disappears for good. You can add a Snap or multiple Snaps to create your own “story” which can be viewed by others for 24 hours.

The reason Snapchat is getting the attention of marketers is that it allows users to personally interact with brands. Instead of regular content, you audience gets a candid, behind-the-scenes look at your business. Also, by using Snapchat regularly, you’ll be able to keep your brand in the forefront of your audience’s mind. Then, when they’re making a purchasing decision between you and your competitors, they’ll choose you because of the relationship you’ve established with them. Now that you know what Snapchat is, the next step is to gain followers.

How to grow a following on Snapchat Unlike other social networks like Twitter and Instagram, hashtags don’t suffice when you want to get your audience’s attention. They have to find and add you - not the other way around. Even if you want to add other users so they could add you back, you can’t base the search on vague terms -- you have to know their Snapchat username to add them. Basically, Snapchat has no native discovery features.

In order to gain followers on Snapchat, you’ll need to use your online presence as well as other social media sites to create awareness and entice others to follow you. Here are some easy methods to get the ball rolling:

    • The “Add Me URL” feature - share a custom URL on other social media platforms that allow other users to quickly add you as their Snapchat connections. To do so, replace “yourusername” in the following URL: https://www.snapchat.com/add/yourusername
    • Promote your username in your social media profiles - promote your Snapchat username by posting it in other profiles to encourage people to add you. You can also share your username in email signatures, blog posts, and even your company website.
    • Share relevant content - plan an interesting series of Snaps to share with your followers and post all the details on other social media accounts along with your username and/or QR code image, this gives followers an incentive to connect with your brand.
    • Snapcode image as your profile picture on other social networks - take a screenshot and crop your Snapchat QR code image (Snapcode) and set that as a profile picture on your other social media accounts. Anyone who points their Snapchat camera at the code will automatically add you to their friends list.
Snapchat is one of the newest social media outlets to date. If you start building your brand on it now, you’ll be taking a huge step ahead of your competitors - especially now that Snapchat is catching up to Facebook and other social media giants. If you would like to know more about what Snapchat can do for your small- and medium-sized business, feel free to give us a call!
Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic Social Media
March 10th, 2017

2017March10Virtualization_AIf knowing is half the battle, virtualization is one for the ages. With more than a decade of history, it’s a tough topic that business owners would be hard-pressed to ignore. Over the years, the terminology has changed and capabilities have gotten even more confusing. If you’ve ever heard anyone use software-defined networking and network virtualization interchangeably, it’s time we set the record straight.

Software-defined networking (SDN)

Managing storage, infrastructures, and networks with high-level software is something IT technicians have been doing for a long time. It’s a subset of virtualization and it is one of the oldest strategies for optimizing and securing your IT hardware.

Despite its popularity, SDN does have one major drawback -- it needs hardware to do its job. SDN allows you to control network switches, routers, and other peripherals from a centralized software platform, but you can’t create virtual segments of your network without the hardware that would normally be required outside of an SDN environment.

Network virtualization

Evolving beyond SDN was inevitable. Whenever a technology can’t do it all, you can bet someone is working hard to fix that. Network virtualization uses advanced software solutions to allow administrators to manage physical hardware and to create virtual replicas of hardware that are indistinguishable to servers and workstations.

Network virtualization simplifies the field of network design. You can reduce spending on expensive hardware, reconfigure network segments on the fly, and connect physically separate networks as if they were in the same room.

A virtualized network may sound like an exciting technology that doesn’t have much use at small- or medium-sized business, but that’s exactly the beauty of hiring a managed services provider! We provide enterprise technology and advice as part of your monthly service fee. Call today to find out more.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

March 9th, 2017

2017March9VoIP_AThe VoIP industry is becoming increasingly hard to define. More and more are voice communications being made over internet connections, and sometimes you may not even realize you’re doing it. WebRTC is a newcomer to the internet-based telephony field. Read on to decide whether it's for you.

What is WebRTC?

At its most basic, WebRTC is a way to make phone calls, video calls, instant messaging, and file transfers with nothing but a web browser.

And in addition to being immensely convenient for end users, WebRTC is relatively easy to configure for administrators and developers. You can create a link on your homepage that will allow customers to initiate a video call without the need to dial a number from their phone, or even open up Skype on their desktop.

The benefits to your customers

This creates a much more connected customer service experience. With WebRTC calls, you’ll never have to ask “Ok, are you looking at our site?” They had to navigate to your site to even make the call, so a certain amount of knowledge can be assumed the moment you pick up the line. This allows customer service representatives to assist customers calling through this medium in a more specific, nuanced way than calls they receive from cellphones and landlines.

What are the drawbacks?

Compatibility is one of the main reasons to avoid jumping on the bandwagon too early. Most notably, Apple has been on the topic of working with this new technology. Developers have noticed nods to WebRTC availability in Apple’s callkit, but no official announcement has been made yet.

It could hurt user experience if an Apple user sees a “Start a video call now!” button but gets an incompatibility message when they click it. If you are still interested in giving it a shot, make sure to work with experienced professionals to test it in the wild before committing wholeheartedly.

The WebRTC critics

Some industry professionals are crying foul. They believe this new technology will diminish the relevance of VoIP and throw internet-based telephony into uncertain territory. In reality, WebRTC is a far cry from a VoIP killer because people who are willing to make calls from their desktop computer are still a small minority.

With a Unified Communications infrastructure, your staff utilize VoIP solutions to make and receive calls from traditional phone numbers in the same place they receive WebRTC calls. At the end of the day, this new technology isn’t about disrupting VoIP, it’s just about partnering together to give your customers new ways to get in touch with you.

The main reason to partner with a managed services provider is to ensure you’re always getting the best technology available. Although WebRTC might not be for everyone, it’s important for you to know what your options are. If you’re interested in becoming an early adopter of this technology, don’t wait another minute to call us.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic VoIP
March 8th, 2017

2017March8Office_AFrom Word to SharePoint, Office 365 has a lot offer. But each business requires different features from Office 365. Some may prioritize business analytics, while others may be content with no more than the productivity suite and Outlook. If you’re planning to deploy Office 365, first consider your business needs, then use the information below to find out which license is right for you.

Business or Enterprise? If you’re running a cloud-first business, you’ll have to decide between Office 365 Business and Enterprise. Both may have access to Office Online and OneDrive, but there are some notable differences between the plan.

For one, Office 365 Enterprise E3 and E5 plans have unlimited archive and mail storage space, while Business plans have a 50-GB storage limit and don’t provide archive access from the Outlook client.

When it comes to SharePoint, Business plans are short on enterprise search, Excel services, and Visio features. Additionally, unified communication solutions, Power BI, and Delve analytics are also missing from the Office 365 Business offering.

Although it may seem like Enterprise subscriptions are superior -- and in some ways they are -- Business plans are perfect for smaller companies running on a tight budget. Office 365 Business and Business Premium cost $10 and $15 per user per month respectively, while E5, the biggest Enterprise plan, costs $35 per user per month.

As a general rule, start looking for Enterprise plans when your employee headcount exceeds 50 people and users require more storage space and solutions.

E1, E3, or E5? If you do opt for Office 365 Enterprise plans, you’ll have to examine the features and choose one of three plans (E1, E3, and E5) that suits your needs.

E1 offers basic enterprise solutions such as Outlook and Word, OneNote, PowerPoint, and Excel online for only $8 per user per month. Apart from this, users also get access to SharePoint Team sites, video conferencing, and Yammer for enterprise social media.

E3 provides all E1 features and adds data loss prevention, rights management, and encryption to ensure business security and compliance. While E5 is a full enterprise-grade solution with all the aforementioned features plus analytics tools, advanced threat protection, flexible Skype for Business conferencing, and unified communication solutions.

Small- and medium-sized enterprises will usually select either E1 or E3 subscriptions and decide to add third-party applications to meet cloud security and VoIP demands. But if you have the resources and prefer a fully-managed suite of Microsoft applications, E5 plans are the way to go.

Migrating to an Office 365 platform is a big step, and if you’re still undecided about which plan to opt for, contact us today. We don’t just provide Office 365, we assess your business and find the best solution that meets your budget and objectives.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic Office