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May 19th, 2017

By their very definition, servers are tasked with managing significantly higher burdens than the average desktop workstation. If your business has a server onsite, there are so many things you need to consider to get the most out of your investment. Read on for a few of them:

Mount your servers properly

Small businesses are usually forced to prioritize the here and now over long-term planning. Not for lack of caring, it’s just a fact of working on tight budgets and with small teams. This is especially evident when it comes to server planning. When your business first sets up shop, it’s tempting to plug in a server right next to your workstations -- but doing so puts your hardware in harm’s way.

Mounting servers in a rack protects them from the accidents commonly associated with highly trafficked areas: spills, crumbs and tripping hazards. Server racks keep your most essential hardware safe by organizing everything in a space that is more accessible for cleaning and management but less exposed to the day-to-day wear and tear of your office.

Server planning is all about leaving room for the future. When choosing your rack mount, make sure to leave room for the hardware you will need to expand in the future. Unless office space is a serious concern, it’s better to have a half-empty server rack than to be forced to tear the whole thing down and redesign it the moment you need to expand.

Keep servers separate from the main area

Depending on what type of servers you are running, they can create quite a bit of noise. This coupled with the fact that they are comprised of valuable hardware means that you should do everything in your power to keep your servers physically separate from your working space. If you don’t have room for a server room, consider investing a little extra in a secure rack mount with built-in sound reduction.

Never skimp on cooling

Even when your business first opens its doors, server cooling is a crucial consideration. These computers are designed to work at peak capacity and need optimal conditions to do so efficiently. Even if your equipment seems to be performing just fine, too much heat can drastically reduce its lifespan.

Make sure that your cooling solution operates outside the confines of your building’s infrastructure. If the central air gets shut off at night, or if your office experiences power outages, you need a cooling solution that switches over to backup power with your servers.

Keep wiring neatly arranged

For anyone without hands-on experience with server hardware, the number of wires going into and out of your setup is shocking. Getting the whole mess organized isn’t just about cleanliness, it also affects the performance of your current setup and the viability of installing future upgrades. Any time you are installing, removing, or rearranging your server cables, check that everything is neatly labeled and safely grouped together.

Managing any type of hardware comes with dozens of important considerations, and that goes doubly so for servers. The best way to guarantee your IT investments are getting the care they require is by partnering with a managed IT services provider. To learn more about our services, give us a call today.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic Hardware
May 17th, 2017

If you’re a business owner interested in utilizing virtualization technology, you have a lot of options for how to go about that. However, there is one virtualization vendor you’re probably already comfortable with: Microsoft. Read on for more information on the new and exciting features packaged with the Windows operating system.

A brief history of Windows Server

The Windows Server operating system has been around for decades. As an advanced option for onsite servers, this operating system grants access to high-level access management settings, DNS customizations, and network configuration management. In fact, it’s such a complicated solution that Microsoft offers certification courses for each version of the operating system.

The most recent iteration of this operating system is Windows Server 2016 (WS16). Released on October 12th, 2016, Microsoft’s latest server software included countless improvements to its networking and user management features. Where it really shines however, is in the ways it handles virtualized computing.

Virtualization in Windows Server 2016

As with just about anything in the virtualization world, containers dominate the WS16 conversation. Containers use software to aggregate the bare minimum requirements that one application needs to run -- hardware, software and operating system -- and deliver that package across a network to computers that lack one or more of those requirements. For example, if you want to run a Mac application that requires a huge amount of processing power on a bare-bones Windows workstation, you can create a container with the necessary components on your server and let the workstation access it remotely.

WS16 users have access to two types of container deployments: Hyper-V and Windows Server containers. To the average business owner, the differences between these two options is minute, but what is important is Microsoft’s commitment to compatibility. If virtualization is important to you, choosing WS16 is a great way to ensure that you’ll be ready for whatever develops among the disparate providers.

Another great virtualization feature in WS16 is software-defined storage (SDS). It’s a complicated solution, but it essentially allows you to create hard drive partitions outside of the confines of hardware limitations. You can create a single drive by pooling storage space from three different servers, or you can create several separate drives for virtualized workstations to access.

Obviously, managing a server is no easy task -- regardless of whether or not you implement a virtualized infrastructure. That complexity comes with some compatibility issues; if your business relies on old software, it may not have been updated to run with WS16. For everything from creating a transition plan to managing your virtualized framework, give us a call today.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

May 16th, 2017

Because of its cost-effectiveness, VoIP is quickly gaining popularity among SMBs looking to upgrade their phone systems. However, this doesn’t mean you should contact just any VoIP distributor; you need to make sure they are able to meet your business’s requirements. Get the ball rolling with this checklist of the must-have qualities of any reputable VoIP distributor:

Highly-trained technical support A good VoIP distributor will provide technical support both before and after the sale. But a great VoIP distributor will offer highly skilled, well-trained, and certified support. Make sure your distributor’s IT team has been trained on the latest advances in VoIP technology and has obtained the appropriate certifications.

Provisioning capabilities Provisioning means providing service to the user. This includes the hardware, wiring, transmitting the voice and data, and especially the final configuration. It can also refer to configuring the hardware and software in order to provide service. In other words, when a device is provisioned, it works. Ask your potential distributor how many stations and ports they have available, and whether or not they offer custom provisioning packages.

API services Check whether your VoIP distributor offers Advanced API services. Short for Application Program Interface, an API is a set of routines, protocols, and tools for building software applications that specify how software components should interact. It helps streamline your ordering process and ensures your hardware will arrive correctly provisioned on your service platform.

Training programs Before committing to any VoIP distributor, be sure to check their educational resources. How often do they offer webinars on new products? Do they provide training and educational material on their websites and product portals? Also, check whether your VoIP distributor will create custom training materials for you and your customers.

Remember, a VoIP distributor that offers a complete suite of telephony services helps you overcome your business's phone service obstacles and lets you better serve your customers.

For more information, don’t hesitate to get in touch with us.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic voip
May 15th, 2017

If you’ve been using G Suite applications and noticing your apps anticipating your next action, there’s nothing to worry about. It’s not spyware in action, but G Suite’s machine learning algorithm predicting your next steps based on your usage patterns. Machine learning capabilities are designed to protect Gmail users against spam, while also improving workflow. Read on to find out how it does both.

What ‘machine learning’ does

Like a trustworthy assistant, machine learning anticipates logical next steps to your tasks. For instance, it might suggest Docs or other apps, launch apps, schedule meetings, or manage your email based on your habits.

For example, if you're using Google Sheets to track employee performance, the "+Explore" button in the bottom right of the screen can help reveal subtle trends. The machine learning that powers this function doesn't just analyze written data, it can also help you find the best image layout and settings. Aside from providing you with useful insights, this function also helps format and design your file.

Increased productivity

Working on an office productivity platform that is capable of suggesting apps may not seem like much. But since the average worker allots plenty of time doing routine tasks -- such as launching apps, searching and downloading files, and sorting email -- having a smart tool that makes sensible suggestions never hurts.

The machine learning-enabled Quick Access function predicts the file you want to open based on your recent activities and interactions within the Google environment. Google Drive’s search function is a good way to locate a file you need to work on, but as many users know, searching unsorted files and messy folder structures can cause an inconvenient amount of delay.

Greatly reduced spam

Managing email is a tedious task that demands a couple hours of your day, every day. There are many email management apps you can use, and although they’re worth your money and effort, sometimes all you need is a highly efficient spam detector.

Because of its machine learning capabilities, Gmail spam detection currently has an accuracy rate of 99%. This means virtually no spam in your inbox and a reduced exposure to malware-laden email. Another way Gmail users can save time is through Smart Reply, a feature that suggests possible responses to emails you receive. Google is currently working to improve Smart Reply’s responses so that they’re more accurate and less generic.

Google applications are handy office tools perfect for businesses that require anywhere, anytime access to their files and apps, as well as constant collaboration with colleagues. There’s more to learn about G Suite and similar platforms that might just be what your business needs. Call us today for recommendations.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic google
May 12th, 2017

Security is, by far, the biggest issue concerning most businesses today. Although safeguards like firewalls and antivirus software are necessary, they’re no longer sufficient in dealing with increasingly sophisticated cyberattacks. Today, companies require multiple layers of security to steer clear of cyberattacks and compliance woes. To help companies with this process, Microsoft has released threat intelligence, advanced threat protection, and data governance features.

Threat Intelligence Threat Intelligence for Office 365 gathers data from Microsoft security databases, Office clients, email, and other recorded security incidents to detect various cyberattacks. This feature gives users in-depth knowledge about prevalent malware strains and real-time breach information to analyze the severity of certain attacks.

What’s more, Threat Intelligence comes with customizable threat alert notifications and easy-to-use remediation options for dealing with suspicious content.

Advanced Threat Protection (ATP) upgrades In addition to Threat Intelligence, Office 365’s ATP service now has a revamped reporting dashboard that displays security insights across a company. This includes a security summary of what types of malware and spam were sent to your organization, and which ones were blocked. According to Microsoft, these reports will help you assess the effectiveness of your current security infrastructure.

ATP also has a new capability called “Safe Links” which defends against potentially malicious links in emails and embedded in Excel, Word, and PowerPoint files. If suspicious links are discovered, the user will be redirected to a warning page to avoid an infection.

Advanced Data Governance The newly released Advanced Data Governance feature is also a much needed enhancement for highly-regulated companies. It classifies files based on user interaction, age, and type, and recommends general data retention and deletion policy recommendations. If, for example, your business has retained credit card data for longer than necessary, Advanced Data Governance will alert you of the possible data governance risks.

Data loss prevention enhancements Last but not least, the Office 365 Security & Compliance Center is also receiving data loss prevention upgrades. With it, you can easily access and customize app permissions and control device and content security policies. So if someone in your company attempts to leak sensitive customer information, Office 365 will notify your administrators immediately.

Although all these features are available only for Office 365 Enterprise E5 subscribers, security- and compliance-conscious companies definitely need these upgrades. Get the right Office 365 subscription by contacting us today.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic office
May 11th, 2017

If you’ve ever had a problem with how Microsoft Windows updates are rolled out, we have some good news. In a recent announcement, the team behind the world’s most popular operating system promised to make updates more consistent and user friendly. Read on to find out what that means for your business.

Windows 10 updates in 2017

In the summer of 2016, Microsoft announced that Windows would receive two large-scale feature updates in 2017. The first of these was released in April and is referred to as the Creators Update. Although many of the new features are far too advanced for the average user, the Creators Update included huge boosts to data security, user administration, and mobile device management integrations.

The next big update is due in September, and is rumored to come with several consumer-level features such as the People integration that was originally slated for the Creators Update. People would allow you to pin contact icons to your start bar to consolidate shared cloud storage, messaging platforms and calendars for individuals in one convenient location.

The future of Windows OS updates

From 2017 onward, Microsoft has committed to sticking to this “predictable twice-per-year” schedule. Along with more reliable releases, the Windows team is also committing to a more reliable support lifecycle. As long as you are running a version of Windows 10 that has been released sometime within the last 18 months, you can be sure that Microsoft engineers are keeping it current and secure.

This is great news for businesses that struggle to keep their servers and workstations updated. Out-of-date operating systems are one of the biggest risks to data security for small businesses, and promising this level of reliability makes it much easier for IT teams to plan ahead.

As trivial as it may seem, keeping all your software and hardware updated is a huge benefit of outsourced IT management. From productivity improvements to security patches, most businesses are missing out on vital features in a number of their services and platforms. To ensure that every solution you’ve invested in is working at its peak, call us today.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic windows
May 10th, 2017

With as much as we write about sophisticated malware and security breaches, sometimes the most effective attacks are the ones that prey on human error. In the most recent case, all it took was an email with a perfect imitation of one of Google’s security screens. If you use Gmail, you need to know how to avoid this.

Broadly defined, “phishing” is any form of fraud in which an attacker tries to learn information such as login credentials or account information by masquerading as a reputable entity or person in email, IM or other communication channels.

These messages prey on users who click links, images and buttons without thoroughly investigating where they lead to. Sometimes the scam is as simple as an image with a government emblem on it that links to a website containing malware. Just hovering your mouse over the image would be enough to see through it. But some phishing schemes are far more difficult to recognize.

The Google Defender scam

Recently, an email spread to millions of Gmail accounts that almost perfectly imitated a message from Google. The text read:

“Our security system detected several unexpected sign-in attempts on your account. To improve your account safety use our new official application “Google Defender”.

Below that was a button to “Install Google Defender”. What made this scheme so hard to detect is that the button actually links to a totally legitimate site...within Google’s own framework. When third-party app developers create Gmail integrations, Google directs users to an in-house security page that essentially says, “By clicking this you are giving Google Defender access to your entire inbox. Are you sure you want to do this?”

Even to wary users, the original message looks like it came from Google. And the link took them to a legitimate Google security page -- anyone could have fallen for it. The Gmail team immediately began assuring users that they were aware of the scam and working on eradicating it and any potential copycats.

There’s no happy ending to this story. Although vendors and cybersecurity experts were able to respond to the crisis on the same day it was released, millions of accounts were still affected. The best way to prepare your business is with thorough employee training and disaster recovery plans that are prepared to respond to a breach. To find out how we can protect your business, call today.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic Security
May 8th, 2017

Many small- and medium-sized businesses utilize some type of social media or content marketing strategy. But since your competitors are possibly using similar platforms, you have to constantly find new ways to make your company stand out. Here are some tips to leverage the power of social media and content marketing to your business’s advantage:

Come up with and implement a media crisis management plan It’s normal for businesses to go through a crisis or two. Avoid embarrassing public relations nightmares by having a social media crisis management plan in place and ready for implementation.

Create buyer personas Social media data is a great tool to gather information about your potential customers, and in doing so, create buyer personas. Buyer personas are comprised of generalized characters that help build an ideal picture of your business in the market. Key demographic information includes age, location, and even reasons for buying and product-related concerns.

Track the impact of your content marketing When it comes to content marketing efforts like blogging and social media, it’s essential to have a system to measure results. You can measure how these efforts impact your brand awareness by using metrics such as social media reach, brand mentions, media mentions, and branded searches.

Integrate user-generated content on social media Businesses can utilize social media as a way to interact with consumers. This includes sharing some of their content on your own channels. Not only are user-generated content more cost-efficient, they also shorten the customer’s path to purchase.

Use Hootsuite to manage Twitter chats A Twitter Chat happens when you use Twitter to talk about a common interest with others during a preset time. It's like an online chatroom where you add to the discussion by tweeting. Efficiently managing tweets and responses is integral. Fortunately, applications like Hootsuite simplifies the whole process. It easily monitors, searches, and saves Twitter Chats onto the Hootsuite dashboard for future reference.

Create better live broadcasts Livestreaming on social media platforms such as Facebook, Periscope, and Instagram is quickly gaining popularity. Before starting a livestream for your business, take time out to practice and prepare an outline before you roll the cameras. Don’t forget to promote it prior to the broadcast, and make sure you come up with a short and catchy video description.

All small- and medium-sized businesses are fighting for the same thing: the consumer’s attention. Business owners can’t afford to just blend into the background; if you don’t make a good, lasting impression, you might lose out on an opportunity to make money. And if you’re relying on social media and content marketing strategies to help you, make sure you are doing it right. If you have further questions, feel free to contact us!

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic Social Media
May 5th, 2017

eCommerce websites take longer to create than regular websites. That’s because finding the right plugins and fine-tuning other components such as the blog page takes a lot of time. Only when you’re certain that everything’s in place should you go live with your website. Until then, take the time to double-check everything; the last thing you want is a messy website riddled with errors. Ensure customers have a positive first impression with these key indicators:

A variety of clean photos Always take photos under professional lighting to really get the best images of your products. When customers are browsing, it’s normal for them to want to see as much detail as possible, so try to include as many photos, from as many angles your prospects might want.

Clear descriptions The last thing you want to do is to confuse your customers. That’s why it’s important to include all of your products’ technical information and dimensions before creating simple and straightforward product descriptions.

Establish policies Returns and refunds are an inevitable part of online shopping. In fact, a large percentage of online shoppers make purchase decisions based solely on how streamlined the returns policy is. Make sure to establish clear policies for returning and refunding items that are easy to find for customers.

About page Customers unfamiliar with your brand need a story they can relate to on your website. In your About Us page, include information on who you are and what you do that sets you apart from the competition. Whatever you write, make it accessible from any page on your site.

Navigation Fix broken links, make navigation straightforward, and remove outdated pages. You can’t sell 404 pages to customers, and if your site doesn’t make it easy to find what they’re looking for, game over.

Design Not everyone is a web design expert, luckily you can always hire one. If your budget is tight, there are DIY site builders specifically geared toward small businesses. Or with a relatively low monthly expenditure, you can hire a managed website provider.

With more revenue originating online, small- and medium-sized-business owners can’t afford to overlook the importance of creating a fully functional eCommerce website. Prior to going live, it’s essential to go through your entire site and resolve any mistakes before consumers see them. For further information on completing eCommerce websites, feel free to call us today!

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic business
May 4th, 2017

If small- and medium-sized businesses think cyber security is impossible to manage now, just think about what it was like before the internet provided a way to receive IT support remotely. In today’s business landscape, enterprise-level solutions and security can be delivered from almost anywhere in the world. Read on to find out why that’s even safer than you realize.

Hands-on management

Unless you have an overinflated budget, relying on local copies of data and software means IT staff are forced to spread themselves across a bevy of different technologies. For example, one or two in-house tech support employees can’t become experts in one service or solution without sacrificing others. If they focus on just cybersecurity, the quality of hardware maintenance and helpdesk service are going to take a nosedive.

However, Cloud Service Providers (CSPs) benefit from economies of scale. CSPs maintain tens, sometimes thousands, of servers and can hire technicians who specialize in every subset of cloud technology.

Fewer vulnerabilities

Cloud security isn’t superior just because more technicians are watching over servers. When all the facets of your business’s IT are in one place, the vulnerabilities associated with each technology get mixed together to drastically increase your risk exposure.

For example, a server sitting on the same network as workstations could be compromised by an employee downloading malware. And this exposure extends to physical security as well. The more employees you have who aren’t trained in cyber security, the more likely it is that one of them will leave a server room unlocked or unsecured.

CSPs exist solely to provide their clients with cloud services. There are no untrained employees and there are significantly fewer access points to the network.

Business continuity

The same technology that allows you to access data from anywhere in the world also allows you to erect a wall between your local network and your data backups. Most modern iterations of malware are programmed to aggressively replicate themselves, and the best way to combat this is by quarantining your backups in the cloud. This is commonly referred to as data redundancy in the cybersecurity world, and nowhere is it as easy to achieve as in the cloud.

The cloud doesn’t only keep your data safe from the spread of malware, it also keeps data safe from natural and manmade disasters. When data is stored in the cloud, employees will still have access to it in the event that your local workstations or servers go down.

The cloud has come a long way over the years. It’s not just the security that has gotten better; customized software, platforms and half a dozen other services can be delivered via the cloud. Whatever it is you need, we can secure and manage it for you. Call us today.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic Web & Cloud