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Cloud use surges during COVID-19 pandemic

Cloud use surges during COVID-19 pandemic

As the COVID-19 pandemic spreads to more nations worldwide, millions of businesses turn to the internet as their employees are forced to work from home. Is the World Wide Web ready for the sudden increase in demand for cloud-based services?

Even before the pandemic, many companies were already turning to online productivity and collaboration tools for their business. While projections on how long this pandemic will force people to stay in their homes vary, it is certain that for the next month or so, cloud usage will continue to rise. This has many people worried that the internet is not ready for this sudden increase in activity.

What you should and shouldn’t be concerned about

The internet’s performance depends on many things, including network infrastructure, how things are wired up, and points of presence.

  • Will the internet collapse? Experts say this is unlikely. In fact, the internet is built to survive such surges in activity.
  • Will it affect the quality of service? Yes, but it depends on the network infrastructure, the level of demand, and the ability of providers to scale up rapidly. In areas with inadequate or weak infrastructure but with a lot of users, expect to experience a slower internet because response time takes longer. But for those whose infrastructure allows them to make use of multiple paths, they can continue business as usual.
  • Can teleworking solutions cope with the demand? It depends on how capable they are of scaling horizontally; meaning, if they can distribute the load to different parts of their network. For cloud-based providers, that should not be difficult.
  • Will the increased demand mean that businesses with their data in the cloud will have a harder time retrieving their data? Businesses that use a private cloud to store their data (often for cybersecurity reasons) will not be affected because they have their own dedicated connections. But those who use the public cloud to store their data may be affected.

How companies are preparing for this surge in cloud service usage

Since the pandemic is global, all areas are affected, even those with a strong infrastructure backbone. But how they are affected varies.

  • Companies that are already using the cloud extensively are the most ready for this new normal of working from home. Having a multi-cloud infrastructure makes them even more nimble to adjust to the increase in demand.
  • Global corporations with a presence in different parts of the world, including areas with inadequate infrastructure, will experience connectivity issues. The solution is for them to redirect traffic to their areas with better-developed backbones.
  • Companies offering Unified-Communications-as-a-Service (UCaaS) and Containers-as-a-Service (CaaS) like Google, Microsoft, Zoom, 8×8, Amazon Web Services, and IBM, to name a few, need to boost their distributed capacities to accommodate the increase in telecommuting.
  • Cloud-based services are elastic, meaning they are quick to scale up or down. But the speed in which companies are able to scale up will depend on their network architecture and the kinds of services they offer.
  • Some Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) providers, like Salesforce and Dropbox, are using a data-driven approach to manage their infrastructure and internet traffic. They incorporate real-time data to determine where to route their traffic so as to decongest their system and ensure consistent and reliable performance overall.
  • The challenge is for providers to look for new and innovative ways to manage their traffic and resources. They should also look for ways to deploy new infrastructure to areas with slower, unpredictable internet service.

This work-from-home situation looks like it will last longer than just a couple of weeks. If you need help to set up your business for remote working, talk to our experts today.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.


Source: Pronto

COVID-19’s huge impact on businesses

COVID-19’s huge impact on businesses

The coronavirus pandemic is affecting individuals and businesses worldwide. As COVID-19 continues to spread, the private and public sectors are exerting great efforts to cope with present and future challenges. This includes leveraging technology resources. Here are some of the ways the pandemic will impact technology use.

Increased reliance on communications technology
The need for remote interactions and stronger communications technology will inevitably increase. Businesses are expected to immediately adopt things like 5G technology to enhance communication speeds and performance.

Meanwhile, specific industries like healthcare will adopt technologies that optimize current processes. This includes using telehealth platforms that will let healthcare providers diagnose and issue prescriptions remotely. To do that, they need 5G-powered systems that will efficiently facilitate consultations.

Many companies have already shifted to remote work setups. Business leaders now and in the foreseeable future will use more platforms that efficiently facilitate collaboration with colleagues, business partners, and customers. Tools that will let them achieve this include teleconferencing solutions like Zoom, Microsoft Teams, and others.

Digital ways to network
Now that many businesses of all sizes have shifted to remote work, it follows that events, conferences, and a variety of gatherings worldwide such as tech conferences have been canceled. This is to curb the fast spread of the coronavirus.

Certain organizations will forgo in-person networking events and business meetings and will explore online avenues to maintain business opportunities. Again, this could mean turning to telecommunications tech that offers reliable connectivity and fast speeds.

A boost in cashless transactions
Paying in cash is quickly becoming a thing of the past due to recommendations of healthcare authorities like the World Health Organization (WHO). This is to limit the spread of the virus that can spread through cash. More than ever, businesses must explore ways to implement measures that restrict cash payments, if not eliminate them altogether.

In other words, contactless payments will now be the norm in many countries around the world. This certainly applies to small businesses, too. Because of the pandemic, businesses across industries are expected to quickly adopt mobile payments and other forms of electronic payments.

Growth in eCommerce
As the general public drastically limits time spent outdoors, brick-and-mortar stores experience less and less foot traffic. Businesses that have adapted to new ways of product and service delivery would find themselves increasingly maximizing online purchase options for their customers.

However, the logistics involved in delivering goods and services could prove overwhelming for many businesses. For instance, they may have to adjust order fulfillment models to align with shifting demands. That could mean increasing the workforce in charge of eCommerce operations. Therefore, those that are able to boost their online shopping operations must take steps to enhance their online selling capabilities to meet unpredictable surges in demand.

In a time of crisis, businesses must explore the many ways technology can help sustain operations; whether it be in terms of maintaining communications, delivering goods and services, and gearing up for a drastically changed future.

Call our IT experts today and let us know how you want your tech resources to aid you in these tough times.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.


Source: Pronto

Why autocomplete passwords are risky

Why autocomplete passwords are risky

Many people use auto-fill passwords for their convenience. What you might not know is that hackers and advertisers can use them to get access to websites and other applications and gather sensitive information. Learn more about the risks of using autocomplete passwords.

Why auto-fill passwords are so dangerous

Certain web browsers have integrated features that enable usernames and passwords to be automatically entered into a web form. There are also password manager applications that have made it easy to access login credentials. But these aren’t completely safe. They can become a liability if hackers gain access to computers or browsers.

For example, if a hacker gains access to just one account, it’ll be easier for them to obtain access to other accounts because the autocomplete feature will fill in all other saved credentials.

Tricking a browser or password manager into giving up saved information is incredibly simple. All a hacker needs to do is place an invisible form on a compromised webpage to collect users’ login information.

Using auto-fill to track users

For over a decade, there’s been a password security tug-of-war between hackers and cybersecurity professionals. Little do users know that shrewd digital marketers also use password auto-fill to track user activity.

Digital marketing groups AdThink and OnAudience have been placing these invisible login forms on websites to monitor the sites that users visit. AdThink and OnAudience track people based on the usernames in hidden auto-fill forms and sell the information they gather to advertisers. While the intention is not to steal passwords, there’s always the likelihood of exposure.

One simple security tip for today

A quick and effective way to improve your account security is to turn off auto-fill in your web browser. Here’s how to do it:

  • If you’re using Chrome – Open the Settings window, click Advanced, and select the appropriate settings under Manage Passwords.
  • If you’re using Firefox – Open the Options window, click Privacy, and under the History heading, select “Firefox will: Use custom settings for history.” In the new window, disable “Remember search and form history.”
  • If you’re using Safari – Open the Preferences window, select the Auto-fill tab, and turn off all the features related to usernames and passwords.

Being cautious about your password security habits can go a long way in protecting your sensitive data. For managed, 24/7 cybersecurity assistance that goes far beyond protecting your privacy, call us today.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.


Source: Pronto

Security tips for businesses that use IoT devices

Security tips for businesses that use IoT devices

Internet of Things (IoT) devices are increasingly becoming a ubiquitous part of modern offices. Make sure that they don’t become entry points for hackers with the following tips.

Set passwords

Many users fail to realize that they can set passwords for IoT devices. Failing to do so makes their gadgets easy to hack. You have to make sure to create strong passwords — preferably with a combination of upper- and lowercase letters, numbers, and symbols — and also put a smart and proactive password policy in place. Make use of all security options at your disposal, such as two-factor authentication (2FA) and regular password resets.

Disable Universal Plug and Play

Universal Plug and Pay (UPnP) helps IoT gadgets discover and connect with other network devices. However, this feature can also be exploited as a gateway for hackers to infiltrate your devices and network. To prevent this, disable this feature.

Create a separate network

It’s a good idea to keep your IoT devices connected to a network separate from your main office network. This way, gadgets can connect to the internet but won’t have access to mission-critical files.

You can also invest in device access management tools. These allow you to control which devices can access what data, and prevent unauthorized access.

Update your firmware

You need to keep your software up to date if you want to secure your devices against cyberattacks. Manufacturers regularly release patches for the latest vulnerabilities, so make it a habit to check and install IoT firmware updates regularly.

If you have several devices, use patch management software to automate patch distribution and schedule regular updates.

Unplug it

Simply disconnecting your devices or turning them off when not in use can significantly reduce your vulnerability to cyberattacks. It removes potential entry points into your network and minimizes the chances of unauthorized access to your network.

With the advent of IoT devices in homes and offices, hackers also developed more cunning ways to exploit them. Adopting the abovementioned security habits can prevent a variety of IoT attacks, but if you need to beef up your security, contact us today. We have robust security solutions to keep your hardware and systems safe.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.


Source: Pronto

Take notes the modern way with OneNote

Take notes the modern way with OneNote

Note-taking is a vital skill in life. Whether you’re in a board meeting, conference, or lecture, you’re bound to list, quote, or summarize certain points in order to recall them later and understand them better. Thanks to new technologies, you now have more ways of taking down notes than just a pen and paper. Using your mobile device and Microsoft OneNote, you can easily record your notes and have the bonus features of customizing and sharing them. Discover the ins and outs of this incredible app by reading on.

Organize your digital notebook

While both Microsoft Word and OneNote let you create text-heavy documents, they store and display saved information differently. Word displays one document at a time, but OneNote shows you all your documents at once.

When you open the desktop version of OneNote for the first time, it shows you a default Notebook called “My Notebook.”

If you want to create another Notebook, click on the < beside the name of your current one, then choose +Notebook at the bottom of your screen.

You can customize a Notebook by separating it into subcategories called Sections, which are like dividers in a physical notebook. For instance, you can dedicate one Section for the notes regarding a particular client. Sections are shown as color-coded tabs along the top of the screen, next to the name of your Notebook. You can add more by clicking on +Section at the bottom left of your screen.

You can add individual pages to a Section by clicking +Page, and you can use this feature to separate information. For example, you can add pages pertaining to a client’s contact details, project statuses, and billing information.

You can rename your Notebook, or any Section or Page, by right-clicking on it and choosing the rename option.

Start experimenting

There’s no hard-and-fast rule to enjoy OneNote because each person’s note-taking habits are unique. The only way to find out if OneNote works for you is to try out all the features and decide which method is most effective. Here are some things you can try to get a feel of the OneNote experience.

  • Add tags to your notes so you can search for them efficiently
  • Instantly turn your drawings into shapes or text using the Ink to Shape and Ink to Text functions, respectively
  • Solve equations by using the Ink Math Assistant (which can help you graph or solve math problems)
  • Use Immersive Reader to read texts out loud
  • Write on a web page in Microsoft Edge and save your annotations to OneNote

Keep in mind, however, that these work only in OneNote for Windows 10. If you’re using an older version, you’ll need to upgrade to the latest version to enjoy these benefits.

Share your OneNote

So you’ve created a detailed plan for an upcoming event complete with visual pegs and handwritten instructions, and you want to share this with your team. That’s easy as pie with OneNote. Just go to the upper right corner of your ribbon, click on the Share button, and type in the email addresses of the people to whom you wish to send your notes. You can also set the sharing permissions to either “can view” or “can edit,” giving you more control over your data.

OneNote has numerous tricks up its sleeve and it can take months for you to master all of them. Call us today, and we’ll make sure you’ll get the hang of OneNote in no time.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.


Source: Pronto

Gear up your network equipment with UPS

Gear up your network equipment with UPS

During a power outage, responsible business owners use emergency power to keep desktop computers from unexpectedly shutting down. While that’s certainly a good strategy for keeping machines operational and preventing data loss, there’s something else you can do to ensure that your staff remains productive while weathering a storm: uninterruptible power supply (UPS) for networking equipment.

UPS for network equipment

UPS systems provide backup power in case of outages and protect against power surges, which don’t just damage computers but also make you lose unsaved work. Deploying them for Wi-Fi routers and modems allows you to stay connected to the internet in what is typically a chaotic time.

Moreover, it makes sense not to just keep your PCs powered up, but to also have internet access during a disaster. This strategy works relatively well if your staff are predominantly laptop users, as that means you only need power for your Wi-Fi gear.

Better than generators

Although generators are indispensable for certain businesses, they also require greater upkeep. Small- and mid-sized businesses (SMBs) may not have enough capacity to maintain them because they typically require a utility crew who can manage high-maintenance equipment.

What’s more, extreme mishaps when misused or mishandled could result in generator-related fatalities. On the other hand, misusing a UPS unit could result in the loss of a day’s work, but it’s unlikely to lead to anything as extreme.

Why internet access is important during a disaster

UPS-supported modems or routers help you stay online for as much as 90 minutes, which should be enough time to get your bearings before power finally runs out. Internet service providers (ISPs) are usually prepared for catastrophes and would normally have an emergency power source to stay operational. And if you can stay online via Wi-Fi during an emergency, you get the following benefits:

  • Internet speed that’s faster than cellular access
  • No extra telecom costs resulting from overreliance on cellular data
  • All devices stay online using a stable Wi-Fi connection
  • Devices don’t have to rely on cellular data-equipped phones for internet connection

Plug in your network gear now

Businesses that aren’t located in disaster-prone areas probably don’t give much thought to installing UPSs for their computers, let alone their modems. But accidents and emergencies are inevitable. And when they happen, you’ll find that having internet access is one of the most important things you need to ensure business continuity.

Think of an emergency power supply source like a UPS as an investment that not just protects your systems from data loss but also keeps your Wi-Fi equipment functioning in emergency scenarios. Call us today for productivity-saving tips and other hardware hacks for your business.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.


Source: Pronto

Use single sign-on for login efficiency

Use single sign-on for login efficiency

Cloud subscriptions are undoubtedly valuable, but creating a new set of login credentials users have to memorize adds another level of inefficiency. With single sign-on (SSO), you can create one user profile that logs you into all of your online accounts. If you’re overwhelmed by the need to create and manage strong passwords, SSO is for you.

What is SSO?

Single sign-on allows you to create one username and one password that thousands of websites will recognize. If you’ve ever clicked “Continue with Google” on a non-Google website, you’ve already enjoyed the benefits of SSO. It’s faster, simpler, and more secure. Now, small businesses can accomplish the same level of efficiency between their employees and cloud platforms.

Instead of requiring everyone in the office to track separate accounts for Office 365, Slack, Trello, and other cloud apps your company uses, you can give them a single set of credentials and manage what they have access to remotely. Employees come to work, enter their designated username and password, and they’re all set for the day.

Why is SSO more secure?

There are a number of ways to set up a small business SSO solution, but most of them focus on removing login information from your servers. Usually, you’ll provide your employees’ logins to an SSO provider (sometimes referred to as an Identity-as-a-Service provider) and each employee will receive a single login paired with a secondary authentication — like a fingerprint or an SMS code to a personal device.

Every time one of your employees visits a cloud platform, such as Office 365 or Google Apps, the SSO provider will verify the user’s identity and the connection’s security. If anything goes wrong, your IT provider will be notified.

Should your network or any of its devices be compromised, hackers would find nothing but logins to your SSO accounts, which are meaningless without fingerprints or mobile devices.

How to get started with SSO

The first step is making sure you have a healthy and responsive IT support system. You need a team that’s constantly available to review suspicious alerts and troubleshoot employee issues. If you don’t currently have that capacity, contact us today and we’ll help you out!

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.


Source: Pronto

3 Hacker types you need to know about

3 Hacker types you need to know about

What do you call someone who hunts for security gaps in computer hardware and software? A hacker, right? What about someone who executes a vulnerability test and presents their findings to software vendors to help them improve the quality of their products? There is more than one type of hacker, and understanding the difference is important.

A complicated history

In the 1950s, the term “hacker” was vaguely defined. As computers became more accessible, the word was used to describe someone who explored the details and limits of computer technology by testing them from a variety of angles.

But by the 1980s, hackers became associated with teenagers who were caught breaking into government computer systems — partially because that is what they called themselves, and partially because the word hacker has an inherently aggressive ring to it.

Today, several of those pioneering hackers run multimillion-dollar cybersecurity consulting businesses, while countless others run amok online, hoping to make a quick buck off of hapless victims.

“Black hat” hackers

Closer to the definition that most people outside the IT world know and use, black hat hackers create programs and campaigns to commit all sorts of malicious acts. Crimes such as identity theft, credit card fraud, and extortion are for their sole benefit, but they can also work under the auspices of a corporation or a state and commit espionage and cyberterrorism.

During the 1990s, Kevin Mitnick was a prime example of a black hat hacker. Mitnick went on a two-and-half-year hacking spree wherein he committed wire fraud and stole millions of dollars of data from telecom companies and the National Defense warning system.

After paying his debt to society by spending five years in prison, he set up his own eponymous cybersecurity firm and became its CEO and Chief White Hat Hacker.

“White hat” hackers

Sometimes referred to as ethical hackers or plain old network security specialists, these are the good guys. Whether it’s selling what they find to hardware and software vendors in “bug bounty” programs or working as full-time technicians, white hat hackers are just interested in making an honest buck.

Linus Torvalds is a great example of a white hat hacker. After years of experimenting with the Sinclair QDOS operating system on his Sinclair QL, he released Linux, a secure open-source operating system.

“Gray hat” hackers

Whether someone is a security specialist or a cybercriminal, the majority of their work is usually conducted over the internet. This anonymity affords them opportunities to try their hands at both white hat and black hat hacking.

For example, Marcus Hutchins is a known gray hat hacker. He’s most famous for testing the WannaCry ransomware until he found a way to stop it.

During the day, Hutchins works for the Kryptos Logic cybersecurity firm, but the US government believes he spent his free time creating the Kronos banking malware. He was arrested in 2017 and branded a “gray hat” hacker.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.


Source: Pronto

Add hours to your day with these PC hacks

Add hours to your day with these PC hacks

Because there are only so many hours in a workday, it’s vital to make the most of your time. If distracting websites, unorganized files, and cluttered inboxes prevent you from getting work done, consider these tips to better manage your time and stay productive at work.

Monitor productivity levels

Start by tracking how much work you complete on an average day. There are many useful apps for this. For example, Google Chrome has an extension called RescueTime, which records your most frequently visited sites and tracks how much time you spend away from your computer. The app will provide you with a productivity rating and a detailed log of how you spend your time at work.

If you discover you’re wasting a huge portion of your time on social networking and other productivity killers, you’re more likely to make conscious adjustments on how you manage your time.

Get rid of clutter

You can also decrease distractions and increase your output by deleting old files, uninstalling unused programs, and organizing documents into appropriately labeled folders. This makes finding files easier and improves your computer’s performance as well.

As for the clutter in your email inbox, Gmail and Outlook both have features that filter out unimportant messages. Simply enable Priority Inbox on Gmail or Clutter on Outlook to get a clean, spam-free inbox.

Block sites that waste your time

Visiting non-work-related websites hinders productivity. A quick five-minute break to check your Facebook feed may not seem like much, but a few of those per day add up to a lot of time.

If you and your employees have trouble staying away from social media sites like Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter, it’s a good idea to block access to them using URL filters.

Alternatively, you can use apps like StayFocusd or Strict Workflow. These allow you to set a limit on how long and how often users can visit non-work-related sites.

Stay on track with to-do lists

To-do lists help you break down large projects into manageable, bite-sized tasks. Crossing things off the list is surprisingly satisfying since it gives you and your employees a sense of accomplishment and total visibility over your progress.

You can choose from a wide variety of digital to-do lists like Google Tasks or Trello. These platforms allow you to set deadlines for small tasks and write clear instructions for each. What’s more, they’re incredibly easy to use and are great for keeping track of your workflow.

Use keyboard shortcuts

Mastering keyboard shortcuts will make it easier and faster to perform simple functions. There are more than a hundred useful shortcuts, but here are the most common shortcuts you should keep in mind:

  • Ctrl + C, Ctrl + V, Ctrl + X – to copy, paste, and cut selected items
  • Ctrl + Z – to undo an action
  • Alt + Tab – to switch between open apps
  • Alt + F4 – to close the active app

For more of these, take a look at this updated list of advanced shortcuts for Windows.

In this digital age of short attention spans, focus is key to achieving business success. Drop us a line today if you’d like to know more about how tech can induce focus and improve overall productivity for you and your business staff.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.


Source: Pronto

Boosting productivity with Workplace Analytics

Boosting productivity with Workplace Analytics

Workplace Analytics allows managers to assess their employees’ performance using the data gathered from Office 365. Unlike past Microsoft productivity tools that showed only the user’s own information, Workplace Analytics allows both employees and managers to view each others’ performance data.

How does Workplace Analytics work?

A paid add-on to Office 365 enterprise plans, Workplace Analytics extracts behavioral insights from data gathered from Office 365 email, calendar, documents, and Skype. This means any data an employee types into their email and calendar — whether the information is in the subject line or in the body itself — can be used to determine their productivity.

The program has an overview dashboard that provides specific information:

  • Week in the Life provides an overall view of how the entire organization spends time and how members collaborate with one another
  • Meetings Overview shows the amount of time people spent in meetings
  • Management and Coaching gauges one-on-one meetings between your staff and their manager
  • Internal Networks shows how people within the company connect with one another
  • External Collaboration provides insights into how people from your company connect with those from third-party organizations
  • Teams Collaboration takes a look at how employees and managers communicate with their colleagues

What does Workplace Analytics aim to do?

According to Microsoft, Workplace Analytics addresses businesses’ most common challenges: complexity, productivity, and engagement.

Using Workplace Analytics data, managers and human resources departments can form productivity strategies for the entire company. If most of your employees spend 60% of their time attending meetings and not enough time doing creative work, managers can come up with a strategy to reduce meeting times and focus more on productive tasks.

Workplace Analytics also identifies how employees collaborate with internal and external parties. Suppose one of your sales staff frequently communicates with certain contacts. By using Workplace Analytics data, the manager would be able to determine whether this particular collaboration pattern is helping the employee hit sales targets or he or she is missing out on other more critical contacts. Based on this info, managers would also be able to determine which employees are most likely to meet or exceed their targets and set company-wide standards accordingly.

Workplace Analytics also allows managers to determine an employee’s level of engagement (i.e., whether the organization’s collaboration patterns are good for the company), and whether workloads are fairly distributed among workers and/or departments.

Is Workplace Analytics useful for small businesses?

Large corporations have been using Workplace Analytics, but small businesses can also benefit from it. The data used to provide insights are what employees generate themselves — how much time they spend on meetings, whom they frequently communicate with, and how much time they spend on productive tasks.

Aside from letting managers examine their staff’s work behavior, Workplace Analytics also provides an overall look at an organizational level. If you want your organization to further harness the capabilities of Workplace Analytics and other Office 365 tools, give us a call today.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.


Source: Pronto