How Secure is My Password?

You hear all the time about identity theft and online fraud.  But you think you’re not at risk, right? Think again. Identity theft is one of the fastest growing Internet crimes!  The easiest way to protect yourself from identity theft is with a strong password.  You have one of those, right?

The best passwords, according to Microsoft, follow these five steps:

  • Don’t be complacent and use things like 12345, or something similar in a password.
  • Know what makes a bad password. Using your name or the names of a spouse or children makes it easier for hackers to break your password.  You also shouldn’t use words that can be found in the dictionary, even foreign ones.
  • Become proficient at creating good passwords.
  • Keep your password to yourself.
  • Change your password often, multiple times a year.

You still might be thinking, “my password is a good one.” If you really want to know just how secure your password is, visit this site. It will tell you just how fast a personal computer could hack a password. By all means, don’t use an actual password you use, but a similar one to give you an idea of how vulnerable you may be.

This writer’s favorite password, one he’s been using for years, could’ve been cracked in 52 seconds! Time for a new password!

Server Basics

When several people are collaborating on a project, it can be difficult to keep track of all the necessary documents in a location that everyone can access. One solution is to use an internal server. A server acts as a central computer to store all the information from your business. It also serves as the administrator and router for all of your company’s computers and communication devices. Each individual computer connects to the company network, which allows information to be easily stored and accessed.

This connection is particularly helpful in the sharing of information. Co-workers can work on the same Word document, Excel file, or Powerpoint presentation from different computers. Any computer that is connected to the server can be given access, regardless of their physical location. This can be particularly helpful when certain employees or parts of your business are located in different regions.

A server can also help keep your customer information up to date. With all of the computers linked, when one employee updates information on a customer, that information is instantly accessible by all other employees. This decreases the hassle of making sure that you have access to the most current information or document.

It is possible to establish different levels of access within your server. If you are handling particularly sensitive information, you can make it so that only specific employees have the ability to access certain folders or files. This helps you maintain any level of necessary confidentiality.

If you are finding yourself frustrated by a lack of organization, or if your projects are blocked by a lack of communication or coordination, then a server could be a viable option. Talk with a local IT company to see how a server could benefit your business.

Data Backup and Recovery Solutions from i.t.NOW

In 2011, Bluffdale City was looking for a way to consolidate and upgrade its data backup and recovery needs. To do so, Bluffdale representatives searched for a company that provided a comprehensive and time-tested data backup and recovery solution.

Enter i.t.NOW.

i.t.NOW is a Utah-based provider of I.T. solutions including data backup and recovery, cloud computing, desktop virtualization and more.  The company’s i.t.BDR offering gives organizations the ability to effectively and frequently back up vital company data (as often as every 15 minutes) in secure off-site storage areas, and recover that data when needed.  Whether a company experiences an earthquake, fire or some other type of disaster, i.t.NOW can get it back up and running with little to no down time.

As fate would have it, Bluffdale’s city offices experienced an event that essentially destroyed their in-house data and computer systems: a lighting strike! Luckily, i.t.NOW was ready for the challenge.

First, with its frequent data backups and constant system monitoring, i.t.NOW immediately detected the power surge from the strike. The event destroyed Bluffdale City’s backup power supply and its servers wouldn’t restart. To fix this problem, i.t.NOW implemented an off-site server. And because i.t.NOW’s data backups run as often as every 15 minutes, it was able to restore Bluffdale City to its most recent backup.

In fact, i.t.NOW had the city back up and running in less than 30 minutes!

Second, i.t.NOW ran the city’s entire data center and computing needs for two days while a replacement power supply was ordered—all on i.t.BDR software from i.t.NOW.  Once the new power supply arrived, i.t.NOW transitioned Bluffdale back to its old network after hours.

To learn more about i.t.NOW and its comprehensive I.T. services, contact us or call (801) 562-8778.

What to Look for in an IT Company

When you decide to outsource your company’s IT services, it is important to pick the right company for the job. Picking an IT company is like picking another partner for your business. It is imperative that you choose the company that will work best with you, your mission, and your work ethic. The choice will have a huge impact on your future success.

A lot of your search will be determined by your preparation. Make sure that you have a clear idea of what you are looking for in your IT company. This should include potential projects, expectations, timelines, and fees. The clearer you are on what you need, the more you will be able to tell if a company is the right match.

  • Start your search early and take your time. You want to make sure that you have the time to feel comfortable about your choice instead of making a rash decision.
  • Don’t be afraid to ask around. Solicit referrals from other companies with similar needs. When you have found a company that you are interested in using, ask for referrals or testimonials from existing or previous customers.
  • Match the company with your needs. If you have one specific need, try and find a company that specializes in that area. If your needs are broader, look for a company that is more flexible.
  • Ask about backups and security. You want to make sure that your data is safe. Look into the amount and type of backups that the company uses to ensure that nothing gets lost.
  • When possible, try it out. Ask for a demo or a trial run. This will help you make a fully informed decision.

By going through these simple steps, you can make sure that you feel completely comfortable and confident with the IT company of your choice.

Why Outsource IT Services?

Whether your business is large or small, there is always the question of whether or not you should outsource your information technology (IT) systems and servers. When making this choice, it is important to look into both the benefits and risks that come along with outsourcing. This article will focus on some of the benefits.

The success of your business depends on your ability to reach your goals and objectives. Many managers and company owners feel torn from the work that enables them to engage with customers, improve their products, and follow up with concerns because of the time demands of their IT systems. This causes particular problems when they are not particularly tech savvy. When a business manager makes the choice to outsource the IT system, he is alleviating the need to split his focus. By turning over the IT to an outside company, he has the peace of mind that it is running efficiently while having the freedom to focus on the other needs of the business.

Another benefit to outsourcing your IT systems is the cost. Companies who choose to handle their IT systems in house must carry the fixed cost of paying for the necessary staff to keep the system running. Outsourced IT has a variable cost depending on the needs of the company. This change can help free up capital that the company can then funnel into different aspects of the business.

The reduction of cost has an additional benefit for your customers. Instead of needing to incorporate the cost of an in-house IT department into the prices of your goods or services, the decrease in expenses can help lower your prices. These lower prices can help give your business a competitive edge in your market.

Adware, Spyware, Malware and Viruses

Any computer owner has heard of all the many potential dangers that can crash your system. The words “malware,” “adware,” “spyware,” and “viruses” are used to describe the potential dangers that come from connecting your computer to the Internet. By understanding the differences between these malicious programs, you can better identify potential problems with your computer. Here’s a quick guide to help you know the distinctions between these individual threats.

Malware is defined as a software program that is intentionally designed to cause harm. Malware can infect a computer either through accidental installation by the user or by sneaking through other programs. Malware only describes programs that are deliberately designed to damage a computer’s hardware.

Adware is a type of malware that contains advertising that automatically displays without the user’s consent. Adware is usually connected to and downloaded with other programs. Adware often works together with Spyware, allowing it to target its adverting to your specific interests.

Spyware is another type of malware that is designed to spy on the computer user. Spyware is often used by hackers to collect keystrokes and other information, which allows them to steal passwords and other personal information. Spyware can also be used to record a user’s actions and browsing habits to help adware.

A virus is a program that is created with the intention to cause havoc with your computer. A virus infects your computer and can cause errors, crashes, and even destroy your hardware. Viruses tend to keep a low profile at first, allowing them to spread more completely through your computer before causing its full harm. A virus is unique due to the fact that it can grow and replicate itself. Viruses are dangerous as they can travel through an Internet connection, enabling them to travel from one computer to another. Viruses can also be transported through infected files and webpages.

Email Management 101

Email has become one of the leading methods of communication in the business world, used to manage projects, serve customers, secure new business, and correspond with fellow employees. You and your employees probably use email on a daily basis. The amount of information passing through your company’s email servers creates several different challenges and risks, making it essential to have a trustworthy email management to keep your computers and information safe and secure.

Companies should keep copies of all email correspondence for several years, in case they are required to provide them during litigation or investigation. However, most servers are not equipped to handle the vast amounts of emails held in inboxes, sent, and deleted folders. The mass quantities of emails held in the server can negatively impact its performance, leading to slow speeds or crashes.

Email management services work to take the pressure off your email server, increasing its performance and decreasing your risk of losing valuable information. Email management systems capture and copy all emails that are created and received by your employees. The system uses a classification scheme to assign proper controls and to manage content. It then creates an archive of every email correspondence, usually by creating a copy of the email and storing it in a separate location.

A good email management system gives you peace of mind that your email system will always be available, running at full speed, secure, and fully backed-up. Many will also help make your email available from any location through mobile applications or web access. The system makes sure that all email, calendars, and contact are available and in sync no matter where your employee is accessing them. Whatever the demands and uses of your email server, an email management system can help your business run efficiently and effectively.

The Importance of Computer Back Up

We’ve all been there. That moment when you have just finished a huge project and before you can hit save, your computer crashes. The frustration that hits when all that work and all those hours are lost is extreme and can often spawn the regret of “if only I had saved my work along the way.”

This regret is multiplied to the nth degree when you lose not just one file but all the information contained on your computer. In today’s society, when the average person keeps the vast majority of their personal information, photos, files, and documents on their computers, it is essential to back up your computer. While no one wants to believe that it could happen to them, the data and memory on your computer can be lost, deleted or damaged without any warning. Hard drives fail, power failures and spikes can damage your hardware, and viruses can erase or damage everything on your machine. Having your computer properly backed up can bring you the peace of mind that all your information is safe no matter what may happen.

It is not necessary to back up everything on your computer. The most important thing to do is go through the files and information that is most important to you. Most people do not realize the amount or importance of these files until they are lost. A few of the most common files to back up are:

  • Photos
  • Home Videos
  • Music purchased from the Internet
  • Important work and school projects
  • Important family documents
  • Software purchased from the Internet
  • Internet bookmark lists
  • Email contact list

There are many different programs, software and hardware available to back-up your computer. Most of them are quick and easy, leaving you with the confidence that you, and your computer, are prepared for anything that may happen. If you are not sure which program is right for you, contact i.t.NOW and we will be happy to help you set up the right back up program for your business.

Firewalls

Have you ever been on the Internet at work and run into a message declaring that you cannot access a site due to your firewall? What exactly is that firewall? And how is it ultimately helping you?

Firewalls, in a nutshell, are barriers designed to protect your computer from being accessed by other computers or systems that could cause your computer harm. Just as a physical firewall is built to keep fires from spreading from one area to another, a firewall helps prevent dangerous material from spreading from the Internet to your computer. A proper firewall allows your computer to access the vast amounts of good and helpful information available on the Internet while keeping it safe from any dangerous material embedded into websites or from any malicious hacker attack.

Your firewall is located at the gateway or junction point between your private network (your computer or your company’s network) and a public network (the Internet). Firewalls can be located on a secure host computer or installed through a software program. Firewalls are established with certain standards and criteria and are tasked with examining all traffic between the two networks to make sure that the material being transmitted meets those standards.

When the firewall senses that material does not meet its standards, it blocks that material from getting through. Depending on your firewall, you may receive a notice when your firewall has been activated and you may be given a choice in whether or not you want to proceed. Firewalls will also keep track of any attempts to access your private network from hostile or unauthorized users.

Firewalls are an important precaution for anyone who has a private network connected to a public one. Anyone who connects a computer to the Internet, whether through broadband or wireless, is vulnerable to malicious attacks and pranksters. Firewalls help protect your equipment, your network, your company, and your personal security.

10 Ways to Save on I.T. in a Soft Economy

By Phil Robinson, Owner and Founder at i.t.NOW

1. Pay a Flat Monthly Rate
One of the best ways to control I.T. costs is to partner with a service provider that charges a flat monthly fee to maintain your I.T. systems. This performance-based approach motivates your I.T. provider to prevent problems and keep your systems running smoothly because if your system goes down they have to do more work and incur more costs. On the other hand, paying for I.T. repairs on an hourly basis rewards your service provider for letting things go and could tempt you to postpone preventive service calls. With a flat monthly rate, you can budget for most I.T. expenditures. Don’t work with someone who earns more when things break; reverse the game so you both feel the pain if your system goes down.

2. Back Up Your Data Offsite
Most businesses know that they should back up their data on a regular basis, but they may not realize that they can save thousands of dollars by hiring a trusted partner to manage their backups for them offsite instead of using onsite hardware, software, tapes, and storage. Offsite backups also increase data security and reduce data restoration times. Even when you outsource your data management, offsite backup solutions have the lowest total cost of ownership because they reduce overhead and do a better job of protecting and restoring valuable data, come what may. It’s easy to forget to check your backups to make sure they are working correctly. Find a partner to whom you can entrust this mission-critical task so you don’t have to wonder whether you’re really backed up.

3. Consider Subscribing to Software as a Service (SaaS)
You can either buy software one time and install and maintain it on every computer or you can subscribe to it as a hosted online service and do away with installs, maintenance and support. Subscribing to Software as a Service (SaaS) can help lighten your I.T. load and has the potential to reduce software start-up expenses through flexible on-demand pricing. However, it’s important to weigh the comparative cost of a continuous expense rather than a one-time purchase. You should also be aware that hosting configurations can vary. Some SaaS software vendors host applications on their own web servers while others may outsource their hosting needs to a third-party application service provider (ASP), which can help to further reduce server hardware costs.

4. Conduct Routine Maintenance
Nothing enhances the reliability and performance of a computer network more cost effectively than routine maintenance. Without it, your network’s performance can become sluggish and unstable over time and can ultimately jeopardize your company’s productivity, network security, and workflow. Preventive service and timely upgrades help to minimize downtime and reduce your exposure to ever-changing viruses and security threats. In today’s real-time world, even short-lived delays in responsiveness can erode hard-won customer confidence and loyalty, causing short-term savings from I.T. shortcuts to morph into long-term losses when inevitable I.T. incidents hit.

5. Proactively Manage and Filter Your Internet Bandwidth and Content
The line between personal time and work time continues to blur in unprecedented ways. According to MSN Money’s “Smart Spending” Blog, here’s a quick recap of how current usage patterns break down:

      • Research. 61% of workers use the Internet for non-work-related research and activities while they are at work. Among these workers, 37% said they spend an average of more than 30 minutes of their workday on non-work-related online activities, and 18% said they spend an average of an hour or more.
      • E-mail. When it comes to digital correspondence, 20% of workers send six or more non-work-related e-mails per day. Among this group, 22% spend more than 30 minutes during the typical workday doing so.
      • Blogging. 9% of workers surveyed have a personal blog, and while nearly a quarter (23%) of them spend time blogging at work, only 9% of them spend 15 minutes or more blogging during the typical workday.
      • Social networking. 41% of workers surveyed have a MySpace, Facebook or other social-networking page. More than one-third (35%) of them spend time on their social-networking page during the workday, with 8% spending 30 minutes or more.

It’s one thing to allow employees to receive some personal e-mails or look at the latest news headlines, and quite another to suffer employees who spend their days downloading music, installing free applications, or perusing adult Web sites. Even if employees manage to surf and download without infecting their machines, such usage can still negatively affect business networks.

Streaming audio or video requires a lot of bandwidth and if too many employees spend their days watching news clips or listening to a radio stream online, it could significantly slow down your business’s mission-critical network applications. Controlling and monitoring this access can increase employees’ capacity and productivity.

The good news is that affordable Internet filtering and bandwidth management solutions are readily available, including some, like the ContentProtect Security Appliance, that combine both functions in one box.

6.     Kill the Kilowatts
If you have multiple servers, all requiring proper cooling and electricity, you may be able to consolidate them onto less hardware. “Virtualizing” servers allows one server to act as many, sometimes with a ratio as high as 15:1. This is made possible by using products like VMWare and Microsoft’s Server 2008 products. With a virtualized server, a company can add new servers into their environment without purchasing new hardware. This lowers energy and maintenance costs, and reduces upgrade expenses. Even consolidating two servers into one can save more than $600 per year in energy costs. VMWare has a free starter edition, so server consolidation is easier and more cost effective than you think.

7.     Beware of the “Accidental Techie”: Focus on what you Do Best
A lot of small- to medium-sized companies have an unofficial “accidental techie,” who has somehow become the go-to person when computer problems come up. Maybe they made the mistake of being too curious or too helpful in tracking down answers to computer questions online, or they may just have had more technical experience than anyone else in the office. The problem with this approach is that it dilutes the contribution this individual can make by not allowing them to do the job they were hired to do—and it could compromise the security and productivity of your entire operation by not knowing what you don’t know.

If your car has a problem, you take it to a mechanic. If the drain is clogged, you call a plumber. If your computer has a problem, why try to fix it yourself? You, and each of your employees have a job to do that you alone are uniquely qualified to do. You have a company to build, sales to close and clients to serve. Let someone who specializes in computers make sure that all of your data is backed up, that all of your antivirus software is licensed and up to date, and that all of your critical I.T. services are being monitored and maintained properly. And if one of your employees has a computer problem, have her speak directly to the person that will fix the problem, not an office manager or a co-worker. That way, you can rest easy knowing that the problem will be correctly diagnosed and fixed right the first time.

8.     Conduct Regular Disaster Recovery Drills
An estimated 70% of small companies go out of business within one year of a major data loss. Disasters can happen, servers can crash, and data can be forever lost. Here are some interesting statistics reported by the University of North Carolina’s Information Technology Service:

  • A hard drive crashes every 15 seconds
  • 60% of all data is held on PC desktops and laptops
  • 2,000 laptops are stolen or lost every day
  • 32% of data loss is caused by human error
  • 31% of PC users have lost all of their PC files to events beyond their control.
  • 25% of lost data is due to the failure of a portable drive.
  • 44% of data loss is caused by mechanical failures
  • 15% or more of laptops are stolen or suffer hard drive failures
  • 1 in 5 computers suffer a fatal hard drive crash during their lifetime.
  • 40% of small and medium sized businesses don’t back up their data at all.

A disaster recovery plan is only as good as its execution. If you are one of the few companies that have a DR plan, put it to the test by conducting regular disaster recovery drills. Do a test restore of some key data. If possible, do a complete server restore to new hardware at least once a year or have someone do it for you. Imagine what would happen if your server completely died, or your building burned to the ground. Conducting this simple test on a regular basis could save your business.

9.     Lose Some Weight with Thin Clients
Remember the days of the dumb terminal: a computer that consisted of just a monitor and a keyboard? Well dumb terminals are back, only this time, they aren’t so dumb. Now they’re called “thin clients,” and they’re a lot less expensive to buy and maintain than putting a full-blown PC at every desk. The thin client approach allows you to virtualize the desktop and move it to a central server, so all a worker needs on their desk is an inexpensive box that connects them to a keyboard, mouse and monitor. You then store all data and programs on a central server that workers access through the network by way of the thin client, so you’ll have no more desktops to buy operating system licenses for, no more hardware upgrades to coordinate, no more hard drive crashes, and no more data to migrate when a user needs a new machine. Thin clients also create continuity for each user; whether they are working from home or someone else’s desk, they always connect to the same virtual desktop.

10.  Combine Your Phone Lines and Internet Access
Every business needs phone lines and Internet access. An integrated T1, also known as a Flex T1, combines local calling, long distance, and Internet service in one efficient package that could save you money. Ask your I.T. partner to find out what packages are available in your area.