What is the Cloud?

I’m sure that if you clicked on this blog it’s because you are trying to figure out exactly what this “cloud” thing is when it comes to the internet. Sure, you may know it exists through Apple and Google, but what is it exactly and how does it even work?

Well, according to CNN Money, the cloud is software and services that run on the Internet instead of your computer. With it you have access to any files stored on it no matter where you are. Essentially, the cloud is a network hard drive. There are many services you are probably familiar with that are cloud services. Some of the more well-known entities being iCloud, Google Drive, and Amazon Drive, but did you know that DropBox, Netflix, Flickr, and similar services are also cloud services? Well, they are.

With the cloud you can have access to many other things, like movies and shows. If your laptop was dying and you needed to continue your movie/show on a different device, without missing the spot you were left on, this can be possible through the cloud. How awesome is that?

“So, where is the cloud? Is it even an actual place?”

Yes! The cloud is a physical place. Whenever you are saving a file to the mysterious cloud, the file transfers through wires into various servers—like Apple or Google—in distant places.

“Wait, multiple servers have access to my files?”

Yes, and this is where it gets a little tricky. Because the files are sent to various servers, there are many copies being made for each one. If you wanted to delete a file forever, sometimes you can’t get all the copies deleted. In other words, they could still exist in another company’s server. That’s not all. Depending on the company’s terms and conditions, you may or may not actually own or control the data you send out.

“Does this mean hackers can get into my files through a cloud company?”

Essentially, yes they can. This is a scary thing to think about especially since many health care providers and insurance companies, among other businesses, store your personal information on the cloud. This is how celebrity pictures get hacked—through their Smartphone’s cloud, usually.

“So how do I protect my data being saved in the cloud?”

Sure enough, there is a solution for everything. Before storing your data to the cloud make sure to use encryptions for each one, this way your files’ information will be kept safe while still being able to access them.

Handling Technology Needs of Remote Employees

With technology expanding, there are many things we can do today that we could not do before the Internet came to rise.  One of those things, which has revolutionized the way we work, is off-site working, or remote work. According to Business News Daily, 79% of workers worldwide are working remotely at least once a week.

With the expansion of businesses trying to offer remote work as an option to some employees, there are many new technology systems made to help manage and make it easier to work off-site.

Encryption:

When working off-site, it is important to have laptops and computers encrypted in order to protect delicate work information.

Software Protection:

All employees should have a virus protection software to ensure that nothing affects the efficiency or work productivity.

VPN:

A form of VPN, or Virtual Private Network, is a good way for employees to get work done wherever they may be in a safe and secure way. With a VPN, all employees could have access and share content to one another.

Firewall:

A firewall helps keep hackers and viruses from coming to contact with your computer through the Internet.

Web Camera:

Videoconferencing is a great way to get all employees to an important meeting whenever they are off-site so that everyone can participate in real time.

Collaboration Tools:

Having access to a collaboration tool —like Trello, Yammer, Red Pen, etc.— can help employees to plan, organize and assign projects and other contents.

Social Media Managing Tool:

If the company has many social media platforms that need to be managed by multiple people on and off-site, a social media managing tool—like Hootsuit, Buffer, Social Bro, etc.—can help employees manage and schedule certain posts at all different times of the day.

Group Chats & IM:

Group chats and instant messaging websites—like HipChat, Office Chat, Campfire, etc.—can keep employees connected. It also makes it easier for them to share information instantly with a large group.

Password Manager:

If you or your employees are working with multiple sites requiring passwords, a password manager—like Dashlane, KeePass, 1Password, etc.—could help you securely save and share passwords online.

Aside from all technology management systems, it is also important to have people managing remote workers by reviewing their logs, providing advice, and staying in contact with them. Having a clear communication guideline, like what times they should be available and what the best ways to contact them is, can help the work go about more smoothly.

 

Why Custom Software Development may be the Best Choice

Custom software development is the act of designing a software application that tailors the needs of a business or organization. This type of software can be a great way of enhancing productivity in a business. There are many benefits to upgrading a business’ software to custom software rather than buying license to off-the-shelf software, which are packaged software applications that are available to a cast audience with similar needs.

Custom software package is tailored to the specific needs of your business by keeping the organization’s infrastructures, branding and implementations in mind. Not only would it allow the business employees to do everything they need to work efficiently but, it also saves time and money from having to buy the license to multiple software in order to get a few that do everything the employees need.

Developing a custom software can help save money in the long run by maintaining the software program as the company grows with little to no limitations, and by maintaining it for as long as possible. Sometimes off-the-shelf software companies can go bankrupt causing businesses to lose data and seeking for last minute applications. With custom software, this is not an issue.

Because the custom software is tailored to your organization’s unique needs, the company can be protected from external threats attempting to breach systems. Since the software is not for a vast general public, outside hackers will not know what the weakness or the function of the system is. It would require more effort for them to simply attempt it.

After upgrading to custom software, the application can be set up to work with other software already being used. This is something rarely available in off-the-shelf software. This can help the business continue with productivity rather than having to stop using the systems already being used in order to figure out the new one.

Having a custom software program may be the best choice for your company if: you cannot find an off-the-shelf application that does everything you need it to, you are trying to save money in the long run, if you are trying to keep hackers away, and, most importantly, if you want to enhance progress in the business.

 

What is a VPN & What are The Advantages of Having One?

What is a VPN?

Virtual Private Network, or VPN, is a service adding security to both private and public networks, like Wi-Fi and the internet, in order to share or stream information in any area of the world securely. A VPN works as a form of encrypting communications when using an untrusted public network.

This service is most common in companies and schools. College campuses use VPN to connect college campuses located across the country or even the world.

How does it Work?

A VPN connects a vast amount of users and remote sites. It also gives access to network resources when they are in a different local area network.

In order to access the network, someone with access would send out the access link, which would then require your login information and your credentials, like a personal identification number (PIN). After doing so, the computer would begin exchanging trusted keys with any services outside of your location. (Source: LifeHacker.com)

What are the Advantages of a VPN?

          

  •      Keeps expanding businesses connected

Expanding businesses benefit from a VPN because it keeps all the business’ employees connected to one network. They are able to access and share important and sensitive information safely without any intruders.

  •      Gives accessibility to work when traveling

When traveling for business, it can give you easy access to company resources on their network. Also, if you are working with sensitive information at the airport, or in a café, where open Wi-Fi is available, you could access your VPN to keep the information secured.

  •      Keeps downloading information private

Regardless of what you may be downloading, or where you may be downloading from, a VPN can keep this information secured and keep you away from the lurking eyes.

  •      Allows streaming of shows in different countries or time-zones

If you happen to be away from home, in a different country or time zone, and are looking to watch a show that is airing sooner at home than in the location you are in, you can access the VPN normally used for your home in order to access the show. The same situation goes if you wanted to watch or access a site from another country, which you could not access otherwise.

 

Common Tech Mistakes of Small Businesses

We all know the old adage, “To err is human, to really mess this up you need a computer.”  At  M&H Consulting we wholeheartedly concur!  In our tech-driven business world, small companies are forced to become tech savvy whether they deal in the computer industry or a completely different field.  Purchasing, maintaining and securing technology can be confusing, fast paced and seem as though it is forever changing especially if it is not your field of expertise.  While you may have a good idea of what you should do with your tech systems, knowing is a completely different animal than doing.  Here are a few tips on the most common tech mistakes to avoid.

  • Backing up Data – There are literally hundreds of strategies and tips to properly backup data depending upon the type of business and what type of backup is required.  However, strategies are useless if they are not implemented and maintained regularly.  IT professionals can suggest backup programs and software that can automate this step for your company and even provide off site storage.
  • Power Protection – All it takes is one power surge, an outage or a spike to damage expensive hardware and to cause a massive data loss. Businesses commonly fail to plan for such occurrences and are lacking battery backup and surge protection.  Plan ahead to save yourself headaches later with surge protection, battery backups and test failover protection regularly.
  • Security Protocols – Security issues are all over the news lately, so failing to plan for this common mistake could cost your company time, money and a sense of trust with consumers. Seek advice for the best methods from a professional IT company who can recommend the latest in security strategies and can continually keep your system updated.
  • Regular Maintenance – If your company follows the, “If it ain’t broke don’t fix it”  motto then you are headed for problems in the not too distant future.  Just like your car, all technology needs regular maintenance to work properly.  Regular maintenance can dramatically improve the speed and reliability of your network, as well as the security of your data. This regular maintenance can also take care of issues such as software that no longer licensed and security issues that may have gone unnoticed.

Cloud Computing

Daniel Prestwood

Cloud computing is the latest way to stay on top of your workflow and compete with other businesses. It offers many advantages like cutting costs spent on purchasing infrastructure, flexibility of working from just about wherever you like, and improved efficiency over your workflow as everyone is able to share data on projects through the cloud!

The cost savings for running a cloud based workforce can be substantial. With a cloud there’s no need to shell out top dollar for powerful computers in order to keep your staff working efficiently. Your employees will be able to use the resources available on the cloud to work efficiently on their projects or daily tasks.

Cost savings can also be observed on the utilities as well. Servers and other infrastructure can increase your cost to do business even when they are energy efficient. Switching to the cloud allows you to turn off those machines and use less electricity to power and or cool equipment.

cloud-computing

Clouds also offer scalability to their customers in a variety of ways. You can increase your storage to meet your company’s needs during times of growth. You can also increase the number of desktop hosts should you hire on new staff. When you no longer need the extra storage or want to reduce the number of desktops, you can simply request these actions from your cloud provider!

The cloud can be a cost beneficial part of your company’s strategy to success! It can save you operating costs and provide you with desktop anywhere. At M&H we are happy to be associated with Cloud-Connect a locally based cloud provider and can assist you with becoming a member of the cloud based community!

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Is your Wireless Secure?

“Going” wireless usually requires connecting to the internet through a wireless router of some sort.  Then the signal is sent to a device through the air sometimes as far as several hundred feet away.  Any device, whether it is a laptop, smartphone, or tablet can pull that signal from the air and access the internet.  That means anyone nearby can “piggyback” onto your network and access your information unless you take the right precautions.  Let’s look at some basic steps for you to protect your home or business network from intruders.

  • Password Encryption – Leaving your router open without a password is like inviting intruders to use your bandwidth and access your information. Wireless routers often come out of the box with the encryption feature disabled, so be sure to check that encryption is turned on shortly after you or your broadband provider installs the router. To turn on encryption, you will need to pick a wireless network password. Longer passwords that utilize a combination of letters, numbers and symbols are more secure. If there is a default password be sure to change it immediately.
  • Limit Access – Allow only specific devices to access your wireless network. Every device that is able to communicate with a network is assigned a unique Media Access Control (MAC) address. Wireless routers usually have a mechanism to allow only devices with particular MAC addresses to access to the network. Some hackers have mimicked MAC addresses, so don’t rely on this step alone.
  • Get Network Monitoring – There are several apps out there that can monitor to see if unwanted visitors are using your network.  They can report information such as hostnames, IP addresses, MAC addresses, and more. If there is any information you don’t recognize, you can investigate and find out if someone or something is on your network that shouldn’t be.
  • Secure the Router – Several steps can be taken to secure the actual router including: changing the name of the router, changing any pre-set password, turn off remote features, keep your router up-to-date and logout as admin so no one can piggyback on your session.

Benefits of Outsourcing your IT Needs

When something goes awry with your business computer system–and it always does–you depend on your IT Department to solve the problem in a timely manner.  Sometimes you wonder where your company would be without that group of professionals who seem to be able to mysteriously fix all the tech problems with the press of a few buttons and the writing of code.  Well, what if I told you that outsourcing your company’s need may be more beneficial to your company?  What if I told you that outsourcing could be advantageous in several ways such as: cost effectiveness, improved security, increased productivity, and access to state of the art technology? Let’s look at some of the benefits that your company may see if they switch to outsourcing their IT needs.

  • Cost Savings – Financial savings can be across the board in two main areas:  equipment and labor.  When outsourcing IT your savings can be upwards of thousands of dollars a year, potentially. Hardware expenditures will be down including: servers, storage, and telecommunications equipment can be provided as part of your IT package.  There will also be no more yearly expenditure for salary or health benefits for an operational IT Department.  Hiring and training an IT staff can be very expensive. Outsourcing allows your company to only pay for what is needed, when it is needed.
  • Improved Technology and Security – Outsourcing means that if you hire a quality provider, your software including malware will be up-to-date and prepared for the latest security risks. Outsourcing also means that you are hiring experts who are trained by the provider on the latest technology and security protocols because that is the basis of their business.  Outsourced IT departments can provide IT tech experts that have a very high skill set and knowledge about the newest trends in software that will be compatible with your company’s systems.  Outsourcing is also ideal because a quality provider will stay on top of new tech and keep their system up to date. This way, your business can take advantage of cutting edge technology.
  • Improved Productivity – Your company, whether it is in healthcare, engineering, law, nonprofit or retail can now focus on your core business while leaving the tech needs to an outside company whose sole purpose is to make your systems are running and secure so you can back to the “real” work.

Improve the Lifespan of your PC

There is a lot that can be done to maintain your favorite PC in good health, whether it is a desktop or laptop. Sure, there are many new PCs out there for a great price, but none that could compare to your very own. Well, here are some tips to help ensure an improvement in the lifespan of your PC.

Increase Free Space:

As time goes on, your computer can become very cluttered with useless files or programs you no longer use. This can cause your computer to slow down and delay the computer’s start up. The easiest way to clean out space is by deleting all temporary files, emptying the trash bin, cleaning up the desktop, and uninstalling programs that are no longer in use.

When getting rid of programs, make sure to go through the control panel. Deleting the program’s files doesn’t mean it is being uninstalled.

Clean Your PC:

Filth and dust can suffocate the computer’s hardware. This can cause more heat productivity, which can add stress to other elements in the hardware. Clean your computer every 6 to 12 months.

To clean your PC, use a lint-free cloth instead of a paper towel, an electronic-safe cleaning solution, cotton swabs, and a can of compressed air.

Give your PC Space:

When a PC is compressed, it can easily overheat because the fan cannot always catch up. Give your computer access to cool air and avoid placing it near heater vents or space heaters. Also, when using a desktop, avoid placing towers in the cabinets on computer desks.

Avoid Hard Drive Issues:

Many times, improper shutdowns and crashes can occur causing file system errors and bad sectors leading to system instability and blue screen. The best way to stop these issues is by running the “Check Disk” tool frequently in order to detect and repair any issues that may be on the rise.

Defragment Your Drive:

Hard drives can become fragmented and spread out throughout the hardware, which make it work harder and slow down the drive in the process.

Defragmenting can occur by manually running the defragment utility. However, if your computer has the modern version of Windows, then you would not have to worry since it automatically defragments the drive for you.

Use a Surge Protector:

Surge protectors are important as surges can add stress to the computer and even damage the power supply in its entirety, as well as other elements.

When buying or using a surge protector, make sure it has a functional protection status. At times, surge protectors can still produce power even when the protection is no longer there.

Protect Your PC From Power Loss:

Power loss can cause damage to the drive of your PC desktop and cause file extortion.

Using an uninterruptible power supply (UPS) can protect your computer from power loss damages. A UPS is essentially a surge protector with a backup battery that immediately engages after power has been loss.

Laptops would not be affected from power loss.

Protect PC Against Malware:

Malware can encrypt your entire system and refuse to surrender unless a ransom is paid or the drive is restarted from scratch.

To protect your computer, run a good security suite to combat viruses, malware, and intrusions. (Source: PC World)

Protecting Your Mobile Device

Justin Bowden

In today’s day and age, the need to be constantly connected to your data, your email, your applications, etc. is a high priority for most users. Technology has allowed us to be free from the clunky desktops of old and we can now access the things that we need to do our jobs, or enjoy the luxuries for our personal lives, from virtually anywhere in the world! Businesses are taking advantage of these technologies and streamlining costs by allowing users to exist in a BYOD (bring your own device) environment. Unfortunately, this creates a lucrative target for the “bad guys” out there, who look to compromise these devices and gain access to sensitive personal or business data.

Viruses and malware are being specifically created to target these mobile devices because they believe users don’t take the same type of safety precautions they would with a normal desktop or laptop – and in a lot of cases, they are correct. Just recently a new strain of Android malware was found and what makes this particular malware so alarming is that it is virtually impossible to remove. Malware such as
this often masquerades as legitimate apps, such as your favorite games, or Facebook. It will even act exactly like those applications, making it difficult or impossible to tell that anything sinister is happening. It imbeds itself into your device, and gives itself root access. That means it can practically do anything it wants with your device. Most of the time it will only cause annoying pop up ads, but there is
the possibility that it will allow unrestricted access to data that these apps shouldn’t have.

There are a few simple ways that you can protect your devices from these malicious forms of software. The first step is to keep your device up to date with the latest operating system patches. The next step is to not install any applications from 3rd party sites. A lot of malicious software are created and distributed from these, since they do not have to go through the same scrutiny as an itunes or Google play application would. Always only download and install applications from these trusted sites. Another way to protect your device is to have malware and virus protection on it. Malwarebytes is free software which can be downloaded from you various app stores. It can provide real time protection and scanning of your device to ensure that it is malware free. As for antivirus programs there are many free ones out there. One that M&H recommends is Sophos antivirus. In addition to having real time protection for your device it also offers a host of other features that many users would find beneficial. Sophos can offer encryption of your device, allowing your data to be protected if lost or stolen. You can setup a remote wipe, which would allow you to wipe your device in case it is stolen. It also has a spam protection which can help with those annoying texts and spam phone calls!

Here at M&H, while we strongly recommend having virus protection on your mobile device, we would caution that isn’t it a full guarantee that your device won’t be susceptible. If you have questions on the best ways to protect your mobile devices, or would like us to make sure that they are up to date and protected contact us any time at 866-9MB-TECH or email us at support@mhconsults.com

———————————————————————————–
TAKE SSSCASHSSS FROM M&H CONSULTING
Refer a new Tech-For-A-Day client to M&H Consulting and mention this offer to
us, and you will receive $25 for each PC the new client has. Call for details.
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