Firewalls

For decades firewalls have been the first line of defense in network security. Using both hardware and software, businesses find it critical to monitor the incoming and outgoing traffic from other networks including the internet. A good firewall helps screen out hackers, viruses, and worms that try to reach your computer over the Internet. Without a solid firewall your network is exposed to potential dangers.

Personal home computers have built in firewalls that merely need to be accessed and turned on to maintain a level of security. According to Microsoft, it is important to protect every computer in the home. You should have a hardware firewall (such as a router) to protect your network, but you should also use a software firewall on each computer to help prevent the spread of a virus in your network if one of the computers becomes infected.

When it comes to business computers, employees should check with the network administrator about what protocols are called for with desktops, laptops and other devices. The growth of the internet and the resulting increased connectivity of networks means that early firewalls are no longer enough to keep out malicious traffic. Today there are numerous types of firewalls to protect the ever-evolving advancements and threats to business networks. There are proxy firewalls, Application-layer firewalls, Stateful firewalls, and Packet firewalls to choose from depending upon your company’s needs. If you don’t know what type of firewall your company requires to keep a barrier between yourself and malicious activities call M&H Consulting today.

Extending the Life of your Computer

Our work and personal computers, whether it is our desktop, laptop, tablet or smartphone are part of our everyday life. For some of us we are a bit addicted to it for work or social reasons. Whatever your reasons for using your technology, it probably was a major purchase costing you hundreds if not thousands of dollars. It also has critical information on it. Being without it for any amount of time is a nuisance and can cost time and money. So how then do we extend the life of these precious parts of our lives? Here are a few suggestions to follow.

  • Start by choosing the right computer for your needs. For example, when you are purchasing a laptop or desktop be sure you are getting one that has the best processor, enough memory, storage and the capability to add features that you want/need.
  • Properly maintain your computer no matter what you choose (and how durable they claim it is.) For instance keep your computer cool, clean and have it maintained regularly. Keep everything ticking smoothly by installing the latest updates of software that will allow for the latest security as well.
  • Update the RAM when you find that your computer is freezing when you need to work. Check for RAM upgrades that will allow you to keep your device working longer.
  • Be proactive by installing anti-virus, anti-malware and following protocols that will keep you safe from cyber attacks.
  • Give your computer space to breath. Literally! Do not stack it on a desk that has no air flow or keep in a car that can heat up and damage the hardware.

 

If you are looking for more ideas on ways to extend the life of your work or personal computers call M&H Consulting.

 

Business Apps for Getting Organized

One of the characteristics of a good business leader, whether you own a small business or large corporation, is the ability to stay organized. If you feel like you are always searching for items or find it hard to stay productive, you may need to “tweak” your organizational skills. Thankfully, technology has come a long way to help you get organized and stay that way from the moment you walk into work until the lights go out at closing. Here are some apps to consider that your IT department could easily put on your mobile devices.

  • To Do Lists – Do you need to maintain a running list of items that need to be accomplished either short or long term? There are apps that can help you quickly jot down items that may slip through the cracks during a busy work day. Two such app are Wunderlist which allows you to share work project lists and EasilyDo which allows for task lists to be prioritized and distributed to employees.
  • Note Taking – We have all been in meetings where we need to take notes, copy and share them with other members of the team. Evernote is a note taking application that lets you record and collect information that you have found interest in.  You can also share your notes with your team members using this application.
  • Financial Organization – Organization specifically geared toward financial expenses can be easily tracked using Expensify. This app allows you to take pictures of your receipts and store them all on one convenient dashboard.
  • Appointments and Event Organizing – As a business leader or manager, there are probably a million appointments, phone calls or conferences that you attend annually. Keeping those dates and times organized can be simple when using Google Calendar or Doodle. These apps allow you to manage and track your calendars across multiple platforms that include Outlook, Gmail, and Yahoo.

Tips for Using the iPhone 7 for Business

In our blog last week we covered some of the positive features that the iPhone 7 has for business owners. If you own an iPhone 7 and want to use it for business and pleasure here are a few tips to get you started.

  • Water Resistance Warning- While we wouldn’t recommend throwing your iPhone in a pool, you don’t have to worry as much if you spill a drink or drop it i a puddle any longer. Look for the warning on the handset that tells you when moisture has been detected and wipe off the liquid to ensure no damage is caused.
  • Improve the Sound – If you use your phone for business and need sound for videoconferencing and important client contacts you will enjoy the better sound. Tech Radar’s top tip: while the sound is good, if you’re listening in a kitchen plop the iPhone into a large bowl and you’ll get some really powerful audio coming your way.
  • Make your Notification Screen Matter – According to TechRadar, you can add all kinds of widgets – traffic information, news, weather forecasts, favorite contacts, OpenTable or TripAdvisor searches, recent conversations. Tom’s guide mentions further that the iOS 10 gives the Today screen a new home and new look for any iPhone, but you’ll want to customize what appears on that screen once you get your hands on a new iPhone 7 or iPhone 7 Plus. From either your lock screen or home screen, swipe right to see the Today screen. By default, it will include widget showing current weather conditions, upcoming calendar events, headlines from the News app, Siri app suggestions and Maps destinations for upcoming appointments.

Stay tuned for more iPhone tips to help your business stay in touch while you are mobile.

 

 

 

 

iPhone 7 and Business

If your business is often mobile, you probably are faced with using tablets, laptops and, of course, smartphones. Now that Apple has released the iPhone 7 you may be wondering if it is a good choice for your business. Here are some excerpts of what business users are saying about the newest member of the Apple product line. Keep in mind that your business needs are specific to your industry and trade.

According to Business News Daily, the iPhone 7 is, “the best iPhone for work yet. Mobile workers will love its superlong battery life, and everyone else will appreciate the phone’s speedy performance; roomy, 5.5-inch display; and sleek, waterproof design. But depending on how you use your phone, the lack of a headphone jack on the iPhone 7 Plus (starting at $769) could be a tough pill to swallow.”

Features you May Enjoy for Business:

  • Design – The iPhone 7 is slim and sleek, with nice rounded edges that rest comfortably on the palm. It’s available in the usual Silver, Gold, Rose Gold and Black, as well as a glossy new Jet Black option.
  • Display – The display is a huge 5.5 inches with bright beautiful colors. Many business users are disappointed that there is no split screen to allow for multitasking as other smartphones are offering.
  • VideoConferencing Ability – Business users are pleased that the iPhone 7 comes with front and rear facing cameras and sharp front facing 7-MP conferencing ability.
  • Battery Life – We all complain that our phone dies before we quit work for the day but the iPhone 7 boasts a longer battery life. Tests show almost 11 hours of full use battery life.

Signs of Laptop Overheating

In our last blog we discussed the dangers that summer weather and activities can pose for your laptop including heat, water and humidity. Unfortunately laptops overheat when left in the sun or when facing temperatures that are high in humidity. If this occurs then your laptop may face serious damage to the internal components and drives. Here are some red flags to be aware of so that your laptop doesn’t get fried this summer.

  • If your laptop feels hot and shows any of the problems below, chances are it’s overheating or getting there. If this is so then take steps immediately to cool down your laptop and prevent further overheating damage.
  • The fan is constantly running and making loud whirring noises.
  • The computer is struggling to perform basic tasks like opening a new browser window. Is your cursor slow to respond or loading constantly?
  • Mysterious error messages are popping up in random programs
  • Lines are showing up on your laptop screen (a sign your video card is overheating).
  • The system is freezing or you’re getting the dreaded BSOD (Blue Screen of Death).
  • The laptop abruptly shuts down on its own.
  • Certain areas of the bottom of the laptop are hot, like where the fan, RAM, processor, or battery are located.

According to LifeWire, these red flags could indicate an overheating laptop or components within or it could be a sign that the software is outdated. Be sure to have your laptop checked by a professional to confirm the device is safe and not being damaged by the temperature, humidity or condensation.

Summer Dangers – Laptops

Summer is in full swing and that means being outdoors more often, traveling and if you are lucky, working poolside. All of these things are wonderful unless you are a laptop. Even though your business or personal laptops may seem pretty sturdy and tough, it is a fairly delicate piece of machinery that can be damaged by high heat, water, and viruses.

Many of us take our laptops for granted which can be dangerous if your personal and business data is on the device. (Hopefully you are backing up and have a plan to protect your information.) Here are some things to consider regarding safeguarding your laptop this summer.

  • Avoid Extreme Temperatures – Laptops can handle temps up to 95 degrees Fahrenheit. After that temperature the device will shut down and damage can be caused to the drive and your data. Never leave your laptop in direct sunlight. This means do not leave your device in the car where temps can reach well over 100 degrees. In addition you may want to try using a cooling stand that can protect your device when you are in warm temperatures.
  • Avoid Water – While it may seem relaxing to work on your laptop at the beach or by the pool be sure to keep the device away from water. It’s not uncommon for water splashes to get into the machinery and cause problems. Liquid-proof keyboard covers are a good idea to help avoid these problems.
  • Avoid High Humidity– When the dew point reaches the high levels it is not just uncomfortable for humans but can be a problem for computers as well. Many laptops can experience electrical problems when the humidity is very high, such as 80 percent. Don’t work outside with a laptop on days like this, or you could fry your PC.
  • Avoid Condensation – When items move from a cool air conditioned area to a hot, humid outdoor climate, condensation can occur in the device. Avoid this by allowing your laptop to acclimate to the weather. Shut off your laptop when moving from between temperature extremes.

 

 

Latest Cyber Attack

Just weeks after the WannaCry ransomware was announced, the world has seen yet another disruptive cyber attack. June 27, 2017 a more sophisticated global ransomware attack crippled computers from Eastern Europe to North America. What seems to have originated from a tax software provider in the Ukraine has spread across the continent of Europe and has even impacted Australia and the United States.

 

This attack impacted thousands of computers in a wide range of businesses such as: computers that operated ATMs, radiation monitoring machines at the damaged Chernobyl nuclear plant, and even computers that run chocolate production at the Cadbury company in Australia. What at first appeared to be an amatuer attack is now seen as a much more sophisticated attack that locks up files and demands ransom for access from tens of thousands of computers.

CNN is reporting that this, “ ransomware virus is a worm that infects networks by moving from computer to computer. It uses a hacking tool called EternalBlue, which takes advantage of a weakness in Microsoft Windows. Microsoft (MSFT, Tech30) released a patch for the flaw in March, but not all companies have used it. EternalBlue was in a batch of hacking tools leaked earlier this year that are believed to have belonged to the U.S. National Security Agency.”

 

Early research into this attack shows that the cyber criminals hope to to destroy and damage. Unlike the WannaCry attack this latest attack has no easy kill switch. There have only been reports of a kill switch for one version and it is not known if that will be effective. Check back with us as we continue to cover this event.

 

 

The Rise of Artificial Intelligence

“Siri,  what time is it in London right now?”

“Alexa, access the audio of last nights conference.”

“Echo, shut the shades for the presentation.”

If you thought that artificial intelligence is not a trend in 2017, think again. AI is  all around us, on our smartphones, in our cars and in Amazon dots that sit on our countertops. Automation has been around for decades but slowly that automation has taken on more of a role in our business and home lives. Automation has made work easier, in some cases to the point of replacing the human factor. Automation has also become more intuitive and accurate. Where this trend is going has experts wondering just how far artificial intelligence will play a role in the business world.

Most expert in AI agree that the presence of artificial technology is not going anywhere and will in fact increase in its use. Here are just a two ways that AI may begin to impact the business world within this year.

  • Data Sorting – One area that artificial intelligence is thriving is sorting and organizing big data. AI can gather and analyze massive amounts of data in short periods of time. It can then deliver insights and recommendations based on what it learns, and act on those insights without relying on a human to intervene or guide it.
  • Supervising – While the idea of a machine supervising work may seem a little too “out there,” it is in the realm of possibility. Many automated processes in companies can be switched over to AI technology and leave employees to handle more subjective jobs. Human employees can then oversee the technology handling the software.

Keep an eye on AI in the workplace and return to our blog to find out more as the year unfolds.

Can Virtual Reality Help Your Company?

Virtual Reality seems more like the plot of a sci-fi movie that anything that could help you in the business world. Well, more and more businesses are coming up with new and different ways to integrate virtual reality into their businesses in ways that could benefit their customers, clients or even employees. Virtual Reality may be able to help your clients access content in a way that is not always possible in a two dimensional setting. The year 2017 may be the time that VR explodes in the business world. Let’s take a look at just a few of the ways that virtual reality may benefit your company.

  • Prototypes – For many businesses that have products that are in development, VR could allow clients or employees to create, use or rework a virtual model of your product and make necessary changes before actually paying for production.
  • Designing – If part of your service or product requires designing, VR may help save time and energy in engineering plans or designs. Replications of structures can make this work easy and allow a better viewpoint that can troubleshoot any design flaws.
  • Tours – For businesses that want to show off their showroom or workshop VR can allow for virtual tours even from a remote location. For example, in real estate, a buyer from another state could easily see a property hundreds of miles from home without leaving their home.
  • Training – Many businesses require training on equipment that may mean hiring a specialist. VR can allow employees to get their hands on equipment in the virtual world where there is no fear of breaking equipment.

Wondering how VR could be useful to your business? Give M&H a call.