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Cloud Computing: Your Pre Flight Check List

Cloud Computing: Your Pre Flight Checklist Cloud computing is more than a passing trend. Cloud computing is a way for small to medium businesses (SMBs) to tap enterprise class applications and infrastructure that once only large companies could afford. Cloud Computing allows SMBs to share the overhead for data center security, bandwidth, monitoring and management. Small to medium businesses share cloud based Software as a Service (SaaS) applications and Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) without having to invest in capital intensive projects. If you are considering a move to the cloud, here is a pre flight checklist to consider. Public Cloud vs. Private Cloud With cloud computing you are moving your data and computer processing to a location other than your own. The cloud location may be shared (i.e. public cloud) or dedicated environment (private cloud). The trade off for private cloud versus public cloud is that the private cloud will be more expensive due to cost for additional security. In most cases the public cloud is more secure than your own office or business. What’s more, by sharing these resources with other companies you also may save money in the long run. While sensitive data, such as, financial records, may be more secure in the cloud, you may have regulatory requirements that prevent you from sharing common resources such as CPUs, racks or cages to store your data in a public cloud If you have compliance issues that require extra physical security, consider a private cloud solution. Cloud Migration Consideration To move to a cloud based application including SaaS, take the time to consider what data you need...

Computer Repair vs. New Computer?

Are you ready to upgrade your desktop and laptop computers?  Expect lots of exciting new changes to come out later this year. Unless your needs are urgent, you may want to wait until the Fall.  Here is what to expect in the new computer market, along with tips to help you squeeze  the most out of your current computers. Intel Ivy Bridge Intel Corporation leads the market share in computer chips and processors. Today Intel started shipping its’ third generation processors called Ivy Bridge.  Ivy Bridge promises faster graphics and longer battery life for new computers.  This new processor is expected to be widely available in desktops and laptops this Summer. Microsoft Windows 8 Microsoft will be releasing Windows 8.  The release date has yet to be confirmed but many believe it will be available in the Fall of 2012.   While the emphasis of the release is on tablet computers, there will be other benefits, including enhanced security and better remote access.  Consider that many new laptops and desktop computers purchased today may be upgradable to Microsoft Windows 8, they may not take full advantage of some of the new features of the new O/S. What’s New from Apple Apple is expected to release a new operating system called Mountain Lion O/S later this Summer.  Also expect a new lineup of the Macbook Pro and possible upgrades to the  Mac Air.  Insiders suggest the new lineup of laptops will be thinner, lighter and have longer battery life. Looking for a Deal? With all this new technology coming to market, you may be able to deal on older models and...

Is Your Network Safer Than The Titanic?

One hundred years ago the ship, called “unsinkable” had its hull breached by an iceberg and caused the death of over 1500 passengers. You may think your network is “invincible” like the Titanic, however, your network security policies may cause vulnerability putting your IT assets and critical data at risk. Here are several steps you can take to avoid compromising your network security: WiFi Access WiFi technology makes it easy for you to network your computers. Your WiFi signal may broadcast beyond the physical security of your office allowing uninvited visitors to access your network and compromise your network security and compliance policies. Make sure your WiFi network connections are password protected and securely encrypted. Also, consider turning off your WiFi during non business hours. By the way, wireless technology (the telegraph) saved the lives of hundreds of passengers on the Titanic. Thumb Drives and USB Drives Sharing data through thumb drives or USB drives may allow unintended computer viruses and malicious software, also known as malware, transfer from other non secure computers and enter the perimeter of your secure network. For this reason, some network administrators set strict IT policies that prevent thumb drives from being used on any office computer. There are plenty of secure services available for files sharing between computers (e.g. remote backup and remote control software). Ask your IT support professional about your policy for using USB drives and thumb drives and the impact they may have on your network security. Security Patches Operating System and Application Security patches are designed to keep your network secure. Your network security is as vulnerable as its’...

Why you should audit your network.

Do you know what’s connected to your network? If not, you should! Auditing your network and creating an inventory of your IT assets catalogs all devices connected to your network including PCs, laptops, printers, routers and switches. In some cases, assets discovered may even be unauthorized. By scanning and discovering all connected devices, your IT team can quickly perform a hardware and software audit. This helps ensure compliance with network policy, software licensing compliance, and compliance with industry regulatory requirements, such as, HIPPA. What’s more, having asset data cataloged, including hardware and software profiles, helps remote support technicians troubleshoot when things go wrong. What can you do with network audit data? Check your firewall’s security settings to make sure you are protected from the latest hacker attacks, worms, and viruses. Scan and remove spyware that is secretly stealing your company’s bandwidth, jeopardizing the speed of your computer system, and embezzling confidential information about you, your employees, and your business. Check your network’s backup system to ensure it is working properly and accurately backing up all of the critical files and information you never want to lose. Verify that you have the most up-to-date security patches installed properly; miss one critical update and you’re a “sitting duck.” Identify unstable PCs that may operate slowly. Search for all items meeting a criteria in summary and detail. For example, to determine how many machines use windows 7 with 4 megs of RAM to see if they are eligible for an O/S migration. Determine which devices may be out of software license compliance. Summarize warranty information for which devices are covered and which...

Sometimes it is easy being green.

Today is St. Patrick’s Day. Everybody is Irish for 24 hours and the color green is top of mind. Green Computing or sustainable computing is a way to use your IT Assets such as computers, printers, monitors, servers, routers and storage devices efficiently, effectively and with minimal impact on the environment. Here are a few ideas to keep to practice green and sustainable computing: Turn them off when you don’t use them. For desktops and laptops consider turning them off when you are done for the day. Leaving them on at night can increase power consumption. Besides, your PC could use a reboot now and then anyway. However, be sure you speak with your backup and network administrator about IT policies for systems maintenance. Your systems may have a daily backup scheduled after hours. In addition, software and operating system updates may occur after hours as well. Some “managed” desktops, laptops and servers are smart enough to power up for routine systems maintenance. Check your IT policies first to make sure it is OK to turn them off at night. Buy Energy Star computer equipment. Energy Start is a low carbon IT campaign to help reduce energy consumed by computer equipment. When you buy new computers make sure they are Energy Star Compliant. If you have older equipment you may factor in power savings as part of your return on investment (ROI) for your new systems. Consider this, an Energy Star computer can save up to $50 annual in power. Not only to you save some “green” by buying Energy Star Computers, but, by minimizing your carbon footprint you...

Moving your IT to the Cloud? Here are some things to consider.

Moving your IT to the Cloud? It seems like everyone is doing it. According to a 2011 survey by IPED at least 50% of small businesses will adopt cloud computing within their business by the end of 2012. With all of the hype about cloud computing, here are some things to consider before you make the move. Let’s start off with what is Cloud Computing? The easiest way to explain the “Cloud” is think of it as using computer assets (software, servers, etc.) that are located somewhere off-site from your company’s location. Cloud computing is typically purchased on a subscription basis (i.e. a monthly service fee) avoiding some of the up front costs. Also, the Cloud may be a shared resource (i.e. Public Cloud) or dedicated resource (i.e. Private Cloud). The first thing your need to decide is: what do you want to gain by moving to the Cloud? Are you trying to avoiding making capital expenditures? Do you want to pay-as-you go for your IT infrastructure as an operating expense instead of a capital expense? Are you concerned about being able to recover from a backup in the event a disaster, such as, a fire, earthquake or hurricane that could destroys all your computers and data on site? If any of this appeals to you, then Cloud Computing might either augment or replace critical IT assets within your company today. However, these benefits do not come without risk. If you decide to replace your line of business application (e.g. Accounting Software) with a Cloud alternative commonly known as Software as a Service (SaaS) you won’t have to pay...

Happy Leap Day!

Every four years we all get something we all need in our busy lives, more time.  How we use that extra day may determine whether we become more productive or efficient.  Maybe that gift of an extra day will make us more relaxed.  This year February 29th falls on a workday, so here are a few ideas to consider. Decide to upgrade your network.  PCs, servers routers and other IT assets typically have a useful life of three to five years.  As technology advances at a rapid pace, your hardware and software assets become obsolete.  Your systems may become slow, sluggish and unreliable.  Obsolete hardware and software can contribute to loss of employee productivity or worse.  You may be a victim of malicious software attacks or malware because your old network is out of O/S patch compliance.  Like changing the battery in your smoke detector, consider upgrading that network at least every four years. Evaluate your line of business applications.  Has your business grown or changed? Does that accounting system continue to meet your needs?  Many businesses will outgrow their line of business applications within 5 years.  Use Leap Day to consider if your account software meets your current set of business rules.  If your policies and procedures have changed since the time you first implemented your account software, perhaps the system is holding you back.  Now is a good time to make sure your technology is in line with your business strategy. Update your technology roadmap. Now that you have an extra 24 hours, consider your future business and growth strategies.  Think through how those strategies may need...

Adopting an Integrated IT Strategy

Are you thrilled with your IT infrastructure? Chances are you do not want to think about it at all. In fact, the less you worry about your IT Infrastructure and assets the better – right? Small and medium businesses (SMBs) rely on hardware, software, email and data to run daily operations. The slightest hiccup can turn into a huge distraction resulting in loss of productivity for your employees and company. What can you do to take the worry out of your IT? One solution is to adopt an integrated IT strategy. Instead of managing a variety of tools for data protection, remote backup, anti-virus and anti-malware yourself, have your IT Service Provider manage your infrastructure for you. Do you really have time to ensure all your systems are up to date with operating systems (O/S) patches to protect you from the latest security threats? Remember, your network is only as secure as your most vulnerable device. If you miss a patch on one device, your entire network may be out of compliance and compromised. There are plenty of benefits from adopting an integrated approach to managing your IT assets. For starters, having a single source IT Service Provider means you have one organization to call when you have a problem. If you have service level agreement (SLA) in place, you will get a rapid resolution when you run into problems. What’s more, by using the latest remote monitoring and management technologies, your IT Service Provider will identify and resolve problems before you even realize you have them. By proactively managing and monitoring your IT Systems, you will run into...

Proactive IT for Small and Medium Businesses

Let’s face it, most businesses rely on their IT Systems to run their daily operations. Whether it is email, eCommerce, accounting or other “line of business” applications, SMBs need the same up time and availability as a large business. Most of the time everything hums right along. When PC’s crash or the network crawls, business can come to a grinding halt. Being proactive with your IT Services can make all the difference in the world in getting up and running again. Here are some tips to ensure you get back up and running quickly: Start off by having all your ducks in a row. When things go wrong, make sure you know who to call. Don’t wait until things are broken to find an IT Service Provider or Computer Repair Company. Establish a Service Level Agreement (SLA) with a reputable IT Service Provider in advance. By having an agreed upon response time and rate schedule, you can ensure a rapid response to your problem that works by your schedule. In many cases you can pay by the hour or by the ticket. You may even be able to include unforeseen computer repairs as part of a fixed fee IT Managed Service Agreement. By having a service level agreement in place, you will save time and money when things go wrong. Also consider having both local and off-site backups of your data. When we thing about backup we typically think about a disaster, theft or other systems failure. Any way you look at it, backup is all about recovery. A local backup can help you find lost files or recover...

5 Tips for Protecting your Data

It seems not a week goes by when you hear about some company getting hacked. Not only is this embarrassing, but also it can be costly if you compromise customer’s data. According to PCICompliance.org banks may pass along fines ranging from $5,000 to $100,000 for each infraction. So what can you do to protect yourself and reduce your risks? Here are 5 quick tips for you to consider: 1. Windows O/S Patch – Everyday there are new patches, updates, and hotfixes available from Microsoft for your computers. Many of these patches are created to close security holes for your PC. If your PC is at risk your network is at risk. This means your data is at risk too. By making sure ALL your systems are up to date on a DAILY basis, you will help protect your data, and your systems will run better too. 2. Antivirus – Keeping your Antivirus definitions up to date is another way to protect yourself from data loss. These Antivirus updates are designed to avoid dangerous attacks and to prevent malicious programs from destroying your data. Verify your Antivirus definitions are always up to date. 3. Malware – Malware is short for malicious software. These programs not only slow your computer and disrupt your work, but they can also gather information from your machine resulting in a breach of privacy. Many malware programs are designed specifically for capturing credit card information. There are many new programs designed to detect and destroy malware. Make sure you are ahead of these types of attacks. 4. Network Scan and Audit – You can identify security...