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Christmas devices

Buying Tech in Time for Christmas

Christmas time is back with us again. The latest devices and gadgets are hitting store shelves just in time to keep up with the rush. Magazines, television, and the web are brimming with advertisements and reviews of the latest tech your money can buy.

Before you rush out to buy the gadgets you’ve been waiting all year for, consider a few important questions before parting with your hard-earned cash.

Does This Technology Do What I need?

First, you must ask what problem you are trying to solve with a new piece of tech. The most important thing to consider is how adopting your new device will improve on what you had before.

In some cases, a sleek new gadget or device for fun is good too.

When you’ve answered this question, you should consider whether there is other tech or competing devices out there that can perform even better.

Should I Become an Early Adopter?

Early adopters are people that anticipate the release of new tech, wait in line on release day, and pride themselves on having the latest gadgets to hit the shelves. If you recognize yourself in this description you are likely to snap up the latest devices the day they are released. This eager anticipation, however, is not always the way to get the best deals or the best gadgets.

Companies often rely on new product hype to give sales an early boost. Waiting for the marketing and hype to subside, even a little, can save you a lot of money.

After initial sales fall, companies often mark down their prices to keep their devices attractive and sales high. When newer, faster, sleeker devices hit the market, companies cut prices to maintain strong sales figures. For the budget smart consumer this is an opportunity for a bargain. A device good enough to buy on launch day is well worth waiting for.

Have I checked The Reviews?

We are fortunate enough to have access to seemingly unlimited amounts of information at our fingertips. Often weeks before a product is released, reviews are available across the web.

One of the best things you can do when considering a new device, particularly a high-cost purchase, is to watch and read a wide variety of product reviews. It pays to be cautious of reviews that are particularly glowing, or too downbeat. Keep an eye out for middle of the road reviews that fairly weigh the pros and cons of each device.

Have I Found the Best Deal?

There are many ways to keep an eye out to make sure you get the best deal on your device. If you can, monitor prices over time to see how they rise and fall to find the best time to purchase.

When purchasing online, many sites include a box to add a coupon code when you are ready to buy. It sometimes pays to jump over to Google and search the website name and ‘coupon’ or ‘voucher’ to find out if there are any good deals on.

A quick search can save you as much as 10, 15, or 20 per cent on some purchases. Sometimes companies send out offers to appeal to groups they want to market to. A companies Facebook page may get different offers or vouchers than its Twitter followers or newsletter for example.

It can pay to search around for offers and vouchers to get money off before you checkout. Five minutes work can save huge amounts of cash.

Purchase in Confidence

If you have asked yourself these questions, done all your research, and found the answers you’re looking for then you may well be ready to buy.

You can do so with the confidence that you’ve done all your homework and you’re getting the best deal and gadget for your money.

zero day business

Protect Your Firm Against Zero-Day Attacks

Protecting your business against the latest IT threats should always be a top priority. Updating antivirus and patching your operating system is a great way to start. What happens, however, when a threat appears at your door before security firms have had a chance to catch it?

A security threat that exploits a previously undiscovered vulnerability in the computer is known as a zero-day threat. The name “zero-day” is designed to imply how long since the vulnerability was discovered. The term also indicates that system developers have had zero days to fix it.

A newly discovered attack might be packaged into a computer virus or worm. This will allow it to spread far and wide while inflicting the maximum amount of damage possible. When spread successfully, a new exploit has the potential to reach hundreds of thousands of computers before an operating system or anti-virus update can even be issued.

There are a number of ways we can protect your business or lessen the damage from a zero-day attack.

Preventative security

The number one way to mitigate the damage from any attack to your system is to prevent it from happening in the first place. Maintaining a good firewall and up-to-date antivirus is the best step you can take to ensure the security of your system.

A firewall, monitoring traffic in and out of your network, reduces unauthorized entry over the network. Even without knowing the exact nature of the attack, suspicious activity traveling in and out of the system can be stopped.

The same is true of modern Antivirus. Even when it can not identify the specific zero-day threat from its virus database; it can often identify malicious intent from learned behavior in the system.

A Locked Down Network

Should a zero-day threat make it into your network, our next goal should be to limit its effects. By restricting user access to only essential files and systems we can limit the damage done to the smallest number of systems. Good security policy dictates that each account should only have full access to the systems needed to complete the user’s job. For example, users from the accounts department shouldn’t have access to sales department databases.

In this way, the damage of a single compromised account is limited to only the network area it operates in. Such limited impact should be easy to control and can be reversed with regular backups.

Good Data backup

Whether your entire network has been exploited or only a small area has been affected; good data backups are your protection against major lasting damage. Having a good backup means having the procedures in place to both create regular backup copies and make sure they can be restored at a later date.

Reliable and well-tested backups are worth their weight in gold. Knowing your data is safe and your system can be recovered is peace of mind against even the most highly destructive zero-day attacks.

Intrusion Protection

While the precise methods of a zero-day exploit can’t be known in advance, a network intrusion protection system (NIPS) can monitor the firms’ network for unusual activity.

The advantage of NIPS over a traditional antivirus only system is it does not rely on checking software against a known database of threats. This means it does not need updates or patches to learn about the latest attacks. NIPS works by monitoring the day-to-day patterns of network activity across the network.

When traffic or events far out of the ordinary are detected action can be taken to alert system administrators and lock down the firewall. Devices such as USB drives and mobile devices can all introduce threats to the network. They can often make it past the firewall because they are physically introduced to the system.

NIPS protects against threats introduced to the network from both external and internal sources.

Full Cover Protection

Used in combination these techniques can prevent, protect, and mitigate against the kinds of threats that even the top security firms haven’t patched yet. We think it’s important to keep your firm secure whatever it might come up against in the future.

If you could use help protect your business against online threats, give us a call today at 570-779-4018.

The Top 5 IT Security Problems for Businesses

The Top 5 IT Security Problems for Businesses

Companies that suffer security breaches nearly always have one of these IT security problems. Is your company guilty of any of them?

No Backups

A shocking number of businesses are not backing up their data properly. According to market research company Clutch, 60 percent of businesses who suffer a data loss shut down within six months.

Not only should every business be fully backing up their data, but their backups should be regularly tested to work too. It’s a step that businesses miss surprisingly often. Many businesses don’t find out that their backup can’t be used until it’s already too late.

Reactive and not proactive

The world is constantly changing. The IT world doubly so. Attackers are always figuring out new ways to break into businesses, hardware evolves faster than most can keep up, and old systems fail due to wear and tear far quicker than we would like. A huge number of businesses wait until these issues impact them directly before they respond. The result is higher costs, longer downtime, and harder hitting impacts.

By responding to hardware warnings before it fails, fixing security holes before they’re exploited, and upgrading systems before they are out of date: IT can be done the right way. Being proactive about your IT needs means systems don’t have to break or compromised before they are fixed. The result for your business is less downtime, fewer losses, and lower IT costs.

Weak Passwords

A surprising number of people will use the password “password” to secure some of their most important accounts. Even more still will write their own password on a post-it note next to their computer. In some cases, many will even use no password at all. Strong passwords act, not only as a barrier to prevent unwanted entry, but as a vital accountability tool too. When system changes are made it’s often essential that the account that made changes is secured to the right person.

With an insecure password or worse; none at all, tracking the individual responsible for reports or accountability becomes impossible. This can result in both auditing disasters on top of technical ones.

Insufficient Staff Training

Humans in the system are commonly the weakest point in IT security. Great IT security can be a bit like having state-of-the-art locks on a door propped open with a milk crate. If staff aren’t trained to use the lock, it’s worth nothing at all.

Often times businesses can justify spending big on security for the latest and greatest IT defenses. The very same firms may exceed their budget and spend almost zero on training staff to use them. In this instance, a little goes a long way. Security training can help staff to identify a threat where it takes place, avoiding and mitigating damage, often completely.

Weak Data Controls

Some companies can take an ad-hoc, fast and loose approach to storing professional data. Often crucial parts can be spread across many devices, copied needlessly, and sometimes even left unsecured. Client data can be found regularly on employee laptops, mobile phones, and tablet devices. These are famously prone to being misplaced or stolen out in the field along with vital client and security data.

It can be easy for both employees and firms to focus on the costs of devices and hardware purchased for the business. The reality is that the data held on devices is almost always worth many times more than the device that holds it. For many firms, their approach to data hasn’t been changed since the firm was first founded. Critical data is often held on single machines that haven’t been updated precisely because they hold critical data. Such machines are clearly vulnerable, outdated, and prone to failure.

Common problems with simple solutions

Each of these common issues have simple solutions to secure against IT failure. With a professional eye and expertise in the field, every business should be defended against IT issues that risk the firm.

If you need help securing your IT to protect your business, give us a call at 570-779-4018.

Getting tech new business

How to Get the Right Tech for Your New Business

Congratulations on your new business! Start-up costs can easily escalate, and tech is often one of the bigger expenses. It’s not that everything is high priced, but the sheer number of technologies available can overwhelm smart decision making. The latest tech is dangled in front of you with amazing features you didn’t know you needed, and suddenly your budget has gone boom!

Here’s how to get the tech right for your business, without the headache and drama.

1. Check if you actually need it

In a lot of cases, using a cloud application means you can skip the big server purchase, along with the on-site technician to manage it. Many of your business programs will have a cloud option that allows you to get all the benefits without the big expense. Before you make the tech purchase, work out which applications you’ll be running and whether a local installation or cloud access is preferred. As part of this stage, think about how you’d like to use the applications – perhaps remote access is a priority, or perhaps collaboration will underpin your business culture. This level of clarity is often overlooked and the number 1 reason why tech expenses spiral.

2. Get expert advice

It’s easy to ask friends and family what to buy, but there are many more factors to consider than just their personal preference. You trust their opinion, of course, but they may be speaking from a consumer perspective or basing their recommendation on brand loyalty. Every business is different and pairing the correct technology with the business will save you a lot of money in the long run.

3. Buy business grade

Unfortunately, the computers and laptops you see in department stores aren’t up to business standard. They’re designed for home users to perform quick tasks, not run a full 8 hour (or more) workload. Business grade systems have additional features that your business needs, plus longer warranties and better support. Even the attached devices like networking or printers are built to a higher standard, to last longer and perform better. Considering the cyber climate we live in, taking a special interest in the security offered by the business grade technology is a wise decision.

4. Prioritize flexibility

Businesses evolve rapidly during their first few years and the last thing you want to do is go out and buy new tech, playing catch-up with your vision and smushing together an assorted mismatch of devices. Your new technology should be as scalable as your business, which means making purchase decisions based on strategy, not price. Perhaps this means instead of workstations for employees, you only need tablets. Rather than having a fixed point of sale system, you might choose mobile checkout devices so your staff can assist customers on the go. These examples highlight how easy it is to commit to certain tech because it’s ‘what you do’ but later discover you’re locked into a certain way of doing business. Trying to change your processes down the line impacts productivity, efficiency and culture in a big way, so we recommend buying with your future success in mind.

5. Choose an IT partner

During your set up and moving ahead through growth, you’ll need an IT partner who can not only help with your purchase strategy but support you through any tech problems as they arise. That’s the difference between a partner and a supplier, they’re committed to driving long-term business success.

You’ll be able to call on your partner and know they’re immediately up to speed with your business, they know how IT can help leverage your competitive advantage and which critical systems they should focus on. Getting good tech in place shouldn’t be seen as just an expense. It improves productivity and allows you to serve your customers better while enjoying consistent growth.

If you need an IT partner to help your business grow, give us a call at 570-779-4018.

BYOD, "Apple, the Apple logo and iPhone are trademarks of Apple Inc., registered in the U.S. and other countries."

Do you allow BYOD at your workplace?

Do your SMB employees connect their personal devices to your wireless? Do you have policies implemented for bring-your-own-device (BYOD)? Do you let them browse whatever websites they want? Do they have full access to your business wireless?

If you gave out your wireless password to one of your employees, more than likely all of them have it. That most likely means a large number of devices have uncontrolled access to your network. Do you know what apps are installed? Do they have passwords? Are they rooted or jailbroken? Do they have antivirus and malware protection installed?

BYOD Security Risks

BYOD or “bring your own device” can mean a few different things. Sometimes it simply means allowing your employees access to your wireless with their personal devices (phone, tablet, laptop, etc). Sometimes it involves allowing the users direct access to your mail server or file sharing services. In any case, it presents a number of potential security threats that you may not even be aware of.

  • The devices may not be locked down with password protection. Anyone can pick up the device and gain access to your network or worse, your sensitive business email or data.
  • The devices may be “rooted” or “jailbroken” which could allow malicious software onto the devices and your network. This means a device with software looking to steal your data can be already lurking in your network and it could be on someones phone, not just their laptop.
  • The devices may not have up to date virus and malware protection. This can also provide a path for malicious software to be inside your network.
  • The devices may not be encrypted. If a device is stolen, data can be retrieved from a unencrypted device. This data could include passwords and access to VPNs.

BYOD Advantages

BYOD can provide some benefits to the workplace so sometimes it is worth putting the security and effort in to allow devices in your workplace.

  • Allowing your workers access to free wireless internet can make the workers more happy and thus more productive.
  • Allowing your workers to access company email and information via their personal device can enhance productivity. Not only will they be using a device and software that they are comfortable with, they will also have access to this information from outside the office.
  • Allowing BYOD could also save you money. You may not need to purchase a new laptop, tablet or phone for they new employee if they bring their own.

BYOD Disadvantages

BYOD also has some disadvantages that you must consider before investing the time and money to allow them into your workplace.

  • Your IT resource will have to manage the devices. Beyond the obvious cost, employees may be concerned with their personal privacy.
  • Your IT resource will need to stay up to date with devices, wireless and network security.
  • You may incur more licensing fees for each device that is attached to the system.
  • There is a chance your staff will be using the devices for personal use during work hours.

BYOD Solutions

There are multiple ways that BYOD can be configured in your environment. If you don’t want to bother with the more advanced issues, I strongly recommend implementing security guest/employee wireless that doesn’t have access to you main network. If possible, this guest network should be throttled to make sure they don’t use all of you business internet bandwidth. There are some cost-effective ways that this can be done.

To tackle the more advanced issues, you need to come up with a BYOD policy and enforce it. This will help determine what type of hardware and software you need to control your BYOD environment. This doesn’t always mean you have to spend boatloads of money. There are ways to be secure and productive without breaking the bank.