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December 11th, 2014

BusinessValue_Dec11_CAs the end of the year approaches, stress levels go up within businesses. There is often the pressure to finish end-of-year reports and budget for the next year, not to mention that there can often be extra expenditure requirements during the holiday season too. This is also the time when many businesses begin to look for newer business systems that are not too expensive. To help, here are some free or affordable solutions that could make your business run far easier.

  1. Canva If you are a business owner, chances are that you aren't the world's best graphic designer, unless you run a graphics company of course! In order to design graphics, icons, flyers, and even posters you need specific graphics software. This can be expensive and the software is not going to be easy to use for design novices. You may even need an in-house graphic designer. This is where Canva comes in.

Canva is an online app that allows users to quickly and easily create professional looking graphics using drag and drop functionality and a wealth of free, or affordable, stock images. In other words, you can create designs in a short amount of time.

The service itself is free, but some images do need to be purchased.

  1. FreshBooks Most business owners are not certified accountants either, and even if you understand the basics of accounting and tracking of finances, the money side of your business is often a full time or at least a specialized job. If not handled correctly, this could spell disaster for your business. One solution is cloud-based FreshBooks.

FreshBooks is accounting software that allows you to invoice clients, track payments, accept payments, track expenses, and access financial reports at the click of a button. Beyond this, you can connect FreshBooks with your payroll services to ensure that your employees are paid on time.

The platform offers a free plan that allows you to track and manage one client, while paid subscriptions start at USD 19.95 a month.

  1. Hootsuite Many businesses have a presence on more than one social media network. While this is a great way to reach out to the highest number of customers, it can be a chore to manage and maintain a presence on all of these networks all of the time. Hootsuite is specifically aimed at this task.

Hootsuite is a tool that allows you to manage your social media accounts from one platform. Using Hootsuite you can schedule posts, set up streams, establish keyword tracking, and track engagement. It really is a one-stop-shop for all of your social media platforms.

Hootsuite offers a free subscription which allows you to manage three social media profiles, while a business subscription starts at USD 8.99 and allows you to track up to 50 profiles and gives you access to more advanced analytics and features.

  1. Podio Managing projects and ensuring that all employees are aware of what they should be doing, and what others are doing, can be one of the toughest tasks for any business owner. Sure, spreadsheets and communication work to a point, but there is always room for error and of course improvement, which is what Podio provides.

Podio is a project management app that allows you to easily manage projects, tasks, deadlines, and even files. Using an intuitive dashboard that all users have access to, employees and managers can easily see who is doing what, as well as what needs to be done and what has already been done.

Podio is free with limited features for five users and costs USD 9 per user, per month for the full subscription plan.

  1. CoSchedule If you have a blog, either on WordPress or hosted by WordPress, sharing the articles you post on your social media profiles is a great way to increase content reach and interaction. However, it can be time consuming to actually create posts on each different platform, unless you use CoSchedule.

With CoSchedule you can write your social media posts for a blog article and schedule them to be posted once the article goes live. Think of it as automating the sharing of your blog articles. This will save you time, while making it easier to manage your content, largely because the calendar included in CoSchedule is easy to work with and gives you a good view of your content.

CoSchedule is USD 10 per month, per blog.

If you are looking for more affordable ways to improve your business operations, contact us today to see what boost we can offer you at a price you can afford in 2015.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

December 11th, 2014

VoIP_Dec11_CDecember is one of the busiest months for many businesses, especially those in the service industry. Because of this, you will likely see an increase in call volume and you need to make sure that your VoIP systems are ready to cope with this boost. To ensure that your calls sound clear you might want to follow these useful VoIP system tips.

Establish VoIP system monitoring

Before you know whether your systems are ready for an increased call volume, you should establish monitoring tools that allow you to keep track of call volumes and how the systems hosting your VoIP solution are faring. If you notice that a spike in call volume during peak hours leads to decreased call quality, or perhaps an increased load on systems, then it may be a good idea to invest in a new solution that can help carry this extra burden.

Because this is the holiday season, and your staff and even IT providers may be away on leave, a monitoring solution can be helpful in predicting when issues may arise. You and your IT team can then help prepare for an increase in call volume and any problems that may crop up when they are away from work. This ensures that your systems won't go down when you need them most.

Check your VoIP equipment

Sometimes, problems with VoIP don't have anything to do with your service provider or even the underlying servers that host the solution, but the physical VoIP lines and phones themselves. One common issue with VoIP is that if equipment is too close to other VoIP equipment, you may see a degradation in call quality.

Therefore, you should take care to ask your employees if they have noticed lower call quality lately, especially if two VoIP devices are close to one another. If there have been issues, moving them further apart should clear this up.

Beyond this, take the time to inspect all cables and connections to ensure they are in good condition and able to deal with the increased wear and tear the holiday season can bring. If equipment is looking a little past it, now may be the time to look for new devices and solutions that can help boost your communications.

Set data priorities on your router

Most modern business routers have an important feature called QoS, or Quality of Service. This allows users to set bandwidth limits for different activities and even create priority lists. Because you will likely be getting more calls during the holiday season, it is a good idea to ensure that the extra bandwidth will be there when you need it.

Because your router is also in charge of assigning bandwidth to your VoIP solution, using the QoS feature is a good way to ensure that calls are receiving the bandwidth they need to remain clear. Take a look at the way data and bandwidth is being used in your network and set limits on non-essential activities that may be using higher amounts. For example, it may be a good idea to reduce the bandwidth assigned to streaming services and apply the extra percentage to your VoIP solution.

Work with an IT partner

These tweaks and updates can be time consuming and a bit of a chore to carry out, especially if you are not a tech expert. What we recommend is contacting us, so our VoIP experts can work with you to ensure your network is configured for the higher call volume, equipment is working, and servers are ready. We can even offer suggestions on better systems that can improve communications while reducing costs. Be prepared for the holiday season, contact us today.
Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic VoIP General
December 10th, 2014

iPhone_Dec08_CSmall to medium business owners have come to rely on the iPhone as one of their main ways to stay connected with the office, and be productive while working remotely. The problem is, this can lead to constant connection with business demands, which can prove to be overwhelming. When you need a break the Do Not Disturb feature, available on all iOS 8 devices, can bring much-needed respite from communication overload.

What is Do Not Disturb?

Do Not Disturb is a handy iOS 8 feature that when enabled, silences all notifications, calls, and alerts that you usually get coming through when the device is locked. You can either turn it on and off manually, or schedule a time for when it is to be activated. If your device is unlocked, e.g., you are using it, notifications will usually still trigger.

Turning Do Not Disturb on

To turn this feature on simply:
  1. Slide up from any screen on the device to open the Control Center.
  2. Tap on the crescent moon icon at the top of the Control Center.
This will turn on the Do Not Disturb feature. You should see a crescent moon icon appear in the menu bar at the top of your device's screen indicating the feature is activated. To turn it off, open the Control Center and tap the crescent moon icon again so that it disappears from your screen.

Setting a Do Not Disturb schedule

If you would like to schedule a time where your device automatically puts itself into Do Not Disturb mode, simply:
  1. Open the Settings app on your iPhone.
  2. Tap on Do Not Disturb.
  3. Slide the radio beside Scheduled to On (green).
  4. Set a time to enable this feature.
As with the manual triggering of this feature, you will see a crescent moon icon in the top menu bar of your device when it is active.

Changing feature settings

If you tap on Settings and then select Do Not Disturb you will also be able to tinker with the settings related to this feature. The options you will see include:
  • Manual - Allows this feature to be manually enacted via the Control Center.
  • Scheduled - Schedule a time when this feature will be automatically enacted.
  • Allow Calls From - Pick which contacts to allow calls and notifications from so that these sound even when Do Not Disturb is active.
  • Repeated Calls - Set whether multiple calls in a short amount of time will ring when the feature is active. If enabled, two calls from the same person in less than three minutes will cause the device to ring.
If you would like to learn more about using the iPhone for business, please contact us today to see what difference we can bring to your business.
Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic iPhone
December 9th, 2014

Facebook_Dec08_CFor many business owners, Facebook is both a blessing and a curse. While it is a great way to connect with customers, it can also be a major distraction for employees. Let's face it, Facebook is here to stay, so there's no getting round that, but there could be a way of stopping the social media site from being a negative in the workplace. The company has just announced that they are working on a new social network, potentially called Facebook at Work, which will be aimed specifically at businesses.

What is Facebook at Work?

In late November, Facebook announced that they are developing a new social network which may be called Facebook at Work. As you can guess by the clue in the title, this is going to be a business-oriented venture that will bring the popular social network, or elements of it, to the workplace.

For many businesses, this popular social network is not really a part of every business operation. Sure, marketing and sales may use this platform, and others, as a way to reach out and connect with customers, but few organizations are known to use Facebook internally as a communication and social network for employees.

Those who do use the network in the office often use their personal accounts and have noted that they would like an easy way to separate work from personal life, while still remaining on the network. Many businesses would also prefer that employees didn't bring their personal lives and Facebook accounts to the office because this can lead to breaches in privacy and even important data being compromised, especially if a personal account is hacked.

The best way to think of this new platform is that it is Facebook strictly for work. While it is still in the development stages, some interesting details have emerged. There is no official name for the network, thus far, but sources at Facebook have noted that the codename for the product is Facebook@Work.

What Facebook@Work will look like

From what we can tell, the network will look and work much the same as the existing version of Facebook. Users will be able to create profiles, join groups, post on each other's News Feeds, and even send messages using the popular Facebook Messenger. Where it will differ is that it will have collaborative tools that allow users to share and work on the same documents.

This network will be completely separate from the personal Facebook site, with users having a different password and username. Information between a personal and work account will not be shared either. This should make the network more secure, or at least minimize the use of personal accounts for work-related tasks.

What we don't know

We do know that Facebook@Work, or Facebook at Work, is currently being developed by a London-based branch of Facebook who seem to be also acting as the main testers. However, we are unsure at this time if the network is being developed strictly as an internal network, which will be used only within a company, or if it will be more like LinkedIn, where it will allow you to connect with similar professionals.

Interestingly enough, Facebook has been using its own network and various groups as a major part of their own internal communication tools amongst departments. For example, when an employee joins a new department they are added to a secure group and group chat where updates are posted, questions are asked, and work is supposedly assigned and agreed upon. It could be that the company is developing something along these lines for external release too.

We don't know exactly when this network will be introduced, but you can be sure that it will be debuted sometime in 2015, possibly with a rollout in the next year. If your business uses social platforms, or is looking to integrate social media in the near future, this business-oriented social media platform could be worth keeping your eyes on.

Stay tuned as we will be covering this further in the future. Meanwhile, if you have any questions about how best to utilize Facebook in the office please contact us today.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

December 3rd, 2014

iPad_Dec2_CA common trend we see with Apple products is that once someone has purchased one device, they tend to purchase more. Because it is the holiday season, many people will be receiving a new iPad as a gift. If you do, you may need to deauthorize older devices in order to install already purchased apps on your new iPad. If you are not sure how to do this then here's how.

First, understand what authorizing your device is

When people and Apple experts talk about "authorizing your device", what they really mean is linking it with iTunes and the account you use for this on your computer. Once you do this, you can download already-purchased media and apps onto a new device without having to pay for the content again.

The way iTunes works is that there is usually a limit on how many devices you can download apps and media onto at the same time. Any purchases can be installed on 10 devices or five computers via iTunes at the same time. If, for example, you have an existing iPad for which you have already purchased apps via iTunes, and you receive a new device, you will need to authorize the existing iPad before you are able to download apps onto this new one.

If you have more than 10 devices or five computers authorized and want to add another, you will need to first deauthorize one device. Similarly, if you are giving an iPad away, it is a good idea to make sure it is deauthorized before you give it away or the new user may have access to your iTunes account.

Second, how do you deauthorize an existing device?

This process is actually fairly easy, but you will need to do it from the PC or Mac you use to sync your iPad with iTunes. To do this:
  1. Launch iTunes on a computer that it is installed on and log into the account you use to purchase apps for your devices.
  2. Click on your name. This is located at the top-right of the window. If you see Sign In, click that and log into the account you use on your iPad.
  3. Select Account info from the drop-down menu.
  4. Enter the password for your account.
  5. Scroll down and click on Manage Devices which is under iTunes in the Cloud.
  6. Click Remove beside the device you would like to deauthorize.
  7. Press Done.
When you do this, the apps you've paid for should either be deleted automatically from the device, or become inaccessible the next time the device syncs with iCloud (which is responsible for linking devices in iTunes).

How do you authorize your new device?

If you receive a new device this holiday season, authorizing it is as simple as logging into your Apple account using the username and password you have used in the past to purchase apps and media.

Once this is done, go into the App Store on your new device, log in, if you haven't already done so, and tap on Purchased. You should be taken to a list of all apps and media that you have purchased and which are still available on the App Store. Tapping on any of the apps and then hitting Download will install the selected app on your new device. If you are above the limit of devices on your account, you will see an error message telling you there are too many devices with the app installed. You will then need to deauthorize an older device before proceeding.

If you would like to learn more about your new iPad, or how Apple products can be used in your business, contact us today.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic iPad
December 3rd, 2014

Security_Dec01_CMalware is a constant threat to a business's security. However, with many malware infections we tend to be able to learn a lot about them in a very short amount of time, which weakens the power of each attack. There is a new threat called Regin however, that is leaving many security experts baffled. Here is an overview of Regin and what it means exactly for businesses.

What exactly is Regin?

What is most interesting about Regin is that a number of security experts seem to not really fully understand it. They know that it exists, they know it is complex, and they know it is one of the most advanced pieces of malware ever created. But, they don't know what exactly it does, or where it comes from.

What we do know is that Internet security firm Symantec is credited with first bringing Regin to public attention, and that it has been around since at least 2008. So far, the company has said it is similar to the Stuxnet virus that was supposedly developed in (or by) the US and used to attack and subvert the Iranian nuclear program.

Regin is known to infect Windows-based computers and at its core is a backdoor trojan style of infection. From detected infections it is looks like the purpose of the malware is not to steal information but to gather intelligence and facilitate other types of attacks.

What makes this malware so powerful and disturbing is that it is much more advanced than other infections. Using various encryption methods it can hide itself extremely well, making it difficult to detect. It can also communicate with the hacker who deployed it in a number of different ways, thus making it a challenge to block or stop. As a result, it is far from easy to actually figure out what exactly this malware is doing and why.

Who has been infected?

According to various security experts we have been able to compile a list of companies and organizations that have been targeted to date. These include:
  • Telecommunications companies
  • Government institutions
  • Financial companies
  • Research companies
  • Individuals and companies involved in crypto-graphical and mathematical research
At the time of this article, no known attacks have been carried out against companies in the US, Canada, or the UK. The main countries targeted so far have been Russia and Saudi Arabia, along with a smaller number of infections in Malaysia, Indonesia, Ireland, and Iran. A total of 10-15 countries have been targeted since the malware was first discovered in 2008.

Is this a big deal for my company?

Just because your company is operating in a country that hasn't been affected thus far, doesn't mean that you aren't at risk of being attacked by this malware in the future. If you operate in any of the industries or sectors listed above, you could still be at risk, especially if you do business with clients in infected regions.

For now, however, it appears that Regin is only infecting larger government bodies and large companies outside of North America and much of Europe, so the chances of you being infected are relatively low. Although as with any threat, this can change at any moment.

What we recommend is that you ensure your antivirus and antimalware solutions are kept up to date and always switched on. You can rest assured that eventually experts will learn more and block this malware from infecting systems. Beyond this, working with an IT partner, like us, who can ensure that your valuable data and systems are secure, is also be a good idea. The same goes with watching what you download and any emails you open. If you don't know or trust the source, don't download any program, open an attachment, or read an email connected to it.

Looking to learn more about the security of your systems? Contact us today.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic Security
December 3rd, 2014

AndroidTab_Dec01_COne of the most popular gifts of the holiday season is the tablet, and more specifically the Android tablet. Because there are so many different options to choose from, it can be difficult to actually pick the best, or the right, tablet to give as a gift. To help, we have come up with some important factors to consider before you purchase your festive present.

Consider your budget

The great thing about Android is that there are tablets available for a wide budget range; from the ridiculously affordable, yet highly praised, Amazon Fire HD 6 (USD 99 on Amazon.com), to the top-of-the-line Samsung Galaxy Tab S (USD 350-400 in stores). You firstly need to set your budget.

Look at reviews online

There are a ton of websites dedicated to reviewing tablets and other mobile devices. Take for example the well known Engadget, or Trusted Reviews. Sites like these generally give a good overview of the new and most popular devices out there. Pay close attention to the criteria used though, as some review sites tend to only look at basics such as battery life and design, without going too deep into the actual usability.

It is also important to look at actual user reviews. The best place for this is Amazon.com, as almost all reviews of devices on the site are submitted by users. While some reviews may be overly positive or negative without actually revealing reasons, generally speaking they provide an accurate real-life picture.

What will the tablet will be used for?

Many tablets offer special features and functions aimed at different types of users. For example, some offer increased security and encryption that is ideal for the business user, while others may offer features such as pen support which turns the tablet into a drawing pad. If the recipient is likely to be using the tablet for work, then your search should focus on specific, business-oriented devices.

Who will be using the tablet?

Tablets running Android 4.4 (KitKat) and Android 5.0 have the ability to establish different profiles for different users. So, if you know that the tablet will be used by a variety of people then it would be best to purchase a tablet incorporating either of these versions.

If you know that children will be using the tablet, there are a number of apps with features that set the tablet up for children. For example, some will block the Google Play store, and any apps that are deemed unsuitable for children. It might be a big help if you install this beforehand.

What is the technical ability of the user?

It's true that almost every tablet is designed to make it simple to pick up and figure out. But some tablets are aimed more at specific users than others. Take for example Google's Nexus line, which is aimed at users who want a simple tablet experience and the most up-to-date software. Users with more tech experience generally find the Nexus line more preferable.

Other tablets come with super simple setups and many popular apps pre-installed, which could make them more suited to users who may not know much about Android, or simply just want to pick up their tablet and go.

Look at durability and features

As with most tech-related purchases, you generally get what you pay for. So, if you want a tablet with top-of-the-line features like a great display, fast processing speeds, and LTE/Data connections, you are likely going to have to pay more.

A good starting point is to look at the questions you answered above about who will be using the device and what they will be using it for, then look for a tablet with features that support or enable this and that has positive reviews. While it may be tempting to stick with brand new tablets only, be sure to look at those released in the past year to year and a half as well. For example, the terrific Nexus 7 tablet (2013 version) is still a great option for many users, not to mention the fact that it is available at an affordable price. Manufacturers like Samsung also have a number of great tablets available with a wide variety of features.

Almost above all else, the overall durability of the device is important. If you purchase a tablet with flimsy construction, there is a good chance it will soon break or fall apart easily. Again, online reviews often focus on the build quality, so these could be a good starting point. Also going to the store and physically trying the devices out could go a long way in helping you pick the best one.

If you are struggling to find the perfect tech gift or Android tablet this holiday season, contact us today to see how our experts can help you find what you need.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

November 25th, 2014

Hardware_Nov25_CSelecting a Wi-Fi router, much like selecting any other piece of equipment for your business, can be a complicated task. There are so many different models and manufacturers out there that it can be a chore to work out the best option for your business. To help, here are some important features all routers for business should have, and what elements to look out for.

Essential features

For the vast majority of users, there are five main features that all wireless routers must have in order to make them useful in the office. They are:
  • Network type - Look at any router and you will quickly see that there are a number of different networks available. The four most commonly found are 802.1b, 802.1g, 802.1n, and 802.11ac. These designations are for how fast the router can transfer wireless data, with 802.11ac being the fastest of these four. Most offices should be able to get by on n routers, but those who have users connecting via Wi-Fi and cable may do better with 802.11ac routers - which are backward compatible with other slower network versions.
  • Throughput - This is closely associated with the router's network type, and is usually one of the first things listed on router boxes and specifications. To spot the router's throughput, look for Mbps. This indicates the speed at which the router is supposed to transmit data from your connection to users. It is important to note here that if you have a 100Mbps Internet connection, but buy a router that is only say 80 Mbps, then the total speed will be the lower figure, 80Mbps. Therefore, it would be a good idea to get a router with a higher throughput, or a close throughput, to your main Internet connection.
  • Range - This is particularly important for users who will be connecting via Wi-Fi, as they will likely not be sitting right beside the router. Generally speaking, the further you are from your router, the slower and weaker your connection will be. As a rule of thumb: 802.11ac and n routers will offer the strongest connections and greatest range. But this will all depend on where the router is placed and any natural barriers like concrete walls, etc.
  • Bands - On every single router's box you will see numbers like 5Ghz and 2.4Ghz. These indicate the wireless radios on the router. A dual-band router will have both a 5Ghz and 2.4Ghz radio which allows devices to connect to different bands so as not to overload a connection. Those who connect to a 5Ghz band will generally have better performance, but the broadcast range will be much shorter than the 2.4Ghz radio.
  • QoS - Quality of Service is a newer feature that allows the router administrator to limit certain types of traffic. For example, you can use the QoS feature of a router to completely block all torrent traffic, or to limit it so that other users can have equal bandwidth. Not every router has this ability, but it is a highly beneficial feature for office routers.

Useful features

As well as the above features, which are essential for business Wi-Fi routers, there are also some useful features that may help improve overall speeds and usability. Here are three of the most useful, but not essential:
  • Beam-forming - This is a newer feature being introduced in many mid to high-end routers. It is a form of signal technology that allows for better throughput in dead areas of a business or home. In other words, it can help improve the connection quality with devices behind solid walls, or in rooms with high amounts of interference. By utilizing this technology, routers can see where connection is weak and act to improve it. While this is available on routers with many network types, it is really only useful with routers running 802.11ac, so if you have devices compatible with 802.11ac, then this feature could help.
  • MIMO - Multiple-Input, Multiple-Output is the use of multiple antennas to increase performance and overall throughput. Most modern routers don't actually use multiple antennas or extra antennas to increase performance, instead utilizing this concept to ensure that more devices can connect to one router with less interference and better performance.
  • Antennas - Some routers, especially those geared towards home use, don't have physical antennas, while other higher-end routers do. With many wireless routers, the idea behind antennas is that they allow the direction of the best connection to be configured. It can be easy to think that these antennas will help improve connection, but when it comes to real-world tests, there is often only a nominal improvement if the antennas are configured and aimed properly.
While these features can help improve the overall connectivity and speed of a wireless network, they are not necessary for most business users. If you are going to be tweaking networks however, then these may help. Beyond that, concepts like beam-forming only work well if you have a wealth of devices that are 802.11ac compatible and these are still less popular than devices that are say 802.1n compatible.

Features to watch out for

There are a number of router features that manufacturers often tout as essential, important, etc., when in reality these features are often more about marketing and will pose little use to the vast majority of users.
  • Routers with advertised processor speeds - With many pieces of equipment, the processor speed is an important indicator as to how fast it will run, and how well systems will run. With routers however, there is usually a small requirement for processing power. Sure, some features like firewalls require processing power, but the vast majority of routers have the power to run these. Therefore, advertised processor speeds with Wi-Fi routers offer no realizable benefit to the majority of users.
  • Tri-band - While many routers have dual broadcasting bands, some newer ones are now tri-band. The idea and marketing behind this is that with a third band, throughput can be dramatically increased and this is often reflected in the speeds manufacturers say these routers can offer. In reality however, this often isn't the case, as all this extra band really does is allow for more devices to connect. You will most likely not see an increase in overall connection speed.
  • Patented or trademarked features - Almost every router these days will have individual features (also known as proprietary technology) that the manufacturer includes with the idea that it makes the router that much better, or at least uniquely different, than any other. While many of these features can be useful to some users, they should not be the main reason to select a router.

How do I pick the best router?

Go to any hardware retailer and you will quickly find that the sheer number of wireless routers out there is overwhelming. Sure, they all do the same thing, but some will be better than others. One thing to try is to look at the user submitted reviews of different routers online. While the manufacturers may claim one thing, it is the real-world users who can shed the best insight into products. Try to find more business-oriented reviews rather than views based on domestic use.

What we recommend is to contact us. We can work with you to help you find and set up the best router for your business. Get in touch today to learn more.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic Hardware
November 25th, 2014

BCP_Nov24_CRegardless of what your business is, or where you are located, you may at some point face a disaster that affects your business operations. In order to make it through troubled waters without serious harm to your business you need to have a Disaster Recovery Plan in place. To help ensure that your strategy is ready, here are five tips that other businesses have learnt from facing disasters that you can work into your plans.

1. Have a full copy of your data backed up outside of your operating region

Almost every company, regardless of size, has backup measures in place. These backups can be either physical or digital, and are supposed to be carried out on a regular basis. If a disaster strikes, having access to your data can help ensure that you can recover your systems and resume operations in the minimal amount of time.

While backups are great, if you keep your backups in the same area as your main systems, or even if your offsite backups are in the same region, there is a chance that a large disaster, like a flood, or power outage, could also affect these backups too. One of the best solutions is to keep a current backup offsite, and outside of your operating region, with most experts recommending at least 150 miles (250 km) away from your main business area.

How do you achieve this? The best option is to use cloud-backup. Many providers host their backup service at a number of different data centers in various locations, so that should a disaster strike both your business and a nearby data center, your data is still safe at other centers.

2. Realistically test your plan

It can be tempting to simply develop a plan and then test it in a closed environment once or twice a year, make some changes where necessary and then sit back and hope it works. In truth, for any plan to really be effective it needs to be tested in a realistic environment. If this is not carried out then there is a possibility that the plan could fail when activated.

Because disasters come in almost any form and size, you are going to want to first identify as many potential problems as possible. From here, test your recovery plans based on these scenarios and see how effective they are. Be sure to also involve your colleagues and employees, as they too will need to know what to do when disaster strikes and what their role in the recovery of data is.

A good way to look at these tests is to think of them more as practice runs. As with anything, the more your practice the easier and more effective it becomes. In this case, good practice could literally save your business.

3. Update your plan as you update your systems

When you develop a recovery plan, you need to base it on the systems and technology you currently have in your business. However, these systems and devices may not be in use six months, to a year from now, or you may introduce new systems and improvements.

As soon as you make any changes, your existing recovery plan could become obsolete. Therefore, you need to ensure that when you introduce new systems or technology you are also updating the recovery plan to cover and fit with these changes.

4. Create an accessible plan

Many experts agree that having a physical plan that employees can see and access during a disaster is one of the best ways of ensuring that it is actually implemented properly. Therefore, when you develop a Disaster Recovery Plan make sure that all of your employees can access it at any time. This includes during and immediately following a disaster.

Beyond this, you need to make sure that the plan is consistent. If you update the master plan, but fail to update the copies you store in say a public cloud, or at different worksites, this will lead to confusion and even an increased recovery time or complete recovery failure. When you do update your plan, let all parties involved know that it has been updated and remind them where they can find copies of the plan.

5. Don't be the only fully-trained disaster recovery expert in your company

As a business owner or manager it can be easy to try and run everything yourself. Afterall, it is your business and you know exactly how to look after everything, right?. The problem is that if you are the only fully-trained disaster recovery person you are making yourself the weakest link in the plan.
Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

November 21st, 2014

Security_Nov17_CNet Neutrality is one of the biggest tech-related issues currently making its way through the American Government. In mid-November President Obama made his stance on the issue known, while also introducing a plan for it and thereby bringing the subject to worldwide attention. Here is an overview of what Net Neutrality is and how it can affect you.

What is Net Neutrality?

In order to define Net Neutrality, we should first look at the main idea behind what the Internet is: a free and open medium where individuals can express and house thoughts, ideas, and more. It was founded on one principal, and one principal alone: All information and Internet traffic MUST be treated equally.

This free, open, and fair principle is what we call Net Neutrality. In practice, this idea prevents Internet providers, and even governments, from blocking legal sites with messages they disagree with, and restricting access to services and sites that don't meet their business needs.

What exactly is the issue?

At this time, major telecommunications companies providing Internet access are trying to push legislation through the US court systems that will essentially make it legal for them to throttle Internet speeds; asking other providers to pay fees in order to speed up access to sites and to even block some sites.

There are laws currently in place, set by the FCC (Federal Communications Commission), that prohibit providers from collecting, analyzing, and manipulating user traffic. In other words, according to the FCC, the role of the Internet providers should be to simply ensure traffic and data gets from one end of the network to the other.

Last year, it was uncovered that US telecommunications giant, and Internet Service Provider, Comcast demanded that Netflix pay them millions of dollars or they would limit the Internet speed of Comcast users trying to access the streaming service. Netflix tried to negotiate but the result was that Comcast did indeed cut user speeds. Netflix paid to avoid this from happening again. This act is an obvious breach of the main tenet of Net Neutrality: Equal access for everyone.

Combine this with the January 2014 ruling that the FCC had overstepped its bounds in regards to this topic and the increased lobbying by telecommunications giants against Net Neutrality, and you can quickly come to realize that the Internet as we know it is under threat.

How will this affect my business?

If nothing is done, there is a very high chance that you will be paying higher rates for Internet-based services (because the providers will be asking other companies to pay to guarantee speedy access which will then be passed along to you via higher rates). You may even be forced to use services you don't want to use because they offer better access speeds on your network.

Beyond this, because so many businesses rely on websites and the hosting companies that enable us to access them, there is a very real risk that these hosts may have access speeds cut. This in turn could mean that it will take more time for some users to access your website and services. Think of how you react when you can't access a website, you probably just search for another similar site which loads easily - now imagine this happening to your site. In other words, you could see a decrease in overall traffic and therefore profits.

What can I do about this?

First off, we highly recommend you visit The White House's site on Net Neutrality, and read the message that President Obama has recently posted there. To sum it up, he believes that Net Neutrality should be protected and the Internet should remain open and free. He has even laid out a plan with four rules that the FCC should enact and enforce:
  • No blocking - Internet providers are not to block access to any legal content.
  • No throttling - Internet providers cannot slow or speed up access speeds based on their preferences.
  • Increased transparency - The FCC is to be more transparent and push providers to follow the Net Neutrality rules.
  • No paid prioritization - There is to be a ban on providers insisting other companies pay to have equal access speeds.
You can bet that this plan will be met by stiff resistance both in government and by the telecommunications companies themselves. The FCC is an independent organization and it is up to them to select whether or not they want to enact President Obama's plan. One thing you can do is to publicly submit your comments to the FCC via this website. Any comments made will be seen by the FCC and are are publicly viewable. In the past, enough public pressure has been able to sway FCC decisions, so share this article and the links in it with everyone you know, asking them to take action as well.

What about other countries?

For now, the Net Neutrality battle is largely US based. The vast majority of Internet traffic starts or at least passes through the US. This means that if the telecommunications providers (many of whom own international subsidiary providers) can limit access to sites in the US it could very quickly become a world issue. Beyond this, other countries often follow laws that the US enacts, so it could only be a matter of time before we see similar bills passed in other countries.

In short, this is a major issue that could see the end of the Internet as we know it. If you would like to learn more about Net Neutrality and how you can help ensure the Internet remains free and open, contact us today.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic Security