What you need to know about malware

By | Managed Service, Managed Technology, MSP, Security

You’ve all heard of viruses, spyware, ransomware and trojans. But did you know that they’re all types of malware? They’re all designed to ruin your digital life, but different types of malware put your computer at risk in different ways. Understanding what sets them apart can keep your business guarded.

Viruses

Once created to annoy users by making small changes to their computers, like altering wallpapers, this type of malware has evolved into a malicious tool used to breach confidential data. Most of the time, viruses work by attaching themselves to .exe files in order to infect computers once the file has been opened. This can result in various issues with your computer’s operating system, at their worst, rendering your computer unusable.

To avoid these unfortunate circumstances, you should scan executable files before running them. There are plenty of antivirus software options, but we recommend choosing one that scans in real-time rather than manually.

Spyware

Unlike viruses, spyware doesn’t harm your computer, but instead, targets you. Spyware attaches itself to executable files and once opened or downloaded, will install itself, often times completely unnoticed. Once running on your computer, it can track everything you type, including passwords and other confidential information. Hackers can then use this information to access your files, emails, bank accounts, or anything else you do on your computer.

But don’t panic just yet, you can protect yourself by installing anti-spyware software, sometimes included in all-purpose “anti-malware” software. Note that most reputable antivirus software also come bundled with anti-spyware solutions.

Adware

Are you redirected to a particular page every time you start your browser? Do you get pop ups when surfing the internet? If either situation sounds familiar, you’re likely dealing with adware. Also known as Potential Unwanted Programs (PUP), adware isn’t designed to steal your data, but to get you to click on fraudulent ads. Whether you click on the ad or not, adware can significantly slow down your computer since they take up valuable bandwidth. Worse still, they’re often attached with other types of malware.

Some adware programs come packaged with legitimate software and trick you into accepting their terms of use, which make them especially difficult to remove. To eradicate adware, you’ll need a solution with specialized adware removal protocols.

Scareware

This type of malware works like adware except that it doesn’t make money by tricking you into clicking on ads, but by scaring you into buying a software you don’t need. An example is a pop up ad that tells you your computer is infected with a virus and you need to buy a certain software to eliminate it. If you fall for one of these tactics and click on the ad, you’ll be redirected to a website where you can buy the fake antivirus software.

Scareware acts more like a diversion from the other malware that often comes with it. A good antivirus solution will help scan for scareware too, but you should patch your operating systems regularly just to be safe.

Ransomware

Ransomware has become increasingly common and hostile. It encrypts your computer files and holds them hostage until you’ve paid a fee for the decryption code. Because ransomware comes with sophisticated encryption, there aren’t many options unless you have backups of your data.

There are some tools that can protect against ransomware but we recommend that you backup your data and practice safe web browsing habits.

Worms

Similar to viruses, worms replicate themselves to widen the scope of their damage. However, worms don’t require human intervention to replicate themselves as they use security flaws to transmit from one computer to the next, making them far more dangerous than your typical virus. They often spread via email, sending emails to everyone in an infected user’s contact list, which was exactly the case with the ILOVEYOU worm that cost businesses approximately $5.5 billion worth of damage.

The easiest ways to protect your network from worms is to use a firewall to block external access to your computer network, and to be careful when clicking on unknown links in your email or unknown messages on social media.

Trojans

Usually downloaded from rogue websites, Trojans create digital backdoors that allow hackers to take control of your computer without your knowledge. They can steal your personal information, your files, or cause your computer to stop working. Sometimes hackers will use your computer as a proxy to conceal their identity or to send out spam.

To avoid trojan attacks, you should never open emails or download attachments from unknown senders. If you’re skeptical, use your antivirus software to scan every file first.

In order to keep malware at bay, you need to invest in security solutions with real-time protection and apply security best practices within your office. If you have any questions or concerns, or simply need advice on how to strengthen your business’s security, just give Simpatico Systems a call at 855-476-6347 and we’ll be happy to help.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Amazon phones to become a reality soon

By | Android, Apple, Managed Service, Managed Technology, VoIP

Amazon is setting its sights on the VoIP market again and will use its Alexa technology to launch a new phone system. Based on a new patent, users of Amazon’s artificial intelligence (AI) devices might soon be able to enjoy a smart speaker and phone in one. This won’t be the eCommerce giant’s first attempt at launching a wireless phone system, but this time it seems that they’re taking the time to develop the technology. Read on to find out more.

How it works

Amazon’s 3D-enabled Fire Phone was its first attempt at launching a smartphone, but it failed to set the mobile phone market ablaze. Based on the company’s recent voice-controlled phone patent, they are developing a smarter and more practical wireless phone technology, which will be integrated into their successful smart speaker devices, Amazon Echo, Echo Dot, and Echo Show.

The system will work by linking a mobile number to the Alexa devices, which would have a mechanism for notifying the user of incoming calls, answering calls via the smart speaker itself, as well as placing calls by giving commands to Alexa. What makes the Alexa-powered devices a compelling phone system is its ability to identify users based on a voice recognition system already built into the devices.

Note, however, that the mobile carrier would still be providing the communication service, with the Alexa device serving only as a medium, which is how most VoIP communications works.

What it means for your business

Amazon’s Alexa-powered devices are attractive for their voice-control technology. Although they did not pioneer it, they integrated it with devices that allowed them to go beyond what other AI devices can do. The Echo Dot, for instance, is especially useful to those who use a variety of Internet of Things (IoT)-enabled devices, such as lights, switches, and TVs, to name just a few.

Its voice recognition capabilities are also a cut above the rest, being able to recognize voice and adopt your speech patterns the more you use it. It can also serve as an all-around assistant in a room or in any office setting, helping you check the weather, send a message, or provide calendar event updates.

As Amazon develops its voice recognition technology for its Alexa-powered phones, it can be expected that this same technology would make it a formidable home or office phone system that can easily find contacts, screen callers, or conveniently set up conference calls — all by voice command. But as of now, Amazon’s patent is in the early stages of development.

There are plenty of communication options for your business, and although there’s nothing quite like the Alexa phones yet, there are plenty of viable substitutes that can suit your business’s communication needs. Call us today for VoIP option recommendations.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Avoid customer frustration with these tips

By | Business, Managed Service, Managed Technology, MSP, VoIP

Bad customer service is one of the reasons why customers switch to competitors. It often begins the moment they pick up the phone to report a service issue, only to end up getting frustrated with your phone system. Your on-hold message may seem inconsequential, but it can play a big role in your customer’s dissatisfaction. Avoid giving your customers another reason to switch by following these tips.

Use professionally recorded messages

A small nuisance like minimal static might not cause annoyance, but an unprofessional on-hold message certainly will. Banking on in-house resources such as your employees recording your on-hold messages might seem cost-efficient, but the poor quality of the recording could backfire.

To avoid this, hire professional voice talents for your company’s Interactive Voice Response (IVR) systems. They’ll enhance your company’s brand by conveying messages in a professional, friendly, and pleasant manner. Professionals have impressive enunciation and exceptional voice skills, and they’ll record messages using high-quality equipment.

Keep callers engaged with pleasant on-hold music

Your company’s on-hold music should be relaxing, well modulated (not too loud or too soft), and on-brand. If you don’t have the right recording equipment, hire professionals. Otherwise, your message may end up sounding distorted and the recording may produce static. It’s a small thing, but it can spell the difference between keeping customers and driving them away.

Offer an easy way to speak to a person

To solve time-sensitive issues such as overcharged billing or an ongoing service issue, customers would rather speak to someone who can reverse a charge or file an urgent customer report. Businesses that rely too much on recorded messages that spin a complex web of voice prompts risk frustrating their customers.

Companies that deal with a large volume of inquiries can combine the efficiency of an IVR and personalized assistance by offering an option that lets callers quickly get connected to a customer service representative.

Provide clear, useful information

According to a study, 83% of customers prefer human interaction over automated channels when solving customer service issues. Nevertheless, IVRs offer an efficient way to dispense non-critical information such as business operating hours, special offers, and minor account updates.

Automated responses also offer an appreciable value to businesses that need to funnel their most important customer service calls into the right customer support channels. When deploying an IVR system, your on-hold messages should provide information that’s up-to-date, concise, and useful.

Some of these issues can be solved using advanced VoIP solutions that not only automate and upgrade your customer support functions, but also turn it into a superior messaging system that can appease unhappy clients. Call us now for VoIP solutions that will help you integrate these tips into your customer support system.  855.476.6347

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

6 more Office 365 productivity tricks

By | Office

By now, you’re probably familiar with popular Office 365 productivity features like Skype for Business, and real-time collaboration in Word, Excel, and PowerPoint. You might even remember a few time-saving keyboard shortcuts that will make your Office 365 experience a lot smoother. But even after all that, there’s still much to learn about Office 365. Here are some more tricks that can boost your productivity.

Declutter your inbox
If you’re having trouble managing the overwhelming amount of emails in your inbox, then using Office 365’s “Clutter” feature can clear up some space. To enable this feature go to Settings > Options > Mail > Automatic processing > Clutter then select Separate items identified as Clutter. Once activated, you need to mark any unwanted messages as “clutter” to teach Office 365. After learning your email preferences, Office 365 will automatically move low-priority messages into your “Clutter” folder, helping you focus on more important emails.

Ignore group emails
Are you copied on a long email thread you don’t want to be part of? If so, simply go to the message and find the Ignore setting. Doing this will automatically move future reply-alls to the trash so they never bother you again. Of course, if you ever changed your mind, you could un-ignore the message: Just find the email in your trash folder and click Stop ignoring.

Unsend emails
In case you sent a message to the wrong recipient or attached the wrong file, Office 365 has a message recall function. To use this, open your sent message, click Actions, and select Recall this message. From here, you can either “Delete unread copies of this message” or “Delete unread copies and replace with a new message.” Bear in mind that this applies only to unread messages and for Outlook users within the same company domain.

Work offline
Whenever you’re working outside the office or in an area with unstable internet, it’s a good idea to enable Offline Access. Found under the Settings menu, this feature allows you to continue working on documents offline and syncs any changes made when you have an internet connection. Offline access is also available in your SharePoint Online document libraries.

Use Outlook plugins
Aside from sending and receiving emails, Outlook also has some awesome third-party plugins. Some of our favorite integrations include PayPal, which allows you to send money securely via email; and Uber, which lets you set up an Uber ride reminder for any calendar event. Find more of productivity-boosting plugins in the Office Store.

Tell Office applications what to do
If you’re not a fan of sifting through menus and options, you can always take advantage of the Tell Me function in your Office 2016 apps. When you press Alt + Q, you bring up a search bar that allows you to look for the functions you need. Suppose you need to put a wall of text into columns on Word but can’t find where it is specifically. Just type ‘column’ and Microsoft will help you with the rest.

These tricks and features themselves will definitely increase productivity. And fortunately, there’s, there’s more coming. Microsoft continues to expand Office 365’s capabilities, and if you truly want to make the most out of the software, don’t be afraid to explore its newly released features.

For more Office 365 tips and updates, get in touch with us today at 855.476.6347

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

How to secure your IoT devices

By | Hardware, Managed Service, Managed Technology, MSP, Security

More firms are using the Internet of Things (IoT) to create new business opportunities. For instance, companies that install smart sensors can automate data entry and monitor their inventory. However, if left unsecured, IoT devices also give hackers an opportunity to breach your network. In order to keep attackers at bay, we advise you take the following precautions with your IoT devices.

SET PASSWORDS

Many often forget they can set passwords for IoT devices. When this happens, they tend to leave their gadgets with default passwords, essentially leaving the door open for hackers. Make sure to set new and strong passwords — preferably with a combination of upper and lower case letters, numbers, and symbols — for each device connected to your network. Then, use a password manager to securely keep track of all your passwords.

Disable Universal Plug and Play (UPnP)

UPnP is designed to help IoT gadgets discover other network devices. However, hackers can also exploit this feature to find and connect to your IoT devices. To prevent them from getting to your network, it’s best to disable this feature completely.

Create a separate network

When you’re dealing with IoT devices, it’s wise to quarantine them in a separate network unconnected to your main office network. By doing this, user gadgets will still have access to the internet but won’t be able to access mission-critical files.

You should also consider investing in device access management tools. These allow you to control which devices can access what data, and prevent unauthorized access.

Update your firmware

If you want to keep your devices secure against the latest attacks, then you need to keep your IoT software up to date. Security researchers are always releasing security patches for the most recent vulnerabilities, so make it a habit to regularly check for and install IoT firmware updates. If you have several gadgets to secure, use patch management software to automate patch distribution and set a schedule to check for updates monthly.

Unplug it

Disconnecting your IoT devices from the internet (or turning them off completely) whenever you don’t need them significantly reduces how vulnerable you are to an attack. Think about it, if there’s nothing to target, hackers won’t be able to make their move. Turning your IoT devices on and off again may not seem like the most convenient strategy, but it does deny unauthorized access to your router.

Unfortunately, as IoT devices become more commonplace in homes and offices, more hackers will develop more cunning ways to exploit them. Getting into the above mentioned security habits can protect you from a wide variety of IoT attacks, but if you really need to beef up your security, then contact Simpatico Systems today at 855.476.6347. We have robust security solutions that keep your hardware safe.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Apple iOS 11: Focus on enterprise users

By | Apple, Managed Service, Managed Technology, MSP

The iPad was originally created for individual consumers even though it was later adopted as a viable productivity tool. After several functionality and style changes, Apple has finally released an iPad that could rival the PC: the iPad Pro. The latest update in Apple’s lineup of tablet computers is a vast departure from previous iPad devices, and with the recently announced changes in the upcoming iOS 11, the company looks poised to shift its focus from individual to enterprise users.

From mobile to desktop

Apple’s iOS platform was originally designed for mobile devices, but the company is making its mobile operating system more desktop-friendly. In the upcoming iOS 11, users can expect a user interface (UI) that’s very similar to a Mac desktop UI with substantial capabilities like multi-tasking, which will allow users to view programs in a split/slide view.

The Files app for iOS will be particularly useful for businesses that use various cloud storage platforms such as Box, Dropbox, Google Drive, and OneDrive. With this handy new app in iOS 11, all files can be accessed, downloaded, and shared within one single platform using your iPad. This app will be very similar to the Finder folder in Mac.

Other notable features

Aside from the multi-tasking capability and the Files app, the new enterprise user-friendly OS will provide users with Drag and Drop capability — previously unavailable to iPad. Instead of having all apps displayed on the screen, users can now enjoy a docking system that Mac users will find familiar. Existing Apple enterprise users will find the new iOS more in-tune with their needs, as switching from one device to another will be more seamless.

What businesses can expect

Whether Apple’s major redesign will be enough to convince non-iOS device users to switch is yet to be determined. It’s also uncertain whether more enterprise tools can be expected from later versions. What’s certain is that Apple has introduced enhancements to the iPad Pro that are significant enough to make it a formidable choice as a standalone enterprise computer.

Many businesses already use an iPad in the workplace, and with these enhancements, integration of mobile and desktop functionality will be more seamless across all Apple devices. This may also prove to be a significant shift for the iPad from being a secondary computing device that displays content to being a primary computer that’s used for creating content.

Apple has always been focused on individual preferences rather than an entire market segment. But with the iOS 11, it is enterprise users who have the most to look forward to. If you need intelligent recommendations on device and usability features on both mobile and desktop devices, call us today at 855.476.6347.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

How 5G data will change VoIP

By | Android, Apple, Google, Managed Service, Managed Technology, MSP, Office, VoIP

Our craving for data seems to increase every year, fueling the constant advancements in wireless technology. The latest is 5G, an abbreviation for the fifth-generation wireless systems, and it is set to transform VoIP for the better. Here are three ways it will do that.

Improved video conferencing
The major factor holding web and video conferencing back is how fast current networks can transmit data. Fortunately, innovations like Web Real-Time-Communications (WebRTC) and 5G networks will enhance VoIP for businesses. Providing open and stable streaming as well as sufficient transfer speeds will soon allow businesses to accommodate higher quality, even 4K and 8K resolution videos.

Virtual and Augmented Reality
With 5G network speeds, virtual and augmented reality will become more common for small- and medium-sized businesses. 5G will blow past 4G’s Gbps (gigabits per second) limit, which is currently holding back the adoption of VR and AR applications.

VR and AR need to process significantly more visual data because of the freedom of movement they allow, and this puts an enormous strain on mobile networks. 5G is also set to ensure a better user experience by lowering latency levels that simplify and smoothen daily business operations, preventing network delays from affecting your bottom line.

Mobile VoIP
VoIP calls rely heavily on sufficient download and upload speeds. For example, when mobile VoIP users on 4G networks are limited to 12Mbps upload and 2Mbps download speeds, they experience unstable and poor call connectivity and clarity. These limitations could also lead to packet loss, which happens when one or more “packets” of data traveling across a computer network fail to reach their destination, typically caused by network congestion.

When businesses decide to adopt the up-and-coming 5G network, businesses can expect to see significant improvements when it comes to VoIP. Ensure the success of your SMB with increased network speeds, better call quality and conversations with consistent connectivity. If you’re looking to set up a VoIP system for your business, call or email us today!

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

How thin and zero clients save money

By | Business, Hardware, Managed Service, Managed Technology, MSP, Office

Businesses are always looking for ways to cut costs without sacrificing growth. For the longest time, many believed that they had to purchase workstations with its own processing power, RAM, and hard drive. But thanks to virtualization, companies can save money and get the computing processes they need with thin and zero clients.

What are thin and zero clients?
Thin clients are stripped-down computers with minimum processing power and memory. They rely on a basic operating system and a network connection to access a more powerful system where almost all computing processes take place.

Zero clients work the same way. The only difference is that there’s no local storage or operating system installed on the device; all the software, storage, and processing power sits on a server until you need it. This setup makes it ideal for cutting costs, and here’s why.

Reduced hardware costs
When it comes to upfront costs, thin and zero clients are the obvious choice. Conventional desktops start at $300 per user, while thin clients can go for as low as $90 per user. And since they have no hard drive or other moving parts, lean devices tend to be more durable and have a longer lifespan than their traditional counterparts.

Simplified IT management
Another benefit of thin clients is that they can be managed from a server. Suppose a new software update was released. Instead of manually downloading the patch on each computer, you can simply install the update on your server and roll it out to all thin clients. Apart from upgrades, you can make backups, security configurations, and application deployments in the data center. This quickens setup, reduces downtime, and increases employee productivity.

Minimized security risks
Thin clients also help you avoid costly malware attacks and data breach incidents. Your employees and poorly managed endpoints are the biggest vulnerabilities with traditional desktops. Thin and zero clients reduce these problems by limiting direct access to the operating system. This prevents employees from copying sensitive data to removable media and installing software, malicious or otherwise.

If your thin client is damaged or corrupted, you don’t have to worry about your data, as it’s originally stored in an impenetrable server.

Decreased energy consumption
Because processing is done locally, traditional desktops generate a lot of heat and require more power, which results in huge power and cooling bills at the end of the month. By contrast, thin and zero clients consume only 4-6.5 watts of power, almost 1/50th of thick client requirements. What’s more, they require little to no cooling, allowing you to enjoy significant cost savings.

When looking for cost-cutting solutions, thin and zero clients should never be overlooked. The reduced hardware costs, power bills, and security risks are just too good to pass up. But if you’re still unsure about this technology, give Simpatico Systems a call at 855.476.6347. We’ll assess your tech needs and determine whether or not thin or zero clients can help you succeed.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Ad blocker is coming to Chrome

By | Google, Managed Service, Managed Technology, Office, Web & Cloud

Pop-up ads and videos can easily turn people away from a website. Google knows this and has come up with a solution set to launch early next year. With that in mind, here’s everything you need to know about Chrome’s ad blocker.

What is it?

Ad blocker from Chrome actually works like an ad filter, meaning it won’t block all ads from the website, only ones that are determined to be too intrusive, like video autoplay with sound as well as interstitials that take up the entire screen.

A group called the Coalition for Better Ads, which consists of Google, Facebook, News Corp, The Washington Post, and other members will decide whether or not the ads are to be blocked. According to Sridhar Ramaswamy, the executive in charge of Google’s ads, even ads owned or served by Google will be blocked if they don’t meet the new guidelines.

How will it work?

From a consumer’s end, you won’t have to do anything except for updating your Chrome browser. For publishers, Google will provide a tool that you can run to find out if your site’s ads are violating the guidelines. The blocker will apply to both desktop and mobile experiences.

What are the benefits of Chrome ad blocker?

Bad ads slow down the web, make it annoying to browse, and drive consumers to install ad blockers that remove all advertisements. If that continues, publishers will face major obstacles since nearly all websites rely on ads to stay alive.

With Chrome’s ad blocker, wholesale ad blocking can be controlled to please both consumers and publishers. Users get a better web browsing experience and publishers can continue to make profits through online ad sales.

But isn’t Google already using third-party ad-blocking extensions?

Yes, but this means they have to pay third-party ad blockers — like Adblock Plus — a certain amount of fee to whitelist ads for the privilege of working around their filters. With their own ad blocker, this can be eliminated once and for all.

Are there potential drawbacks?

It’s undeniable that Chrome’s ad blocker gives Google lots of power to determine ad standards for everyone. It comes to no surprise that there are skeptics who don’t trust one company to act in everyone’s interest.

And while Google assures that even its own ads will be removed if they violate the rules, the fact that Google itself is an ad company with nearly 89 percent of its revenues coming from online ads doesn’t boost its credibility to industry peers.

Publishers will have fewer options to monetize their sites once Chrome’s ad blocker is implemented. To help, Google will include an option for visitors to pay websites that they’re blocking ads on called Funding Choices. However, a similar feature called Google Contributor has been tested a couple years ago with no signs of catching on so we doubt that Funding Choices will differ.

Despite expected criticism, Chrome’s ad blocker will likely result in a better web browsing experience. And as always, if you have any questions about the web, or IT in general, just give us a call and we’ll be happy to help.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Automate mundane emails to get more done

By | Business, Managed Service, Managed Technology, MSP, Office

Everyone wishes there were more minutes in a day. Between repetitive emails and seemingly endless meetings, it’s hard to find time for important tasks. Thanks to the increasing affordability of enterprise-level IT however, SMBs can start getting at least half of those problems under control with email automation.

What is email automation?

Usually included in customer relationship management (CRM) software, email automation centers around the idea of combining your business data into emails to customers and prospects. This allows you to draft templates with placeholders for names, addresses, and other variables that the platform will match with individuals from your email list.

Even better however, is personalizing how and when your emails go out to clients. Automatically inserting customer data into an email is great, but it still requires that you draft the content that surrounds it and hit Send. Email automation grants you the ability to create templated emails that are automatically merged with client data and sent when certain conditions are met.

Examples of email automation

To really get an idea of how valuable this solution is, it’s important to see what it looks like in action. Say you own an eCommerce site that sells complementary goods, like golf clubs and golf balls. You could create a campaign wherein anytime someone buys a set of clubs, pre-written emails automatically go out one month later on how high-quality golf balls improve your handicap.

You’re not limited to two-step workflows either. Take a look at this example:

  • Step 1: Send a personalized email with a special offer on golf balls for existing customers.
  • Step 2: Send a follow-up based on how customers interacted with the offer email:
    • If a customer cashed in the offer, send a thank you email.
      • Step 3: Follow it up with a similar offer three months later.
    • If a customer visited the promo page but didn’t convert, send a promo email for another type of product, like golf bags.
      • Step 3: Follow it up with either a thank you email or another promo for golf clothes.
    • If a customer didn’t even open the email, send a survey email asking about their interests.
      • Step 3: Follow it up with email campaigns based on what they selected.

Email automation means there’s no need to micromanage your customer relationships. As long as you define the path to purchase for high-volume products, you can program workflows to nurture customers and prospects automatically.

For as little as a couple hundred bucks a month, your customer outreach campaigns can compete on the same level as your corporate counterparts with little effort from your team. Add in an expert IT provider and you have the ability to blow the competition out of the water. To learn more, contact us today at 855.476.6347!

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.