1. Email Encryption: Why It’s Important

    When we create a letter in the analog world, we take the time to seal that letter in an envelope to keep it safe from prying eyes — especially if that letter contains sensitive information. If it’s highly confidential information we might even resort to obfuscation such as using coded text, or making sure that it is delivered via secure channels such as by special messenger. Encrypting email is relatively easy with today’s software. Usually it involves the use of a public key and a private key. The public key is available to everyone, and if you want to send someone an email message you would use that person’s public key to encrypt that message. That person in turn would use his private key, to which only he has access, to decode that message. Software such as the latest versions of Microsoft Outlook supports this feature , and even flags you if the recipient’s email software does not support encryption. Some systems take it a step further by allowing you to digitally sign your emails, so that other people can verify that it is you who actually sent the email and not someone else. This is especially important since hackers sometimes spoof or impersonate the identities of others to fool unsuspecting users. If you are interested in finding out more about email encryption and security, contact us today to find out how we can help make sure your messages are safe and secure.
  2. The Importance of a Business Continuity Plan

    Japan’s earthquake was devastating to many companies, particularly electronics manufacturers. But the losses weren’t limited to Asia; many American companies felt the aftershock. The lesson to be learned: disasters can strike unexpectedly, and can have far-reaching impact. What Japan Can Teach Us about Business Continuity When a powerful earthquake rocked northeast Japan in March 2011, the impact was felt across the globe — a powerful reminder of how important disaster recovery plans are to all businesses. You may think of disasters as being relatively rare events, like earthquakes—but however rare in any one location, events such as these can have an effect on many other locations. Case in point: According to Bloomberg, at least 35 companies derive 15 percent or more of their sales from Japan. Among them are Aflac (an insurance company), Rambus (a memory-chip interface manufacturer), and Coach (a retailer). For example, Japan generated about 75 percent of Aflac’s 2010 sales. American ports and shippers were also affected:  the Port of Los Angeles temporarily suspended the transfer of hazardous materials and bunkering fuel operations. The point is that disasters, whether acts of nature or man-made mishaps, can strike unexpectedly at any organization. Recovering from a catastrophe can be very demanding, expensive, and time consuming — especially for those who haven’t taken preventative measures and preparations. What can you do to prepare? Develop a Business Continuity Plan (BCP), which will enable your business to resume normal operations after a significant data loss or network downtime due to natural disasters, sabotage, theft, or equipment failure. Even if you already have a BCP, it’s important to make sure that your plan is flexible and scalable, and can adapt to the natural changes that your business undergoes. For example, software and hardware installations, updates, and modifications are an important part of business continuity planning. Your data should be properly and regularly backed up, and you need storage and recovery systems and procedures that are continually updated with changes that constantly occur in your IT. In addition to having a flexible and scalable BCP, you also need a highly skilled IT staff that is up to speed on the importance of backup and recovery of data. It’s important that this staff is properly trained to implement your BCP in the event that your business experiences a major data loss. Unfortunately, companies routinely suffer significant data loss because they discover the errors in their systems too late — usually while trying to recover the data. Your business is important to you — and to us, too. We’re here to help you create or fine-tune a BCP that is best suited to your unique business needs, as well as prepare and assist your staff in implementing the plan should it become necessary. Contact us for more details.
  3. Windows Small Business Server 2011 Standard Comes Packed with New Features

    Users of the old Windows Small Business Server 2008 will be glad to know that Microsoft has finally released a new SBS – Windows Small Business Server 2011 – which has improved features designed to make businesses function better. Microsoft has released an upgrade to its Small Business Server Platform – Windows Small Business Server 2011 Standard. Based on the Windows SBS 2008, it carries most of the easy-to-use features that have made it a standard in many businesses, plus several new features that make it a much more efficient and effective business tool. Some key features of Windows SBS 2011 Standard include: the ability to recover files with automatic backup in case files and documents get compromised or lost; the ability to share documents and files from a central hub; access to information both in and outside the office; and new business software and application compatibilities. Microsoft has also made the migration of data and other information from the old platform much easier, based on input from partners who tested the software during the beta phase of its development. Other major changes that Windows SBS 2011 addresses are upgrades to both the Exchange Server and SharePoint foundation, as well as the SQL server. The upgrade also provides better remote access and better security, as well as an easier-to-use internal website that serves as a hub for users and clients to access information and data. If your business is running Windows Small Business Server 2008, it might make sense to upgrade. If you would like to know more about how this upgraded platform can help your business, please contact us and we’ll be happy to provide a free assessment of your options.
  4. Restrict Users of Your Computer from Accessing Folder Options in Windows

    If you share your computer with other users or manage the computers in your home or office, there are times when you may want to restrict users from changing folder options, such as making Windows system files visible which are invisible by default or showing file extensions. To do this, go to the Windows Start Menu and click on Run . Type “regedit” to launch the windows system registry tool. Next, go to: HKEY_CURRENT_USER / Software / Microsoft / Windows / Curre ntVersion / Policies / Explorer. It may be a good idea to backup your registry at this point . After creating a back-up, double-click on NoFolderOptions and set its value to 1 . After doing so, users will no longer be able to edit Folder Options.   To reverse, set the value back to 0 .
  5. The Ins and Outs of Going Paperless at the Office

    Many businesses are now beginning to adapt a paperless policy, as doing so can go a long way in enhancing productivity and making operations much more efficient, while being much more cost-effective at the same time. As companies are not only being more conscious of the environmental impact of how they do business but also of how they can create a much more efficient and productive system for operations, one trend that has emerged over the years is the move towards making offices use less paper. While this may seem like a small issue, it actually impacts your business more than you might think. Just calculate the cost of buying paper for your entire business over the course of a whole year. A transition to a paperless office can not only save money, but can also affect operations by making things much more convenient and efficient. Here are some advantages of going paperless: 1.  Cost effectiveness Going paperless significantly reduces costs spent on buying not only paper, but also costly printer consumables such as toner and inks. You also lessen the overall usage of your printers, reducing maintenance and repair costs and increasing the lifetime of your printer. 2.  Neater and greener One of the most obvious advantages of going paperless is that it makes everything much neater. Remember those messy IN and OUT trays you couldn’t make heads or tails of? All gone. And with less paper to throw away, there’s also less waste. Plus, it’s much more environmentally friendly – using less paper, disposable printer consumables, and electricity means you’re doing your part to have a green office. 3.  Save space Storing paper requires file cabinets, and file cabinets take up space. In one example, a company converted the massive documentation they were required to archive to digital copies, and eliminated an entire room of file cabinets. They were then able to use that valuable square footage as office space for a new salesperson. 3.  Better security A paperless operation also enables you to better secure the data that you store. For example, you can set limits on the kind of data and information that is available to employees and workers based on their position and job description. Unlike file cabinets that can be broken into easily, causing possible theft or lost, storing data and information electronically not only makes it much more difficult to obtain that data, but online backups also give you a contingency in case of unforeseen circumstances or natural disasters that can compromise your data. 4.  Better productivity Electronic storage and data management allow authorized employees to have access to information faster and more efficiently. A simple query or search term allows employees to find what they need in a jiffy, allowing them to get their assigned tasks done faster. With well organized file sharing and other document collaboration options, your people can get the documents they need in real time. 5.  Telecommuting and remote working Enabling your team to work from home and while on the road is a key to productivity and keeping your company nimble. However, when you’re out of the office nothing is more frustrating than not having access to a document you need to act on. When your documents are in digital format, you and your employees have the information and documents they need at their fingertips to keep moving forward. Different businesses need different systems and approaches to going paperless. If you’re interested in a paperless office, please contact us and we’ll be happy to present a solution that best meets your unique requirements.
  6. Using Outlook to Access your Gmail Account

    Do you have a Gmail account but prefer using Outlook to access your email? You can configure your Gmail to behave like a normal mailbox so that you can download it using your favorite desktop or mobile client such as Outlook. You can then access your mail offline, and use tools you already use with Outlook, such as Outlook’s mail formatting features and MS Office integration. Here’s how: 1.       First set up your Gmail account for POP or IMAP . If you use other Outlook features such as Tasks and Notes, consider using Google App Sync for Outlook instead. 2.       In Outlook, add a new email account.  Remember to use your email address when setting up your account (including ‘@gmail.com’ or ‘@your_domain.com’). For the exact steps, follow the instructions here . 3.       Are you using a mail client other than Outlook? Check out instructions from Google here .
  7. Internet Security has a Bright Future

    Initiatives such as WebBlaze and BitBlaze from the mind of IT genius Professor Dawn Song are setting the bar high for security, constantly providing solutions developers can use to create better security for their clients. If you think hackers are the only ones doing their research to release newer and scarier viruses and malware on the web, think again. It is comforting to know that there are also very capable people doing what they can to make the internet a safer place – like Professor Dawn Song, associate professor at the University of California at Berkeley and MacArthur Foundation fellow. In a nutshell, Professor Song has been looking at different ways to make the internet experience more secure. Her two initiatives – WebBlaze and BitBlaze – are aimed toward developers who want to create better and much more secure programs and applications. WebBlaze is a compilation of different strategies from Song and other like minds who tackle different problems and solutions in all sorts of platforms, and BitBlaze is an analysis tool for malicious software. While we won’t go into too much detail (it involves very complicated math), the gist is that Song and her colleagues are drawing up some very solid solutions to constantly evolving security issues on the web. It’s exciting to see developments like these in the security industry. As threats continue to evolve, so does the means through which they are fought. The more we use the internet and the more the online experience becomes integral to the day-to-day operations of businesses big and small, the more important securing your data and information becomes. And because of efforts such as Professor Song’s, we can expect security programs to be much more effective and efficient as time passes. Know more about BitBlaze and WebBlaze Learn more about Dawn Song here If you are looking to assess and beef up your security systems, we’d be happy to sit down with you and take a look at improvements that can make your business and your data much more secure.
  8. Add the Recycle Bin to List of Places in My Computer

    Adding a shortcut to the Recycle Bin is easy if you know how to edit your system registry. Here’s how: First go to the Windows Start Menu and click on Run . Type “regedit” to launch the windows registry tool. Next, go to: HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINESOFTWAREMicrosoftWindowsCurrentVersionExplorerMyComputerNameSpace. It may be a good idea to backup your registry at this point . After creating a back-up, create a new key named {645FF040-5081-101B-9F08-00AA002F954E} under the NameSpace section. Go back to your My Computer window and the Recycle Bin should be there.
  9. Twitter @ Five: Continuing to be a Powerful Social Marketing Tool

    Five years is a relatively short time to grow from a virtually unknown website to what is now one of the most effective social networking platforms on the web today. And businesses will be better off taking advantage of all that Twitter can offer internet marketing campaigns. Social networking and “microblogging” site Twitter turned five years old recently, a testament to how effective this kind of approach to social networking is. And in those five short years, the number of users has ballooned to up to 200 million, sending around 140 million tweets a day around the world – and the number continues to grow. March 21, 2006 marked the day Twitter co-founder Jack Dorsey sent the first ever tweet that read, “just setting up my twttr.” Since then, people have used the service to broadcast all sorts of things, provided they stay within the 140-character limit – from what they ate that day to updates about news and current affairs. Much more relevant to businesses, though, is how Twitter has become an integral part of internet and social media marketing. Twitter offers a plethora of advantages that enable businesses to share information on the web much faster than traditional means. And it’s not only for small businesses. Big organizations such as ESPN (@espn, 1,098,906 followers), Dell (@DellOutlet, 1,581,201 followers), and Amazon (@amazondeals, 204,838 folowers) use Twitter’s wide reach and large audience to update about promotions, events, and other information. Twitter enables businesses to get in touch with audiences and gain feedback almost instantly. It’s a win-win deal – clients get to say what they want in a short, brief 140-character tweet, and businesses can respond and make the necessary improvements very efficiently. Twitter also helps direct more traffic and visitors to websites and gives the impression of a hands-on, responsive service (provided website updates are timely and relevant). The platform on which Twitter operates makes for a fast-paced exchange of information that, with the right marketing strategies, can be very advantageous for businesses. If you want to know more about how to harness this very effective medium to beef up your internet marketing efforts, give us a call and we’ll be happy to sit down with you and create strategies that meet your needs.
  10. Cutting Off Wastrels at the Office

    Studies have shown that companies can lose millions of dollars in productivity and bandwidth wasted on video streaming and online gambling during major sporting events. It’s best that you have the right systems in place to ensure that office hours and resources are spent on their intended purposes. One of the many challenges businesses face is managing bandwidth and keeping productivity at a maximum. These challenges are especially apparent during major sporting events when hundreds of hours of productivity are lost to non-work activities. During these times, many sports fanatics do their best to stay updated with the latest news in sporting events. And while there is nothing wrong with being a fan, there is a problem when office hours – not to mention precious bandwidth – are wasted on these unproductive activities. Besides video streaming live telecasts or replays of matches and games, there are also those who engage in online betting and gambling, especially during the final legs of a tournament or competition. Unfortunately, it’s not uncommon for some employees to spend the majority of their time at the office on these pursuits, with little to zero accomplishments for the day. The problem is truly a serious one, with studies showing millions of dollars in productivity lost during popular sporting events. That’s beside the bandwidth wasted on what is, from a professional standpoint, useless and irrelevant activities. Naturally, the value of losses in productivity and bandwidth vary from company to company, but any loss is a loss that affects your bottom line. The good news is that these kinds of situations can be prevented. With the right software, you can be immediately alerted when a particular workstation is consuming an unusual amount of bandwidth. This will not only help you cut off the bandwidth usage, but also help you identify employees who are wasting company resources. You can even use this software to catch people who might be illegally downloading content from the web through torrent or peer-to-peer programs, which also pose security threats to your system. If you’d like to learn more about solutions to better manage your bandwidth and productivity, please don’t hesitate to give us a call and we’ll be more than happy to sit down with you to discuss a customized approach for your organization.


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