How to Get Your Devices to Play Nicely Together: Home Networking Help
Why can’t we all just get along? You’ve probably thought that before. But the sentiment is also one that goes through our heads when we’re trying to set up home networking. When cables and passwords abound, we can’t help but wish it was easier to get all our devices to play nicely together. Here’s help.
Desktop computers. Laptops. Tablets. Network printers. Routers. Modems. Smartphones. Smart speakers. Media players. Gaming systems. Homes today have many, if not all of these. Each has all sorts of features, and they’d be even more useful if they connected to one another. If only it wasn’t so challenging to get all our devices to relay information between each other reliably.
Home networking can bring so many benefits. You might enjoy:
- accessing emails on all your devices, wherever you are;
- surfing the Web using your voice;
- being able to share files, photos, and other media with any other networked device;
- viewing a baby photo album from your computer on your Smart TV during a Sweet 16 birthday party;
- printing from your smartphone or other devices, even when not connected to the device via cable, using AirPrint or Google Cloud Print;
- backing up all computers in the house to a centralized location via the network;
- securing your activity on all devices at home with a protected Wi-Fi network.
Yep, all that sounds pretty great, but we’re right back where we started. How do we get our devices to do all that?
What Your Home Network Needs
First, take a moment to imagine connecting all the computers and smart devices in your home via cables. Ack! As if you want more cables snaking around your home! You don’t want to feel as if you’re rooming with Medusa.
So, you’ll be looking into a wireless home network to connect your devices to the internet and each other. That means setting up a modem and a router (we’re assuming you already have an internet service provider).
The modem is what connects your network to the internet. The router connects your devices to each other and to the internet through your modem. The router communicates the wireless signal between your devices and the modem. A gateway option combines the modem and router functions in one device.
If your home is spread out over several floors or square feet, or you have to deal with thick walls, you might have difficulties at home with Wi-Fi dead spots. Great! You’ve made all this effort, and it’s still not working! You could try a mesh network. Instead of making one device do all the signaling, a primary router and many smaller satellites (or nodes) relay the signals with equal power.
Securing Your Home Network
When you get your devices connected, you’ll want to secure your home network. Taking these simple steps helps protect your personal information and prevent cyberattacks.
First, change the default passwords on your modem and router, and choose something more complex than “123456,” “password,” or “letmein.”
You’ll also want to set up a guest network if the router supports it. This allows visitors to access the Wi-Fi without you having to share access to your main network.
Also, rename your Wi-Fi network so that it isn’t obvious that it’s your house. For example, if you live at 920 Hassell Place, you wouldn’t name it 920Hassell. Or, if you’re the Wilsons, don’t name it WilsonNetwork. Don’t make it easy for someone trying to target you to identify which network they are trying to hack.
You like using all your devices, but getting them all networked seems like a headache. Still, once you have a home network set up, you’ll wonder why you waited so long. Don’t put off the convenience any longer. We can help you get all your devices playing together nicely and securely. Contact us today at 604-885-2410!
Facebook is for Sharing, Not Storing
When was the last time you held an actual photo album or actual prints of photographs in your hands? Maybe you look back at older photographs only when Facebook’s TimeHop app reminds you of a pic from five years ago. If so, you may be risking your visual history.
Facebook is a great way to share photos with friends and family around the world. You get to enjoy their comments and the affirmation of their likes. But using Facebook as storage for your photos is not a good plan. Here’s why.
Some people treat Facebook as their photo album archive. They delete the originals from their devices or digital camera when they need more space. But Facebook compresses images for faster download. It satisfies impatient social media users, which means photo quality suffers. If you wanted to print those photos in the future, they wouldn’t look as good as the originals.
That’s not the only drawback. When you trust Facebook with all your photos, you’re letting a company control your visual archive. It’s hard to imagine, given Facebook’s reach today, but what happens to your photos if the company goes defunct? We don’t know. The people who were keeping their photos on Myspace in 2006 might have an idea.
The younger crowd is already moving onto other social platforms. Plus, Facebook’s growth rate in North America and Europe is slowing. Those daily active users are the primary source of revenue. So, you know Mark Zuckerberg is in some meetings about that.
Even if Facebook continues as the business behemoth it is today, we don’t know what policy changes it might make. It could change its terms of service whenever it wanted (if you even read those in the first place). Users have no guarantee for how long Facebook will store their images or any type of content.
Keep in mind also that many of the photos showing up in your timeline are actually taken by friends. Facebook provides an entire album of other people’s photos when they’ve tagged you, but if they decided to untag you or remove it, that photo would be gone.
Finally, there’s also the risk of your account getting shut down or hacked. You’ve probably had friends warn you not to accept any new friend requests from them because they’ve been compromised. You wouldn’t want a thief to steal all your photo albums. Similarly, you don’t want a cybercriminal to gain access to all your images.
Just as with data, we recommend you have a “3-2-1” backup system for your digital photographs. This means having three copies of the photos you care about. You don’t need to back up the blurry ones if you don’t want to.
You might keep one copy on the original device, but you’d have two other copies of the high-quality, uncompressed, original image as well. One might be kept on an external storage device such as a USB thumb drive, and the other you could upload to cloud storage.
The cloud backup gives you access to the photos from any device in any location. So, if a flood, hurricane, or fire devastates your home, and you lose your device and the USB thumb drive, you still have a backup. Your Facebook photos and videos are just there to be shared with friends and family.
Not sure where or how to safely store your photos and videos? We can help! Our experts may even become new Facebook friends. Then we can all like each other’s photos with the peace of mind that the original photos aren’t going anywhere.
Security Patches – The Better Way to Update
Updates often come at the worst moment. You go to shut down your laptop to rush to a meeting, and you get a “Windows is updating. Do not power off” message. Argh!
Or you leave your desktop to go to a meeting and come back to find your computer has restarted in your absence. Those unexpected bug fixes and performance improvements lost you all your unsaved work.
You know updates are important. They help patch security flaws. These are the vulnerabilities that hackers love to exploit. Updating helps you keep business documents and data safe. Software updates can also add new, useful features and remove outdated ones. Plus, keeping software and systems up to date is good cyber citizenship. Security patches protect from attacks that could also impact employees, customers, and partners.
Updating is a pain but oh so important
The WannaCry ransomware attacked hundreds of thousands of computers in more than 150 countries. Among those infected were the UK National Health Service, FedEx, Telefonica, the Russian Interior Ministry, and more, all because people (and companies) weren’t keeping their computers updated. The later Petya ransomware preyed on the same vulnerabilities, despite the publicity around WannaCry and Microsoft having already released a patch.
Still, people don’t bother updating. According to a Skype survey, 40% of respondents didn’t update their machines when prompted, almost 25% required a second prompt. Nearly 45% worried that installing the update would weaken their computer’s security.
And keeping Windows up to date isn’t enough. Cybercriminals aren’t stopping there, so you can’t either. You also need to be patching third-party applications such as Java or your Adobe suite. More employees are also bringing their own devices to the workplace. Overlooking security updates for these entry points is like leaving a window wide open and expecting criminals to walk by.
Equifax’s failure to update a Java virtual machine proved costly. Hackers accessed over 145 million credit reports in 2017. The company lost more than $5 billion in market cap, and the CEO lost his job.
Businesses need a better way to keep your software security patches current. Here’s help.
Keeping security patches current, conveniently
Avoid the inconvenience of the “Update Now” interruption by setting up automated patching. Patching all your computers or different device types can be time consuming.
Determine when downtime won’t be as disruptive, and schedule patches for that timeframe. This lets you update an entire department when they aren’t there, or patch individual computers around the employee’s schedule. For instance, if your accountant comes in only on Tuesdays, you wouldn’t patch that computer that day.
This approach also creates a consistency your employees can plan around, which allows them to manage all security updates without you having to lift a finger.
To do this, you can outsource the patching to a managed service provider (MSP). The MSP installs remote monitoring and management (RMM) software to manage all security updates without you having to lift a finger.
The RMM software gives your IT partner visibility into your business technology. They’ll track your hardware, software, and network environments to keep ahead of issues. This sets your business up to respond faster to any events.
Using the RMM, the MSP can automate software patching and OS updates to reduce the hassle. The RMM can be cloud-based or on-premises (requires onsite hardware investment).
Automating or outsourcing software updates can improve your security and compliance. Your employees enjoy new features, extended support, and access to the latest technology. A reliable, secure system can improve stability, speed processes, and drive increased productivity.
Get expert help determining patching priorities, or partner with an MSP to install RMM and monitor and resolve issues remotely. Give us a call at 604-885-2410!
What is the Best Way to Backup?
“That will never happen to me.” We get through our lives telling ourselves the worst won’t happen to us. It’s the same with business: “We won’t need this data backup.” Yet, whatever your industry, secure, reliable backup ensures business as usual. So, what’s the best way to backup? Here’s help.
Why You Need to Backup
- Business disruptions of any kind can be costly. The disaster might take one of several shapes:
- Natural (e.g. wildfires, floods, earthquakes, or hurricanes)
- On-site (e.g. hardware/software failure, power outage, inability to access building)
- Employee driven (e.g. damaging mistakes or intentional sabotage by a disgruntled employee)
- Cyber-attack (e.g. data breach, ransomware, or distributed denial of service attack).
Regardless, the best backup solution can help reduce downtime and damage.
Plan B: Approaches to Backup
There are several off-the-shelf backup options your business can use. Let’s consider the pros and cons of the most popular ones.
USB Thumb Drives – Also known as “flash drives,” “pen drives,” or “memory sticks,” these thumb-sized devices are compact and portable. But, they have size limitations compared to hard drives. Also, the mobility makes them easy to lose (which can actually set the disaster scenario in motion).
Additionally, a USB thumb drive is robust when not plugged in, but more vulnerable when attached. If someone inadvertently snaps the drive or employs too much force, they can put the data on that backup at risk.
The cheap ones also tend to be slow, which can make backing up sluggish.
USB Hard Drives – Portable hard drives increase the data storage available, often at a decent price. They are designed to be compact and mobile. You can prioritize durability, processing speed, storage volumes and more.
Hard drives are less likely to get damaged than a thumb drive. If knocked or jostled, the cables are flexible. Still, a hard drive can be prone to physical failure. Selecting an external solid slate drive (SSD) can help since it has no moving parts. Information is stored instead in microchips.
Cloud Storage – Backing up to the cloud stores data on an external, secure server. If thieves take your computers and USB backup, you can still access your data on the cloud. Cloud storage providers build in redundancy to ensure your backup remains safe.
Most cloud storage services back up to secure centers with thousands of servers storing data. Oh, and they’ll have their own server backups too, just in case they’re the ones hit by a disaster. The providers also encrypt data during transit to further ensure compliance and security.
Migrating to a third-party cloud storage service also cuts the clutter at your premises. You can count on expert help to ensure security and compliance. Plus, you can cut operational costs by offloading in-house storage or external hard drive expenses.
OK, What’s the Best Answer?
Don’t think disaster won’t strike your business. Research has found data loss and downtime are most often caused by:
- Hardware failures (45% of total unplanned downtime)
- Loss of power (35%)
- Software failure (34%)
- Data corruption (24%)
- External security breaches (23%)
- Accidental user error (20%).
We recommend the 3-2-1 backup strategy. This means having 3 copies of your data. Two (2) of these would be located on different devices (e.g. on your computer and on a backup drive). The other remaining backup copy (1) would be secured offsite, in the cloud.
Want to secure your data for the worst? Give us a call at 885-2410 to set this up.