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How to Get Your Devices to Play Nicely Together: Home Networking Help

How to Get Your Devices to Play Nicely Together: Home Networking Help

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!

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Facebook is for Sharing, Not Storing

Facebook is for Sharing, Not Storing

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.

Our Recommendation

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.

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Security Patches – The Better Way to Update

Security Patches – The Better Way to Update

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).

Conclusion

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!

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Is There A Safe Way to Use The Cloud?

Is There A Safe Way to Use The Cloud?

Cloud technology has grown to new heights in recent years. Ten years ago ‘the cloud’ was jargon almost nobody was aware of, today it is a phrase used almost daily in offices worldwide. More and more businesses today are taking advantage of the huge benefits cloud services have to offer.

The sudden and widespread adoption of this new technology has raised questions too. Some want to fully understand what the cloud is before committing their vital company data to it. Most want to find out what the cloud can do for them. Everyone wants to know, is it safe?

What Is The Cloud?

The Cloud is an abstract name for an engineering principle that allows you to store, retrieve, and work on your data without worrying about the specifics of precisely where or how it is kept. Storing your data on the cloud essentially means saving it on a server without worrying about the fine details.

Your data may be stored on a single computer, or distributed across multiple servers all around the world. Most often it’s stored across one or more data centers as close as possible to your physical location.

From the perspective of the end user, the big idea behind the cloud is that where data is stored ultimately doesn’t matter to you. Your cloud server takes care of retrieving your data as quickly and efficiently as possible.

With cloud technology, you are free to forget about the specifics and worry only about the bigger picture.

Safety In The Cloud

Many people are concerned by the idea of their confidential data being distributed worldwide. Often, people imagine small unguarded computers being responsible for vital company information. In a cloud setting, almost nothing could be further from the truth.

The reality is more like many hundreds, or thousands, of computers stacked up multiple stories in height. Data centers make storing and securing data their entire business, meaning they employ high-level cybersecurity and back it up with top of the line physical security too.

Today, digital assets are treated with security previously used only for cash, or precious metals such as silver and gold. Walled compounds, security gates, guards, and CCTV protect physical servers from unwanted access. Redundant power supplies even protect services against unplanned outages.

A modern data center is many times more secure than an office server in your own building. The difference could be compared to storing your cash in a highly secured bank vault versus a lock box on your desk.

State of the art digital security encrypts data, secures transmission, and monitors services for intrusion too.

Cloud Convenience

Storing data in the cloud means having easy access and very regular backups. Staff across the entire firm can work on documents at the same time, save files, and transfer documents without worrying about redundant copies and saving over previous versions.

The cloud acts, for your firm, as the ultimate productivity and security tool. Many firms haven’t known they needed it until they started using it.

User Security

The most significant threat to your cloud security comes from the users. Creating a weak password or reusing an old one to access your cloud services, opens up your data to easy access by hackers.

Falling for a phishing scam, or accidentally installing malicious software on your computer gives attackers the single opportunity they need to strike.

Attacking a fortified, secure data center is almost impossible. Attacking a user with common attacks and weak passwords is comparatively simple. These issues can be guarded against and prevented with staff training, awareness, and simple security tools. A simple password manager can guard against a large number of the biggest threats to your firm.

In today’s modern tech environment, the cloud is not only safe, it’s very likely the safest, most reliable, and most secure way to store your critical data.

We offer a variety of cloud services to help your business. Give us a now at call at 885-2410.

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What Can An MSP Do to Kickstart Your Business

What Can An MSP Do to Kickstart Your Business

Business today relies on technology in a way which we have never seen before. It makes up the core of almost every firm currently in existence. Today going digital impacts small companies more than large ones; it can make new opportunities possible and accelerate your path to success.

The advantages of modern technology to small business is likely to be present already within your firm, but so too are the disadvantages. Faster transactions, quicker payment, accurate inventory, and improved customer outreach serve to boost our capabilities. While complex set-up, systems management, and ever-present security threats hold us back from our full potential.

Managed Service Providers (MSPs) can eliminate the drawbacks, sharpen up your systems, and allow your business to grow to its full capacity in the modern business landscape.

What An MSP Does For You – There are a staggering number of systems a modern business is expected to keep tabs on today. Accounting, inventory, and timekeeping; on top of customer-facing services such as maintaining a website, managing social media, and processing online orders. It’s simply impossible for every small business to keep up.

An MSP is an expert in the field, managing your IT services to give you the confidence your business is on the right track. If the core of your business relied on maintaining a fleet of vehicles, you would hire a mechanic to keep each one in top condition. Building your firm on modern technology should employ a similar strategy.

For your company, an MSP exists to keep your systems in their best shape to generate maximum mileage for your business.

Tailored to Exactly What You Need – The key to unlocking near unlimited growth in your own company is to find out precisely what you need to operate to capacity. An MSP can provide consulting services to your firm to find out how your business can improve. Simple tweaks and minor changes are often all it takes to create a more streamlined, more productive, working environment.

Almost always, the smallest changes in the right places make the most significant differences. Working with technology, rather than fighting against it, provides your firm with the competitive edge to put you in control.

Technology That Helps Without Getting in The Way – An MSP can both enhance and protect your business by providing backup and recovery services that will safeguard your data and services against any disaster.

The nature of IT failures means they can appear to happen at any time. Whether hit by a natural disaster, criminal break-in, or IT outage; a severe failure at the wrong time can cost customers, money, and reputation. A high quality, effective MSP works in the background to guarantee uptime, recover from adverse events, and increase security against threats.

Technology That Keeps You in Business – A huge number of businesses, both high-profile and small owner-operated firms, have suffered massive client losses as a result of missing deadlines, losing data, or exposing their customers to unnecessary threats. Clients are often left with little choice but to choose a firm that takes their data and privacy seriously.

One of the most significant benefits to managed services is regular, predictable support costs. Making regular and fixed payments to keep your IT in good shape protects against major and unexpected blow-outs in the monthly budget.

By monitoring systems, diagnosing issues, and maintaining technology, many of the problems that cause unexpected downtime and data loss can be avoided altogether. Preventing problems before they happen saves you money, but more importantly maintains your business reputation too.

An MSP Working For You – Increasing your potential, reducing your costs, and protecting your reputation are all great reasons to incorporate a managed service provider into your business. You can effectively add a whole new department to your business without adding unnecessary management overhead.

By eliminating IT distractions that take you away from your core business, you are free to pursue activities that make your company great. Take up an MSP and return to doing what you enjoy most, the part of the firm you are great at, the reason you got into your business in the first place.

Let us do the IT we are great at, so you can build and run the business you have always wanted. Give us a call at 885-2410 to manage your IT services for you.

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Don’t Fall Victim to Webcam Blackmail

Don’t Fall Victim to Webcam Blackmail

Many users have reported recent scam messages from individuals claiming to have intercepted their username and password. These messages often state they have been watching your screen activity and webcam while you have been unaware.

Typically, attackers threaten to broadcast footage to your contacts, colleagues, or social media channels. Demanding payment in Bitcoin, malicious hackers blackmail their victims to keep confidential information private.

Where Have the Attacks Come From?

In many cases where hackers have claimed to have a victims’ password, this has turned out to be true.

In the last few years alone, many large websites have suffered enormous hacks which have released confidential details on many of their users. LinkedIn, Yahoo, and Myspace all suffered massive and devastating hacks. Some users of these services are still feeling the consequences today.

The details leaked from these sites, and others facing the same issues, are sold online for years after the initial breach. Hackers buy username and password combinations in the hopes of reusing them to access services, steal money, or blackmail their owners.

How to Respond

If you have been contacted by one of these hackers, it is a scary reality that they could have access to your credentials, data, and online services.

The only thing you can do in response to this type of email is to ignore it. This “we recorded you” email is a scam made much more believable because they probably do have one of your real passwords gained from a site hack.

That said, accounts that share the same password should be changed immediately. Security on additional services you use should be updated too.

Self Defense On the Web

When using online services, a unique password for every site is your number one defense. A good password manager makes this practical and straightforward too.

Using a different password for each site you use means that hackers can only gain access to one site at a time. A hack in one place should never compromise your other accounts by revealing the single password you use everywhere.

Often, people think that maintaining many passwords is hard work or even impossible to do. In truth, it’s almost always easier to keep tabs with a password manager than it is to use the system you have in place today.

A high quality and secure password manager such as LastPass, or 1Password, can keep track of all your logins efficiently and securely. They often offer the chance to improve your security by generating random and strong passwords that hackers will have a tougher time cracking.

Password management services offer a host of features that help you log in, remind you to refresh your security, and make your safety a number one priority. After using a manager for just a short time, you can be forgiven for wondering how you managed without it.

If you think you might have been hacked already, or want to prevent it from ever happening, give us a call to at 885-2410 update your security.

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