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A Successful Home Office

By | Business, Cybersecurity, Food for thought

Boy, the world has changed in the last month, and everyone from governments to households are still trying to figure things out. With all of the stresses these changes have brought, let’s reduce some of the stress of having a productive Work From Home (WFH) environment.

As newly remote workers ourselves, we empathize with your struggles in adjusting to working from home and all the other changes, and have found these WFH tips, both technical and otherwise, useful.

  • Maintain a regular schedule, just as you would normally. This helps reduce the strangeness of the situation and reduces rogue tendencies to lose productivity.
  • Still getting dressed helps maintain a professional frame of mind.
  • Consider what things help you concentrate better and what distracts you, and create your work environment accordingly to the best of your ability. (noise level, visual distractions, tv/radio/quiet, computer accessories, seating, work surface, etc.)
  • When teleconferencing, everyone understands you have the kids at home, and things may be a bit noisier than normal. Good etiquette says to use the mute button when not talking (and remembering to UNMUTE when you are talking—I’m really bad at this part!)
  • Communication with each other is key—work out a system or have a sign indicating when you need to focus uninterrupted or need the internet bandwidth. Plan ahead to have quiet, attention-absorbing activities for the kids to pull out for these times. What those are will depend on your kids. Pinterest may have some good ideas.
  • Expect slower internet speeds and increased interruptions to service. Residential networks are being heavily strained by more people being home more, both working and streaming, and they aren’t designed for the heavy business use they are having. Unfortunately, there is nothing your IT department can do about this. A call to your home internet provider is your best resource.
    1. Make sure the other denizens of your domicile aren’t gaming online or streaming Tiger King when you need that good video conference connection!
    2. If you are paying for a 50 Mbps plan, for example, and getting a lot slower, your service provider may be slowing things down to keep the internet traffic moving. They do not guarantee a minimum speed, because you are sharing the network pipeline with your neighbors.
    3. If you find your subscription is not cutting it, talk with your HR department whether they will subsidize a service upgrade.
  • Wifi connections by their nature are not as fast or reliable as hardwire connections. Also, if you are in a crowded residential space (ie apartment), your neighbors’ WiFi can create interference with your networks. If you are having network difficulty while using WiFi, the first thing to do is to get an ethernet cable, and plug your computer directly into your home modem or router. Most have at least 4 ports in the back. It does not matter which port you use. You can pick up cables of various lengths from big box stores like WalMart, HomeDepot, Lowe’s, and most computer shops. We recommend supporting your local businesses where possible. Be sure to measure ahead of time the length of the path the cord will travel (along and/or up and down walls, around corners, etc.)
  • If you are connected to a company VPN (Virtual Private Network), note that ALL of your internet traffic your computer is using goes through the VPN. Your office network is not designed to have lots of people using VPN to stream videos or similar heavy usage. It may struggle to have everyone on VPN at once, so if you need to video conference or have Spotify going in the background, please use a different device for those activities, or get off VPN.
  • Remote Desktop (RDP) does not have quite the same restrictions, and are best used when handling certain Data-intensive applications like QuickBooks, Sage, AutoCAD and so on.
  • Most company IT departments do not have the resources, or corporate permission, to troubleshoot most home network problems. Home networks are often unique in how they are set up, and so are difficult to troubleshoot. Your internet provider or home computer repair service is the best first contact for issues beyond having the correct settings on your computer for remote access.
  • Most companies have policies that VPN connections are only set up on company owned devices, and not personal ones. If you are using a personal computer for remote work, an RDP is a little more secure. As always, consult with your company about what method of access they recommend for you.
  • FOLLOW your employer’s IT policies!!!! The cyberbaddies have really ramped up their game to take advantage of all of the changes, uncertainties and modifications to corporate networks.
  • Be vigilant against phishing attempts, and if being asked over email (or even chat) to do anything slightly out of the ordinary (by bosses, colleagues, vendors, or clients), especially changes to financial arrangements, contact the other party by phone—but don’t use the phone number in the email—you may end up calling the scammer, who of course will assure you it is legit. Find the number from Google or your own or your company’s address book.
  • Hover your mouse cursor over email addresses or links of suspicious emails. Doing so will cause a small popup to appear that will tell you what the actual address is that the link/email will go to. Verify that it goes where you expect.
  • Give yourself grace. Take mental health breaks. Lower your expectations of your productivity and stamina. Get some fresh air and exercise. Take 10-15 minutes every couple of hours to give your kids/pets/significant other some attention. They will typically give you more peace when they know you’ll be available regularly.

 

We are walking with you through this time and are striving to help you get up and running to WFH. We hope you and your loved ones remain healthy through this situation. Don’t panic, remain cautious and alert.

Pirated Windows led to WannaCry’s spread in China and Russia

By | Uncategorized

WannaCry, the notorious ransomware demanding up to $300 worth of Bitcoins to unlock victims’ computers, hit systems all around the globe over the weekend. According to Finnish cybersecurity company F-Secure, though, Russia and China were affected the most, and it could be due to the rampant use of pirated software in those countries. Microsoft issued a patch for the vulnerability the attackers used as an entry point back in March and even fixed it for XP, which it long stopped supporting. However, pirated systems can’t install those patches, so computers running illegal software remained vulnerable.

That was a big problem for those two countries and for India, as well. According to the a survey conducted by The Software Alliance last year, 70 percent of computer users in China are running unlicensed software. Russia isn’t far behind at 64 percent, while India comes in at third with 58 percent.

In China, for instance, even prestigious universities and big companies use pirated Windows on their computers. As a result, 40,000 institutions in the country were affected, even police stations and state oil giant PetroChina. A China Telecom employee even told The New York Times that his company tried to fix the vulnerability. When it didn’t work, he was asked to use a patch issued by Qihoo 360, a service that supports old and pirated Windows OS.

WannaCry’s propagation in those countries illustrate the dangers of using bootlegged software. But as NYT said, the use pirated OS and the lack of willingness to pay for software is so ingrained in their culture that this event likely won’t change that mindset. As for WannaCry, authorities still don’t know who’s behind the ransomware — though they have their suspicions — and the problem seems to be getting worse.

https://www.engadget.com/2017/05/15/pirated-windows-china-russia-wannacry/

WannaCry Ransomware

By | Uncategorized

US-CERT has released a threat alert regarding a spreading global ransomware attack. There have been a number of reports of WannaCry ransomware from a number of different countries. The WannaCry ransomware may be exploiting an identified vulnerability in Microsoft operating systems. Microsoft released a patch as part of the March 2017 Security Rollup that addressed the vulnerability. If a resource has been updated with the March 2017 Security Rollup or later, then the vulnerability in question should be resolved. More information on this threat can be found at US-CERT.

 

https://www.engadget.com/2017/05/14/wannacry-ransomware-evolves/

Understanding Managed Services and How They Benefit SMBs

By | Uncategorized
7 Must Haves for Your Small Business Website

Understanding Managed Services and How They Benefit SMBs

Small to medium sized businesses (SMBs) receive a lot of calls each day from slick sales people peddling the next technology trend that’s going to save them money and revolutionize how they do business. They’re all too quick to caution that if you don’t listen to them, you’ll fall behind the times, and eventually be swimming in a sea of debt and out of business.

No doubt you’ve heard, or you’ve at least read about, the benefits of managed services. Managed services refer to clearly defined outsourced IT services delivered to you at predictable costs. You know the exact IT services you’ll be getting and what you’ll pay for them. There is no surprise sky-high bill for services rendered. So are solicitation calls that pertain to managed services worth listening to? We think so. Then again, we’re in the managed services industry. There may be a bit of a bias here.

How Managed Service Providers Work

Managed service providers (MSPs) use remote monitoring and management (RMM) tools to keep an eye on their performance and overall health of the IT infrastructure that powers your business operations.

Your MSP should have a 24/7 Network Operations Center (NOC) that acts as your mission control center. If the monitoring alerts them to any issue with your servers, devices, hardware or software, they respond quickly to resolve the issue.

Additionally, the NOC performs regular systems maintenance such as

  • Automated tasks like the cleaning of temporary files
  • Applying tested security patches as required
  • Installing virus and Malware protection
  • System backup and disaster recover/business continuity processes

Additionally, your MSP should give you access to a Help Desk that services your customers and employees – speaking to and working with them directly as if they’re part of your staff.

This proactive maintenance, stabilization of your IT environment, and rapid as-needed remediation helps SMBs control technology costs and better serve the end-users who rely on their technology.

Is Managed Services Better than Other Ways to Manage IT

We find that far too many companies have no real perspective about how much IT management costs them. Let’s review some of the alternatives to managed services.

Hiring In-House IT Support

Typically, a firm with anywhere from 20-60 employees may feel that one person can manage their technology. Understand that this one full-time employee can demand a significant salary since they’ll have to be proficient with desktop, server and network support, and interact with both end-users in the Help Desk role and management. They will likely be overworked and vulnerable to error or oversights that may prove to be costly. And what happens if they’re out sick or on vacation?

The Break/Fix Mentality

The majority of smaller companies take this route because they feel as if they’re too small for a more sophisticated 24/7 approach to IT management. They also feel pressure to direct all resources on the product or service, not behind-the-scenes operations. They decide to use on-call IT techs when broken technology has already disrupted business. The on-call team’s response time and overall lack of familiarity with your systems extends downtime and proves to be a much more expensive resolution to IT management. It’s reactive, not proactive, and it’s a costly mistake too often made.

This is why many SMBs today feel that managed services are the most cost-effective way to support their IT infrastructure and the best way to get more bang for their buck.

Contact us at ALCON DTS