Technology Advisor Blog

No Patch Tuesday this Month!

Posted by Ann Westerheim on Thu, Feb 16, 2017 @ 16:02 PM

In a seemingly unprecedented move, Microsoft skipped "Patch Tuesday" this month and announced that patches won't be released until March 14.  Patch Tuesday is the day each month that Microsoft releases their new security patches, typically the second Tuesday of the month.  We kept checking all morning this past Tuesday before sending out our newsletter.  On February 15, Microsoft announced they would not release the patches until March 14.  

Apparently Microsoft had trouble with their patch build process.  So for the first time our newletter incorrectly referenced: "Twelve Patch Tuesdays every year.  Never stops." Until now!   We'll have to wait until next month. 

Thinking about a New Phone System in 2017?

Posted by Ann Westerheim on Wed, Jan 25, 2017 @ 08:01 AM

Old Phone System.jpgIt's a New Year - Are you tired of your old phones?

If you haven't checked out phone technology recently, you'll be amazed with what's available!  The lines between computer technology and phone technology have blurred.  Instead of paying for multiple phone lines, you can run all your phones over your Internet connection (Voice over IP or "VoIP"), providing a lot more functionality at less cost.  You also don't need a lot of complicated phone network equipment on site - just handsets connected over your regular office Internet connection.

Old PBX.jpgDoes this look familiar?  This is an old PBX system and if you see a lot of wires like this in your network closet, its time for a change.   A PBX is a "Private Branch Exchange" which is the technology that enables incoming calls to be switched between all your handsets and extensions.  Years ago, your office would have multiple phone lines coming into the PBX, and then multiple phone lines going out to each handset in your office... a lot of wiring!  

With VoIP, you may still have a PBX on site, but it will look more like a modern switch or router with network cables coming out of it.  You also have the option for added flexibility now to have your PBX "in the cloud".  There's a lot of hype about the cloud, but a PBX in the cloud is now mainstream, and a great cost-effective option for Small and Medium Businesses to have a low maintenance solution that also enables connecting remote users.

Custom Schedules: Configure time-based call routing for open/closed business hours, holidays, and special events.

Visual Dial Plan Editor:  Map out call flows visually and make changes on the fly using the drag-and-drop interface. Easily configure elements like wait times, auto attendants, voicemail boxes, sound clips, and schedules.

Detailed Call Analytics: Create opportunities for more efficient use of resources, better training, and proper scheduling by using  time-of-day reports, geography-based heat maps, and downloadable call detail logs. 

Mobile Operation:  Use the mobile app to use your cell phone as an extension of your office handset.  You can take your office wherever you go.  Need to take office phone calls on a snow day?  No problem.  

Remote Office:  Remote workers can plug in a handset anywhere with an Internet Connection.  It's easy to connect multiple office locations even if there's just one user.

We've put together a training video on VoIP and some of the features in the system we recommend:

 Want to schedule a demo?  Call us at 978-692-4200 or send us an email.

Tags: VoiP,, Phone System

How can I send a Text Message from a Computer?

Posted by Ann Westerheim on Wed, Jan 04, 2017 @ 16:01 PM

eMail to Text Outlook.jpgStudies show that text messages get read in minutes, as compared to email messages which may get buried, stuck in spam filters, or just missed.  It's easy to send text messages from your computer.   You'll need the recipients phone number and cell phone carrier (Verizon, AT&T, etc).  Also, make sure you have permission - fees may apply, and your text could also be perceived as spam if its unwanted.

Type the recipients phone number with the sms gateway (vtext.com for Verizon): PhoneNumber@vtext.com.  The gateways for the major carriers are:

T-Mobile: phonenumber@tmomail.net

Sprint: phonenumber@messaging.sprintpcs.com

Nextel: phonenumber@messaging.nextel.com

AT&T: phonenumber@txt.att.net

 

 

Type your message, and then you're ready to send.  Tip:  If you have a lengthy email signature, don't use it for sending the text.    Delete it or send with no "signature".

Here is what the message will look like on the recipients phone:

Text Message on Phone - Message.jpg

 

If you want to send out group texts, or start using text messages as promotions in your business, then we recommend using a platform designed for this, but if you just need to send an occasional text from your computer, then the email method is simple and quick!

What's my email password?

Posted by Ann Westerheim on Tue, Dec 13, 2016 @ 14:12 PM

Cybersecurity is a hot topic these days.  We need "strong" passwords, we're not supposed to use the same pasword for multiple applications, and we need to change passwords on a regular basis.  It's hard to remember all the passwords, and especially hard when you don't even know a password exists!   Your email has a password, but its likely you don't remember it because you don't usually need it on a regular basis.

Who can survive without email?  It’s an essential tool for business!

You’re busy and on the go and probably reading email on your smart phone, laptop, iPad, office computer, and webmail. 

There’s a password for your email, but after your device is programmed the first time, you don’t have to enter it again.  What a pain it would be to have to enter your password each time you read email on your phone, or any of your other devices …over and over again!

The flip side of this is “out of sight – out of mind”:  most people don’t remember what their password is.  Even if you use webmail where you do have to submit a password each time you access mail, your browser is probably “remembering it for you”.

All is well until you get a new phone, computer, iPad, laptop, or any other device. When you set up your new phone, you’ll need your password again.  So you call tech support and ask “What’s my email password?”   The problem is that, for security reasons, we can’t see your password and we don’t know what it is!   We can re-set it for you, which means we assign you a new password.  Now you can quickly get email set up on your phone and you’re back in action!

Later in the day, you may try to access email from your laptop, and you may be very frustrated to see that your email is broken – “Why do I have so many problems with my email!?”

Actually, Microsoft Outlook will just prompt you for your new password.   Enter that password and you’re good to go! Your new password will need to be entered to all your devices, and then you’ll be all set.  

If you want to avoice the hassles of a password reset (which isn't really that bad when you understand why, and how it works), there's no simple solution other memorizing the password (just like school!) or storing your password in a secure location.

Tags: eMail, password

Don’t just rely on good luck to protect your data!             ….you won’t after reading this….

Posted by Ann Westerheim on Thu, Mar 17, 2016 @ 12:03 PM

St-Patricks-Day.jpgFACT #1: The latest versions of “Ransomware” viruses can sabotage all your data and applications.   In February, Hollywood Presbyterian Medical Center in California paid $17,000 in bitcoin to hackers after being hit with a virus.

FACT #2: The failure rate of hard drives and tape drives is 100%! Incredible, isn’t it? Most people don’t realize that ALL drives fail at some point. But what’s really dangerous is that most companies don’t realize that their drives have failed until after they try to recover the data stored on them. Only then do they realize that the backups stopped working long ago or that the data is corrupt and can’t be restored.  Protect your mission critical business data now.

FACT #3: Having a copy of your data in some other format does NOT – and I repeat does NOT – guarantee a fast recovery of your data or network. Most people don’t realize that a data backup doesn’t include all your software and settings. If you had to restore your server using your backup data, you would first have to re-install all your software programs and configure the settings. Only then could you install all the data – the entire process can easily take several days.

FACT #4: If you keep your backup onsite, it could be worthless to you in the event of a fire, flood or even a power surge. Smart business owners ALWAYS keep an offsite copy of their data.

If you’re concerned about protecting your data and your business, we can help you!

Business continuity? Backup?  Disaster Recovery? Image? File and Folder?   Don't get bogged down with the technical buzz words.  It's all about protecting your business, and we can take care of the technology part.  Call us at 978-692-4200 to get a complimentary evaluation.

Security Alert:  Don't forget to Reboot your Computer!

Posted by Ann Westerheim on Tue, Feb 02, 2016 @ 15:02 PM

Reboot.jpgData security doesn't stand still!  There were twelve Patch Tuesdays in 2015 and another twelve are planned for 2016.  The updates never stop.  "Patch Tuesday" is the day each month that Microsoft releases their newest security updates, typically the second Tuesday of the month (January 12).  The details change every month, and in January there were six "critical" and three "important" security patches affecting Microsoft Office and Windows. Remember that security patch updates are required for the MA Data Security Law and other industry security compliance standards such as HIPAA.  Also, remember that security is not "set it and forget it".  It's a constantly changing landscape.

About Reboots... Many security patches require reboots, and some security patches are sequential and will not install without the prior patch.  If you're on a support plan with us, required  automated reboots are typically only allowed over night.  If you have a laptop and just put it to "sleep", remember to run at least a weekly reboot.   As a general rule, never leave un-saved work open on your system.

Also, VERY IMPORTANT:  NEVER SHUT DOWN YOUR SYSTEM IN THE MIDDLE OF INSTALLING SECURITY PATCHES.  Your system will warn you to not shut it down, but sometimes it takes a long time (depends on how many patches are released each month and how many require reboots, and other factors).  We all get impatient at times, but keep in mind that you can seriously damage your system by interfering with the updates. We're mentioning this because more than one user inadvertently did this in the recent past (with bad consequences!) and we want to be sure everyone is aware.

Also, as a general rule, the regular reboots will help your system run more efficiently, so don't skip this step!  The best time to reboot?  It's up to you, but plan on rebooting at least once a week.  Your computer will thank you!

Ekaru Donates a Digital Sign to the Cameron Senior Center

Posted by Ann Westerheim on Thu, Jan 21, 2016 @ 18:01 PM

CameronDonation_2015.jpgWe’re proud to support the local community.  The Cameron Senior Center in Westford invited us for a tour and reception last week after donating a digital sign to the center. 

A digital sign displays dynamic digital content such as photos, videos, streaming media, and other information.  Instead of a static sign that needs to be printed and displayed, with a digital sign you can update content anywhere, anytime, and display multiple things on a single display.  If you’ve been to a Dunkin Donuts recently, you’ve noticed that all the menus on the wall are digital.  You’ve probably also seen digital signs at your local bank.  All content is uploaded through the cloud, so you can manage multiple displays from a single console without having to visit each site. 

 

The staff at the Cameron Senior Center are updating event notifications, calendars, and weather information, in addition to photos and news from the community.  The monitor is located right above the coffee station to keep everyone up to date.  We love technology, and it's exciting to see technology helping the community. 

We recently installed a digital sign in our own office for fun!  Ask us for a demo if you’re interested.

Protect your Computers with Proper Power Management

Posted by Ann Westerheim on Thu, Jan 14, 2016 @ 16:01 PM

Overloaded_Outlet.jpgDo your electrical outlets look like this?  Time to change!  One of the things we look for in a healthy network is proper power management.  For maximum uptime, and to protect your digital investments, it's time to clean house and get your power management in order. 

As a best practice, we recommend that all sites have ALL networking equipment, and all servers on a quality UPS (Uninterruptible Power Supply) and ideally the UPS will have reporting and alert notifications sent to us.  A UPS is an electrical apparatus that provides emergency power  when the input power source fails.  Generally, the battery power can sustain a very short outage, and will provide enough power to ensure a safe shutdown of a Server.

The advanced UPS units also can do compensation for overvoltage and undervoltage conditions without even needing to go on battery, thus preserving battery for possible real outages which often accompany low voltage conditions.

The more sophisticated units provide monitoring for various events.  Some of the power alerts we routinely monitor include:

  • Compensating or not compensating for High input voltage.
  • Switching on or off battery.
  • Distorted input

Takeaways:

  • Minor power disturbances are happening at all sites and are routine and frequent.
  • They are caused by routine behind the scenes activity or faults in the electric distribution system (like circuit fault where the utility automatically switches to a different alternate source to maintain power), with a very brief sub second interruption of service.
  • Sites without adequate power protection are subject to mysterious (and tough to diagnose) side effects, including internet outages.  If network equipment frequently requires a power cycle to restore operation it is a clear indication that there have been power disturbances (very common issue with Cable Modems in particular).
  • Surge strips alone are not adequate to deal with such power events, because they do not deal with power sags, nor overvoltage or undervoltage conditions.   Remember surge strips should NEVER be plugged into the OUTPUT of a UPS.
  • The network UPS can provide such alerts even when the site has no power, if all the required networking components are powered on the output of the UPS.  We can isolate the root cause of internet outages at sites without going onsite, because we will have received the alerts before the power in the battery is exhausted.  The fix is that we or the client notify the power provider and much time and angst is avoided all around.

 

Frits Riep and Ann Westerheim

Don't post pictures of your boarding pass on the Internet

Posted by Ann Westerheim on Mon, Oct 12, 2015 @ 15:10 PM

Do you like to post photosBoarding_Pass_-_Krebs_on_Security of your boarding pass on Facebook or Instagram? Don't!  The barcode reveals a lot more information that you think!

This past week security guru Brian Krebs revealed on his blog, KrebsonSecurity, the risks of posting your boarding pass on line.  Sure, it's fun to be boastful about all the exciting places you travel to, but did you know your personal information including your frequest flyer number is encoded in the barcode? With a free online barcode reader, a user can get access to too much information.  With a name, frequent flyer number, and record locator, a user was able to log into the airlines web page and have access to future flight information.  not only would your future iteneraries be revealed, but someone could potentially change your seats or cancel your flight.  

Think twice before posting on line.

How to Change the Wireless Network Priority in Windows 7

Posted by Ann Westerheim on Mon, Sep 14, 2015 @ 10:09 AM

We recently upgraded our phone system, and while the network was being updated, I was temporarily connecting my laptop to our guest network so I could access the Internet without interruption. After the updates were completed, I switched back to our office network and all was well.

The next day I arrived at the office and everything was working fine until I discovered I couldn't print.  At first I though some printer settings had changed when phones were added to the network, but it turned out that I had the same problem we get so many customers calls for... I was connected to the wrong wireless network!  My laptop automatically connected to the guest network when I arrived in the morning and I didn't notice.  Being busy, I switched it back.  Next morning the same the same thing happened, and I realized I had to update the network priority.  We're so busy taking care of clients, sometimes we forget to take care of ourselves!

Changing the wireless network priority is easy:

  • Click on the start menu and type Network and Sharing Center:Network_and_Sharing_Center

 

  • In the Network and Sharing Center click "Manage Wireless Networks":Manage_Wireless_Networks

 

  • Click on the network to be given priority then select "Move Up".  Wireless_Priorities-2

Note that in the example, the target network has been moved to the top position.  The Move Up / Move Down buttons are highlighted to illustrate how changes can be made.

After setting the proper priority, I will always connect to the right network even when I'm in range for an equally strong signal from our guest network.  

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