Your small to medium-sized business is just as dependent on IT as a large company is. You need the right technology, to have it work, to have it fixed quickly when a problem arises, and to know what that will cost. At some point, all small-to mid-size business owners face this dilemma: form their own in-house IT support group or hire an outside IT consulting firm.

IT has become the lifeblood of any business, large or small. That being said, it is essential for businesses to have their computer systems up and running 24 hours a day 7 days a week and 365 days a year – reliability, securely and efficiently. Whether you have 10 employees or 1000, any business owner has no time to deal with daily IT issues or unreliable IT support personnel. In the event of a disaster, you need to get your business back on track ‘now’.

Full-Time In-House IT

Having a dedicated, full-time staff person in-house seems like a sensible and secure option. The person knows your systems and technologies, understands the nuances of your business and staff preferences, and in many cases has been a part of the legacy of technical development within your organization so he “knows where the bodies are buried”.  Additionally, the in-house solution only has one client, you. This provides business owners with a great deal of comfort – knowing that “my guy” is always here, in-house, and at the ready to respond to the little annoyances and huge disasters that are commonplace.

While on the surface this solution seems to be a good choice, there are a number of negatives associated with in-house IT staffing solutions that make it a risky proposition:

  • Cost: In house requires a constant budget item for IT staff in salaries and benefits
  • Most IT departments in small-to medium size firms are 1-2 people, so when key IT person “leaves with the keys” – business can come to a halt.
  • Not scalable and costly when expanded – getting more IT staff becomes costly – and under-capacitated
  • In House IT need to be trained on newer technology -they don’t always do it on their own or want the company to pay for the certifications – which are costly.
  • Transitioning off and on is a very cumbersome process.

 

IT Consulting Firms

What if we told you that you could receive better IT support for a fraction of the cost that it would take to hire an onsite IT department?  Hiring an outside IT services firm is a wise decision for most small to medium sized businesses.

The two main benefits in hiring an outside firm are costs and expertise/knowledge.

We see too often smaller firms who come to us after having had one dedicated IT person on staff.  This person typically was responsible for selecting and setting up all of the basic IT functions and system choices.  Invariably we find that many of these choices were poorly vetted, require tweaking, fixing and/or replacing. This is mainly due to the fact that inside IT do what they know or are familiar with. “This is the solution that I use for all of my clients”. This comfort and fluency can easily be mistaken for expertise.  Outside firms are constantly upgrading their system offerings, training their tech staff on the most cutting edge solutions and have the resources to provide all of the proper certifications.  As a result, there is a greater likelihood that you will be getting the best possible range of solutions – that are built for the current state of technology. This is critical.  Swapping out old dead tech is a massive and costly disruption.

Second, and probably most important is cost.  With in-house staff, there are salaries and benefits. With an outside firm, you only pay either a fixed retained fee, or an hourly rate, so the costs are more manageable.  Plus, the outside firm is incentivized to do a better job in the hours allotted then someone who knows can rely on a salary and benefits.

Whether you’re looking for a preventative maintenance solution to keep IT costs predictable and avoid expensive computer problems, or a disaster recovery plan to get you back online quickly after an emergency, our technical support experts will meet with you to understand your business, and your IT needs, so that we can find the solution that’s right for you.

Proactive IT Services – Flat-rate, round-the-clock maintenance and monitoring to prevent problems before they turn into downtime

Remote Backup & Disaster Recovery – GCInfotech provides not only reliable automatic backups and archiving, but also a rock-solid plan of action for recovery in the event of a disaster.

Cloud Solutions – Anytime, anywhere access to your data and business applications including cloud online data backup.

Anti-Spam Solutions – Say goodbye to spam and hello to dramatically increased productivity

Help Desk Software – A turn-key, hosted service desk and ticketing system for assessing, assigning, and resolving service issues related to your small business

Outsourced IT Support – Focus on running your business instead of troubleshooting your network with GCInfotech custom IT services designed to fit your business and your needs. GCInfotech is proud to provide local businesses with professional IT Solutions in CT, New York City and beyond.

Contact us now to schedule your FREE Business Technology and Security Assessment

As 21st century companies, we’ve all settled into the information age quite nicely. We save all of our important company data on our file servers. We send and receive our corporate communications through email.  We even source vendors and do our banking online. With all of this data going back and forth, it’s no wonder available storage space on our hard drives gets pretty tight.

Most of us would rather give up an arm, than give up our computers but we don’t really give them the TLC they need.  Getting rid of outdated or useless files and programs, or just learning the best way to organize all our stuff can make a big difference to the storage space as well as the processing time of the computer.  Simple things like keeping a clean desktop on your Mac, can really make a difference.

Has your file server become the digital equivalent of that drawer in your kitchen where you put all the stuff you don’t have a place for?

Even if you were forward thinking when you installed your server and you have plenty of space, don’t pat yourself on the back yet because that extra data may cost you in the long run. If you are including that data in your backup, it may end up costing you. And if you need to upgrade your server, it’s going to cost you for the additional storage space and time required migrating all that data to the new server.

So now you are wondering what to do. Just remember that data is only as good as its relevance. Information related to any of your important clients is always relevant. Let’s focus on the information for those clients that you haven’t done work with in years, or might not exist anymore. Here are some tips for getting a handle on your data:

  • Clean up or delete draft copies.
  • Clean up old, out of date information. Chances are you will Google something for the latest information anyway.
  • Clean up your email. Junk mail is just that, junk. Delete it.
  • Organize your files. By creating yearly sub-folders, you will be able to clearly see the age of some of your data.
  • Uninstall unused programs. When a program is installed, it creates connections between the program and the operating system. Even if you don’t use these programs, they can slow down your system.

In the case of data on your computer, more is not always better. Organize, prioritize, and then purge.

As always, GCInfotech can walk you through the process, ensure your business has the least amount of disruption and set up a structure that will keep you organized in the future. We can help you with data backup and protection, as well as moving your data to the cloud.

Contact GCInfotech IT Professionals today to talk about your data organization and protection. Call us 203 327 5700

Information Technology Services

An I.T. Manager’s New Year’s Resolution

The beginning of the year is the perfect time to review your systems maintenance program, tweak your plans and processes and optimize your overall I.T. strategy.

Review, Evaluate and Optimize.
More than likely, your business could live or die based on your IT strategy. We have all become dependent on our technology both in our personal and professional lives, so be sure to give it the TLC it needs. Review your key procedures and plans such as network failure testing, disaster recovery, business continuity, virus protection and data backup (for an integrated, online backup, storage and sharing application, click here). For those of you with an on-site backup solution, now is the perfect time to run those backups with a test recovery. With erratic weather on the rise and winter around the corner, taking the time to be sure you have a tight, foolproof strategy in place to keep both your systems and your information protected from loss or damage.

Be Smart About Your Data.
Inadequate protection or spotty management of critical data can have a profound effect on sustainability. Regularly scheduled testing of your backup strategy and implementing a daily backup routine will help prevent the disasters that prove fatal for many companies.

  • 31% of PC users have lost all of their files due to events beyond their control.
  • 34% of companies fail to test their onsite backup solution, and of those that do, 77% have found back-up failures.
  • 60% of companies that lose their data will shut down within 6 months of the disaster.
  • Every week 140,000 hard drives crash in the United States.
  • Simple drive recovery can cost upwards of $7,500 and success is not guaranteed.

We recommend assessing your existing data protection strategy and learn what data repository and storage medium options are available. It’s important to understand traditional backup methods as well as the benefits of developing an enhanced protection solution that meets the needs of your particular business.

Think of it as a Flu Shot for your Systems.
There are lots of people out there determined to infect your computers with viruses. Optimize your security with new or updated anti-virus, Spyware and Malware software. Be wary of free anti-virus software that sounds too good to be true because it often is.  You get what you pay for, and software that protects your computer needs regular and consistent updating to stay useful because viruses are constantly being generated. This is especially important if you use a networked computer system. Do your homework,  invest in effective software and keep it updated. (For an easy-to-use, simple, and effective anti-malware application, try Malwarebytes)
Give your Computer a Tune Up.
Straight out of the box, computers have often been loaded with unnecessary programs at the factory.  So, from day 1, your computer is accumulating software programs, update reminders, “bonus” software, and random files that you don’t need and over time it will become increasingly sluggish. By taking a few important steps, you can get it running efficiently again, for a lot longer. The first thing you should do is disable the programs that start up when your computer boots.  While there are many places this can occur, the easiest one to check is the Startup menu in your Programs menu. Additionally, simple tasks such as clean out your Windows Registry, remove unneeded files and programs, empty your recycling bin or trash, and perform a disc defragmentation can make a huge difference.  Even if your computer has been performing slowly for some time, beginning this regimen is sure to produce results.

Email – a Blessing or a Burden?

Most of us are guilty of being slaves to our inbox, whether we like to admit it or not. We keep every thing that has ever been sent to us out of some sort of unfounded fear of not having it should we ever need it. And the “reply all” function makes it exponentially worse. Well, each of those emails, particularly the ones with large attachments, take up space on your computer  – and space in your head when you are actually trying to find something. Email is the third largest culprit of workplace interruptions and email mismanagement costs you money.   Take charge and clean up that clutter by creating folders and subfolders to organize your communications. Save the attachments that you will need later onto your hard drive in a logical place, then delete the email if its unnecessary. Set your computer to delete your Trash after 30 days. Anything you can think of to reduce the number of emails in your actual inbox will save you time and money down the road.

GCInfotech can get you started on the path to a leaner, more efficient IT strategy. If you don’t have an IT Manager to make a New Year’s Resolution for you, then give us a call. 

GCInfotech is your total business IT solutions resource for Cloud Computing

Everybody’s talking about “the cloud.” But what does it all mean?

Cloud computing is nothing new. But boy does everyone love a new and exciting buzzword. The key, really, is knowing if sending your data into the cloud is a sound business decision for you. GCInfotech can help you avoid the pitfalls and find the clearest path to the cloud, while weighing the risk vs. reward and the value vs. cost of moving your vital business processes into a cloud-based, hosted environment.

So, what is the cloud anyway? It’s really nothing more than third party management of your data, allowing for easy access from any portal or device that’s connected to the internet. Sounds simple enough, but this in and of itself doesn’t necessarily mean you should make the leap into a cloud-based system.

Ask yourself a few questions first:

Do you have a good way to protect and back up your data regardless of where and when you access it?

Do you have sufficient bandwidth to access the cloud efficiently?

Are your emails kept confidential?

Will the cloud provider stick around if you have a financial meltdown?

Do you have ballooning technical infrastructure costs that you’d like to address?

What are the benefits?

1. Reduced space. Physical hardware can take up a lot of space. Take for example your servers. If you virtualize these, you can probably fit all of them onto one or two units. This will reduce the space your hardware takes up, freeing up extra storage capacity or possibly another desk.

2. Reduced overhead. Having hardware and servers in an office can be expensive to maintain. Cloud computing will often reduce overhead costs and save you money.

3. Quicker backup and recovery.  This means that your vital data is always backed up and protected. Beyond that, the backups ‘are in the cloud’, meaning that if there is a disaster, you can recover lost data quickly and easily.

4. Longer hardware replacement cycles. Virtualized solutions and platforms often require lower computing resources because they are hosted on the provider’s servers. This means that you won’t have to replace existing tech hardware.

5. The cloud is scalable. If your company is growing, you will eventually have to add new systems. In an already cramped office this means finding the space for hardware or servers needed to support your growth, not to mention investing in systems that are compatible with existing hardware. Virtualization is highly scalable, and can grow with your company, often without the need for extra services.

We assure you, the cloud is nothing new and nothing to feel overwhelmed about, but there are indeed a variety of links in the chain of services that can often lead to a cloud-based solution that’s just plain cloudy.

Let GCInfotech help  you clear the fog and find a solution that makes sense for you and your business.

GCINFOTECH

One of the most frequent threats on the Web today.

Since we wrote an article on the imminent threat posed by rogue security software (scareware) and cyber criminals, we have received numerous inquiries requesting more information on how to protect computers and networks from these elusive intruders. We would like to share notable examples of fraudulent system alerts and expand on a few known malware manifestations in order to help you better identify security risks. 

Critical Security Measures

  • Keep Java & .NET up-to-date, as both are used in almost all platforms.
  • Schedule Windows Updates to install automatically, or periodically check your system to ensure there are no critical patches requiring action (Start Menu/ Control Panel/ Windows Update).
  • Maintain Anti-Virus & Malware protection.
  • Install a firewall and keep it turned on.
  • Use caution when you click links in email, on social networking websites, or on pop-ups.
  • Make sure you and your fellow co-workers are familiar with common phishing scams.

Fake Virus AlertCiti Phishing Scam

Windows Security Alert  This fake security alert is deceptively similar in appearance to a legitimate system alert, though pay close attention to its language. Are words misspelled? Are there errors with basic grammar? It’s important to examine these alerts for telltale signs of fraud.

Citi Email Phishing  Common phishing scams frequently appear to come from financial institutions and can be difficult to identify especially if you happen to have an account with that institution. Again, look for language inconsistencies and examine the link provided to determine where it actually goes. As a general rule, banks will never ask for personal information in an email, so the best defense is to use common sense.

Spyware Software WarningFake task bar security alert

Common fake task bar alerts  Learn what security software you have installed on your computer. This will help you determine the validity of pop-up alerts warning you of infections on your system. Remember, they’re designed to scare and lure you into a fraudulent scheme that ends with you inputting your credit card or other personal information.

If you have any questions or concerns regarding the safety of your computers and networks, or scareware in general,  do not hesitate to give GCInfotech a call today and one of our technical consultants will be happy to assist you.

GCINFOTECH

Beware of Scareware

Fake Anti-Virus and Rogue Security Software – One of the most frequent threats on the Web today.

Have you ever experienced a random pop-up on your computer warning you of an egregious security risk to your system? It may even appear disguised as one of the legitimate Windows security updates that you’re accustomed to seeing. That’s exactly the illusion that cyber criminals intend to create.

What is fake anti-virus?
Also known as scareware or rogue security software, fake anti-virus is a form of social engineering that lures users to malicious sites and scares them into purchasing fake threat removal tools. This brand of trickery garners big bucks for cyber criminals. Once your system is infected, common manifestations include incessant displays of false alert messages that won’t cease until payment is made or the malware is removed, fake Facebook application invitations, 9/11 scams, and ads for fake comprehensive anti-virus packages. In most cases, the malware pretends to find dangerous security threats on your system and offers a free scan while simultaneously compiling folders of junk on your hard drive that the scan can then detect. From the authentic looking pop-up warning to the professionally crafted website it directs you to, it’s an elaborate ruse to scare you into purchasing a fake anti-virus software.

What can it do to my computer?
Malware authors program certain behaviors to make your system errors seem real and believable, which increases the likelihood that you will purchase a fake anti-virus program. Some of those behaviors include:
  • Prevent anti-malware programs from running
  • Disable automatic system software updates
  • Block access to websites of anti-malware vendors
  • Download other types of malware, like banking trojans
  • Interfere with or corrupt normal system activity and critical processes
  • Disable the task manager and make use of the registry editor
  • Redirect web requests from legitimate websites to error pages or malicious websites
  • Deny access to certain programs
  • Disable parts of the system to prevent an uninstall

How can I protect myself?
Cyber criminals employ a huge variety of tactics to compromise your system– to name a few, SEO poisoning, imbedding code in legitimate websites and advertising feeds, and email spam campaigns (i.e. “you have received an e-card”, account suspension and password reset scams). According to a 2010 study by Google, 11,000 domains hosting fake anti-virus software were found, which accounts for 50% of all malware that’s delivered via internet advertising. These lucrative criminal networks grow daily and their contrivances will only continue with time.

Protection begins with a comprehensive and layered security solution. Whether you’re an individual user or a network of users, always adhere to internet use best practices. Keep your browsers and version of Windows up-to-date. Configure your pop-up blockers and familiarize yourself with what anti-virus solution you have installed so you’re able to recognize inconsistencies.

Information Technology Services

Clean up your IT strategy.  Spring is a perfect time to revisit your plans for those critical IT systems you use to keep your business data safe and secure. Review key procedures and plans like network failover testing, disaster recovery, business continuity, and data backup. Loss of data interrupts your business continuity and can be very costly. Studies show that 1MB of data is worth approximately $10,000 and the cost of having to rebuild 20MB of data could be more than $17,000 and could take up to three weeks to complete (For an integrated, online backup, storage and sharing application, tryIBackup). For those of you with an on-site backup solution, now is the perfect time to run those backups with a test recovery.

Clean up your data storage.  Consider adopting a plan utilizing Data Lifecycle Management (DLM) to remove the day-to-day and budgetary headaches:

  • DLM is the comprehensive approach that organizations use to deal with data throughout its lifecycle, from creation and initial storage to eventual archival or disposal.
  • Options vary depending on need, but some useful storage systems to consider include Storage Area Networks (SAN), Network Attached Storage (NAS) and Hierarchical Storage Management.


Clean out the bugs. 
To be sure  your computers, tablets and smartphones are protected, optimize your security this spring with new or updated Anti-virus, Spyware and Malware software. (For an easy-to-use, simple, and effective anti-malware application, try Malwarebytes)

Clean out your Email. Email mismanagement costs you money. Email is the 3rd largest culprit of workplace interruptions, which cost the U.S. economy $900 billion per year. Take charge and clean up that clutter!

Clean your keyboard. Get yourself an ozone-friendly compressed gas duster and give your keyboard the deluxe treatment it so desperately needs. (Warning: Keyboards are not dishwasher safe.) Your mouse and phone handset can be cleaned with a paper towel and some window cleaner!

 

security

Password security is an increasingly important matter among technology experts as they debate the issue over usability, security and privacy. Ideally the three fields would work more compatibly, providing us with easier systems to use while still maintaining that rock solid security we need. There may always be a degree of inconvenience to the end-user when it comes to creating new passwords and upholding the expectations we set for impenetrable security.

Perhaps a little inconvenience is worth it– as Cory Visi, Managing Partner at GCInfotech, points out, “Millions of computers all over the internet (some hacked, some not) are running programs that scan other computers and servers for weak and empty passwords 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. If your password is simple and short, your account is likely to be hacked.”

It’s a dangerous world out there, one where technology experts have to battle the savvy hacker looking to gain access to your personal or company data while still considering that the legitimate user, you, demands accessibility with nothing more than a few keystrokes. It’s striking that balance between security and usability that ultimately determines how reasonable password requirements really are, and our willingness to comply with them.

It begs a couple of key questions– the more security measures we introduce, the harder it is to use a system? The more security a system has, the less secure it actually becomes? Fundamentally, people understand the need for security and are typically willing to comply because it seems necessary, but it’s really about the effort required to comply that make security measures successful or not. If a system is unusable because of overbearing security protocol, people will invariably create the necessary workarounds in order to get their job done. However this occurs, whether it’s posting a sticky note on the monitor or using “password” as your password – it all boils down to the fact that you just may be sacrificing security for convenience.

Overly restrictive password requirements could in fact decrease security and even increase your costs. Decreased security due to the methods people employ to recall a password, and increased costs due to the resources you may have to redirect toward helping users when they get locked out of their systems recurrently. In essence, the good guys are kept out while the bad guys aren’t affected, because, after all, they have other ways for penetrating your system, including phishing scams and key logging for example.

It’s very important that you have someone, if not the entire IT staff, who understands the intricacies between the systems you run, any new developments that exist for enhancing security measures, the needs of your end-users, and the psychology of illegitimate users. These factors will indeed play a meaningful role in securing your systems. And, of course, engage a mandatory password change policy for your employees.

Cory Visi further explains the need for such a policy by saying, “Even the owners and partners should comply. Password security policies should balance the frequency of changes with the complexity of the password. Passwords that are changed more often don’t have to be as complex. However, high security passwords should always be complex.”

Experts may provide different parameters for password creation, but always remember that the best password is both highly secure and easily recalled by memory. Here are some helpful tips:

  • Use long, non-word combinations
  • Don’t use personal info or follow any discernible patterns
  • Use different character types (i.e. symbols, numbers, upper and lower case letters if permitted by the system)
  • Use a passphrase (i.e. “I Love to eat Carrots and Dip 4 Snack!” = ILteCaD4S!)
  • Use a password management tool
  • Use different passwords for different sites, especially for those you want to keep secure
  • Change your passwords frequently and don’t reuse them for at least a year

If you don’t have a comprehensive plan of action for ensuring the maximum security for your systems, it’s time to have that discussion with your IT consultant. If you need help understanding what options are available or need to know more about password and system security, one of our expert technicians at GCInfotech can help you.