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  Getting rid of outdated or useless files and programs, or just learning the best way to organize all our stuff can make a big difference to the storage space as well as the processing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  • Clean up old, out of date information.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

We’ve been programmed to think the newest or latest version of something is a “must have” but in the case of Windows 8, there is a lot to consider.

Former Microsoft Windows Division President Steven Sinofsky described Windows 8 as “a generational change” the likes of which hasn’t been made since Windows 95. And indeed, the majority of the information found on the Web concerning Windows 8 is how brilliant it is on mobile devices. However, the praise ends there and the critics raise their heads when the conversation turns to Windows 8 on desktops and laptops. 

Pros and Cons

As with anything, there is good and bad.  It’s a completely capable OS and should not be totally dismissed but it’s worth weighing some of the pros and cons.

Pros:

  • Runs on desktops, laptops, tablets, and mobile phones
  • Faster start up. Also performs quicker when run through several benchmark performance tests than either Windows 7 (or Apple’s Mountain Lion).
  • Battery life has significantly improved on laptops and tablets.
  • Features like File History, Storage Space and improved Internet Explorer (although all of these are available in previous versions of Windows).
  • New feature SecureBoot, which has the potential to reduce viruses and other malware for some users.
  • Access to apps and upgrades available through the new Windows Store

Cons:

  • Mobile-centric design which wastes screen “real estate” on desktops/laptops.
  • Involves a steep learning curve.
  • No systems tray; the Start button/menu has disappeared, as well as the Programs menu (although Microsoft has some changes planned in Windows 8.1 due out shortly).
  • Interface is clumsy and wildly unpopular.

The online IT magazine TechRepulic conducted a poll of its membership of IT professionals in October 2012 in which 72.9% of respondents (over 1200 respondents in total) stated their organizations have no plans to deploy Windows 8 in the near future, 23.8% reporting that they will skip the OS altogether. 61.2% of the respondents who do plan to deploy Windows 8 indicated tablet/mobile integration was a major factor in doing so.

So how do you know what to do?

When all the tech blogs are crammed with people’s opinions, rather than straight facts, it’s sometimes hard to know if you should take the plunge or not.  We are of the opinion that if your organization is looking to make a big move towards mobile or touchscreen devices, then Windows 8 may be a good way to go.  Undeniably, Windows 8 shines most on a touchscreen system.

If it’s business as usual in your office then there is no good reason to upgrade at this point given the level of disruption and subsequent training it would entail.  However, take note that change is coming and Windows 8 is a glimpse into the future.

What if you need a new computer?

Currently there are still new computers on the market that use the Windows 7 operating systems, particularly through resellers such as CDW.com. Additionally, you can still buy the Windows 7 software to upgrade from Windows XP and some Windows 8 licenses can be downgraded to Windows 7.  But we suspect time is running out, so make a decision quickly.

Manufacturers of computers will soon be forcing you to pick Windows 8 if you want an OS.  When this happens, there are a few options available so don’t feel trapped. For instance, Dell offers computers with no OS without the cost of a Windows OS license.  Some Windows 7 keys are transferable to a new computer, assuming you remove the key/OS from the old computer.  You will have to install the OS yourself and call Microsoft to transfer the key, but it’s a perfectly reasonable way to continue using Windows 7 and save some money (be aware – this will depend on who manufactured both the old and the new machines).

Whether you decide to upgrade or stick with what you have, GCInfotech can walk you through the process and ensure your business has the least amount of disruption.

 

What is Email Spoofing anyway?

Email spoofing is the forgery of an email header so that the message appears to have originated from someone or somewhere other than the actual source. Spammers spoof mail headers in emails to increase the spam message’s seeming legitimacy: you’re more likely to open email that purports to come from a person or a company you know than email that comes from a total stranger.

It’s a real nuisance.

If your email has been spoofed, there is a chance you would not even realize it. However, it’s more likely that you will know because any bounced emails will come back to your inbox – and they could come by the hundreds. This does not necessarily mean your computer or email account has been compromised — no one has actually logged in and sent an email from it in this case (although that does happen as well) – the spammer is “spoofing” your account.

What can be done about it?

Email spoofing is a growing problem and has reached the point where you cannot rely on the information displayed in your email to tell you who really sent a message. Some jurisdictions have enacted laws against this form of “email identity theft,” but the more effective solution is apt to be a technological one that makes it possible to authenticate the senders of email messages.

The technologies listed below all seek to verify that every email message originates from the Internet domain from which it claims to have been sent. This is accomplished by checking the address of the server that sent the mail against a registered list of servers that the domain owner has authorized to send email. This is performed by the Internet Service Provider (ISP) and can be incorporated into the filtering tasks that are already performed by the mail server.

  • Sender Policy Framework (SPF)
  • Sender ID Framework (SIDF)
  • DomainKeys Identified Mail (DKIM)
  • Author Domain Signing Practices (ADSP)

Using these methods, emails can still be forged but they are much less effective because they are not getting through to the recipients. However, they only work if the recipient’s mail server checks for these protection mechanisms.

What should you do?

-> If you own a domain (website address) and send emails from that domain, you should communicate with your domain name registrar and/or DNS provider to determine what strategies are in place to protect you against email spoofers.

-> If you are the recipient of the email, you can write to the administrator or contact the owner of the domain and ask them to implement a protection strategy, but ultimately you need to rely on SPAM filtering, because it is the domain owners responsibility to use these technologies, not the recipients.

These protection strategies are all optional, and somewhat new technologies. Not everyone uses them, so they cannot be required. Plus, it doesn’t matter how much a sender does to protect himself, if the recipient’s mail server isn’t looking for these specific things.

However, these technologies are just more tools in the toolbox to fight email spammers. Our recommendation is to use as many as you have access to and can afford. Let us help you put measures in place to protect your email communications as much as possible. Your company’s reputation and credibility could be at risk. Give us a call at 888.323.3066.

Will your Company Survive?

In our interconnected world, virtually every aspect of your company’s operation is vulnerable to disruption. Research shows your business is more vulnerable than you think.  

But what is Business Continuity anyway?
Business Continuity is the activity performed by an organization to ensure that critical business functions will be available to customers, suppliers, regulators, or anyone that must have access to those functions. It’s not something implemented at the time of a disaster (too late!) – it refers to those tasks you should perform daily to maintain service, consistency, and recoverability.  Your Business Continuity Plan should be something that is constantly evolving and adapting to changes in the business environment.

So what are the first steps?
The entire concept of business continuity is based on identifying and then prioritizing all business functions within an organization. A comprehensive business risk analysis is the primary tool for gathering this information and is therefore the first step to developing your business continuity plan.

What if disaster strikes?
Does your business have what it takes to survive?

Web


It’s all in the Planning!
Establishing a continuity and disaster recovery plan is an essential part of any long-term strategy for maintaining continuous business operations. Sound disaster recovery and business continuity planning should be three things: preventive, detective, and corrective. Prevention is your first line of defense. But when undesirable events do occur, detection before they occur is critical, and correcting the system after they occur may dictate the survival of your business.

Natural disasters, security breaches and man-made accidents do happen. It’s how we plan for them that will ensure our survival.

According to the Quorum Disaster Recovery Report, Q1 2013, which details findings on the most common causes of system downtime, the four most common causes of system downtime were: 1) Hardware Failure  2) Human Error  3) Software Failure and 4) Natural Disaster.

Case Study
A media company in Wilton, CT recently asked for our help because they consistently lose power in the office anytime there is a storm and it was significantly affecting their business.  We couldn’t help that the power was going out and we certainly couldn’t influence the weather, but we could help them continue to be productive when these things happened. We made some changes to their email system that took it from an in-house function to an externally hosted function that would not be affected when the power went out in the office.  By doing this, it gives the employees the ability to continue to be productive and access their email from home or anywhere there is an Internet connection.  In this case, simple preventive steps to ensure everyone could use email despite external factors has allowed for business continuity following a storm and has made a big impact on productivity.

GCInfotech can help you assess how potential risks will impact your ability to deliver products and services.

Don’t get caught unaware.

You never get a 2nd chance to make a first impression.

Its the first place potential customers, employees or investors will go to learn about you, your company and what you represent. In a few short seconds visitors to your website size-up your image, make a judgment call, and either engage or move on.

Search engines and potential customers look for impact from your website in two major areas: Relevance and Trust. Building both can drive your credibility and your business forward. Begin by asking yourself a few key questions:

  1. Why do we have a website?
  2. What purpose is it supposed to serve?
  3. Do people immediately “get” what our business is all about, what we value, and how we’re going to solve their problem?

Recently a business owner came to GCInfotech looking website optimization. He envisioned a more intelligent, user-friendly and feature-rich website that would engage and convert more potential customers. He also wanted the ability to manage his website’s content and structure so that he didn’t have to spend money every time he needed to make a change or for ongoing maintenance.

Our development team worked with him to convert his flat HTML-based website into a robust user-friendly Joomla-based content management system (CMS) that was SEO ready and could be customized to meet his exact specifications. We migrated the current content from his previous website and incorporated exciting new functionality like an advanced product search and virtual facility tour that help visitors get the answers they need quickly and efficiently. We developed a two-hour training program to train select employees on how to change content like text, links and images, as well as make simple modifications to a page’s layout and structure so they had the power to manage the site on their own.

Your website is a strategic part of your business.

Even when you’re not at work, your website should be helping your business grow. Ask yourself what your website is doing for you and whether it’s aligned with your business needs and objectives. The GCInfotech professional web design team is here to help.

security

Protect your business with mission critical data back-up strategies.

Inadequate protection or spotty management of critical data can have profound effects on sustainability. Regular scheduled testing of your data back-up strategy and implementing a daily back-up 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 back-up 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.

GCInfotech recommends that you assess your existing data protection and data back-up strategy and consult your IT professional to 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 flexibly meets the challenges of today’s business environment.

Fun Facts: 

  • There are over 600 IT firms in Ireland, including Intel, Google, HP, & Dell.
  • Irish firms in the US employ over 80,000 people in the 50 states.
  • Since 1956 Ireland has maintained one of the lowest corporate tax rates.
  • The US is Ireland’s top export destination.  
  • US tech investment in Ireland is higher than Brazil, Russia, India and China combined.
  • There are 36.9 million US residents with Irish roots. This number is more than eight times the population of Ireland itself (4.6 million).
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 your Mobile Workforce

How important is smart device security?

Convenience is at the forefront of our lives. For businesses, this means a rapidly evolving security landscape that’s leaving many companies, and their IT departments, overwhelmed and scrambling. Smartphones and tablets and other embedded devices like printers and scanners utilize ingenious technology and provide significant benefit to how we do business, but they call into question the very serious issue of usability versus security.

Recent polls of management level employees suggest that upwards of 50% of them don’t know how their organizations identify compromised devices on their network. Additionally, polls of IT professionals show that data security threats at the office frequently go unmanaged due to insufficient resources or in some cases a lack of awareness that a situation even exists. Device manufacturers tend to focus on usability and place little emphasis on built-in software protections, contributing to data and network vulnerabilities. The challenge for device engineers is compressing large and slow software into a tiny space, which makes creating operating systems and software to run on these devices extremely difficult. Decisions invariably must be made regarding what features to include– if richness of features is forsaken for security measures, then how useful is the device in the first place?

Many of us may not even realize which office devices can pose a significant security threat. Here’s a list of culprits and the backend attacks they are susceptible to:

  • Printers – Remote reconfiguration or access to previously printed documents
  • Timeclocks – Access to employee information and payroll
  • Photocopiers – Retrieve documents over the web
  • Scanners – Remote operation or access to hard drive of previously scanned documents
  • Telephone Systems – Eavesdropping
  • Webcams – Hijack and enable without the owner’s knowledge

Best practice begins with two essential steps– first, a comprehensive IT policy that integrates and safeguards all office equipment, including those often forgotten about embedded devices; and second, an employee education program that’s clear, concise and tailored to your company. GCInfotech can assist you with a security evaluation of your office equipment as well as help you devise an employee education plan that’s appropriate for today’s security landscape.

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.