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Server Administration 101: Temperature

Why businesses need web monitoring

Get the best VoIP experience with these apps

Office 365 security considerations

IT security policies your company needs

5 tips for buying a new computer

Tips on adding value to your business data

Causes of call-quality issues of VoIP

Office 365’s design undergoes an overhaul

5 online reputation management mistakes

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Server Administration 101: Temperature

Server Administration 101: Temperature

August 2nd, 2018
Server Administration 101: Temperature

Servers are the heart of most modern SMBs.  And with the strain that most businesses put on their servers, one of the most important maintenance variables is temperature management. Understanding why keeping your servers cool is vitally important and could save you from an expensive crash, troubling data loss, or reduced hardware reliability.

How does temperature affect my servers?

High temperatures in server hardware can result in different types of damage. A server that completely crashes for any reason results in costly data loss and service interruptions, but the unbiased advisory organization Uptime Institute warns that overheating that doesn’t always result in total failure. Every 18 degrees higher than 70 degrees Fahrenheit, hardware reliability decreases by 50%. This decrease in reliability can be just as, if not more, expensive for your hardware budget in the long run.

Cooling methods can’t just be implemented and forgotten; they must be closely monitored to ensure the health of your server hardware in the short and long term. Options for temperature management range from simple low-budget solutions to expensive outsourced alternatives. Determining your server management budget will greatly depend on what types of methods you intend to implement at your SMB.

Cooling methods

Which system you use to cool your server largely depends on how much power your hardware is using. The more watts a computer needs to operate, the harder it’s working. This number will determine the scope of your temperature management needs.

For example, PCWorld says passive temperature control is adequate for any equipment operating at less than 400 watts. This includes simple solutions like positioning your server away from walls, low ceilings, cable clusters, and anything else that can block hot air from dissipating naturally.

For computers using between 400 and 2,000 watts, strategic ventilation becomes a necessity. Adding passive ventilation is viable up to 700 watts, but fan-assisted ventilation will be required above that and up to 2,000 watts. With the increased power consumption, temperatures will rise, and air movement needs to be more closely managed. At this stage, simple vent and oscillating fans will suffice.

Anything higher than 2,000 watts needs dedicated cooling solutions. This means air-cooled units to actively reduce server room temperature. Depending on the size and arrangement of the space, a simple self-contained unit may be enough to reduce temperatures to acceptable ranges. But if you’re not sure, you should schedule a consultation with a vendor to consider more drastic cooling and monitoring methods.

Keeping your servers running at ideal temperatures means smoother data operations, lower hardware budgets, and one less thing to worry about at your SMB. As your business continues to grow and develop, keep close tabs on increasing server loads — it could save you from devastating data loss. If you need more detailed advice about server management, or have any other questions about your hardware setup, contact us today.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Why businesses need web monitoring

Why businesses need web monitoring

July 31st, 2018
Why businesses need web monitoring

The internet is indispensable for improving business productivity, but it’s also an outlet for procrastination. With unfettered access to the internet, it’s easy to stray away from your important work responsibilities. Fortunately, web monitoring can ensure your employees don’t overuse non-work-related sites.

Time-saving measures

Internet monitoring software saves employees from visiting entertainment, gaming, or online shopping sites by restricting access to them. Internet monitoring software doesn’t necessarily block access to social media sites, but it lets your employees know that you’re monitoring their internet activity. This is aimed at discouraging them from taking prolonged visits to their Facebook, Twitter or Instagram page.

Avoid harmful websites

The internet hosts plenty of unsavory links and websites. Employees who haphazardly click phishing links or access malware-ridden pornography sites can put your business at risk. Working with infected machines can slow down the entire system and, in some cases, completely halt operations. By using internet monitoring tools, you can restrict access to dangerous websites and identify reckless employees who access them and remove their internet privileges, if necessary.

Control bandwidth usage

Even while using the internet for the right purposes, bandwidth can be used up quickly. Internet monitoring gives you up-to-the-minute reports on staff’s bandwidth usage. Once you have a clear understanding of your company’s overall bandwidth usage, you can better control internet expenditure. Ultimately, this feature allows you to prioritize bandwidth for critical business applications and reduce bandwidth for less necessary websites.

Increase productivity on the internet

Internet monitoring software may be a powerful tool, but it should be used responsibly. As a business owner, you need to walk a fine line between over-surveillance and under-surveillance. What you should do is establish a clear internet policy, which should explicitly define the disciplinary measures to be dispensed on anybody who goes against the company’s internet policy. You should also deal with time-wasting employees on a case-by-case basis because it’s unreasonable to remove everyone’s Facebook privileges because one or two abused theirs.

Employee productivity can be difficult to achieve, especially with the proliferation of the so-called “procrastination software.” But with web monitoring software, you can truly get your business — and your employees — back on track. Looking for more ways to increase business productivity with technology? Give us a call. We’ll be happy to make suggestions.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Get the best VoIP experience with these apps

Get the best VoIP experience with these apps

July 26th, 2018
Get the best VoIP experience with these apps

VoIP apps let users send messages, make phone calls, and do other tasks through an internet connection. Most apps offer the essential services for free, and they can harmonize with your devices for consistent usage. Here are some of the top VoIP apps.

WhatsApp
The increasingly popular WhatsApp provides more than just text chats between users. There is also an call option, the equivalent of VoIP calls with the option of using video. So if you’re texting with a business colleague, friend or spouse, and need to communicate more clearly or face-to-face, you can easily switch your text chat to a more personal voice or video one. WhatsApp texting and VoIP service is free to download and use, and is available for all major smartphones.

Skype
Even seldom Internet users and the non-tech savvy are likely to be familiar with Skype. This VoIP trailblazer was allowing users to place calls over the Internet long before many even knew what VoIP was. But for those who are unfamiliar with this service, Skype users can place voice or video calls to other Skype users for free. You can also call a landline or mobile that doesn’t use the app for a very small fee. As for new changes, you can now conduct conference calls with the group video calling function that Skype has recently added.

Viber
Like Skype, you can use this service to place free VoIP calls to other Viber users. You can also call non-Viber users for a low fee, which is usually less than most cellular service plans. And because Viber is primarily a mobile app, it also has some nice benefits if you’re using it on your cell. Unlike other free VoIP services, Viber doesn’t require a username. Instead, you simply use your cell number as an identifier, which makes it easy for you to call contacts on your phone. What’s more, it also doesn’t eat up a large amount of data per call, only using 250KB per minute.

Viber is available for iOS, Android, and Windows Phone devices, and requires no registration to use the app.

Google Hangouts Dialer
If you’re a Google Apps user, you’re likely familiar with Hangouts. What you may not know, however, is that you can install an app, Hangouts Dialer, that enables VoIP calls. Once Dialer is installed in the Hangouts app, you can use it to call any phone number in the world, including landlines. Best of all, most calls to Canada and the US are free.

For business owners who are a bit tentative of VoIP, these four apps will give you an easy opportunity to test the waters. If you have any VoIP questions, or are ready to start saving money and install a VoIP system in your business, call us today!

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Office 365 security considerations

Office 365 security considerations

July 25th, 2018
Office 365 security considerations

It’s easy to see why Office 365 is an attractive solution for small and medium-sized businesses already familiar with the Office interface. More and more companies are making the move to the cloud, but there are security issues to consider.

Identify your company’s sensitive data…
Most files housed within your servers contain sensitive commercial and personal data that must be properly identified and protected. Do this by conducting a security audit before you undertake your migration.

Your audit should identify the types of data stored in the various parts of your company network, including which specific information needs extra safeguarding. Be sure to consider everything from trade secrets and contract details to the personal information of your clients.

…and then restrict access to it
Once you’ve worked out where your most precious data lies, you can check who currently has access to it and whether their access is appropriate. After all, it’s not necessary for everyone to be able to get at all the data your company owns.

Ensure that each of your employees has access only to the data that’s necessary for them to perform their duties. The great thing about Office 365 is it lets you conveniently set different levels of permissions based on user roles.

Watch out for insider threats
It’s wise to consider everyone in your organization when it comes to auditing data access permissions – and that includes system administrators who may have master access to every element of your network infrastructure.

A rogue administrator is the stuff of nightmares, since their elevated position gives them much greater leeway to siphon off valuable data without being noticed – or even to allow others to conduct questionable business and bypass the usual built-in security precautions. You can mitigate this risk by monitoring your administrators’ data usage and activities.

Use machine learning to foresee security breaches
Every action performed by your staff within Office 365 is automatically logged, and with relative ease you can create detailed activity reports. But the sheer number of events taking place within Office 365 in the course of your business’s normal operations means that even attempting to identify questionable behavior will be akin to finding a needle in a haystack.

That’s not to say it’s unwise to be on the lookout for anomalies in normal usage – the export of unexplainably large volumes of data, for instance, could suggest that a member of your team is leaking intelligence to a competitor, or that they’re about to jump ship and take your trade secrets with them.

To make things easier, machine learning technologies can identify potential breaches before they happen by analyzing large swathes of data in seconds. Graph API is incorporated into Office 365, and allows for the integration of machine learning tools into your security environment to achieve just that. The same tools can also help you avoid being caught unawares by hackers, by identifying system login attempts from locations that are out of the ordinary.

By following these tips, you’ll be able to enjoy the powerful collaborative features of Office 365 while ensuring the robust security your business demands. To find out more about how we can help your Office 365 migration run smoothly, just give us a call.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

IT security policies your company needs

IT security policies your company needs

July 23rd, 2018
IT security policies your company needs

When it comes to Internet security, most small businesses don’t have security policies in place. And considering that employee error is one of the most common causes of a security breach, it makes sense to implement rules your staff needs to follow. Here are four things your IT policies should cover.

Internet

In today’s business world, employees spend a lot of time on the internet. To ensure they’re not putting your business at risk, you need a clear set of web policies. This must limit internet use for business purposes only, prohibit unauthorized downloads, and restrict access to personal emails on company devices. You can also include recommended browsing practices and policies for using business devices on public wifi.

Email

Just like the Internet policy mentioned above, company email accounts should only be utilized for business use. That means your employees should never use it to send personal files, forward links, or perform any type of business-related activities outside their specific job role. Additionally, consider implementing a standard email signature for all employees. This not only creates brand cohesion on all outgoing emails, but also makes it easy to identify messages from other employees, thus preventing spear phishing.

Passwords

We’ve all heard the importance of a strong password time and time again. And this same principle should also apply to your employees. The reason is rather simple. Many employees will create the easiest to crack passwords for their business accounts. After all, if your organization gets hacked, it’s not their money or business at stake. So to encourage employees to create strong passwords, your policy should instruct them to include special characters, uppercase and lowercase letters, and numbers in their passwords.

Data

Whether or not you allow your employees to conduct work on their own devices, such as a smartphone or tablet, it is important to have a bring your own device (BYOD) policy. If your employees aren’t aware of your stance on BYOD, some are sure to assume they can conduct work-related tasks on their personal laptop or tablet. So have a BYOD policy and put it in the employee handbook. In addition to this, make sure to explain that data on any workstation is business property. This means employees aren’t allowed to remove or copy it without your authorization.

We hope these four policies shed some light on the industry’s best security practices. If you’d like more tips or are interested in a security audit of your business, give us a call.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

5 tips for buying a new computer

5 tips for buying a new computer

July 19th, 2018
5 tips for buying a new computer

There are so many different types of computers out there, each with varying specifications and capabilities – how do you find the best one for your needs? Whether you’re purchasing a computer for yourself or for your family, here are a few things to keep in mind that will help you make the right decision.

Desktop or Laptop?

This depends on your working style and environment. The rule is quite simple: if you rarely work out of the office, get a desktop PC. If you need to work at home, on the go, or at client meetings, then go for a laptop. It’s worth noting that desktops are generally cheaper than laptops at similar specifications, have a longer usage life, and make for easier changing or upgrading of components. Laptops, on the other hand, are very portable due to their compact size, they consume less energy, and they offer a more flexible user experience.

Processor

If you want a computer that loads programs in a flash, completes tasks almost instantly, and runs smoothly at all times, then we recommend you invest in the strongest processors available. The performance of a processor is determined by its number of cores and speed, so the bigger the number, the better. These days, most users go for the latest octa-core processors, specifically if your tasks involve rendering high-definition images, animations, graphics, and analysis. For optimum results, get a processor with the higher number of cores.

RAM

Random Access Memory (RAM) allows your computer to perform multiple tasks at once without a hitch. Just like processors, the amount of RAM your computer has will determine how fast it will run when you work on several programs simultaneously. Nowadays, standard computers come with at least of 4GB of RAM, with 8GB being ideal for most users — to navigate smoothly between tasks such as email browsing, Internet surfing, and working on word processing documents and spreadsheets.

Hard Drive

The bigger the hard drive, the more space you have to store files. If you plan on using your computer with no peripherals, you’ll want to choose a computer that offers the biggest hard drive. But remember that you can always purchase an external hard drive to transfer or store files if your current hard drive is running out of space. Another thing to consider in a hard drive is its spin speed. The average speed for a desktop hard drive is 7200rpm. The faster your hard drive disk spins, the quicker the transfer of data to and from it. And one of the fastest these days are solid-state hybrid drives (SSHDs), which combines solid-state drives and HDDs for seamless data access.

Operating Systems

Picking an operating system is a big decision when it comes to choosing a new computer. You’ll probably want to stick with an operating system you’re already familiar with, since it can take some time to adapt yourself to a new OS. Here are some of the popular options available on the market:

  • Windows 10
  • Mac OS X
  • Linux
  • Ubuntu

Most people will just go for either Windows or Mac OS, because the complexity of Linux and Ubuntu mean they are are not popular among everyday users.

Want more hardware tips and tricks? Get in touch with our technology experts today.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Tips on adding value to your business data

Tips on adding value to your business data

July 17th, 2018
Tips on adding value to your business data

Data is incredibly valuable. The more of it your business generates, the easier it is to predict market and customer behaviors. Analytics solutions aren’t always the right fit for small businesses, but that doesn’t mean their data isn’t valuable. Here are some ways to add real value to your business by harnessing the power of data.

Many businesses shy away from data analytics due to the perceived costs and resources required to get anything of value. However, even the most humble mom-and-pop stores and home-based entrepreneurs have access to a broad range of worthwhile information.

It doesn’t make sense to spend half your week mired in spreadsheets and charts if you’re not extracting information that helps increase revenue. Basic data analytics solutions from companies like Microsoft and Google offer solutions to streamline the collection and examination of company information. But with an array of different tools to choose from, what should you consider before investing in one?

How easy is it to use? There’s no point investing in a dashboard solution if you don’t understand the way the insights are presented. Analysis functions must be straightforward and user-friendly.

Are the results actionable? Great insights are worthless if applying them requires another staff member that you can’t afford. Test drive an analytics solution before investing to ensure that its insights are easy to understand and apply.

Does it save you time? If you’re already relying on data analysis for growth, your first priority should be boosting productivity. Look for solutions that will enable you to complete your current analytics tasks in less time.

Is it compatible with other apps? You need a solution that cuts down on manual data entry and doesn’t add steps to any existing processes. Make sure any analytics software you’re considering can integrate with your existing solutions before signing on the dotted line.

Whether your aim is to attract new customers, retain existing clients, expand your services, or decide on a new location, your data is an indispensable asset. It’s there in good times and bad times, just waiting for you to take a closer look.

If you’d like to learn more about adding value to your business with data analysis, or want to explore data analysis software options, get in touch with us today – we’ll be happy to recommend options based on your needs and requirements.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Causes of call-quality issues of VoIP

Causes of call-quality issues of VoIP

July 11th, 2018
Causes of call-quality issues of VoIP

Phones are absolutely essential to any company’s communications arsenal. And after Alexander Graham Bell made the first coast-to-coast long-distance call in 1915, it was clear that this was technology that had the power to transform businesses. But as with all emerging technologies, there were some kinks to work out.

Choppy Voice

The main factor in disjointed, start-stop sounding messages in a VoIP environment is packet loss, which occurs if individual data “packets” are lost in transmission. When this occurs, the gateway at the receiving end of the call tries to predict what’s been lost, but when it can’t, the gap in data remains empty. With a simple tweak to your VoIP system’s bandwidth settings, sending and receiving voice data will become smoother and significantly reduce these interruptions.

Static

Many VoIP systems use an ATA, or Analog Telephone Adapter, to convert analog voice signals to digital signals. This sometimes produces static during calls, with the culprits usually being incompatible power supplies or feedback from the phones plugged into the ATA. Easy fixes include unplugging/replugging the ATA and/or the devices connected to it, or switching to IP Phones, which require no analog/digital conversions.

Voice Echo

It’s fun to hear your voice repeating throughout the high-walled canyon you’re hiking, but not so great when you’re having a quick chat on the phone. Although VoIP echo won’t totally disrupt your conversation, there are a few things you can do to reduce it, such as adjusting volume and gain settings, upgrading your USB headsets, or implementing VoIP echo cancellation software.

Post-dial Delay

Commonly referred to as PDD in VoIP parlance, post-dial delay is fairly self-explanatory. It refers to a delay between the time the caller finishes dialing and when they hear ringing, a busy signal, or some other kind of “in-call” information. It can be a nuisance when, instead of the ringing being delayed, it never actually occurs and you suddenly realize that your call has been connected.

This is actually an external issue from a vital piece of VoIP technology known as SIP (Session Initiation Protocol). At the moment, the only solace we can offer is that its widespread nature means you’re not alone, and a solution should be coming along soon.

By now, it’s clear to most small- and medium-sized businesses that a VoIP phone system can benefit them, even with the occasional delayed ring or scratchy call. Because what we’ve learned from previous telephony advances is that inconveniences like these are manageable. We can help you manage — from VoIP planning to installation to optimization, contact us today for more information.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Office 365’s design undergoes an overhaul

Office 365’s design undergoes an overhaul

July 10th, 2018
Office 365’s design undergoes an overhaul

Microsoft recently announced that Office 365 apps, including Excel, Outlook, PowerPoint, and Word will be going through a design overhaul to boost productivity of their subscribers. They plan on releasing new features in the next few months. Check out what they have in store.

Simplified ribbon

The biggest update is with the ribbon, which is a command bar at the top of a window. The new design now has a simpler, cleaner look that gives users the chance to customize the tools they work with most, simply by pinning apps or files to your Windows taskbar. Even though this new ribbon is designed with simplicity in mind, if you don’t find it helpful you can still revert back to the regular three-line view.

Some users may already be using this new ribbon in the online version of Word, while Outlook for Windows will receive it sometime this month. However, Microsoft disclosed that they aren’t yet ready to roll it out to PowerPoint, Word, and Excel for Windows.

Improved search option

One of the major changes is with the search option in Microsoft Office apps. The developers improved the search experience by using Microsoft graph, so users can now see search recommendations when they move their cursor to the search box. Some have already seen this update take effect, but it won’t be available for Outlook on the web until August.

Better colors and icons

To make the overall design more aesthetically pleasing, the colors and icons of every app have been revamped, too. They wanted a more modern look crisp and clean no matter the size of the user’s screen, which is why they employed scalable graphics. It first debuted on Word before appearing on Excel, PowerPoint, and Works for Windows last month. As for Outlook for Windows and Mac, users can expect the update later this summer.

Office 365 is constantly evolving to benefit subscribers. And to make things even more interesting, users will be chosen at random over the next several months to receive the updates, and Microsoft will gather their reviews to make further improvements. Co-creating new features with customers is something Microsoft truly believes in, so this isn’t simply a social media tactic.

So as you hang tight for these coming changes, consider increasing office collaboration by migrating your files to the cloud. Call us today to get started!

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

5 online reputation management mistakes

5 online reputation management mistakes

July 9th, 2018
5 online reputation management mistakes

Businesses are relying on social media more than ever to get their voices heard on the Internet. However, so many companies make mistakes that are too important to ignore, and which could seriously damage your online reputation. As a business owner you need to keep your organization in check, and avoid these common online reputation management pitfalls.

Your online reputation will not take care of itself

Assuming that your enterprise doesn’t need an online reputation management (ORM) strategy is the most common ORM mistake business owners should avoid and, probably the first one as well. Just because your business’s reviews were positive today, doesn’t mean they will be tomorrow. Your online reputation can change in an instant.

Think about it: The key to protecting your business from the harmful bad reviews is a good ORM strategy. In short – this is a process that could make or break your reputation, and you should be extra careful. The more work you put in ORM, the more control you have over what appears in search engines for your products or services.

Expressing your personal opinion

You’re making a big mistake if you let your emotions get in the way when posting content on your business’s social media profiles. Discussing religion, politics, or other controversial issues may turn off people who matter to your business. Unless they’re relevant to the nature of your business, avoid mentioning sensitive topics. Instead, try to keep a neutral tone, since the goal of your social media efforts is to appeal to everyone.

Ignoring or responding aggressively to negative comments

Negative feedback can be painful to hear but, if you can put aside your pride, it is a real opportunity for improvement. When customers post a negative comment, ignoring it can make things go from bad to worse. Customers may think that you’re not taking their issue seriously, and could resort to posting complaints on all sorts of platforms, which quickly become impossible to control.

Also, don’t let things get out of hand – reply in a timely manner and try to solve problems as best you can, not by posting abusive rants or sending back angry emails to authors of bad feedback.

Posting fake reviews (both negative and positive)

Another online reputation mistake is to post negative reviews on your competitors’ website to dampen their credibility. This underhanded strategy is ethically wrong.

On the other hand, influential websites like Google have algorithms in place to help weed out false customer feedback, so making the mistake of posting fake client reviews to boost your business is such a waste of time and effort. Instead, focus on delivering high-quality products and services to generate authentic customer reviews, which can really pay off in the long run.

Being inconsistent

To build a good online reputation, you need to be consistent. Your social media fans followed your page for a reason – they have certain expectations that you will post regular and interesting content. Updating social media with ten posts one day, followed by complete silence for the following few weeks, is a bad example of consistency. Don’t disappear for days or weeks on end. Try to schedule a routine and interact with your audience on a regular basis.

A credible online reputation is an important part of your business’s public image. If you want to discuss how to establish an online presence and a strong ORM, contact us today and we can give insights from experts.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

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