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Securing Yourself on Shared Wi-Fi

December 31, 2010 5:00 pm Published by Leave your thoughts

Using shared Wi-Fi networks can be really convenient, but it is not without risks of its own. These days, more and more people are on the go, and many of them bring their work with them. And in this day and age, it’s ideal if you’re working – or playing for that matter – while connected to the internet, which is often through public Wi-Fi hotspots. While connecting to public and open-access Wi-Fi hotspots is indeed convenient, using open networks also poses risks that endanger your security. The open nature that allows anyone to use the connection also enables unscrupulous people to gain access to your private information. The whole act of stealing information from people who are using public Wi-Fi networks is called ‘sidejacking’. There are applications such as Firesheep, for example, that provide an easy-to-use platform that others can exploit to spy and harvest personal, sensitive information from you. And since Firesheep is a Mozilla Firefox plug in, virtually anyone can download and use it to sidejack people on the same network. You can’t be too cautious with your personal and business data these days, so you always need to have the proper laptop configuration and security infrastructure to protect your system, especially when you frequently avail of open and public networks. To know more about this, please feel free to give us a call and we’ll be happy to draw up some security options that meet your specific needs.

Useful Tools to Effectively Connect with Your Followers on Twitter

December 30, 2010 5:00 pm Published by Leave your thoughts

Twitter is arguably the most popular and widely used microblogging platform on Internet today. Though each post is limited to only 140 characters, there are various Twitter applications that you can use to easily connect with your network and enhance your Twitter experience. There are countless Twitter tools and apps available today. Here’s a list of six that are sure to be useful and effective in building relationships with your Twitter followers. The first section introduces some basic tools, which you can skip if you’re already a Twitter expert. The second section describes tools that you may not have previously heard of, but are worth checking out since they can boost visibility, traffic, and clients. The Basics Link Shorteners – Most Tweets (posts) on Twitter are not the usual “what I had for lunch” Tweets, but are more often people sharing links of articles, videos, photos, and more. Sharing links is a great way to help people better understand your field of interest and expertise while also helping them discover great content online. However, many links are very long, and do not fit within Twitter’s 140-character limit – so as the term implies, a link shortener shortens a specific link/URL. Try sites like Bit.ly , TinyURL and tr.im to easily condense your very long URLs into just 15-20 characters, leaving you room to comment.In addition to the practical need of shorter URLs, a majority of these tools also provide useful tracking reports so you can monitor the number of people who clicked on your links, which were the most popular, the dates when people clicked them, as well as give you an idea which topics are the most popular with your Twitter community. TweetMeme – That ever-present gray and green “re-tweet” logo enables readers to quickly re-post or “re-tweet” your post to their own Twitter followers. TweetMeme is a wonderful means to encourage your audience to spread the news about your status, tips, and words of wisdom.Like link shorteners, TweetMeme also tracks your links as they pass through the Twitterverse, and shows the total number of times your link was re-tweeted. Aside from helping you determine the popularity of given topics, it also lets the feisty competitor in us compare the success of our posts versus others and even ourselves. TwitPic – This is one of the numerous tools that let you take pictures with your mobile phone and post them directly on Twitter. Other similar tools are: TwitGoo , img.ly and yfrog . These tools are also usually integrated into whatever Twitter mobile application you’re using. You can also obtain statistics to monitor responses on your pictures. You can still also opt to link your followers to a Flickr account, Facebook page, or a web page that displays your pictures. Cast your Twitter net even farther… There are a lot of nifty Twitter applications out there that will help you create a solid and engaged community. When you’re ready to take your Twitter skills to the next level, below are three tools to get you started. TweetSwell – This great app allows you to create Twitter-based polls, wherein each reply doubles as a tweet and helps the poll become viral. TweetSwell  can also help maintain your brand identity by ensuring that your poll pages are synchronized with your custom-made Twitter layout. Similar apps are: Twtpoll and TwtSurvey . TwtVite – Somewhat related to Eventbrite , TwtVite enables you to use Twitter to get together in the real world. Check out the animated video to get a feel for how it works. For an actual example, read this case study about a Milwaukee bar owner who used TwtVite in hosting the biggest Tweetup in the Midwest . TwtQpon – Online coupons offer small businesses a fantastic opportunity to drive lots of new and repeat clients. This app creates online coupons that can be published on Twitter and many other social network sites. While apps such as Groupon and Living Social can also make online coupons, TwtQpon is specifically designed for social networks.

Beware Software Bogeymen

December 27, 2010 3:05 pm Published by Leave your thoughts

Malicious cyber thieves might be scaring you into buying and downloading software that may harm your computer. Security firm McAfee has published a report early in the year showing that up to a million people worldwide fall victim to so-called “scareware” each year. Scareware, or rogueware, is software that poses as legitimate security software but in reality are dupes to steal credit card information from users, or even worse are Trojan Horses to spread malware. Scareware is distributed primarily through the Internet via malicious websites that pop out windows that fool users into thinking their system may be infected. Users who click on the popup windows are redirected to a website which encourages them to buy fake security software online. Scareware are especially dangerous as it hits users in many ways: by duping them out of their money, injecting viruses or other forms of malware into their system, or even holding them ransom — for instance, by taking over users’ systems then demanding more payment to free the data stored in the infected computer. It’s a good thing that there are many ways to protect your system against scareware. One is using security software from legitimate and well established software vendors — through their legitimate sales channels. Another is by being prudent with offers and downloads when online. For a small business there are other ways such as blocking or filtering these malicious websites to ensure the security of the entire business. If you want to find out more about these solutions to protect small business networks — let us know. We offer managed security services for small business that can protect against online threats.

Alphabetizing Last Names in Word

December 26, 2010 8:42 am Published by Leave your thoughts

Sorting lists of names by last name is easy if they are listed in a LAST, FIRST order. But what if the names are in FIRST LAST order? This tip explains features in Word that make this possible. Read more.

When Did You Last Update Your Disaster Recovery Plan?

December 23, 2010 5:00 pm Published by Leave your thoughts

If success is what you aspire to, you need to know what to do when unexpected events cause harm or hassle to your business. You need to be prepared, and you need to know exactly what steps to take to solve the possible plagues to your business when they happen. As you know, businesses must continually evolve, and as a savvy business owner you constantly respond to changes in the market by adjusting your products, services, systems, and processes to meet these changing demands. Your disaster recovery plan should get the same treatment. If it doesn’t, it’s almost as bad as having no plan at all. For example, imagine that the raw materials for your main product did not arrive in time, and you don’t have any stock left. What do you do? Panic? Even the most seemingly minor complication can become a major cause of worry, so it’s always best to be ready when trying times come along. Proper risk management is a must for a successful business. Therefore, the possession of a disaster recovery plan may make or break your business. Therefore, it’s a good idea to review and update your disaster contingency plan every now and then – especially when your business has gone through any type of change. It’s also recommended that you test out what plan is effective for your company, then document what works and what doesn’t. Use this information to adjust your plan as needed. A disaster recovery plan is not just simply a handy thing to have – it’s a necessity. If you don’t have one, or if you think yours might be outdated, you should make this a top priority. If you need help you can always contact us. We’ll guide you every step of the way in coming up the best disaster recovery plan to keep your business safe and sound.

Honesty is Still the Best Policy

December 21, 2010 4:30 pm Published by Leave your thoughts

Many companies and businesses give in to the temptation to use pirated software, thereby saving on costs. But in the long run, this will prove to be more trouble than it’s worth. Times and technology may have changed drastically through the years, but the good old values of honesty and integrity still hold. With pirated and illegal software experiencing great popularity these days, with virtually every software program known to man floating around in various easy-to-find sources and websites. And since they are free of charge – no need to pay fees for licensing or updates – it’s hardly surprising that many businesses are tempted to cut a few corners and save on costs by using pirated software. Microsoft programs in particular are considered to be one of the most pirated in the world. Since they are widely used, many businesses, big or small, cannot afford to do without them. And more than a few have used or are using pirated software. This is why Microsoft is taking on a new approach to fighting piracy: publicly exposing offenders. Microsoft recently named several offenders who admitted to ‘hard disk loading’, which is selling PCs with pirated software pre-installed. Microsoft has identified Selectweb in Lancashire, Computer Trading in West Sussex, Tech Computers in the West Midlands, PC Academy and Impact Computers in Preston, Call-Tech Support (CTS) in Bolton, PC Practitioners in Derbyshire, MSB Computers in Blackburn, Multi Tech Systems and Ossett PC Centre in West Yorkshire. Many have since mended their ways – it hardly sits well with clients when they discover that their supplier / reseller uses what is basically stolen software – but the damage has already been done. So learn from the mistakes of others, and start using only licensed, legal software. Need more information? We can help make sure your software if above the board so you stay out of trouble.

Investing in Smartphone Damage Protection

December 20, 2010 1:00 pm Published by Leave your thoughts

A  Smartphone is lightweight and portable, making it very prone to accidental drops. Not only do you risk damaging the phone itself, you also risk losing valuable data stored in the device. Many businesses all over the world issue Smartphones to their employees. While they can seem expensive for many small to medium-sized business owners, with the greater amount of work done at a faster pace, Smartphones are an ideal business solution. However, since Smartphones are lightweight and portable they are carried around everywhere, making them very prone to accidental drops. Despite the advances in technology, some Smartphones are more prone to damage than others. Touchscreens are generally more susceptible to damage because they usually don’t have an extra layer of plastic on their screens. And when these devices are damaged, not only do you incur the cost of repair or replacement, you also risk losing valuable data that’s stored in them. So, should you spend more to protect your employees’ Smartphones? Some people think it depends on your industry. According to Tim Doherty, research analyst for small to mid-sized business markets at research firm IDC, most blue-collar employees should be provided with protective cases for their Smartphones since their work environments are more likely to be physical in nature. Equipping these employees with cases like the OtterBox or rugged devices such as those being offered by Motorola is a good move. Meanwhile, according to Doherty, white-collar employees using Smartphones only have “a moderate risk of drop or damage” because they usually put their devices inside their bags or pockets. Still, providing these employees with “a basic rubberized case makes a lot of sense,” adds Doherty. He also adds that providing cases lessens “the company’s liability to replace damaged devices.” Some analysts think, however, that cases citing damaged Smartphones due to accidental drops have been exaggerated. Analyst and Partner Michael Gartenberg of Altimeter Group believes that cases can protect and personalize your Smartphone, but he does not agree that these cases are essential accessories. Gartenberg claims that, “Most phones are rugged enough to handle the usual bumps and abrasions of everyday life and most screens are quite scratch resistant.” He adds that normal maintenance will ensure that most Smartphones work well. In addition, Gartenberg believes that if users are aware that their Smartphones have additional protection, they may tend to be less careful when using their devices. Still, Tim Bajarin, President of Creative Strategies, a firm that provides industry analysis for the technology sector, believes that a Smartphone case “isn’t much of an investment . . . yet it can go a long way.” As Bajarin says, we should treat these cases as insurance. With just a little extra expense, you not only protect a $200 to $300 Smartphone, you may also save your business from a loss of thousands of dollars worth of data stored in a single device.

Why Use Electronic Signatures?

December 17, 2010 4:00 pm Published by Leave your thoughts

Studies show that among US companies alone, 30 billion paper documents are copied or printed every year. The associated cost for each document is estimated at $6.50. Five hundred documents are signed by the average authorized employee each year, which means that the total annual cost of using paper documents $3,250. Signatures have been the most accepted means of authentication since ancient times. During the Roman Empire, a combination of seals and signatures were recognized as the primary source for document and legal contract authentication.  In the 1830s, electronic communications became legally recognized “electronic signatures” when the telegraph and Morse Code were invented. In 1976, Martin Hellman and Whitfield Diffie introduced public key cryptography, wherein cryptographic keys were first distributed over an unprotected public network. The first electronically signed document was an agreement between two nations – a Joint Communique signed by Ireland and the United States in 1998. What is an electronic signature or e-signature? There are different definitions for this term, but for the purpose of US law, the US Code defines it as “an electronic sound, symbol, or process, attached to or logically associated with a contract or other record and executed or adopted by a person with the intent to sign the record.” Why are businesses using electronic signatures? Electronic signatures help cut costs. Studies show that among US companies alone, 30 billion paper documents are copied or printed every year. The associated cost for each document is estimated to be $6.50. Five hundred documents are signed by the average authorized employee each year, which means that the total annual cost of using paper documents per employee is $3,250. Electronic signatures are good for the environment. The reduction of paper usage will not only cut down operational costs, but will also help save our environment. For every person who uses e signatures, the savings is equal to ¾ of a barrel of oil, ½ of a tree, or 150 pounds of carbon emissions per year. Electronic signatures help reduce fraud. When documents are signed electronically, the integrity of the content is guaranteed. E-signatures also enable real-time verification of the handwritten signature as opposed to a pre-defined biometric profile. Any manipulation within a document that involves an e-signature will automatically result in making the signature invalid. Electronic signatures help increase customer satisfaction. Turnaround times are accelerated with the use of electronic signatures because you don’t keep your customers waiting while you search for contracts or forms. Additionally, adding an electronic signature to a document is just like signing on paper. There is no need to change your customers’ habits, and they are assured that even with remote handling all their documents are secure. Electronic signatures give entrepreneurs more time to increase sales. Because workflow is much faster with the use of electronic signatures, processing times are reduced and sales people and consultants have more time to spend on getting new business. This can significantly increase the company’s revenue. E-Signatures and Mobile Devices Many business owners have come to realize the importance of using e-signatures in business. In fact, some businesses have even adapted this signing process for the smaller screens of mobile devices. If the transaction involves straightforward, simple sales contracts, a mobile e-signature is ideal. The customer sees and agrees to what exactly what is being purchased on the spot, and this allows salespeople to work more efficiently. For lengthy documents however, especially those that have several form fields that require considerable interaction with the client, a PC format is more suitable. How Legitimate are E-Signatures? As for the legitimacy of e-signatures, you need not worry. In 1999, the European Union passed the EU Directive for Electronic Signatures, and on the 30 th of June, 2000, US President Bill Clinton signed into law the Electronic Signatures in Global and National Commerce Act (ESIGN), which signified that all signed electronic contracts and documents are as legally binding as a paper-based contract.