Blog

August 26th, 2014

VoIP_Aug18_CAs with any technological systems, Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) can offer businesses some intriguing benefits, including decreased costs and easier management. Because of these advantages, many businesses have already switched over. For those who are considering making the move, there are a few points you should be aware of first.

1. Faxing can be tough with VoIP

Fax machines were designed on an analog system and therefore may have trouble working with a digital system like VoIP. This is especially true for businesses who are using older fax machines. We aren't saying faxing is impossible, but you likely will not be able to simply plug your fax machine into a VoIP line and start sending/receiving faxes.

What you will most likely need is to install a few extra components such as an adapter that supports T38 protocols. The T38 protocol was developed specifically to change analog fax signals into a digital that can then be sent via VoIP.

Therefore, if you use fax machines in your office, you should be sure to ask potential providers if their systems support faxing, and if your machines will be supported, or if there are any extra components needed.

2. Credit and debit terminals may not be compatible

Many business owners who look to move to VoIP systems often forget to also look at how their payment systems work. If you are using older credit or debit terminals on a landline they may actually be dial-up based, which means they will not work with VoIP. While most businesses already use newer models that support ethernet connections, and therefore VoIP, some are still using older systems. If this is the case, then you will need to contact your terminal provider for an upgrade, or new IP-terminals.

3. Older alarm systems may not work

Businesses with physical storefronts likely have alarm systems in place. The problem with this is that many older systems rely on traditional phone lines in order to signal emergency services should the alarm go off. If you are planning to upgrade to VoIP, you should make sure that the alarm system you have is compatible, or can be connected to VoIP.

If this is not the case, you may need to upgrade to a more modern alarm system. We strongly recommend checking with both the alarm provider and your VoIP provider if your alarm systems will still work.

4. VoIP requires broadband connections

We have seen cases before where businesses have invested in a VoIP system only to find out they don't have a broadband connection that is strong enough to support VoIP effectively. In order for VoIP systems to function, you need to have a broadband connection with a fairly strong amount of bandwidth. This is especially important for businesses in rural areas where broadband speeds can be limited based on distance.

It can be tough to figure out if your broadband connection will support VoIP, but you can test the connection before you agree to purchase it. Asking a potential provider for help testing your line would be a good idea. Should your connection prove to be too slow, then you will need to contact your Internet Service Provider in order to upgrade your speed.

5. VoIP needs to be managed

Like every other tech system, you will need to manage your VoIP solution. This includes adding new lines, upgrading equipment, ensuring systems are compatible, etc. For many business owners this will require extra time they don't necessarily have. One of the best solutions we can recommend is a managed VoIP solution.

We offer VoIP solutions, so if you are looking to learn more about VoIP in your business, and would like to avoid the common mistakes made by others, contact us today to learn more about how our expertise can help.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic VoIP General
August 25th, 2014

Security_Aug18_CSince the advent of the Internet, hackers have been actively trying to exploit it. Over the past few years, many have targeted different websites to obtain user account details like usernames and passwords. There seems to be a trend where the number of accounts compromised with each new security announcement is rising. In early August, news broke that possibly the largest breach to date has been uncovered.

The latest big-scale breach

In early August, it emerged that a Russian hacker ring had amassed what is believed to be the biggest known collection of stolen account credentials. The numbers include around 1.2 billion username and password combinations, and over 500 million email addresses.

According to Hold Security, the company that uncovered these records, the information comes from around 420,000 sites. What is particularly interesting about this particular attack is that such a wide variety of sites were targeted when compared this with other attacks which tend to either attack large brand names or smaller related sites.

How did this happen?

Despite what many believe, this was not a one-time mass attack; all sites that were compromised were not attacked at the same time. Instead, the hacker ring - called the Cyber Vor - was likely working on amassing this data over months or longer. How they were able to amass this much information is through what's called a botnet.

Botnets are a group of computers infected by hackers. When the hackers establish a botnet, they attack computers with weak network security and try to infect them with malware that allows the hacker to control the computer. If successful, users won't even know their computer has been hacked and is being used by hackers.

Once this botnet is established, the hackers essentially tell the computers to try to contact websites to test the security. In this recent case, the computers were looking to see if the websites were vulnerable to a SQL injection. This is where hackers tell the computers in the botnet to look for fillable sections on sites like comment boxes, search boxes, etc. and input a certain code asking the website's database to list the stored information related to that box.

If the Web developer has restricted the characters allowed in the fillable text boxes, then the code likely would not have worked. The botnet would notice this, and then move onto the next site. However, if the code works, the botnet notes this and essentially alerts the hacker who can then go to work collecting the data.

So, is this serious and what can I do?

In short, this could be a fairly serious problem. While 420,000 sites may seem like a large number, keep in mind that the Internet is made up of billions of websites. This means that the chances of your website's data being breached by this ring are small. That being said, there is probably a good chance that one of the sites related to your website may have been breached.

So, it is a cause for concern. However, you can limit the chance of hackers gaining access to your information and a website's information.

1. Change all of your passwords

It seems like we say this about once a month, but this time you really should heed this warning. With 1.2 billion username and password combinations out there, there is a chance your user name for at least one account or site has been breached.

To be safe, change all of your passwords. This also includes passwords on your computer, mobile devices, and any online accounts - don't forget your website's back end, or hosting service. It is a pain to do, but this is essential if you want to ensure your data and your website is secure from this attack.

2. Make each password different

We can't stress this enough, so, while you are resetting your password you should aim to ensure that you use a different one for each account, site, and device. It will be tough to remember all of these passwords, so a manager like LastPass could help. Or, you could develop your own algorithm or saying that can be easily changed for each site. For example, the first letter of each word of a favorite saying, plus the first and last letter of the site/account, plus a number sequence could work.

3. Test your website for SQL injections

If you have a website, you are going to want to test all text boxes to see if they are secure against SQL injections. This can be tough to do by yourself, so it's best to contact a security expert like us who can help you execute these tests and then plug any holes should they be found.

4. Audit all of your online information

Finally, look at the information you have stored with your accounts. This includes names, addresses, postal/zip codes, credit card information, etc. You should only have the essential information stored and nothing else. Take for example websites like Amazon. While they are secure, many people have their credit card and billing information stored for easy shopping. If your account is hacked, there is a good chance hackers will be able to get hold of your card number.

5. Contact us for help

Finally, if you are unsure about the security of your accounts, business systems, and website, contact us today to see how our security experts can help ensure your vital data is safe and sound.
Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic Security
August 13th, 2014

AndroidTablet_Aug11_CWhile Android is one of the most popular mobile operating systems out there, many business owners often view it as being not secure enough, or being difficult to manage. In an effort to make the system even more useful for businesses, and more secure, the company has announced a new program called Android Work which will be released with the next version of Android.

What exactly is Android Work?

Android Work is a program that is being developed by Google that will be introduced in the next version of Android - Android L. Because of the overall open and somewhat fragmented nature of Android, many businesses have been struggling to manage devices. In an effort to attract business customers, device manufactures have come up with their own business-centric suite of features that boost device security and manageability.

While there are a number of options out there, Samsung has had the most success with KNOX. This is essentially a secure version of Android that can be managed by businesses. With devices running KNOX, administrators can separate personal and work features, as well as manage and secure business apps and content on a user's device.

The best way to think of this program is that it enables a completely separate business profile, that can be managed by a company, on a personal device. Users with a system like this will be able to separate work and personal apps, content, and data, but still be able to use the same device. This is what mobile experts refer to as containerization - business apps and data are essentially stored in a container that is kept within the overall Android system.

Google found this idea of being able to separate personal lives and work on the same device to be something worth investing in, and have subsequently developed Android Work based on the KNOX platform. This will allow all Android users, not just users with Samsung devices, to take advantage of this program.

When launched there will be a number of key business oriented features beyond just the KNOX support. Here are two of the most talked about.

Seamless transition between personal and work data

Containerization is usually referred to as creating a separate system on one device, kind of like having a work and personal profile on your computer. While this is great, it can be annoying to switch between profiles on your device. So, Google has decided to modify the way containers work, making them more seamless.

With Android Work, IT will be able to install and manage apps on a user's device - they have to agree to this of course. Only, these apps will appear on the device beside personal apps and will be useable just like any other app. In the background however, the Android Work managed apps will sit in their own container. This container will apply heavy encryption to related data going in and out of the device, and restrict what users can do with the app (based on whatever rules the IT admin has set).

The key here is that while the apps and security are separate, the user will not notice any major difference and will be able to interact with both personal and business apps from the same profile. They will be able to tell the difference between work and personal apps as apps installed, managed or related to Android Work will have an identifying badge on the icon.

Easier deploying and managing of apps

With Android Work, IT admins or managers will be able to bulk purchase apps from the Google Play store and have them automatically installed on user's devices. If you use separate apps, or have developed apps for use in-house, you will also be able to push these to devices.

Beyond that, there will be admin panels that can push updates to apps on all devices, or even bulk manage existing apps. While the user will see no real difference, the apps in the Work container are managed by the administrator, not the user.

Will Work be useful?

Many business owners have been asking this question over the past few months, and the answer really depends on how you use devices in the office. If you support BYOD (Bring Your Own Device), you will be able to easily manage the apps, data, and security of just the business related apps, while still allowing personal apps and data to be installed on the same device.

Companies who provide their employees with mobile phones or tablets will also find Android Work useful as it will enable easier management and enhanced security across a variety of Android devices.

When will Android Work be available?

As of now, Android Work is still in development, but Google has noted that it will be released as a feature of the next version of Android, which is slated to be released this fall.

If you are looking to learn more about Android Work, or how to manage Android devices, contact us today to see how we can help.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

August 7th, 2014

Security_Aug05_CSecurity of your systems and technology is always an on-going battle and one you will likely never completely win. There are definitive steps you can take to ensure that your systems are secure, but we find that one of the most effective tools is knowledge. If you know a bit about how your systems can be breached, you can ensure a higher level of caution and security. To help, here are five common ways businesses see their systems breached.

1. You are tricked into installing malicious software

One of the most common ways a system's security is breached is through malware being downloaded by the user. In almost every case where malware is installed the reason is because the user was tricked into downloading it.

A common trick used by hackers is to plant malware in software and then place this software on a website. When a user visits the site, they are informed that they need to download the software in order for the site to load properly. Once downloaded, the malware infects the system. Other hackers send emails out with a file attached, where only the file contains malware.

There are a nearly limitless number of ways you can be tricked into downloading and installing malware. Luckily, there are steps you can take to avoid this:

  • Never download files from an untrusted location - If you are looking at a website that is asking you to download something, make sure it's from a company you know about and trust. If you are unsure, it's best to avoid downloading and installing the software.
  • Always look at the name of the file before downloading - Many pieces of malware are often disguised with file names that are similar to other files, with only a slight spelling mistake or some weird wording. If you are unsure about the file then don't download it. Instead, contact us as we may be able to help verify the authenticity or provide a similar app.
  • Stay away from torrents, sites with adult content, and movie streaming sites - These sites often contain malware, so it is best to avoid them altogether.
  • Always scan a file before installing it - If you do download files, be sure to get your virus scanner to scan these before you open the apps. Most scanners are equipped do this, normally by right-clicking on the file and selecting Scan with….

2. Hackers are able to alter the operating system settings

Many users are logged into their computers as admins. Being an administrator allows you to change any and all settings, install programs, and manage other accounts.

If a hacker manages to access your computer and you are set up as the admin, they will have full access to your computer. This means they could install other malicious software, change settings or even completely hijack the machine. The biggest worry about this however, is if a hacker gets access to a computer that is used to manage the overall network. Should this happen, they could gain control over all the systems on the network and do what they please on it.

In order to avoid this, you should ensure that if a user doesn't need to install files or change settings on the computer, they do not have administrator access. Beyond this, installing security software like anti-virus scanners and keeping them up to date, as well as conducting regular scans, will help reduce the chances of being infected, or seeing infections spread.

3. Someone physically accesses your computer

It really feels like almost every security threat these days is digital or is trying to infect your systems and network from the outside. However, there are many times when malware is introduced into systems, or data is stolen, because someone has physically had access to your systems.

For example, you leave your computer on when you go for lunch and someone walks up to it, plugs in a USB drive with malware on it and physically infects your system. Or, it could be they access your system and manually reset the password, thereby locking you out and giving them access.

What we are trying to say here is that not all infections or breaches arrive via the Internet. What we recommend is to ensure that you password protect your computer - you need to enter a password in order to access it. You should also be sure that when you are away from your computer it is either turned off, or you are logged off.

Beyond that, it is a good idea to disable drives like CD/DVD and connections like USB if you don't use them. This will limit the chances that someone will be able to use a CD or USB drive to infect your computer.

4. It's someone from within the company

We have seen a number of infections and security breaches that were carried out by a disgruntled employee. It could be that they delete essential data, or remove it from the system completely. Some have even gone so far as to introduce highly destructive malware.

While it would be great to say that every business has the best employees, there is always a chance a breach can be carried out by an employee. The most effective way to prevent this, aside from ensuring your employees are happy, is to limit access to systems.

Take a look at what your employees have access to. For example, you may find that people in marketing have access to finance files or even admin panels. The truth is, your employees don't need access to everything, so take steps to limit access to necessary systems. Combine this with the suggestions above - limiting admin access and installing scanners - and you can likely limit or even prevent employee initiated breaches.

5. Your password is compromised

Your password is the main way you can verify and access your accounts and systems. The issue is, many people have weak passwords. There has been a steady increase in the number of services that have been breached with user account data being stolen. If a hacker was to get a hold of say your username, and you have a weak password, it could only be a matter of time before they have access to your account.

If this happens, your account is compromised. Combine this with the fact that many people use the same password for multiple accounts, and you could see a massive breach leading to data being stolen, or worse - your identity.

It is therefore a good idea to use a separate password for each account you have. Also, make sure that the passwords used are strong and as different as possible from each other. One tool that could help ensure this is a password manager which generates a different password for each account.

If you are looking to learn more about ensuring your systems are secure, contact us today to learn about how our services can help.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic Security
July 31st, 2014

AndroidPhone_July28_CAndroid phones are currently the most popular devices being sold by many carriers. While these devices are popular, many come preinstalled with apps that have been developed by the carrier. This apps are often referred to as bloatware and are usually ignored by users. However, if you have ever tried to uninstall them, you know this is easier said than done. The good news is that there is a solution.

Bloatware defined

Read Android themed blogs and you will eventually come across this term. When it is used to refer to mobile phones, bloatware is software that has been installed by carriers or device manufacturers. These apps are generally useless, unwanted, or are value-added apps - meaning apps which you need to pay extra for in order to use e.g., a music service run by your carrier.

The kicker with bloatware is that you don't get a choice as to whether or not it is installed on your phone. The reason for this is because carriers and manufacturers install the apps before you purchase the phone. Many carriers have contracts with manufacturers to actually install the software before the device leaves the factory.

Is bloatware bad?

Mobile bloatware often gets a bad rap, especially because much of it is unwanted by users. That doesn't mean the apps are 'bad', or malicious. In fact, some users do actually use the software that comes installed by mobile carriers. The issue many have is that they have had no say in the matter and as a result feel forced into using certain apps, when they would rather be using something else, or would never have downloaded these apps in the first place.

In short, the vast majority of bloatware is not overly useful but it is by no means malicious. It's really more of an annoyance to many users.

Can I get rid of bloatware?

The short answer to this question is: No, you usually can't get rid of bloatware. Some of it can be uninstalled, but most of the apps installed by the carrier or manufacturer aren't able to be deleted.

That being said, there are two options you can consider:

1. Disable bloatware on your device

While you usually can't uninstall bloatware, phones running Android 4.X and newer do have the option of disabling it.
  1. Open your device's Settings panel. This is usually done by sliding down from the top of the screen and selecting the person icon with five squares followed by Settings.
  2. Tap on Apps and swiping right so All is highlighted at the top.
  3. Scroll to the app you would like to disable and tap on it.
  4. Press Disable.
  5. Tap Ok in the warning that opens.
  6. Once you do this, the app will be removed from the home screen and will no longer run in the background.

2. Purchase devices without bloatware

If you are currently looking for a new device, or are looking to upgrade your current phone, an option would be to purchase a device that doesn't have bloatware. For example, most phones you purchase separately from your carrier won't have carrier specific bloatware. Take for example Nexus devices. These phones, when bought outright, only have stock Google apps like Calendar, Gmail, Chrome, and Google Play store installed. Of course, if you buy the device from your carrier, there is a good chance it will have the apps on them. So it is best to look at the big-box stores or retailers.

If you are unsure as to whether the device you are looking at has bloatware installed, try asking the salesperson or looking at online reviews. As a general rule of thumb: If you buy the device from a carrier, or on a contract, the device will have some bloatware on it - most carriers have a stipulation on the agreement you sign giving them permission to install it, or noting that it is installed. When you sign the contract you thereby agree to have the apps on your device.

The major downside to buying devices like this for some users is that you have to pay full price for the device. For some this is worth it, while others are ok with the odd bit of bloatware if they get to pay less for their device.

Looking to learn more about Android phones? Contact us today to see how we can help.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

July 30th, 2014

SocialMedia_July28_CA common use of LinkedIn is the curation and sharing of content with fellow colleagues and users. The business oriented social platform has a wide variety of features that encourage users to share content, and earlier this year its own content creation platform was implemented for select users. Now, the company has rolled out the new publishing platform for all users to take advantage of.

About LinkedIn's new publishing platform

Like other social networks, LinkedIn allows users to publish posts on their profile which are then visible to other users. In the past, there was a limit as to how long the posts could be, which influenced how users shared the content they generated. Most would simply copy and paste a link to their content into a post on their LinkedIn profile.

In an effort to make sharing thoughts, ideas, expertise, etc. easier, LinkedIn has implemented the long-form post. This feature allows you to create longer content, such as blog articles and opinion pieces, and post this directly on LinkedIn. In other words, you can now use LinkedIn as a blog which is shared with your connections.

If you create long-form content, this could be a useful way to get posts out to an even wider audience than through your blog. This is because when you publish a post on LinkedIn, it becomes part of your overall profile, with the post being visible under the Posts section of your profile. New long-form posts will also be published and shared with all of your contacts automatically.

This means that you could technically increase the overall reach of your content, especially if the content you produce is useful to your LinkedIn connections.

Writing long-form content on LinkedIn

If you would like to start publishing long-form content using your LinkedIn profile, you should be able to do so by:
  1. Logging into your LinkedIn profile.
  2. Pressing the pencil in the box that says Share an update…
Note: This update is still rolling out to users, so you may not be able to produce long-form content just yet. If you don't see the pencil in the Share an update… box, you will need to wait for a few weeks, or until you get an email from LinkedIn saying the feature is ready for you to use.

If you do see the pencil icon, click on it to open the long-form post screen. It looks like most other Web-based publishing and writing platforms with the usual formatting buttons and text field where you input the content.

You can write your article directly on this page, but many choose to write using a program they are comfortable with and then copy and paste into the text field. If you want to add images to your post, you can simply click where you would like the image to slot into the content and select the camera icon from the menu bar above the text field. Select the image and hit Submit. You can then resize the image by clicking and dragging on it.

Saving and editing your content

Once you have finished writing we strongly recommend you hit the Save button at the bottom of the text field. This will save the content to your profile, but will not post it. This means you can edit the content before publishing. To do this, click on Preview which will open your post in another window, allowing you to see what the post will look like on your profile.

While in Preview mode, be sure to check the spelling and grammar, along with the overall formatting. If you spot anything that needs to be changed simply switch back to the editing tab on your browser and make any amendments.

When you have finished writing, formatting, and editing you can then hit the Publish button. This will then publish the content on your profile and share it with your connections.

If you have content that you think your connections and colleagues would benefit from reading, then this new LinkedIn feature could prove to be useful and should be considered as a larger part of your overall content strategy.

Looking to learn more about LinkedIn and how you can leverage it in your business? Contact us today to see how we can help.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic Social Media
July 25th, 2014

VoIP_July21_CModern business communication platforms are more often than not migrating to digital solutions that are supported by an Internet connection. When looking at different solutions, many businesses come across two major solutions: VoIP and Unified Communications. The problem is, both of these can cause some confusion, especially because the idea behind both sounds so similar.

What is VoIP?

VoIP, or Voice over Internet Protocol, is a modern communication method that enables voice communication over a business's network connection. With many VoIP solutions you are able to use the same phones you do on traditional networks. You just need a small adapter that turns your voice into a digital signature that travels on top of data on your network.

VoIP is common these days because many businesses have high bandwidth Internet connections that can support it, and many solutions offer considerable cost savings compared to traditional phone lines.

What is Unified Communications?

The other main modern communication solution many business owners come across is Unified Communications (UC). This is a group of modern real-time and non-real-time communication services that provide businesses with a consistent user-interface and experience across multiple devices and platforms.

Many UC solutions include:

  • Internet telephony (VoIP)
  • Instant messaging
  • Video conferencing
  • Screen sharing
  • Call control
  • Speech recognition
  • Email
  • Voicemail
  • SMS
These solutions are often delivered via a number of programs that can be combined to look the same and interact with other systems.

One of the best examples of UC in use is the idea of a customer calling to ask a question about one of your products. They unfortunately call after business hours and decide to leave a voicemail message. After they hang up, software that powers the phone system translates the message into digital form and emails it to your marketing team. Your marketing manager receives the message, in email form, on their mobile device and is then able to call the client back.

This scenario likely happens using three different systems - voicemail, email, and VoIP - and three different programs. The thing is, these programs are all 'unified', so they work as one unit.

What's the difference between the two?

The biggest difference between the two communication concepts is the scope. Many VoIP solutions focus just on Internet-based calling, while UC focuses on company-wide communication. More times than not, the voice part of UC is powered by a VoIP platform.

That being said, many VoIP solutions offer some form of UC features like voicemail, instant messaging, and video calls.

Which option is best for my business?

This is a question businesses often ask us, and the answer is that it really depends on your company and your current situation. If you already have a traditional phone system in place in your office, and are looking just to cut your phone bills then a VoIP solution may be the best solution.

One of the biggest downsides of a UC solution is that it can require a fairly large investment; certainly larger than VoIP. If your business is operating on narrow margins you probably won't be able to implement a full UC solution all at once, instead having to implement it in steps.

Our best recommendation is that before you consider either, give us a call to learn more our solutions and how we can help your business get the right type of communication that will work for your business and budget.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic VoIP General
July 16th, 2014

AndroidTablet_July14_COne of the biggest business trends is the idea of going mobile. With the heavy adoption of devices like Android tablets, business owners are able to connect with the office from nearly anywhere. This is great news and one of the mains reasons why so many businesses are thinking about adopting Android tablets at work. For those who are, here is a brief guide on some dos and don'ts for Android in the office.

Do:

  • Use separate profiles - Tablets that use newer versions of Android (4.3 and newer) have a unique feature that is incredibly useful for business users: You can set up more than one account on the device. This means you can have a personal account and a work account on the same device without the two crossing over. Each account has their own apps and layout, which makes it perfect for the BYOD crowd.
  • Pick responsibly - Android tablets come in all shapes and sizes, and with different versions of the operating system. It is therefore a good idea to do some research before you buy one for your business. Take the time to try and identify what you will be using the device for, what features you would like, and most importantly, if the device is compatible with your existing systems. We strongly recommend going with one of the big name brands like Samsung, LG or Acer, or the Nexus line.
  • Develop a usage and management plan - Before you implement the device into your office, be sure to develop a plan on how the device is to be used and managed. Will each employee be in charge of managing their own device, or will your IT partner manage them for you? Be sure to also develop a list of approved apps, including important ones like email and messaging; and that users are familiar with how to use them.
  • Look into accessories - One common factor many businesses forget to look into when implementing Android devices is the numerous accessories available for tablets. In order to extend the life of the devices it is a good idea to get protective cases and screen covers. Also, look and see if the device you have chosen has a removable battery or SD card. If it does, you may want to invest in extra batteries and cards.

Don't

  • Skimp on security - As Android tablets become more popular, the devices are seeing an increase in malicious attacks. It would therefore a good idea to implement mandatory security measures on all devices. This includes an antivirus scanner and daily check for app updates. Also be sure to educate the staff who will be using the device on common security issues, such as how to spot fake apps, use an antivirus scanner, and how to enable secure browsing on the Web.
  • Allow third party app stores - Because of the openness of Android, you can install apps from almost any location. This has resulted in many third-party app stores (stores not run by Google) popping up. Some of these stores host any kind of app, including ones that contain malware. So, it is a good idea to just outright ban these stores; only allowing apps from Google Play to be installed on devices.
  • Force the tablet on users - Some employees won't want a tablet, preferring instead to stick with their laptop or desktop. Don't force your employees to adopt the device if you know they won't use it. This will just lead to you wasting your tech budget and to unused devices.
  • Worry about fragmentation - Yes, Android is very fragmented - devices are running different versions of Android. While this may seem like a big deal, it doesn't have to be. We recommend that when selecting tablets, pick a newer version of Android and purchase tablets using the same version. Once you get used to the tablet, the issue of fragmentation will usually disappear, especially if everyone is on the same version.
If you are looking for help selecting and managing an Android device for your office, contact us today to learn about how our services can help.
Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

July 10th, 2014

Security_July07_CA common issue many businesses face, regardless of their size, is that their computer systems and devices get progressively older and slower, unless they are constantly updated. This can frustrate some employees who may have up-to-date personal devices, so much so that they simply start to bring these devices into the office. The idea of BYOD, or Bring Your Own Device, is not all that new, but it is a growing concern and if it's not handled properly it can pose a security risk.

What should I do about BYOD?

The first reaction of many office managers and business owners, worried about security threats that could stem from BYOD, is to impose an outright ban of devices. While telling your staff they are not to use their devices for work may seem like a quick and easy solution, you can be 100% sure that there will be employees who ignore this policy and use their personal devices for work regardless.

This could put your business at a higher security risk if the rule is ignored, especially if you don't implement any security measures to protect your networks and data. In order to minimize the potential threats BYOD can expose your business to, we suggest you do the following:

1. Consider embracing BYOD

Instead of simply banning personal devices in the workplace take a step back and look to see if there are any benefits BYOD can offer. For example, if you operate on razor thin margins and have not replaced hardware in years, there is a good chance your employees will have better systems at hand. This could help you reduce your overall tech costs.

The same goes for phones for your employees. Why not offer to pay for the plan and allow employees to use their own devices? Of course, you are going to want to implement security measures and usage rules, but if this is easily achieved then it may help reduce your overall operating costs. Before you do implement a system like this however, we strongly recommend you read the rest of this article and follow the steps below.

2. Set up separate networks for employee devices

Oftentimes, the main reason employees bring their devices to the office and use them for work purposes, especially when it comes to mobile phones, is because they can happily connect to Wi-Fi for free without using their data plans throughout the day.

Chances are high that because they use the work Wi-Fi on their device for non-work tasks, they simply keep using the device when they are doing work related activities. This could pose a security risk, especially if you run business-critical operations on the same network. You could nip this potential problem in the bud and simply install another Wi-Fi network for mobile devices and non-critical business processes.

It is usually quite affordable to simply purchase another line and the networking equipment to support this, not to mention the fact that it will keep business-critical processes secure from errant malware. As an added bonus, you will likely see increased productivity because the bandwidth demand will be limited, so important data will move quicker.

3. Educate your staff about security

In our experience, the vast majority of BYOD related security risks are exposed by mistake. An employee may have a virus on a personal phone and be unaware of it. When they connect to the network it can then be unintentionally spread to other computers resulting in a potentially massive security breach.

One of the simplest ways to prevent this is to educate your employees about proper mobile safety. This includes how to spot apps that could contain malware, sharing security threat updates, and teaching your employees how to secure their devices. You really need to stress just how important security is to them.

On top of this, contact an IT expert like us for a recommended anti-virus and spyware scanner for mobile devices that users can easily install. Encourage employees to not just install this but to keep it up to date too. Many of these mobile specific scanners are free and just as powerful as desktop versions.

4. Work with an IT partner to establish a solution that works for you

Beyond education and simple network establishment, it is a great idea to work with an IT partner like us. As experts, we keep tabs on the trends and solutions related to BYOD and will work with you to establish a program that works for your company.

It may be that you don't actually need to integrate BYOD but to update hardware or software to newer versions instead. It could be that there is a simple solution to employees feeling frustrated with slow performance of existing systems at work.

If you do implement BYOD, we can help establish security measures and policies that will ensure your networks and employee devices are secure. The best advice we can give however, is to do this before you start allowing BYOD, as it can be far more challenging to implement and enforce changes when employees are already using their devices at work.

Looking to learn more? Contact us today to see how we can help.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic Security
July 3rd, 2014

AndroidTablet_June30_CAndroid, Google's mobile operating system, is one of the most popular mobile systems out there. Each year, at Google's annual I/O conference, it is expected that the company introduces the next version of Android, and at this year's conference held on June 25 and 26, the company didn't disappoint, announcing a new version of Android that will bring about some big changes.

Coming soon: A new version of Android

It's true that you can pretty much guarantee a new version of Android to be announced at I/O. This year, Google was true to form and spent the better part of the whole keynote speech talking about the upcoming changes expected with the next version of Android - Android L. Why Android L? Well, the latest version of Android to date is 4.4, codenamed: KitKat. It makes sense that the next big release of Android will start with the letter L. At this time however, it has not been assigned a dessert related name like the other versions of Android because it is still in development.

Names aside, there were a number of interesting changes talked about by the Google staff. Here are five that business users of Android devices will be interested to know about.

1. Material design - A drastic change to the UI

Practically one of the first things talked about, regarding Android L at least, was a newly designed UI or User Interface. In fact, when released, this will be the biggest change to the look of Android since the Ice Cream Sandwich update in 2011. Powering this change will be a new look Google calls material design.

Material design creates a drastically different look from existing versions of Android. This will bring a flatter design with lots of rounded elements and softer edges that will extend to all versions of Android - tablets, phones, Chromebooks, and even Google's apps themselves. From this, it appears that Google wants to extend Android to other devices and it will do so by implementing a card-based design. These cards will play a front-and-center role with Android L, and according to Google they will be able to scale to meet screen size and dimensions. This means that one app will be able to work on different devices, without the need for a specific tablet, or phone version.

From the demo of material design that Google played, the new UI looks great. It looks clean, modern, and more colorful than ever before. If you are wondering what this design will look like when it comes to apps, take a look at the latest version of the Google+ app for Android, it has already been switched over to reflect the upcoming new style from Google. Or, check out this YouTube video from Google that highlights what the material design UI will look like.

The company also showcased a number of new changes to the UI that will make Android even easier to use. One of the biggest was how the apps interacted. Using the new version, the presenter searched for a restaurant and one of the search results was to an app installed on the phone. Tapping on it opened the app, without you having to close the results, to be able to then search for the restaurant. Overall, this will be a big change in the way Android looks and interacts with other apps.

2. Improved notifications

While a drastic change to the UI is pretty big news, Google wasn't content to just redesign the look of Android. They also showcased an improved notifications function. In current versions of Android, you need to unlock your device and swipe down from the top of the screen to view your notifications which are displayed in chronological order.

In Android L, your notifications will be viewable, and actionable from your locked screen. For example, if you get a new SMS, you can read it directly from your phone's screen, without having to unlock the device and open the relevant app or notifications center.

The other big change will be to how your notifications are displayed. Google is going to take a different approach to this and instead of showing these chronologically, it will display notifications sorted by relevance and importance.

Finally, Google will fix one of the biggest annoyances with Android - if you are working in an app, say giving a presentation, and you receive a call your device will no longer close the presentation and open the phone dialer. Instead, it will show what Google calls a 'Heads Up Notification'. This is a small notice displayed on top of the app that you currently have opened. In the example shown, a game was being played when someone called. Instead of the game closing, you saw the call info hover on top of the app. You could answer, hang up or even send a quick auto-reply SMS (e.g., I am busy, will call you back later) without the current app being closed.

3. Trusted environments

Having a screen lock on your device, such as a pattern or number lock, is essential for all users. This is one of the best ways to ensure that others can't physically access your device and the data within. While screen locks are a security must, there are times when they are more of an inconvenience than anything.

Take for example during a presentation. If you are using your Android device to show a slideshow, and pause for a time on one slide, long enough for your phone's screen to switch off, it is a hassle to unlock the screen and reopen the app.

Google's fix for this is a feature which establishes a trusted environment or device e.g., an Android smartwatch or your Office Wi-Fi. When you are in range of the watch, or the Wi-Fi connection, your device will automatically be unlocked and accessible without having to enter your PIN or code.

Move out of range however, and your device will lock, requiring the PIN or swipe code to unlock. This could be a useful feature for many businesses, especially those who use Android devices on a regular basis.

4. Deeper ties with Chrome and the Web

Many Android users utilize the recent app button on a regular basis. With one tap of the button, usually located on the bottom right of your device, or by pressing the home button, you can open previous apps. With the introduction of Android L, this will also show tabs that you have open in Chrome. This could be useful, especially if you use Chrome on your desktop and want to quickly access the same page on your device.

5. Business oriented APIs

The API, or application programming interface, is an essential part of the mobile device. It is the API that specifies how different apps should work together. With Android L, Google will include some business oriented APIs, with the most important being a set that allows both personal and business data to exist on the same device, without being mixed. In other words, you will be able to use a personal device for work, likely without mixing accounts, something which the BYOD crowd should find incredibly useful.

When can we expect Android L to arrive?

As of the writing of this article, there is no set release date for Android L. During the keynote numerous mentions were made of it being released sometime in the fall. Bear in mind that this is for Nexus, Google Play, and likely new devices released just after Android L. When, or if, it will be made available for other users is unknown, but likely won't be until early next year.

In the meantime, keep reading our blog for updates. And, if you have any questions regarding Android in your business please give us a shout today.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.