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August 7th, 2014

Security_Aug05_AThese days, the security of various technology based systems is constantly being called into question. From attacks on mobile devices to ever increasing types of malware, many businesses are struggling to stay on top of their security. One of the best ways to help ensure your systems are secure is to be aware of common security issues. To that end, here are five common ways your security can be 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
August 7th, 2014

Hardware_Aug05_ALaptops are one of the most useful tools at a business owner's disposal. These highly mobile devices allow you to take your work out of the office, or even just away from your desk. However, mobile as they are they still rely on batteries. The problem with some laptops however is that batteries don't last overly long, and there may be times when you aren't near a power source and find your battery running low. If you find yourself in this situation, here are six tips that can help preserve battery life until you find a power source.

1. Adjust the brightness of your screen

A brighter screen will cause your battery life to decrease faster. If you are running low on power, try turning the brightness of the screen down as low as it can go while still remaining visible.

Many laptops, including most PCs and all Macs, have shortcuts on the keyboard that allow you to modify the brightness of your screen. On almost all laptops, screen brightness is indicated by a sun icon, and pressing the smaller sun will decrease the brightness. On most laptops you can either just press the key with the brightness labels on it to decrease the brightness, while others will require that you press the FN key and the key with the label.

2. Activate your laptop's battery saver mode

Most laptops have a built in battery management feature that allows you to enable different profiles based on how you are using the laptop. One of the more useful settings is Battery Saver or Eco Mode. These modes have been developed to help extend the battery life when your battery is running low.

When activated, they will often manually override settings like screen brightness and turn off unnecessary services or connections like BlueTooth. To activate this on PCs, you can usually click on the battery icon in the lower-right bar of the main Windows screen and select your power saving mode.

If you have a Mac, press the battery icon at the top and select Open Energy Saver Preferences. This will allow you to modify how your laptop saves energy, including when to turn the screen and hard drives off.

3. Unplug connected devices

Many USB devices you plug into your laptop like hard drives, mice, phones, etc. are actually powered by your computer. Therefore, if you are running off of the battery, you will likely see increased drain if devices are plugged in.

When you are running low on power, try unplugging devices connected by USB. This is especially important if you have plugged your mobile phone or tablet into your laptop to charge.

You should also look to make sure other connection methods like Bluetooth are off. Disconnecting devices should allow your laptop to last a bit longer.

4. Turn off keyboard backlighting

A common feature of many newer laptops is a backlit keyboard. While useful when you are in a low light situation and need to see what keys you are hitting, the backlight does use battery power and can decrease your battery life.

Most laptops allow you to turn the backlight off from the keyboard, much like the screen brightness. The location of these buttons will be different for each laptop, so be sure to consult your user manual if you can't find them.

5. Close unnecessary apps

When working on the computer, many of us will have more than one program open at the same time. Some of these programs aren't 100% necessary to the task at hand, and keeping them open will usually increase the drain on battery.

So, when your battery starts to get low, try closing apps and programs you aren't using. This is especially true for apps that require larger amounts of computer resources like Photoshop or any graphics heavy program. Closing these will give you a precious few extra minutes, or more, of power.

6. Simplify your activities

Finally, along with closing apps that you aren't using, try simplifying what you are doing. What we mean here is focus on one task. If you are writing a blog article, close everything not related to writing including communication apps like email, instant messaging, etc.

The goal here is to try and stay in the same window or program, as switching programs will increase the drain of the battery. Sure, it won't be a massive spike in battery usage, but staying in the same window or app will help increase the time you'll be able to use your laptop on battery.

If you have a laptop and are looking for ways to get more out of your battery, contact us today to see how we can help.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic Hardware
August 6th, 2014

BCP_Aug05_AMany businesses are constantly facing a potential disaster. It could be a major fire that wipes out your business, or something as simple as accidentally deleting an important spreadsheet. Regardless of the severity of the potential disaster, businesses need to be prepared and one of the best ways to prepare is to back up your data. In the first part of this article we covered four tips that can help. In this article, we take a look at the next four tips to help ensure your data is backed up.

5. Automate your backup

It can be tough to actually remember to back up your files, especially if your business is busy. Therefore, you could look into an automated backup solution. At the very least, you should set a schedule as to when backups are conducted and set what is being backed up. While this isn't a full automation, a schedule will help.

If you are using solutions like the cloud or NAS (Network Attached Storage), you can usually automate the process by selecting which files and folders to back up and when. The software that powers these solutions will then do this automatically.

Ideally, your backups should be carried out automatically to ensure your data is available should you need it. But you should check periodically to ensure that your data is actually being backed up. This is especially true if you are backing up other systems, as there have been cases where employees have become frustrated by the backup process and simply turned it off. The business owner, thinking their data was being backed up would be in for a bit of a shock when systems crashed, if this was the case.

6. Back up your backups

Redundancy of your backups is just as important as actually backing up your data. You should keep a backup of your backup in case something happens to your original backup. While this doesn't have to be carried out as often as the 'normal' backup, this should be done on a regular basis.

In order to really ensure backup redundancy we recommend that if your main backup is kept on-site, then the secondary backup should be on another storage medium that is kept off-site.

7. Don't forget data stored on non-physical drives

What we are referring to here is the data stored on different services like your email, social media, and non-physical locations. This is especially true if you say have you own servers. It's highly likely that there is data stored on these services as well, and should they go down and you haven't kept a backup, you may lose important information.

Essentially, think about critical data that is used in the company, but isn't physically kept on computers. It may feel like this is going a step too far with backups, especially for businesses who use email services like Exchange and Gmail. However, while the chances of these systems going down are incredibly rare, it could still happen. Therefore, you should conduct a monthly to bi-yearly backup just to ensure that data is there somewhere should something happen.

8. Test your backups

Finally, it is beneficial to actually test your backups from time-to-time to ensure that they are not only working but the data is actually recoverable. If you do a trial run on recovering your data, you can get a good idea of how long it will take to retrieve this information when you actually need to recover it. You can then take steps to optimize this and let the relevant people know.

Also, testing is a good way to discover any problems, e.g., if someone has disabled backups, or one solution isn't working. This will ensure that your data is there when you need it.

If you are looking to integrate a data backup solution, contact us today to see how we can help.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

August 6th, 2014

OSX_Aug05_AEarlier this year, Apple announced that they would be releasing the newest version of their popular operating system OS X. This latest version, code named Yosemite, brings a number of new features and changes and is slated to be released in the fall. Meanwhile, Apple has recently released the beta of OS X.

About AppleSeed

When developing any software, including operating systems, companies need to put each program through a series of tests. These tests, usually called Alpha and Beta tests, are usually conducted by trained bug hunters who push the program to its limits, attempting to expose things like bugs, glitches, and other problems that need to be fixed before the program release.

Over the past few years, there has been an emerging trend where developers have started to turn to users to test programs. This is actually a common practice in the video game industry which has started to take hold in the software industry as well.

The main reason behind this move is because it is usually costly to hire Alpha and Beta testers, so if you can get your customers to help test it, you save money while being able to release a generally better product. At the same time, you also get to drive interest in programs and possibly increase sales.

This year, Apple has decided to adopt this practice and has introduced the AppleSeed program. The idea behind this program is that users can sign up to beta-test future versions of Apple software. Anyone with an Apple ID can sign up for the program and if you are approved, you will be allowed to beta test upcoming software for Apple.

How to get onto the beta

One of the first programs being tested is OS X Yosemite. This year, Apple has opened the beta to one million people. If you go to the OS X Beta Program site - which is a subprogram of the AppleSeed project - you can press the Sign up button to apply to join the program. You will need to enter your Apple ID and password and then follow the steps to sign up.

If you have gotten an invite to beta test OS X Yosemite, you can go to the Beta Program site and press the Sign in button at the top-right of the page. Once you are logged in, scroll down the page and click Get OS X Yosemite Beta Redemption Code. This will give you an Apple Store code that will enable you to download the beta version. If you already have a code, try going to this page on the Beta Program site and pressing Download OS X Yosemite Beta.

This will open the Apple Store app with the activation code already implemented. Press the Redeem button and then follow the instructions that pop up to download and install the beta version.

Should my company be beta testers?

While it may seem like a cool thing to be able to get access to the next version of OS X before everyone else, there are some caveats with the program:
  1. This is a beta test. The software is not finished and some apps and programs will not work properly. You will also see bugs and glitches that you should report to Apple to fix.
  2. The final product may not look/function the same as the beta. While beta versions of software are pretty close to the finished version, there is still a chance that features and functions in the beta will change before the program is released.
  3. It is difficult to revert back to a stable release. Stable releases are a version of software that has been released to the general public for use - in this case OS X Mavericks. If you do install the beta and decide it's not working, it can be difficult to revert back to Mavericks. It may even require you to wipe your computer and start fresh.
So, taking this into account, should your business try the beta version? We strongly recommend against this. The main reason is because there is a good chance that your other systems may not be fully compatible with OS X Yosemite. The absolute last thing you want is to install the beta version of Yosemite only to find out your printers, or other business functions, don't work with the software.

If you feel that upgrading say a personal laptop is worth it, then we strongly recommend that before you do do so, take the time to back everything up. It is also worth noting that you will need OS X Mavericks installed on your laptop/desktop if you are thinking of trying OS X Yosemite out.

Should you have any questions about the upcoming version of OS X, contact us today to see how we can help. There are many ways you can upgrade and refresh our business tech without having to resort to using beta programs.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic Apple Mac OS
August 5th, 2014

HealthIT_Aug05_AAs we move toward the October 2015 compliance deadline for ICD-10, the Journal of AHIMA has tackled three misconceptions about the new coding system.

ICD-9 isn't so bad. In reality, ICD-9 is obsolete, and the longer it is in use, the more the quality of health-care data will decline, leading to faulty decisions based on inaccurate or imprecise data. This could lead to increased operating costs along with mistakes which could have a negative effect on your practice and overall billings.

More codes create confusion and difficulty. Almost half of the new codes reflect the ability to differentiate one side of a patient's body from the other. Moreover, more codes, which are more precise, will in fact make it easier to find the right code. It's true that it will take time to learn the new codes, but in the long-run you should see overall efficiency increase, along with more accurate medical records which will make your job easier.

We could just use SNOMED CT or move right to ICD-11. Terminologies such as SNOMED and classification systems such as ICD-10 different roles—albeit complementary ones. And, ICD-11 won’t be ready for prime time until 2017, and that dates marks the beginning, not the end, of the process toward adoption. Remember, ICD-10 was first used by World Health Organization members 1994—and 10 year’s later it’s just going live on a widespread basis.

If you would like to learn more about ICD-10 and how you can ensure that your practice is ready for the October 2015 deadline, contact us today to learn how we can help.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

August 4th, 2014

Client Heartbeat (https://www.clientheartbeat.com/)

Client Achievement Award
July 2014, Client Heartbeat Awards.

Certified NETS has won the Client Heartbeat “Client Achievement Award” for the Managed IT Support Provider Industry in the US.

Through an independent evaluation process that surveyed customers from Managed IT Services providers across the US, Certified NETS has placed within the top 25% for customer satisfaction. Certified NETS scored an overall rating of 8.9/10.

For this achievement, the company has been officially recognized by Client Heartbeat, a customer satisfaction tool used by businesses across the US, UK and Australia.

Topic News
August 4th, 2014

googleapps_Aug4_ATech experts and Web-based companies have been reporting for a number of years now that the number of people accessing websites on their mobile devices has been growing nearly exponentially. In an effort to better cater to mobile users, Google has recently implemented a small but potentially important change to the way mobile search results are displayed.

First, a bit of background

Earlier this year, Matt Cutts from Google indicated that the company was on track to see the number of worldwide mobile Google Search queries surpass the number of desktop-based Google Search queries. This makes sense when you take into account the fact that there are an estimated 5+ billion mobile devices in the world, and only around 2 billion computers.

What figures like this mean is that mobile devices are quickly becoming the main way people use the Internet. Think about it for a second, when you suddenly want to find out some information online, you will often not be around a computer but will almost certainly always have your mobile device at the ready.

This trend will only increase, as more people spend more online time on their mobile devices. Essentially, the more people search on Google using their mobile device the more mobile traffic is driven to websites. Chances are, the number of mobile visits to your site has been increasing. Some businesses like those in the service industry, have seen the number of mobile visits on their sites increase year-on-year.

Google's recent Search for mobile change

In early July the company announced that, "In English search results in the US, we will indicate to searchers when our algorithms detect pages that may not work on their devices." What this means is that when using Google Search on your mobile device you should see a warning message in the results list. This message will show up under the site name and address and will tell you that some page elements aren't compatible with mobile devices and therefore won't load.

For example, if you search for a restaurant and one of the pages in the results has an Adobe Flash-based site - which isn't usually supported by most mobile operating systems - you will see a warning, telling you the site may not load correctly.

What does this mean for my business's site?

The major issue here is that many businesses have sites that have been written in older programming languages, like Adobe Flash, which are no longer used by the major mobile systems. If a mobile user sees that your site won't load properly on their mobile device, there is an extremely high chance that they will ignore it. This in turn means a likely decrease in the number of page visits and potential business.

Google has noted that they will not penalize sites not catering to mobile devices by showing them lower in mobile-based search results. But you can bet that sites with code that is not understood by mobile devices will see a decrease in traffic and over time come down lower in the results.

What can my business do?

Let's face it, mobile is here to stay so it would be a good idea to ensure your site is mobile optimized - it doesn't have to be strictly mobile, but it needs to be accessible and readable on mobile devices. The first thing we recommend is to grab a mobile device - iOS or Android 4.1 and newer - and search for your site using the major search engines. When you find it, try to load the pages. If you can't load the site, or see blank pages then you need to take steps to fix that.

In other words, if your site is older than a couple of years, you may want to think about redesigning, or modernizing it. We agree that this is an investment, but if your business relies on your website it is well worth it.

Looking for help ensuring your site is mobile optimized? Contact us today to see how we can help.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

August 4th, 2014

Robyn Howes has been named to the CRN 2014 Women of the Channel list, and has been recognized as one of this year’s inaugural Power 50 Solution Providers. The annual Women of the Channel list highlights the accomplishments of female executives within vendor, distribution, and solution provider organizations, and the impact they are having on the advancement of the IT channel. The Power 50 honors an elite subset of female executives at solution provider organizations who are extending their respective company’s sphere of influence as trusted advisers. This is the 4th year she has been honored and is very grateful to be included alongside such prestigious women.

Topic News
August 4th, 2014

Seventh Annual Report Identifies World’s Top 501 Managed Service Providers

Robyn Howes, President of Certified NETS, Inc. was selected for Nine Lives Media’s seventh annual MSPmentor 501 Global Edition. This is the fourth year in a row that Certified NETS has been honored with this recognition. The global list identifies the world’s leading managed services provider (MSP) executives, entrepreneurs, experts, coaches and community leaders.

The MSPmentor 501 report is based on data from MSPmentor’s global online survey, conducted October-December 2013. The MSPmentor 501 report recognizes top managed service providers based on a range of metrics, including annual managed services revenue growth, revenue per employee, managed services offered and customer devices managed.

MSPmentor’s readership and editorial staff are uniquely positioned to identify the world’s top MSP experts. MSPmentor is the world’s leading managed services provider blog and community—and the ultimate guide to managed services.

Topic News
July 31st, 2014

WindowsPhone_July28_AOne of the biggest trends when it comes to mobile devices, is the increasing integration of smartphones into every part of our lives. Many developers are looking at ways to essentially turn the phone from a device you interact with into a device that is really an extension of yourself. The way they are doing this is by introducing apps that allow you to interact with your phone. Google has Google Now, Apple has Siri, and earlier this year, Microsoft introduced Cortana.

What is Cortana?

If you're a video game aficionado then you will likely know that Cortana is the Artificial Intelligence character from the immensely popular Halo series. In early 2014, Microsoft announced that they were working on a personal assistant program for the mobile version of Windows 8.1 and Cortana was created.

The idea behind Cortana is that you use it as your personal assistant. When you want to know the answer to a query, simply ask and your ever-helpful PA will find the answer for you. As you use your phone and interact with the app, it will learn what you like and your interests and keep you informed about these preferences. You can even use it to place calls, check-out the weather, set reminders, and more.

The Cortana personal assistant has been released for all US users of devices running Windows 8.1 and worldwide users should be getting it by early 2015.

On a side note: One interesting tie-in with the app is that the voice of the Cortana app on your Windows 8.1 device is actually the same voice as Cortana from Halo! We guess that this is Microsoft's way of telling us that the Cortana app is much like the full-on Artificial Intelligence from Halo.

How to use Cortana

Before you start using Cortana, you should first enable it. This can be done by:
  1. Swiping to the left on your phone to open the app drawer and selecting Settings.
  2. Swiping over to Applications.
  3. Selecting Cortana.
  4. Sliding the bar at the top of the screen from Off to On.
Once you enable Cortana, you should see a tile placed on your home screen. Tapping the tile will open the app, or you can press and hold the Search button at the bottom right of your device. When the app is open, simply press the microphone icon at the bottom to interact with your device.

You can tailor the information and interests Cortana has access to by pressing the Notebook button at the top-right side of the app. Once you have set a few interests and have used the app for a short while you should start to notice more relevant information being displayed.

Recent updates

Microsoft has noted that they will be releasing updates to Cortana every few weeks and some of the latest include features that make the app much more useful. The latest big update announced two new features:
  • Nearby places - Cortana will now recommend places to go to nearby. Using data from apps like FourSquare, you will now be able to discover the best places nearby that are new, popular or have lots of buzz.
  • Local apps - If you enable this, you will get suggestions for apps that are relevant to your location. For example, if you go to Seattle you will get a list of recommended apps like maps, transit, etc.
These new features should be available now. To ensure that they are:
  1. Open Cortana.
  2. Tap on Menu (three bars at the top-right).
  3. Select Interests followed by Discover.
Looking to learn more about using Cortana or the Windows Phone in your office? Contact us today.
Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.