How to get your business ready for the future of IT (part 2)

In our first digital transformation post, we talked about the basics of digital transformation…what it means, how you prepare for it and the importance of a strong and secure infrastructure. If you missed that article, click here to read it.

In this post, we’ll talk about how the role of IT in business has changed over time and how your business approach can change along with it.

The IT Management Pyramid

The pyramid below describes the efficacy of your IT strategy as it improves and develops on the way to Digital Transformation. The goal is to move up the pyramid! The idea is to be continually thinking about how you use IT, the role of IT in business strategy, and where your IT is focused. Each tier of the pyramid is explained more fully below, along with the limitations and benefits of each stage as your business develops its IT strategy. Read more

Important Information About A Serious Security Risk

Over the last week, we have seen an increasing number of email scams. The way these are constructed makes them impossible to fully prevent (even with all of our proactive monitoring and safeguards) and, as a result, it is critical that we all take note of these important reminders:

  1. Don’t respond to emails asking for your information
    • Legitimate sources will not randomly send you an email to confirm your username/password or any personal information.  As a result, never respond to any random emails asking for this information, even if it appears to be from a trusted source such as a bank, the IRS, UPS, Microsoft 365, etc.
  2. Confirm the source
    • Never open any email attachments or click on links that you were not expecting, even if it appears to be coming from someone you know. If you get a random email with a link or an attachment you weren’t expecting, pick up the phone and call the source to confirm.
  3. Trust your gut
    • If something looks suspicious or out of place, verify the source or open a ticket with your IT help desk.  NOTE: Never verify a suspicious email by asking in a direct reply, criminals often monitor the replies and will respond to appear legitimate.
  4. Don’t send money
    • Ignore all emails coming out of nowhere requesting immediate payment, or funds transfers. If you get a request, particularly a random email purporting to come from someone within your company, take the time to contact them via phone to confirm. There is currently an uptick in people using publicly available information to pull off these “phishing” scams
  5. Check The “From” address details
    • Look at the “From” address on all emails. Scammers/malicious actors can use a Gmail, Yahoo or another freely available email service to create an email account and put a trusted name in the display name. This can easily be spotted by looking at the “from” address. For example, the from field could look like “Jane Doe jdoe@companyname.com (jeat8080@gmail.com)” – an attempt to look like it’s coming from Jane, but is really from the randomly named Gmail account in the header.  IGNORE these emails.

In summary – be careful, cautious, and smart to keep you and your computer network safe and secure.

Have a question about cyber security?

Looking for help assessing and improving your current network security? We are happy to help – give us a call (860.656.9110) or send in a request to talk by clicking here.

person looking at Office 365 on a mobile device

3 Benefits of Having Office 365 Support

Remember the first time you used Microsoft Word to create a document? How about your first PowerPoint with a ton of clip art? Microsoft Office isn’t that simple anymore, but it also makes your life easier if you know how to use it. If you’re struggling your way through the powerful software, let a managed service provider (MSP) help. Here are three benefits of having Office 365 support:

24/7 Office 365 Support

How many times have you intended to complete your work during regular hours but time got away from you? When you start to crank the midnight oil, but something goes wrong, a quick call to a customer service line will end with you learning about their hours of operation.

You might have installed the latest version of PowerPoint before leaving work, but if it crashes every time you open it, you might not be prepared for your presentation the next day. Without the help of a professional, you could spend hours searching for solutions that don’t even work. With an MSP, hours can turn into minutes.

An MSP knows how valuable the Office Suite is to your success, and 24/7 software support is one of the many services they include.

Expedited Office 365 Support

The alternative to having an MSP available to provide Office 365 support include you or Microsoft’s help line. As mentioned above, if it’s after hours, then you’re all on your own. But even if something goes wrong during your working hours, it’s still cutting into your productivity.

A quick call to your MSP will get you in touch with a real person who can provide the fastest solutions possible.

Increased Efficiency

If you’re still using Office applications like you did in the ‘90s, you might not know any better. But if an MSP sells you an Office 365 subscription, it’s their job to inform you of all the software’s benefits. Office 365 is no longer a couple of applications. It’s a powerhouse suite of tools to streamline your company’s workflow. From serving as your business’ inbox and calendar to cloud-based storage, Office 365 is a world of possibilities to explore. Let your MSP be your guide.

At IT Direct, we’ve studied every inch of Office 365 and can help you leverage the software to increase your business’ productivity.

Take advantage of Office 365!

Follow the futuristic interior space station toward your business growth.

5 Business Growth Secrets from Emperor Palpatine

Emperor Palpatine, the supreme ruler of the most powerful, tyrannical regime the galaxy has ever witnessed might seem a little brash, but he is nothing short of ambitious. Although Emperor Palpatine might lack in charisma, he is able to balance out his skills with candor. Palpatine’s directness led to his widespread appeal throughout the senate and granted him the ability to abolish the Imperial Senate. Emperor Palpatine has five business secrets that could help your business experience greater growth and success.

SURRENDER TO YOUR BUSINESS GROWTH

The power of the force is with you, if you choose the light or the dark side, give you whole heart to your business. In the words of Sheev Palpatine, “The dark side of the Force is a pathway to many abilities some consider to be unnatural.” Passion will keep you motivated as you go down the path of success and overall help you trust that you’re pursuing the right course of action.

PRACTICE, PRACTICE, PRACTICE

One cannot conquer the force without practice. The sith’s hunger for conquest and control is learned through the teaching of legendary masters who have shaped the struggle between light and dark.

GET A GUIDE

Trust those you choose to become partners with. Allow them to help you build a plan of action that encompasses wise time management, money, and resource management. Business partners are meant to solidify customer and employee loyalty through recognition, appreciation, and can work together towards achieving long term business growth.

VISUALIZE THE BUSINESS GROWTH

Not everyone is trying to become a mastermind of an evil empire, but Palpatine clearly understands what it takes to achieve success. Visualize the end goals you wish to achieve as your business continues to make headway.

PLAY THE EDGE

Be ambitious. Although Darth Sidious (Emperor Palpatine) used his position to manipulate galactic events to his own manipulative design, don’t use your role for evil. Take his execution and transform it in a positive light. You can become more competitive by studying the ongoing transitions that are happening within your market.
If you have any questions on how to be successful with your business growth or implement IT support services – Contact Us Today.  

Best Password Security Practices

The Guide to Password Security
(and Why You Should Care)

Find out how your password security can be compromised, and
how to create and manage secure passwords.

 

Passwords — especially those not supported by two-step verification — are your last lines of defense against prying eyes. This guide will help you understand how those passwords are exposed, and what you can do to keep them locked down.

HOW ARE PASSWORDS EXPOSED?

Before we dive into the how-tos of creating secure passwords, it’s important to understand why you need a supersecure password to begin with. After all, you might be thinking, “Who would want to hack my accounts?”

There are a few ways your account passwords can be compromised.

1. Someone’s out to get you. There are many people who might want to take a peek into your personal life. If these people know you well, they might be able to guess your e-mail password and use password recovery options to access your other accounts.

2. You become the victim of a brute-force attack. Whether a hacker attempts to access a group of user accounts or just yours, brute-force attacks are the go-to strategy for cracking passwords. These attacks work by systematically checking all possible passphrases until the correct one is found. If the hacker already has an idea of the guidelines used to create the password, this process becomes easier to execute.

3. There’s a data breach. Every few months it seems another huge company reports a hacking resulting in millions of people’s account information being compromised. And with the recent Heartbleed bug, many popular websites were affected directly.

WHAT MAKES A GOOD PASSWORD?

Although data breaches are out of your control, it’s still imperative to create passwords that can withstand brute-force attacks and relentless frenemies. Avoiding both types of attacks is dependent on the complexity of your password.

Ideally, each of your passwords would be at least 16 characters, and contain a combination of numbers, symbols, uppercase letters, lowercase letters, and spaces. The password would be free of repetition, dictionary words, usernames, pronouns, IDs, and any other predefined number or letter sequences.

Related Tutorials

Mastering the art of passwords

The 10 password commandments

How to check password strength

The security-savvy community evaluates password strength in terms of “bits,” where the higher the bits, the stronger the password. An 80-bit password is more secure than a 30-bit password, and has a complex combination of the aforementioned characters. As a result, an 80-bit password would take years longer to crack than a 30-bit password.

Ideal passwords, however, are a huge inconvenience. How can we be expected to remember 80-bit (12-character) passwords for each of our various Web accounts? That’s where many people turn to password managers like LastPass, Dashlane and 1Password.

KEEPING TRACK OF SECURE PASSWORDS

If you follow one of the most important commandments of passwords, you know that you absolutely must have a unique password for every service you use. The logic is simple: if you recycle the same password (or a variation of it), and a hacker cracks one account, he or she will be able to access the rest of your accounts.

Obviously, you can’t be expected to memorize dozens of complicated, 16-character-long passwords.

This guide thoroughly explores the different options for managing your passwords, including things like storing them on a USB drive, and even writing them down. Although it’s ultimately up to you, he presents a strong argument for using the ol’ sticky note method.

Using a Password Manager

Password managers store all of your passwords for you and fill out your log-in forms so that you don’t have to do any memorizing. If you want supersecure passwords for your online accounts (which is recommended), but you don’t want to memorize them all (also recommended), this is the way to go.

There are many options available, but a few crowd favorites are LastPass, Dashlane and 1Password. All three password managers essentially work the same way. There is a desktop program (or mobile app), which you’ll use to manage your passwords. Then, there’s a browser extension that automatically logs you into accounts as you browse the Web.

If you haven’t yet started using one, let me preemptively say: you’re welcome. Password managers are huge headache-savers, and you’ll wonder how you ever commanded the Web without one.

The tiny caveat is that you’ll still have to memorize one thing: Your master password. This unlocks all your other passwords. Make your master password extra-secure by composing it of at least 12 characters to ensure that it’s not vulnerable to any brute-force attacks. LastPass and other password managers like Dashlane and 1Password also have mobile apps, so you can easily access your passwords when you’re signing into accounts on your phone or tablet.

It’s worth noting, however, that just like any software, password managers are vulnerable to security breaches. In 2011, LastPass experienced a security breach, but users with strong master passwords were not affected.

 

Author Information

Sharon Profis (@sharonprofis)

January 1, 2016

Via CNET

 

April 2016 Tech Tips – Spring Cleaning for Your PC!

Here are your Tech Tips for the month of April to help you be more productive. As always, reach out anytime! We are here to help.

Springtime is here! While doing your Spring cleaning this season, don’t forget to include your PC. Many would be surprised to see the amount of dust and dirt that your computer can acquire in one year, as well as the long-term effects if ignored. Here are a few tips for polishing up your PC’s hardware:

  • Your hands are all over your keyboard and mouse all day, so it’s inevitable for them to harvest germs. Before cleaning your keyboard and mouse make sure that they are unplugged, and be sure to remove the batteries if they are wireless. Your keyboard has many small cracks and crevices, so before cleaning it, it is always a good idea to turn it upside down and attempt to shake out any debris. A can of compressed air can also be helpful for getting those hard to reach places in your keyboard. Following this, both devices can be cleaned with disinfectant wipes, and then dried with a microfiber cloth to polish.
  • You may not realize it, but your monitors are extremely sensitive. While cleaning your monitor screen, never use a purely alcohol-based product, as this can potentially strip some of the monitor’s coating. To avoid causing scratches on the screen, never use a standard cloth or paper towel while cleaning – always use a microfiber cloth.
  • Cleaning out the internal hardware of your computer is just as important as cleaning out the external, and it’s easier than you think. It is recommended to clean the dust out of your tower, primarily your fan, at least once every eight months using a can of compressed air. To do this, first make sure your computer is off and has had plenty of time to cool down. Next find an open, well-ventilated space for yourself, and gently open the tower casing. Using short, strong pumps of air, blow the dust off of your hardware. While cleaning your fan, be sure to hold it in place to avoid damage from spinning it the wrong way.

We hope with these tips, you won’t run from your PC Spring cleaning, and will have it looking like new in no time! The more effort you put into loving your computer, the more it will love you back!

Please feel free to contact us if you have any questions!
 

January 2016 Tech Tips – New Year, New Passwords!

Here are your Tech Tips for the month of January to help you be more productive. As always, reach out anytime! We are here to help. 

It’s a new year, time to re-vamp things! Why not make strengthening your online security a priority? As cyber-criminal activity evolves at the same rate as our technology, it is never a bad idea to change up your passwords. Below we have highlighted the most important things to keep in mind when updating your passwords, and maintaining your security: 

  • Never give your password to anyone. One of the best things about a brand new password, is the peace of mind in knowing that only you have it.
  • Use a minimum of 8-12 characters, and be sure to include numbers, symbols, and capital letters.
  • Don’t fall for phishing attacks! Be extremely cautious before clicking on a link that asks you to log in, change your password, or provide any other personal information.
  • Use multi-factor authentication when it is available. Many websites offer an option that requires you to further verify your identity after logging in from an unrecognized device.
  • Don’t use one password for everything!
  • Utilize a password manager. Keeping track of multiple passwords can get confusing, using a secure password manager is a great solution for this problem. Check out some of the best ones currently on the market, here.

These are some of the most basic, yet important, tips to remember for staying safe and creating new passwords. For more, check out what TIME Magazine has deemed as the top 25 worst and most commonly used passwords of 2015, here.

Please feel free to contact us if you have any questions! 

 

December 2015 Tech Tips – Outlook Calendar Tricks

Here are your Tech Tips for the month of December to help you be more productive! As always, reach out anytime! We are here to help.

Your Microsoft Outlook Calendar; it stresses you out, yet you can’t live without it. Before entering a new year, take a look at these incredibly handy tips and shortcuts for your Outlook Calendar, and take one step closer to making 2016 your most productive year yet!

 

Opening the Calendar in a New Window
    Sometimes bouncing back and forth between the Mail and Calendar tabs can get                   repetitive and frustrating, especially when making an entry on the calendar. To open the     calendar in a separate window, hold down the Shift Key and right-click on the Calendar       tab.
    

     Dragging & Dropping
     You most likely already know that you can rearrange things on your Outlook Calendar          by dragging and dropping. What you may not know, is that while using multiple                    windows (using tip above) you have the ability to drag items from your Inbox to your            Calendar, which will then auto-schedule an appointment using the information in the           subject and body of the email.

Color Categorizing
Adding color categories to calendar appointments allows you to scan, search, and                  visually associate similar items with total ease – AND it makes your calendar easy on the      eyes! Once your categories are set up, simply click on the Categorize button when
     scheduling an appointment, and select which category you would like to use.
     

We hope you’ll welcome the New Year with your most tech-savvy foot forward, and that these tips for using your Outlook Calendar will aid you in making 2016 one of your most efficient years!

Please feel free to contact us if you have any questions!

November 2015 Tech Tips – Creating an Outlook Contact Group

Here’s your quick Tech Tip for the month of November to help you be more productive. As always, reach out anytime! We are here to help.

Microsoft Outlook is by far the most widely-used business email program. With countless features and customization capabilities, Outlook provides everything needed for high efficiency. One Outlook tool that is frequently used in our office, is the ability to create Contact Groups/Distribution Lists. Creating a Contact Group can be done in a matter of minutes, and can save you worlds of time when trying to send emails to specific sets of contacts. In order to create one in Outlook 2013, use the following instructions:

 

On the Navigation Bar, select “People
z

Under “My Contacts“, select where you would like to add the group (“Contacts” is            usually pre-selected)

Under “Home“, select “New Contact Group

Type the name you would like to choose for the group in the “Name” bar

Click the “Add Members” icon
c

From here, you will be prompted to select which of your Outlook contacts you would            like to add to this group

 

Using a Contact Group/Distribution list makes sending team emails simple, and ensures that no one is forgotten! For a quick refresher on how to send an email to a Contact Group, click here.

Please feel free to contact us if you have any questions!

 

 

October 2015 Tech Tips – What to do with that Windows Key?!

Here’s your quick Tech Tip for the month of October to help you be more productive. As always, reach out anytime! We are here to help.

The Windows Key – the key to unlocking many useful, hidden tricks in Microsoft Windows. Disguised with a flag icon, and banished to the lower corners of your keyboard, this button is often under-utilized considering the helpful shortcuts it can provide. We’ve highlighted the best Windows Key shortcuts below, as well as which version of Windows is required for each:

 

Windows 7 & Up
Win + D: Hides all windows, hit again to restore
Win + E: Opens Windows Explorer
Win + R: Opens the Run window
Win + L: Locks the Desktop
Win + Up: Maximizes current window
Win + Down: Minimizes current window
Win + Left: Docks current window to the left
Win + Right: Docks current window to the right
Win + #: Switches to the corresponding program in taskbar

Windows 10
Win + A: Opens the Action Center
Win + C: Activates Cortana listening mode
Win + I: Opens the Settings tab
Win + Tab: Opens the Task View, shows all open programs, allowing an easy switch

 

We hope you’ll find these shortcuts helpful! Please feel free to contact us if you have any questions!