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End-Users and the Weather

I want to start with an IT Joke: Q: How is an end-user like the weather? A: Everybody complains about them but nobody does anything about them.   Simply put, end-users are the biggest hole in most security systems. Security breaches are rarely the result of some elite hacker exploiting a tiny hole the size […]

I want to start with an IT Joke:

Q: How is an end-user like the weather?

A: Everybody complains about them but nobody does anything about them.

 

Simply put, end-users are the biggest hole in most security systems. Security breaches are rarely the result of some elite hacker exploiting a tiny hole the size of a thermal exhaust port on the Deathstar. It’s far more likely that an employee clicked on a link in a suspicious email and invited the hacker inside.

Security professionals have known this forever but have rarely done much about it. Plenty of companies have no training program at all. Only slightly better is “herd your users once a year into the break room, keep them awake with coffee and donuts, and give them a “death by PowerPoint” awareness update.” This means users continue to choose bad passwords, install sketchy apps, and sometimes open phishing emails that expose their computers and the whole company’s network to an attack. This last method was the way a recent big attack (WannaCry) got into various systems.

At Newplan, we have begun helping our clients secure the weakest link in their IT security–their users–with an innovative new solution being provided by a company called Knowbe4. Using the same social engineering techniques the criminals use, Knowbe4 phishes end-users. When users open emails they shouldn’t and click on links they shouldn’t, the system can direct them to a website warning them of risky behavior and also direct them to training videos. Moreover, the system produces reports of how the various users behaved allowing the appropriate department (IT or HR most likely) to address the issue.

The reason nobody does anything about the weather is because they can’t. For a long time many IT professionals have treated end-users the same way. They don’t have to anymore.

If you’re looking to improve your company’s IT security, contact us today for a free consultation.

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Everything You Always Wanted to Know about Email but Were Afraid to Ask

But how does it work? And how can knowing how it works allow you to better use it? I hope by the time you are finished reading those questions will be answered. Have you ever wondered what happens when you are sent an email and all your computers, smart phones and tablets are off? Where […]

But how does it work? And how can knowing how it works allow you to better use it? I hope by the time you are finished reading those questions will be answered.

Have you ever wondered what happens when you are sent an email and all your computers, smart phones and tablets are off? Where does it go? The answer to that question depends on your particular email system but generally can be boiled down to two places. Either it goes to the cloud (which I will explain shortly) or it goes to a local mail server (which I will also explain shortly). If your email address is email.address@gmail.com, emails sent to you will land at a server (a fancy name for a computer) somewhere in the world where Google has decided it wants to have servers. It also gets copied to additional servers in case a disaster should destroy a data center (a fancy name for a place with lots of servers). The same is true of Hotmail, AOL, and any other large, reputable email provider. This is what people are talking about when they talk about the cloud. The other possibility is that your company hosts its own mail server. This would mean that in a server closet somewhere in your office is a server that is always on and receiving email. These systems rarely have the redundancies that the big providers do, but they also have some advantages, the most obvious one being the ability to add new users for free.

When you turn on your computer or smart phone or tablet, the device reaches out for the mail server (whether Google is hosting it or you are hosting it yourself) and asks for any new mail that may have been sent. It then updates the device with the new messages. Depending on the specific system, it may or may not leave a copy on the server, but if you have ever experienced an issue where you only get a single copy of an email (if it is on your phone then it isn’t on your computer or if on computer not on phone) then you have a system that is not keeping a copy and should be fixed (unless you like that sort of thing).

Imagine for a moment that it is the day after Hurricane Sandy. Your office is in downtown Manhattan, there is no power to your building, and you are hosting your own mail server. What happens when someone tries to send you an email? The answer is it bounces back to the sender because your server is offline (the power is down). If your mail were being hosted by Google, emails would still come through. That means your phone and your home computer would be available as a stopgap until the blackout was fixed.

Conversely, imagine your office of 300 users’ Internet line failed and you are hosting your own email server. While no incoming mail from outside the office will get through, those three hundred employees will all be able to communicate with each other. If you were being hosted by Google, others would see your email as up but you would have no access to the emails nor be able to send internal ones.
Lastly, let’s talk about cost. An email address will cost you around $5 per user per month at a cloud service provider. An email server will cost you $5,000 and ongoing maintenance costs of about $200 a month. While there are outlier cases where one might want an in-house server even at a smaller company, I would s

 

uggest that if you have less than 100 users you should almost certainly outsource your email. Which service to use is a question that I could write an entire article on, but for now I will suggest that you narrow your choices to Office 365 and Gmail. Of the two, I find Office the more elegant interface, but both provide top quality services at reasonable prices.

While I have tried to touch on the basics, as always, there is a lot I can’t fit into a blog post. If you have additional questions that weren’t answered, we’ll be happy to answer them!

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If You Don’t Change Your Ringtone, We’ll Kill This Dog

The world is filled with problems and annoyances, big and little, that we cannot control. Natural disasters like earthquakes and hurricanes happen. So do MTA delays and the Mets. So it seems particularly strange when we don’t fix the problems we can. Who has been in the following situation? You are standing in a crowded […]

The world is filled with problems and annoyances, big and little, that we cannot control. Natural disasters like earthquakes and hurricanes happen. So do MTA delays and the Mets. So it seems particularly strange when we don’t fix the problems we can.

Who has been in the following situation?

You are standing in a crowded room when a cellphone rings. Suddenly twenty people all reach for their pockets to see if it is for them. Ten seconds later nineteen people put away their phones.
I sincerely hope that if you have been in that situation you weren’t one of the twenty people.

Modern phones make it easy to change your default ringtone. If you want to be lazy, you can change to one of the included ringtones. Even making that small change makes it far less likely that yours will match another phone ringing nearby, meaning that you will have to reach for your phone far less often. If you are more adventurous, you can use a sound clip from a song or other audio file to completely personalize your phone. I use a clip from a band called The English Beat. The odds that someone else is using the same clip are minuscule.

Diving into the deep end of the pool, you can customize the rings for various contacts. I use the song Mother and Child Reunion for my mother, Crazy Little Thing Called Love for my wife (that will get you extra brownie points) etc. Now when my phone rings, I know who is calling before I even reach into my pocket.

It’s funny. When I first discovered the custom ringtones feature, I thought it was goofy, a vanity plate for your phone. I was wrong. Custom ringtones are one of the simplest productivity tools available, and not enough people are using them. Change your ringtone and there will be one less. Here are two links with instructions for changing ringtones on iPhones and Android phones.

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Why You Should Move Your Company’s Files To The Cloud

As the cost of storage continues to decline, the viability of moving your business’s files and documents to the cloud increases. Storage costs that were once hundreds or thousands of dollars a month can now be had for less than $20. This decline in cost means that even small companies with heavy data requirements like […]

As the cost of storage continues to decline, the viability of moving your business’s files and documents to the cloud increases. Storage costs that were once hundreds or thousands of dollars a month can now be had for less than $20. This decline in cost means that even small companies with heavy data requirements like video production companies can move their files to the cloud in a cost effective manner.

 

The Benefits of Cloud Storage

There are numerous benefits to moving your company’s files to the cloud. One of the biggest advantages is that the likelihood of your data being lost is near zero. Big companies that offer cloud storage solutions have multi-redundant systems, so your data is far less likely to be lost than if you were storing it locally.

Another important benefit is the ability to access your company files from any device anywhere in the world. With remote work more common than ever, being able to access important company files from the road or at home is vital. You are also able to manage permissions so that your sales team can access sales documents, your marketing team can access marketing materials, and every other team can access only the files that are relevant to them.

Cloud Storage Options

A wide range of players exist in the cloud storage space, and most major tech companies offer some version of cloud storage. The biggest options include Microsoft’s OneDrive, Google Drive, Box, and Dropbox. There are advantages and disadvantages to each option, and it is important to find the solution that fits best with your current business operations. Businesses that run on Google Apps, for example, should opt for Google Drive.

The Drawbacks of Cloud Storage

While the benefits to using cloud storage are extensive, there are some drawbacks to consider. One issue is that migrating your company’s file system to the cloud will require an upfront time investment both in terms of moving files over and organizing them, but also getting users setup, teaching them how to use the system, and ensuring each person has the appropriate permissions.

Another potential drawback is security. Your cloud storage is only as secure as the least secure password & user. An administrator whose account is compromised can endanger all the files on the system, so making sure strong security protocols are in place is imperative.

Using cloud storage for your business’s files is a net positive allowing your team members to be able to access what they need, when they need it, where they need it, and protecting your data from loss. While the setup can be time intensive, the long-term efficiency gains more than make up for that investment.

If you’d like to explore moving your business over to cloud storage, contact us today for a free consultation.

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