You may not be storing military secrets or running a billion-dollar empire, but your business is still an attractive target for hackers. You need a firewall - a guard standing at the door of your network to stop the bad guys from getting in while still letting your staff come and go without interruption.
A surprising number of businesses are operating without a firewall, or with one unsuitable to the requirements of a business network. For most, it’s a risk they don’t know they’re taking because they assume all systems have built-in protections. Unfortunately, by the time the lack is discovered, it’s far too late.
A firewall is actually a special type of hardware or software that acts as a protective shield between the computers on your network and assorted cyber dangers. Data is constantly passed through at lightning fast speeds, invisible to the user experience.
Filtering: A strong firewall actively looks for known viruses, phishing emails and spam, and then blocks them before they can get in the door. Its internal knowledge of threats is updated regularly and search patterns quickly adjusted. Business firewalls also monitor data in both directions. When a computer goes online, all the data coming in and out is inspected to see whether it’s safe or not. If it doesn’t pass the test, the firewall instantly blocks it and records the details in a log.
Performance: You can use your firewall to set network traffic priorities. For example, it can make sure a Skype call gets all the resources it needs to allow for flawless video and voice quality, while someone watching YouTube videos at the same time will receive reduced resources. Rules can be set to allow certain applications to be treated as a higher priority than others, certain departments or even users. You can tailor your network performance to meet your unique business needs.
Management: Business firewalls allow you to see who’s doing what and when over your network. You can create rules for specific users, devices and times. For example, you might allow your employees to access Facebook during lunch breaks only, while at the same time keeping it completely unblocked for you or your marketing team. Thorough logs are kept automatically and can be used to troubleshoot problems. For example, your firewall logs might show that a computer inside your network connects to a third world country at 3am each night, which would certainly be worth investigating.
Connection: A strong firewall allows your remote workforce to access your servers with ease and security, while at the same time keeping cyber-attacks out. Remote work arrangements are growing in popularity and necessity, often requiring server access at a moment’s notice. You can set your firewall to authenticate the identity of users before allowing access, and create a virtual private network (VPN) that keeps any transferred data safe from interception.
We can install, configure and manage your business firewall - Call us at 262-515-9499 to start protecting your business today.
You’ll know if you’re a victim of ransomware. Often you’re met with a red screen telling you your business files are encrypted. You won’t be able to do anything on the computer, although the cybercriminals will provide helpful instructions for how to pay up. How nice. Here’s what to do instead if you’re the victim of a ransomware attack.
It’s pretty obvious when your computer is already broken, but how do you know when it’s about to break? Even before it falls into a heap and refuses to turn on, or flashes big messages about how your files are now encrypted, you’ll be given multiple hints that something is wrong. Here are the common signs your computer needs repair, sooner rather than later.
1. It’s running slow. Most people assume their computer is running slow because it’s getting older, but it could actually be a variety of reasons. A program behaving badly, a virus, overheating or even a failing hard drive can all cause a massive slow down. You might only notice it when booting up or starting a program, or the problem may have taken hold to the extent that even moving your mouse becomes torture. Sometimes the slow speed is simply due to some newer software that your hardware can’t keep up with.
2. Your system is running hot. A very common sign with laptops, running hot can be both the sign and cause of damage. Computers have fans to blow out hot air so they can cool off their internal components. At the same time, fresh air is drawn in through vents to create an effective cooling system. Unfortunately, just about every vent in a computer can quickly become clogged with dust and pet fur, essentially choking off the circulation and leaving components to overheat. Desktop computers have more space inside to circulate air, but you’ll still need to keep their vents clear. You’ll know your computer running too hot if your system shuts down frequently (safety cutout), the fan is working serious overtime, or your laptop is too hot to use on your lap.
3. Blue Screens of Death are everywhere. A classic Windows error, this is quite literally a blue screen that covers your view. The system will still be running, but something has gone wrong. You’ll be shown some text and an error code, often with Windows suggesting a restart. If a restart fixes your problem, perhaps something didn’t load properly at bootup and your computer had a whoopsie. It’s rare, but it happens. If you’re getting blue screens all the time though, that’s a sign a hardware or software problem needs to be resolved. Your computer will continue to give blue screen errors more and more frequently, so it’s best to take action as soon as you know something’s wrong.
4. It’s making strange noises. Your computer has a number of moving parts. You’ll know by now which noises it normally makes, from the startup beep to the whirring fan. When your computers starts to make extra noises...that’s when things get interesting. Fans can wear down and screech or grind, hard drives can start clicking, and in emergency cases, you might even hear a zapping noise. None of those are good! Whenever you notice a strange noise, remember your computer parts are all designed to work together and one problem could quickly become many if left unchecked.
5. It crashes and freezes. If your computer is crashing randomly, restarting without you, or freezing up completely, it’s a sure sign there’s a problem. As annoying as it might be, your computer isn’t doing this to drive you crazy - it just feels that way! You might notice it’s showing other signs from this list too because crashing and freezing are what happens when something isn’t just wrong, it’s terribly wrong. The problem could be almost anything, hardware and software both, but it’s always fixable. This is simply your computer’s final way of crying out for repair, desperately trying to get your attention and a little TLC.
Is your computer doing these things? Let us fix it for you. Call us at 262-515-9499.
There are many acronyms in the IT world. Two common ones are SaaS and MSP, which stand for software-as-a-service and managed service provider, respectively. The bigger question is what the differences are between these two and why you would need one or the other. Here’s help.
Your business may already be relying on SaaS. Some of the more widely used platforms include:
SaaS companies are booming. Businesses are relying more and more on these technologies, and SaaS spending has grown 50% in two years. Why?
Software as a Service provides customers with convenience. The companies develop, manage, and update a product to support teams such as marketing, sales, or customer service. The SaaS platform will promise greater efficiency, improved productivity, increased transparency, and more. These tools automate and streamline processes to drive revenue.
Customers typically pay for a cloud-based subscription fee. In return, they get lower-cost services, reduced time to implementation, and scalability.
What’s an MSP?
Managed services supports software, as well as your networking and hardware infrastructure. The MSP has human experts to install software, upgrade hardware, patch systems, and track security. The MSP provides all-around support for the business’s technology. This third-party firm gets to know you to help keep your business competitive.
The MSP tackles all sorts of tasks behind the scenes for your business. When your business outsources its IT to an MSP, you gain efficiencies and expertise. You are not giving up control but adding a partner to focus on time-consuming, complicated, and repetitive tasks. Meanwhile, your people can concentrate on driving innovation and generating revenue.
Businesses reap many rewards from working with an MSP. These experts can often find cost savings. Most MSPs charge a predictable monthly fee that’s easy to budget around. The enhanced expertise can also help ensure security and compliance. The MSP will also have the know-how to recommend the tools your business can enjoy most.
It doesn’t have to be either-or
Understand that you don’t have to choose between SaaS and an MSP – the two work well together.
MSPs can help you deploy and get the most out of your SaaS. In fact, an MSP can make sure your SaaS solutions work well together. They can help identify features on one platform that you’re not using. This could lead to you dropping an underutilized subscription to another SaaS.
Going on your own with SaaS means relying on each company’s IT support or asking your own in-house IT people to get to know the ins and outs of many different platforms. When you have an MSP, you pay that single provider for help instead of having to spend on tech support for each SaaS. Also, if you have a security issue, the MSP will alert you and act to cut the damage and repair the problem. The SaaS manufacturer doesn’t have the same responsibility.
Before you even get SaaS, the MSP can help guide your purchase. Your business may think it needs Slack because everyone else seems to be using it. But if you already have Teams, that could be unnecessary. The MSP learns about your business and how you work to help determine what SaaS's are right for you.
The latest-and-greatest SaaS will come and go. Your MSP can remain the same as your business changes and evolves. Providing continuity of service, they will keep an eye out for the new SaaS you can adopt. The SaaS company wants to grow its customer base and evolve its platform, and the MSP’s job is to help your business succeed, with or without SaaS.
Contact us at 262-515-9499 today to enjoy the many benefits of working with an MSP.
Most technology you buy in stores comes with a warranty of some sort. It might be included or an add-on. Still, it is unlikely to last the lifetime of the device or software, and it seems inevitable that your desktop will die immediately after the warranty runs out. Don’t worry, you still have options.
Murphy’s Law of warranty says that you will have no problems with your computer or printer while it’s covered. Then, as if waiting for the most inconvenient time to go bust, the technology fails just after your warranty ends.
After the frustration of looking up that warranty plan to see the expiration date a few weeks ago, your first response might be to take that device back to the store. You’ve noticed they have a service desk, and that’s where you made the purchase. But the technicians on-site are likely to send your laptop to the manufacturer repair. That could be far away, which negates the convenience of taking it down to your local store. You could wait weeks for your item to get to the repair center. Then, it stills needs attention and returning to your store.
Also know that many manufacturers charge a premium for outside-of-warranty repairs. Now that you’re one or two years into a relationship with the products, they hope you’ll decide upgrading is easier. They actually have a planned lifecycle for computer hardware and plan the warranty end accordingly.
Of course, if you are within days of your warranty's end, ask if the manufacturer will continue to cover the technology. Sometimes it actually will. The manufacturer may also use this opportunity to sell you an extended warranty.
Some help with manufacturer warrantyOur first piece of advice? Be proactive about technology issues. Don’t put off getting something looked at. You may discover you could have saved money by having it checked out under warranty.
Check your eligibility by visiting the manufacturer’s website and typing in the product serial number to check the warranty. Quickly find the page by searching the manufacturer’s name and “check warranty status.”
It’s a good idea to keep track of when your warranty is set to expire. That way, you’ll be more likely to request service in a timely manner. Don’t believe us? Have you ever planned to take an item back to the store only to leave it until the return window has closed?
Small business computer repair shops specialize in repairing out-of-warranty devices. We can run diagnostic tests to determine the problem. Then, we'll help you decide whether it’s worth the cost of repairs. If so, we can fix it at a competitive rate.
Plus, you get personalized service. There’s also the peace of mind that comes from knowing where your computer is at all times. You're not worrying about it shipping around the country to a manufacturer’s repair shop. The timeline reduces, too, as the IT experts are on-site at a convenient computer repair outfit.
We can help keep your computers and other tech devices up and running. Contact us today at 262-515-9499!
A single click can be the difference between maintaining data security and suffering massive financial losses. From the moment just one employee takes the bait in a phishing email, your business is vulnerable to data breaches and extensive downtime.
Quickly spot the red flags and put phishing emails where they belong:
1. Poor spelling and grammar
While occasional typos happen to even the best of us, an email filled with errors is a clear warning sign. Most companies push their campaigns through multiple review stages where errors are blitzed and language is refined. Unlikely errors throughout the entire message indicate that the same level of care was not taken, and therefore the message is likely fraudulent.
2. An offer too good to be true
Free items or a lottery win sure sound great, but when the offer comes out of nowhere and with no catch? There’s definitely cause for concern. Take care not to get carried away and click without investigating deeper.
3. Random sender who knows too much
Phishing has advanced in recent years to include ‘spear phishing’, which is an email or offer designed especially for your business. Culprits take details from your public channels, such as a recent function or award, and then use it against you. The only clues? The sender is unknown – they weren’t at the event or involved in any way. Take a moment to see if their story checks out.
4. The URL or email address is not quite right
One of the most effective techniques used in phishing emails is to use domains which sound almost right. For example, [microsoft.info.com] or [pay-pal.com]
Hover over the link with your mouse and review where it will take you. If it doesn’t look right, or is completely different from the link text, send that email to the bin.
5. It asks for personal, financial or business details
Alarm bells should ring when a message contains a request for personal, business or financial information. If you believe there may be a genuine issue, you can initiate a check using established, trusted channels.
While education is the best way to ensure phishing emails are unsuccessful, a robust spam filter and solid anti-virus system provide peace of mind that your business has the best protection available.
Give us a call to discuss how we can secure your system against costly phishing attacks. 262-515-9499
We often tend to be creatures of habit, particularly when it comes to technology. Passwords are a prime example. Many of us use the same logins for multiple websites and applications because we don't have a photographic memory. A large percentage of users aren’t aware that this is one of the most significant security dangers they can face online. It has a simple fix too.
Regularly, in the news today, there are stories about major companies being hacked, their customer data stolen, and their customers left stranded. Hackers commonly use data stolen from one site to access others where login credentials have been reused between accounts. In some cases, access to bank accounts has been gained simply by using a compromised email account.
Businesses and individuals can face significant losses simply because a third party outside their control has been hacked or compromised.
The Danger Of Old Passwords
MySpace is a key example of why old and possibly forgotten services pose a security danger when passwords haven't been regularly changed. Once a thriving popular network, the use of MySpace services declined drastically from 2007 onwards. While many people moved to new social networks, old accounts typically remained abandoned on their servers. Hundreds of millions of accounts remained on MySpace servers many years past the firm's peak.
In 2016, MySpace suffered a data leak which exposed usernames, emails, and passwords of 360 million user accounts. Shortly after the hack, these details were published online for anyone to see. Many were used to access email accounts, servers, and accounts that shared the same details.
Even if you have never had a MySpace or social media account personally, how many of your employees or coworkers have one or more? Many have had more social media, forum, or game accounts than they care to remember. Have their passwords been updated since 2016?
Your business network protects your systems, work, and intellectual property. For many firms it's the single most critical component, the backbone to business operations. Keeping it secure regardless of the number of people, staff or clients using it is a crucial task.
Consider how many people currently have access and how many of those may reuse their password on another website or service. Just reusing your password once can expose you to the hacking of a third party entirely out of your control.
Good security practice is to use a unique and strong password for every login you use. A strong password should include, where possible, capital letters, lowercase letters, numbers, and character symbols. Many consider this impractical or even impossible, but it is entirely achievable for every firm.
It is clearly impossible to manually remember a strong password for each one of the dozens of logins needed today. Few would even attempt to. A password manager makes storing, retrieving, and using unique passwords easy.
When using a password manager, an individual is required to remember only one single strong password to access a database which contains a different login password for each service. This database can be synced between multiple devices, saved and backed up to the cloud, and even used to create strong passwords for you.
Password managers can be used to implement security policies that demand zero password reuse, between services or over time, and set strict limits over the duration a password can last. With the right policies in place, both your business and your employees are protected against attacks from hackers that have compromised third-party sites.
The maximum recommended lifetime of a password for any service is a single year. There's no time like National Password Day to refresh your passwords and start new.
To help keep on top of your security and make sure your accounts are safe, give us a call at 262-515-9499
The pandemic has changed the world. More people have been pushed online in new ways, and for senior citizens this can be particularly challenging. Even registering for a COVID-19 vaccination requires going online in many countries. Plus, social gatherings and other appointments have gone virtual. Don't add to a seniors' social distance. Here's how we can help seniors with their technology needs.
Think of all that has moved online in 2021:
It’s not that these things weren’t using technology before, but there were other options. Now, seniors may need to get online to take part in weddings, funerals, or baby showers. Thus, it’s essential that they have the right tools and know-how to log in and connect virtually.
Another problem? The senior is stuck at home and can’t go out to get computer help the way they might have done before. Meanwhile, family members may not yet be able to visit to help out.
How We Help Seniors with Technology
Socially distancing can have an especially negative impact on senior citizens, and factoring in a technology barrier doesn’t help. A managed service provider can help seniors tackle tech challenges. With their coaching, the senior can connect confidently and securely.
To stay in touch with family today, the senior has many online channels available. They can get on Facebook, use FaceTime on a mobile phone, start a video call on their desktop, or send an email. They also might play online games with family members, or join a watch party on a streaming service such as Amazon, Hulu, or Netflix. The list goes on and on.
All this requires technology in the home. Deciding on what kind of computer to get or upgrade to can be daunting, not to mention the challenge of setting it all up and connecting it to other devices in the home … or installing a router … or making sure the software is up to date and patched to lower the risk of malware or hacker attack.
Then, once the technology is installed, the learning curve doesn’t flatten out entirely.
In our digital environment, there are so many more devices to connect to one another. Maybe the printer is wireless and connects to the phone, or the router provided by the cable service isn’t giving a good enough signal throughout the house. A residential IT expert can help with that, too.
Our IT team can also suggest software solutions to make life easier for seniors online. We can recommend ways to integrate all the technology to simplify the environment. We know about changing default passwords for cybersecurity, and we can also set up password wallets. This can help forgetful seniors who might otherwise repeat access credentials across accounts.
Connect with Our Residential Support Team
You can rest assured that you or the seniors in your life have the IT help needed to stay connected. We’re able to explain, coach, and troubleshoot at any time. As we’ll get to know the technology, we can often help faster, too, plus we can do a lot of our work remotely if that makes the senior feel safer.
Some seniors fear technology. We get it. We can address concerns about going online. We will reassure with the right precautions and by setting up a secure system. Our experienced techs are always happy to help.
Contact us today at 262-515-9499!
Most businesses are aware of the need for data backup. Without it they risk losing important files in the event of a hard drive failure or cyberattack. Yet having a backup in place isn’t enough: it’s important also to test that backup. Ensure that you are able to restore that essential data when you need it.
The many reasons to establish data backups include:
We recommend backing up in three places. You might have one on a local, on-site computer. You’d also have a backup on a remote device and another in the cloud. The cloud option gives you the most flexibility. It can be accessed from anywhere, regardless of conditions in your particular environment.
Yet while many people know they need backups, too few do recovery tests. The worst time to find out there’s a problem with your backup solution is when you need it the most.
Testing Data Backups
Regular data backups can offer peace of mind, but you’ll really know you are ready to go if you regularly test your ability to recover your system from a backup.
Testing your backup lets you verify the necessary data is available for recovery. Plus, testing helps you learn how to actually implement recovery following a data loss. If a backup test fails, you can take the steps needed to ensure you don’t actually lose valuable information. Otherwise, you’re throwing money at storage space and backup services that are no help, and you’ll find out too late.
Regular monitoring helps you keep track of any software or hardware changes that may have an impact on data backups. Via testing, you might also learn some staff members are storing data somewhere that isn’t being backed up, and you can now intervene with those employees or extend your backup protocols to prevent that data getting lost.
Scheduling data backup tests can also help you to identify a misconfiguration in the backup software or ways in which you’re not adequately addressing your backup needs. For instance, you might not have set up a complete backup in the first place. This might mean you’re backing up the data but not the settings. Most backup software will send error messages if there was an issue backing up. Still, they’re easy for an overworked IT team to miss.
Actively testing backups allows the business to confirm fallback data accuracy and effectiveness. Additionally, you’ll be able to gauge:
All of this is something you want to consider proactively. Some people say they work best under pressure, but most of us think more clearly and perform better if not in the midst of a data catastrophe.
Tech Force can help your business with data backup and recovery testing. Our IT experts can monitor for failures and make any changes needed to get the backup running properly again. You’ll be glad you did recovery testing in advance when things run smoother and quicker in the midst of your disaster recovery.
Give us a call at 262-515-9499 to correct your backups, make sure they are working the way you want to, and set up regular backup restore tests.
Buying a printer can be overwhelming. There are so many options available from different brands, and buying guides galore. Yet we still often see people with printers that aren’t the best ones for their needs. That said, we’re offering five tips to help you find the right one for you.
#1 Identify Your Needs
What are you going to use that printer for? Is it for family use? Home office use? Just as a backup for occasional documents you need to print and sign? For printing photos? For printing graphic designs? Your needs for quality, efficiency, speed, and color or black-and-white prints will influence your choice.
Different printers offer distinct perks. You may want one that prints quickly or one that is compact. Or perhaps you want one that holds a lot of paper. If your priority is photos, you may need a printer that can handle many types and sizes of paper.
If you are running your office from home, you may want to invest in a multi-function printer. These not only print but also scan and copy.
You may not even need a home printer. If you’re using your printer for photographs, you’re better off going to an actual photo printer. It’s about five times cheaper to get photos professionally printed than to color print at home. Plus, you’ll get top-quality copy every time.
#2 Don’t Settle for Cheap
Yes, it’s usually very cheap to buy an inkjet printer from the local big-box store. You may even get a free or dramatically reduced price on a printer with the purchase of your computer. That’s because they’re getting you to buy the printer so that you’ll need to take on the high cost of ink. You’ll also need high-quality printing paper if you want to avoid the ink bleed that can happen on normal office paper.
Another issue with inkjet printers? If you don’t use the color cartridges for a long while, they can dry up, which will leave partial lines on your prints, or the printer won’t work at all until you pay for a fresh, more expensive color cartridge.
#3 Consider Laser Printers
If you’ve decided you do need a home printer, consider a laser printer. Whether you want a printer that works fast or you plan to use it all the time, a laser printer is quick to start up and print. Plus, it offers high-quality results. There is a higher cost upfront, but in the long-term you could save on ink. These printers use a fine powder that doesn’t dry out due to inactivity.
Color laser printing is expensive, yes, but black-and-white printing on a laser printer can be quite cheap and effective.
#4 Read the Reviews
The manufacturer specifications will help you learn:
Still, customer and online reviews can help you find out about durability and productivity. Read both positive and negative reviews to get a full sense of how the printer will suit your needs.
#5 Let Us Help
Inkjet, laser, all-in-one, and photo printers each have their pros and cons, and there is a lot to consider. We can help you choose the right model, set it up in your home, and help you keep it going strong for the long term.
Contact us today by calling us at 262-515-9499.
Tech Force Blog
We provide you with important, practical tips and insight for your technology and networks for both home and business.