Robin Powers Joins Bryley Systems!

Robin Powers is the newest member to join Bryley Systems’ Business Development team.  In her role as Sales Support, Robin will assist with proposals, presentations, and general business development functions.  She will work closely within the team to further enhance client support and relationships.

Prior to Bryley Systems, Robin was employed at Stratus Technologies for 25 years as an Administrative Professional in their IT Department.  Bryley Systems welcomes Robin as she brings years of expertise in the technology field.  Ms. Powers has a BS from UMass Amherst.

Bryley’s Prestigious Channel Partners 360° Award Travels the U.S.

After Being honored as one of 25 recipients worldwide, our prestigious award is traveling the U.S. in celebration – being one of the most sought-after in the industry of technology solutions.

About Red Canyon.  From the Native Americans who traveled the canyons, to people like J.W. Humphry who constructed the tunnels, Red Canyon on the Dixie National Forest has fascinated people for centuries. Unique vermilion-colored rock formation and stands of Ponderosa pines make the canyon exceptionally scenic.

 

 

“Bryley Systems works toward continuous improvement; we strive to manage, optimize, and secure our client’s information technology, which brings substantial business benefit and value to their organizations. Our team-focused, best-practices-oriented approach, coupled with high-value/low-risk service options, enables us to provide our clients with Dependable IT at a Predictable Cost™. We thank Channel Partners for this prestigious Channel Partners 360° award!”

– Gavin and Cathy Livingstone, Co-Owners, Bryley Systems, Hudson, MA

Bryley Basics: How to get the most life out of your computer

Have you noticed that you have been able to squeeze more life out of your technology devices than ever before? According to Intel’s CEO, Brian Krzanich, the cycle has expanded 20% from four years to five or six1. In our experience, upgrading an operating system on a Windows PC can often cost more than replacing the PC with a PC that has a newer OS. This is often because OS upgrades are not always reliable, particularly with legacy applications, or drivers that are no longer available for older hardware. For business users, we typically wipe the drive clean and then reinstall a new OS rather than upgrade.

Another way to extend the life of your device is to take care of the battery. Having the battery constantly plugged in actually does more harm than good and decreases the overall lifespan of the device. For long term battery life, it is recommended that you regularly allow your battery to drain.

You can further extend the life of your machine by completing incremental upgrades such as adding more memory, upgrading graphics cards, and replacing older hard drives with SSDs.

These tips are aimed at helping you extend the life of your devices and are not meant to keep them on “life support.” There will come a time when you have diminishing returns and will need to replace the devices.

Remember, we are here to help; please reach out to us at 978.562.6077 or email ITExperts@Bryley.com.

 

  1. Computer World. 1 June 2016. “The PC upgrade cycle slows to every five or six years, Intel’s CEO says.”

Bryley Basics: How to Clean your computer to ensure optimal efficiency

Technology was designed to make our lives easier and more efficient, but it can only do that if it’s maintained. As the winter months approach, it’s a perfect time to ensure your computer is running efficiently.

What needs to be cleaned?

  • Keyboard. Do you eat on or near your computer? If so, crumbs may have inadvertently fallen underneath them and could be impeding their function. Once a month, turn the keyboard upside down and gently shake it to remove the bigger crumbs. If the keys are still sticking, use a can of compressed air to gently remove the dust and other debris that is out of reach. Don’t forget to disinfect the keys! This can be performed using a Q-Tip, or other cotton swab, and some rubbing alcohol. Make sure you do not saturate the Q-Tip as you only want the alcohol to go on the keyboard surface, not inside!1
  • Defrag your computer. If you notice a drop in speed, and you have a SETA drive (one that spins, not an SSD drive) it may be time to defrag your computer. Fragmentation occurs when there is not enough contiguous space to hold the complete file. An algorithm is then used to break that data so that it fits into the available space.2 The slowness is caused upon retrieval; the computer must search the entire hard drive to find all the pieces of the data or file. “When you defrag your computer you not only increase the speed of the computer but you also keep your hard drive healthy and extend its lifespan. The wear and tear of fragmentation will eventually shorten its life but with proper maintenance you keep it running smooth and steady.”3 The general rule of thumb is to defrag when your disk is more than 10% fragmented.4 The frequency of running a defrag depends upon the usage of the computer. If the machine’s main duties are for general use (web browsing, email, games, etc.), completing a defrag every month is recommended. If you use it more often (8 hours per day), it should be performed roughly every two weeks. It is important to know that a defrag may take a few hours to complete so it is best to perform this overnight. Just make sure energy-saving features such as a screen saver are temporarily turned off as this may cause the defragmentor to stop and restart the process.5 Make it easy and set up an automatic defrag schedule.
  • Cleanup your folders. Take regular stock of what is housed on your computer. If you have files that you haven’t touched in months or even years and are not necessary to keep, delete them from your computer. Having too many files will slow your machine as it needs to sort through them all when conducting a search.
  • Delete Programs you no longer use. Similar to files that you haven’t opened in a long time, go through your programs and delete ones that you have not used. Maybe this will give you the added push to learn that software you downloaded months ago, but never pursued.
  • Cleanup your desktop. While keeping files on the desktop can make files easier to find, but can quickly become overwhelming and inefficient. The last thing you want to do is to be rifling through icons looking for that one document. Instead, place them in subfolders within “My Documents.” By creating a file system, it will be easier to find the folders and will take up less space on your hard drive. Additionally, files on the desktop are not as protected as those in “My Documents” or “My Pictures. “For instance, if you use System Restore to return Windows to its state as of last Wednesday, the feature will remove any files added to the desktop since that date. The files in My Documents will be left untouched.”6
  • Cleanup your browser. Similar to cleaning your desktop, it is recommended that you regularly check your browswer applications to see if there’s any that can be removed. This will streamline your browser and lower the demands on the hard drive.
  • Install Updates. Just because your system appears to be running well, doesn’t mean you should ignore system updates. “Staying current on updates will not only keep your computer running well today, it will fend off unforeseen problems tomorrow.”7

By performing these tasks regularly, you will be able to extend the life of your hard drive, and be more efficient. There’s nothing worse than replacing a device far sooner than you expected because preventative care measures weren’t taken.

1 http://www.popsci.com/clean-your-keyboard-without-breaking-it#page-5. Maldarelli, Claire. Popular Science. 10 March 2017.

2 https://www.techopedia.com/definition/14331/defragmentation

3 http://www.toptenreviews.com/software/articles/defragmentation-keeping-your-hard-drive-happy/

4 https://www.lifewire.com/how-often-should-you-defrag-3976922

5 https://www.bullguard.com/blog/2017/04/pc-spring-cleaning-9-easy-steps-to-make-your-old-pc-run-like-new-again?lang=en-IN

6 http://www.pcworld.com/article/2110003/the-pros-and-cons-mostly-cons-of-saving-files-to-the-desktop.html

7 http://time.com/3841939/computer-clean/

Image: http://mashable.com/2017/07/25/messy-computer-desktops/#zMJGuxOn_gq2

No Power? No Problem. Just Plan Ahead…

Natural disasters, severe weather and even cars that knock over electric poles, can all wipe out power sources and cause businesses to lose the ability to communicate through cellphones, landlines and email.  If you are a business owner, being forced to inconveniently and unproductively “wait it out” is usually not an option.  And, power outages can be much more than inconvenient; they can be costly.

A study by the University of Lincoln has concluded that “power cuts will become more regular around the globe as electrical supply becomes increasingly vulnerable and demand for technology continues to grow at an unprecedented rate.”1    And, The Washington Post reports that “the U.S. grid is aging and stretched to capacity. More often the victim of decrepitude than the forces of nature, it is beginning to falter.   Experts fear failures that caused blackouts in New York, Boston and San Diego may become more common as the voracious demand for power continues to grow. They say it will take a multibillion-dollar investment to avoid them.”2

Organizations need to be prepared for a power outage, regardless of the cause. That preparation should be focused on preserving data both inside the office as well as data located on servers stored in an offsite data center.  All of your digital assets, including software, are vulnerable to being wiped out during a power failure.  To protect your business and eliminate that vulnerability, you need to do some prep work to back up your data and implement basic hardware security measures.

Many business owners prefer not to think about this, but safeguarding your assets will allow your organization to at least partially function during an event vs. being at the mercy of the power grid.  The amount of time and money it takes to prepare for a potential power failure is fractional compared to the amount of time and money it would take you to rebuild your empire of digital assets from scratch.  Digital assets get wiped out all the time during power failures.

Back up your data and get your employees on board with performing regular backups of their work. This is the most basic of all requirements for being ready for a power outage, but many people don’t do it, either because they don’t know how or it can seem overwhelming. Not backing up your files is taking a huge risk that everything could be gone in the blink of an eye.

Organizations with larger networks should have backup servers that can continue to distribute data during, or, after an emergency.  Off-site data backup is recommended, and, data may also be saved to the cloud.

Even if you have multiple backup locations for your files and don’t have to worry about losing your digital assets, you still need to be aware of the potential for losing your physical devices like computer hard drives, power sources, and motherboards. It should be noted that solid state drives are not immune to being fried by a power surge.

It is not the power outage that causes damage to your hardware, it’s the power surge that does the damage. A surge protector is one way to prevent damage to computer hardware, but it’s not a guarantee – sometimes they work, sometimes they don’t. How well it works will depend on how much power your particular unit is designed to withstand and if you’ve replaced it.

If your equipment is damaged, the most efficient and cost-effective fix is to replace the unit.  While the hardware may not be expensive, the labor costs alone will often outweigh the price of a new machine.

If you’ve got your data backed up, you probably don’t need to worry much about the cost of replacing your hard drive; most hard drives are fairly inexpensive. Even so, it’s a hassle to replace, so you should protect your hardware as much as possible.

The first line of defense against power outage issues that impact business continuity is on-site power protection. This is a proactive measure that requires planning and implementation before the power outage occurs. To protect data and servers, organizations should have uninterruptible power supplies, or UPS’s, and ideally, an on-site backup power supply, such as a generator. This can ensure that your business suffers no loss of data in the short term, while your continuity plan is being implemented.

In addition to backup power solutions, load-capping software and power distribution units should be considered. For short-term outages, battery backup may be sufficient for communications and VoIP systems. Planning should include identifying and outlining battery specifications and status as well as battery-replacement policies. Emergency battery-powered lighting should be available in multiple areas around your building if you do not have a backup-lighting system.

The cost of providing on-site power for a long period of time can be high, so for outages that last longer than an hour, organizations should have alternative options, such as an off-site location for protecting data and ensuring access.

Securing off-site data backup and disaster recovery solutions, such as Bryley’s Business Continuity, is something every business should have in place before a power outage occurs, and most organizations should take that a step further and move all critical IT infrastructure into the cloud. Data centers provide improved resiliency, reduced power and cooling expenses, and easier infrastructure management, in addition to ensuring continuity during power outages.

A few more tips…

  • Always plug computers and laptops into surge protectors instead of directly into the wall.
  • When your laptop or other digital device is done charging, unplug the charger immediately. This saves your battery from losing charge capacity, and it also makes sure your device won’t get fried if there’s a power surge.
  • Have an uninterruptible power supply (UPS) at every desk and make sure your employees know what to do after a power surge. The UPS may only give them enough power to properly shut their machine down, so they’ll need to act fast.
  • Always unplug your electrical devices during a storm, especially a lightning storm. There is no surge protector in the world that will protect your computer from a lightning strike.
  • Not every organization requires a dedicated generator for backup power because most businesses can tolerate the downtime of a short-term power outage.  Many office buildings have standby generators that companies can rely on.  Be sure to know if you are equipped with a standby generator if your organization requires one.

Remember, having a plan and being prepared is your first line of defense.  If you are concerned about the emergency power outage strategies your business has or some other network issue, please contact us at 844.449.8770 or by email at ITExperts@Bryley.com.

We would be glad to help you assess and mitigate your risks.

References:

  1. https://www.sciencedaily.com
  2. https://www.washingtonpost.com/local/trafficandcommuting/aging-power-grid-on-overload-as-us-demands-more-electricity/2012/08/01/gJQAB5LDQX_story.html?utm_term=.0119ff3e554b

Bryley is on the move!

Some of you may know, but Bryley has outgrown our current location in Hudson and will be moving to Clinton. Our new building is a historic 1937 post office that was completely renovated and modernized in 2004.  It has more than 10,000 square feet, the majority of which we will occupy, and comes with glass-walled offices, broad sweeping staircases, an elevator, two kitchens, and more.
We expect to move in mid to late Fall.

Ray Baldez obtains his Mac certification

Raymond “Ray” Baldez successfully became MAC certified as an Apple Support Professional (ACSP). With this certification, Ray understands the MacOS core functionalities and has the knowledge to support MacOS users, manage their networks, and provide technical support.

Why Ransomware Hits Smaller Organizations Harder

Ransomware and other cyberattacks seem to be more prevalent than in previous years. While the news has mostly focused on the large attacks (WannaCry, Petya, Netflix hack, etc), small businesses are not immune to these dangers. In fact, in a recent study performed by Symantec, it was discovered that phishing campaigns targeted small businesses 43% of the time, up 9% over 2014 and a dramatic increase from the 18% of attacks in 2011.1 While larger organizations are able to rebound, roughly 60% of small businesses that experience a cyberattack are closed within six months.2

The cost of a data breach

  • Lost Revenue. According to a report conducted in June by Osterman Research, roughly 22% of businesses with fewer than 1,000 employees experienced a ransomware attack in the last year and were forced to stop business operations immediately, resulting in 15% of those surveyed losing revenue.3
  • Downtime. When a ransomware attack occurs, many organizations are forced to shut down to stop the spread of the attack. As a result, they incur downtime. Of the organizations surveyed by Osterman Research, one in six organizations incurred 25 or more hours of downtime as a result of a cyberattack.3
  • Loss of Confidence. When a company admits to a data breach or customer data that was leaked, it causes many consumers to be wary of conducting business with the organization.

What causes a Small Organization to be a target?

The difference between larger vs. smaller organizations is that oftentimes the smaller organizations don’t always have the budget to be able to afford their own IT department.

“A survey published by Manta last month shows that 87 percent of small-business owners don’t feel that they’re at risk of a cybersecurity attack, and 1 in 3 small businesses don’t have the tools in place — firewalls, antivirus software, spam filters or data-encryption tools — to protect themselves.

“The general majority of small-business owners don’t have an IT person. It’s not the first place they spend their money,” said John Swanciger, CEO of Manta. “They’re really relying on themselves to update their software and check for security patches.”4

How can Small business owners limit their risk of an attack?

  • Perform software updates/patches. Their intended purpose is to quickly push out fixes to bugs that may be occurring and create a safe computer environment. When you browse the internet, your computer is at the mercy of its current protective measures. Viruses, malware and rootkits are always on the search for security holes to exploit and gain entry to your personal data. While the best antivirus software would prevent this from ever happening, in order to accomplish such a goal you need to perform recommended updates. These updates serve numerous functions:
    • Fix security holes
    • Optimize the utilization of resources on the operating system
    • Add newer and more secure features
    • Remove old and unprotected features
    • Update drivers to increase software efficiency
  • Regularly backup your data. To reduce downtime, make sure you perform regular backups that are easily retrievable in the event of a breach or data loss, providing a sense of security. Both offsite storage and external drive storage are potential necessities. Data backup and data recovery work basically the same way. Offsite servers are useful for data recovery as they provide massive amounts of storage for nominal prices especially when comparing the hassle it saves in the event of an information disaster. Having a safe place to put information off of the main business server can prove to be more proactive in the long run. Using an offsite server to protect your business data is one of the more effective methods to keep information safe.
  • Create strong passwords. Strong passwords reduce the likelihood that a criminal will be able to easily gain access to your data. But remember to change the password regularly. Passwords are undoubtedly essential to security, but they are not the only method that can or should be used to protect one’s computers and devices. In addition to creating a good password, people should learn how to safeguard it and use it wisely. This means never sharing it and, if unable to remember it, keeping the written copy in a secure location.
  • Protect your Wi-Fi. Wi-Fi can be an easy access point for potential cyber hackers. If you use a Wi-Fi network access in the office, make sure it’s invisible to outsiders, encrypted and secure. Set up your router to require a password for access, and set your wireless access point so it does not broadcast the network name. It is always wise to make a separate network available for guests and to check rogue access points which may have been brought in by employees or visitors.
  • Use a Firewall. Firewalls are like home security systems for your computers. They control the data coming in and out to prevent unauthorized access to your network. A Firewall is a software or hardware device that protects your computer from being attacked over the internet by hackers, viruses, and worms. Having a firewall in each company’s internet connection allows the business to setup online rules for the users. Here are the different ways of how a firewall controls online activities:
    • Packet filtering: small amount of data is analyzed and distributed according to the filter’s standards.
    • Proxy service: online Information is saved by the firewall and then sent to the requesting system.
    • Stateful inspection: matches specific details of a data packet to a database of reliable information.

Firewalls allow you to either add or remove filters based on certain circumstances such as:

    • IP addresses – If a certain IP address, not belonging to the company’s network is accessing too many files from the server, this IP can get blocked by the firewall.
    • Domain names – with a firewall, a company is able to block or allow access to certain domains.
    • Specific words and phrases – A firewall will scan each packet of information to match the filter content. You may select any word or sentence to be blocked.
  • Install antivirus software. Antivirus software helps protect against viruses or malicious software programs, which can also be damaging to your business operations. The software is designed to block damaging messages before it reaches the user. Antivirus software is the “guard” at the gate of a computer system. It protects the computer from incoming threats and seeks out, destroys and warns of possible threats to the system. New viruses are coming out all the time. It is the job of the antivirus software to keep up with the latest threats. This is achieved by daily updates of the antivirus database definitions, which counteract the latest threats to provide constant protection.
  • Educate and train employees. Establish a written policy about data security and clearly communicate it to all of your employees. Train your employees on security basics and best practices when it comes to web browsing and email. Many data breaches aren’t the result of a hacker, but by negligence or human error. If employees are trained on proper ways to handle data, it will significantly reduce the chances of a mistake being made.

Working with a managed IT service provider can remove a lot of the burden and take away the mystery of proactive measures to protect your business.

Protecting your company’s data and infrastructure should be a top priority, but you do not need to do it alone.  Let the Bryley experts help protect your company’s data and infrastructure. Please contact us at 844.449.8770 or by email at ITExperts@Bryley.com. We’re here for you.

 

1 43 Percent of Cyber Attacks Target Small Business. Sophy, Joshua. 28 April 2016.
2 CYBER SECURITY STATISTICS – Numbers Small Businesses Need to Know. Mansfield, Matt. 3 Jan 2017.
3 Why ransomware costs small businesses big money. CNN Tech. Larson, Selena. 27 July 2017.
4 Congress addresses cyberwar on small business: 14 million hacked over last 12 months. CNBC. Zaleski, Andrew. 5 Apr 2017.

How to Spot and AVOID Phishing Emails

Phishing emails are malicious emails sent by criminals attempting to compromise your personal information. They often appear to be legitimate, so beware.

Most phishing emails are disguised as messages from an authoritative entity asking you to visit a website and enter personal information. These websites are set up to gather personal details, which they can then use to hack into your accounts and commit fraud. Some links and attachments in these emails contain malicious software, known as malware, which will install itself on your computer. Malware then collects data such as usernames and passwords. If you recognize these emails, delete them immediately.

Being informed about Phishing techniques and the current news relating to it is very important because new phishing scams are being developed all the time. Without staying on top of these new phishing techniques, you could inadvertently fall prey to one. Keep your eyes peeled for news about new phishing scams. By finding out about them as early as possible, you will be at much lower risk of getting lured in by one.

Being able to recognize these emails will lessen your chances of being compromised. Here are some tips:

  1. Email Address. This is the first thing you should look at. Criminals use two tricks when crafting email addresses. First, they’ll put a real company’s name before the “@“sign to make it look credible. Second, they’ll use a web address similar to the genuine one. Scammers will craft phishing email addresses almost (but not exactly) identical to the real addresses. Check these emails carefully to make sure they are exactly the same as the real web address.
  2. Generic Greetings. Being cautious of emails with generic greetings such as “Dear Valued Customer” or “Dear Valued Employee”. Look for poor spelling, punctuation or grammar. Scammers will go to great lengths to make their phishing emails look authentic. They’ll use an actual company logo and even the names of people who are employed at the company.
  3. Links. If a link appears within the email, hover your cursor over the link to view the underlying address. Check to see where it would take you if you were to click on the link.
  4. Sense of Urgency. Phishing emails may use phrases such as “act quickly” to create a sense of urgency in order to lure their targets in. These scammers may make you feel as if you’re missing out on something. They want to pique your curiosity or exploit your fear to push you into an instant response.
  5. Name. Look to see whose name is at the end of the email. If it’s from a person, is their name in the email address and does the email address appear valid?
  6. Keep Your Browser Up-to-Date. Security patches are released for popular browsers all the time. They are released in response to the security loopholes that phishers and other hackers inevitably discover and exploit. Don’t ignore messages about updating your browsers – when an update is available, download and install it.
  7. Use a Firewall. High-quality firewalls act as buffers between you, your computer and outside intruders. You should use two different kinds: a desktop firewall and a network firewall. The first option is a type of software, and the second option is a type of hardware. When used together, they drastically reduce the odds of hackers and phishers infiltrating your computer or your network.
  8. Add Antivirus. There are a number of antivirus options available to both home users and business owners. There are special signatures that are included with antivirus software which will protect you against known technology workarounds and loopholes. Remember to keep your software up-to-date since new definitions are added all the time due to scams being developed consistently. Antivirus software will scan files which pass through the Internet to your computer and prevent damage to your PC.These types of emails are just generic emails which are sent out to large groups of people, knowing that it only takes a few people to click to make the effort worthwhile to the scammers.

Hold on, there’s more…

Spear Phishing. Criminals who target specific individuals use what is called “spear phishing.” Spear Phishing emails are even more sophisticated than your run-of-the-mill phishing emails, often using personal information obtained from social media pages to make the emails appear credible. These cyber criminals might use your name or tailor the email to reflect your hobbies, interests, where you live or events that are happening locally. They may even make the email look as if it came from the organization you work for. People are sometimes targeted because of their position within the company or because they have access to sensitive data.

As a general rule, you should never share personal or financially sensitive information over the Internet. When in doubt, go visit the main website of the company in question, get their number and give them a call. Most of the phishing emails will direct you to pages where entries for financial or personal information are required. An Internet user should never make confidential entries through the links provided in the emails. Never send an email with sensitive information to anyone. Make it a habit to check the address of the website. A secure website always starts with “https”.

When in doubt, don’t click! Contact your IT administrator. And remember, legitimate organizations will never ask you to disclose personal data via email.

You can also report the scam to the FBI’s Internet Fraud Complaint Center at www.ic3.gov.

Bryley Systems specializes in protecting you from malware. Contact us at 978.562.6077 or by email at ITExperts@Bryley.com. We’re here for you.

Read this case study about a particularly vicious attack that Bryley remediated.

 

Additional Resources:

https://www.sec.gov/oit/announcement/notice-regarding-phishing-scam-targeting-edgar-filers.html
https://www.usatoday.com/tech/
https://apwg.org/resources/overview/avoid-phishing-scams