Spring Cleaning? 4 Options for Discarding Old Hardware

Whether replacing old equipment with something new or simply cleaning out the office and getting rid of some old devices, we all have the same question on our mind.  What do we do with all this old technology?

We live in a world where technology is considered obsolete after only a few years. And if you are like many people I know, you have a drawer, closet, or room full of old devices. Unless you want to make a guest appearance on “Hoarders,” it is best to discard them. But how? You can’t just bring it to a landfill. (Those toxic materials regulations will get you every time!)

Before considering what to do with the old devices, it is vital that all data is properly removed. Simply deleting them from your recycle bin won’t do the job. Even if you can’t see the files, they still exist on the hard drive. It is therefore important to have the hard drive wiped or destroyed. Here at Bryley, we perform data erasure crush the drives to ensure the data doesn’t fall into the wrong hands.

We have come up with 4 possible options when discarding old hardware:

  • Reuse/Repurpose – Since many devices use similar parts, you may consider keeping one or two spares. Accidents happen and you never want to be in a situation where you don’t have a backup device. I, personally, keep one prior phone and laptop, just in case. I would rather have it and not need it, than not have it and need it.
  • Donate – Why not help those that are less fortunate by donating a device you no longer need. There are many organizations that would love to have second-hand items. When it comes to donating mobile devices, I usually drop them off at my local police station for either Phones for Soldiers or for those in domestic violence situations. Phones for Soldiers will sell the phones to purchase phone cards so that members of our military can stay connected with their loved ones. The police will often give old phones to individuals living with domestic violence. These phones can be used to contact emergency personnel even if there is no SIM card. Here at Bryley, we take older PCs, wipe them and display them in our window with a request for $15 to be donated to the Hudson Food Pantry or the Hudson Boys and Girls Club.
  • Donating to an after-school program is another great option. Some children do not have a reliable computer at home. It can therefore be challenging for them to complete their coursework.
  • Recycle – Recycling your devices is another viable option. Here at Bryley, for a small fee, we will responsibly recycle your devices and ensure that it is properly taken care of. Most stores that sell computers, and towns that have a program for responsibly disposing of your devices, will help you recycle your devices. They follow specific EPA protocols for disposing of the toxic materials within computers, laptops, printers, and mobile phones. Most towns have set dates for these programs, so it’s best to contact your local DPW (Department of Public Works) to inquire when the drop-off program will next be available.
  • Sell – Another option when considering getting rid of old hardware is to sell it. Technology is a depreciating asset, so if someone is willing to pay you for a device that you were going to dispose of, why not do it? There are numerous outlets for selling your old devices – Craigslist, Gazzelle.com, and eBay, to name a few. You can always leverage your social network as well.

If you would like assistance in donating or recycling your older devices, call us at 844.449.8770 or email us at ITExperts@Bryley.com. We are here for you.

Have You Considered Moving to Remote Desktop Services (RDS)?

These days, many organizations are looking for ways to help their remote workers and road warriors stay connected.  One solution that works for many is implementing RDS, or a Remote Desktop Services server, which enables workers to access the network anywhere from any device that is VPN compatible as if they were sitting in the office.

What are the benefits?

  • Implementation process and cost savings. Once the initial cost and time of setting up the server is made, it becomes cost effective to move to an RDS environment. “The enormous cost savings that is gained from a Remote Desktop Services server implementation is in the reduced time it takes to do the implementation and even more so in the time saved with ongoing maintenance and management of your company’s end-user desktop infrastructure.”1 Unlike a traditional environment, once the devices are configured on the server level once, individuals can easily add another user with the same configuration. This allows the initial setup cost to be divided amongst the number of users, opposite of a PC-based environment, where setting up a machine must be done separately.
  • Software Updates/Management. Since all users are connected to the same server, updates only need to be performed once to ensure that everyone has access to the latest versions. This drastically reduces costs, time, and potential for mistakes or inconsistency.
  • Scalable. Once the server is setup, it is simple to add a new user.
  • Enhanced Security. With an RDS, no data is stored at the local level of the machine. RDS prevents users from installing unauthorized software, further protecting the data.  With this enhanced security, organizations are able to save on purchasing expensive laptops with encryption and can purchase significantly cheaper laptops or “dummy” computers as all the processing is done through the server.
  • Increased Mobility. Unlike with a standard VPN, users on an RDS are able to end a session on one device and pick it up at the same point on another. For example, if you are holding a meeting in a conference room, you can log into RDS and take notes.  Upon completion of the meeting, you can close out of the session and pick it back up at the same point on your laptop or other device.
  • Disaster Recovery. In the event of the office burning down or inaccessibility, as long as employees have a compatible VPN device, they can work like nothing happened if the RDS server is being hosted at another location.

Before you commit to what to think about when considering moving to RDS? Is this solution right for your business?

  • What programs do you regularly use? If you use programs that use a large amount of memory, RDS may not work for you – speed will become an issue. Some programs that are not compatible with RDS are: CAD programs, Graphics Rendering programs, and any program that requires bolstered hardware.
  • What is the size of your largest files? If you are not at the physical site that hosts the RDS server, it will take a significant amount of time to upload a movie file for example.
  • How many users will be on the network? This ensures you can allocate the necessary resources to each user so they will not see a reduction in speed.
  • Will there be any printers added to the server? It is helpful to know which printers end users will be printing to from the RDS server if it is hosted in the cloud. If it is a large-scale printer (such as a large-format plotter printer) cloud based RDS may not be the best option.

 

Be sure to have a full list of programs that your organization uses to ensure they will work in an RDS environment.  A Hybrid solution may be a good option for these organizations.

Working with a Managed IT service provider can assist you in seeing if an RDS environment is right for your organization.  You are not alone in this process, Bryley can help. Contact us at 844.449.8770 or by email at ITExperts@Bryley.com to learn more. We’re here for you.

 

1 http://blog.hcd.net/terminal-services-remote-desktop-services-the-many-benefits/

Case Study: WRTA Turns to Bryley to Help Coordinate Move to New Facility and Deploy New Computer Infrastructure

The Company: Worcester Regional Transit Authority

The Worcester Regional Transit Authority (WRTA) services the City of Worcester and 36 surrounding towns with a bus fleet that includes all-electric buses and many diesel-electric hybrid buses. As the second-largest regional transit authority in Massachusetts, WRTA features a real-time bus arrival information system that includes the latest advancements in communication technologies—with automatic vehicle announcement, locator and monitoring systems as well as dynamic message signs. The organization is operated by Central Mass Transit Management.

The Challenge: Find an IT Partner Who Also Understands the Big Picture

As the buildings that house the buses, the garage, and the computer data center began to age and experience environmental issues, the WRTA planned a major move into a new facility. The servers and the network were also reaching end-of-life status, so the organization decided to upgrade the computer infrastructure at the same time.

Given the scope of the two projects, the WRTA had to coordinate planning across several third parties. When it came to the new server and network infrastructure, the organization thus needed an IT partner with high-level technology design skills who could also work well with the building construction crew as well as the telecommunications provider and the company that provides the technology to operate the buses.

“With all the moving parts and players, we needed an IT partner who would help us make sure the entire project kept moving forward,” says Donna Novelli, Director of Risk Management and Administration for Central Mass Transit Management, the private entity that manages operations for the WRTA. “It was important to work with someone who would focus on the big picture and not just be concerned with their role.”

The Solution: Bryley Systems—A Long-Time Trusted IT Partner

From the start of planning the project, which began several months before the move deadline, Novelli knew who the IT partner would be. She never considered anyone else.

“Bryley Systems has been our outsourced IT partner since 2011,” Novelli explains. “They have done a superb job keeping our computer network running at peak levels on a daily basis while also advising us when the time is right to deploy new technologies. Bryley has the technical and the logistical project management expertise as well as the resources to help organizations like ours successfully complete a major move and a technology upgrade at the same time.”

Knowing in advance that the move to the new facility would occur, Bryley advised WRTA to hold off on upgrading the computer network until the move and then helped the organization ensure the previous network infrastructure would continue to meet its IT needs. For the move to the new facility, Bryley designed a new computer infrastructure that includes 28 virtual server instances running on five physical Hewlett Packard servers, 16 Cisco network switches, and a Cisco Wi-Fi network.

The infrastructure is protected by four firewalls and system backups that replicate data and applications to an offsite data center managed by Bryley. Bryley also disconnected approximately 60 workstations in the old facility and then reconnected them in the new facility.

The Deployment: Changing Timeline Requires Nimble Flexibility

To help keep the project moving forward, Bryley Systems met with Novelli and the other partners on a weekly basis to synchronize their tasks. As Bryley configured and burned in the servers, switches and the Wi-Fi gear in advance of the implementation, the five-person team expected to have a six-week window in which all the devices could be deployed. But as the construction timeline changed, and as other partners needed more time to prepare their installations, the window shrunk to about two weeks.

“Bryley remained flexible the entire time, and they coordinated all their resources to make sure their portion of the project was still completed on schedule—despite the much shorter timeline,” Novelli says.

Bryley’s efforts included implementations during weekends and very early in the morning. With buses running until about midnight and starting up as early as 5:00 a.m. the next day, the downtime window was very small.

“We kept to our committed bus schedules even during the final cut-over weekend when we closed down the old building and made the final move into the new facility,” Novelli points out. “That was a big accomplishment, and Bryley played a major role in our success by adapting to the changing needs of the situation.”

Benefits: Improved Network Performance and Peace-of-Mind

With the new IT infrastructure, WRTA now has a complete virtual local-area-network along with a wireless network that both utilize the latest technologies. This includes advanced solid-state flash storage from Hewlett Packard that speeds up file save and access processes for end users such as vehicle tracking, location prediction and record keeping as well as real-time communication between drivers and dispatchers. The new network also ensures better application performance.

Looking back at the success of the project, Novelli says the major benefit that she and the organization receives from Bryley Systems is peace-of-mind knowing that IT systems will function as required: “Whether it’s handling a major move like this one, or making sure our computer network remains up-and-running, we trust Bryley to get the job done. They proactively make sure all the details are taken care of so that we can avoid surprises that hamper daily operations.”

The partnership with Bryley also continues to allow Novelli to maintain a minimal internal IT staff. “It’s just me and one other person—otherwise we rely on Bryley for everything from help desk support to long-term technology planning,” Novelli says. “We continue to partner with Bryley for their expertise and the value they bring to our organization. They provide a full range of staff that can assist at the consultant level for servers and design along with the technicians that help our end users. They are always responsive to anything new we need—even if we need it right away.”

Side Bar

Major Benefits—IT Infrastructure Deployed in New Data Center by Bryley Systems:

  • Implemented during off-hours to avoid network downtime during operational hours.
  • Coordinated the deployment to sync with construction activities and actions of other vendors.
  • Met timeline requirements even as the window for deployment shrunk from six to two weeks.
  • Provided peace-of-mind that computer network would continue to function after the cut-over.
  • Delivered new technologies that enhance application performance for end users.
  • Enabled internal IT team to maintain minimal-size staff.

Office 365 Changes

Office 365 recently announced some updates to the platform.  Below is a list of changes taken from their Message Center:

 

Sept. 18th
Updated feature: Office 365 login screen
How does this affect me?
Any user logging into Office 365, from anywhere in the EU, will see a cookie disclosure banner. This banner will show the first time the user loads the page and will not show again for a few months, or until cookies are cleared on the browser. There is no action the user has to take on this banner and there is no change in workflow. This change is intended to meet EU regulatory requirements.   This process should be completed by the end of September.

Sept. 19th
Updated feature: Office 365 multi-factor authentication screens

How does this affect me?
If you have multi-factor authentication (MFA) turned on, users in your organization will see an updated experience for MFA screens that matches the new sign-in experience. This will only show when users opt-in to see the new sign-in experience, by clicking “try it now”. If users do not opt-in, they will continue to see MFA screens in the current experience. This change will start rolling out in the next few days.

What do I need to do to prepare for this change?
There is nothing needed on your end, but you may consider user training.

Sept, 20th

Known Issue: Email access in iOS 11
If you are using the native mail app on your iPhone or iPad, and upgrade to iOS 11, you may encounter issues.

How does this affect me?
Due to an incompatibility in the new release of iOS, users of the built-in Apple Mail app in iOS 11 may be unable to sync their Office 365 mailbox or login to their accounts. iOS 9 or 10 users are not affected.

What do I need to do to fix this?
Microsoft and Apple are working to resolve this issue.  In the meantime, it is suggested that you download the free Outlook for iOS client, available in the App Store.

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

Bryley Tips: Password Manager

The days of widespread, biometric-based security (voice recognition, fingerprint reading, eye scanning, etc.) are coming, but passwords are still required in many organizations and at most websites.  The problem:  How do I manage (let alone remember) all of the different usernames and passwords I have out there?

Personally, I use Tasks within Microsoft Outlook, which is secured by my network login:  Within a folder I titled “Usernames”, I create a task for each application and website and then copy-in the date and user information.  This limits my “need to remember” to only one complex password (my network login).  However, I must have access to my Outlook account to retrieve all other user information.

There are better tools called password managers.  These are software applications that “help a user organize passwords and PIN codes”1, which are held in a secure, encrypted file or database.  Many include the ability to automatically fill-in a form-based webpage with the username, password, and any other login credentials.

Most password managers can be categorized thus:

  • PC based – Application running on your PC
  • Mobile based – Application running on your tablet or smartphone
  • Token-based – Requires a separate smartcard, memory stick, or similar device to authenticate
  • Web-based – Credentials are located at a website and must be viewed and/or copied from this site
  • Cloud-based – Credentials are web-based, but are securely transferred for processing to an application running on your PC or mobile device

Most password managers are hybrids and many fit into two or more categories, but all share one trait:  You still need a master password to access your information (although some offer two-factor authentication).

Important characteristics include:

  • Access – Accessible from all devices and browsers
  • Detect – Automatically detect and save from any account
  • Secure – Advanced encryption, two-factor authentication, etc.

Pricing varies from free (for the slimmed-down, single-device versions) to annual subscriptions that range from $9.95 to $49.99 per year.

Several publications2 have reviewed password managers; the top performers:

  • LastPass 3.0 – Cloud-based and powerful yet flexible; free version available, but upgrade (at $12/year) to LastPass Premium for mobile-device support
  • DashLane 2.0 – Feature laden with an easy-to-use interface; free version, but $29.95/year to synchronize all devices and get priority support
  • RoboForm Everywhere 7.0 – Cloud-based at $9.95 for first year

Other password managers (in alphabetical order):

  • 1Password for Windows – $49.99 per user
  • F-secure Key – $15.95
  • Handy Password – Starts at $29.92
  • KeePass – Free
  • Keeper – Subscription at $9.99/year
  • My1login – Free for 1 to 3 users; $22 for 4 to 10 users
  • Password Box – Free version with subscription at $12.00/year
  • Password Genie 4.0 – Subscription at $15.00/year
  • PassPack – Free version with subscription at $12.00/year
  • PasswordWallet – $20.00

I like LastPass; the free version is easy to use and my login data is available from anywhere (with Internet access).  Plus, I like having the application locally on my PC (even though my data is stored at LastPass in encrypted format).

  1. Taken from Wikipedia at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Password_manager.
  2. Recent password managers reviews:

Case Study – To Support Major Company Expansion, Leaktite Relies on Bryley Systems to Design and Coordinate New IT Infrastructure Deployment

The Company: Leaktite Corporation

Leaktite Corporation manufactures and distributes metal, plastic and paper containers, buckets, pails and trays for a wide variety of industrial, commercial and consumer applications. From its establishment in 1945, the company has achieved solid growth based on experience and the flexibility to move with the times. Leaktite supports product development with state-of-the-art injection molding and thermoforming production equipment to ensure maximum efficiency and to meet the ever-changing needs of customers.

The Challenge: Deploy an IT Infrastructure to Support a New Facility

Following years of steady growth delivering container products to large retailers and small hardware stores across the U.S., Leaktite Corporation determined the time had arrived to expand its operations. The Massachusetts firm ships about one-third of its products beyond the Rocky Mountains, and considering how much volume that buckets, pails and trays take up, shipping costs were beginning to increase rapidly.

“Given the shape and construction of our containers, we pay a lot just to ship air,” says Russ Brillon, the Leaktite CFO. “We thus decided to build a new manufacturing facility in Arizona from which we could provide products to our customers in the western part of the U.S.”

Finding a partner to design and coordinate the deployment of an IT infrastructure to support the Arizona facility and to connect it to the Massachusetts facility was a key decision for Brillon. Making the transition smoothly to two locations, three times zone away from each other, was a major step for a company that had been in business for more than 70 years.

“We knew there would be multiple partners involved, including telecommunications, our operational software systems, cabling, and the computer network infrastructure,” says Brillon. “In addition to bringing IT infrastructure expertise to the table, we needed a team player that could work well within a group of service providers.”

The Solution: Bryley Systems Coordinates Design and Implementation from Afar

To design and coordinate the deployment of the new IT infrastructure in Arizona, Brillon turned to his long-time trusted IT partner who is practically right in his backyard: Bryley Systems has provided managed services to Leaktite since 2008. In addition to recommending and implementing new hardware and software technologies, Bryley provides both desktop and IT network support, serving as an outsourced IT department for the Leaktite Massachusetts facility.

“Bryley treats us like we are their most important customer, and even though Arizona is three-thousand miles away, we felt confident turning to them to design and coordinate the IT infrastructure,” Brillon says. “Bryley understands how our business functions and which technologies best map to our business needs.”

The solution Bryley designed for the Arizona facility includes a rackmount server, three network switches with fiber interconnections, a controller-based wireless network for consolidated management & full wireless coverage, and endpoint computer systems. Bryley also consulted on the design of the network connection between the Massachusetts and Arizona facilities.

“We wanted our teams working in both facilities to feel like they are right next door to each other,” Brillon says. “With knowledge of today’s technologies, Bryley has the expertise to make it possible—both in the way they design IT infrastructure solutions as well as the way in which they sync their solutions with other technology systems.”

The Deployment: Collaborating with Other Service Providers Plays Key Role

For the onsite deployment of the IT infrastructure in Arizona, Leaktite hired a local solution provider. Bryley pre-configured all the gear and shipped the devices onsite, and then worked with the local solution provider to coordinate the installation. The infrastructure is set up exactly as Leaktite requires.

“Bryley first gave us options and the costs of each option as to the different ways we could set up the Arizona facility and the connection back to our Massachusetts facility,” Brillon says. “Once we made our choice, Bryley stuck to the project plan and brought their part of the project in on-budget.

Bryley also coordinated its activities with the telecommunications service provider who set up the phone systems in both locations. “Bryley is great at collaborating with other service companies to help keep projects moving forward and pitching in wherever they can to help everyone involved—even if it’s something that falls outside of their responsibility,” Brillon says. “When we ran into a surprise cost involving the installation of fiber cable—which fell under the purview of the telecommunications firm—Bryley suggested an alternative way to make the connection, which cut costs and helped us complete the project faster.”

Benefits: Facilities in Different Time Zones Feel Like They Are Just Next Door

Thanks to the efforts of Bryley and the other service providers on the project, Leaktite now has a second fully-functional manufacturing and distribution facility. The 100+ employees in Massachusetts and the 30+ employees in Arizona can collaborate and communicate with each other as though they are in the same room.

“The technology also enables us to keep all the staff for admin and back-office functions here in Massachusetts,” Brillon adds. “That makes it possible for our team in Arizona to just focus on manufacturing and shipping products. At the same time, we can now deliver products to our western customers faster while reducing our shipping fees.”

In describing his company’s relationship with Bryley Systems, Brillon emphasizes how Bryley delivers on their promises: “Many IT solution providers tell you they can be just like an extension of your internal team but in the end, they don’t deliver. Bryley is not like that. They proactively make sure our IT infrastructure stays up and running at peak levels, and if we ever need help, they always respond quickly.”

Bryley continues to provide managed desktop and network support (including system backups) to the Massachusetts facility and now to the Arizona facility. Most issues can be resolved remotely, but if Arizona needs an on-site visit, Bryley coordinates the resolution with the local service provider.

Brillon commented that Leaktite is now big enough to perhaps hire an internal IT team. But with Bryley taking care of both desktop and network support so efficiently and cost-effectively, the need to do so has not yet emerged.

“With our partnership, we know Bryley will keep our IT infrastructure running today while also preparing us for tomorrow—whether that’s utilizing new technologies, such as the cloud, or adding another new facility if we should expand once again. It’s great to have a partner who will be with us every step of the way.”

Side Bar

Major Benefits—IT Infrastructure for New Facility Deployed by Bryley Systems:

  • Helps company expand smoothly from one facility to a second facility across the country.
  • Delivers new facility IT infrastructure and connection to home office on-time and on-budget.
  • Coordinates IT infrastructure with other systems to keep overall project moving forward.
  • Enables end users at remote facility to function just like they’re in the home facility.
  • Meet today’s business needs with expertise to proactively plan for tomorrow.
  • Creates trusted partnership that serves as a true IT department extension to the company.

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

Why a Healthy Relationship with your MSP is Key to your Organization’s Ongoing Success.

The benefit of outsourcing part or all of your IT infrastructure’s needs is to remove those tasks and worries so that your organization can focus on your clients.  The cornerstone of maximizing the business benefit of your Managed Service Provider (MSP) is to ensure that the relationship between your organization and your service provider is consciously designed, proactively supported, and jointly managed.

Here are a few pointers for building and maintaining a great relationship with your current or prospective MSP partner:

Organizations should spend time with their MSP.  Organizations must involve their MSP in discussions and give them access to as much information as possible, without violating any commercial, data, or security issues.  It is important to designate a person (or two) to be the key point-of-contact for a variety of reasons:  open/create tickets, make phone calls/communicate needs or requests to your MSP, and oversee the relationship in general.

Having regularly scheduled meetings with key people from your MSP is always a good idea.  During these meetings, it is important to involve your MSP in your organization’s business plans and to get their input on strategic decisions related to IT.  With this level of insight, all parties can better understand the bigger picture and contribute to shared, long-term goals of your organization.  A discussion of your organization’s business and technology needs can establish a roadmap for future projects. The creation of that roadmap can, in turn, flow into a conversation around budget planning.

An effective MSP will understand the demands, business cycles, and priorities of your organization.  Essentially, MSPs want to do a good job but they aren’t always engaged by their client in a way that allows for that.  Only when an MSP has that level of information, and is engaged in that way, can everyone work together effectively, and the MSP can meet your goals and timetables.

Create a robust, quality communication system that clearly defines decision rights and proactively address issues, challenges and concerns. To be successful, the environment should enable collaborative working and open communication.  By appointing the key client and service provider leaders that drive the relationship process and communicate to stakeholders, the relationship will be in support of your long-term business mission and objectives.

In an effective relationship the key is to manage by FACT rather than perception, as the latter leads to mistrust and ongoing conflict.  Service reporting should be considered an ongoing process focusing on the ability to “slice and dice” information for decision making purposes. Your reporting should also be linked to the management information system that supports the relationship and should take a “balanced scorecard” approach.

Relationships inevitably encounter issues, obstacles and challenges as well as opportunities. Establish robust governance processes and forums early on to increase and maintain the level of trust between organizations.

Trust is vital. Treat your MSP like you would your IT manager.  ”Many times the value of the MSP service can be hindered by technology that doesn’t work the way it is meant to, or a technology provider that is unable to customize for your organizations’ needs. That is why it’s important to trust in your MSP and consult them with any goals or concerns you may have. Your MSP has a wealth of experience in dealing with a range of vendors and products, so they are in the best position to provide you with an integrated solution, tailored to your needs.”1 Give them general direction, and then let them do what they do best – manage IT.

Entrusting your IT to an MSP can be a difficult decision, but as long as your MSP is reliable and secure, it may very well be one of the best business decisions you’ve ever made.

By considering these elements, organizations have the foundation for a genuine partnership that, with the right access, ongoing conversations, and collaboration, can make a positive difference to the success of their organization.  Agreeing together on the definition of ‘a successful partnership’ must be one of the first steps for a long-term, genuine partnership.

1 http://www.interlinked.com.au/tips-for-a-long-lasting-relationship-with-your-msp/ – Interlinked

Defining “Virus” – In the World of Computers

There are viruses that can be implanted on a computer today, and lie dormant waiting until a network becomes completely vulnerable before attacking. Unfortunately, viruses have come a long way from 20 years ago. Today we refer to viruses as a specific kind of malware, one that can self-replicate and continue its destructive path indefinitely.

Viruses have gotten faster and more efficient. They can delete photos, files, and entire storage libraries. They’re developed to target Word, Outlook, Windows OS, Mac OS — nothing is safe. They can be designed to affect Facebook or Twitter users, or programmed to steal credit card information. Hackers are often out for destruction, chaos, or potentially for ransom. The more the average person understands them, the faster hackers create new tricks to get in. Viruses can come in the form of a pop up, an email from a coworker, or a completely undetectable program that waits until the time is right.

“How does a computer virus find me? Even if you’re careful you can pick up computer viruses through normal Web activities like:

  • Sharing music, files or photos with other users
  • Visiting an infected Web site
  • Opening spam email or an email attachment
  • Downloading free games, toolbars, media players and other system utilities
  • Installing mainstream software applications without fully reading license agreements

What does a computer virus do? Some computer viruses are programmed to harm your computer by damaging programs, deleting files, or reformatting the hard drive. Others simply replicate themselves or flood a network with traffic, making it impossible to perform any internet activity. Even less harmful computer viruses can significantly disrupt your system’s performance, sapping computer memory and causing frequent computer crashes.”1

What are the symptoms of a computer virus? If you recognize any of these malware symptoms in your machine, it may be infected:

  • Slow computer performance
  • Computer pop-ups
  • Suspicious hard drive activity
  • Running out of hard drive space
  • Frequent computer crashes
  • New browser home page, toolbars and/or unwanted websites
  • Unusual messages or programs that start up automatically
  • Your security solution is disabled 

How Antivirus Works. Most antivirus software works on a signature database, monitoring the internet 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Every time a new virus is reported – it’s indexed, catalogued and added to the software’s database. Once your antivirus software is up-to-date it is equipped to tackle the new virus should it ever reach your device.”

Who needs antivirus software? 2”These days, everybody needs antivirus software. Computer viruses don’t just come from streaming or downloading movies. Many people think that they can avoid potential threats by making sure they don’t visit certain websites or download certain files. The truth is computer viruses can make their way on to your computer or any other device in a number of ways. You can pick up viruses and malware simply by checking your email, browsing the web, or from putting a USB memory stick into your laptop. Virus protection is a requisite of having your own personal computer.

With Managed Anti-MalwareTM (MAM) from Bryley Systems, your Windows-based computers and servers are protected against common virus, spyware, and other malware threats. To inquire about Bryley’s full array of Managed IT Services, please contact us by phone at 844.449.8770 or by email at ITExperts@Bryley.com. We’re here for you.

Resources:
1 https://webroot.com
2 http://www.top10antivirussoftware.com