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.

The Benefit of a VPN

The news is filled with how internet service providers have the ability to track our web surfing habits and the numerous data breaches that occur – it is no secret that online privacy is nearly non-existent.  Private browsing features can temporarily cover up your browsing history, but they do not completely protect your online activities. A Virtual Private Network (VPN) is one of the easiest ways to protect your employees and your corporate data.

A VPN is a network created between your employee and what they access.  It is a group of servers connected via the internet.  Essentially, your corporate data is encrypted and no one else can view, control, influence or change your activity.

Security and privacy are the main reasons why you would want a VPN. For example, if one of your road warriors is connected to a public Wi-Fi network — like the ones in local cafes and airports — using a VPN encrypts the information they are sending or accessing online. This means things like credit card details, login credentials, private conversations, or other sensitive documents can’t be intercepted by a third party.

Some advantages of using a VPN:

  1. Enhanced security. When you connect to your network through a VPN, your data is kept secure and encrypted – making it difficult for a potential hacker to do damage.
  2. Remote access. The ability to access information from home or while your employees are traveling, will increase productivity while remaining secure.
  3. Access to geo-restricted websites.  If your employees travel overseas, they may experience some US websites that are blocked in that region.  By connecting to a VPN located in the US, your employee will gain access to the site(s) they need.
  4. File sharing.  A VPN will allow you to share files for a long period of time.  While your employees are working on group projects with multiple people accessing data, it allows your employees to accomplish that task securely.
  5. Increased performance. Bandwidth and efficiency of the network can be generally increased once a VPN solution is implemented.
  6. Online anonymity. The advantage of a VPN service is that it allows you to access both web applications and websites in complete anonymity.

If your employees are working remotely, a VPN is a vital component of cybersecurity.  Consult with one of our experts today.

To inquire about Bryley’s full array of Managed Cloud Services and Managed IT Services, please contact us by phone at 978.562.6077 or by email at ITExperts@Bryley.com. We are here for you.

Relocating Your Organization? Set Some Goals and Hire IT Experts to Help.

Moving your business in 2018?

While moving to a new location is exciting, let’s face it, there is a lot that goes into a move, and it has the potential to be very disruptive to your business.  As the moving date approaches all the little details you never even considered suddenly become insurmountable obstacles. By being proactive, you can keep all interruptions to a minimum.  Whether you are expanding or consolidating space, when you are ready to ‘make the move’ keep in mind that you should set some goals and hire some experts to help.  Proper planning can be the difference between a seamless transition or a giant disruption for your business.

Bryley Systems has worked with many clients over the years to assist them in their relocation efforts.  Here are some guidelines based on our experience:

Keep the Communication Lines Open.  Getting everyone up to speed on the details of the plan is essential and training the key personnel on what their tasks are is step 1.  Gather your team and develop a plan so that you know who is in charge of what.  Each member will need to begin working on their tasks to ensure a smooth transition.

Plan Well in Advance. Once you know you’re moving into a new office, scope out the space and decide on the layout, including where everything and everyone will go. That will allow you to plan out what your needs are as far as new office equipment goes, and give employees an opportunity to do their own planning ahead for their new space. Create a map or floor plan so that everyone knows the plan.  If you need new office equipment, allow yourself a couple months to place orders for new equipment.

It is a good idea to reach out to your IT department or service provider at this stage.  At the very least you want to make sure that you will have the necessary network access in your new environment, and they will be able to make recommendations that may inform how best to arrange the space.

Hire a Reputable Moving Company.  Plan well in advance and hire a company that is capable of moving commercial equipment. Your moving company should be held to the highest professional standard as any of your other business partners.

Clean and Toss.  Then Toss Some More!  Don’t bring things you don’t need! Shred all unnecessary papers, get rid of office furniture that has been collecting dust and sell or donate equipment that you won’t be needing anymore.  There is no point in moving things you will not need, and in today’s modern electronic age, why move heavy boxes of paper files?  Scan important documents and create a clean, organized electronic filing system.  And remember, shred those unneeded documents.  Hire a shredding company to remove all the paper so that you don’t leave your organization vulnerable to a security breach.

Get Your Staff Organized.  Have your employees pack things neatly and label everything so that your movers can swiftly put things in to place – efficiency and organization go a long way.

Be Sure to Schedule Meetings and Deadlines Realistically.  It’s very important to give your staff the appropriate time to do everything they need to do prior to the move, along with making sure they keep up with their day to day tasks. If it means creating a buffer zone for meetings, then do it.  Being ill-prepared for a meeting is a disaster so give yourself a few days or a few weeks to be fully up and running in your new location before you hit the road or have a major deadline.

Talk, Talk Talk! Tell Your Clients and Business Partners.  Reducing client concerns is a huge factor so remember to be visible and communicate to the world that you have a new office space.

Yes.  Hire IT Experts – like Bryley! When it comes to your IT hardware, you need a specialist.  You may think you are capable of handling your move internally, but before machines are powered down, they need to be backed up. New ports and connections at your new location need to be in place and ready to go before you get there with the equipment.  Setting up cabling and jacks will need to be installed by an expert to ensure your setup is correct and that your employees are as productive as possible when they arrive to work their first day at the new location. This is not an easy job, and doing it incorrectly can be very disruptive.  If your IT hardware isn’t handled properly, you risk catastrophic data loss at a volatile time for your organization.

This is also a great time to plan for the future.  If you expect to be adding personnel within a certain timeframe after moving, make sure that you bring this up with your service provider.  They can help you plan accordingly so you don’t find yourself replacing hardware you just paid them to move because it can’t handle the new demands you are making of it.

The key to a successful office move is careful planning. Moving your IT is one of the most critical tasks. You need to minimize downtime to prevent any impact on your business.  Bryley Systems has worked alongside numerous companies who needed a capable IT provider to guide them along the way.  We will meet with you, gather details, understand your business and your IT infrastructure, and plan for a seamless transition of your equipment, and work with you at your new site to trouble-shoot any challenges you have.

If you are planning a move, give us a call at 978.562.6077.  We will meet with you, gather details and plan for a seamless transition of your IT equipment. And, we will work with you at your new site to trouble-shoot any challenges you have. We also have a detailed moving guide available on our website for you to reference.

 

Bryley Systems has 30 years of experience taking the worry off of our clients’ shoulders and effectively managing IT environments at a predictable cost. For more information about Bryley’s full array of Managed IT Services and Managed Cloud Services, please contact us at 978.562.6077 or by email at ITExperts@Bryley.com.

We are here to help.

How to Tell a Client You Are Relocating Your Office

Making the decision to relocate your organization is the first step in the process of a very long list of to-do’s.  It is a complicated but rewarding process.  It will take careful planning to eliminate employee downtime and for you to minimize the impact on your business’ day-to-day operations.

One of the crucial tasks involved with moving is to be sure you make it as simple as possible for your clients to find you. Here are some tips to help you communicate that message effectively:

Tell Your Clients as Soon as Possible.  Start telling people far in advance of the actual move date. Use whatever tools you would normally use to reach out to your clients.  Use email, social media, announce it on your web site, include a notice on your email signature and put a note on your invoices. Be sure to post regular reminders and updates about the move.

Why Not Make It Local News?  Contact your chamber of commerce and networking groups to request they make announcements.  It’s a great and effective way of getting the word out there, and typically you’re not paying extra dollars for reaching many people in the community.

Make It a Big Deal.  In every piece of content that you announce the move, make it exciting! Tell your clients why it’s exciting – whether it means a bigger location, you’re expanding your business, or that you’ll be closer to your clients. If you are downsizing, it can be described as a positive business decision aimed at decreasing wasted resources.  Either way, it’s all in how you package it.

Post A Notice On Your Website.  Put an announcement on your homepage in a very visible way. Create a page dedicated to move updates so expectations of office relocation dates are very clear.  On your About Us and Contact Us pages, add information for both your current and new location, including dates you will be moving or closed for moving. If you have a blog, post updates regularly.

Hopefully these tips will help your organization spread the word to your clients to make the transition easy for them!

Windows 7, Windows 8, or Windows 10? Eeny, meeny, miny, moe?

By Anna D, Client Relationship Manager, Bryley Systems

Choosing which Windows operating system (OS) to install on your computer is not child’s play.

I know, because as the Bryley Systems’ Client Relationship Manager, I have this conversation with clients over and over again, especially when clients are purchasing new computers.

Here’s what I recommend.

If you are purchasing new computers for your organization, you should seriously consider installing Windows 10. 

Some clients want to install Windows 7, perhaps because they’re familiar with it. However, Windows 7 has a relatively short lifespan. It will be at “end of life” on January 14th, 2020.  This means that Microsoft will no longer be providing security updates for that operating system, in which case your computer will be more susceptible to viruses and your organization will not be compliant.  In 3 years, you will have to upgrade that operating system. An upgrade involves labor costs, software licensing, and employee downtime. Not the best idea.

What about Windows 8? Good question. Windows 8 was the operating system that Microsoft “abandoned,” probably because it was not well received. Windows 8 was only around for 3 years, making it one of the most short-lived operating system licenses that Microsoft has ever released. What’s more, many distributors are not stocking their inventory with computers that have Windows 8 or 8.1 pre-installed. That’s a problem.

That brings us to Windows 10, which is definitely my recommendation. Of course, prior to installing Windows 10, you need to find out if all of your applications are compatible with this newest operating system.  We can help you make that determination.

Transitioning to a new operating system isn’t always easy, but it is a best practice and we can guide you through the process. For more information, please call Bryley Systems at 978-562-6077 or toll free at 844-449-8770. Of course, you can also email us at ITExperts@Bryley.com.

Why Invest in a UPS?

UPS stands for uninterruptible power supply. This electrical device is meant to provide a power supply in the event of a power outage or when the power input fails.

Power outages can result from electrical poles being damaged by storms, traffic accidents, fire, flood and other disasters.  Faults in the grid or power plant can also cause blackouts.  We cope with these inconveniences but our computers, unfortunately, just are not hardwired to cope with them in the same way.  Sudden power loss during data transfers can be damaging making the hard drive inaccessible.

Computers can be fragile pieces of machinerySevere damage can occur with a sudden power outage or fluctuation.  Components in a computer such as a hard drive can be affected and data can even get lost when power goes off and you have not properly shut down your computer.  It is especially damaging to the computer’s hard drive when there is power interruption.  When power is suddenly cut off, your hard drive spins down without being shut down properly.  When power comes back and you restart, you may find that much of your work has been lost. When power is restored, it is often accompanied by fluctuations which may turn your computer off again.  Hard drives can only take so much, and in some cases, computers can be destroyed. To protect your computer’s hard drive from these unfortunate scenarios, you need to plug your computer into an electrical device called a UPS system.

Right at the moment of a power blackout, these handy devices will act as a battery backup power supply which will automatically provide power to your computer for enough time to allow you to save your data and properly shut down your computer.

Because the circuit in this power device continuously monitors the voltage, it can sense surges, spikes and outages. When the UPS senses an electrical problem, it switches to AC power which is generated by a battery which provides you with protection.

Ultimately, a UPS backup battery gives you peace of mind while working. You won’t have to cringe when a thunderstorm rolls through, wondering if it would be better to simply power down your machine and wait it out. In addition, you won’t have those fears in the back of your mind that a power blackout may instantly cut off your work, wasting your time and efforts, and even worse, destroy your computer.

Remember, having a plan and being prepared is your first line of defense.  If you would like more information about emergency power outage strategies please contact us at 978.562.6077or by email at ITExperts@Bryley.com.  We are here to help.

Is Your Technology Ready for Winter?

Whether or not you love or detest winter, the fact of the matter is that it’s quickly advancing.  Around this time those of us in New England put snow tires on our vehicles, stake our driveways, and put sand or kitty litter in our trunks.  But what about our technology?  How can you protect it from the harsh New England weather?

 

  • Check your surroundings. Prior to turning on any heating device, make sure it is a safe distance from your technology – you do not want to risk melting portions of your device.
  • Keep your technology out of your trunk! Although keeping your laptop in the trunk is a far better option than leaving it in the back seat of the car, it’s still not optimal. If left in a trunk for an extended period of time, severe temperatures can cause computer equipment to fail.
  • Let your devices warm up. How many times have you come in from the cold and had your glasses fog?  It only last a few moments until your glasses acclimate to the new temperature.  The same phenomena occurs inside your computer, but can have more severe consequences including short circuiting the device.  Drastic temperature shifts can also cause the metal components in the devices to expand and contract, potentially causing damage.  The best way to avoid this is to allow your computer to acclimate to the new temperature prior to powering the device.
  • Do not place any heating elements (heating pad, hair dryer, etc.) on or near the device in an effort to speed up the warming process. This can cause more harm than good.
  • Protect your screens. Most screens have an LCD, or liquid crystal display, and run the risk of freezing, making them more susceptible to cracking or shattering.  To reduce the risk of this occurring, reduce exposure to extreme temperatures.
  • Have your charger ready. Cold temperatures cause batteries to drain, so it’s important to keep a charger handy to ensure maximum uptime.
  • Change the Power Settings. “You can keep your laptop warm by changing the power settings to power save mode. This keeps the laptop warm as it continues to run, and instead of shutting down the hard drive, it keeps it spinning. The longer the laptop can be kept running, the warmer it will stay as it generates its own heat.”1
  • Be wary when online shopping. Online shopping is a great way to avoid the crows and get items you desire, but be wary of cyber criminals. We recently wrote an article to provide insight to protect yourself from hackers.

Keeping these tips in mind will enable you to enjoy the winter months and protect your valuable devices.

 

1 https://www.pcrichard.com/library/blogArticle/keeping-your-devices-safe-in-the-cold/800264.pcra

http://abc13.com/weather/winter-ize-your-technology-/467519/

http://tahoetopia.com/news/winterizing-your-computer

https://www.lifewire.com/top-cold-weather-tips-for-laptops-2377656

Shopping Online — Safely

Shopping online is very convenient.  You can click here and there and order whatever product you desire and have it delivered to your front door.  You can compare pricing, look for deals, compare products, and it all can be done quickly and in the convenience of your own home, any time, night or day.  The downfall?  Wherever there is money and users to be found, there are malicious hackers roaming around.

Use familiar web sites.  You need to be aware of the safer online shops, like Amazon.  One tactic favored by malicious hackers is to set up their own fake shopping websites. Fake websites can either infect you the moment you arrive on them by way of malicious links. However, the most dangerous aspect you should be concerned about is the checkout process. Completing a checkout process will give cybercriminals your most important information: credit card data (including security number), name, and address. This opens you up to credit card fraud or social engineering attacks.

What are some key things to be aware of as you’re shopping?  Sticking with popular brands is as good as any advice when shopping online. Not only do you know what you’re getting by way of quality and price, but you also feel more confident that these well-established names have in place robust security measures. Their efforts can be quite remarkable, as researchers at Google and the University of San Diego found last year.1

 A few things to be aware of: 

  • Leery URL’s such as “coach-at-awesome-price.com” or “the-bestonlineshoppingintheworld.com”
  • A strange selection of brands – as an example, the website claims to be specialized in clothes but also sells car parts or construction materials
  • Strange contact information. If the email for customer service is “amazonsupport@gmail.com” instead of “support@amazon.com” then you should be suspicious that online shop is fake
  • Are prices ridiculously low?  An online shop that has an iPhone 7 at $75 is most likely trying to scam you

The old adage “if it seems too good to be true, it probably is,” rings true in this case, and it’s best to steer clear of these sites.

Use Secure Connections.  Wi-Fi has some serious limitations in terms of security. Unsecured connections allow hackers to intercept your traffic and see everything you are doing on an online shop.  This includes checkout information, passwords, emails, addresses, etc.

Before You Buy Online…

  • If the connection is open and doesn’t have a password, don’t use it.
  • If the router is in an exposed location, allowing people to tamper with it, it can be hacked by a cybercriminal. Stay away.
  • If you are in a densely-crowded bar with dozens of devices connected to the same Wi-Fi hotspot, this can be a prime target for an enterprising cybercriminal who wants to blend in and go unnoticed. Continue to socialize, don’t shop.

Access secure shopping sites that protect your information. If you want to purchase from a website, make sure it has SSL (secure sockets layer) encryption installed. The site should start with https:// and you should notice the lock symbol is in the address bar at the top.

Update your browser, antivirus and operating system.  One of the more frequent causes of malware is unpatched software.  Online shoppers are most at risk due to the sensitive information involved. At a minimum, make sure you have an updated browser when you are purchasing online. This will help secure your cookies and cache, while preventing a data leakage.  You’ll probably fuss over having to constantly update your software because it can be a time consuming operation, but remember the benefits.

Always be aware of your bank statement.  Malicious hackers are typically looking for credit card data, and online shops are the best place for them to get their hands on such information.  Often times, companies get hacked and their information falls into the hands of cybercriminals.

For this reason, it’s a good habit to review your bank account and check up on any suspicious activity.

“Don’t wait for your bill to come at the end of the month. Go online regularly and look at electronic statements for your credit card, debit card, and checking accounts. Make sure you don’t see any fraudulent charges, even originating from sites like PayPal. If you do see something wrong, pick up the phone to address the matter quickly. In the case of credit cards, pay the bill only once you know all your charges are accurate. You have 30 days to notify the bank or card issuer of problems.”2

Using a credit card vs. a debit card is safer.  Credit cards have additional legal defenses built in that make them safer to purchase online compared to debit cards.  With credit cards, you aren’t liable if you are a victim of a fraudulent transaction, so long as you report the fraud in a timely manner. Secondly, credit cards give you leverage when it comes to disputing transactions with a seller. If you pay with a debit card, you can’t get your money back unless the seller agrees to it. With credit cards, the money you paid for a product isn’t counted against you until due process is complete, debit card holders however can only get their money back after this step.  Ultimately, banks are much more protective of credit cards since it’s their money on the line, not yours.

Additional tips for safety:

  • Never let someone see your credit card number – it may seem obvious, but never keep your PIN number in the same spot as your credit card
  • Destroy and delete any statements you have read
  • Notify your credit card issuer of any address change. Doing so will prevent them from sending sensitive files to the previous address
  • Keep confirmation numbers and emails for any online purchases you may have done
  • Immediately call your credit card company and close your account if you have lost or misplaced a credit card

Use antivirus protection.  The most frequent tip on how to be safe online is to use a good antivirus tool. It will keep you safe against known malware.  ”Before you begin shopping, outfit your phone or tablet with mobile security software. Look for a product that scans apps for viruses and spyware, blocks shady websites, provides lost-device protection and offers automatic updates.”3

Do not purchase from spam or phishing emails.  A phishing email with a fake offer for a desirable product is a hard thing to resist for many shoppers, so they make an impulsive decision and click on the “Order Product” or “Buy Now”, and that’s when the malware attack starts.  A phishing email is not like a standard email. The cybercriminal simply wants your click, and nothing else. The Unsubscribe button won’t stop the email spam.  The best solution in these cases is for you to simply mark the email as spam, this will remove the mail from your inbox and block the sender from sending more spam.

Keep a record of your transactions.  If you are a frequent online shopper, it may be difficult to remember from which site you bought a certain product.  So, write it down: what you bought, when and from what website.  Compare your spending details with the banking records from your online banking account, keep track of which websites you use for shopping and buying stuff online.

Hold on to your receipts and destroy them when you no longer need them.  Keep the receipt for your purchase, just in case you need to confirm it again, as well as for warranty and return issues.  If you want to get rid of receipt, make sure to destroy it completely, so that any possible identity thief won’t be able to find any information about you.

Don’t give out more private information than you need to.  ”In order to shop online you need to provide two types of information: payment information, such as credit card data, and shipping location, which is usually your home or work address. Be suspicious of online shops that ask for information such as: date of birth, social security number or any other similar information. They don’t need it in order to sell you things.”4

Don’t keep too much information on your smartphone.  These days, everybody stores a lot of important personal information on their phone, and most of us rarely take the time to secure them.  These devices are now much less about calling people, and more about photos, social media, etc.  Increasingly, people shop online using their smartphone, but this carries its own risks. Fake online shops can infect your smartphone with malware, and then have access to information such as phone numbers, notes, photos, and even app contents.  Be careful what information you store on your smartphone.

If you take a few safety precautions, you can enjoy the convenience of technology with peace of mind while you shop online.

1 https://www.welivesecurity.com – ESET Security Forum
2 https://www.pcmag.com
3 http://www.trendmicro.co.uk/home/internet-safety-for-kids/smart-mobile-tips-for-online-shopping/ – TrendMicro
4 https://bettermoneyhabits.bankofamerica.com/
https://staysafeonline.org – Powered by National Cyber Security Alliance
https://www.americanbar.org – American Bar Association
https://www.foxnews.com
https://www.usatoday.com