Technology Information & News

Reduce Travel Costs & Expenses With Video Calling Apps

Endless airline terminals. Overpriced airport food. Overly-close seating on packed planes. What’s there to love about business travel? Sure, there are some road warriors who appreciate never having to clean a room or make a bed as they spend all their time in hotels, but for most people, business travel is simply something to be endured. Even 10 years ago, it would have been challenging to have the kind of high-speed access and seamless experience that you need for video conferencing, but today’s a different story. See how you can save time and money by utilizing some of these next-gen video calling apps.

Business Happens Everywhere

Workers want to be able to be productive anytime, anywhere — and that could include while watching their child’s baseball game, stepping out of a client meeting for a few minutes or even from home on the weekends. This is especially true of small business owners who are never truly off duty. Fortunately, video conferencing software and apps have come a long way from the fuzzy, slow-moving images and poor sound quality of the past to provide crystal-clear images and sound with no noticeable lag. If you haven’t tried it lately, video calling apps are now quite seamless to use and work equally well from your desktop, laptop, tablet or mobile phone.

Benefits of Video Calling

Let’s face it: travel is expensive, and the cost is not always justified for the value that you provide. There are certainly times when business travel will still be required, but many negotiations and conversations can happen equally well over a high-speed video call. Phone calls without video are not enough to provide you with the nuanced information that you receive when you’re able to see someone directly in front of you, and video calling fits that bill nicely. Business is increasingly global in nature, making video calls one of the few cost-effective ways to work with teams that are scattered throughout the region — or the world. Until the last few years, it was a bit more difficult to ensure that both individuals or teams had access to the right software and hardware to make video calling truly viable. With the majority of laptops being shipped with high-resolution video conferencing hardware already installed and the prevalence of smartphones, that is no longer the case.

Top Video Calling Apps

While certainly not an exhaustive list, here are a few of the top video conferencing apps that are used in business today:

  • Skype — consistently one of the top-rated apps by technology professionals and users
  • Zoom — free video calling that allows you to instantly share information from your phone
  • Cisco WebEx — businesses professionals love it, and there are extensive shared workplaces available in the platform
  • GoToMeeting — quickly and easily collaborate with partners and clients in real time
  • Slack— cross between a chat platform and video conferencing, built specifically for team communication

No matter what your video calling needs are, there’s probably a platform on the market today that will fulfill your needs — and cost far less than relying on expensive business travel.

Your Guide To Microsoft’s End Of Support

In an ideal world, you’d never have any technical issues, and you’d never have to call Microsoft technical support. Everything should work perfectly, without bugs, slowdowns, crashes, or corruptions. Of course, technical issues are inevitable, and when you experience difficulties, you call technical support to get the problem resolved as quickly as possible. The only thing worse than experiencing the frustration of Microsoft technical issues is when you call and go through the whole rigamarole of what is wrong only to hear, “Your product is not supported.”

Microsoft End Of Support

What does it mean if a Microsoft Windows product is not supported?

In the most general terms, “not supported” means that Windows is no longer eligible for the downloadable bug fixes, security patches, and other updates from the Windows Update service. It means that the product has exceeded the standard lifecycle support services. Each Microsoft product and service pack will fall into different support schedules, but you can also track the overall support lifecycle as well, so that you can plan for the inevitable end of a product for personal and professional use.

If Windows is not supported, is it still functional? Can you use it?

When Microsoft no longer supports a version of Windows, and your install is no longer protected from known security risks, compatibility issues, and other bugs, you can still use the operating system. In most cases, you will still be able to start and run your version of Windows Vista, XP, 7, 8.1, etc.; but you will experience increasing instances of software incompatibility and likely security risks. You may also experience error messages or other support issues related to your hardware and software. The compatibility issues can be frustrating, but you will likely still be able to use the product. For those individuals and companies who love the “old” product, and don’t want to change, they don’t really have to, at least not yet.

Why would you use Windows when it is no longer supported?

There are a number of reasons why you might need to use a version of Windows that is no longer supported. For example, your hardware may not support a new version of Windows, or your software may not be compatible. Another reason to stay with a deprecated version is because you just prefer it, because you don’t want to upgrade, or even due to security restrictions from your company. Some companies still use Windows 7 for security reasons, or because there are rumors (often well-founded) of issues with the new release. There’s always a trade-off when you decide to use a deprecated or unsupported product. You probably won’t be able to install or access new programs, websites, or other more current functionality; but you also may not need all those bells and whistles. If you prefer the old system, and you don’t want to change, then nobody can force you to upgrade. You have options to keep your system and programs in the exact same, stable state you’ve always enjoyed.

What is the timeline for service packs and the Microsoft lifecycle?

When a new Windows (OS) service pack is released, the previous service pack is on a 2-year cease-of-support updates countdown. While that timeline would seem to give you a general sense of how long you have before your product is no longer supported, there are caveats. Microsoft sometimes extends the length of time for support services, or just allows the support timeframe to inexplicably continue. It can be welcome news for the general Windows user, but it’s not something that is promised or assured. So, the consensus is that you should take support when and if you can, but expect that it could end.

How do you make sure Microsoft will be supported?

With the Modern Lifecycle Policy, you can pay for Software Assurance (SA), a subscription that offers additional licensing and professional services. For professionals and business owners, SA offers peace of mind that they will receive support services even when the standard product is no longer supported. Some companies also rely on the additional licensing rights and professional services, including:

  • Dedicated support services
  • Training or online certifications
  • Access to Microsoft partners

For companies who need help with additional training or services, the SA solution can more than pay for itself. The alternative (or additional) scenario is to hire or use existing IT infrastructure to support your Microsoft support or training needs. Even with your paid support services (for SA), Microsoft can still end all support for a product with a 12-month notification of support cessation.

Review Your Calendar Monthly For Better Perspective

Life is extremely busy with people scheduling every moment of their day while still looking back and wondering where their month has gone. It’s all too easy to find yourself reviewing a 6-month plan only to find that you are seriously off-course. Focusing one day at a time can cause you to be short-sighted when it comes to achieving your long-term goals. A quick review of your monthly calendar helps ensure that you’re well on the way to meeting business — and personal — objectives.

Leverage Project Management Strategies

Most project managers realize the importance of scheduling regular project reviews where you focus not on the daily tasks, but on the distance, you have moved from the overall project perspective. You can leverage this same methodology when it comes to tackling your calendar! Looking at your calendar on a daily or even weekly basis gives you an idea of what you have to get through, but it doesn’t provide you with a holistic view of your month and your year. Breaking deliverables and goals down into monthly chunks lets you see results more quickly and provides ongoing motivation to stay the path.

Using the Right Tools for the Job

Keeping your calendar updated with all of your various home, family, personal and work obligations can be a chore, especially when you’re splitting childcare or after-school activity duties with your spouse, parents or friends. Outlook and your Google Calendar may be great for scheduling work items, but is your work calendar getting bogged down with non-work related tasks? This can make it extremely difficult for others to schedule meetings with you and to maintain visibility for crucial work projects and tasks.

Thinking Strategically

Do you have a 1-year, 5-year and 10-year plan? Breaking these plans down into bi-annual and quarterly chunks allows you to more accurately track where you are according to your plan. This also keeps you from getting to the end of a busy year and wondering what happened to all of your time! Bringing this type of strategic thinking into your calendar on a monthly basis assures that you’re setting aside a time that is just for you. Even if you only spend 15 minutes reviewing the next month on a Sunday afternoon, you will find that it was time well spent.

Don’t let yourself get tied down to the daily hassles of life that can keep you from meeting your long-term goals and objectives. You can even use your calendar to help schedule time for your monthly calendar review! Your future self thanks you.

Monthly Calendar Review

Cloud Computing For Lawyers (2019 Introductory Guide)

Cloud Computer Lawyers

Attorneys have unique needs for the storage of information while needing to access data on clients and cases from remote locations. That’s why cloud computing has become such a popular option for lawyers. However, the value of cloud computing needs to be tempered with concerns about security and privacy.

Below is your 2019 introductory guide to cloud computing for lawyers.

What Is Cloud Computing?

Cloud computing is web-based, off-site storage of software and data, and is often referred to as software as a service (SaaS). It allows for access to files and software applications from most mobile devices if there’s an available internet connection.

Among some of the most popular commercial cloud-based storage solutions are Dropbox, Google Drive, OneDrive and iCloud. Some of these services are provided for free and others charge a nominal monthly or annual fee, usually based on the amount of storage required. Housing applications in the cloud usually is best done via a managed IT services provider that can configure and monitor the solution on your behalf.

What Are the Advantages to Cloud Computing?

Cloud computing helps busy attorneys stay connected to information critical to their work. Here’s a closer look at some of the core benefits of cloud computing for lawyers:

  • Access. Attorneys are often working out of the office meeting with clients or appearing in court. When they need access to information, it’s usually an urgent situation. With cloud-based access, attorneys can access necessary information in the moment of need. Wherever there’s an internet connection, lawyers can immediately connect, without needing to email files to one’s self or using hard-to-use remote software to log in.
  • Cost. Cloud computing is predictable and inexpensive, with a flat monthly or annual fee that allows for better collaboration, networking and storage.
  • Backup. Cloud computing provides you with a reliable and protected digital backup of your files and applications, ensuring they are recoverable and usable in the event of software corruption, server failure, human error, natural disaster or cyber attack.
  • Multi-Device Functionality. Cloud computing allows you to access information from any device (smartphones, laptops, desktops or tablets) or operating system. If you use a PC at the office and a Mac at home, there’s no issue.
  • Less Internal IT Costs. When you use cloud solutions, you won’t have to buy, install and maintain servers and other equipment if you were hosting these applications and information yourself. Software licensing is often included in monthly managed IT services, which can monitor your software warranty and renewal terms and timing. Also, cloud solutions provide for automated updating and patching, meaning you’ll have access to new features and updated security measures. The cloud option means less burden on internal IT staffers or the need for expensive one-time service requests by third parties.
  • E-Filing. When your firm needs to file materials with courts or government agencies, digital files — and remote access to them — makes e-filing simpler. There’s no need to convert paper to PDFs or hand-deliver information when required documents can be sent digitally.
  • Scalability. Cloud computing allows for flexible expansion or contraction as your firm’s needs evolve. You quickly can add more storage or reduce your capacity. With the cloud, you will not have to scramble to buy, install and configure a new server or overbuy server space you do not need.
  • Intuitive Use. Setting up a workstation for a new employee takes a lot of time, especially to install software and train them on applications. A cloud-based infrastructure means new users can be added or removed quickly. You can also reduce your PC purchase costs by using simpler devices that cost hundreds less.

How Is Information Secured in Cloud Computing?

Keeping information protected is a moral and legal obligation for attorneys. With cloud computing, you have added security functions and peace of mind.

Lawyers are obligated to provide “reasonable care” to prevent unauthorized disclosures or access to information. However, states have different definitions of “reasonable care” but generally include the following:

  • Data encryption
  • Use of current, best-practice technology
  • Review of service providers’ requirements regarding data ownership and access

Cloud security features can ensure that data is encrypted while in transit or at rest, access is limited and suspicious activity is detected, quarantined and addressed before any serious damage occurs. Some law firms need to meet mandated guidelines for work with government agencies like the Department of Defense or the Central Intelligence Agency. In such cases, cloud security solutions are available that address those mandates through threat detection, machine learning and automated monitoring of data and applications.

What Are the Ethical Concerns Regarding Cloud Computing for Lawyers?

U.S. state ethics commissions have ruled that cloud computing is ethical, as long as the “reasonable steps” and conditions are met. According to a recent article by the American Bar Association, the Iowa Committee on Practice Ethics and Guidelines issued suggested questions attorneys should ask themselves and service providers:

  • Will I have unrestricted access to the stored data?
  • Have I stored the data elsewhere so that if access to my data is denied I can acquire the data via another source?
  • Have I performed due diligence regarding the company that will be storing my data?
  • Is it a solid company with an excellent operating record, and is its service recommended by others in the field?
  • In which country and state is it located, and where does it do business?
  • Does its end user’s licensing agreement (EULA) contain legal restrictions regarding its responsibility or liability, choice of law or forum, or limitation on damages?
  • Likewise, does its EULA grant it proprietary or user rights over my data?
  • What is the cost of the service, how is it paid, and what happens in the event of nonpayment?
  • In the event of a financial default, will I lose access to the data, does it become the property of the SaaS company, or is the data destroyed?
  • How do I terminate the relationship with the SaaS company?
  • What type of notice does the EULA require?
  • How do I retrieve my data, and does the SaaS company retain copies?
  • Are passwords required to access the program that contains my data?
  • Who has access to the passwords?
  • Will the public have access to my data?
  • If I allow nonclients access to a portion of the data, will they have access to other data that I want to be protected?
  • Recognizing that some data will require a higher degree of protection than other data, will I have the ability to encrypt certain data using higher-level encryption tools of my choosing?

Attorneys can gain considerable benefits with a cloud computing solution. Knowing the benefits, security provisions and due diligence to be done will help attorneys make an informed decision that keeps information accessible and safe.

5 Cybersecurity Tips For Employees

Cybersecurity Employees

Imagine waking up one day only to realize that the company you work for has been hacked. Your files are missing, bank accounts are hijacked, and sensitive information is on the loose. Although this sounds like a rare situation, it has become more prevalent in this day and age. While there are some solutions to catching hijackers and cybercriminals, the damage done can be quite extensive. Furthermore, cyber attackers can now attack a company from many different angles. This is why, today more than ever, it is extremely important to understand cybersecurity best practices and to make sure you’re staying as protected as possible. However, cybersecurity isn’t only about protecting your infrastructure and device endpoints. There are other assets that cyber attackers have been focused on — employees. While there are many employees trained in cybersecurity best practices, many employees act carelessly when it comes to staying protected. Employees may not care about protecting the company or they may not know how to best protect their information. Whatever the case may be, ensuring top-notch cyber protection at the workplace can help prevent a disaster. Not only can a hijacking lead to the release of confidential information, but it can also result in the termination of an employee. In this post, we’ll discuss 5 cybersecurity tips for employees.

Keep an Eye on Your Devices

A top method for a cyber attack starts with the theft of important devices. Whether it’s a phone, computer, tablet, or even a notebook, these all can contain valuable information that might be used for a cyberattack. No matter how small your business is, keeping your devices safe is a best practice to follow. Devices such as laptops are very important to keep an eye on, as these can be used to stir up a great deal of confidential information. In addition, if you don’t need a password to enter into your device, it makes it that much easier for a cyberattacker to access very important material. Therefore, it’s always best to keep a close eye on your devices. If you have your devices in a public place, always have them in an arms reach. If you have to step away for a few minutes, take your devices with you. However, watching your stuff doesn’t only pertain to being in public. Even at the workplace, things get stolen and devices get hijacked. Always keep a close eye on your phone, laptop, and other devices. While this mostly pertains to large companies with many employees, small businesses too are also at risk. It’s best practice not to get careless with your devices and to always know where they are.

Practice Proper Web Browsing Techniques

Another popular way for cyberattackers to make their money happens when employees carelessly use the web. While an employee may feel that they’re doing nothing wrong, an attacker may take advantage of their careless mistakes. While there are some obvious threats that you know not to fall for, other threats aren’t so apparent. Keep reading to find out some common threats to be aware of while browsing the web.

Maladvertising

This threat is a type of malicious code that distributes malware through online advertising. This can be hidden within an ad, included with software downloads, or embedded on a web page. What makes this so threatening is that maladvertising can be displayed on any website, even ones thought to be trustworthy.

Social Media Scams

With the explosion of social media in the last 10 years, cyberattackers have been hard at work developing scamming techniques. Whether it’s through click-jacking, phishing techniques, fake pages, or rogue applications, hackers have been very successful with these social media scams. While Facebook is a common platform used for hacking, Twitter also poses many threats. This is because Twitter is both a microblogging site and also a search engine.

Web Browsing Tips

  • Don’t click on any ads or links that seem fishy
  • Don’t click on links in emails
  • Only interact with well-known sites
  • Confirm you’re using non-fraudulent sites
  • Be cautious with online downloads

Keep Mobile Devices Secure

While you might think that the biggest threat to cyberattacks involves the use of your computer, your mobile devices are also something to pay attention to. With the growing sophistication of cell phones, tablets, and laptops, hackers are chomping at the bit trying to get their hands on any of these devices. Cell phones are basically a mini-computer nowadays and tons of confidential information can be easily assessable on them. This is why mobile security is more important than ever. However, given the small size of these devices, it poses many challenges to stay safe. Since laptops and phones are getting smaller by the day, it’s now harder to keep an eye on these devices, in addition to trying not to lose them. However, there are multiple security measures you can take to ensure that your mobile devices are secure. From security apps to creative passwords, there are numerous things you can do to keep these cyberattackers at bay. Take a look at a few of these solutions below:

  • Keep Devices Clean — As with most things in life, a good cleaning is usually beneficial. Same goes for your mobile devices. With so much information on such a small device, it’s vital that you clean up your device from time to time by deleting files and using an antivirus program.
  • Setup a Passcode — Sometimes all it takes to stay protected from a cyberattacker is a strong password. This is the first thing that the attacker has to crack, so this is your first line of defense. Make the password unique and difficult to guess.

Keep a Clean Desk

Another tip for staying safe in the workplace involves cleaning your desk. It may sound so simple, but a messy desk has a strong chance of obtaining some important information. Remember that note you got from your boss last month? How about those files that were put on your desk last Tuesday? If you forget about these materials and they contain some confidential information, you could risk a cyberattack. Furthermore, if someone steals something from your messy desk, it can be very difficult to notice. Sometimes days or even months go by before you notice that note is missing or that folder isn’t there anymore. While you’ve gone a long period of time without even knowing these materials went missing, you could already be a victim of a cyberattack. Here are some other common mistakes to avoid:

  • Leaving USB drives or phones out in the open
  • Writing down usernames and passwords and leaving them on your desk
  • Leaving credit cards out in the open
  • Forgetting to erase notes
  • Leaving confidential papers on your desk for extended periods of time
  • Forgetting to lock a cabinet or drawer

Be sure to avoid these mistakes as they can make it that much easier for a cyberattacker to access your important information.

Beware of Phishing Attacks

Phishing is a fraudulent practice that involves emails being sent to entities to induce the exposure of credit card numbers, usernames and passwords, or other valuable information. Attackers may pose to be friends, family, or trusted businesses in order to gain information from an employee. Another tactic that makes these attackers successful is the appearance of authority. They may mention something requested by the CEO or something that involves some of the higher-ups. Since employees never want to disappoint the CEO, falling victim to these attacks is common. While it’s very common for an attacker to try to impersonate someone else, they might take another approach. Sometimes links are embedded into emails that will redirect the employee to a fraudulent web page, or sometimes the attacker might attach a file that can expose confidential information if downloaded. Understanding these different methods used by hijackers can help protect you from a cyber disaster. Take a look at a few other best practices below:

  • Verify suspicious email requests by contacting them directly
  • Utilize malware and antivirus protection programs
  • Check the security of websites
  • NEVER reveal personal or financial information via email

While phishing is a common technique used by cyberattackers, understanding how to protect yourself can make you well-prepared for anything that comes your way.

Say Goodbye to Cyberattackers!

Even with the many methods of attack for these cyber-hijackers, there are many things you can do to ensure you’re staying protected. While following the list above will get you well on your way to staying educated on the topic, your employers should also consider training their employees on best practices. Even if it’s done once a year, cyberattack trainings can go a very long way. Try talking to your boss about it in the next meeting or go the extra mile and talk to your whole team about it in a group discussion. Another method of protection involves hiring a company that specializes in cybersecurity. These companies are growing by the second and there are many services available for both large and small businesses. Whether you seek external resources for your cybersecurity efforts or you prefer an in-house approach, cybersecurity is something not to shy away from. Not only can a cyberattack lead to lost revenue and the exposure of confidential information, but it can also send a company burning to the ground. By using the five tips mentioned above, employees can stay safe from the trickery of cyberattackers.

Severe Ransomware Attack Hits Global Firm

Ransomware Breach

Norsk Hydro just got hit with a major ransomware attack that took down their entire worldwide network. It happened this morning, Tuesday, March 19, 2019, and we wanted to share this with you.

They experienced widespread system outages. This has been such a disaster that their aluminum production plants are now operating manually. All of their 35,000 employees worldwide have been affected.

For details view this 18-minute briefing from Norsk Hydro.

Feel free to contact us if you have any questions.