Survey Reveals Majority of Businesses Plan to Set up Websites Designed for Mobiles

Growth of mobile fueling increased interest in mobile sites. A new survey conducted by Adobe, a leader in software for the design and publishing industry, reveals great interest in emerging mobile channels among many businesses. Survey respondents from a wide variety of industries revealed an overwhelming preference for developing websites as their mobile commerce presence, compared with other types of mobile channels such as downloadable apps. It seems that mobile websites promise the broadest reach in terms of being able to provide information to customers, promoting products and services, and selling and interacting online. The majority of those surveyed revealed that promotions were at the core of their mobile strategy to drive sales through online or offline channels. Creating sites with rich, interactive experiences were highlighted as a means for businesses to possibly drive traffic to their sites. Among those who responded: More than 55 percent cited full-screen image zoom and videos as important factors in driving interest and sales. 96 percent asserted that the most effective merchandising features for mobile sites were catalogs and brochures, and the ability to zoom and pan images. The increased interest is believed to be driven by the widespread adoption of mobile devices. In fact, analysts predict that by 2013, the combined installed base of smartphones and browser-equipped enhanced phones will exceed 1.82 billion units.

New Viruses Infiltrate Systems through USB Drives

Two new viruses have been discovered to infiltrate systems through removable drives. USB flash drives have become indispensable to almost everyone who uses a computer. It’s a quick and easy way to immediately transfer and share information and other data, especially files that are too large to send through email. Unfortunately, some malware take advantage of this convenience by attaching themselves to files on the drive to infect any other system it comes into contact with. Two such malware have recently been discovered. Chymine is a Trojan application with keylogging capabilities, designed to copy passwords and other sensitive data, and Dulkis-A is a Visual Basic worm designed to copy and allow malware to infiltrate the system. Both exploit a vulnerability in Windows Shell. Microsoft has yet to directly address the issue and provide a patch that fixes the problem. In the meantime, they have issued directions for a workaround that prevents both malware from manipulating the Windows Shell susceptibility. The workaround is effective for Windows XP, Windows Server 2003, Windows Vista, Windows Server 2008, Windows 7, and Windows Server R2, but it comes with a cost – you lose all your icon graphics. Success in removing the virus has been marginal at best, with current fixes including a warning that removing these malware might result in unwanted changes to your system because of the way the virus embeds itself. The best way to avoid being infected, be careful not to run any suspicious programs and files, especially when taken from USB drives and any other removable storage, even from a Blackberry or an iPhone. It’s also best to avoid automatically enabling USB devices to autorun once they’re plugged into your computer. If you have any concerns or want to make sure your systems are protected, give us a call and we’ll work with you to ensure the security of your systems and data.

The Importance of Installing a UPS

A UPS, or uninterruptible power supply, is one of the essential components your IT system should have so you can continue working even during power interruptions. Keeping productivity going is important. The more productive your people are, the more work gets done and the more profit you make.  Every hour, and even every minute, of lost productivity costs you profit. It might seem inconsequential individually, but in the long term lost time adds up and you can lose a considerable sum. This is why companies have stringent rules regarding internet usage, deadlines, and other mechanisms to ensure that people are doing what they’re being paid to do – no more, no less. However, there are situations when things are simply out of your hands, and a perfect example is power interruptions. Power interruptions are usually unexpected and can cost workers hours of work. Just imagine your PC suddenly shutting off while you’re in the middle of an important project – either you fail to save part of it, or maybe you’re in the middle of a task you cannot save (like uploading or downloading a particularly large file or bunch of files). What can you do, except start all over again? The solution is installing a UPS – or uninterruptible power supply – for every unit in your IT infrastructure. A UPS acts as a temporary source of power for the CPU, a back-up battery of sorts that your CPU automatically switches power to in case of a power interruption. This gives you time, at the very least, to save important files and wrap up tasks before shutting down properly. UPSs also guards against power surges, prolonging the life of your computers, making them less prone to suffering from electrical damage. In the long term, it’s always better to be safe than sorry, and a UPS is a relatively inexpensive precaution against loss of data – especially considering its benefits.

Protect your Company from Social Engineering Attacks

Threats to the security of your organization can not only come from malware, hacks, and network attacks, but also in more subtle ways. One such method is called “social engineering”. Be aware that hackers have another tool in their toolset that employs a particularly subtle, insidious way of compromising the security of your systems and network. Called social engineering , it’s the use of psychological tricks to deceive targets into revealing potentially compromising information about the systems in their organization. In practice, it can be as simple as a hacker calling an employee and asking subtle questions to gain information, or posing as someone trusted, perhaps as building maintenance, walking in the doors of an organization to directly gain access to systems—or even searching through the trash and refuse left behind by employees. The popularity of social networking has also increased the danger with the ease and convenience of creating connections to potentially trusting members of your organization. However, there are some actions you can take to protect your business: Create a policy outlining the proper handling and sharing of information online as well as offline. Put systems and procedures in place to protect your systems if sensitive information does get out—such as the regular replacement of passwords. Educate your employees about the threat. You cannot solve a problem if your people do not know that a problem exists in the first place. Awareness can be your best defense.

Calculating Your IT’s Real Cost

Hidden IT costs can be stifling your company and you just don’t know it. It’s important to assess what those costs are and find a way to help your business perform better. In this day and age, few businesses (if any) can survive without an IT arm. Every business, big or small, needs someone, or preferably a group of people, on hand to fix computer problems, check networks, monitor software – to generally make sure that their operations are running smoothly. One question, though: have you ever stopped to consider whether the cost of maintaining your in-house IT system is worth it? For instance, consider your internet connection. Let’s say that a conservative estimate of the efficiency of your business without an internet connection is at 50%. And if your business makes a $1 million a year, then $500,000 depends on your internet connection. If your monthly bill for that connection is $500, or $6,000 annually, you earn $500,000 – $6,000 = $494,000. Now, if you decide to switch to a cheaper DSL connection, which is about $50 per month or $480 a year, you get a much higher figure: $499,520. You could argue that the DSL is the wiser option, but when you look at a deeper level, a slower internet connection may also hamper your company’s productivity – let’s say, by 10%. So with only a DSL connection, your business operates at 90% of its total possible productivity. Considering the previous figures, a loss of 10% in productivity means a loss of $100,000. Subtract that savings from the DSL connection, $5,520 – you get a whopping loss of $94,480. So when you think you’re saving by getting a cheaper internet connection, you are actually losing more money. Inversely, if you subscribe to an even better connection that costs you $10,000, productivity can increase by $15,000. The same principle applies when your IT infrastructure is not up to date, with slow computers, outdated software, and other problems. In a company with 10 employees who bring in an annual average of $65,000 each, even losing productivity for just 35 minutes a day due to IT handicaps can cost you $47,000. Hardly chump change! But hiring an IT provider who charges $20,000 a year can offset that lost productivity and even make your business run better, by as much as $27,000. It’s also noteworthy to mention that employing an IT firm can count as a legitimate business expense, thereby lowering your tax liability to about $8,000 if you peg corporate tax at 40%. IT is important to a business. If you doubt that, just try doing without it for a week – just shut the whole thing down. For most, that’s out of the question, but operating with old software and hardware is almost just as bad. However, many businesses cannot spare the resources to continually upgrade their IT systems. Enlisting the services of an IT firm changes all that. IT Service Providers are constantly on the lookout for better technologies – both hardware and software – that can make your business function much more efficiently and cost effectively. It’s what they do. And the costs are minimal. If you’re wondering how much better your company might operate with an IT Service Provider, we’ll be happy to sit down with you and run some numbers.

Before Moving Your Business to The Cloud…

Before you entrust your sensitive data to a “cloud” service provider, make sure you weigh the risks with the benefits. “ Cloud computing ,” largely synonymous with Internet-based computing, has become a hot topic of discussion among many in the business community, with its promise of radically simplifying the access to, and use of, computing resources on demand. It’s no wonder then that it’s been small businesses, often without full-time IT resources of their own, that have been the first to adopt the concept. As a business owner, however, before you start moving critical data to the “cloud,” you’ll do well to bear in mind the risks that come with the computing model. First is security and privacy—ask how the service provider ensures the confidentiality and integrity of your data while in their care. Do they provide backups? Can you back up your data yourself? Are their security processes and procedures reviewed and vetted by a third party? Next is availability. Do they guarantee the uptime of their services—7 days a week, 24 hours a day? Do they provide a service level guarantee? Do they have processes in place to handle exceptional circumstances that can disrupt services, such as a natural disaster? Is support readily available to help in case you encounter any issues? Finally, there’s cost. While pay-as-you go can be attractive, the total cost over time can add up. It’s worth thinking two to three years out and considering the total cost versus alternatives. Asking these basic questions can go a long way in giving you peace of mind before you entrust your valuable data and core business systems to the care of others. If you’d like some help sorting all this out and making the best decision for your unique needs, give us a call.