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Software Licensing Debate: Should you Subscribe or Purchase Outright?

Weighing the pros and cons of software subscription and perpetual license models

Software Licensing Debate

With a big name, traditionally boxed products like Microsoft Office 365 being offered via new subscription licensing models and online subscription platforms like G Suite we, as IT pros, have decided to consider the subscription model and determine if and when it is right for businesses. Many of our clients rely on software platforms to get work done and have been asking us questions about subscription vs. purchase options.

In some cases, like with Microsoft Office, businesses have the choice to buy boxed products, volume license deals, or subscription licenses. This is very flexible and allows us a variety of alternative options. G Suite, however, doesn’t offer the physical purchase version – online subscription licensing is the only option. As the business environment continues to evolve, subscription models of all kinds will be a growing trend –  something that the tech industry must face and understand.

Why Subscribe? The Top Reasons Software Subscription Licensing is Becoming More Popular

First, let’s outline some of the basic pros and cons of the subscription and purchase models. Many people, especially in IT, assume that subscriptions are designed to extract higher fees from customers. However, at its core, subscription pricing is simply a licensing approach and it doesn’t necessarily mean an increase in cost. In fact, in some cases, subscription models may result in a cost decrease.

  • Finance Benefits: Budget-Friendly with Big Value

Very simply, a move to subscription licensing means businesses are able to move from capital expenses to operational expenses which are generally regarded as a smart business move. However, the subscription model offers far more value than that. Subscription pricing gives businesses huge control when it comes to cost predictability.

Using a subscription model for software needs allows businesses to more accurately predict their costs over time, with very few unexpected surprises. In the traditional purchase approach, software updates are manual and often forgotten, meaning some users would require old platforms to be updated. This would then result in expensive renewal invoices with seemingly no warning. Even worse, these costs are often followed by a spike in training costs, to help users quickly adapt to big gaps in software versions.

Subscription pricing is more budget-friendly because costs normally fluctuate fluidly with employee count. This provides optimal scalability potential. As new employees are hired, businesses can predict exactly how much they will cost. Furthermore, when employees leave, subscriptions can be discontinued and cost can be reduced. The only software that is truly used is purchased. The need to overbuy in the name of predicted growth is no longer an issue with the subscription model. Subscription licensing also provides huge flexibility and supports business growth by allowing businesses to pay only for what they use, as they use it.

  • IT Benefits: How the Subscription Model Helps Tech Departments Work Smarter Not Harder

Now that we know it makes financial sense, let’s take a look at the IT benefits gained by adopting the subscription model pricing. First and foremost, IT efforts are streamlined because relationships with finance and human resources are optimized using the subscription model. This eliminates redundancies and helps make all components of business work in support of one another. But the subscription model offers far more IT benefits than that.

Let’s outline some of the specific ways that the subscription model optimizes business IT:

  • Best Practices and Automatic Updates

Business IT is enriched thanks to the effective enforcement of best practices through the subscription licensing model. Businesses are often on the fence when it comes to investing in new software versions, which often results in support issues, unnecessary complexity, and frustrated users. With subscription pricing, IT is constantly supplied with the latest updates for users, which strongly enriches functionality and user experience. Simply put, the subscription model makes software optimization relatively automatic.

  • Optimized License Management

Speaking of automatic, the subscription model also enriches overall IT efforts by optimizing licensing management. The subscription model makes it far easier to determine license availability and need. Internal audits are unnecessary because the licensing process is generally handled via an authentication mechanism with the vendor. This means unless some drastic and specific effort is taken to violate licensing protocols – like cracking software or some other extreme measure – licensing accidents are very rare and easy to mediate.

  • Customization and User Control

The subscription model also offers a huge boost when it comes to customization and user controls. Some employees require a more dynamic feature set than others. In the traditional, license purchase model, complex processes would be required to designate user permissions and customize account controls. With the subscription model, licenses can be purchased at the minimum level and upgraded as needed. The model offers the ability to easily customize per user, over time, based on a variety of different needs. This makes it easier than ever for administrators to customize access and optimize user experience

Okay, The Subscription Model is Great – But Should You Go Microsoft or Google?

Understanding the benefits of the subscription model is just the first part. While there are many providers on the market, the clear leaders are Microsoft’s Office 365 and Google’s G Suite. While both models offer their service through a subscription pricing model, there are some key things to consider when choosing a provider to subscribe to. When it comes down to it, we’re team Microsoft. To understand why let’s break down the benefits and limitations of each platform:

Microsoft Office 365

  • POWER

Office 365 is the market champion when it comes to business software. It’s familiar, integrated and has a legacy all its own. Under the subscription model, users can subscribe to on-server versions, Cloud versions or both – making anytime work a constant possibility. Additionally, since Microsoft has been on the market so long, they’ve worked out bugs and created a truly optimized package of integrated apps.

  • CUSTOMIZATION

Customization and user control runs at optimal levels in Office 365. Licenses can be customized to set user permissions and integration with other apps. Microsoft’s feature-rich and comprehensive approach makes Office 365 a value-packed platform, that can be scaled to meet changing business demands over time.

  • PRICE

The subscription pricing model for Microsoft has a variety of different tiers for business, depending on the extent of services required:

  • Enterprise 1
    • $9.70 per user, per month.
  • Enterprise 3
    • $25.30 per user, per month.
  • Enterprise 5
    • $44.20 per user, per month.

While most of Microsoft’s subscription price-points are slightly higher than those for G Suite, the value offered in Microsoft software packages outweighs those in the G Suite package. Further, since Microsoft still has its non-subscription version on the market, subscription customers can keep tabs on purchase price options to ensure software pricing isn’t being arbitrarily increased.

Google G Suite

  • POWER

G Suite is a great Cloud platform that offers a very similar set of applications to mirror Office 365. However, the suite is much more basic that Microsoft’s well-honed platform. G Suite offers a sleek interface and applications to match Microsoft favorites like Word, Excel, and PowerPoint.

However, when it comes to overall operational power, G Suite doesn’t have the same powerhouse status that Microsoft has earned thanks to years on the market. Furthermore, since Google doesn’t have native versions of their web-based apps, the ability to work offline is far from optimized.

  • CUSTOMIZATION

Certain G Suite packages allow for some customization and integration with other business apps – including Office 365. Furthermore, G Suite does offer a variety of customization features when it comes to user control and experience, but these features simply don’t live up to the customizing power offered by Office 365. G Suite is better suited for businesses who need relatively simple access to a basic platform.

  • PRICE

G Suite subscription pricing is very affordable for businesses looking for a basic and relatively easy to use the platform. The pricing tiers for business – based on different levels of service – are outlined as follows:

  • BASIC

G Suite: $5 per user, per month.

  • BUSINESS

G Suite Business: $10 per user, per month

  • ENTERPRISE

G Suite Enterprise: $25 per user, per month.

While at face value the G Suite pricing plan may look more appealing thanks to lower price tags, there must be a consideration made for value. G Suite doesn’t offer the same amount of power or customization capabilities that Office 365 does.

Finally, since Google doesn’t have a purchase licensing option, customers have no way to compare prices or hold Google accountable for pricing decisions or increases.

Making Informed Decisions: Balancing Needs with Strategy

When it comes to business operations, software isn’t something that needs to be owned. The reality is, software is just another tool for getting work done more efficiently and it should be implemented in a way that makes operational and financial sense. That’s why the subscription model is likely to become the new normal.

Overall, we’re all for the subscription model. They help business owners make more informed technology decisions and they make it easier for elements of the business to flow more naturally as business needs change. However, we also understand that making the switch to a new pricing model after using the traditional one for years isn’t easy.

Furthermore, it’s even more difficult to try and decide between different vendors.

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Top 12 Tech Gifts of 2017: Microsoft Xbox One X

If you’re a gamer, especially a console gamer, you’ve no doubt heard of or are watching the Xbox One X. Microsoft has taken its flagship console, the Xbox One, and turned it up a few notches. Sporting 40% more power than any other console on the market and a 6 teraflop GPU (that’s crazy fast), it’s able to produce true 4K visuals.

XBOX

The new Xbox comes equipped with a 4K Blu-ray disc drive ( the only console that has this), 4K DVR and 4K streaming, fastest load times of any console on the market, and is compatible with all of your Xbox One games and accessories. The Xbox One X comes with a 1TB hard drive and retails for $499.99 and is in stock at most retailers but you might want to check availability before driving down to your local retailer.

The Xbox One X is an impressive piece of hardware that brings 4K visuals to stunning life. Now you just need that beautiful new 4K TV. (check back next week for more on 4K TVs)

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Top 12 Tech Gifts of 2017: The Apple iPhone X

We like tech, it’s what we do. As the holiday shopping season kicks into overdrive, we are bringing you 12 of the most requested, most wanted tech gifts for 2017. Check back each business day between now and December 19th for another must-have tech item and why you should check it out.

Christmas iPhone X

There’s little denying that this year’s “must have” tech item must be the new iPhone X from Apple. The iPhone X (pronounced “ten”) arrives during the tenth anniversary of the original iPhone back in 2007. Apple has released their iPhone 8 this year as well, but the big dog here is the iPhone X.

Sporting a 5.8-inch, OLED super retina HD display, the screen is capable of 4K video up to 60 frames per second, stunning colors, true blacks, and a 1,000,000 to 1 contrast ratio. It’s the largest iPhone screen to date. It sports dual 12 MP cameras that use facial recognition to unlock your phone. The home button is gone and has been replaced with facial recognition.

The phone is water and dust resistant and covered front and back in the most durable glass in a smartphone. The iPhone X has an all glass and steel construction including surgical grade stainless steel. The new iPhone charges wirelessly.

If all this sounds like your cup of tea, prepare to empty the bank to get one. The 64 GB model will run you $1,000 while the 256 GB model goes for $1,150. It comes in both silver and space gray. All Apple stores, carriers, and retailers have limited stock with several not shipping until mid-December. It’s best to get your order in as early as possible.

The new iPhone a bit too pricey this holiday? Don’t worry, Paradigm Network Solutions has you covered. Keep an eye out next week for a less expensive alternative for the must-have smartphone.

Happy Holidays and good luck on the tech hunt from all of us here at Paradigm Network Solutions!

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HOLIDAY CYBER SCAM ALERT

The Leading Ways Cybercriminals Target Consumers and Businesses During the Holidays

Holiday Cyber Scams

As the holiday season is now upon us, everyone is starting to get in the spirit. Decorations are going up, shopping malls are getting busy and gifts are being wrapped. However, unfortunately, the holidays have a tendency to bring out the worst in some people – especially cybercriminals who prey on others for their own gain.

Every year, around this time, reports of hacks and scams skyrocket. Cybercrooks do whatever they can to take advantage of the chaotic holiday shopping environment in order to trick and rob unsuspecting victims. This is easy in a busy online environment, that is especially hectic during the holiday season.

Inboxes fill up quicker than usual with Christmas lists and last minute RSVPs to Christmas dinner. Not to mention the massive amount of order confirmations, online receipts and special holiday promos that come through from retailers. Because of this, our guard is down and we may not be as vigilant at identifying suspicious looking emails. For cybercriminals, this presents an amazing opportunity to deploy phishing scams and play the cyber-Grinch.

Breaking Down the Basics: How do Phishing Scams Work?

Phishing is a form of social engineering that attempts to steal sensitive information. An attacker’s goal is to compromise user systems to obtain usernames, passwords, and/or other account and financial data. Phishing attacks are most commonly deployed through malicious email communications.

The attacker sends legitimate-looking emails to people within an organization. The email usually pretends to be from someone trustworthy, like someone from within the institution, a bank, a shipping company, a credit card company, an airline, or some other site for which a user may have login credentials. The email includes a link to an “official” website that is actually a fake site operated by the attacker.

Once the user visits the fake site, they may be asked overtly to enter account information such as usernames, passwords, credit card details, social security or bank account numbers. The victim may also be exposed to malware by visiting the fake site. Taking advantage of a variety of vulnerabilities in the browser, the attacker may be able to install a Trojan Horse on the user’s computer.

If done correctly, the attack can capture sensitive information without the victim even knowing that they have been compromised. In some cases, malware can also be embedded in an email attachment, so when users open a bogus attachment, their system encounters the malware.

Holiday High Alert: The Leading Phishing Scams Cybercriminals Use During the Holidays

Unfortunately, phishing scams are far from the only cyber threat out there causing trouble for businesses and consumers alike during the holiday season. However, phishing does tend to be the most prevalent. To stay on high-alert, let’s outline the top six phishing scams that consumers and businesses are facing this holiday season:

  • Fake Receipts and Invoices

This is one of the most popular kinds of phishing scams because it has the ability to sneak malware past IT security measures. By hiding the malicious code in an email attachment, labeled as a receipt or invoice, the standard phishing traps don’t catch the scam. This is especially useful during the holidays when so much holiday shopping takes place online. Usually, a random invoice from Amazon or The Gap would register as suspicious, but with the holidays around the corner, many would open the attachment without thinking twice.

  • Fake Shipping Status Alerts

This scam deploys a very similar strategy as the fake receipt scam. Much like bogus receipts and invoices, phishing scam artists create phony shipping notifications or updates to send to busy holiday shoppers. However, this strategy is often more effective, because it doesn’t create a fake purchase, but instead provokes consumer worry by stating deliveries are delayed or canceled. This can understandably make consumers worry that holiday gifts they paid for will be late or won’t come at all. Therefore, phishing scammers take advantage of the fact that a phony UPS delay notice will more than likely get a click during the holiday season.

  • Fake Flyers and Deals

This scam targets the frugal saver in all of us. With the rush of the holiday season, email users likely see dozens of holiday promo deals arriving in their inbox every week. Links to printable coupons, discount codes and special offers cram the digital information highway. However, during the holiday season, it’s critical to skim through these messages with a keener eye than usual. While there may be some great deals to be scored, phishing scammers also send out emails with malicious links to phony deals and discounts during the holiday hustle and bustle. When users click these malicious links, they’ll soon find out they’re getting no deal and may have lost money or infected their device in the process.

  • Malicious Embedded Links 

Embedded links are one of the most classic phishing scam styles there is. When clicked, malicious links embedded into email messages can download malware to a system or redirect victims to an infected website. We have a rule of thumb for combatting this. Whenever looking at an email with an embedded link, take the time to run your mouse over the hyperlink – no matter how legitimate it may look. While the hyperlink itself may look legitimate, the destination could be malware central. Users may think following the link will take them someplace familiar, but in reality, they’re being directed to malicious, hacker-controlled territory.

  • Unauthorized Transactions

It’s no secret that keeping tabs on your bank account is a good idea – especially in an increasingly digital marketplace. However, this is especially critical during the holiday season. Trying to keep track of countless holiday shopping purchases can be an uphill battle, but keeping a close eye on changes to your account balance could help you identify fraudulent purchases that aren’t yours. Having payment card data stolen from the internet is easier than ever – all it takes is one website with weak security protocols. Once your payment card details are in the hands of hackers, you’ll be footing the bill for someone else’s shopping list.

  • Fake Customer Surveys

Finally, fake customer incentive surveys are becoming an increasingly popular method for phishing hackers. Many company’s use online surveys offering cash or gift cards as a reward for completing them. However, scam artists have started using phony ones to phish for personal information from unsuspecting victims. Users can respond by staying vigilant and paying attention to the nature of the survey. The difference between a legitimate offer and a phishing attempt is all in the survey questions. If a survey asks for personal or financial information, it’s extremely likely that the survey is a cybercriminal’s way of stealing your data.

Lessons for Business Owners: Strategies for Holiday Cyber Protection

While most of these phishing scams are targeted at individual consumers, it’s not unlikely for these scams to show up in employee inboxes. If an employee happens to fall victim to one of these attacks on the company network, an infection can be triggered which can be disastrous for businesses. Once the infection is triggered, hackers can navigate the business network to steal personal and sensitive company data.

So, how are is your business supposed to combat this threat? The key is to have open and transparent conversations with your employees. Make sure they’re aware of the risks and work together to develop concrete strategies for protection. If and when employees identify suspicious emails, make sure they know the process – should they report it? Who should they report it too? Should it be deleted immediately or should they have an IT employee review it first? Making sure your team knows what to look for and how to respond is half the battle.

Furthermore, talk to your IT department or provider to ensure that you have reliable and strategic network security measures in place and that your firewall, antivirus, and antimalware programs are all up-to-date with the latest patches. Making sure your security strategy is operating correctly will help you avoid the holiday humbug scam-artists.

Wondering if your IT security strategy is up to snuff? Thinking about training your employees with concrete strategies for vigilance? Reach out to a local IT firm for guidance and consultation. The holiday season is busy and cybercriminals never take vacation – sometimes checking in with professionals makes all the difference.

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SCARAB – The Latest Ransomware Threat

A new strain of ransomware — SCARAB — began hitting millions of inboxes last week; make sure your business knows how to protect against it.

Scarab Ransomware

Ransomware is now a household name, and there’s no going back. Even though cybercriminals have been using ransomware for years now, it wasn’t until the global Wanna Cry ransomware attack earlier this year that awareness reached critical mass – but that was just the beginning.

The latest development in the ever-evolving series of ransomware attacks uses the internet’s largest email spam botnet to propagate a relatively new ransomware known as “SCARAB”. This strain works similarly to the “Jaff” ransomware, relying on the now infamous Necurs botnet to reach millions of potential targets.

This threat was first detected by Forcepoint Security Labs as a part of a malicious email campaign that arrived in target inboxes on November 23rd at 7:30 AM UCT. From the time of the first detected email and over the following 4 hours, Forcepoint observed an increase in SCARAB emails from just under 100,000 separate incidents to nearly 350,000. At its peak, the SCARAB ransomware campaign was sending more than two million emails per hour. A vast majority of the emails carrying SCARAB are targeting .com addresses, followed by various European domains.

Identifying SCARAB – Look Out For This Email Subject Line

Ransomware emails sent by Necurs carrying SCARAB have the subject, “Scanned from {printer company name}”, a phishing ruse similar to those employed by cybercriminals involved in the Locky ransomware campaign. The includes a .zip file that is assumed to be a scanned document or image file but actually contains a VBScript downloader.

Once executed, SCARAB drops a copy of itself, creates a registry entry as an autostart mechanism, and encrypts files using a “.scarab” extension. The ransom note is then placed in every affected directory, named “WANT TO GET ALL YOUR FILES BACK, PLEASE READ THIS. TXT”.

Contradictory to other major ransomware campaigns, SCARAB does not necessarily state a specific monetary amount for the ransom, instead of saying, “the price depends on how fast you write to us”. Payment can be made through an email address, or through an alternative BitMessage contact mechanism.

What Can You Do To Protect Your Business From SCARAB?

As with any strain of ransomware, there are a few key steps you and your employees can take to protect your business:

  • Be suspicious of emails and attachments from people or companies that you don’t do business with, as most ransomware infections arrive via infected word/xls/zip/exe files.
  • Backup your data on-site and off-site, and test your backups regularly.
  • Create a plan for getting infected, and regularly test your plan.
  • Consult with trusted cybersecurity and IT professionals.

Remember – you don’t have to do this alone. Paradigm Network Solutions will help you set up robust backup solutions, develop cybersecurity response strategies, and help you protect against threats like SCARAB ransomware.

For more information about SCARAB and how to protect against it, contact the Paradigm Network Solutions team at (416) 490-9019 or sales@ittoronto.com.

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Black Friday Deals – Target

Black Friday deals seem like they begin earlier every year. Most of the bigger retailers don’t even wait until Friday to roll out the specials on big-ticket or most wanted items.

Black Friday at Target

We are here to offer you some insight into this year’s tech deals. Whether it’s about a new 4K TV or how to get that great new gaming system running, we will do our best to help make your Black Friday tech shopping a bit less stressful.

But is it worth your time and aggravation to wait in line half the day or more on Thanksgiving, or should you stay home and overeat on turkey and stuffing? After all, the same retailers will have the same items available (mostly) on their website for the same prices and quantities, but with less physical violence over a toaster oven.

Next up on the Black Friday shopping list is Target. The red retailer plans to open its doors at 6:00PM Thursday, Thanksgiving night and close at midnight. They will reopen at 6:00AM Friday morning. Target’s ad sports a wide variety of tech, most of which is similar or the same as rivals Wal-Mart and Best Buy. For example, the Google Home Mini is on sale at all three retailers for $29, but if you pick one up at Target you receive a free $10 gift card.

The Xbox One S 500GB console is on sale for $189 and gets you a free $25 gift card with purchase. 4K TVs are again front and center here, with the 58” Samsung 4K Smart TV for $649 and 49” TCL 4K TV with built-in Roku are the highlights. However, all TVs at Target will be on sale during this time.

For fans of Netflix’s Stranger Things, you can nab a copy of season one on DVD for just $10, and it’s only available at Target. Other tech highlights are: The Canon Rebel T6 DSLR camera for $450 ($300 off), 10.5” iPad Pro for $530 ($120 off), Samsung Galaxy Tab A for $180 ($100 off), and Call of Duty World War II for $45 ($15 off). Target is also offering a selection of video games and movies at sharply discounted prices with limited quantities. As with the other retailers, selections will vary by store, so check online for a similar deal.

As was the situation with Best Buy, many of the same deals can be found on the Target website, with free shipping all weekend long. Paradigm Network Solutions wants you to have a happy Thanksgiving and a productive Black Friday experience. Look for more Black Friday tips from us tomorrow.

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Why You Should Care About Application Logs?

As technology continues to drive innovation on the business landscape, many business owners are feeling the pressure to become just a little more tech savvy. Between Cloud computing and Internet of Things, professionals have had to expand their baseline tech knowledge.

Application Logs

Understanding the ins and outs of business technology can help company leaders make strategic and more proactive decisions to help drive the business forward. So, in the spirit of expanding tech vocabularies for business owners, let’s explore the term of the day: application logs.

Breaking Down the Basics: What is an Application Log?

In tech jargon, application logs are part of a larger group of logs that track activity including log files, server logs, web server logs or data logs. Technically, application logs are chunks of information that software applications automatically create to track activity and detail events that have been performed or recorded within the application.

Application logs contain information on every trace of activity that happens within an application’s interface including basic logins, errors, security events, informational events, warnings and more. Essentially, these logs are the defining functional elements that govern the ability of applications to exist and interface with users and other programs in the computing universe.

Why It Matters: Here’s Why Business Owners Should Care About Application Logs

So now that we’ve got the definition down, many are probably wondering – why should I care? The key benefit of understanding application logs is that it allows business users to have more granular control of their applications at the back end. It allows IT administrators to better understand what’s happened in the application and in turn, how to address impacts on the larger network.

Insight from application logs makes it easier to avoid problems and optimize application use and management. Basically, strategic application log management allows administrators to be a step ahead of network challenges. It helps to eliminate head scratching and long threads of email trying to describe and diagnose application problems.

Challenges with Log Management: How do Administrators Keep Up?

It’s one thing to understand what application logs are and why they’re important for a larger business strategy – but it’s a whole other thing to put our knowledge into action. Application log data in its pure form is highly technical – stuff only trained tech experts would be able to easily read. Not to mention the fact that for business apps used by entire teams, activity logs move fast, fill up quickly and can be hard to manage.

The key challenges associated with log management include:  

  • VOLUME

The sheer volume of data in application logs can be astronomic – especially if the app has many daily users. As noted, application logs track every moment inside the app’s interface, making the amount of data nearly impossible to analyze manually.

  • SPEED

Application logs move at lightning fast speed, constantly self-updating and refreshing with the latest data. For administrators trying to track a problem, getting ahead of the application log itself can be a tedious and time-consuming log management challenge.

  • NORMALIZING DATA

As mentioned, application log data is often produced in highly technical formats, difficult for non-tech experts to comprehend at face value. Additionally, log data format varies across different applications. Both factors make analyzing the as-is data significantly challenging.

Translating the Tech: How Log Management Tools Turn High-Tech Data into Useful Business Insight

So, for administrators, it becomes clear: the key to making use of application log data is finding ways to break it down into more tangible and useful information. As mentioned, there’s no point in learning this stuff without understanding how to execute business-focused strategies. Not to mention, if log management is highly technical and hard to manage, it hardly sounds like it will make the lives of business administrators easier.

Luckily, most leading tech vendors like Microsoft and Cisco offer application log management tools built directly into their infrastructure. Additionally, there are many online, ‘as-a-service’ tools available that have layered capabilities for narrowing down important data, pulling it out of the rat race and translating it into useful business insight.

Here’s a rundown of how these application log management solutions work:

  • Consolidation

First things first, application log management tools help to consolidate critical data and bring important pieces of info to the forefront. Tools can be set up to consolidate specific types of data to analyze app functionality, security, mobile monitoring and more

  • Archiving

In the spirit of efficient proactivity, application log management tools also help compartmentalize data so it’s easily accessible as needed. If log data isn’t necessary now, there’s still a chance it could be down the road. So, application log management tools quietly archive all log data in the background so its searchable by date and time as needed.

  • Alerting

This is where application log management becomes critical. These intuitive tools are designed to monitor log activity and translate any suspicious activity into real-time alerts for administrators. Basically, implementing an application log management solution is like have a constant set of eyes on application activity, with instant alerts of anything even resembling a threat.

  • Reporting

Finally, application log management solutions use their intuition and log analysis abilities to generate useful reports on app functionality, user trends, and areas of concern. This helps paint a useful ‘big picture’ for administrators who are looking to understand, manage and optimize business app use.

No matter the industry or the application, all businesses stand to benefit from strategic log management. Using automation tools to transform big data into easy-to-manage data subsets can help app administrators better manage and analyze app productivity and security performance. As noted, strategic log monitoring also serves as a company’s frontline ally in detecting app abnormalities and larger network threats

If you’re wondering how to get a better handle on application log management, that’s an amazing first step. Get a solid idea of which app logs you need to manage and try and narrow down the basic information you’d like to get from each. Keeping informed from the very start will help your business better implement log management solutions and in turn, make better use of uncovered insights.

The fast-moving and constantly evolving world of business technology is hard to keep up with. When you have questions about new terms, trends or business tech strategies – don’t ever hesitate to reach out to a local technology firm for guidance and consultation.

Becoming a business tech expert might seem overly complicated, but sometimes all you need is a pro to give you the inside scoop. Don’t be afraid to ask for the low-down – when it comes to your business technology, knowledge is half the battle.

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Dangerous New Ransomware Identified

We are issuing a warning to businesses to be on the lookout for the “GlobeImposter” or “Fake Globe” ransomware virus, which is once again making headlines. This variant of the ransomware virus has become part of a large-scale email-based campaign that manages to slip past the defenses of some unsuspecting companies.

Ransomware

GlobeImposter, also known as Fake Globe, is distributed through a malicious spam campaign. This can be spotted by it’s a lack of message content and an attached ZIP file. This type of spam is known as “blank slate”. It can also be distributed through exploits and malicious advertising, fake updates, and repacked infected installers.

As with all ransomware, GlobeImposter encrypts the victim’s files, making them irrevocable without payment. Most ransomware has a built-in file extension filter that will leave executable files intact. This variant, however, encrypts all executable files, rendering the system unbootable as a result.

It is vital that we properly educate our clients and provide the right tools to minimize the serious risk at hand.

While antivirus and firewalls are incredibly effective in reducing risk, you need a more robust security solution in place to defend against the increasingly dangerous threat landscape. To be fully protected, companies will need a proper, reliable backup and disaster recovery (BDR) solution with online and offline backup solutions as the ultimate failsafe against successful attacks.

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When’s the Last Time You Checked on Your Domain Name?

For today’s business owners, web presence is everything. Making an impact online is how most modern businesses generate leads and make an impact on their target markets. A big part of a company’s online presence is their domain name. Your domain names serve as your company’s internet address, inviting new and existing clients to explore your online headquarters.

Domain Name

Understanding the Basics: What is a Business Domain and Domain Name?

The domain name system is not terribly complex, but it can be tricky for busy business owners to fully understand and manage. In fact, many organizations turn over all control of their domain name to an external agency to manage. However, for those looking to learn a little more about domain name management, let’s explore the basics:

  • A domain name is a web address that defines a designated space on the internet.
  • Like a business’s physical address, a domain name is an online location where mail is received and customers can visit a business.
  • Simply put, a domain name is an address that directs online users to a company’s online domain – namely, their unique business website.
  • Domain names are also very often used for company email addresses, making it the primary way for clients and colleagues to stay in contact.

Breaking Down the Process: How Businesses Register and Optimize Domains

Now that we’ve got the domain-101, it’s important to get a handle on the key things about domain management that business owners should know. From registration to renewal, its critical for business owners to know the ins and outs of properly registering and strategically maintaining their online address.

Here are some key bits of information to help you better understand domain-name management:

  • What is the DNS?

DNS stands for Domain Name System. The DNS is a server that translates a web address into one or more IP addresses.

  • What’s an IP Address?

Your company website lives on a web server and has a specific numerical address assigned to it, called an IP Address, which stands for Internet Protocol Address. IP addresses are made up of four segments separated by a period, like 123.456.789.123.

  • What is a Name Server?

Name servers are machines that route domain names to the proper IP address. When a company’s domain name is assigned to a set of name servers, the name servers have the authority to direct the domain name anywhere. Name servers are usually implemented by the vendor that hosts a company’s website.

  • What is a Domain Search?

Before a company can put their ideas into action, they need to ensure that the domain name they have in mind is available for use. There are plenty of resources online that help business owners search for available domain names and select alternatives if needed. Check out some of the leading domain name search tools here.

  • What is a Domain Registrar?

When you decide on what your domain name should be, it must be externally registered with an entity called a domain name registrar. A registrar is a company that issues and manages domain name registration for an annual fee. Check out some leading domain registrar sites here.

Don’t Let Your Online Headquarters be Sold to The Highest Bidder: Managing Domain Expiry & Renewal

Ok, so you choose a domain name, you search and find that it’s available. You make sure it’s registered, and you’re done, right? Wrong. Domain name registrations expire and must be renewed upon expiry. Business owners who don’t renew their domain name registration in a timely fashion, risk having their online address be put back up for grabs on the world-wide-web.

Even more challenging? When many business owners are getting started and launching their website, they often enlist the help of a tech-savvy friend or one-time tech contractor to get the domain set up and registered. Then, when expiry is looming, business owners are scrambling to figure out how to log in and make sure domain information is updated and renewed. In worst case scenarios, business owners are only made aware of this once their domain is already expired.

While many companies outsource a lot of their web-management responsibilities to an external digital agency, domain name management is the one part of web presence that business owners must have a handle on themselves. Why? As mentioned, a domain name is an address for your company’s online headquarters. It controls how new and existing clients access your website and reach out to you by email. Keeping tabs on managing this critical piece of business helps ensure your unique web presence remains untouched.

It’s also important to note that, while extremely important, domain name management is not that difficult for businesses to control. As long as you have a handle on the domain name expiry and renewal processes, you can put strategies in place to ensure you’re never unexpectedly evicted from your online office.

Here’s a rundown of the various steps in the domain-name expiration and renewal process:

  1. Domain name registration expires

Quite simply, expiration happens when a company does not renew their domain name before the expiry date. However, businesses are given a bit of a break. Once a domain name expires, the domain is placed under the status of a Renewal Grace Period.

During the Renewal Grace Period, a company has the chance to renew their domain name without any additional fees. Renewal Grace Period length varies among different registrars.

  1. Renewal Grace Period Ends

Once the grace period is over, the expired domain name is then placed under the status of Registrar Hold. This status holds expired domain names for 30-45 days, during which business owners still have a chance to renew their domain. However, they will likely pay a redemption fee of approximately $100, depending on their domain registrar.

During Register Hold status, registrars can attempt to sell the domain name to the highest bidder in an open auction. However, if the domain is sold, the buyer must wait the full 30-45-day period before the domain is handed over. If a company renews their domain before the Register Hold period ends, the auction buyer will be refunded. If it the domain is never renewed, it will be transferred over to the auction buyer at the end of the Register Hold status.

  1. Registrar Closeout Sale

If a domain is not renewed by the original owner before the end of the Register Hold period and is also not sold at auction, some registrars attempt a closeout sale once the 30-45-day Registrar Hold has ended. Closeout sales usually offer expired domain names to buyers at a discounted price. Many registrars even go further to waive registration fees during closeout sales, increasing the incentive to buy.

While not all registrars use closeout sales, they are successful for those that do. Sales are first come, first serve and they move quickly – with cheap, expired domain’s flying off the digital shelves.

  1. Registrar Released to Registry

If the domain name doesn’t get renewed or sold, the registrar then releases the domain name to the registry, where it is placed under Redemption Period status. Under this status, the domain cannot be modified or deleted. This status gives original owners one last chance to restore their domain by paying a redemption fee. This status lasts for a maximum of 30 days.

However, it’s critical to note that once a domain name enters the Redemption Period status, a company’s website and email addresses will stop working. Business communications will halt and clients will not be able to access your online headquarters.

  1. Redemption Period ends

Once the Redemption Period status ends, if the domain has still not been renewed, it is then transferred to Pending Delete status. Pending Delete status lasts for five days, during which it cannot be restored by the original owner or the registrar. Company website and email addresses will remain inactive.

  1. Domain name deletion

Once the 5-day Pending Delete period ends, the domain name is deleted and dropped from the online registry. As soon as it’s deleted, it becomes available for registration by the general public.

While it’s apparently possible to manually re-register an expired domain name as soon as it’s been deleted, the chances of success aren’t great – especially if the domain name is potentially valuable to others.

Keeping Your Domain Name Safe: Strategies for Locking Down and Maintaining Your Online Presence

The leading reason companies lose control of their domain is that they realize far too late that their domain name had expired. Therefore, it’s critical for business owners to implement standard policies to manage domain name maintenance and renewal. Even companies who think they have domain name management under control should make a conscious effort to prevent an expiry crisis.

Set an annual date to check-in on domain-name expiry. Keep your eyes peeled for renewal reminders from your registrar in your inbox. If your domain is set to renew automatically, it might fail if your account billing info is outdated. Make sure to keep tabs on the billing information on your domain name account to ensure registration fees are paid effectively.

Here’s a list of other key strategies for managing domain name renewal:

  • Use a separate email address for the accounts you use to manage your domains. This will avoid communication issues if your email is rendered inactive in case of expiry.
  • Keep and store registration and ownership records and account access details. Make sure this information is stored in a safe and easily accessible place that you’ll remember.
  • A designated person should be bestowed with domain-name control responsibilities. It’s recommended that this responsibility remains with the business owner, however, if you’re going to delegate, be sure to transfer the responsibility to a reliable and trustworthy employee who’s in it for the long haul.
  • Make sure your domains are renewed before expiry every year. Keep track of domain records, account and billing information and renewal history to avoid any confusion or misunderstandings.
  • Keep open lines of communication with your domain registrar. Ask them explicitly to consult with you directly before any domain changes are made and make sure they know the best ways to reach you.

In a business landscape that is increasingly web-based, taking care of your online headquarters is just as important as maintaining your physical office space. A unique domain name gives you a chance to creatively present your business online and develop a unique web presence. Making sure your online address stays secure and well-managed is critical, because an expiry notice can quickly become an eviction notice.

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Windows 10 Creators Update is Your Company’s New Best Friend

The Windows 10 Creators update is in full swing and business owners have been soaking in the benefits. The update has been available since April and so far, it is living up to the hype. The update carries on the Window’s 10 mission to make IT more secure and productive for businesses. As professionals become more connected and continue to take advantage of powerful new devices, the Windows 10 Creators update helps business owners keep up pace with digital transformation.

Windows 10 Creators Update

Heightened Security: Windows 10 Creators Update Offers Enterprise-Grade Security Intelligence Across Devices, Networks, and the Cloud

It’s no secret that the modern cybercrime landscape requires an ongoing and relentless focus on security – especially for business owners. The Windows 10 Creators Update continues to bring new security capabilities to IT administrators to better protect, defend and respond to threats on their networks and devices.

First, there’s the new Windows Security Center that serves as a centralized portal for monitoring, tracking and responding to cybersecurity issues. The Windows Security center allows for one view of all Windows 10 security events making it easier than ever for businesses to keep an eye on network happenings. The Windows Security Center was first released in the Anniversary Update, and links to Office 365 Advanced Threat Protection, via the Microsoft Intelligent Security Graph. This allows IT administrators to easily follow an attack across endpoints and email in a seamless and integrated way.

Next, the Creators Update also adds a variety of new actions and insights in Windows Defender Advanced Threat Protection (ATP). These enhancements help administrators to investigate and respond to network attacks, including sensors in memory, enriched intelligence, and new remediation actions.

Here are some the key improvements to the Windows Defender Advanced Protection system:

  • Enriched Detection

In the modern cybercrime climate, it’s no secret that the methods and means attackers use are increasingly varied, complex and well-funded. Having reliable and powerful threat sensors to monitor network traffic is critical.

Because cyber threats won’t stop, Microsoft isn’t stopping either. The Creators Update introduces enhanced Windows Defender ATP sensors to detect threats that persist only in memory or kernel level exploits. This will enable IT administrators to better monitor networks and detect threats before they become disastrous.

  • Enriched Intelligence

Recent Windows developments have already enhanced Microsoft Threat Intelligence (TI), including a recent partnership with FireEye iSIGHT Threat Intelligence. In the Creators Update, IT administrators are given the ability to feed their own intelligence into the Windows Security Center for alerts on activities based on their own indicators of compromise. This added level of insight will enrich machine learning and memory to identify and block malware more quickly and better protect the unique environment of each business.

  • Enhanced Remediation

The Creators Update also brings new remediation actions in Windows Defender ATP that will give IT administrators the tools to isolate machines, collect forensics, kill and clean running processes and quarantine or block files with a single click in the Windows Security Center, which further reduces response time.

Mobile Application Management: Windows 10 Creators Update Makes On-the-Go and Remote Business Easier

Modern business is defined by anytime, anywhere access. Some businesses have remote employees who work at home or outside the main office. Other businesses have employees who are constantly on the road and still need access to critical network data. Regardless, making sure all team members have access to all the company resources they need is crucial in today’s fast-paced business environment.

One of the most important features of the Windows 10 Creators update is the capacity for dynamic mobile application management. The new feature will help professionals protect data on personal devices without requiring the device to be enrolled in an external Mobile Device Management solution.

Furthermore, in our device-obsessed world, employees use their own devices at work more and more. The Creators Update provides IT administrators with oversight to apply productivity policies to the applications employees use. This helps keep corporate data more secure and keeps employees focused without taking on the added responsibility of managing each employee’s personal devices.

Streamlining Powerhouse: How the Creators Update Allows Businesses to Work Smarter Not Harder

The Windows 10 Creators update implements best-in-class, modern IT tools to streamline business operations and management. While it may be a very exciting time to be in IT, for many business organizations the digital transformation can be overwhelming. For that reason, the Windows 10 Creators Update harnesses the power of the Cloud to bring the very best streamlining tech tools to everyday businesses.

Windows 10 alone has already resulted in a 15% improvement in IT management time for IT administrators. The Creators Update further organizes and optimizes resources and moves tasks to the cloud, allowing users to acquire, provision, support, and secure devices more easily than ever.

Some of the key productivity powerhouses in the Creators Update include:

  • Cloud-based insights with Windows Analytics.

Recently released Windows Upgrade Analytics were introduced to help users move to Windows 10 more quickly by analyzing their environment to identify app compatibility, device and driver readiness. With the Creators Update, Microsoft delivers additional resources to the Windows Analytics dashboard that will help IT administrators better manage and support Windows 10 devices. The additions to the dashboard will enable organizations to use their own telemetry to provide new insights and ensure compliance on the upgrade, update and device health processes within their organizations.

  • In-place UEFI conversion

For some time, Windows Users have expressed the concern that they want to take advantage of new Windows 10 security investments like Device Guard on their existing modern hardware, but many of these new features require UEFI-enabled devices. With the Creators Update, Microsoft has introduced a simple conversion tool that automates previously manual conversion and connection methods. Even better? This conversion tool can be integrated with management tools such as the System Center Configuration Manager.

  • Continued improvements for Windows as a Service

Finally, though consistent Windows updates are beneficial, many enterprise customers have complained about managing the sheer size of the update download. Big updates on an entire network of devices can take up valuable business minutes or hours.

Since the Creators Update, Windows 10 updates will now be differentiated for both mobile and PC devices. Additionally, any updates after the Creators Update will only include the changes that have been made since the last update, decreasing the download size by approximately 35%. Microsoft is also working to improve the System Center Configuration Manager express updates to help reduce the monthly update size by up to 90%.

No matter the shape, size or industry of your business, the Windows 10 Creators Update offers tools for optimizing digital transformation for professionals. Whether you’re looking to tighten security, better manage your employee devices or streamline operations, the Windows 10 Creators Update has features to make your life easier.

Whatever you do, don’t get in the habit of avoiding updates or hitting the “Remind Me Later” button. Staying on top of tech transformations and software updates is critical to maintaining a productive and competitive professional edge.

If you’re wondering how to best implement the benefits from the Windows 10 Creators Update, get in touch with a local technology firm for consultation and guidance. Taking control of your company’s technology is easier than you think.

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