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June 26th, 2014

Security_June23_CThe increasing number of businesses turning to a virtual environment is parallel with cyber criminals looking to breach that security. While many businesses think their virtual servers are safe and secure, some are unaware of major security myths that can leave your business vulnerable to attack. With that in mind, isn’t it time you familiarized yourself with five common virtualization security misconceptions to keep your virtual environment secure?

Myth No.1: Existing endpoint security will protect our virtual environment

Most traditional endpoint security solutions are virtual-aware and provide low levels of protection. This simply isn’t enough. Depending on the virtualization platform used (VMware, Microsoft, etc.), your traditional endpoint security suite can probably recognize virtual endpoints. However, this physical software often can’t bring its full tool set of anti-malware to the virtual world, meaning it can only perform basic tasks such as on-access scanning.

Therefore what you need is a solution that has been designed to keep both virtual and physical computing environments secure. There are a wide-number of solutions out there, and the best one for your business will depend largely on the virtual environments you employ. We strongly recommend talking to IT experts like us, as we can help determine, or even offer, the strongest security based.

Myth No.2: My existing anti-malware doesn’t interfere with my virtual operations

Performance issues can create security gaps that don't exist in your physical environment. Traditional endpoint security uses an agent-based model where each physical and virtual machine has a copy of the security program’s agent on it. This agent communicates with the server while performing security tasks. This is fine for physical machines, but if you have 100 virtual machines running off of one main environment that has been infected with malware, you’ll also have 100 instances of malware running on the machines.

This high level of duplication can cause massive performance degradation and waste tons of storage capacity. Therefore, you should make an effort to ensure that all of your systems including the main ones are without malware. This not only makes every system secure, but can also speed up overall operations.

Myth No.3: Virtual environments are inherently more secure than physical environments

Sadly, this just isn’t always true. Virtualization is designed to allow software, including malware, to behave as it normally would, and malware writers will target any and all weak points in a business’s network to accomplish their goals. An attacker who compromises one virtual machine and finds a way to jump to the hypervisor - the system that enables the virtualization - then has access to every virtual machine on that host.

Therefore, malware scanners on both the user and main systems would be a good idea. If it does happen to get on a system, the chances of it spreading are drastically reduced.

Myth No.4: Using non-persistent virtual machines effectively secures a network

In theory, any machine that encounters malware is wiped away and recreated cleanly. However, we are now seeing malware that is designed to survive teardown of individual machines by spreading across the virtual network. This allows it to return when new virtual machines are created.

Additionally, being too eager to create new machines on demand can result in virtual machine sprawl, which happens when virtual machines are created but then forgotten. This leads to an unmaintained virtual endpoint operating without your knowledge. Even if the rest of your virtual machines are secure, it’s possible for one machine to eavesdrop on the traffic of another virtual machine, leading to privacy and security risks.

The best solution to this is to employ an IT manager who can track and maintain systems. Many IT partners offer a solution like this, so experts like us may be able to help ensure your systems are secure.

Myth No.5: Specialized virtual security programs are more or less the same

There are various approaches to virtualization security and your network will probably need a blend of available options. This all depends on what you’re trying to protect.

A non-Web-connected server is going to have entirely different security needs than a virtual desktop of a server that manages customer information. Implementing one without the other simply just won’t do in today’s world, where attackers are set on getting their hands on your data.

Proper security is vital in making virtualization a critical component of your business IT infrastructure. Looking to learn more about virtualization and its components? Contact us today and see how we can help.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic Security
June 25th, 2014

Productivity_June23_CFor most businesses, Internet connections have gotten a whole lot faster over the past decade. Still, some businesses today are faced with the continuous problem of a slow Internet connection, which often leads to a decrease in productivity and efficiency. If this tech problem resonates with you then don’t give up just yet as there are several things you can do to boost your Internet connection speed and as a result your business performance too.

5 ways to combat a slow Internet connection:

1. Control devices that interfere with the connection:

Wireless devices can be one of the reasons for a slow Internet connection. It’s wise to talk to us about a wireless network analyzer so that you know the sources of interference. Believe it or not, most of these sources might be coming from the company kitchen!

Good examples include the microwave, cordless phone, security alarm, and other wireless devices which use the 2.4GHz band. These can interfere with 802.11g or single-band 802.11n routers. The best solution is to reposition these household electronics to either help solve the problem completely or at least minimize the chances of interference.

2. Control applications that hog bandwidth:

Without your knowledge it’s most likely that employees are using applications that are hogging the bandwidth. It’s vital that you are aware of these applications, especially ones that have video conferencing and streaming abilities which tend to be responsible for weak bandwidth in corporate environments. Other applications such as torrent and gaming apps can also be responsible. It is best to make sure that these apps are not installed on your company computers, of if they are, make sure their use is regulated.

Believe it or not, one of the biggest bandwidth hogs is YouTube. Some companies, when they audit their network usage, have noticed that streaming services like YouTube can take up more than half of their total bandwidth. While in some positions, video streaming may be necessary, it's likely not for the majority of roles. Therefore, it would be a good idea to implement a rule about the use of YouTube during business hours e.g., it should only be used for necessary tasks.

Some would recommend blocking services like this, but if your business uses Google's other services, blocking YouTube could actually end up blocking access to other Google services. It would be a good idea to consult with us as to the best way to limit use.

3. Reposition your router:

As simple as this might sound, your router might also have to be repositioned to help increase your Internet speed. You might want to try raising your router so that broadcast range can be more effective. If this doesn’t work, which sometimes it doesn’t, try placing your router in the center of your office for a more equal signal distribution. The best solution however, is to place your router as near to computers and other receivers as possible.

4. Consider an upgrade:

If your wireless networking equipment is old then it probably needs an upgrade. Keep in mind that technology moves at an extremely fast pace and your wireless network might be outdated in just a few years.

We strongly recommend talking to us, as we can help recommend the best upgrade solution. For example, the two most common upgrades include installation of a new repeater or wireless amplifier and replacement of your current antenna. Because antenna's are so varied, we can help make sure that the antenna being installed is compatible with your router.

5. Use the latest network technologies:

As mentioned earlier, technology moves fast which is why it is essential that you become familiar with its recent advancements, particularly in the area of wireless networking. There are countless apps, software, and hardware out there that can help boost the speed and performance of your router, some of which can even be downloaded for free. Our networking experts can help ensure your business has the latest and greatest, so be sure to consult with us first.

Dealing with a slow Internet connection can be a huge pain. If not taken care of right away, it can have immense impact on your overall work output. Looking to learn more about ways to improve your Internet connection for maximized productivity? Connect with us today to see how we can help.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic Productivity
June 25th, 2014

What is the biggest objection and greatest myth concerning cloud computing? While many exist, i3 Senior Account Manager Tom Haadsma hones in on security.

The issue that firms of all sizes have with any new technology, including the cloud, revolves around data privacy and security risks. You may think that cloud vendors are better, faster and cheaper at delivering IT services, but the status quo’s biggest argument against the cloud is that, somehow, their data is too important or sensitive to entrust to a cloud vendor. This thinking is backwards. If businesses and organizations care about the reliability, security and protection of their data, they should entrust it to those who are most capable of managing it.

Cloud services vendors like Amazon, Microsoft and Google are more secure because they have to be. Their services need to be able to scale as large or small as needed, and they must ensure compliance security and access requirements (like HIPAA, ISO 27001, HITECH and more). They also have huge, dedicated security operations teams that employ individuals with security expertise ranking them as some of the best in the world.

Trusted collaboration with cloud vendors is often the best way to ensure that the right security measures are taken.

Interested in learning more about other cloud computing misconceptions? Check out the full blog, MRC Productivity’s Cup of Joe,that Tom contributed to on April 29.

Topic Article
June 25th, 2014

The staff at i3 Business Solutions contribute regularly to the Grand Rapids Business Journal blog. This month, Andy Kaiser featured the advantages of moving your small to mid-sized business’ information technology needs to the cloud.

Many small to medium-size businesses use a traditional local client-server infrastructure, but they could show significant advantages by employing cloud technologies.

Local technology. A local client-server structure can be summarized in the following way.

Centralized services. All servers and critical infrastructure are contained in house. This traditionally means a lot of hardware in the office. There are servers, phone systems, UPSes and the comprehensive infrastructure to support your important business functions.

Read the rest here on the Grand Rapids Business Journal Blog.

Topic Article
June 25th, 2014

The staff at i3 Business Solutions contribute regularly to the Grand Rapids Business Journal blog. This month, Mike Ritsema featured risk management tips to use in your personal and professional life.

Maslow’s hierarchy of needs is essentially a pyramid of personal risk management.

I maintain that each of us gets up daily and takes care of our personal- and job-related risk, “I will take care of my personal needs and find a way to keep paying the bills.”

In a web-centric world where we bank, communicate, connect and transact through a universally connected semi-secure system called the World Wide Web, also known as the Internet or cloud, our personal and business risk-security mitigation adds a new tier to the pyramid.

Read the rest here on the Grand Rapids Business Journal Blog.

Check out our previous blog by Andy on the GRBJ blog.

Topic Article
June 24th, 2014

Facebook_June23_CWith a steady increase in the number of users, Facebook has become a centralized medium for both businesses and customers to engage with one another. Now, businesses on Facebook will be equipped with more ways to enhance brand experience as the social network has just extended its video capabilities. To keep up with new developments it might be time you familiarized yourself with Facebook’s Video Views Objective feature, as well as its reach and frequency campaign model, to see how your business can benefit.

What is Video Views Objective?

Following the introduction of video metrics and Premium Video Ads, Facebook has now introduced expanded video capabilities, called Video Views Objective. This feature will enable businesses running video ads to choose video views as an objective for their campaigns. In short, this allows businesses to take advantage of two solutions to direct Facebook users to additional content. All businesses will be able to plan their campaigns using the traditional broadcast model of reach and frequency.

Video Views Objective (VVO) will be added to Facebook’s Ads Create Tool, Power Editor, and its ads application-programming interface. Ads created using VVO will automatically be optimized to be shown to targeted Facebook users who are most likely to view videos across devices. This will allow businesses to take people on a deeper journey with their brand by encouraging them to take action right after they have watched a video, and sending them a targeted brand message later on.

How does this help businesses?

As mentioned earlier, you will be able to encourage those who have viewed your videos to view additional content with two new solutions. Firstly, businesses who work with a Facebook account representative can create audiences of people who have already watched their videos. Ads can be created for those specific groups to help move them from awareness to affinity and consideration of the brand’s product or service.

A second way businesses can encourage increased engagement is by adding a call to action, which invites people to learn more and visit a specific destination, such as a page on their website, after viewing a video.

You can also gain more control over the number of people who will view your videos by utilizing reach and frequency buying. This will predictably manage audience sizes and the number of times your ads are shown to these audiences. Traditional broadcast ad campaigns are planned and bought by focusing on the number of people you can reach and how many times you can reach them. This helps align Facebook media delivery with the reach and frequency levels that deliver business results.

Facebook is a versatile tool in that it can be used to exhibit a business's core values, as well as enhance customer engagement and experience. Looking to learn more about Facebook for business? Call us today for a chat.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

June 20th, 2014

Office_June18_CMicrosoft Outlook delivers more than many business people perceive it to do. More than just an email application, this program can also handle important notes, reminders, and details of business matters through Outlook Address Book. Though it is more often used to pull out the email addresses of your contacts, the address book is also a great tool to organize and sync client details to another application.

Since Outlook's Address Book is the go-to application for many distribution lists, email addresses, and other important contact details, knowing how to use it can be really useful. However, before you create a new address book, it is a good idea to keep in mind that Outlook Address Book is NOT your list of contacts but a collection of different folders containing different sets of contacts.

This does sometimes confuse, so to help you understand more easily, here are the types of address books you can create in your Outlook profile:

Global Address Book

This can only be used in conjunction with a Microsoft Exchange account. Global address lists are a collection of all the names connected to your account in Microsoft Exchange Server.

Outlook Address Book

This is used interchangeably with Contacts although they are different in context to each other. Your Outlook Address Book is a collection of your contacts with details added in the e-mail and fax number fields.

Internet Directory Services (LDAP)

The Lightweight Directory Access Protocol, or LDAP, is used to find email addresses that are not in your local directory. This can only be accessed with the use of a steady Internet connection.

Third-party address books

You can set up address books from third party service providers through their given setup program.

To create an address book for a specified list of clients you can:

  1. From the Info tab, go to File then click Account Settings.
  2. Two options will be listed in the dropdown menu – Account Settings and Social Network Accounts. Choose Account Settings and click Address Books from the pop-up window.
  3. Tick on New then Add Account.
  4. In the Add Account dialog box, more options will appear – Internet Directory Service (LDAP) and Additional Address Books. Choose Additional Address Books and click Next to continue.
  5. You will be directed to the next window with options Outlook Address Book or Mobile Address Book. Mobile address books will create a list of names with the mobile number field filled in. Choose between the two and hit Next.
  6. Your chosen type will be automatically saved to your Outlook profile and to be able to use this, you will have to restart your program first.
Outlook Address Book not only helps sync your business database to several applications but also makes the client database organization an easy task. Understanding how to work this to your advantage can really help streamline and organize your contacts.

We can help you apply better technology tools to your business, so get in touch!

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

June 18th, 2014

virtualization_June17_CVirtualizing your server can result in the gain of efficiencies and capabilities that aren’t possible within a physical platform. While many businesses are rushing to server virtualization due to its increasing popularity, a lot of companies suffer rather than seep the benefits of a virtual server, mainly due to rush of deployment. With that in mind, it’s wise that you take the time to get a comprehensive view and see if server virtualization will actually save you money as intended.

10 ways to identify if server virtualization will save you money:

  1. Expert IT personnel: Some small businesses don’t have an IT person on the payroll, or if they do, that person deals with tasks such as security or desktop management which often means they are ill-equipped to deal with the technological sophistication that virtualization demands. If you don’t have an IT expert, virtualizing might not be right for you.
  2. Technology as core competence: If your company’s core competence is technology, or if you have lots of servers which require abundant storage and skilled IT veterans, server virtualization is sure to help save your company money. Not only will you improve on storage efficiency, but you won’t have a payroll replete with lots of IT personnels.
  3. Busy servers: If your servers are taking up floor, rack or shelf space, or if they are dedicated to particular applications; your business is likely to save money through server virtualization. Moreover, if your server equipment is aging, server virtualization might help with significant server consolidation, meaning fewer servers, lower power bills and more floor space, too.
  4. Sensitive applications: Note that not all applications do well in virtual environments. Some critical or sensitive applications require a lot of processor or memory resources and you don’t want them sharing those resources with other virtual servers. Find out about your applications performance needs, if they’re not sensitive they may be ripe for a virtual server.
  5. Shared storage: Some people will tell you that virtual servers must have a virtual storage, however those themes usually come from vendors whose livelihoods are tied to virtual storage. If your business focuses on having a centralized storage that is shared between users, virtualization can be very beneficial.
  6. Speed of deployment: Some businesses need to be able to provision servers rapidly since failure to do so is a distinct competitive disadvantage. If thats the case in your business, virtualization is a must. Ordering a physical server and deploying it can take days if not weeks; unlike a virtual framework which once in place deployment can be done in no time.
  7. Server virtualization test drive: Why not try virtualization on a small scale before deciding if you should go all virtual? You can buy inexpensive tool such as VMware Workstation which costs around USD$199 for your IT staff to try out and see the potential value of server virtualization.
  8. Do research: Even if you think you know all the basics about server virtualization, be safe than sorry by doing more research before implementing anything. A good place to start is Virtualization for Dummies. It provides a thorough basic understanding of the idea as well as what it can do for your business.
  9. Ignore server virtualization hype: With so much hype around virtualization these days it would be easy for some businesses to rush into. Don’t do that! Instead, do some research and analyze your business’ components and needs before deciding to go all virtual.
  10. Get help: Server virtualization can be quite complicated, the good news is that vendors are making it much easier to deploy. If you decide to virtualize your servers, getting help from a reputable vendor can pay off in the long run. Most vendors offer solution bundles which include servers and storage pre-installed virtual servers for turnkey operation.
While server virtualization proves to be an efficient and cost-effective solution for many businesses, the most important thing here is to not rush into a virtual server. Take a little time and go through a checklist to see if your business is right for the idea because if not, you’re likely to be losing both time and money. Looking to learn more about server virtualization? Call us today for a chat.
Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

June 17th, 2014

office365_June16_CWouldn’t it be nice if there existed an application with features that can help predict and identify risks and opportunities for your business products or services? Microsoft has turned this concept into reality with Office 365 Power BI’s latest upgrade, which features predictive forecasting. Now that you are able to, it might be time you familiarize yourself with what predictive forecasting is and how it can help your business.

Predictive forecasting uses a variety of statistical techniques, from modeling to data mining, that analyze current and historical facts to make predictions about the future.

The predictive forecasting function of Office 365 provides users with the skills to generate reports, interactive charts, and 3D visualizations of business performance. Simply put, users can perform advanced forecasting without the complexity that usually accompanies these kinds of processes.

The new forecasting tool utilizes built-in predictive forecasting models to automatically detect seasonality in the data. It also enables users to see how results are affected by adjusting the parameters of the time or confidence interval assigned to be analyzed.

Power BI’s predictive forecasting can also help fill in gaps with data. Power View, an interactive data exploration and presentation tool, fills in missing values from a data set before carrying out a forecast for a more accurate result.

A few things you need to keep in mind before using the feature:

  1. The line chart has to have one line as multiple line charts won’t work.
  2. The line chart has to have fewer than 1,000 values.
  3. The x-axis value needs to have a date/time format or be a uniformly increasing whole number. It cannot contain text or decimal numbers, and the interval between values has to be at least one day.

How to use predictive forecasting in Office 365:

  1. Simply upload a workbook with a Power View time series line chart to Power BI for Office 365.
  2. Open the file in Power BI and switch to Power View in HTML 5 by clicking Try the HTML 5 version of Power View in the lower-right corner.
  3. Click on the forecast arrow or drag the forecast dot in the line chart and you’ll see the forecasting options appear in the analysis pane to the right of your report.
Do keep in mind that Power View automatically detects what appears to be the seasonality of the data. In other words, a complete cycle of peaks and drops. Note that this works best if the chart has at least four times more values than the data cycle.

Here’s how to override automatic seasonality detection:

  1. Start a forecast by dragging the forecast handle in a line chart.
  2. The Analysis pane will automatically pop up on your right hand side. If you can’t find it, look for Analysis in the upper-right corner.
  3. In the Analysis area, manually set the seasonality to 0, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 12, 24, 52, or 365.
Predictive forecasting, if used properly, can immensely help with the overall strategic planning, market penetration and operation of your business.

Looking to learn more about Office 365 and its features? Call us today for a chat.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

June 17th, 2014

businessintelligence_June16_CMost businesses are continuously looking for ways to improve visibility, efficiency, and gain valuable insights into consumer behavior. By utilizing your company’s business intelligence (BI) system, you can achieve all this and more. Many companies spend anywhere between USD $100 thousand and $1 million for their BI system but fail to make proper use of it. Do you think your BI system could use an extra push in the right direction?

5 ways to improve business intelligence value

1. Pump customer data into your analysis Most companies are chasing after a 360 degree view of their customers, and while this seems like an elusive goal, it can be achieved. Take the first steps by integrating data from your CRM, accounting, and customer support systems into your BI dashboards and reports to allow analysis of customer growth, profitability, and lifetime value. Understanding these KPIs can help you spot trends as well as identify opportunities to cross-sell or upsell. 2. Set up alerts and delivery Your business intelligence can instantly improve its standing and value with alerts and report delivery. Notifications, in the form of email alerts, are useful for managers to keep an eye on business operations without having to log into the BI system. The added perk here is that managers can stay on top of KPIs and new updates even when they're on the move as reports and dashboards can be emailed to them according to a set schedule. 3. Reassess your dashboards If it’s been a while since your BI dashboards were first designed, try updating them with modern charts and stylish fonts. While this may seem unnecessary to some companies, attractive dashboards attract more users and you’ll likely see an uptick in adoption after a dashboard refresh. 4. Deploy existing content on mobile devices By increasing your BI content’s availability, you can quickly increase the number of users accessing it. A great way to do this is by deploying your dashboards and reports on mobile devices. This is especially useful for decision makers who travel frequently or need to be able to access KPIs from anywhere; after all it’s easier for them to pull out a phone or tablet rather than drag out a laptop. Your BI system likely includes some way to make your existing BI content mobile. Allowing users to access BI the way they want can be a great way to boost your BI value. 5. Make it predictive While BI has traditionally been used to present historic data for manual analysis, now more than ever it’s incorporating predictive analytics. By leveraging stored data from your BI system and applying predictive analytics, you can project future performance and make better business decisions based on more accurate forecasts.

Modern BI platforms come with many options, from multi-data source connectivity to mobile BI. It is up to you to leverage the full breadth of your BI software’s capabilities to ensure that you’re getting all the value it can deliver. Looking to learn more about business intelligence and its functions? Get in touch.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.