Why Proactivity is Always a Better Strategy than Reactivity

Let’s dive into how each approach typically plays out for the businesses that adopt them. A Reactive Approach An organization that reacts to external factors would be referred to as reactive. New competition opens up? Looks like it’s time to improve upon efficiency. Is the economy experiencing a rough patch? Maybe we should scale back on our spending. The big problem with this methodology is that it leaves a business a few steps behind, which makes it vulnerable to larger issues. Instead of being ready to handle any competition, a business that acts reactively will be forced to play catch-up, which means that the business will never quite reach its full potential. A Proactive Approach On the other hand, you have a business that anticipates changes, whether they would be detrimental to their business or beneficial, and plans for them accordingly. A proactive business will analyze the data they have access to as a means of predicting what trends are likely to emerge, and will often prepare for multiple eventualities… just in case. Keeping a data backup, maintaining it offsite and in keeping with the best practices we recommend, that’s an example of a proactive behavior. Managed services are proactive by their very nature, as you have to anticipate an issue to know to look out for it. Use Proactive Solutions with SRS Networks Don’t just take our word for it – give the services that we offer a shot and see for yourself. Our trained professionals will keep an eye on your technology solutions on your behalf – preventing issues before they interfere with your productivity. To learn more, keep reading our blog, or reach out to us directly! We’re just a call to (831) 758-3636 away for any of your IT needs. Start being more productive and reach out today – before you have no other choice.

No More Pencils, No More Books… Examining Technology in Education

How Has Technology Been Beneficially Introduced into Education? It may be easier to explore how it hasn’t been, to be honest. From official educational tools to the device that students tend to have in their pockets, technology is seemingly everywhere. Chalkboards have been phased out by digital smart displays, and laptops are more and more frequently seen as an essential learning device, as compared to the luxury that they were once considered. Some educators have leveraged this technology to connect with other classrooms across the world, exposing their students to different cultures. Cooperation and collaboration have become more common, as have breakthroughs being facilitated through the use of technology as an educational tool. The EdSurge on Air Podcast provided a few accounts from educators that contained anecdotal evidence of technology’s value in the learning process. One educator, Mimi Kasner, shared a story about how she had to work with a young, first grade student who was experiencing significant difficulties in learning how to read and write. It wasn’t until the little girl was introduced to a website that teaches the alphabet that something clicked, and the girl was overjoyed. More recently, Kasner was principal of a school where students were working on self-managed projects when they were interrupted by a fire drill. Teachers approached Kasner, reporting that students wanted the time that the fire drill took from their projects back to work on them. Sam Jordan, the education technology coordinator for the Alaska Department of Education and Early Development, also expressed how technology has impacted students. Using Skype, students in Alaska and students in Sri Lanka were able to communicate and learn from one another – despite nothing being done about the language barrier between the two groups. Technology has also made learning more interactive, boosting participation among students by “gamifying” the learning process. What sounds more engaging to you: listening to a teacher reciting facts from a textbook published in the mid-1970s, or turning the lesson into a role-playing scenario or other game, supported by the technology available? With technology, a student will always have access to the most up-to-date knowledge available, inherently improving the quality of their education. It isn’t just students who can benefit, either. Teachers can leverage technology in their classrooms to make their lives easier as well. For instance, an AI called Jill Watson was developed that could field the questions that students would ask regarding their class processes, answering what “she” could, and passing along those that she couldn’t, to a human teacher. Imagine how much a teacher could accomplish in the future if their students had a resource to turn to with their questions. From improved learning tools, to more accessible teaching methods, technology shows great promise in advancing the educator’s goals. However, there are some negative considerations to take into account. How Technology Can Hurt Education Like we said, we’re getting into the warts as well. Some studies suggest that technology can be just as much of a detriment to education as it can be a supplement. For instance, there’s the obvious issue – the risk of distraction. A survey that questioned 500 community members of the University of Waterloo found that very nearly half of them found their technology to be distracting, and 68 percent of teachers found the use of […]

Tip of the Week: How to Set Up Android Work Profiles

When mobile devices first came on the scene, many companies would provide their employees with these devices in order to facilitate remote work. In 2011, the Pew Research Center conducted a survey of United States adults to gauge smartphone ownership. At that point, about 35 percent had one. Eight relatively short years later, and that number has increased to around 81 percent. With personal smartphones now in the majority of pockets, it’s understandable that most people don’t really relish the thought of carrying around a second one for work purposes. Another survey came to the conclusion that, while at work, 70 percent of employees keep their phones in sight. So, why do only 59 percent of businesses – not an insignificant number, granted, but still fewer than one would expect – allow the use of personal smartphones for work purposes? There’s tension on both sides in this case: with the employee, who doesn’t want to sacrifice their freedoms with their device, and with the employer, who has their data security to consider. Differentiating Between Data Types The Android platform began offering work profiles to devices running Android 7.0 Nougat – something that many businesses and end users alike haven’t realized. These work profiles effectively allow a user to differentiate between work resources and data and their own work resources and data. Users would even have second copies of applications installed, annotated with a special icon. Data is kept separate, period. However, while these work profiles are secure, some employees may still be hesitant to utilize them. One of the biggest obstacles to Bring Your Own Device implementations comes from the reluctance many employees have to hand over access to their device. Many employees are uncomfortable with the thought of their boss having the authority to access the contents of their smartphone, yet hand over the same authorizations to applications and the corporations that run them without a second thought. Despite this skepticism (of which there will almost assuredly be some), there are considerable benefits your business can embrace by establishing work profiles, including boosts to productivity and security. How to Set Up Android Work Profiles The majority of work profiles are set up through Google Mobile Management for Android. The setup process also has a few additional requirements – the device in question must be running Android 5.1 or newer, and users must have whitelisted apps in the managed Play Store. In the Settings app, go to Management > Devices > Search and select devices. From there, open a work profile installation wizard from Managed Google Play. Once you’ve made it that far, select Create managed Google account/work profile. Finally, confirm it by selecting Create. Need some other tools and handy tricks to help your business succeed? Reach out to us! Give SRS Networks a call at (831) 758-3636.

A Brief Introduction (No, Really) to Virtual Private Networking

What is a VPN? So, you have your business’ network, and you have whatever device you plan to work remotely on. We’ll assume it’s a laptop. This laptop is going to have to connect to the business’ network in order to be productive. Let’s shift gears to an extended metaphor. Just as your data is crucial to your business, a country’s political representatives are key to the nation’s operations. Unfortunately, countries aren’t immune to criminal behavior, either. So whenever there’s a credible threat, there are serious security measures taken to protect the political representative. Not only is this representative carried in protected methods of transportation, they will even be disguised to obscure their identity – so if a threat actor sees the representative, the actor won’t know what to do with them. This is an overly dramatized representation of how a VPN functions. Instead of a politician being safely ferried from one place to another, your data is securely transmitted in a virtual tunnel. With one entrance and one exit, this tunnel keeps your data from being intercepted – and even if it were somehow to be breached, the data is still encrypted, making it indecipherable. This capability to access data, regardless of how sensitive it is, without leaving it vulnerable is a vastly important one today – especially given how crucial productivity is to a business. A VPN fundamentally allows this productivity to take place outside of the office, wherever that happens to be. Ready to Implement a VPN Solution? SRS Networks can help your business adopt a VPN worthy of the enterprise, so you and your employees can work while out and about, without the fear of attack. To learn more, give us a call at (831) 758-3636.

Tackling Five of Tech’s Biggest Myths

Myth #1 – The more RAM you have the faster your PC will go. RAM, or random-access memory, is thought to make any system run quicker. This isn’t the case. RAM is nothing more than a super-fast temporary storage space where your active programs are called from. By increasing your RAM, you will only help open more programs at the same time. That’s not to say that RAM isn’t important, as sometimes you need to run a lot of programs at once. When your system doesn’t run smoothly, and you add more RAM to it, it may begin to run better, but that is contingent on the commands you give the computer and the intensiveness of the software. Myth #2 – You need to click on “Safely remove USB” button on your taskbar. Our next myth is that if you don’t click on the “Safely remove USB” button that appears on your taskbar, and you remove a USB drive, you run the risk of corrupting the data and any changes written to the disk won’t be saved. The truth is that if you are not reading or writing data to the disk, there is no problem with simply pulling it out of the USB. The virtual button only ensures that the OS is not sending or receiving data to the drive, but most times you’ll know. Myth #3 – Don’t use your smartphone while it is charging. The next myth is one that we’ve heard time and again, especially after the Samsung Galaxy Note 7 snafu where devices were catching fire. All smartphones use lithium-ion batteries that have a very small chance to explode. Furthermore, the process of using the phone and charging the phone has not traditionally led to explosion. Skeptics cite that phones warm up more than usual when they are charging. If you are dealing with a phone that is hot to the touch (and isn’t running graphic-intensive applications) chances are you need to replace your charger or your phone, because its battery is shot. Myth #4 – You should only use your phone manufacturer’s charger. The lead in for this myth comes from the last one. If you don’t use the phone manufacturer’s charger you risk ruining its battery or having the phone explode. This is patently false. You can obviously use other chargers to charge your phone. It may not charge as fast, but as long as you use a well-made charger with the same specs there is no reason to think that the device will be harmed by using chargers not made by the manufacturer of the phone. Avoid cheap and poorly made charging hardware, and you and your phone should be just fine. Myth #5 – Using a private browser will keep you hidden. Occasionally, you’ll come across a person that seems to think that the private browsing function that all major browsers have, was made to ensure that no one can track their browsing history. Of course, written on the browser window is a message that says the inverse is true. The private browsing action will only erase locally saved data. Any external source can still track your activity. If you want a secure and private viewing experience, you will need a Virtual Private Network. Do you have any myths you’d like […]

Tip of the Week: Use Google Like a Pro

Use Quotes The first tip is the simplest. If you are searching for a phrase, you can get a wide variety of answers that may not be of much help, but if you search for a phrase that you put in quotes, you will return only pages with that exact phrase in that order. It is extraordinarily useful when looking up specific quotes or passages.  Example: “have you ever danced with the devil in the pale moonlight?” Use Asterisks When searching using an asterisk, replace a word that you may not know. This also works inside quotes. Say you heard a song that you like, but don’t know the name of it or the artist who plays it. If you search a bit of lyrics in quotes and put an asterisk in there where the word you couldn’t make out would go, you will surely get the answers you are looking for.  Example “I am the eggman. *” Use Minus Signs A lot of words in the English language are used for many different things. When you are searching for a term that returns ambiguous results, try eliminating content by shifting context. If you search for a term and then enter a minus sign followed by topics you may want to eliminate. This will work to narrow down your results. Example: shark -fish Search Websites with Keywords You can use the power of Google search to search any individual site for specific content. This can come in handy when you want to find information about a specific topic from a specific resource.  Example: Halloween site:nytimes.com Flip a Virtual Coin By entering “flip a coin” or pressing on the microphone logo in the search bar and saying it into your microphone, Google will bring up a random coin flip generator. It allows you to solve the ultimate debates when you don’t have access to any physical change.  Google Search is one of the great resources of our time. If you want to learn more tips and tricks about how to get the most out of today’s most important technology, subscribe to our blog.

Pushing the Limits of the Smartphone Battery

Cell Phone Batteries Cellular phones have been on the market for much of the past 35 years or so. In the 1980s and early 1990s, cell phones were large devices that were powered largely by nickel-cadmium (NiCD) batteries. These batteries, like the devices they powered were bulky and heavy, and didn’t really last very long. They also degraded quickly, especially if they were charged while there still was a charge in the battery. Soon, as the demand for cell phones started to increase, the nickel-metal hydride (NiMH) batteries began to be manufactured. This material was lighter and took less time to recharge; and, while they still suffered from what would be considered severe degradation today, it wasn’t as bad as the NiCD degradation. As this technology was developed in the late 1990s, the market for cell phones began to expand rapidly. Smartphone Batteries For years, devices were made with NiMH batteries that could be swapped as they degrade, but as the smartphone was developed the devices began to need a stronger power source to run devices that were effectively computers in your pocket. The Lithium-ion battery was developed. Unlike nickel-based batteries, lithium-ion batteries didn’t degrade, they lasted longer and were much easier and faster to charge. The one drawback was their price, which can be seen in the price jump in devices used nowadays. Recently, innovations have helped develop what is known as the lithium-poly ion (Li-Poly) battery. This type of battery has 40 percent more power than the NiMH batteries, but costs are still too high for manufacturers to commit to a Li-Poly battery to anything but flagship devices. Future Batteries With so much changing about the way people use technology, there needs to be a concerted effort to enhance battery technology. Today, they have begun to replace the graphite found in today’s lithium-ion batteries with silicon. This improves the performance of these batteries by up to three times, but that is hardly the most interesting advancement. Some new technologies you are likely to see at some point in the next several years include: Use of rectenna – researchers are trying to capture energy from Wi-Fi or other electromagnetic waves. Using a rectenna–which is an extra-thin and flexible radio wave harvesting antenna–to harvest AC power through a Wi-Fi signal found in the air and convert it to DC to charge the battery, or power devices directly. You will recharge your device – What if you could be the source of power to recharge your devices? With the use of a triboelectric nanogenerator (TENG), you can harvest electric current generated by a host (a human) to power devices or recharge batteries. Solid state lithium-ion batteries – Using solid electrodes and a solid electrolyte in a battery isn’t really that new. You can find them in some wearables, pacemakers, and RFID sensors, but because of the massive cost they present, they haven’t made their way into smartphones yet. Peptide batteries – There has been a push to use biological semiconductors to charge devices. In fact one start-up, StoreDot, out of Israel, has a device that can charge a smartphone in 60 seconds. The same technology is being developed to make batteries. Sodium-ion batteries – What if we could develop a battery using one of the most abundant metals in the world […]

Watch Out for the One Percent

Cybersecurity is a lot like that, and preventing the one percent of threats that slip past your security is crucial to your business. Let’s talk about it. One Percent of Threats Equals a Hundred Percent of the Damage Very few things in the computing world are infallible. If it is connected to the Internet and hackers really want to get into it, they will find a way. No antivirus can guarantee they will protect you from one hundred percent of all viruses ever. No anti-spam solution can promise you that they will never let a piece of junk mail through. These solutions are designed to reduce the risk. Antivirus can only protect you from known viruses, and only when the definitions are kept up to date in the software. Anti-spam often uses machine learning to analyze a message and determine if it has similarities with millions of other spam messages.  This means there is room for a tiny amount to slip through as cybercriminals tweak and adjust their tactics to try to get past the security systems put in place. In other words, you could have the most expensive, most carefully managed and monitored IT security in place, and still be at risk. You could meet and exceed any compliance standard and still be at risk. Granted, it’s a greatly reduced risk than you would have without the security, but that one percent that slips through the cracks could still lead to massive amounts of damage. How Do I Stop the One Percent from Harming My Organization? That’s the big question, right? If you paid for that expensive firewall and that centralized antivirus and you’ve locked down your end points as much as possible, what more can you do? Employee Training Sometimes it just takes awareness to prevent an issue from becoming a bigger problem. Offering training and resources to keep your staff aware of threats can go a long way. There are some pretty simple lessons that are pretty easy to understand regardless of one’s technical level: Don’t open attachments you didn’t expect. Don’t click on the links that seem skeptical or too good to be true. Don’t share passwords, and don’t use the same password on multiple accounts. Don’t plug in random USB devices, especially if you found it. Report anything suspicious to IT. Teaching users how to do some basic tasks like taking screenshots for errors and identifying phishing attacks can also go a very long way. Don’t ‘Set and Forget’ IT Security (or Backups, or New Policies, etc.) A huge factor in almost every preventative IT solution, whether it be your antivirus or your cloud backup, is that the developers behind it are playing an ongoing game of cat and mouse with cybercriminals. New viruses and threats come out all the time, exploits and security holes are discovered that need to be patched, and everything needs to be applied to your hardware/software to keep you and your data safe. That’s why it is crucial to monitor and manage every device and endpoint on your network. Every workstation, router, access point, server, firewall, and security solution needs to be carefully monitored and kept updated. Solutions that become so old that the developer chooses to no longer support them need to be retired and swapped out. If this […]

Tip of the Week: Saving Money with Managed IT

Consider Your Own IT Costs  If you’re running blind, your technology maintenance can (read: will) cost your business quite a few pretty pennies. Did you know that a small business that doesn’t have an IT department – instead relying on staff members to resolve their own technology issues – is statistically more likely to pay higher amounts than a company that proactively attends to issues? Granted, there may be long stretches of time that you don’t need to make any investment into your technology support – but if you have to pay the typical break/fix rate each time one of your business computers goes on the fritz, you’ll soon be spending quite a bit more money than you would have otherwise. Maybe taking on an in-house IT administrator can keep these kinds of issues at bay… but is this actually helping your business’ finances any? The skills of an IT administrator don’t come cheap – the starting rate starts at $50,000 each year, so if you can afford that, your business is doing pretty well for itself. However, you could also take on managed IT, which offers comprehensive management of your technology for quite a bit less than what you would pay an additional employee. Why Outsourced IT Services Are the Best Option By taking on SRS Networks as your managed service provider, you are fulfilling a wide variety of your business’ technological needs. Your network and infrastructure will be monitored and proactively maintained for far less than an IT administrator’s salary. As you might imagine, the value of these services quickly overtakes the costs that you incur. Let’s consider a hypothetical (but very realistic) scenario: Let’s assume that your business has 12 workstations and two servers. In addition to this, you have your requisite networking equipment, digital surveillance equipment, and a few cloud subscriptions for each workstation. A dedicated IT administrator may have the experience necessary, but one person isn’t going to be able to keep up with your network’s needs. Selecting a break/fix provider is even worse. Each and every time something goes wrong, you’re going to have to deal with downtime and expensive support. Most businesses can’t support that… can yours? However, if you utilize the managed services that SRS Networks offers, you’ll get: Remote Network and Infrastructure Support – This includes 24-hour monitoring, proactive maintenance, and remote management.  Comprehensive IT Consulting – This can provide value by helping you better understand how useful your technology can be, while putting you in a better position to acquire the technology your business needs. Help Desk – A helpline that any of your staff can call if they have computer problems, with live support to assist them.  Backup and Disaster Recovery – Keeping your data backed up and reliable in case of emergency is extremely important nowadays, and isn’t something that can be neglected.  Patch Management – Your software solutions and tools require maintenance to remain up to date. The same is true if you want to keep your network free from threats. To simplify things for you, we take over the responsibility of patching and updating the software you use to run your business. Vendor Management – Your company uses several technology vendors, and the amount of time it takes to work with them all can get frustrating. […]

A Toothache Beyond Repair

As of today, we know that some companies did opt to pay the ransom while others wait for a decrypter to recover their encrypted files. The process has been slow, and some offices are finding it isn’t working at all.REvil (Sodinokibi) ransomware is one of the most active and widespread ransomware strains seen this year, and this is the second time it has happened this summer. Earlier in June, a group yet to be named, was breached using the same strain. Follow Up While Digital Dental Record learned of the breach on August 26th, and immediate action was taken, even a quick response couldn’t save the offices that were already infected. This means that those offices are unable to run effectively while this situation is remedied, and some may run the risk of never fully recovering. The Wisconsin Dental Association issued a statement confirming that DDS Safe remains a “WDA endorsed product” and that they are aware of the breach. This likely isn’t the last story we’ll hear about a medical breach this week. Numbers continue to rise, including the risk percentage that all providers face. We must continue to educate ourselves on how to be proactive and not reactive as cybercrime is now an ongoing occurrence. And above all, we need to acknowledge that even our best efforts do not remove the risk of others being less diligent in their practice of cybersecurity.

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