The Worst Passwords for Security

It doesn’t matter how solid your security system is –any hacker or online thief can figure out a weak password in a couple of hours through trial and error. Don’t risk being a victim of a security breach and data theft. Avoid these passwords that are especially easy to crack.

If you think using ‘password’ as your password is no big deal, then it’s time to rethink.

Security experts have recently compiled a list of the worst passwords users can choose, and ‘password’ is at the very top of the list. Weak passwords make your information more vulnerable simply because hackers can guess them. It may be easier to pick a password that you don’t have to think about, but it’s a choice that you may come to regret.

To help you avoid common password choice mistakes that users make, management application provider SplashData has compiled a list of the 25 worst passwords to use:

  1. password
  2. 123456
  3. 12345678
  4. qwerty
  5. abc123
  6. monkey
  7. 1234567
  8. letmein
  9. trustno1
  10. dragon
  11. baseball
  12. 111111
  13. iloveyou
  14. master
  15. sunshine
  16. ashley
  17. bailey
  18. passw0rd
  19. shadow
  20. 123123
  21. 654321
  22. superman
  23. qazwsx
  24. michael
  25. football

Make a smart password choice
Experts advise using a combination of letters and numbers when creating your passwords, and to avoid things that anyone might be able to guess, such as birthdays and anniversary dates. Passwords with eight characters or more are safer and it’s best to use different passwords for different accounts and websites. Use a password manager to help you keep track of all of your passwords if you’re finding it difficult to remember them all..

No matter how sophisticated your security system is, a weak password gives hackers and online thieves an advantage. Helping all the users in your organization understand the importance of password strength will help you secure the IT systems in your organization.

If you’re interested in learning more, please contact us so we can develop a comprehensive and custom security blueprint that meets your specific needs.

Reference: Worst Internet Passwords

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Email Inbox Rules

Reading this article will help you take control of email by reducing unwanted email and making your email time more productive.

If you’ve never experienced the feeling of drowning in emails, then you are an exception. If this has never happened to you, publish your email address in a couple of sites where spambots get emails for spamming from and you will see how it feels to get dozens of junk emails a day. However, even if you are not drowning in spam, you still can receive many other unwanted messages a day, and soon you will discover that if you don’t know how to manage your inbox, the information overflow can be enormous. Here are some tips on how to manage your inbox effectively:

  • Create separate folders for separate projects/people. One of the ways to deal effectively with information overflow is to separate the different streams of information. If you keep all your messages in your Inbox folder, soon it will contain thousands of messages, and it will be more difficult to find the message you need. You can create separate folders for different projects/people and file the emails into these folders.
  • Create rules. Rules are one more way to optimize the flow of emails. Different email programs have different rules available, so you may want to check with your particular program to see which it offers. Almost always you can at least set rules for automatically moving/copying messages to/from a certain person to a separate folder.
  • Use new message alerts. Very often you can configure alerts for new messages. If your email program does not have this feature enabled by default, you should consider enabling it.
  • Manage spam filters. Spam filters are also part of inbox management, and depending on the amount of spam you receive, managing spam filters could take a lot of time. However, one of the important issues you must have in mind is that if your spam filters are not properly set, they could cut legitimate messages as well. So, set your spam filters with care.
  • Use flags. Flags are a really useful way to separate a message from the rest. As with many of the other advanced inbox tricks, different email clients offer different flag systems, but almost any program offers flags for marking incoming messages as important, urgent, etc. If you have never used flagging, you will be surprised how easy and effective it is.

There are many more tips, all of which are good to know. Actually, we are just scratching the surface and we could add more ways to optimize your inbox use! But if you apply even the tips above, you will experience significant improvement in terms of effective email use. Isn’t it time you took charge of you email?

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Using social networking to win customers

As a busy small business owner, you may not have had time to learn much about social networks. Or, you may think that social networking is just a way that teenagers “meet” other teenagers through the internet using applications like FaceBook or MySpace. However, many small businesses have found that social networks are a great way to get new customers and retain existing ones. According to Forrester Research (November 2008), membership levels in the leading social network sites are as follows:

What is social networking?

Social networking web sites allow you to connect with friends, family, and colleagues online, and to meet people with similar interests. The largest social networking sites have millions of members. Common to most social networking sites is the viral nature of building contact or friend lists and sharing with them. It is an exponential process. Mary knows ten people who each know ten more people – and soon there is a network of hundreds of people communicating with one another about what is happening in their lives.

When new members join a social networking site, they provide profile information about themselves and their interests. They also have the option to join groups that have similar interests within the social networking space. For example, on MySpace there are 34 group categories, each with tens of thousands of separate groups. Many individual groups have over 10,000 members. People in the groups and forums provide information to one another about their experiences and thoughts. For a small business, the utility of social networks comes from these groups with similar interests. Here is a sample comment about a local dentist I found on a recent forum post:
“Awesome Orthodontist (name withheld)! He’s got a great staff and they all have a great sense of humor … I live downtown Dallas and it’s worth the drive”.
This type of unsolicited endorsement, read by potentially thousands of people, is worth much more than a paid ad. Social network members will trust words from people just like them more than they will believe slick advertising or yellow page listings.

Social networking success story

This recent news story illustrates the power of social networking: “Electoral triumph built on a Web revolution”. As Barak Obama considered running for President of the United States, he had a meeting with Marc Andreessen, the founder of Netscape and a board member of Facebook. Obama wondered if social networking could help him. “It was like a guy in a garage who was thinking of taking on the biggest names in the business,” Andreessen recalled. “What he was doing shouldn’t have been possible, but we see a lot of that out here and then something clicks. He was clearly supersmart and very entrepreneurial, a person who saw the world and the status quo as malleable.” The rest, as they say, is history.

How your small business can take advantage of the power of social networking

  • Tune in to what is being said about you on social networking sites.
  • If someone asks a question that is within your expertise – help them.
  • Track online comments about your organization or your products. If there is misinformation, provide corrections.
  • Register with LinkedIn – this is a site specifically committed to linking businesses and professionals.
  • Join in. Add your own comments to the blogs or upload short videos. Who is more qualified than you are to talk about your company?

Small business owners are very busy people, and monitoring and interacting with social networks may seem like another task on your already full plate. This is where your IT consultant can help. By setting up monitoring and tracking alerts on your system, you can optimize the time you spend on these important activities. Your IT consultant may also suggest software services that help you assess the return on your investment.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Free Tools to Increase Productivity

For smaller companies and businesses who are constantly on the lookout for great free finds on the web: here are a few nifty and free online tools that might potentially help you, both in saving costs and boosting your productivity and efficiency.

It is a constant challenge for small businesses to meet ever-changing and ever-evolving IT requirements while balancing a budget and keeping costs reasonable. And with software applications being one of the major factors that contribute to IT maintenance costs, it is always welcome news to come across free tools that work well and efficiently despite the lack of a price tag.

ThinkFree Online Office
One of these applications is ThinkFree Online Office, which is a cloud application that enables you to create and edit documents in common formats. It also comes with free 1GB of storage and allows you to work from anywhere, since the documents are stored online. And with its own app for Android users, ThinkFree is particularly advantageous to people who need to work on the go.

ReqMan
Another free cloud-based application that can prove useful is ReqMan, an online project management tool. You can use this to manage and track your different projects using various templates the service provides. And since it’s in the cloud, mobile personnel and staff who are given access to your ReqMan account can work even when they’re out of the office.

Gliffy
Gliffy is a free tool that you can use to create all sorts of technical illustrations – diagrams, floor plans, flowcharts, and more. The basic plan is free, but you also have the option to subscribe to their more fully featured plans for a minimal fee.

ScheduleOnce
For managing schedules, calendars, and the like, ScheduleOnce allows you to keep better track of all your appointments, meetings, and deadlines through a single tool. It integrates with your calendar on Google, and then allows other people to see your open times when they can schedule a meeting with you. Think of it as a one-stop-shop for your scheduling needs.

If you want to know more about these tools and how you can best utilize them, please feel free to contact us. We’ll be happy to guide you and help you make the most out of these types of applications to improve your efficiency and bottom line.

Considering a BYOD Policy at Work?

Thinking of adopting a “bring your own device”, or BYOD, policy at work? Learn more about what it is, why it’s becoming popular – and what you need to consider before rolling it out.

You may have noticed more and more of your employees or colleagues bringing their own computing devices to work—be it their mobile phone, tablet, or laptop. Or perhaps in your company or in other companies you may have seen, they have let people decide which device they prefer because they are used to it at home. You may not realize it, but this is all part of a large trend called the “consumerization” of IT, in which the influence of consumer technology is being increasingly felt in the workplace. With the wide availability of cheap but powerful mobile devices and online services, a growing number of people are being exposed to the latest technology at home first—adopting them at a rate faster than most businesses are able to manage. This flips on its head the old paradigm in which traditionally new technologies would be rolled out to businesses first, before they would find their way to consumers.

This trend, plus the increasing sophistication of young workers today and their frustration with the tools available to them at the office, is pushing some companies to adopt a “bring your own device” or BYOD policy at work. They are not alone. According to research by technology analyst group Gartner, end users, not the IT department, will soon be responsible for 50 percent of business IT procurement decisions—ultimately bringing and running their own systems on company networks. Meanwhile, according to management consultants Accenture, around one-third of today’s younger generation of workers (a group called “millenials”) not only wants to use the computer of their choice at work, but also wants control of the applications they use too.

The benefits companies cite to adopting a BYOD policy are many, among them:

  • Savings on capital expenses and training costs in using company equipment—compensating employees instead via other means such as flexible work hours, subsidized purchases, insurance, and other benefits.
  • Less management headache—effectively letting employees decide what to use releases the company from some overhead and management responsibilities.
  • Improved employee satisfaction—by giving employees the freedom to use devices and applications that they prefer.

However, before you consider letting employees bring their own personal technology to the work place, be aware that there are also disadvantages, and sometimes very real dangers in doing so. These include:

  • Non-standardization of hardware, operating systems, and applications. If your business operations require that some equipment is integrated with others, then BYOD can in the long run actually increase IT management costs and decrease efficiency.
  • Exposing your network to malware or security vulnerabilities and breaches. When your employees bring their own devices to work, you lose important control over their security. Consumer devices often don’t employ comparable bullet-proof security technologies mandated by businesses.
  • Leakage of confidential or proprietary information. Employees will naturally do what they want with the data on their devices, even if it doesn’t belong to them, or it’s against company policies. Employees can also lose precious company data when they misplace or damage their personal devices.
  • Lower economies of scale in procurement. Essentially because everyone is buying devices on their own, you miss out on the chance to consolidate purchases and lower purchase costs for everybody.

Have you adopted a BYOD policy at work? Thinking about it? Worried about this trend? If you need to understand BYOD better so you can define a policy for your staff, contact us and see how we can help.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org

5 Firefox Add-ons For Your Business

In recent years there has been an explosion in the number of Web browsers available to businesses. Among the most popular is a browser that costs nothing and has some very useful plugins and add-ons, that cover a wide variety of needs. That browser is Firefox. Read on to learn some useful add-ons for your business.

At first look, Firefox is a fairly simple browser. Where it really shines though, is in the wealth of add-ons available for all users. If you were to compare different users’ browsers, it is highly doubtful they would look the same. There are some useful add-ons for small business users that can help make your life easier. Here are our top five:

Make Add-ons Compatible With New Versions of Firefox
Firefox is on an aggressive update schedule. It feels like only a few weeks pass in between each new rollout, and this can pose a problem if the developers of the add-ons don’t keep their add-ons up to date. To solve this, install the Add-On Compatibility Reporter. This useful add-on will disable version checking, allowing the add-ons to continue working. If you have an add-on that won’t work, you can send a report to the developer. It is recommended that this is one of the first add-ons you install.

Speed Dial
Speed Dial is an add-on that allows you to quickly access your favorite, or most visited sites. You set your bookmarks up to show via Speed Dial, which will show current thumbnails of the website. From there you can click on the thumbnail to go to the website. This is particularly useful if you have pages you visit on a regular basis and wish to navigate to them quickly.

OutWit Docs
This add-on is for those managers who have a ton of documents on their computer and want to quickly find one without closing or minimizing Firefox. Think of having a version of Google for your docs – you enter a query into the search bar, and up comes the results with thumbnails so you can easily pick and open the document you were looking for.

Google Global
An interesting add-on that allows you to see where your website, or any website for that matter, will show up according to the local Google page rankings. This is great for quickly viewing your presence in other regions or countries. However, this add-on will only work when on a Google search results page.

Screengrab
If you are preparing a presentation or need to take a screenshot it can be a bit of a chore, especially on a Mac. With Screengrab you can take a screenshot of just the visible part of the browser or the whole page. This will save time from having to take multiple screenshots and then stitching the images together to gain one image.

These five apps are just the tip of the iceberg, there are many more on the Firefox Add-ons page. If you would like to know more about Firefox or other Web browsers, please contact us.firefox

How to Choose an IT Consultant

In business today the choice of a technology advisor can be a critical success factor in this article you’ll learn how to make the right choice. Maintaining your small company network in good shape is not an easy task, and you are probably perfectly aware that doing it on your own is not the best way to invest your time. When you want to hire somebody to maintain your company network for you, basically you have two choices – to employ somebody onsite (as a full-time or part-time employee) or to outsource the task to an external IT Consultant . After you have decided that your small company does not need onsite IT staff and you will need an IT Consultant, the next step is to choose one. Choosing an IT Consultant is not so different from choosing an onsite employee, but still there are specifics you need to be aware of. Sometimes this task is a very easy one when you can ask your business associates to recommend somebody. But if you want to choose the IT consultant on your own, here are some points to consider:

5 Key Steps in Choosing an IT Consultant Technical competencies .

Needless to say, this is the most important factor because if you hire somebody whose technical competency is not satisfactory, this will certainly lead to a lot of trouble. If you are a non-technical person, you are hardly in a position to judge the technical skills of the candidates, but if you ask them about the certificates, degrees, diplomas, and other similar documents they possess, this will give you a clue if they are technically competent or not.

For instance, IT Consultants with Microsoft Small Business Specialist certification have passed rigorous exams on small business technology. Ability to work with people . Sometimes technical people are not the best communicators. But IT Consultants are supposed to be half techies, half business consultants, so for them being technical is not an excuse for lacking basic business and communication skills. That is why it is key to choose someone who can communicate with you, explain things in a way you understand, answer all your questions, and not just talk in jargon — someone who can help you understand how technology matters to your business and can help it grow.

Availability . Availability is a key factor for your decision because if you hire somebody who is not available when you need him or her most, what’s the point of having an IT Consultant if you can’t rely on him or her? Usually it’s best to hire locally, because when their office is near, they are more likely to be able to arrive quickly on your premises an emergency. Also, very often problems can quickly be solved remotely, so it is equally important that the IT Consultant you choose provides remote support as well.

Can they handle all your IT needs?

When you choose an IT Consultant, you would like him or her to be the single point of contact for all your IT needs. While it’s not always possible for your IT Consultant to necessarily complete all of your technical needs him or herself, he or she should be able to manage the process on your behalf. (For example, if you want a software application to be developed especially for you, you’d better contact a dedicated software development company, but your IT consultant could be the one to handle the process for you.)

Therefore, it’s best if the consultant you choose can meet all (or at least most) of your IT needs – from purchasing new hardware, to maintaining the network, to providing support for the applications you use on a daily basis. Wrapping Up These are some of the points you need to have in mind when choosing an IT consultant. It is important to choose carefully. If you want to establish a long term “trusted advisor” relationship with your IT Consultant, just like with your attorney or accountant, you must choose the best — not necessarily the cheapest — IT Consultant.

Remember, your IT Consultant is a key partner in the viability of your business and your success! What Next? Sit down with your team and become clear on your IT needs and goals. Ask associates or key advisors such as your accountant for recommendations Interview and select carefully. The best IT Consultant should be a trusted advisor just like your accountant or attorney. Take your time and find someone you can trust and work with for the long term