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Preferred Blog

Preferred has been serving the Tinley Park area since 1991, providing IT Support such as technical helpdesk support, computer support, and consulting to small and medium-sized businesses.

What Exactly Do We Mean by “Managed” Services?

What Exactly Do We Mean by “Managed” Services?

Managed services - what are they? The short answer, other people managing the IT systems that you rely on every day to be productive and accomplish your tasks. In essence, they are a freedom from dealing with the troublesome and time-consuming parts of leveraging technology. You may have heard this much about managed services before, but have never been given a deeper understanding of what they entail. That is precisely what we aim to accomplish below.

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Why Multi-Factor Authentication is Way Better Than Passwords

Why Multi-Factor Authentication is Way Better Than Passwords

Time hasn’t been kind to the password. It’s continuously put down as one of the least secure methods of protecting systems. It’s not due to any fault of the password, though. People just have a hard time remembering long and complex passwords. To aid in security, it’s recommended that you use some sort of multi-factor authentication. While some users prefer easy SMS message two-factor authentication, there are actually many different types of multi-factor authentication available.

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Alert: Fake Email Invoices Contain Ransomware

Alert: Fake Email Invoices Contain Ransomware

Ransomware is still on the rise, and the Federal Bureau of Investigation has labeled it as one of the biggest dangers to businesses of all kinds. Compared to other methods of spreading malware, ransomware has a unique return on investment that keeps hackers wanting more. One new variant of ransomware uses a phishing attack that’s tailored to your real-world address, which is exceptionally concerning for victims.

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41 Microsoft Software Titles Reached Their End of Extend Support or End of Life - In April Alone!

41 Microsoft Software Titles Reached Their End of Extend Support or End of Life - In April Alone!

You don’t need us to tell you that Microsoft has an extensive library of software products aimed at all kinds of businesses. But, of course, nothing good can last forever, and old solutions eventually give way to more versatile or efficient versions. When this happens, Microsoft stops supporting older software in order to provide better features and experiences to users of more recent versions.

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Does Your Business Have a Backup and Disaster Recovery Plan?

Backup and Disaster Recovery

Most businesses need a Backup and Disaster Recovery plan.  Disasters like fire, flood, earthquake, and more can bring your systems to a halt. Systems including order processing, invoicing, emails, call center, and business phone are critical for daily operations. Without a Backup and Disaster Recovery plan, organizations that encounter a disaster run the risk of going out of business. Here are some tips for getting your Backup and Disaster Recovery plan in place.

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Why Does Rebooting Your PC Take Care of So Many Issues?

Why Does Rebooting Your PC Take Care of So Many Issues?

When you call tech support, you’re probably going to get the same response every single time: “Have you tried turning it off and on again?” There’s a reason that this happens so often, and it’s because restarting your computer is a great, low-tech way to resolve some basic issues with your system. However, it’s still good to be cautious about more serious issues that a reboot won't fix. We’ll walk you through what a reboot does, and it can be effective at fixing minor issues with your PC.

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Tackling Cloud Security

Tackling Cloud Security

Security is always top of mind with businesses migrating to the Cloud. Cloud Services are rapidly being adopted by most businesses today. According to IDC, the worldwide public cloud services market reached $45.7 billion in 2013 and is projected to grow at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 23% through 2018. Cloud Security is an important consideration for businesses migrating to the Cloud. So, what are the top security concerns businesses face?


 

Top Cloud Security Concerns

CompTIA’s Ninth Annual Information Security Trends study identified system downtime/business interruptions, exposure or loss of data during file transfers to the cloud, and concerns over encryption of data (either transactional or at rest) as the top three issues identified by business owners and IT Professionals. In addition, respondents raised concern over complying with legal/regulatory requirements. What can a business owner do to migrate securely to the Cloud?

Cloud Security and Compliance

Most experts agree, start by understanding your Cloud Security requirements. If you have regulatory requirements, a Private Cloud solution may make it easier to comply with standards including HIPAA and PCI. However, this doesn’t mean you are more secure. Beyond encryption, having a solid strategy for using the technology in your organization is a key factor in Cloud Security.

Employees: Key to Tackling Cloud Security

Your employees may be your biggest threat to Cloud Security. Without the proper training, your employees may access your company’s Cloud Services from unsecure devices. This could cause security breaches and data leaks of privacy information. What’s more, it is important to control the adoption of Cloud Services within your business to help mitigate Cloud Security risks. Proper policy, training, and guidelines create awareness and educate your employees about Cloud Security Risks.

Other Cloud Security Factors

IoT (Internet of Things) presents a new risk to Cloud Security. Smart devices including TVs, appliances, office equipment, and other devices that collect and transmit data across the Internet, can cause exposure to your overall security. Research firm Gartner predicts that the IoT market will grow to 26 billion units installed by 2020. Proper network security and encryption is a first step in reducing this emerging security risk.

Migrating to Cloud Services provides many benefits to business of all sizes. Making the leap to Cloud Computing can be done securely with the proper planning & guidance. Reach out to your technology solution advisor to get help tackling Cloud Security.

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The Benefits of Fixed-Price IT Managed Services

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More and more, we hear of security breaches that are derailing business’s activities, whether such problems are malicious software (“malware”) designed to grab privacy information from an employee, a computer crash or even a natural disaster such as an earthquake. A data breach can put customers’ personal information in peril, thereby causing embarrassment and even costing steep fines. This is why it is important to hire a reputable IT managed service provider before you need one. Businesses rely on their IT systems to do day-to-day business, and most of the time, things go as they should. But what about when they don’t?

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Every Cloud Has a Silver Lining: Business Benefits of Cloud Computing

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Moving to the Cloud is a strategic, business-driven decision. Cloud Computing can offer a range of solutions to help drive business performance. Many businesses are migrating to Cloud Computing already. To ensure you get the most from your investment, you need to be able to determine how cloud solutions can help your business grow revenue, scale, accommodate teleworkers, let you move faster than your competition, and help you make your technology infrastructure costs more predictable.  Read on to gain an understanding of the many business benefits of Cloud Computing.


 

Cloud Computing Saves on Upfront Costs

Many popular Software as a Service (SaaS) and Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) solutions are available on a subscription basis.  You won’t be paying for hardware, systems software, database or other upfront costs.  In most cases these recurring subscription fees move your capital expense to an operating expense.  However, you will need to plan for customization, migration and integration services to make Cloud Services that are robust and dynamic. Cloud Computing Provides a Faster Time to Market

You won’t be waiting on hardware to deliver for your new Cloud Service.  In many cases you can deploy new Cloud Services on demand.  Additionally, your Cloud Service Provider (CSP) is responsible for keeping the systems up to date with the latest updates and upgrades.  SaaS providers can upgrade features and functionality during regularly planned maintenance windows. This keeps your systems up to date with the latest functionality and capability.

The Predictable Cost of Cloud Computing

Monthly subscription services provide business owners a predictable IT expense.  License policies based on number of users, usage and other predictable factors make it easy to plan and budget your Cloud Computing expense.  Because your systems are maintained by a Cloud Service Provider, you won’t need to worry about surprises like systems’ end-of-life scenarios that could add costly hardware, operating system and software upgrade expense.

Cloud Computing offers your company many business benefits, including greater business value and the ability to leverage Cloud Services for business growth and innovation. Contact your Cloud Services Reseller to find out more about the silver lining Cloud Computing has to offer.

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Is Your Network Ready for the Cloud?

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Moving to the Cloud requires a fast, reliable network to ensure high availability to Cloud applications and their data. Critical systems including Cloud backup, SaaS, VDI, VoIP and other critical systems need consistent broadband access to ensure employee productivity, compliance and keep customer service levels high. This begs the question, is your network ready for the Cloud?


Network Assessment for Cloud Readiness

When moving to the Cloud it is important to understand where you may have points of failure on your network before they happen.  Consider starting with a Network Assessment. By simulating peak loads for voice and data on your network, you can identify weaknesses in a controlled environment. By proactively monitoring your network, you can ping to measure packet loss, latency and uptime; also, you can identify bottlenecks for failure, allowing you to fix problems before they happen. Avoiding unnecessary downtime and/or data loss improves employee productivity and helps ensure compliance.

Maintain Network Security and Compliance for Consistent Computing Access

Malicious attacks, including cyber threats and unauthorized access to your network, will not only expose you to loss of critical data.  They may also degrade your network performance. Unauthorized network use by employees may also consume bandwidth that slows down your network. Unauthorized video streaming and access to unauthorized websites contribute to a slow network.

Upgrade or Improve Network Performance

There are many options to create an affordable wide area network. Software Defined Wide Area Network (SD-WAN) is an emerging option to create secure, reliable access to your Public or Private Cloud Services. This new technology, which provides centralized management and policy-based enforcement, makes it faster to deploy and easier to manage multiple remote sites.

Depending on your requirements, you may be able to use inexpensive broadband that performs like secure and high-bandwidth Enterprise-grade Wide Area Networking. To find out how, contact your Network Specialist today and ask for a network assessment.

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Five Tips on Password Protection

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Should you care about how your employees protect their personal passwords?  Depending on your password protection policy in the workplace, your employees may create passwords based on familiar passwords they use for personal use.  Cybercriminals often hack personal websites for privacy information, including username and passwords, so they can gain access to internal systems.  Offering tips to your employees on creating strong passwords may help you protect your valuable corporate data.

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Is Your Network the Weakest Link for Data Protection?

Data Protection

Data protection isn’t just about reliably backing up your application data and files. It is also important to be able to rapidly restore data in the event of data loss. In addition to natural disasters, cyberthreat and human error drive the need for a solid data protection plan and reliable network performance. There are many aspects to keeping your data protected and your Network in compliance. Here is a short list of considerations:


 

Networking and Broadband Connectivity

Having a fast, reliable network and broadband connectivity helps you gain access to your online backups for rapid recovery of your application data and files in the event of a data loss. Without a reliable network, your time to recover may go from hours to days. There are many affordable ways to avoid unnecessary downtime, including Multi Protocol Label Switching (MPLS) and Software Defined Networks (SDN) options for Wide Area Networking (WAN) and connecting to the Cloud. Without reliability your network may be the weakest link in your data protection plan.

Network Security and Compliance

Keeping your network security up to date is a critical component of your data protection plan.  Making sure all endpoints and servers are protected with Antivirus and Anti Malware threat detection with up-to-date threat definitions will help avoid loss of data due to cyberthreat.  Consider routine monitoring of your network to ensure your network is secure. Not only will this help prevent and detect any security breaches, monitoring your network will keep you in compliance with industry regulations including the Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard (PCI DSS), a standard for credit card processing.

Employee Awareness of Cyberthreat

According to a 2015 research report, “Trends in IT Security” by the Computing Technology Industry Association (CompTIA),  companies see many sources of human error contributing to security threats resulting in loss of data. End-user failure to follow policies and procedures, general carelessness, and failure to get up to speed on new threats, top the list of specific actions that cause problems. Periodic training of your employees will close these knowledge gaps around technology and strengthen your data protection plan.

Network performance is a key element to avoid any unnecessary downtime due to data loss. Having a data protection plan that keeps your network secure and your employees aware of cyberthreat, helps avoid unplanned business interruption due to data loss and data leaks.  If you have concerns about your network and data protection plan, contact your network specialist today.

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Migrating to the Cloud – How to Avoid Turbulence

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Migrating to the Cloud can be bumpy if you are not prepared. Chances are you have already started migrating to the Cloud. Without realizing it, you may be accessing the Cloud by using mobile and web based applications and services that store and share your data from the Cloud. According to International Data Corporation, (IDC) public IT Cloud services (SaaS, PaaS, and IaaS) spending will reach $127 billion in 2018. The Cloud will outpace the total IT market at a rate of more than five times. With this shift, companies are migrating to the Cloud at a rapid pace, so it is important to plan your Cloud migration to avoid any unnecessary turbulence.

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Technology Outlook for 2016

What drivers will shape 2016 technology trends? Businesses using customer facing technology for competitive advantage will fuel demand for Cloud Computing, in particular, Software as a Service.  The Internet of Everything will amplify the number of connected devices in our world leading to additional needs for data protection and CyberSecurity defense. Mobile computing and Cloud Computing adoption will increase the adoption of fast, affordable and secure broadband networking. Here is the short list of what to expect from the biggest trends in technology for 2016.


Cloud Computing Adoption Remains Strong

Cloud Computing adoption is expected to continue throughout 2016. Software as a Service (SaaS) applications are expected to lead the way. Migration to Cloud based email, sales and customer management applications and other SaaS solutions will drive Cloud growth in 2016. Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) will continue to grow, however demand will be driven by backup and disaster recovery, single sign on, file sync and sharing, application hosting and other core IT services.  With this increased demand for Cloud Solutions, migration and integration services are expected to also be in high demand.

Greater Need for Fast, Affordable and Secure Broadband

Mobile Computing and Cloud Computing will put additional demands on network infrastructure. With the additional need for SaaS applications, remote backup and file sync and sharing applications, companies will upgrade business Internet technology for fast and affordable broadband options. Companies will pay particular consideration to available, reliability and security as they adopt broadband network technologies.

Internet of Things (IoT):  More Devices, More Security

Tablets, Laptops, desktops and smartphones are expected to continue to grow. Now Smart Devices or Internet of Things (IoT) will put more devices in and near the workplace. Office Equipment, Watches, TVs, and cars now equipped with WiFi connections which will create additional opportunities for Cybersecurity breaches, as these devices may become targets of hackers and Cybercriminals. If compromised and connected to your network, your applications and their data may also be exposed. Maintaining network security including updated anti virus and malware definitions will have exponential importance with the abundance of more connected devices in 2016.

As  you plan and budget for next year, take these 2016 technology predictions into account. Also,  consider any additional changes in industry regulation, compliance considerations and your business growth objectives for 2016. In doing so, you will be well prepared to turn these 2016 technology trends into competitive advantage.

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Mobile Hotspots – Is Your Business At Risk?

With almost one billion mobile connections in place, it is easy to understand why these devices are targeted by hackers. Employees connecting at Starbucks, in airports, on planes and in hotels open themselves up to additional security breach risk by accessing information through mobile hotspots. Mobile hotspots can be easy targets for hackers by setting up spoofs to get your employees to unknowingly log into unsecure networks, making them vulnerable to Man in the Middle (MitM) exploits. As an employer, it may be impossible to prevent employees from using hotspots, so it is very important to take steps to protect your business. Below is an example of how hotspot hacking works and how businesses with mobile users can protect themselves.

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What Could Anti-Surveillance Technology Mean for National Security?

The Hackers on Planet Earth (HOPE) conference which took place on Saturday, July 21st 2014, had an important panelist, that being Edward Snowden. Whether he's a whistleblower or a traitor is a hot topic on the web, but one thing is certain - he has called for assistance in creating and promoting anti-surveillance technology to mitigate government spying.

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Celebrate your Freedom from IT Burdens!

Everybody loves their freedom, but for some, freedom is an illusion. Take for example the busy business owner. Often times, their work schedules are so packed with tasks that they don't feel free to take a break and enjoy themselves. Technically, they have the freedom to quit, but we think there's a better way to find freedom in the workplace!

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Touch-Screen PCs: Hands-On Productivity or a Gimmick?

For the past decade, touch-screens have changed the way that we as a society touch technology, and have greatly increased the mobility of business in that short time. This trend started with the smartphone, then spread to the 10-inch tablet and larger tablets - perfect for watching YouTube videos, Netflix, or other media consumption.

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The Joys of Server Migration

There are times when a specific task is asked of a server requiring all of its data to be moved. When this happens, all the files and applications are transferred to another server unit in a fascinating procedure called server migration.

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Don’t Be Neutral about Net Neutrality!

Lighting up the airwaves in the United States is the issue of net neutrality. It's a complex and technical topic regarding Internet regulations, but don't let the fine print keep you from caring. This is an important topic that could affect how the Internet is consumed around the globe!

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