Category Archives: Featured

How iSupportU Became a B Corp & Why It Matters (Really)

Since we started, iSupportU has evolved from providing basic computer repair services to individuals, to delivering full IT support and services to people and companies. Our approach has always been to focus on de-mystifying the information technology issues people face and operate in an environmentally aware and sustainable way. But, deep down, we knew there was even more that our business could do. And there was.

b corpiSupportU is proud to have become a Certified B Corporation, or B Corp. We are committed to being a for-profit business that is dedicated to social and environmental issues. Sure, the words “social” and “environmental” are how you may have heard many companies describe themselves. For us, it was critical that these words not only express who we already are, but we also wanted to invest and commit to making these traits formal aspects of our organization.

B Corp certification is granted by B Lab, a U.S.-based nonprofit that serves a global movement working to transition companies from being the best in the world to being the best for the world. The vision is grand, but the belief is practical.

By encouraging organizations voluntarily to examine their role in a larger community, businesses have the opportunity to ensure their operations align with their beliefs. iSupportU started with this premise from its inception, so we were delighted to discover that there was a certifiable process that both acknowledges our approach and gives us a way to integrate this officially into our organization.

The process of B Corp certification was rigorous and took many months to achieve. iSupportU was evaluated on a range of operational aspects from energy efficiency to environmental performance to social and legal accountability. Following a phone interview with company leadership, we submitted documentation supporting our efforts and policies. We took the opportunity also to reevaluate and adjust our operating principles to ensure our commitment was evident.

The areas we have been evaluated on, and the commitment our organization has shown, are important to our company. To be certified that we meet the highest standards demonstrates to our many partners that they can rely on the best quality service delivered with the maximum commitment to positive social and environmental impact.

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What does B Corp certification mean for our customers, employees, vendors, and stakeholders? We believe it means a lot. Not unlike companies that receive a USDA Organization certification for milk or buildings that achieve a U.S. Green Building Council LEED certification, certified B Corp companies show commitment and provide assurance to everyone that works with us that we are committed to something above and beyond profits. We are proud to be part of about 1,600 companies from 42 countries around the world that make up the growing B Corp certification network.

But it’s not over. Because the process for certification is strenuous and must be regularly certified (B Lab doesn’t expect any organization ever to achieve the highest score), we are continually striving to look for ways and areas in which to improve. We seek opportunities to raise our social and environmental performance as well as increase our transparency and accountability. When it comes to reaching a high level of standard of practice, there’s always more to do, and we embrace this.

From the outset, we were committed to providing exceptional IT service and support, but we also knew we could offer more and be a better company. iSupportU sought to be an organization that could achieve continuous business, environmental, and social improvement. B Corp certification provides not an end to reaching this goal, but a roadmap to reach a destination. And that really matters.

How to Choose the Right IT Service Provider

Selecting the right IT service is essential to business success, as it streamlines operations considerably. IT service management is defined as applying technical and business expertise to help organizations create, manage, optimize, and access relevant information and business processes. These services are usually outsourced, hence the issue of finding the right provider for your business needs.

So what does it take to choose the right IT service provider?

First: Knowing What to Look For

ball-862119_1280The first step in selecting any service provider for your business, whether it be an IT services company or any other provider, is to know what you’re looking for. Such criteria of course include verifiable competence, experience and track record, reliability and punctuality, and adherence to industry standard rates (i.e. won’t surprise you with outrageous invoices). You want a provider with talent, training, and experience to take care of your business needs, especially when it comes to IT!

Some of the most important areas to consider when selecting an IT services company include: IT certifications and experience, payment terms, IT product repair capabilities, and availability/bandwidth. Following are some important questions to ask when choosing the best IT company.

Certifications and Experience

When it comes to IT certifications, there are any number of different products, services, and training levels an IT professional can be certified in. Generally, the more, the better. But at the very least, some of the key certifications that contain industry standard best practices would be: Project Management Professional (PMP), Microsoft Certified Systems Engineer (MCSE), Certified Information Systems Security Professional (CISSP), Cisco Certified Network Professional (CCSP), CompTIA A+, and Certified Systems Information Auditor (CSIA). It would also serve to know how long the IT provider has been in business, get a list of companies they’ve worked with, and receive any references to organizations with similar equipment and needs to your own.

Flexibility and Payment

If you’re satisfied with the IT company’s level of expertise, the next step is to determine the company’s flexibility and what you’re going to get for what you’re paying. Does the IT provider offer block hour arrangements that provide a certain amount of work per month for a fixed price? Will the provider fix something that’s broken for an hourly rate? How about service agreements that detail exactly what the provider will do for you every month in terms of maintenance and repairs?

The goal is to find a provider who offers clear terms of service and billing, and aligns with your own business’ values and financial capacity.

Requesting Service and Product Repairs

Fixing broken equipment is one of the IT provider’s hallmark services, so it’s very important to go over what your potential provider’s repair services entail. Are you required to call the provider? Send them emails? Is there an online client portal that allows you to request help as needed?. Additionally, do they have a general time frame with regards to repair turnaround, and does that vary based on the type of repair? If so, what are the standard repair timelines per product or service? Do they specialize in particular repairs, whether it be hardware, software, cloud services, etc., or are they generally proficient across the board? It’s also recommended that you ask how the provider handles service requests internally to give you a much better idea of how it operates and the most efficient method of communicating a service request.

An Ounce Of Prevention

Repairs aren’t the only IT provider cornerstone—preventative measures are just as important. Remote monitoring and access are two trending services IT providers offer, with some providing monitoring by the hour or even minute. This means the provider is instantly notified of an issue and will rectify the issue before it becomes a major problem. It’s therefore important to determine if the provider you’re considering offers these services, and if remote monitoring software is compatible with your system. It’s also important to inquire as to whether the provider has the bandwidth to service your company properly, and how fully utilized the provider’s team is…or is not.

Additional Tips

Finding the right IT provider also means inquiring about how quickly they can dispatch help, especially in the event of an IT emergency. Making sure an IT service provider can meet your company’s needs at the right price and within the right timeframe is key.

Prepare for any Data Recovery Emergency with These 5 Backup Tips

Losing data is enough to send chills down the spine of even the toughest tech expert. Viruses, malware, corrupted files, accidental deletion, and hardware failure are just a few of the things that could cause a loss of important data. Rather than remain at the mercy of the technology gods, check out the following five backup tips that will keep you prepared for any data recovery emergency:

Think About What’s Most Important

Give yourself a moment to consider the most important data you want backed up. This includes personal photos and videos, music, documents, application data, and your system itself. Examples of documents requiring backup include spreadsheets and word processing files. Apps store information such as contacts, browser favorites, and email messages, with most programs keeping them safe in a folder inside your user folder.

As far as your system goes, it’s always possible to reinstall apps and Windows if you have the original programs or can download them. However, if your hard drive crashes, you need to switch to a backup system, or a disaster recovery backup. It’s quick and simple to create such systems and maintain them a few times a year to keep your laptop functional (and keep your sanity for when things go wrong).

Use a USB Drive or External Hard Drive

hard-drive-81344_1280Purchase a USB drive, or an external hard drive that’s easy to use. Simply plug the device into your PC or Mac; identify which files and folders to backup; and start the backup process. It’s important to note that not all USB drives are created equal, so be sure to do your research and find a quality option that features plenty of storage space. USB drives are one of your ‘local’ backup options that allow you to store your data, take it with you, or stow away for safekeeping.

Use a Cloud Backup

unnamedCreate a cloud backup, which stores your files online and allows you to access them anytime, anywhere. Password creation is generally part of the process to keep your files secure. Cloud backup is celebrated as one of the most secure and easily accessible (accessible to you, that is) methods available, but it generally requires paying for a subscription. A subscription isn’t the worst thing when it comes to data backup, however. According to PC Magazine, some of the top cloud backup services include iDrive, CrashPlan, and SOS Online Backup.

Automate, Automate, Automate

Consider an automated backup option if your system features a fast Internet connection and you want to save your recent documents and applications on a daily basis. An automated backup that’s permanently connected to your computer requires software installation but that’s pretty much it. As with the Cloud, automated backup allows you to access your data from any computer that features Internet service.

Negatives of automated backup systems include how slow some of them are. Your first backup can take days if not weeks, and it’s not the best system for videos and music. However, there are numerous viable systems available such as SpiderOak and Comodo that offer the versatility and affordability you need. Automated backup is yet another way to keep your data secure, so think about if it’s right for your data storage requirements.

Don’t Forget to Organize

UntitledRemember, whatever backup means you select, it’s important to stay organized. If you consistently keep your files and data well ordered, you’ll know exactly what requires recovery and can easily put items back where they belong.

Wired vs Wireless in Business: Why You Should Still Wire Up Your Office for Data

The way we access our information is rapidly changing. Remember dial-up internet? Since then, the web and our methods of staying connected have completely changed. The latest trends in connectivity cut all ties, both literal and figurative, with the wired web of the past. Just because something is new and popular, doesn’t mean it’s implementing best practices and is optimized for network security. So, should you wire your office up for data or transfer your network to wireless? Let’s dive into the pros and cons of wired vs. wireless connectivity in business and why wired wins.

Wireless Connection: Benefits

150801-isupportu-wireless-310568_640The obvious benefits of a wireless network is the lack of physical wires! We all know that familiar feeling of waging war with a tangled mess of wires. A wireless network is easy to use and accommodates changes in a network without cords and cables. Adding new desks and employees? A wireless network is the easiest logistical choice.

Additionally, with the total proliferation of mobile devices in our lives (the workplace included), a wireless network is easier for employees to connect their personal devices to the network. An easily accessible network is paramount when considering the happiness of an iPhone toting workforce.

Wireless Connection: Disadvantages

While keeping employees connected on their mobile devices is an important aspect of establishing an office network, this ease of use can open the entire network up for security problems. Information Technology decision makers (ITDMs) believe wireless networks to be the most vulnerable element of the IT infrastructure, according to a new survey. Nearly half (49%) of respondents ranked wireless networks as most exposed from a security standpoint, in contrast to just 29% for the core network. Of course, if the mobile devices are owned by the company, it would be easier to maintain security standards, but as soon as employees are allowed into the wireless network with their own personal devices, the entire system becomes vulnerable to hacking and viruses.

The most obvious and detrimental disadvantage to a wireless network is the fact that sensitive and private data is saturating the airwaves. Sending confidential information through a wireless network can be safe, but it can’t ever be as safe as a wired network. If your company deals with confidential and personal information, a wireless network would be a liability.

Wireless technology has improved over the years, but is still not as fast as a wired connection on a local network. This may not be an issue for things like internet traffic, but when connecting to resources on your local network such as file shares, this could be noticed from a performance perspective.

Wired Connection: Benefits

150801-isupportu-splitter-311142_640A wired network obviously incorporates physical network into the data connection. The wires enable increased security, control, reliability, and speed. Using physical connections might not seem as advances as the wireless alternative, but it is the superior choice when your data is precious and confidential. If your business values security over hip trends in tech, a wireless network is the obvious choice.

Wired connects are always going to be faster and more consistent than wireless connections. If you are connecting to a local database such as Quickbooks, an unstable wireless connection could greatly affect the performance of the software.

Keeping your network wired also insures that the network won’t get bogged down with non-essential traffic. Unauthorized users can’t jump on your network, obviously increasing security. Additionally, those iPhones and tablets might make for a happier workforce, but is that because they are being more productive, benefiting from the increased accessibility of a wireless network, or it is because they are browsing Amazon or Facebook while on the clock?

Wired Connection: Disadvantages

The only real shortcoming a wired office has is the physical wires. If the sight of a wire makes you cringe, go for the wireless alternative. The fact that those wires offer superior connection/security/control/speed is an important thing to weigh against visible wires. But, if you are a savvy business owner, those wires might start to look like little life-lines, ensuring your office remains safe and secure, better able to conduct business with that hard-wired peace of mind.

2 Factor Authentication: What it is and Why it’s Critical for Your Business to Do Right Now

Two factor authentication is a little bit like locking your door and then locking your deadbolt. One lock might be sufficient, but that deadbolt really comes in handy when someone tries to break in. You may already be using a password to protect your sensitive accounts and data, but if you aren’t using 2-step authentication, then you are leaving your information vulnerable and exposed. This extra security step may seem like a hassle, but it is a critical element in a good digital security plan for your personal accounts and for your business.

150801-isupportu-security-265130_1280The news has been flooded with recent news of data getting hacked and personal information being stolen. Anthem Insurance, Target, and other big retailers have have had customers names, email addresses, birthdays, wage information and street addresses stolen. These security breaches have cost millions of dollars and the confidence of customers.

Two-step verification uses a traditional password in tandem with a second step as an additional security measure. The second step can be an additional question or the possession of a physical component, such as a cell phone. When you go to an ATM to make a withdrawal, you must first insert your card and then enter your pin. This is an example of multi-step authentication. If someone wanted to make a withdrawal from your account they must possess both the physical card and your PIN, thus making it harder to access your account.

Securing an account has three levels:

  1. What you know (password)
  2. What you have (a phone)
  3. What you are (fingerprint or retina scans)

As a society, we are currently moving from ‘What you know’ to ‘What you have’ security. For businesses, this level of security is becoming the due diligence expected of decision makers. This means that if there is a breach and two-factor has not been implemented, it puts the organization at a risk of liability for the breach.

According to Google Support, “2-Step Verification adds an extra layer of security to your Google Account, drastically reducing the chances of having the personal information in your account stolen. To break into an account with 2-Step Verification, bad guys would not only have to know your username and password, they’d also have to get a hold of your phone.”

It’s easy for someone to hack your password. It’s even easier to hack into your personal data if, like many of us, you use the same password for a variety of accounts. Even if you are careful with your passwords, everyday online activity can leave you prone to attack. If you use the same password on more than one site, download software from the Internet, or click on links in email messages, you have already participated in “risky” behavior.  These online activities are nearly impossible to avoid entirely, so instead of becoming a sort of online hermit, start implementing 2-step authentication and get on with business as usual.

Dozens of the biggest websites already offer 2-step authentication. These digital giants, including Amazon, eBay, LinkedIn, and Twitter, think that 2-step authentication is important enough to offer and encourage it. Even though it might seem like an unnecessary hassle, many experts recommend implementing 2-step verification everywhere you can, especially in the places you spend the most time online or wherever you log personal information. If you are unsure if a service or site supports 2-step authentication, head over to twofactorauth.org to see if it is offered.

In conclusion, you’d better play it better safe than sorry with 2-step authentication. Sure, it might be inconvenient to check your phone for a code or enter an additional security question, but getting your personal or business data stolen is even more of a pain. So, protect yourself and your business with 2-step verification wherever it is available and avoid any nasty surprises.