Category Archives: Tips and Tricks

Password Management: Top 3 Password Tools to Help Protect You Online

Most of us spend at least half of our waking hours using online tools, whether for business or personal use, making it crucial to protect our accounts from hackers. You might think no one would ever be interested in your email or small business’s records, but you’d be surprised. Having your account hacked can end up being both disturbing and a mess for you and anyone in your contact list. So, do everyone a favor and take preemptive measures to secure your online identity. One of the easiest, most reliable approaches is through password management.

Take a look at these three password tools that are easy to use and effective:

1Password13334048894_6e8b421c4e_o

Available for every different device and as an extension across several major platforms, 1Password boasts simplicity and impenetrability. It generates unique, impregnable passwords for every application, service, and site you use. If you’re not sure which passwords need revamping, use 1Password’s security audit, which will review all of your passwords and evaluate them on their strength.

Plus, 1Password saves all your sign-in information behind a single master password, so you don’t have to recall any information whenever you want to log into an account. As a bonus, you can keep other data in 1Password’s secure information vault, such as credit card numbers and addresses, saving you loads of time.

1Password has a number of useful features, such as multiple vaults. If you’re working on a project or need to share select information with others, 1Password gives you the option of creating additional, shareable vaults that can be organized in whatever way works best for you. These vaults are automatically and instantly synched over wifi, iCloud, or Dropbox.

To purchase a 1Password license, visit its creator’s website, agilebits.com.

LastPass15921569186_8560f34c02_o

LastPass is another password management tool that creates mind-numbingly complex passwords for all of your accounts, across every different platform. According to its website, 73% of people use the same password for a number of sites, a majority of passwords only contain six characters, and a majority of passwords only take three minutes to hack.

LastPass saves all of your information behind one master password and then fills it in for you as you need it. It allows you to create multiple passwords within its program, so that every member of your team or family can have access to his/her own information.

The tool also enables you to store a great deal of confidential information — such as licenses, passports, images, documents, wifi information, and so on — as attachments to secure notes. Basically, you have the important information you need at your disposal (but not at anyone else’s).

As an added benefit, LastPass sends you security email alerts as soon as the online sites and services you use have been hacked so that you can be vigilant about changing your passwords.

Download one of their programs — free, premium, or enterprise — at lastpass.com.

KeePasssecurity-265130_640

Keepass is a free, open-source alternative to standard password management. Supporting both Advanced Encryption Standard and Twofish algorithms, Keepass encrypts all of your account information — from usernames to notes to addresses to passwords. Advanced Encryption Standard is so secure that it’s been approved by the National Security Alliance for use with top secret information.

All of the encrypted data is either protected behind one master password, a key file, or both. Key files are often regarded as a more secure way to guard your information and can be stored on an external device, such as a USB key, that you can carry around with you — just don’t lose it!

Keepass doesn’t require installation and works best on Windows operating systems. However, if you download Mono (software), it will also run on Linux, Mac OS X, BSD, and other systems.

To download Keepass for free, go to keepass.info.

If you think your dog’s name or favorite color is enough to bar the way between access to your accounts and a hacker, you might want to think a little harder about the consequences of having your information stolen. It’s easy to protect yourself with these simple, yet effective, password tools — all it takes is a few minutes to set them up. Once you do, you can rest easier knowing that your data is secure from even the most clever hackers.

 

Does Your Business Need a Server? 3 Reasons Your Business Should Upgrade (or not) to Getting an In-House Server

It is more common than ever for offices — especially for larger companies — to possess two different types of computers: a computer on which individuals perform their daily tasks and one centralized computer that stores the resources all other computers on the network can access. The second type of computer is known as a server, and its function is to hold the information that’s on all of the computers, allow and deny access of various files to appropriate parties, as well as to provide a high level of security for the company’s information. While servers are regarded as a must for most businesses, does yours need one? If you think it does, is an in-house server the way to go?

Consider these three reasons as to why you should or shouldn’t upgrade to an in-house server:

1.     The Expense of In-House Serverskeyboard-254582_640

Servers can be costly, depending on which you decide to go with. It’s no secret that larger companies are more likely to have in-house servers than smaller ones. In-house servers often mean investing in expensive equipment and upgrades, as well as office space to store the server. Professionals generally need to be called in to maintain the equipment, or if your business has an IT department, problematic servers can monopolize valuable time best spent on other projects. For this reason, many companies are switching over to Cloud-based servers, which don’t require any physical equipment, but rather just payment for a service subscription. Plus, employers with a number of telecommuters also appreciate the ease with which their employees can access all materials from wherever they are, as long as there’s an established online connection.

2.     How Much Control Do You Want?iphone-macbook-air-man-162

When your server is located in-house, you have complete control over it. While Cloud-based services are known for being secure, some businesses may feel more comfortable having their server in a place they can physically access and safeguard in a way that makes the most sense for their company (there are a few ways to go about this).

3.     Dealing with Crashes and Downtime5528275910_8a11c076d8_o

We’ve all been through it: You’re working on a document, and the computer freezes. You go to restart it, and it shuts off but doesn’t turn on again. You take it in to be repaired, and hope and pray for a good outcome. Alas, all of your documents, including the one you were just working on, are gone forever. What a nightmare. One of the central ideas behind having a server is that all of your saved documents are backed up, all of the time. Thus, when your computer goes down, all hope is not lost.

At iSupportU, our team often recommends clients adopt a cloud-based approach. However, in cases where in-house servers are more fitting, we highly recommend working with such systems as a Network Attached Storage Device (NAS), Windows, and Mac OS X servers, which are simple and easily customizable. Either way, though, having a server is likely to save you both headache and heartache in the long run, even if you’re the only person accessing it. It will safeguard your files, making sharing easier across devices, and securely store information for the whole company. If you’re not sure whether a server — or which server — is suitable for your company, contact iSupportU. We’re here to help!

Smartphone Etiquette: 5 Essential Rules to Follow in the Workplace, at Home, and in Public

Smartphones have permeated every part of our lives. We are absorbed by them even when we’re walking, we check them when we’re waiting in lines, and even consult them the minute we have a question (before trying to remember the answer first). With so much reliance on our phones for everything from social interaction to information gathering, it’s important to establish some ground rules that ensure we don’t spend more time interacting with our phones than the real world around us. After all, our smartphones are meant to be accessories to our lives, not our lives themselves.

Here are some essential rules to help you know how and when it’s appropriate to use your phone in the workplace, at home, and in public:

5 Rules for Using Your Smartphone in the Workplace

  1. 150428-isupportu-smartphone-etiquette-laptop-618177_640Check Your Phone Only on Breaks. When you’re at work, you’re getting paid to…work. Not to spend time playing around on your smartphone. Unless it’s work related, or unless you have an emergency and are waiting to receive a phone call, it’s only fair that you don’t use your phone until you have a break.
  2. Know Your Company’s Privacy Policy. Especially if you’ve signed a nondisclosure, your company might have a privacy policy that precludes you from revealing certain information about procedures or products. So, before you take any pictures or workplace selfies with your smartphone, make sure the frames don’t expose anything your company would consider confidential.
  3. If It’s Not Business, It’s Personal. When you’re at work, you will want to tuck your phone away, even if you’re not checking it. If management sees it out, it’s assumed you’re using it.
  4. Don’t Abuse Smartphone Privileges. Some companies don’t mind if their employees shoot off a quick text message from time to time. The problem is that some employees don’t stop there. Remember that just because your management is lenient about text messages, it doesn’t mean they’ll be okay with you playing Candy Crush between tasks!
  5. Keep Management in the Loop. If you need to make a personal call or have your phone around for an emergency, let your manager know what’s going on. This way, he or she will know you don’t intend to use your smartphone for any reason other than the one you mentioned.

5 Rules for Using Your Smartphone at Home

  1. 150428-isupportu-smartphone-etiquette-iphone-313845_640Don’t Bring Your Phone to Bed. If you’re in a relationship and sharing a bed with your significant other, strongly consider banning smart phones from your bed. You should be cuddling and basking in your lovey-dovey couple’s happiness, not rummaging through social media updates or texting other people. (Even better, relegate your phones to charge overnight in another room than your bedroom.)
  2. Be Respectful. Whether you live with roommates or a partner, know that the home is a place everyone should be able to go to unwind. Make sure not to play games on your smartphone with the sound turned up or answer a call in the same room as someone else is trying to relax.
  3. Don’t Talk in the Bathroom. There’s nothing like being on the other end of the line and hearing the flush of a toilet. No one wants to picture you doing private things while speaking to them about Saturday night’s dinner plans.
  4. Don’t Text Message Someone in the Next Room. If you have something to ask someone who is in the same house as you are, ask them in person. If you send a text message, instead, you may be considered passive-aggressive.
  5. Observe Quiet Time. When other people in your home have gone to bed for the night, turn off the sound on your phone, so as not to disturb the silence. And if you need to take a phone call, make sure you do so in a place where you won’t wake anyone up.

5 Rules for Using Your Smartphone in Public

  1. 150428-isupportu-smartphone-etiquette-smartphone-593348_640Watch Your Volume. Your smartphone has all sorts of alert noises — from notification sounds to those of incoming calls. Think about it: If everyone in your location were to receive alerts simultaneously, each with a unique sound, there would be absolute chaos. An easy way to avoid contributing to this? Switch your phone to vibrate when you’re in public.
  2. Take Your Calls Outside. Whether you’re in a café, restaurant, or at a friend’s house, you should take your phone conversations outside. If it’s not possible to move outside, at least excuse yourself from whomever you’re with and go somewhere where you can speak freely without disturbing anyone around you.
  3. Give Your Friend a Head’s Up. If you’re out with a friend, let him or her know from the outset that your time with him or her may be interrupted. Generally, it’s polite to keep your phone off the table and give your friend your undivided attention, but the importance of an emergency situation might demand an exception. You can simply give your friend a brief explanation as to what’s happening, so that he or she understands why the communication is worth interrupting your time together. Then, when you do receive the phone call or text message, make sure to apologize to your friend before proceeding to respond to it.
  4. Consider Your Location. If you’re in a bus or a train or some other tight space with others, try to avoid phone conversations. No one should be forced to listen to your entire conversation. But if you must speak on the phone, make the conversation as brief as possible and keep the language clean!
  5. Don’t Talk at Checkout. It’s considered exceptionally rude to talk on the phone while you’re making a payment transaction at a place such as a cafe or a grocery store. Some businesses will even refuse a potential customer service if he or she walks up to a clerk while on the phone. Put your phone away for the minute it will take to check out.

When it comes to smartphones, everyone seems to have a different opinion as to what constitutes proper conduct. At iSupportU, we want to ensure your relationship with technology enhances your life and doesn’t detract from it. If you stick with these rules, you’ll at least have some guidelines to follow that aren’t likely to change any time soon, giving you a foundation for proper smartphone etiquette.

How Often Should You Upgrade Your Smartphone?

Nowadays, the smartphone serves so many functions for both personal and business needs that it’s hard not to become dependent on one to navigate through life. Sometimes this dependence becomes an issue, though, as technology advances so quickly that it can be hard to keep up with new systems and devices. When your smartphone becomes antiquated, you’ll find applications crashing more often, software updates won’t be compatible with your system, and you may not even be able to download new applications. So the question is, how often do you need to upgrade your smartphone?

Even though millions of Americans stormed Apple retail outlets September 2014 to purchase the newly released iPhone 6, statistics reported by Yahoo!’s Tech Columnist Rob Pegoraro show that the majority of Americans don’t actually purchase a new phone all that often — they’re actually buying phones less frequently than in previous years. In 2007, the average upgrade cycle for every type of phone — including simpler models than smartphones — was about every 19 months, whereas 2013’s average upgrade occurred about every 23 months.

Four Generations of iPhone: Original + 3G + 4 + 5

Four Generations of iPhone: Original + 3G + 4 + 5

Smartphones are pricey, and it can become overwhelming when you finally upgrade your phone just to learn another version will be released a few months later.  If you pride yourself on having the newest technology in your possession, carriers such as AT&T, T-Mobile, and Verizon offer frequent phone upgrade plans that allow you to purchase a new phone for less money, at regular intervals. To help keep you current and ease the financial burden, they also have monthly payment plans that allow you to pay off the cost of a new phone over time, so that you don’t have to shell out $600 all at once. However, just because you can doesn’t mean you have to.

Distinguishing Between Your Smartphone Wants & Needs

It’s important to assess what you, as an individual, really need in a smartphone before investing in an upgrade. Even though technology seems to be improving at rapid speed, when you compare one smartphone with the model just before it, not too much typically improves. Generally, tweaking occurs in aesthetics — font sizes and styles might change, along with the overall size, color, and features of the phone. The quality of pictures and security features also tend to get bumped up a notch.

If you’re satisfied with your current phone, these aren’t really sufficient reasons to lay down hundreds of dollars on a new model. If you’re just looking for a phone you can use for jotting down notes, taking pictures, making phone calls and texting, surfing the Internet, and playing a few games, there’s no need to upgrade your smartphone for years.

At a certain point, though, the world will outgrow your device, and your smartphone will no longer be so “smart.” You won’t be able to perform software updates on it or download new applications. And, if you’re looking to buy accessories for them, such as fitness armbands or chargers, they might be harder to come by. Especially if you use your phone for business, as well as for personal reasons, it might behoove you to upgrade more often so that you will always be up to date with your operating system and to ensure everything is always running smoothly.

It’s always nice to have the newest smartphone and latest technology in the palm of your hand, but for a device so expensive, you might want to upgrade at the pace of the average American: every 2 years.  When you do upgrade your smartphone, it’s important to recycle your old device.

Worldwide, hundreds of millions of outdated smartphones are sent to landfills where their toxic metals leach into the soil and water, and hundreds of pounds of precious metals used in those smartphones are wasted. In fact, the EPA estimates that for every million smartphone devices that are committed to landfills, “35 thousand pounds of copper, 772 pounds of silver, 75 pounds of gold, and 33 pounds of palladium can be recovered.” To properly recycle your old smartphones, drop them off at EcoCycle‘s Center for Hard to Recycle Materials (CHaRM) facility.

Moving On From Windows XP

If you haven’t already, you should seriously consider making the move away from Windows XP because in case you haven’t heard: Microsoft has stopped providing support for the operating system. Not only does this make your business’s computers much more vulnerable to viruses and spyware, but the lack of support automatically puts you behind the curve in both the personal and professional business setting.

We’ve done some internal and external research on the importance of moving away from Windows XP Here are a few tips we’ve compiled.

Before you make the switch:

  1. Download the final XP update that was issued on April 8th 2014.
  2. Make sure your anit-virus and anti-malware are up to date.
    • Microsoft has agreed to provide anti-malware updates to Microsoft Security Essentials for Windows XP until 2015.
    • You might have to uninstall and reinstall your current software to ensure that you have the latest version.
    • iSU recommends using one or more of the following programs: Kapersky, WebRoot, Avast! or AVG. Read more about our recommendations here.
  3. Use a secure and updated internet browser. We recommend Firefox or Chrome, especially since they are supporting Windows XP until 2015.

Making the Switch:

  1. windows XP RIPChoose a new operating system. And along with that, make sure your machine is new enough to support a secure and efficient OS. If not, you might want to consider upgrading your entire machine…and that’s a whole different ball game we won’t get into right now.
  2. Back-Up Your Data: It should go without saying that you should be doing this on a regular basis but at this time backing up your data is probably the most important step in the entire process.
  3. Migrate and Begin the Upgrade: there are several ways to go about doing this:
    • With plenty of DIY programs out there to choose from, migrating the data yourself is pretty easy to do. Some of the available options are: PC Mover Express, XP Migration with HP and Windows Migration Assistant
    • Microsoft has kindly provided a tutorial online for anyone looking to upgrade to Windows 7.
    • If you don’t feel comfortable taking this task on alone, another option is to switch to OSX by taking your Mac into the Genius Bar and having them help you out.

We know making a tech upgrade like this can be pretty scary unless you are savvy with these kinds of things but we cannot stress enough how important it is to adapt and change as technology does. Resisting these changes can put you and your business at a huge risk to hackers. Windows XP is now the most targeted operating system out there yet it’s still commonly used everywhere – every hacker knows this.

For more information on the demise of Windows XP and how to stay ahead of the game, check out these articles:

Why You Should Ditch Windows XP Now

Windows XP Isn’t Safe to Use Anymore