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  • VoIP Phone System – Advantages for Small Business

    There are a number of factors that small business owners should consider while looking for an ideal phone system. The requirements for a small business may range from selecting the right phone number along with cost options to complex requirements such as future-proofing their phone system and services like voicemail, diverting numbers, etc.

    VoIP (Voice over Internet Protocol) phone system holds great benefits for small businesses in view of the diverse requirements of a business. It is a virtual phone system with a technology that lets you make calls over the internet using broadband services, rather than the analog or conventional phone system. It basically converts sound into digital voice communication signals and transfers them through the internet.

    Following are the advantages of using a VoIP phone system for small business.

    1. Cost Saving

    It’s essential for a small business to look for ways in which money can be saved to ensure longer sustainability. The calls made using the VoIP phone system are much cheaper than those made using traditional phones. VoIP lets you make all calls including local, mobile and international calls, in an inexpensive manner, which makes this phone system very cost-effective for small business.

    1. Increased Productivity

    Another great advantage of using VoIP phone system for small business is the portability of the system. You do not only have to be at your own desk to make calls and that increases the productivity to a whole new level. No matter where you are using a broadband connection, you only need to log in to access your VoIP phone and you will get the dial tone. Calls can instantly be routed to your mobile phone or the smartphone app that lets you make and receive VoIP calls, whenever you have a mobile phone and internet signal.

    1. Flexibility

    VoIP phone system is very flexible. You can still have your analog or conventional phone and integrate VoIP phone system with it using a VoIP converter. This converter is a USB type stick and can be plugged into any computer. It will sense the signals originating from the conventional phone and convert them to digital data to be routed over the internet. The computer must be turned on though. A VoIP phone system also allows you a unique VoIP number, so regardless of where you are, you will be able to make and receive calls on your VoIP number.

    1. Multiple Functions and Features

    The VoIP phone system is multi-functional and rich in useful features for small business. Apart from making and receiving calls, you can also conduct video conferencing through your VoIP phone. This opens doors for better communication between the employees and also makes it easier for you to deal with clients who cannot meet you in person. Other features include customizable voicemail, increasing or reducing numbers, call forwarding, call logs and much more. All these useful features can be directly accessed through your account.

    If small businesses are able to utilize all the features of VoIP phone system, it will assist a great deal in enhancing the business’ efficiency.

  • The Importance of Wireless Network Security

    Wireless networking may have taken over all aspects of our lives, but it remains one of the biggest concerns in an organization when it comes to setting up a wireless network. The question is: why does something that connects us more efficiently can also become a threat?

    Wireless networking is what is keeping the world connected, despite the limitations of distance and coverage. Just like air, it is everywhere and everyone is on the grid, all connected. However, when everything is traveling through a single medium, it poses a threat to almost everyone present on that grid. This threat has compelled the organizations to start considering the security of their devices and business data they hold.

    As wireless networking is becoming the central theme of every communicating medium, it is becoming more and more important to prevent the systems and networks from attacks and misuse of confidential data.

    There are two reasons why wireless networking is prone to threats. One, because airwaves are used for communication and these airwaves are exposed to everyone, and every device now operating on a single network has terminals and access points vulnerable to attackers. Wireless networks are vulnerable to attacks and intruders in three ways: rogue access points, weak security on user’s mobiles and laptops, and Denial of Service (DoS).

    Rogue access point

    A rogue access point can be defined as an open portal for someone who is actually not allowed to have an access to it. This false access point is set up by someone who either wants to eavesdrop on the information being shared through the network or simply wants to enjoy the convenience of network availability. It is an access point that has been installed on your network without having the authorization to do so.

    Even if the access point was not created with a malicious intent, an authorized access point leaves your network vulnerable to attacks by someone within a close proximity to you or connected on the same network.

    To see if there are any rogue access points made on your network, two things have to be tested:

    • Is the access point on the list of all the access points your network manages?
    • Whether the access point has a secure connection to the network

    Denial of Service (DoS)

    It is another threat that wireless networks usually face. A cyber attack that interrupts the smooth transmission of data and requests sent over the network by flooding the network with sending too much traffic with the intention of delaying or cutting off the flow of intended requests. For example, not letting customers get into an online shop by flooding the gateways.

    Symptoms of this cyber attack include:

    • Slow performance of the site
    • Site not being available to all visitors
    • Denial of access to the website
    • Increase in spam emails

    These are the basic ways attackers intrude and misuse your network for their agendas. With increasing dependence on wireless networking, organizations need to protect their networks from such threats by implementing complete security programs, so as to keep their asset protected from malicious attacks and piracies.

  • Why Cloud Servers Make Sense for Small Businesses

    With cloud computing, it is possible to access your applications and business data anywhere and at any time, at very reasonable prices these days. Now small businesses have access to technologies that would not have been possible before and are actually in a position to compete with bigger businesses.
    Traditional desktop software is slowly being phased out; there are many vendors of accounting software that no longer offer desktop versions of their software. Their products are now available on the cloud, and can be used online via signing up for a subscription.
    Here are six reasons why cloud servers are an excellent option for small businesses.
    1. You don’t need to have a team of personnel for installing and maintaining your software or for managing different servers for files or emails. Maintaining the application or service is all done by the vendor providing the cloud service.
    2. There is no longer any need to purchase software. Apart from avoiding the hassle of buying software and subsequent installation and maintenance, cloud software automatically becomes a more cost-effective alternative.
    3. Given cloud applications these days, separate computing needs can now be met through a single cloud application suite which contains multiple applications. For example, Google Apps contain Google Sheets for working on spreadsheets, Google Docs for working on documents, an email app and Google Sites for creating and maintaining websites. Even Microsoft Office, which Microsoft used to only sell as desktop software, is now available as Office 365, a cloud based version of the original software. The cloud based suite includes Skype, online video conferencing, amongst other features, and can be availed via an annual subscription fee. Other vendors provide applications which include a CRM software, employee directories and file sharing for a very low cost.
    4. You would need a lot lesser hardware. For example, storing files, backing up data and software requires space on multiple computers/servers. Cloud computing offers the obvious advantage of having the option to use the servers of the vendor to store that data. This allows you to free up in-house hardware, giving you the option of either using it for something else or even disposing of some of it.
    5. Cloud computing applications may save you the cost of integrating other programs. They mostly are designed with an Application Programming Interface (API). As a result, a majority of cloud computing applications are compatible with a wide range of other applications. Therefore it is entirely possible for you to find a “compatible” program with your application suite, rather than having to go through the hassle of integrating one.
    6. Cloud vendors regularly update their application(s), which saves you the cost of doing so.
    As a result, using cloud servers is an excellent solution for small businesses. It is vastly easier to subscribe to a cloud based application suite as compared to purchasing multiple servers and then separately installing desktop based software on them. And since there is no need for purchasing hardware or software, the cost of expanding your startup is far cheaper as well.

  • The Advantages of a Owning a Multi-Function Printer

    Considering how fast time is progressing, people want easy access and convenience in everything. Phones turned into a whole computer system right there in your hands, the internet is now just one click away. From food delivery to car rides and banking – everything is done without you having to go an extra mile for it. We need the same functionality in our workplaces as well. Those days are gone when you would have to go to the third floor to get a document printed or to fax your client. A multifunction printer is a multipurpose device that has the features of a scanner, printer and a fax machine all in it, saving you space as well as a trip to the other floor.

    Here are the advantages of having a multi-functioning printer at your workplace:

    1. It saves the desk space

    One of the biggest and most obvious advantages of having a multifunction printer is the availability of free space. With all three devices, namely printer, scanner and fax machine combined into one, you have more free space on your desk, less hassle of separate connectivity and easy to network among your colleagues without worrying about peripherals. Multi-function printers are so small that you will be surprised how less space it would take and how much it will be productive. You now can put the cactus you wanted on your desk.

    1. Extended ease with new features

    Even if you never considered buying a scanner or a fax machine and are simply getting the work done from somewhere else, with a multifunction printer, you now have access to extra features, such as scanning, easy faxing, all in one. It saves a lot of your time that was spent before on outsourcing. With a multifunction printer, you can communicate with your clients in a better way – better presentations, timely message deliveries, less hassle to get the work done.

    1. It saves a huge portion of your cost

    Consider how much buying a separate scanner, a separate printer and a fax machine would cost and then compare it with the cost of buying a multifunction printer, and that too, a high-end one. You would realize how much you can save by choosing this option. Yes, a multifunction printer is more expensive than a regular one, but with the accessibility and ease it provides, the price is justified. Moreover, it will reduce the energy consumption that would have been there with three separate devices working up the load.

    1. Reduced wastage

    If you have separate devices, you will need a separate set of supplies for each device, with different model-compatibilities and different prices. However, with a multifunction printer, you will only need one set of ink cartridges, toners, and printable papers. Not just that, fewer supplies mean less wastage and leftovers from their usage and less leftover means reduced carbon footprint.

    1. The tiny disadvantage

    With so many undeniable benefits of a multifunction printer, however, there is one disadvantage; if the device meets any malfunctioning or any default, it will impede other functions as well. You will be deprived of printer, scanner and faxing resources altogether. However, considering the benefits it comes with, chances of facing such situations can be overlooked.

  • Best Moves to Make When it comes to Virus and Malware Protection

    If your computer is slowing down or displaying erratic behavior, chances usually are that some virus or malware is infecting your system. They range from being plain annoying to full-blown threats that can compromise the integrity of your system. Even their removal is tedious and exasperating in the least.

    Caution is always better than cure so here are 5 best moves that you can make when it comes to virus and malware protection.

    1. Installing a good Anti-Virus / Malware protection program

    This may be a no-brainer, but a good antivirus program is the first line of defense for your computer. These days, anti-virus programs come equipped with malware protection programs as well, so you don’t have to look for one separately. Antivirus protection that has been well designed has many notable features. All downloads are checked to ensure that they are free of malware. It will schedule regular scans to ensure that there isn’t any malware that could have possibly gotten through. Good antivirus software is also capable of recognizing programs as malware on the basis of their heuristics/behavior. Moreover, it is also capable of analyzing and warning against websites that could possibly be designed to phish.

    1. Keeping your program updated

    Installing programs for protection is all well and good, but that program needs to be updated as soon as its vendor releases the updates. These days good antivirus/malware protection does automatically update itself, but if you have selected for the software to be updated manually, you need to ensure that you consistently update it.

    1. Install a Firewall

    Installing a firewall is another basic step for ensuring virus and malware protection. Firewalls are of two kinds: hardware and software. A firewall is a barrier between your computer and any program trying to gain entry through the Internet. There are plenty of firewall programs that are available on the market. They are designed with learning algorithms which allow them to become “smarter” and subsequently report lesser false positives. It is good practice to keep your firewall on permanently. You will be alerted to any suspicious activity.

    1. Updating your operating system

    No matter the operating system, you should ensure keeping it updated. Viruses and malware exploit weaknesses in your operating system to gain entry. Once they are known, vendors of the operating system release security patch updates that address the weakness. A good example of this is the recent Petrwrap ransomware. Windows immediately released an update that addressed the weakness the program exploited (SMB file sharing).

    1. Keeping your network secure

    We usually connect to the internet through a Wi-Fi connection. Basic protective measures that can be exercised in this case are securing your network with a password and ensuring that the encryption used is WPA/WPA2. You can also prevent your SSID from being broadcast. This will not prevent you from being able to access it; you’ll just have to manually type out the SSID.

  • Wireless Network Security

    Wireless networks are a premier convenience these days and widely used at both homes and offices. However, they also possess some inherent risks, so security just cannot be undermined. If the network is hacked or unauthorized access is granted, the intruder won’t just be able to spy, but can even disrupt overall network activity. What’s involved and what can you do to maximize security? Let’s take a look at the basics of wireless network security.

    The Technological Standards

    WEP

    The Institute of Electronics and Engineers (IEEE) developed a standard protocol for LANs and WLANs, referred to as the Wireless Equivalent Privacy (WEP), which ensures the following:

    • Confidentiality – Strangers are not allowed to eavesdrop on the network.

    • Integrity – Protected wireless network ensure a greater chance of keeping the transmitted and received data intact.

    • Trust – Only authorized access is granted, so communications are more trustable.

    A lot of security experts believed that WEP wasn’t enough to prevent intruders from accessing the network. So, the standard was revised and WEP2 was released, which increased its complexity, but a trusted level of security still could not be achieved. In its essence, WEP2 locks the network and prevents access, unless a password is provided. This is still better than no security at all but doesn’t really reduce risks of a compromise. As such, other alternatives have been defined.

    WPA

    Wi-Fi Protected Access or WPA provides a higher level of security than WEP protocol. Generally, devices support several variants of this technology. WPA can be classified into two main types: WPA – Personal, or WPA – Pre Shared Key abbreviated as WPA – PSK, which is for home networks, whereas WPA – Enterprise is for corporate networks.

    WPS

    Wi-Fi Protected Setup or WPS is a relatively new security method that allows the user to add new devices to the network through a simple push button. This button can either be featured physically on the router or the network administration software. Once the button is pushed, a PIN is provided through the device to enable connectivity. The basic idea was that physical access to the button would result in more secure authentication.

    802.1X

    802.1X or Radius is an authentication tool, which was primarily released for huge enterprise networks with resources available for setting up and maintaining the protocol. A network administrator configures the required authentication, which works in parallel to the enterprise versions of WPA and WPA2 standards.

    The Three Security Actions

    Wireless networks can be secured through three basic actions.

    • Discourage unauthorized users from accessing the network – Only allow authorized personnel to access the networks by using unique user IDs and passwords. If you implement access control, you can define the components or devices that can be accessed by a specific individual.

    • Prevent unauthorized and unofficial connections by eliminating rogue access points – Rogue access points are usually installed by employees for convenient access. Check for these and prevent access because they are easy to hack.

    • Protect transmitted and received data through encryption – Encryption prevents data from being read by an unauthorized user.

  • Why Managed IT Services Makes Sense for Your Business

    The advent of mobile devices, wireless networks, and cloud technology has brought a number of significant changes in the IT industry. And the best way for businesses to keep up with them is to outsource their IT department to a managed service provider because in-house teams no longer have the skills or expertize to manage, control and secure organizational devices and networks. Even if they could, the associated costs would still be too much for the organization to bear. So the best option is to hand over the IT department to a vendor so that the business can focus on its core competencies.

    A Managed Service Provider (MSP) remotely manages your IT infrastructure and end user systems proactively, under a periodic subscription plan. Managed IT services offer a higher standard and deliver greater performance levels than an internal team. Plus, support is available round the clock with most providers. Not to forget that IT costs can drop by as much as 40%, while efficiency increases by 50%. Let’s take a look at why managed IT services make sense for businesses, and are a great choice.

    Control costs

    We already mentioned this, but just for emphasis, MSPs can significantly reduce your costs. Since you only pay for what you use, your monthly bills are considerably lower. Also, you don’t need an internal IT department anymore, so you are able to reduce labor and equipment costs as well.

    Free up your IT staff

    Most in-house IT departments are often too caught up in too many things which tend to decrease their productivity and efficiency. When you hand over IT related tasks to a managed service provider, you can use your internal resources for other projects that help achieve your core business goals.

    Plus, both efficiency and productivity are improved because MSPs comprise of large, expert teams.

    Keep pace with the advancing technology and rising demand

    Most of the businesses struggle to recruit employees for IT positions, especially in the cyber security and app development domains. As already mentioned, managed service providers have large teams which keep themselves up-to-date with technology and are a pro at what they do.

    Enjoy scalability

    Growing your business, and building your team rapidly? No issues. Managed IT services are scalable and can be expanded as your business grows.

    Avail support 24/7

    Managed IT services have dedicated support teams that help you out round the clock. Support is included in the monthly fee, and usually, no additional fee is charged.

    Achieve compliance

    Are you using an updated firewall? Do you audit company laptops, desktops, and servers? Do you comply with PCI requirements or another applicable standard? The IT infrastructure and network security should meet the set industrial standards. MSPs are well aware of industrial standards and deploy app, systems, and networks in accordance with the policies.

    Reduce risks

    Business investments are characterized by certain risks, considering the IT industry, technology, regulations, consumer demands and other things that change all too quickly. MSPs hold responsibility for these risks and manage them on your behalf.

  • What You Need to Know About Computer Disaster Recovery

    A disaster recovery plan is a structured approach, which is taken if an unplanned incident occurs that tends to threaten the infrastructure. Such a plan is developed beforehand to protect the infrastructure and allow the business to continue its operations in the event of a mishap.

    Recovery plans in detail

    A disaster recovery plan outlines a step-by-step process which has to be followed for recovering a disrupted machine, system or network, and help it restore normal operation. The prime goal of a recovery plan is to minimize any negative impact on core business operations. Generally, disaster recovery plans identify critical systems, prioritize recovery, and delineate these systems and networks so that they can be recovered and reconfigured. Comprehensive plans also mention relevant contacts, expertize sources and detailed action steps to ensure a smooth recovery.

    A typical disaster recovery plan follows the following structure.

    • Develop contingency planning statement – A formal policy authorizes and guides the creation of an effective contingency plan.

    • Conduct BIA – BIA or Business Impact Analysis is a method which identifies critical components and systems, and assigns a priority rank to each of them.

    • Figure preventive controls – Preventive controls are measures which reduce system disruption and increase its availability. The overall goal is to reduce contingency costs. You should also come up with detective and corrective measures to detect disasters and restore a network after the occurrence, respectively.

    • Develop strategies – Detailed recovery strategies are developed, which can be followed if any system or component is disrupted. The strategy should specify the quickest recovery approach.

    • Develop contingency plan – A contingency plan specifies procedures which can be conducted for restoring damaged systems.

    • Plan testing and training – The developed plan is tested out so that gaps can be identified. Staff training is also provided so that they can follow the plan effectively. Both of these measures prepare a company to recover in a more effective and quicker way.

    • Plan maintenance – The plans should be regularly updated with the latest enhancements.

    Important Considerations

    The following considerations are important for an effective disaster recovery plan.

    • Get support from senior management – Obtain senior level approval prior to finalizing the plan.

    • Take the process seriously – Preparing a disaster recovery plan requires time and efforts. Data has to be gathered and analyzed, and a plan has to be built accordingly. Take the process seriously, and ensure the final plan contains all necessary components.

    • Ascertain that information is correct – A disaster recovery document doesn’t have to be long, but it must be up-to-date and accurate.

    • Use the available standards – When developing a recovery plan, you can use certain relevant standards such as ISO/IEC 24762, BS 25777 and NIST SP 800-34.

    • Review results with different units – Once the plan is complete, go over it various heads and business units, and ensure that all assumptions and details are correct. If any gaps are identified, revise the final until buy-in from all departments is obtained.

  • Top Ten Reasons to Switch a VoIP Phone System

    Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) phone systems have become a standard means of communication in the corporate world. Calls are sent over IP data networks, offering a number of advantages. Have you still not used these phones? Here is why you should switch to it right away.

    1. Costs

    VoIP phone calls made by your employees from different locations are free. If you dial an international number, you pay a fraction of the costs, significantly lower as compared to traditional phone systems. Thus, your monthly bills are significantly reduced.

    1. No Maintenance

    Considering other phone systems, you have to maintain the PBX yourself if you want additional features. With hosted VoIP systems, you avail all premium features online and can enable or disable them through a simple dashboard.

    1. No Hardware Required

    VoIP systems don’t require any specific hardware other than your standard laptop, cell phones, and headsets. At times, you may require an IP phone, but costs are nominal. Plus, the phone is equipped with several features, which you can use to your advantage.

    1. Voicemail

    VoIP numbers can be configured to ring on multiple devices. If you don’t pick up the phone after a specific number of rings, the call is transferred to voicemail, which you can access through your inbox. In some cases, you may even be able to ‘read’ the voice message.

    1. Fax

    Many businesses still use faxes, which may require them to maintain traditional fax machines. However, VoIP providers offer digital faxing, which can be sent and received over a computer. Thus, you won’t need your fax machines anymore and will be using less paper.

    1. Integration with Other Apps

    Since VoIP is based over the internet, you can integrate it with other applications like Salesforce. This allows your employees to call customers from within those apps. Moreover, they are able to take notes and even attach voice memos.

    1. Simple Upgradation

    If you want to upgrade to VoIP, you can do it in just a short amount of time, without affecting your business processes and workflows. Generally, the transition can be accomplished in just a couple of hours.

    1. Advanced Features

    VoIP phone systems offer several advanced features. Every user can configure their own rules for getting calls. Other features like routing, automatic call forwarding, call hunt, auto attendant, advanced reporting and IVR are also included.

    1. Efficient Resource Usage

    Traditional phone systems require a number of lines to be specified beforehand. Generally, businesses estimate this cost incorrectly and end up paying for lines which they don’t even require. With VoIP, you can disable all these lines, and pay only for features and services, which you actually need.

    1. Scalability

    If additional extensions or lines are added to traditional phone systems, extra and expensive hardware components are required. At times, a completely new system may have to be installed. But with VoIP, more extensions and lines can easily be added, without incurring any additional costs.

    So, are you now going to make the switch?

  • How to Pick the Best Multi-Function Printer for Your Business

    Business printers are available in a huge variety in the market, ranging from simple inkjet printers to advanced laser ones. So, if you are buying one for your company, there is a lot to think about. We’ve listed down several factors which you should consider, before coming to a decision.

    Printer Types

    Laser and LED

    LED and laser printers are the most popular choice for a business printer. The two are similar and use light to project the image on a drum, resulting in a high level of printing quality. Laser printers are fast and reliable and can last several years.

    While maintenance costs are less because toner is inexpensive compared to other print options, the upfront costs are high. Plus, laser and LED printers aren’t suitable for printing photos.

    Inkjet

    Inkjet printers are more suitable for home offices, but some small businesses use them too. These printers print the image through liquid ink. Since the print quality is high, inkjet printers are often used for flyers, brochures and other graphic containing documents. However, speed is significantly slower when compared to laser printers.

    Inkjet printers are available for a low price; replacing ink, later on, is expensive.

    Wired and Wireless Printers

    Wireless printers are more convenient, flexible, can easily be installed, and can be integrated with mobile devices. However, wired printers are faster, more reliable and offer greater security. If your business is large, you may want a wireless printer that offers mobile printing and can be connected to a mobile device through Bluetooth or Wi-Fi. But, if you are small or medium sized enterprise, then wired printers would be fine as well.

    Color and Monochrome

    If you only print letters, memos, and spreadsheets, then a monochrome printer should work for you. However, if you want to print custom logos, graphics, and other visuals, then you would need a colored printer. Monochrome printers are available for a lower cost, and less expensive to maintain.

    Networking

    Do you want to share the printer with your employees? For this, it should be connected to the office network so that it can communicate with all laptops, desktops and mobile devices. You can connect a printer to the office network in two ways. The first is to buy a printer that offers built-in networking features. Another option is to connect the printer to a print server. Networking printers cost more than standard models.

    Costs

    A basic inkjet printer, suitable for a home office, is priced between $150 and $300. Colored laser printers start from $300, and can go up to $10,000 or more. Laser printers suitable for small offices cost around $750.

    Leasing vs. Buying

    If you want to save upfront costs, you can lease printers. Later on, you can easily trade the device for an updated model. But leasing incurs more costs in the long run. Generally, payments are spread out between 12 and 60 months; if the term is long, payments are smaller, but you end up paying more.

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