Mar042011

Notice of Office Closure

Due to traffic restrictions resulting from Carnival celebrations, please be advised that our offices will be closed on March 7th and 8th.  Remote support will be available and ongoing for all our clients.  We will reopen for business as normal on March 9th.


SMB Services wishes you and your loved ones a safe and enjoyable Carnival 2011.ival.

Rating 3.50 out of 5
Dec212010

Product Year End Review

As 2010 draws to a close, we wish to review the products that SMB Services Limited introduced to the marketplace and invite you to make the journey with us.

In October 2010, we looked at CableFloor, a product we displayed at TIC (Trade and Investment Convention) in May 2010. Cablefloor is the most advanced, practical and cost effective way to distribute and organize all electronic cabling systems in the modern day workplace…click here to read more

In September 2010, we introduced Replay 4, to the marketplace. Replay 4 is the world’s fastest and easiest back-up and disaster recovery software for Windows Application servers. The only complete “all-in-one” back-up and recovery software solution, Replay 4 enables local recoveries from any type of failure in just minutes, with the added reassurance of offsite application and data back-up and recovery from a total site disaster…click here to read more

In July 2010, we introduced Skype as part of Asterisk, this was also featured at TIC. Finally there’s a cost effective telephony solution for interoffice and worldwide communication.  Two telephony market leaders, Digium® and Skype™, have joined forces to develop Skype ™ for Asterisk®.  With Skype for Asterisk, you can make, receive and transfer Skype calls from within your Asterisk system using your existing hardware.  You’ll also be able to use Asterisk applications like call routing and phone menus to manage incoming calls.

Skype for Asterisk is an add-on channel driver for Asterisk based PBX systems.  Adding Skype for Asterisk to any Asterisk server enables complete access to the Skype community, including low cost PSTN access and free calling to more than 440 million registered Skype users…click here to read more

As we move forward to 2011, we hope you will come with us, begin to enjoy or continue enjoying our products and services as we strive to provide and be the best ICT resource and solution at our fingertips.

Notice of Office Closure

Please be advised of the following dates with respect to site visits and business activity for the 2010 Christmas season:

Close off date for Client onsite visits – December 23rd 2010

Remote service until – January 02nd 2011

Normal Business Activity – January 03rd 2011

We apologize for any inconvenience this may cause and wish you, your business and your loved ones a safe and joyous Christmas and a Bright and Prosperous New Year.

December Quick Tip – Human Friendly Searches in Outlook

Did you know that Outlook lets you refine your searches using human friendly English words? The following example will get you started…

If I wanted to find all emails that were sent by Gershwyn Alleyen, I just need to type the following in the search box:

From: Gershwyn Alleyne

If I want to find all emails with the word “Support” in the Subject that was sent by Gershwyn Alleyne, I just have to type the following in the search box:

From: Gershwyn Alleyne and Subject: Support

You can further refine your search as follows:

From: Gershwyn Alleyne and Subject:Support and To:Shevana

Other tags you can use are Cc and Bcc.

Rating 2.00 out of 5
Nov292010

Technology & Christmas

It’s that time of the year again, and as most of us marvel at how quickly 2010 seems to have passed us by, we also start compiling our Christmas shopping lists, taking into consideration those items that top our loved ones wish list. SMB takes you through the top latest and best gadgets to hit the market, and hopefully, give those of you who don’t know what to get one of those special someones on your shopping list, some assistance with gift ideas.

This year, Apple has shone with some innovative and improved products, and a number of them made it to this list, including:

Apple iPad
The Apple iPad is the best tablet out there, and arguably the most exciting of the year. The 16GB model with Wi-Fi is the most affordable of the bunch, and it still leaves plenty room for apps, games, photos, music and video. It offers a 9.7 inch (diagonal) LED-backlit glossy widescreen multi-touch display. 1024 x 768 pixel resolution at 132 pixels per inch. The Apple iPad is the first affordable tablet computer worth owning but won’t (yet) replace your laptop.
This product retails on Amazon from $541.80

Apple iPod Touch 2010
The iPod Touch is the best iPod yet, offering all the fun of the iPhone without a monthly bill. The 32GB capacity holds roughly 8,000 songs, 40,000 photos or 40 hours of video. There is up to 40 hours of audio playback or 7 hours of video playback on a single charge.
This product retails on Amazon from $288.54

Energizer AP1201 iPhone 4 Case
This  energizer case for the iPhone 4 is a bit on the pricey side, but its features may make it worth it. The sleek, protective case can ensure that your loved ones conversations don’t get cut short by adding an additional 4.5 hours of talk time. And the entertainment can continue for hours on end as well, thanks to 7 extra hours of battery for video and internet
This product retails on Amazon from $54.00

Moving away from Apple products, here are some more exciting gadgets that made our list:

Logitech S715i
This powerful little boombox costs a little but packs a big punch. The Logitech S715i measures 15.5 inches wide by 5.25 inches tall by 2 inches thick but can still fit in a backpack or messenger bag. On its front are buttons for power and volume as well as a covered iPod dock that flips back into a sturdy kickstand. In a sea of affordable, unforgettable iPod speakers, the Logitech S715i is a beacon for those who prefer their music to sound great.
This product retails on Amazon from $124.36

SmartShopper 301
This is a  household, user friendly device, that could change how we live, or at the very least, how we shop at the grocery store. Meet the SmartShopper 301, a grocery list organizer that you talk to. When you’re out of a much needed item, say, flour, you walk over to the small mounted device and tell it “flour” and it then automatically adds flour to your grocery list. When you’re ready to go to the store, hit the “print list” button and a handy list is printed on a slip of paper, auto categorized (dairy, snacks, etc) to make shopping easier and faster.
This product retails on Amazon from $149.95

Perfect Portions Nutrition Scale
In today’s society, where everyone is concerned with the nutritional value of what they eat, the Perfect Portions Nutrition Scale is the perfect gift. It provides not only a weight measurement for foods, including % daily value for calories, fat, carbohydrates, cholesterol, sodium, fiber and protein, but also full nutritional information from a catalog of 2000 selections plus 99 customizable food entries.
This product retails on Amazon from $49.99

Amazon Kindle
The Amazon Kindle is the most favored e-ink e-book reader of 2010. It’s the lightest and most affordable Kindle to date. The third generation Kindle’s winning combination of  noteworthy upgrades – an improved screen, better battery life, lighter weight and lower price – vaults it to the top of the e-book reader category.
This product retails on Amazon from $139.00

Garmin Nuvi 4.3inch  Widescreen Portable GPS Navigator
Garmin Nuvi has a 4.3inch auto navigator with anti-theft feature. Its capabilities also include voice prompted turn-by-turn directions, Hotfix to calculate your position to get you there quicker. Garmin Nuvi is compatible with optimal enhanced MSN direct Content and has jpeg picture viewer, world travel clock, currency converter, calculator and more.
This product retails on Amazon from $128.68

Western Digital My Passport Essential Portable External HD
The Western Digital My Passport Essential Portable External Hard Drive has a 1 terabyte maximun capacity in the palm of your hand and has auotmatic, continuous back up, password protection and military grade 256-bit hardware based encryption, urbane portable design and powered directly from the USB port.
This product retails on Amazon from $125.99

Panasonic HDC-Sd60K (silver)
If you want to give the gift of a decent HD camcorder but don’t want to break the bank, the Panasonic HDC-SD60 is a good compromise. It’s not cheap but its probably the least expensive real HD camcorder you can buy with a zoom lens and video quality that really does look like HD
This product retails on Amazon for $339.00

Flip UltraHD (2010, 2 hour, black)
For that person on your list who’s just crazy about showing personal videos to friends and family online. The latest Flip UltraHD offers excellent video quality and embedded software for easily going from shooting to sharing. An excellent mini camcorder, that’s simple to use.
This product retails on Amazon from $179.00

Sony BDP-S50 3D Blu-Ray Disc Player
This DVD player is a favorite on the market at the moment, with its Wi-Fi compatible Blu-Ray player that doesn’t play games, the S570 offers many of PS3’s capabilities – including blazing speed for nearly half the price. It has all the features of other mid-range Blu-Ray players, plus future 3D support and best-in-class operational speed.
This item retails on Amazon from $159.99

Xbox 360 Kinect
Though it can broadly be called a “motion controller”, Microsoft’s Kinect is a different beast. Unlike both Sony’s move and Nintendo’s Wii Motion Plus Controllers – which detect motion as you wave them around in your hands – Kinect turns your entire body into the “controller” with the Kinect hardware – a motion detector/camera that you set up in front or on top of your TV – converting your movements into gestures that the Xbox can understand. With an impressive body tracking and unique, controller free experience, Kinect is great for casual gaming parties and work outs.
This item retails on Amazon from $299.99 for a 4Gb to $399.99 for a 250GB

Nintendo Wii
Nintendo’s ever popular Wii remains the most affordable console this season, and a new bundle with two Wii sports games and Wii remote plus is a great value.
This product retails on Amazon from $194.99

Call of Duty: Black Ops
As gaming aficionados already know, Call of Duty: Black Ops is the seventh installment of the Call of Duty series based on live fire conflicts in the Cold War era. Call of Duty: Black Ops is a first person shooter with stealth and tactical play that puts players in the role of a shadow solider. This game offers a wide array of play including single player, local multi player versus and online co-op and multi-player.
This product retails on Amazon from $54.96 (Xbox)

November Quick Tip – How to delete addresses from Outlook’s auto-complete list.

Whenever you type an email address in the To/Cc/Bcc field of an email, Outlook helps out by showing you a list of email addresses that  match what you have typed. This can be very helpful in quickly entering a receipient’s email address. However, people’s email addresses may have changed or you may have stopped communication with them, but their address still shows up in the list. Here’s how to fix this problem:

Deleting single entries:
Type in a character or a few characters in the To field to display the list, then use the arrow keys on the keyboard to scroll through and the delete key to remove it.

Deleting the whole list:
Use with caution because there is no way of getting the list back! You can completely delete the list and start afresh by following the instructions in the following link:

http://support.microsoft.com/kb/287623/en-us

Rating 3.00 out of 5
Oct282010

Cablefloor

Hi Everyone, and welcome back.  In our last issue, you were introduced to our latest product on the market – Replay 4, the world’s fastest and easiest back-up and disaster recovery software for Windows Application Servers. This month, we are looking at another of the superior products that SMB Services Limited has offered to the market, and which was highlighted and showcased at TIC 2010 – Cablefloor.  So, for those of you who missed seeing it then, and to refresh the memories of those of you who had the opportunity to, please read below for more product information.

Cablefloor

Cablefloor is the most advanced, practical and cost effective way to distribute and organize all electronic cabling systems in the modern day workplace.

Cablefloor’s low-profile design increases floor height to only 2½” (6.4cm).  Then, when you want to access cabling or connectivity, you can easily remove the 2’x2′ (60cm) panels located in a continuous grid throughout the floor plan.  So, electric cabling structure can be reconfigured, serviced or upgraded in a fraction of the time required by conventional cable management methods. Access floor cable management outperforms any other method by allowing easy access to all wiring and connectivity.  Cablefloor’s patented design allows installation without building alterations in half the time needed for other access floor products.

Unlike traditional access floors, Cablefloor has a frequency of support cyclinders (pictured below) that creates a continuous grid of cable raceways for truly organized systems.  In addition, the floor wide interconnection  of all cyclinders, the low centre of gravity and the strong connection of access panel-to-base and base-to-subfloor create the most stable and quiet subfloor available.  Most people won’t even know its there.

Here’s a breakdown of how the floor works according to the alphabetical labeling pictured above:

A. Cable Bridges – provide horizontal separation of non-compatible services at intersections

B. Cable Raceways – provide ideal organisation and separation of services throughout floor plan

C. Screws and Nylon Clamps – speed up installation by securing corners of four adjacent panels

D. Modular – carpet or other modular finished floor products can be installed over Cablefloor for easy access to panels

E. Access Panels – are nominally 2’x2′ (60cm) square and ¾” (18mm) thick. They are milled from TEC 3000™ and moisture resistant fiber cement composite

F. Only 2½” (63mm) in height, Cablefloor is one of the lowest profile access floor systems available

G. Modular Base System – molded from fire-rated polyproplyene, delivered in 1 square yard (.836sq. m) sections, snaps together for speedy installation, forming an interconnected grid of support cylinders.

H. Support Cylinders – spaced on 6″ (15cm) centres provide tremendous weight bearing capacity.  Partition walls may be built directly over Cablefloor

I. Cable Tie Points – molded to base, straps secure cable bundles on primary service runs. Ramps are 42″W (107cm) and 30″D (76cm) and are the shortest ADA-compliant ramps available.  They can be ganged together or trimmed in the field to adjust to opening size.

Installation can be done over any reasonably level, solid surface.  In effect, Cablefloor provides the key to flexible, adaptive work environments by housing all electric systems.

For more information, you can contact us here

October Quick Tip – How to Delay/Schedule Outlook Email Delivery

Some of you may be in the habit of sending emails at different times of the day or night based on the project you are working on and its urgency.

Problem – The time that your email is being sent will always be seen by the recipient, and in some industries, this can be viewed as very dedicated or very unprofessional>

There are two solutions to this problem:

Manual – Save the email to your drafts folder and (hopefully) remember to open it and send in the morning

Automatic – Let Outlook send it automatically for you.  Here are the steps on how to do this:

– After you have finished composing your email, do not click on send, yet
– In Outlook 2010/2007 – click options and then click “delay delivery” (on the ribbon) to display the message options screen
– In other versions of Outlook – click options on the toolbar to display the message options screen
– Under delivery options, tick the “Do not deliver before” and fill in the relevant date and time
– click close
– Now click send

Your email will be moved to your Outbox but will not be sent out until after the first time (after your set time) that Outlook does a send and receive.

Rating 3.00 out of 5
Sep292010

Introducing Replay 4

Introduction

In our last issue, we spoke about Budgeting for your ICT as the 2010 government budget was due and most companies were also approaching their fiscal year end.  We do hope it provided you with food for thought.  This month, we have introduced yet another superior product to the marketplace – Replay 4.  Our resident System Administrator, Mr. Kendell Sandy has been promoting it assiduously and today we present it to you.

Also, check out this month’s quick tip, just for all our football fans out there – English Premier League Timetables in Outlook

Introducing Replay 4

Replay 4 is the world’s fastest and easiest back-up and disaster recovery software for Windows Application servers. The only complete “all-in-one” back-up and recovery software solution, Replay 4 enables local recoveries from any type of failure in just minutes, with the added reassurance of offsite application and data back-up and recovery from a total site disaster.

Product Overview:

  1. Replay for Windows Server
  2. Replay for SQL
  3. Replay for Exchange
  4. DocRetriever for SharePoint
  5. Replay for Hyper-V
  6. Replay for VMware
  7. Replay for SBS
  8. Replay for Desktops

Where Replay works for you:

  • Back-up
  • Disaster Recovery
  • High Availability
  • Replication
  • Off-site BUDR
  • P2V Conversions
  • Virtulization

Replay 4 Deliverables:

  • 8Gb/minute back-up and recovery speeds
  • Block level snapshots with incremental forever data capture
  • Integrated deduplication reduces back-up storage footprint by 80% or more
  • Flexible disaster recovery options including bare metal restore and failover virtual machines
  • Server rewind feature gives you the ability to roll back any point-in-time, and recover the entire server or individual files, emails, SharePoint and SQL objects
  • Application-aware modules check data consistency to ensure successful recoveries every time
  • Cost effective remote office protection
  • Integrated replication to reduce storage costs and enable off-site and cloud based back-ups
  • Centralized enterprise console to manage a large number of servers and desktops

The world’s most robust back-up and recovery solution for protecting Microsoft Windows servers, Replay 4 also provides deep application integration with today’s mission critical Microsoft applications including:

  1. Microsoft Exchange
  2. Microsoft SQL
  3. Microsoft SharePoint
  4. Microsoft Hyper-V

4 Uniques of Replay 4

  1. Corruption Detection
  2. Replay Live
  3. Off-Host Processing
  4. High Availability

Other reasons to invest in Replay 4 include:

  • Ease of use
  • Tired of traditional tape
  • Long back-up windows
  • Quicker recoveries
  • Affordable

To set up an appointment, where you will be given a live demonstration of Replay 4 and how it will work for you, please contact:

Mr. Kendell Sandy
Systems Administrator
SMB Services Limited
Tel: 223 4762
Email: kendell@smbtrinidad.com

September Quick Tip

English Premier League Timetables in Outlook

This month’s quick tip is for the football fans out there – download the 2010/2011 schedule of your favorite team(s) in Outlook so that you don’t miss a game.

Arsenal
Aston Villa (Not in Outlook)
Chelsea
Everton FC
Fulham FC
Liverpool FC (not in outlook)
Manchester City
Manchester United (not in outlook)
NewCastle United
West Ham United (not in outlook)

If you have found the relevant page on your team’s website, then please email the link so that we can update the listing and share it with other football fans.

Rating 3.00 out of 5
Aug262010

Budgeting for IT

Financial year end is approaching or has already arrived for most companies, and this means forecasting and budgeting your operation costs for the coming fiscal year.  When budgeting, the following pertinent questions must be answered: What are the key initiatives for the coming fiscal year? How will corporate goals be met short term and long term? What role does IT play in the process?

With your focus on your company’s core competencies, how many of you budget for your information technology needs?

Sadly, the last question is rarely asked, and key strategic initiatives are planned without knowing the true cost and return of projects – which will require additional hardware, software and/or personnel to support new initiatives.

There are a number of factors that will impact on a business technology budget, inclusive of the size and type of business and the technology needed.  For most businesses, basic technological requirements include:

  • Hardware – the actual computers and servers
  • Software – programmes and operating systems
  • Phone lines and internet systems
  • Computing consumables and  peripherals
  • Information Technology Support
  • Computer training for staff – if there is a high staff turnover or additional staff during peak periods, also meaning additional computers will be needed.

This is not an extensive list and technology needs will vary from company to company, with budgets increasing or decreasing depending on the sophistication of the equipment and the software needed.

The following are some guidelines to follow when planning your IT budget:

  • The first rule of thumb when budgeting capital is to use 2% of overall capital regardless of the size of your business for your technology needs.  It is always better to overestimate a budget than underestimate and small businesses should always figure in emergency funds where technology is concerned.
  • Calculate your technology costs from the previous year, unless you are planning major changes in your IT strategy, this will give you a better range to work with.
  • Most companies plan for moderate growth.  These companies should set up a category for IT maintenance/support and one for new technology expenses. (You should first calculate maintenance/support of existing equipment, since this number will remain almost the same as the previous year).
  • If you plan to purchase new systems or services, you should calculate the cost of technology and then budget for installation and maintenance – depending on the complexity, you may also want to budget for testing and downtime.  Get estimates and make sure to pad this cost in case things take longer to install than originally expected.
  • Once you’ve calculated standard IT purchases and maintenance costs for the year, create separate budget line for technology development – this is for longer-term IT planning, including new IT projects or major system upgrades.
  • Err on the conservative side and consider the possibility of leasing and outsourcing when faced with costly technology expenditures.
  • If you have an IT department – treat them as an internal vendor that earns its funding by providing sound advice and a return on investment.  The IT department should include direct costs (equipment costs, software licensing) and indirect costs (training, support) in budget estimates.  This links anything business leaders pay for to a concrete deliverable.

Major pitfalls to avoid include:

  • Going over budget as a result of other department’s needs.  Interdepartmental communication should be encouraged so that IT knows early on the needs of the business units and can work them into the budget plan
  • Failure to research and analyze new technologies and services can be a costly mistake
  • Oversight of not using the tools that are available to you, namely, budgeting software tools

IT budgeting in tough times – in view of these tough economic times, it would be remiss of us if we did not also include five basic ways to cut your IT budget:

  • Ditch the inkjet – they are cheap to purchase but expensive to keep running
  • Consolidate servers – it’s cheaper and more efficient to operate a few powerful servers rather than a bunch of old, single function servers
  • Save on office space by allowing some employees to work remotely
  • Cut phone bills – VoIP is perfect for conference calls with employees, interoffice calls or calls to remote employees
  • If you are paying a full or part-time person to manage your network, consider outsourcing to a professional IT support company.  It offers 24/7 support, a higher level of expertise and professionalism, fewer management headaches and better IT support for less money.
Rating 3.00 out of 5
Jul152010

All About Asterisk & Skype for Asterisk

What is Asterisk? – The world’s most popular open source telephony project.  Under development since 1999, Asterisk is free, open source software that turns an ordinary computer into a feature-rich voice communications server.  Its flexible architecture lets you configure it as an IP PBX, a voicemail server, IVR server, VoIP gateway, call recorder, automatic call distributor and virtually any other voice-enabled application you can imagine.  Asterisk makes it simple to create and deploy a wide range of telephony applications and services.  Growing at a lightning pace, installations of open source telephony are now outpacing traditional industry players like Nortel, Avaya and Cisco (Eastern Management Group, 2008)

Why Open Source? – By harnessing the power of collaboration, open source projects like Asterisk tap the creative skills of a global pool of developers, testers and users.  The result is software that truly fits end user requirements, can be customized to a degree impossible with proprietary systems and offers a drastically lower total cost of ownership.

What can Asterisk do? – Created as a flexible toolkit, Asterisk can be configured to serve a wide variety of telephony applications including:

  • IP PBX
  • IVR (Interactive Voice Response)
  • Automated Attendant
  • Voicemail
  • Unified Messaging
  • Call Conferencing
  • Call Recording
  • ACD
  • VoIP Gateway
  • Speech Applications
  • Unified Communication

Who uses Asterisk? – Asterisk readily scales from very small deployments to massive multi-server clusters.  This unmatched flexibility has propelled it into virtually every business size, segment and industry.  Asterisk is particularly appealing in cost-conscious environments including education, government agencies and not-for-profit organizations.

Finally there’s a cost effective telephony solution for interoffice and worldwide communication.  Two telephony market leaders, Digium® and Skype™, have joined forces to develop Skype ™ for Asterisk®.  With Skype for Asterisk, you can make, receive and transfer Skype calls from within your Asterisk system using your existing hardware.  You’ll also be able to use Asterisk applications like call routing and phone menus to manage incoming calls.

Skype for Asterisk is an add-on channel driver for Asterisk based PBX systems.  Adding Skype for Asterisk to any Asterisk server enables complete access to the Skype community, including low cost PSTN access and free calling to more than 440 million registered Skype users.

Skype for Asterisk integrates with the Skype community.  There is no secondary piece of hardware to manage as Skype for Asterisk will run directly from an Asterisk based PBX.

Key Benefits

  • Save Money:
  • Free calling to more than 440 million Skype registered users worldwide directly from your Asterisk server
  • Great rates for worldwide inbound calling DIDs via online numbers (SkypeIn)
  • Call landlines and mobiles worldwide at great rates (SkypeOut)
  • Add Skype to your call routing tables to optimize global calling costs
  • Add a click-to-call button to your website or email so customers can quickly contact you
  • Allows customers to call via a local online number
  • Perfect for remote employees as the office is one click away with free calling
  • Communicate securely with free, high-quality, encrypted Asterisk-to-Asterisk calls using Skype

Key Features that are enabled by Skype for Asterisk
(Please note that paid-for products are available to the extent that you select and purchase them through Skype’s Business Control Panel)

  • Make Skype-to-Skype calls
  • Receive calls with online numbers (SkypeIn)
  • Calls to landlines and mobile phones
  • Make and receive multiple concurrent Skype calls from the same Skype Account
  • Make world-wide PSTN calls to landline and mobile phones (SkypeOut)
  • DTMF support for incoming and outgoing calls
  • Set and retrieve online status
  • Read Skype profile fields from incoming calls
  • Set privacy settings
  • Handle incoming Skype calls using Asterisk applications such as voicemail, ACD, MeetMe conferencing, etc.
  • Simultaneous access from both Asterisk and the Skype desktop client
  • Trunk calls between Asterisk servers over Skype
  • Supports G.711 and G.729 (included) codecs

Skype for Asterisk Support

Skype for Asterisk comes with 90 days of installation support from the time of purchase.  For subscribers of Open Source Asterisk and/or Asterisk Business Edition™ support, incidents can be used with Skype for Asterisk, as long as the subscription is current.

Rating 4.00 out of 5
Jun112010

Social Networking Sites & IT Policy

Introduction

Welcome back everyone! SMB Services Limited wishes to thank everyone who visited our booth at TIC, it was a pleasure meeting and speaking to you.  Your presence contributed to the success that it was for us.

In our last issue, we reviewed network security and what small businesses need to know.  This month our intern, Michael Hales, will take you through Social Networking Sites and IT Policies.

Social Networking Sites and IT Policies

Social networking used to involve getting together with your friends and physically interacting with one another and expanding your connections in the process.  Nowadays, social networking has taken on a completely different dynamic altogether in the form of social networking sites.  These sites are described as web-based services that allow individuals to:

1. Construct a public or semi-public profile within a bounded system
2. Articulate a list of other users with whom they share a connection and
3. View and traverse their list of connections and those made by others within the system
4. Take part in activities hosted by the site such as games and surveys

Most of today’s companies range from either a lax policy whereby everyone is allowed access to the internet or they have robust protocols in place to handle internet traffic.  This mainly depends on the size and type of company as well as what speed their internet access is.  Unsurprisingly, productivity is the core issue raised when it comes to blocking social networking sites.  At companies where there is no enforced ICT policy, and employees are allowed to utilize the internet at their discretion, there is a noticeable shift in productivity.  The employee’s attention can easily be diverted away from more pressing priorities with numerous activities these social networking sites provide.

The downside to allowing full internet access is that employees generally do not employ good security practices and as such these businesses become victims of spam, phishing or malware attacks via sites like Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and MySpace.

It should also be noted that four of the most popular social networking sites – named above – have all experienced their fair share of spam and malware attacks during 2009, all designed to compromise PCs or steal sensitive information.  From traditional 419 scams that aim to fool users into sending money to foreign destination under the ruse that a friend is in trouble, to malware disguised as Facebook error messages, cybercriminals are using the same old techniques but pushing them out via social media.

As many employees access some social networking sites daily, it may be unwise to completely lockdown on access to them.  The main issue with completely denying staff access to their favourite social networking site is that these employees will try to find a way around the ban and this could potentially open up even greater holes in corporate defence.  Also there are companies that utilize social networking to network with existing clients and potential prospects so completely locking down the sites is not practical.

By adopting a more holistic approach – including investment in greater security and control solutions, as well as offering comprehensive user education – organizations will be better equipped to deal with social networking risks.

A few practices that have helped curbing issues with social networking sites are:
a.  Educate your workforce about online risks – make sure that all employees are aware of the impact that their actions could have on the corporate network
b.  Consider filtering access to certain social networking sites at specific  times – this can be easily set by user groups or time periods for example
c.   Check the information that your organization and staff share online – if sensitive business data is being shared, evaluate the situation and act as appropriate

The above scenario holds the same for employees who indulge in viewing inappropriate sites on the internet (such as pornographic sites) or download large music or video files that take up large amounts of space on the machines or servers and are not work related and even extend to employees using the company telephones for personal activities.

Without written policies, there are no standards to reference when both sticky and status quo situations arise, such as those highlighted above.

So, what exactly are the IT policies that every company should have? There are six areas that need to be addressed:

1.  Acceptable Use of Technology: Guidelines for the use of computers, fax machines, telephones, internet, email and voicemail and the consequences for misuse.
2.  Security: Guidelines for passwords, levels of access to the network, virus protection, confidentiality and usage of data.
3.  Disaster Recovery: Guidelines for the recovery of data in the event of a disaster, and data backup methods
4.  Technology standards: Guidelines to determine the type of software, hardware and systems to be purchased and used at the company, including those that are prohibited (e.g instant messenger)
5.  Network set-up and documentation: Guidelines regarding how the network is configured, how to add new employees to the network, permission levels for employees and licensing of software.
6.  IT Services: Guidelines to determine how technology needs and problems will be addressed, who in the organization is responsible for employee technical support, maintenance and long-term tecchnology planning.

Policy Pointers

1.  Consider holding (depending on the size of your company, a series of meetings that involves all interested parties
2.  The language of your policies must convey both certainity and unquestionable management support.  As you roll out a policy, you may see many examples of inappropriate use or violations, but it’s difficult to     anticipate them.  So it’s important to have catch-all clauses within your policy such as:
a. “Viewing or downloading offensive, obscene or inappropriate material from any source is forbidden”
b. “The storing and transfer of illegal images, data, material and/or text using this equipment is forbidden.
3.  Set out what behaviour is reasonable and unreasonable and determine procedures for dealing with specific abuses
4.  Try to keep policies to the point.  Long written policies are difficult to read and comprehend, and users may be confused or simply give up on trying to understand them
5.  Policies must be written in layman’s terms or the concept may be lost on the end users.
6.  Agree upon a framework for policy review. Usage and technology may change, so you need to be flexible and adapt the policy when it is required.
7.  Decide, define and mandate ‘what’ is to be protected

When it comes to building and implementing an IT policy, no quick or one-size-fits-all solution will adequately serve your needs.  Every business is different and the approach taken to meet objectives and/or ensure compliance will vary from one environment to another, even in the same industries.   Well-crafted policies show that an organization and its management are committed to security and expect employees to take it seriously.  Such policies provide an overall security framework for the organization, ensuring that security efforts are consistent and consistent rather than ad hoc or fragmented.

But you can take advantage of the described above best practices to increase your odds of crafting and implementing a policy that employees will support and that will help your organization.

For more information, you can contact us here.

Rating 3.50 out of 5
May042010

Network Security – What Small Businesses Need to Know

Welcome back everyone!  There is much happening this month, please read on….

SMB Services Limited is excited to announce that we will be participating in the 2010 Trade & Investment Convention (TIC) to be held at they Hyatt Regency from May 19-22 2010.  SMB will be in booth #121 and this is your opportunity to meet the team and get a first hand view of our offerings.

SMB Services Limited also wishes to extend Mother’s Day Greetings to all our wonderful mothers out there.  We hope that you enjoy this day dedicated specially to you surrounded by all your loved ones.

In our last newsletter issue, we covered at what you need to consider before you buy a new server or pc for your business.  This month, we are looking at Network Security – what you need to know, the importance of it and what should be done to protect your company’s sensitive information.  This month, we also continue to offer handy tips designed to make your time spent at the computer easier and also, a sneak peak at what’s in store for June.

Network Security – What Small Business need to know

When you hear the words ‘network security’ what are your thoughts? Firewalls, anti-virus, passwords…all of these are part of the whole that is network security.  Before we go any further, let us first determine exactly what network security is.

Network security is the protection at the boundaries of any organization against unauthorized access of its network and network accessible resources and the consistent and continuous monitoring and measurement of its effectiveness (or lack) combined.

A breach or lack of network security can result in devastating effects and some high profile examples include Mastercard/Visa Security Breach 2009 and Walmart 2005-2006.

In this new world, where everyone and everything is technology reliant on functions from email to the storage of sensitive data, it seems that no one is immune to the havoc that viruses, worms, spyware and hackers can wreak.

Small businesses generally do not budget for ICT, neither do they allocate much towards network security, if anything at all.  Failure to do this can cost your company far more than you would ever spend on security.  What can you do then and how can you protect your network?  Here are three things to know to reduce your chances of becoming a statistic:

1. Your biggest risk and asset – your employees – Websense, a web and email filtering company, indicates that 80% of all security breaches come from within an organization.  Seemingly innocent actions repeated daily by employees are the ones that put you at risk.  Consider the email with an attachment that is opened, launching a company wide virus within minutes; inappropriate web-surfing on unsuitable sites; the increasingly portable memory stick infected with a virus on an employee’s home computer and plugged into a company’s machine; the Post-It note with an employee’s login credentials.

It is necessary to create a company culture of vigilance when it comes to your network. The first step is awareness.  Educate your employees about the risks, instruct them not to open email attachments from unknown sources, reduce non-business web surfing by implementing ‘acceptable use’ policies and reinforce them.

2. No total network security methods with internet connectivity.

According to web statistics for web threats:

  • 85.6% of all unwanted emails contain links to spam and/or malicious websites
  • 77% of websites with malicious codes are compromised legitimate websites
  • 95% of user generated comments to blogs , chat rooms and message boards are spam or malicious

It is almost impossible to keep up 100% with the frequency of new viruses being introduced without unplugging your network connection.  It is important to have a plan for dealing with them and one of the solutions offered by SMB Services Limited is MailSecurity.

3. Back to Basics – What your company should have for a more secure network:

  1. Passwords that change on a regular basis and are not intuitive (for more guidelines, check this month’s tip below)
  2. Up-to-date anti-virus software on all workstations and servers
  3. Firewalls with strong traffic policies to prohibit and allow communication
  4. Email anti-virus and spam filters
  5. Anti-spyware technology

While complete protection from network security breaches cannot be guaranteed, it is critical to be proactive and have contingency plans in place.  One of the more popular approaches to putting the right network security functions in place is outsourcing this function to professionals – “the outsourced ICT professional can help you save time, give you access to reports and audits, as well as expertise that may not be available in-house.  Bringing in the experts may be just what you need to get a jump start on the security of your network”

May Quick Tip – Password Tips and Tricks

  1. Change often
  2. Type a sentence using punctuation, long enough, tough to crack and easy to remember, add a number for extra uniqueness.  If replacing letters with numbers, e.g. replace-r3plac3, use different numbers i.e r7plac8
  3. Avoid names and numbers that are near and dear to you – e.g spouses, pets, maiden names
  4. Scramble it – if you must write it down, something as simple as adding/swapping digits can prevent misuse
  5. Don’t keep the same password for different sites. If one account is compromised, hackers won’t be able to access the others
  6. Archive important passwords so that friends and family can have access to your accounts in case tragedy strikes

Rating 2.50 out of 5
Apr062010

Handy tips to consider when purchasing a Server or a PC for your Business

Hi All! In our last issue we spoke of the warning signs of PC and Server problems; today we are looking at some factors to consider before purchasing a new machine.  Also, look for more handy keyboard shortcuts, this month, Outlook shortcuts.

There will come a time when you will finally have to bite the bullet and purchase new PCs or Servers for your Business.  This article will take you through the process, outlining simple guidelines and providing handy tips.

Let’s begin with the Computer and some of the Hardware and Software considerations you should take before purchasing:

  • Is this for the home or office?
  • What role will this PC serve?
  • Are the tasks to be completed by the PC basic or complicated?
  • What Operating System do you need?
  • What tasks do you need to perform: work processing, spreadsheet calculations, photo editing?
  • At what level do you need to do the above tasks? This might determine the specific applications that you need
  • Will the PC be part of a network, if yes, you will need to get a network card
  • Dependent on the above, you will need to select the appropriate hard drive size, ram, video card and monitor size.  Other accessory and peripheral considerations include:
    • Do you need to burn CDs or DVDs?
    • Do you need to scan or print from this PC?
    • Do you need to connect more than one monitor to this PC?

Now let’s look at the Server and answer the important question of When do I need a Server?

  • Do you have more than five workstations (PCs)?
  • Are your backups dependent on daily intervention?
  • Are your Critical Operating System and Antivirus updates dependent on your daily intervention?
  • Are your critical files located in different locations on your network?
  • When you make network changes, do you need to do this at each station?
  • Do you want your files/data to be secure and only accessible to those whom you specify?

It’s time for a Server if you answer yes to the following:

  • Are there snags in your workflow?
  • Do two or more people use the same database?
  • Would operations slow down or stop, even for a small amount of time, if one computer were to crash?
  • Do you or your employees need access to email and files on the road?

Advantages of a Server Include:

Centrally Managed:

  • Disaster recovery
  • Antivirus
  • Email
  • User administration
  • Data and Network security

The Server can also:

  • Be the Primary Backup point
  • Host your email and give you control over spam and infected emails
  • Give a higher level of security
  • Deploy new software applications more easily through a network.

Hardware and Software consideration for Servers include:

  • What processor and speed should you have?
  • How many processors do you need?
  • How many network cards do you need?
  • What Server Operating System do you need?
  • What level of redundancy do you need – RAID1, RAID5?
  • Should your hard drives be SCSI, IDE, SATA?
  • Do you need redundant power supplies?
  • Do you need an UPS (Uninterruptible Power Supply)?
  • How much storage space do you need?
  • How many users are on your network?
  • What backup hardware and software should you use?
  • What is the role of this server – file and print, database, application?

Consider the following with regard to components, peripherals and speed for PCs and Servers:

  1. Processor and Speed: Essentially the brain of a computer, a processor is the logic circuitry that responds to and processes the basic instructions that drive a computer.  Instructions are the orders given to the processor by a computer program.  The term processor has generally replaced the term central processing unit (CPU).
  2. Hard Drive Memory: In a personal computer, a hard disk drive (HDD) is the mechanism that controls the positioning, reading and writing of the hard disk, which furnishes the largest amount of data storage for the PC.  Although the hard disk drive (often shortened to “hard drive”) and the hard disk are not the same thing, they are packaged as a unit and so either term is sometimes used to refer to the whole unit. Are you storing information primarily on this machine or your server? How many programs do you have and what hardware and RAM requirements do they demand?
  3. RAM Memory: Random Access Memory (RAM) is the place in a computer where the operating system, application programs and data in current use are kept so that they can be easily reached by the computer’s processor. RAM is much faster to read from and write to than the other kinds of storage in a computer – the hard disk, the floppy disk, the CD-ROM.  However, the data in the RAM stays there only as long as your computer is running. When you turn the computer off, RAM loses its data.  When you turn your computer on again, your operating system and other files are once again loaded into RAM, usually from your hard disk.  RAM can be compared to a person’s short-term memory and the hard disk to the long-term memory.  The short-term memory focuses on the work at hand, but can only keep so many facts in view at one time.  If the short-term memory fills up, your brain sometimes is able to refresh it from the facts stored in long-term memory.  A computer also works this way.  If RAM fills up, the processor needs to continually go to the hard disk to overlay old data in the RAM with new, slowing down the computer’s operations.  Unlike the hard disk which can become completely full of data so that it won’t accept any more, RAM never runs out of memory.  It keeps operating, but much more slowly than you want it to.Having more RAM for a server is of the essence.  Skimping her will cause frustration as all the people in your office use the server for retrieving or storing information simultaneously.
  4. RAID: (redundant array of independent disks; originally redundant array of inexpensive disks) is a way of storing the same data in different places (thus, redundantly) on multiple hard disks.  By placing data on multiple disks, operations can overlap in a balanced way, improving performance.  How critical is the data that you are storing on your server? Do you want to ensure that it will not be lost?
  5. Backup Hardware: Backup is the activity of copying files or databases so that they will be preserved in the case of equipment failure or other catastrophe.  Backup is usually a routine part of the operation of large businesses with mainframes as well as the administrators of smaller business computers.  For personal computer users, backup is also necessary but often neglected.  The retrieval of the files you have backed up is called restoring them.  How are you backing up your data in the event of a hardware failure?
  6. Operating System: An operating system (sometimes abbreviated as “OS”) is the program that manages all the other programs in a computer.  The other programs are called applications or application programs.  The application programs make use of the operating system by making requests for services.Check your software requirements to see what they recommend as optimum to run the programs you need to run your business.  IS that the one you want/need?  Will it be compatible with the other operating systems in your office?
  7. Application Programs: Examples of application programs include word processors, database programs, web browsers, development tools, drawing, paint, image editing programs and communication programs.  Application programs use the services of the computer’s operating system and other supporting programs.  Making sure your application programs are compatible with the operating systems of the operating system and existing or planned hardware must be considered at the same time.
  8. Network Card: A network interface card (NIC) is a computer circuit board or card that is installed in a computer so that it can be connected to a network. Personal computers and workstations on a local area network (LAN) typically contain a network interface card specifically designed for the LAN transmission technology.  Network interface cards provide a dedicated, full-time connection to a network.  Will this computer be part of a network or will it stand alone?
  9. Monitor: Does your job require you to have a screen that has a high resolution or will a lower resolution suffice? For word processing or spreadsheets a lower screen quality is adequate, while the highest quality is preferred for graphics work.
  10. Video Card: An integrated circuit card in a computer or, in some cases, a monitor that provides digital-to-analog conversion, video RAM, and a video controller so that data can be sent to a computer’s display.

Please note: most servers do not come with an operating system or other necessary software components.

Conclusion:

Much like brand name PC advertised on TV or in the mail, if a server has a price that seems too good to be true, it probably is.  Unfortunately advertised prices do not include necessary hardware and software configurations required for most servers.

Business owners often suffer from ‘sticker shock’ when a PC or server is configured for them. Unfortunately, they are used to seeing advertised prices for bare bones systems that will not accomplish their goals.  The systems advertised are not realistic examples of what is necessary for business today.  Part of our job at SMB Services Limited is to help clients understand the investment they are making for the long term when they purchase the equipment they need.

In the end, it is better to do your research than end up with a computer or server that does not satisfy your business requirements.

APRIL QUICK TIP

Outlook Shortcuts – save time with these handy shortcuts :)

1. Ctrl + 1 = Mail

2. Ctrl + 2 = Calender

3. Ctrl + 3 = Contacts

4. Ctrl + 4 = Tasks

5. Ctrl + 5 = Notes

Rating 3.00 out of 5