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4 Advantages of Consolidating Your Tech

Posted & filed under IT Support.

Technology is the lifeblood of business today, and you likely have a lot of it. But you may have accumulated software and hardware as you grew. Now, you have a hodgepodge of technologies never designed to work together. Consolidation can help.

Large corporations can afford an in-house IT team to keep track of all the hardware and software, but small- to medium-sized businesses often need help. Managing computers and mobile devices, and telephony print and fax systems can be overwhelming. Then, there’s all the software you need to secure, not to mention setting up data recovery in case of a disaster or emergency.

Consolidating your technology offers several benefits to companies of all sizes. A managed service provider can help.

Managed Service Provider

#1 Increased Efficiency

If there’s a problem with your printers, phones, or Internet connection, you call your provider. When many vendors offer each of these services, you make several calls, which means waiting on the phone with a printer tech, phone company, or internet service provider (ISP).

When you connect with customer support, they can address only issues in one area of concern. The ISP isn’t going to know anything about your phone service, and the phone company knows zilch about printers. This disjointedness can waste a lot of time.

With an MSP, you need to make one call only. The support person will know and understand your entire system. They offer input based on how different technology interacts.

#2 Cost Savings

Lacking a holistic view of your technology and its interactions, you can end up wasting money. You might invest in a new feature for voice over IP, duplicating a capability you already have online.

Consolidating your technology with a single provider can also streamline costs. The first thing an MSP will do is to map out how your technology works together. Armed with an understanding of business needs and goals, they’ll make recommendations. You may be able to cut back on services in one area with a simple upgrade in another. Perhaps you’re paying for software licenses you no longer need. Plus, the MSP identifies opportunities for cost savings gained from bundling services.

The MSP typically charges a monthly, consolidated fee. Instead of managing several bills for every technology, you pay a single, consistent fee, which also makes budgeting much easier.

#3 Business Agility

If 2020 has taught us anything, it’s that business needs to be nimble. Yet your ability to react can be slower working with many different vendors. Simplifying your processes can streamline your response times.

An MSP will take a proactive approach to overseeing your technology needs. They want you to avoid disruptions in the first place. Partner with an MSP to keep technology current, security up to date, and systems upgraded. This frees up what IT staff you have on-site to do more business- and revenue-generating work.

#4 Supportive Partner

Individual vendors focus on selling you their particular services or systems. The overall interplay of your technology isn’t their primary concern. Yet ensuring all your technology interacts effectively and efficiently is what the MSP does best.

Working with an MSP you gain a business partner that cares about your success. The MSP’s job is to determine whether:

  • your business could be performing better
  • your team could be collaborating more
  • your processes could be more efficient
  • you have the right answers to cybersecurity risks and issues
  • your business has the best technological tools to meet its needs

An MSP offers a single point of contact. That contact will understand your entire setup and how it works together. The MSP will help you make better purchasing decisions. Plus, as a true business partner, an MSP supports your agility and success.

Find out more about what we can do for you today! Call PGP Computers at 763-691-1957 or contact us.

Your Webcam Could Be Spying on You

Posted & filed under IT Security.

In the midst of a global lockdown, many of us have been relying on webcams to stay connected. These cameras let us join virtual meetings for work and online hangouts with friends. But bad actors can also use a webcam to spy.

Someone watching through a small laptop or personal computer camera may sound farfetched. And if you don’t make a hat out of tinfoil, aliens will take over your brain, right?

Except, it is true that webcams can be used for spying.

Seeing someone with a piece of tape over their webcam isn’t that unusual. Even Facebook’s founder does it. At conferences now, you might even receive a branded sliding webcam cover as swag.

How Webcam Spying Works

How can someone access your webcam in the first place? Typically, they’ve installed malware. The malicious software allows them to remotely control your computer and view its webcam.

A cybercriminal might access your webcam using spy software, a remote access trojan (RAT). The software spreads through freeware, spam emails, infected attachments, or fake website links.

The software allows the remote user to take control of your computer. They could view your online activity, read messages, or capture screens and keystrokes, and they’ll be able to turn your webcam on to spy on you – without you knowing it.

The webcam light located near the lens will indicate whether camera is currently recording. However, it’s easy to miss and many people don’t understand what the light means.

What to Do About Webcam Spying

Well, there’s that piece of tape, or you might use a Post-It note to cover the camera, but that doesn’t address the bigger issue. Since we’re talking about malware here, the usual rules apply.

  • Don’t trust attachments, even from people you know.
  • Hover over external links to see where they will take you before clicking.
  • Question the credibility of any freeware you might download onto your computer.
  • Install a good antivirus system, especially one that checks emails.
  • Put a good firewall in place to prevent attackers from accessing your computer.
  • Install patches for your operating system, browser, and software to keep security current.

While we’re talking about webcams, keep in mind your smartphone camera and any surveillance cameras need protection too. On your phone, keep your passcode private and make sure antivirus and security patching is up to date. With a surveillance system, always change the default password – you’d be amazed how many people don’t bother to do so – as that’s just making the hackers job easy for them!

Want to be sure you’re not being spied on? Our IT experts can make sure you have a strong firewall in place to monitor network traffic and block suspicious activity. We can also ensure your antivirus and malware security is top notch.Don’t find yourself on camera when you’re not ready for your closeup! Call PGP Computers today at 763-691-1957 or contact us.

The Real Advantages of a Virtual LAN (VLAN)

Posted & filed under IT Security.

There are many acronyms to keep track of in the IT realm. One that’s been around for over 30 years now is VLAN – virtual local area network. A VLAN offers flexibility that more and more businesses find appealing.

But what exactly is a VLAN? A VLAN allows you to segment a network without needing separate hardware. So, you can have a single physical switch, but multiple different networks connected.

You can group computers, servers, or other resources into a network based on department or user type. It doesn’t have to be based entirely on physical location. The computers might be on various floors of a building or spread out over different locations, but everyone in the network segment shares the same network resources and bandwidth.

You could think about it like a neighborhood of homes connected to the same city water main. Everyone is getting their water from the same line. But imagine there are people who want fluoride in their water and others who don’t. So, the water company needs to group the fluoride-loving homeowners in one network, whereas homes 802, 907, and 1106 are grouped together to get their own water supply.

In business, containing a department’s traffic to a single VLAN can:

  • help with network efficiency by reducing extraneous traffic;
  • enhance security by creating a virtual boundary around that business unit;
  • improve bandwidth performance by limiting node-to-node and broadcast traffic;
  • save workplace disruption, as there is no need to physically match up ports and switches on a network.

Other Reasons for VLAN Popularity

VLANs can also prioritize data, separate private and public networks, or secure specific devices.

What do we mean by VLAN priority? You might think about a highway with a concrete barrier dividing traffic. Administrators can keep data from merging over into the voice traffic lane. Prioritizing using VLANs helps maintain the quality of service users expect.

Another common use of VLANs is separating private and public networks. When you log onto a hotel’s public Wi-Fi, you can’t access their internal business resources. That’s because the backup servers and other resources have been segmented. The back-of-house computers are all connected on the private network. The VLAN keeps you from accessing them on the public network.

VLANs have also gained in popularity with the growth of the Internet of Things. Smart devices offer many advantages, but they also represent new security vulnerabilities. Each of those sensors, wearables, and IoT devices could be an entry-point to your network. That’s no good if they’re connected to a network with sensitive and proprietary business data. With a VLAN, you can separate IoT devices to prevent them from accessing more than they need to.

The same is true of security cameras. You can’t trust they are safe. For example, many government sites have banned the world’s leading brand of camera. There are concerns a foreign power could exploit the connected cameras. With a VLAN in place, though, the security camera can be prevented from accessing the internet so it can’t “phone home.”

Looking to set up or secure VLANs for your business? Our experts can determine the logical connection for your networked devices. Enjoy increased performance, added flexibility, and easy scalability by selecting a VLAN solution. Contact PGP Computers today at 763-691-1957 or contact us.

Pros and Cons of All-In-One Computers

Posted & filed under Hardware.

Today, business is all about streamlining and finding efficiencies. And that even extends to embracing all-in-one computers. Users get a desktop computer that integrates monitor, processing, and ports in one. Still, there are pros and cons to consider.

Apple iMacs were the first all-in-one computers to gain popularity, but you can now find many different brands of all-in-one desktop. Promising all the computing power you need built into the monitor, these are easy to set up and get running. Their sleek design can also include webcams and speakers as part of the desktop. The user needs only to add a mouse and keyboard.

Furthermore, buying a computer with all its components included can be more cost effective, whereas buying each part separately adds up.

The all-in-one computer is great for an office environment that is low on space. These compact computers with fewer wires and less stuff to connect can look great in open-plan offices. All-in-one computers are also easier to move around flexible, collaborative work areas.

Business Computer

Upgrading all-in-one computers

There are some challenges with all-in-one computers, however. For instance, upgrading may be more difficult. You may be able to upgrade the random access memory (RAM), and replace and repair hard disk drives (HDDs), but otherwise, when you outgrow the computer, you’ll need to replace the entire machine.

You also get what you pay for with an all-in-one computer. If you go with a low- to mid-priced device, you basically get a laptop on a stick. The components used to build that desktop are often the same as you would find in a laptop. So, depending on what your computer needs are, you may want to invest in a higher-priced all-in-one or consider the component parts alternative.

Still, all-in-one computers are a good option for offices that want more flexibility. Of course, laptops are best when you want to be able to move easily between locations, but for agility within the office environment, an all-in-one is a convenient choice.

Buying all-in-one computers also allows users to enjoy business-wide consistency. Users keep traditional functionality but in a neat machine that makes a smaller footprint in their workspaces.

Considering your options for business computers? A managed service provider can help you select the best solution. Our experts learn your needs and recommend a fit for your business budget and processes.

We can also set up the new computers and ensure your system network is secure. Let us focus on IT while you focus on growing your business. Contact PGP Computers today at 763-691-1957 or contact us.

Returning to Work: Prioritizing Safety with IT Too

Posted & filed under IT Support.

Your business has the OK to go ahead and get back to work on-site. You want to return to your office, but you don’t want to risk people’s health by doing so. After all, some say it’s too soon to go back. Plus, others predict a second wave of COVID-19 is likely. These suggestions can help you return to work while prioritizing safety.

Not everyone will welcome the call back to the corporate environment. Some employees may still be in a population vulnerable to the virus. They may want to take leave instead of returning to the work environment. Others may simply not show up.

Have your HR team send out a written notice informing employees of the timeline for returning to the office. Educate them about precautions you’re taking to provide a safe work environment. Ask for a written response of people’s intentions. Then, IT can start establishing procedures for getting everyone back to work.

You may have had great success with remote working during the quarantine. This could position you to allow workers to stay home if they are at risk or oppose the idea of returning “too soon.”

For those coming back, support social distancing by phasing in people’s return. Your business could also use a hybrid IT solution to allow people to come in just three days a week, and they could continue to work two days at home. This allows staggered re-entry and reduces the numbers of people on-site at the same time.

Back to Work Technology

Back-to-Work Technology

You may be thinking you already have all the tech you need to go back to the office. C’mon, you were already working from there before this whole thing started. Plus, now you have all the new tools you added to support remote-employee productivity.

Still, you may not have invested in a long-term remote-work solution that will now support a hybrid model. Or perhaps the on-site tech you’ve long relied on isn’t meant to handle remote working for the long haul.

To achieve a flexible hybrid model, go with cloud solutions or expand on-site IT. Do you need to add infrastructure to handle remote employees using virtual private networks (VPNs)? Both on-site staff and off-site workers might need to securely access systems at the same time.

Adopting cloud collaboration software allows co-workers to access network resources simultaneously, regardless of location. Or with virtual desktops, employees can access the same files and business applications on their work machine or on a personal device.

Bringing people back to the office, you’ll want to rethink the physical setup. Support social distancing by spreading employees’ seating arrangements out more. This will require moving around computer hardware, too.

If you were previously sharing technology, you’ll also need to add more desktops. Or you might invest instead in more laptops or portable devices. This could mean securing more software, too.

Added IT Precautions

Finally, cybercriminals are opportunistic. They’re already exploiting people with malware promising vaccines or cheap masks. These bad actors are also looking to exploit the tech demands on businesses. Many businesses adapted to a new way of doing things: they moved files to the cloud, and they allowed employee access from personal devices, but they did so quickly.

Explore any new vulnerabilities from your transitions. This is a good time to double-check permissions. Ensure that accountant Jane can access staff wage data but that receptionist Jenny can’t. Also, confirm that all virus protection and security patches are current.

Active planning is the answer to a smooth return to work. While offering protective coverings and ramping up cleaning in the office is important, make sure that you don’t overlook your technology needs.

Our IT experts can help you adapt nimbly.Contact PGP Computers today at 763-691-1957 or contact us.