barracuda

Maze of Machines

Introduction

It’s November and that means shopping! As we progress in our technological age, so too does the role of technology in our spending habits; and technology is becoming a rapidly larger part of the Holiday shopping season (Cyber Monday is an excellent example). Due to this, a very common question received by IT professionals is this:

What computer should I purchase?”

A daunting question for individuals and businesses alike, finding the right computer is an important step in a large investment. Computers fill an ever increasing role in our society, and (especially for businesses) can greatly influence the amount of accessibility a person has. This in mind, it is important to know how to decide effectively on a new machine.

What Makes Computers Different?

Undoubtedly, you’ve heard of the “Mac V PC” argument when it comes to deciding on a computer purchase, when in reality you have many more options than this. Different machines built by different companies are made to do different things and there are many choices. This means (usually) computers aren’t objectively better or worse than their competitors, they just do different things. For instance, to use the Mac and PC example, Macs traditionally have powerful graphics processors, high-quality speakers, and a more streamlined interface, making them excellent for roles amongst artists, musicians, and entertainment facets. PCs on the other hand will typically have excellent central processors, more efficient batteries, and are a little easier to code, making them the superior choice for technical work such as you might find in an IT environment or law firm. As stated earlier, you have much more than two choices, as there are hundreds of PC and Mac models alone.

Hardware isn’t everything though, so you’ll also need to consider software. This means considering things like “What programs can I run?”, and “Are my programs updated?” After all, not all computers can run the same software. You’d also be considering things like antivirus options, operating systems, word processors, and so on. These can drastically change the experience you have with said hardware, as a new OS can make or break the user experience for new devices.

What Machine Is Right for Me and My Company?

Only you can decide the machine that is right for you, but we at Micro Systems are happy to help with that decision. For businesses, it is common for PCs to be recommended, we frequently suggest Dell Personal Computers to our clients. However, business clients should consider other technology as well to ensure the smoothest experience. Other devices common are telephone systems, web and email filters, and cameras; all of which we are happy to offer our help to find solutions for. When attempting to locate the right solution for your personal or business use, context is truly everything, so if you are looking for an upgrade this holiday season for you are your company, email or call us and we will do our best to locate the best possible equipment for your situation and budget. Also, remember to shop safe!

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Thursday, November 17th, 2016 Back to basics, General No Comments

Security Serenity

Introduction

            Information Technology companies and departments alike have always been plagued by a stigma; that if you need to call them, there is something seriously wrong with your network. It’s a bit like getting called to the principal’s office, and this feeling of trepidation is largely caused by a fear most technology companies experience, one I must unfortunately validate.

No. Network. Is. Safe.

In the field of technology, it is an unpleasant and an inescapable fact. Security is of the utmost importance in modern technology and it is something often ignored because nobody wants to deal with it. But it is imperative that anyone working in this field not only understand how to safeguard their own network, but to understand the function and goals of malicious programs (also called “malware”) that are designed to do harm to your network.

How Do Malicious Programs work?

            An important step in understanding the function of these programs is to know that they are simply that-programs. On a conceptual level, a virus or malware program is not much different from any other program, except that it has outcomes that you do not want. Such software is designed to either damage, control, or influence the hardware or operating system that it targets. This can range from anything to encrypting files while awaiting a ransom to transmitting all the data from the target machine to a third party. These programs have a variety of sources, including but not limited to criminal corporations operating outside the purview of the law, single programmers attempting to make a quick buck, or the always infamous extremist group. When it comes to prevention, the source is not as important; what does matter is that attacks and infections on a network can be the single most costly issue a company will face. If a network suffers, for instance, a ransomware attack, no files, accounts, or data can be accessed on that network until the ransom is payed, and even then the data may still remain encrypted depending on the whim of the attacker.

How Can Malicious Programs affect my network?

            There is an abundance of malicious software variations, due to the fact that these are as previously mentioned, simply programs, and thus can be unique in function and purpose, but for brevity’s sake we will cover some of the most important types of these programs. A relatively simple and common program is a trojan. A trojan’s purpose is reflective of its’ namesake, in that it pretends to be a legitimate or crucial piece of software to trick the user into downloading it, and upon installation hides itself inside the local files of the and then unleashes its’ “troops”. That is to say, it begins to do what it was designed to. This can mean everything from copying data, to deleting it. A new(er) type of malware that’s been making rounds lately is malvertising-(you can read our previous TechBits article on malvertising to get a much more in-depth description). Suffice it to say that malvertising uses internet ads to infect the target machine. Ransomware is software that encrypts all the data on a network and holds the de-encryption key for a ransom, though on occasion even paying the ransom will not coax the attacker into providing the de-encryption key, if the attacker is a person instead of an automated procedure. Though it’s important to know these types of malware, there are countless variants, and the variants are increasing at an alarming rate.

What Can I Do?

            When people think of malware they often feel that they are safe with a single antivirus, firewall, or (and this will make your IT cringe) having a Mac because Apple products “don’t get viruses” (yes, they do). Whereas this can be enough for personal devices on a home network, the modern business cannot afford to use only a single source of malware protection. The most secure networks have layers upon layers of security and are very difficult to break through. On a more practical level, it is typically acceptable to have two layers: one passive one active. An “active” layer of protection would be like the anti-virus you are probably familiar with, something to actively scan files in your network to locate and quarantine dangerous programs until they can be properly disposed of. Passive protection is a little different. An example of passive technology would be a web filter.  The Web Filter doesn’t necessarily actively search and root out malicious programs, but rather acts like a sieve and prevents many malicious programs from coming into contact with your network in the first place. Another source of protection that should be mentioned is Web Application Filters. Web Application Filters, or WAFs, monitor attempts from outside your network to gain access through applications that are Internet Facing (Such as web-based email, or self-hosted websites.  It is not uncommon to see thousands of attempts per day of malicious actors attempting to gain access to a protected system through a web-based application.

            A question anyone with an IT background has been asked at some point (and probably more than once) is this:

“What antivirus should I get?”

It’s an excellent question, there are many, many options for anti-virus/anti-malware software, some are free some are paid. An adage to consider is that “you get what you pay for” – we like to add the codicil, “if you are lucky” at the end. One option that we at Micro Systems currently suggest and offer is Kaspersky, which is a comprehensive anti-virus software combined with the added protection of the commercial version of MalwareBytes.  As for passive protection, we provide multiple solutions from Barracuda-ranging from Spam Gateways, to Content Web Filters to Web Application Firewalls. Micro Systems Management has always been focused on providing the best security options for our clients’ network, and we aren’t stopping now. So give us a call, send us an email, or visit our website if you have any questions regarding your network, and we will do our best to secure the lifeblood of your company – your network.           

           

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Monday, October 17th, 2016 Back to basics, Cybersecurity, General No Comments
 

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