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You Need More Than A Power Strip

You Need More Than a Power Strip to Protect Your Company’s Computers, Server, and Other Equipment What would happen if you were in the middle of working at your computer, and the office suddenly lost power? Too many workers would find themselves staring blankly at an equally blank screen as their infrastructure suddenly goes dark. However, […]

10 Pro Tips to Avoid Getting Scammed Online

Avoid Getting Scammed Online

Avoid Online Scams

Every day numerous phishing emails are sent to unsuspecting victims all over the world. While some of these messages are so abstract that they are obviously a fraud, others can be a bit more convincing.

In case you aren’t clear on what a phishing email is, it is an attempt by a cybercriminal to obtain sensitive information from you about any of your accounts, get usernames, passwords, credit card details, your social security number or anything else. They do this by disguising themselves as a trustworthy entity through email. These types of emails also have the risk of installing a virus onto your computer or doing you harm in any other number of ways.

So, how can you tell the difference between a phishing message and a legitimate message? Unfortunately, there is no one size fits all solution, but there are several techniques that you can look for. This article lists 10 of them.

1: The message contains a mismatched URL

One of the first things to look at in a suspicious email message is the integrity of any included or linked URLs. Oftentimes the URL in a phishing message will appear to be perfectly valid. However, if you hover your mouse over the top of the URL (but don’t click anything yet!), you should see the actual linked address (at least this does in Outlook). If the hyperlinked address is different from the address that is displayed, the message is likely fraudulent or dangerous.

2: URLs contain a misleading domain name

People who send these phishing scams often rely on their victims not knowing how the DNS naming structure for domains works. The last part of a domain name is the most telling. For example, the domain name info.SystemSafe.com would be a child domain of SystemSafe.com because

SystemSafe.com appears at the end of the full domain name (on the right-hand side). Conversely, SystemSafe.malware.com would clearly not have originated from SystemSafe.com because the reference to SystemSafe.com is on the left side of the domain name.

I have seen this trick used countless times by phishing artists as a way of trying to convince victims that a message came from a company like Microsoft. The phishing artist simply creates a child domain bearing the name Microsoft. The resulting domain name looks something like this: Microsoft.maliciousdomainname.com.

Similarly, the phishing artists also create close-match domains that will trick you without a close look. They take a familiar brand like Target or Microsoft and create a new domain with that brand name slightly misspelled. If you don’t look close, you might miss it. They will take target.com and change it to tarrget.com, or targt-customer-support.com.

3: The message contains poor spelling and grammar

Whenever a large company sends out a message on behalf of the company the message is usually reviewed for spelling, grammar, and several other things. So, if a message is filled with poor grammar or spelling mistakes, it probably didn’t come from a major corporation.

4: The message asks for personal information

No matter how official an email message might look, it’s always a bad sign if the message asks for personal information. Your bank doesn’t need you to send it your account number. It already knows what it is. Similarly, a reputable company should never send an email asking for your password, credit card number, or the answer to a security question.

5: The offer seems too good to be true

There is an old saying that if something seems too good to be true, it probably is. That holds especially true for email messages. If you receive a message from someone unknown to you who is making big promises, the message is probably a scam.

6: You didn’t initiate the action

Yesterday I received an email message informing me that I had won the lottery!

The only problem is that I never bought a lottery ticket. If you get a message informing you that you have won a contest you did not enter, you can bet that the message is a scam.

7: You’re asked to send money to cover expenses

One sign of a phishing email is being asked for money. You might not get asked for cash in the initial message. But sooner or later, phishing artists will likely ask for money to cover expenses, taxes, fees, etc. If that happens, you can be assured it’s a scam.

8: The message makes unrealistic threats

Although most phishing scams try to trick people into giving up cash or sensitive information by promising instant riches, some phishing attempts use intimidation to scare victims into giving up information. If a message contains unrealistic threats, it’s likely a scam

9: The message appears to be from a government agency

Phishers who use intimidation don’t always pose as a bank. Often, they’ll send messages claiming to have come from a law enforcement agency, the IRS, or just about any other entity that might scare the average law-abiding citizen.

I can’t tell you how government agencies work outside the United States. But here, government agencies don’t normally use email as an initial point of contact, and law enforcement agencies follow certain protocols. They don’t engage in email-based extortion—at least, not in our experience.

10: Something just doesn’t look right

In Las Vegas, casino security teams are taught to look for anything that JDLR—just doesn’t look right, as they call it. The idea is that if something looks off, there’s probably a good reason why. This same principle almost always applies to email messages. If you receive a message that seems suspicious, it’s usually in your best interest to avoid acting on the message.

To Summarize:

In summary, think before you click! You need to have your guard up and be leery of getting scammed. Use common sense and trust your instincts.

If you have any questions, or if you have fallen victim to a phishing email and need help getting problems resolved on your business computer or business network, we can help! You can learn all about our Managed IT Solutions here at our website, or you can contact us by calling (888) 799-4777.

Managed Services Defined

What is Managed Services?

The new term relating to IT Support is “Managed IT Services”, or just “Managed Services”. But what does this mean?

Generally, Managed Services allows the business to allocate their IT operations to an outside source, known as a Managed Services Provider, or (MSP). Managed Service Providers assume an ongoing responsibility for 24-hour monitoring. MSP’s managing and provide problem resolutions for the network systems, and do it all for a fixed monthly fee.


It all started at “Break-Fix”

Small businesses outsourcing their IT needs to an IT service firm isn’t a new concept. It started with what is called the “break-fix” model. This is easy to understand. When the business experienced something broken on a computer or their network, they would call someone to fix it.

Some small businesses use this break-fix model but an employee within the company has the adopted roll of an IT technician and struggles through diagnosis and problem resolution wasting valuable time.

Over time, the best of the IT technicians had developed procedures to periodically come on-site to review of logs and user information looking for hints of issues before they became a big issue. In some instances, a detailed checklist was used to track system usage, traffic, etc.

There are several problems with the Break-Fix model.

Even with good technicians and their checklists, they are limited in what they can see, and thus are limited in predicting potential problems. There is a lot of guess work involved. Also, computers and networks crash a lot in this model, meaning that there are a lot of employees without the ability to work and productivity is lost along with profits.

One of the biggest problems is that the worse your system gets, the more you are paying the IT company to keep coming and fixing things. It’s like an auto mechanic. The more car problems you have, the more you must pay the mechanic. It makes it difficult to control costs and you never know how much to budget.

Managed Services as an Alternative

With the recent introduction of Managed Services, it has caused a major change in the way that many businesses deal with their technology. Instead of following the traditional way of break-fix action where you literally wait until devices fail and then rush to fix them, a business with a Managed Service Provider (MSP) can consistently enjoy a stable network and stable computers.

When you hire an MSP to manage the IT side of your business, you generally are getting several things.

One is that you are getting an IT team, so you have a wide range of skills and abilities working on your system. You are also getting pro-active maintenance along with threat detection and prevention. Another huge thing you are getting is consultations about your system- someone that functions like a Chief Technology Officer for your small business.

The result of all of this is you have a team of highly skilled IT technicians servicing your system, keeping your data secure, keeping your system up and at peak performance, someone to ask questions to and easily fix little issues and avoid the big issues. And, you get all of this for less than if you hired a dedicated IT staff for your business, at a fixed monthly fee.

“Break-Fix” VS “Managed Services”

Let’s look at the two solutions side-by-side.

Break-Fix Pro’s:

  • Only paying for services rendered when they are rendered.

Break-Fix Con’s:

  • Unpredictable computer or network performance. One computer or the entire system could go down at any moment.
  • When there is a failure, you must wait until your IT support firm has the availability to help you. If your IT support is currently dealing with another emergency, then you must wait. This could result in long periods of down-time, wasting the time of your employees and draining profits.
  • The more unstable your system, the more you end up paying. Costs are unpredictable from month to month.
  • When the customer has problems, it takes up a lot of their time dealing with the IT support firm.

Managed Services Pro’s:

  • Near elimination of risk for computer or network failure. The business will experience close to zero down-time.
  • All computers and components of the system will run at peak performance.
  • A team of trained IT professionals monitors and maintains your system. Pro-active measures are taken to ensure system stability when trouble is on the horizon.
  • If any problems arise, it is already determined how to request service and technicians will begin working on the problem quickly.
  • Outside threats to your system (such as viruses) are dramatically reduced.
  • The entire system is backed up the right way. If any sort of major event were to happen, the entire system could be brought back quickly to get the company back to normal business operations.
  • The cost of all of this is very predictable because it is all done for a flat monthly rate.

Managed Services Con’s:

  • Theoretically, there is no down side to managed services. However, one down side could be false expectations of the consumer. When you hire an MSP, this does not mean that you will never experience network or computer issues again. With an MSP, you aren’t getting perfection. But, you are dramatically increasing the overall health of your system, your uptime, your productivity and much more.
  • The cost. Some small businesses that investigate managed solutions for the first time can feel the price is high. Purchasing managed services usually isn’t cheap, but neither is on-call IT support. However, many businesses don’t realize how much they are spending on their flawed IT support. They are paying for their break-fix IT support technician, plus for lost time and inefficiency, for ill-equipped employees trying and failing to successfully manage their network, and potentially much more.

Why Break-Fix is no longer good enough for your business

It today’s business environment, businesses heavily rely on their computers, their network and being up and connected all the time. No business can really afford to have a shaky network, or be down for any period.  No business can really afford to willingly expose themselves to all the new-age online criminal rings. A good business doesn’t has the time to deal with major outages, or data corruption, or data theft, or systems held together by a shoestring

Is It Time for Your Business to Make the Switch?

If your small business is currently using the break-fix model for IT support, you may want to consider making the switch to managed services. Here are a few questions to ask yourself when you think about the possibilities.

  1. Is an employee or the business owner, either of which have no real IT credentials, managing your computers and network?
  2. Over the past year, did your server go down or go off-line? How many times and for how long?
  3. Over the past year, did any of your computers crash, become unresponsive, or have to be restarted because things were getting weird? How many times?
  4. Over the past year, have you had to call an IT support technician to come to your office to investigate problems? How many times?
  5. Are any of your employee’s wasting time by waiting for programs to load, or basically everything on the machine is running sluggish? How much time is being wasted every week or month?
  6. Have you ever lost business data that couldn’t be recovered? Or, did it take a long time to recover?
  7. How many problems are you currently just “dealing with” because you don’t want to spend the time or money to have someone look at it?

There are a lot more questions that could be asked, but that is a good list to start with. If you answered any of these questions in the affirmative, then it could be a good time for your business to consider making the switch to managed services.

Is your current IT solution not getting it done at your business?

Call AZCOMP at (888) 799-4777 to discuss your IT situation and needs. We can help!

Learn more about AZCOMPs managed service solution at our website here.

Is Your IT Guy Holding You Prisoner?

Don’t Let Your IT Guy Hold You Prisoner

Here’s a question to think about: If your IT guy were to go away, would you know where all of your passwords, data, software licenses and disks, key codes, and other important information were stored? Do you know the process to log into your server? Do you know the passwords needed to access your employee’s workstations? Do you know where your offsite data is stored, and how to access it? Is your network documented so that another IT person could come in and pickup where it was left off? If not, your IT guy may be holding you prisoner.

If he’s doing his job well, you might not mind too much; however, you should require that they document your network in the event that they don’t show up for work one day.

Occasionally I’ve run across potential new clients who aren’t truly happy with their IT guy’s work, but stay with them out of fear. As one business owner to another, this is NEVER a good reason to stay with your current provider.

If you can’t trust the person with the most access and power over your computer network – the core of your business – you need to find someone you CAN trust. A truly professional person or provider would NEVER hold their client hostage or do any harm in handing over the “keys” to another company. In addition, any good IT Professional should be able to walk you through the transition to prevent that person from doing any damage.

How To Know If Your IT Is Doing A Good Job

Another reason business owners stay with their current IT solution, is simply because they don’t know what good service really is.  Time and time again, I’m absolutely SHOCKED by the incompetence and irresponsibility that I discover when auditing most business networks. In 98% of the computer networks I review, I find faulty or non-existent backup systems, security loopholes, half-helpful reporting, and broken or flawed systems that simply cost more to maintain.

Why do so many businesses pay for substandard computer support? Simply because they don’t know how to truly verify that their network IS secure and they end up having to take someone at their word.

 


Here’s a quick test to see if your IT guy is doing his job well. If your technician does not score a “yes” on every point, you could be paying for substandard support

  1. Do they answer their phones “live” and respond to support issues in one hour or less?
  2. Are they remotely monitoring your network 24-7-365 to keep critical security settings, virus definitions, and security patches up to date?
  3. Do they INSIST on monitoring an offsite as well as an onsite backup, or are they letting you rely on outdated tape backups?
  4. Do they INSIST on doing periodic test restores of your backups to make sure the data is not corrupt and could be restored in the event of a disaster?
  5. Do they consistently (and proactively) offer innovative ways to improve your network’s performance, or do they wait until you have a problem to make recommendations?
  6. Do they explain what they are doing and answer your questions in terms that you can understand (not geek-speak)?
  7. Do they complete projects on time and on budget, or does every project end up taking longer and costing more than you expected?
  8. Do they offer any guarantees on their services?
  9. Do they have other technicians on staff who are familiar with your network in case your regular technician goes on vacation or gets sick?
  10. Do their technicians maintain current vendor certifications and participate in ongoing training, or do you feel as though they are learning on your dime?
  11. Do you have to manage their progress on projects, or do they provide frequent updates, status reports, and follow-up calls and e-mails?
  12. Do they take calls from other clients while working on your network (and on your dime)?
  13. Do they offer flat-rate or fixed-fee project quotes, or do they give themselves an open playing field with “time and materials?”

If your current IT solution failed This test, we would like to give you a FREE Network Assessment to ensure things are done correctly!

If you’re NOT happy with your IT person and have a suspicion that they aren’t doing the best job possible, then call us for a second opinion. At no cost or obligation to you, we’ll come to your office and conduct a network assessment to look for problems with your backup, security, speed, and any other problems that could lead to data loss, downtime, and high repair fees.