Blog by ComTech ActiveCare

Protect Your Data, Protect Your Business

Monday, 18 December 2017 00:00

Tech Gifts 2017: Samsung Q7F 4K TV

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We like tech, it’s what we do. As the holiday shopping season kicks into overdrive, we are bringing you 12 of the most requested, most wanted tech gifts for 2017. Check back each business day between now and December 19th for another must-have tech item and why you should check it out.

Samsung Q7F 4K TV

You’ve purchased the new Xbox One X or a PS4 Pro, and now you can’t wait to get gaming. Or maybe the console purchase was for a spouse and/or child. Sure, your run-of-the-mill HDMI capable TV that adorns your living room will connect. But you didn’t get all that new and great 4K power just to force it onto a standard high definition television, did you?

Of course not. You have 4K now, so that demands a great 4K experience. The folks over at Samsung hear you and have just the screen in mind. The Samsung Q7F is the perfect TV for your 4K movies or games. It’s great for media consumption, with four HDMI ports and three USB ports. These can be used individually, or you can connect all your devices to the Samsung One Connect Box, which acts as a hub for HDMI connections and feeds into the TV via a single cable. Super convenient when you have multiple systems.

Recommended by the folks over at Xbox, this premium screen will run you minimum $2,800 for the 55” model and as high as $6,000 for the 75” version. Available at most retailers, the best deals are usually hiding on the store’s website.

Happy Holidays and good luck on the tech hunt from all of us here at ComTech Computer Services, Inc.!

Friday, 15 December 2017 00:00

Net Neutrality In Everyday Life

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We’ve all heard the words “net neutrality” bouncing around for the past few months. Many of us have no idea what this term means, even though we benefit from them every day. Here is what you need to know about this important topic.

Net Neutrality

When you go on the internet you are first brought to your home page of your chosen search engine. For some people this home page is Bing, for others, Yahoo, for still others it is Google. From this starting point, you can go anywhere. If you are looking for a particular site, all you must do is type the address in and away you go. If you are looking for certain information, but don’t know exactly where to find it, all you must do is type in what you want to know more about and your search engine will bring you all results about that topic. Your internet service provider can’t decide which results to give you, so you end up being able to see all results available on the web. With the ending of net neutrality, this internet as we know it may come to an end.

What is Net Neutrality?

The phrase “net neutrality” basically means that all websites on the internet are treated the same by your internet service provider. They can’t discriminate against sites based on popularity, type, or any other factor. Meaning if you have CenturyLink as a provider, they are not allowed to block any sites from you or allowed to slow down services to certain sites. All websites get the same treatment across the board, regardless of their content or popularity.

For example, my internet service provider loads YouTube at the same speed that it loads Netflix. It doesn’t discriminate on the site in any way.

How does this affect me?

Friday, 15 December 2017 00:00

Tech Gifts 2017: Google Home Mini

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We like tech, it’s what we do. As the holiday shopping season kicks into overdrive, we are bringing you 12 of the most requested, most wanted tech gifts for 2017. Check back each business day between now and December 19th for another must-have tech item and why you should check it out.

Google Home Mini

Google has been hitting the market over the past year with their own devices to rival their competition in the tech market. One of these innovations is the Google Home Mini. The Mini is considerably smaller than their standard Google Home device ($129) and sports a smaller price tag accordingly. The Mini is built with families in mind and works in conjunction with Chromecast to control your TV, stream movies, and send music to your speakers. You can also have the Google Mini play from the device itself.

It recognizes your voice, so multiple users can access their own playlists, calendars, and more with just their voice. It also features hands-free calling for those times when too busy to hold a phone to your ear. The mini can control your lights, thermostat, and more with a voice command, but those require external devices and/or apps.

Overall, for only $49 it does a solid job of bringing your entertainment into the next generation without depleting your rainy-day fund.

Happy Holidays and good luck on the tech hunt from all of us here at ComTech Computer Services, Inc.!

Weighing the pros and cons of software subscription and perpetual license models

Software Licensing Debate

With a big name, traditionally boxed products like Microsoft Office 365 being offered via new subscription licensing models and online subscription platforms like G Suite we, as IT pros, have decided to consider the subscription model and determine if and when it is right for businesses. Many of our clients rely on software platforms to get work done and have been asking us questions about subscription vs. purchase options.

In some cases, like with Microsoft Office, businesses have the choice to buy boxed products, volume license deals, or subscription licenses. This is very flexible and allows us a variety of alternative options. G Suite, however, doesn’t offer the physical purchase version – online subscription licensing is the only option. As the business environment continues to evolve, subscription models of all kinds will be a growing trend –  something that the tech industry must face and understand.

Why Subscribe? The Top Reasons Software Subscription Licensing is Becoming More Popular

Thursday, 14 December 2017 00:00

The Ins and Outs of Cybersecurity

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Cybersecurity is something many of us are not entirely familiar with. It seems like something we do not need to worry about unless we work in the tech industry, because who ever heard of an individual being targeted on the web? As seemingly unlikely as it may seem there are cyber-attacks issued on individuals every day. This means that not only do large industries such as the banking and healthcare industry need to worry about cyber-attacks, but everyone including the average Joe should be aware of this potential threat. The sad truth is that if you are using the internet you have the potential to be targeted by hackers.

Cybersecurity

Why Cybersecurity Matters

Cybersecurity is essential in ensuring that private or sensitive information does not fall into the wrong hands. This is becoming increasingly difficult as the number of harmful material- such as malware- that is being launched daily has risen to nearly 230,000 samples. It can be difficult for people to determine what is safe and what is not safe on the internet these days with the rising number of hacking attempts. Already cybersecurity crimes are costing $100 billion dollars a year globally. This number is only expected to increase, and an estimated $1 trillion will be spent on cybersecurity between 2017 and 2021.

When hackers and cyber terrorists are making these attempts, there are usually sinister motives behind them. This is usually an attempt to steal information so that they may be able to commit fraud, harassment, or identity theft. If they are successful in their attempts hackers can do more than ruin your day, it could have lasting effects on you and your company.

Who is Affected by Cyber Crimes

Thursday, 14 December 2017 00:00

Tech Gifts 2017: Sony Alpha 6000

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Digital photography is becoming easier to do with your smartphone, some phone cameras even rivaling some of the lower end cameras. But for those purists out there, it’s tough to beat the value you get with the Sony Alpha 6000. The camera is a mirrorless design with interchangeable lenses and takes photos at 24 megapixels, that’s double what the iPhone X offers.

Sony Digital Camera

The body design is the perfect size for the average human, not too small nor too large. It fits just right in your hand. It offers fast, continuous shooting (up to 11 frames per second) all while maintaining autofocus and auto exposure, and is sports a quicker autofocus than the leading DSLR camera. The A6000 also shoots video in 1080p and comes equipped with HDMI output.

A great camera for the price, you can snag one with a 16-50mm lens for around $550. More lenses are available but will quickly run up the price.

Wednesday, 13 December 2017 00:00

Tech Gifts of 2017: Microsoft Xbox One X

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XBOXWe like tech, it’s what we do. As the holiday shopping season kicks into overdrive, we are bringing you 12 of the most requested, most wanted tech gifts for 2017. Check back each business day between now and December 19th for another must-have tech item and why you should check it out.

If you’re a gamer, especially a console gamer, you’ve no doubt heard of or are watching the Xbox One X. Microsoft has taken its flagship console, the Xbox One, and turned it up a few notches. Sporting 40% more power than any other console on the market and a 6 teraflop GPU (that’s crazy fast), it’s able to produce true 4K visuals.

The new Xbox comes equipped with a 4K Blu-ray disc drive (only console that has this), 4K DVR and 4K streaming, fastest load times of any console on the market, and is compatible with all of your Xbox One games and accessories. The Xbox One X comes with a 1TB hard drive and retails for $499.99 and is in stock at most retailers but you might want to check availability before driving down to your local retailer.

The Xbox One X is an impressive piece of hardware that brings 4K visuals to stunning life. Now you just need that beautiful new 4K TV. (check back next week for more on 4K TVs)

Happy Holidays and good luck on the tech hunt from all of us here at ComTech Computer Services, Inc.!

Wednesday, 13 December 2017 00:00

What you need to know about VPNs

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 With stories of large-scale data breaches and internet service providers tracking internet habits, online privacy is becoming a rare commodity. Incognito mode and private browsing features may be able to cover up your browsing history, but they don’t completely protect your online activities. You need a Virtual Private Network (VPN).

What is VPN?

Simply put, a VPN is a group of servers you connect to via the internet. Once you’ve established a connection, your computer acts as if it’s on the same local connection as the VPN, making it seem like you moved to a different location.

When you surf the web through a VPN, all the data transmitted and received is also encrypted, preventing anyone — from hackers to government agencies — from monitoring your online activities.

Why should you have one?

Tuesday, 12 December 2017 00:00

Definition: GDRP

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GDPR definition

GDPR : [gee-dee-pee-arr] noun.

GDPR, or the General Data Protection Regulation, is a set of rules designed to protect the privacy and personal data of European Union residents. The implications of GDPR are far reaching, as it impacts all organizations worldwide that collect personal information about EU residents. Non-compliance with GDPR can carry serious financial consequences, with some proposals calling for damages of up to 4% of a company's annual revenue or 20 million Euros — whichever is higher . The regulation was approved in 2016 and is set to become effective on May 25, 2018.

In a nutshell, the regulations affect how companies must handle personal user data commonly tracked online. This includes IP addresses, geographic locations, names, home or work addresses, gender, and a wide range of more sensitive information such as health status, political affiliation, religion, and ethnicity, among other things. 

When business owners regale the virtues of Office 365, others listen and say, “Well, maybe one day we’ll look into it.” The problem with this kind of thinking is that it puts O365 in a box only reserved for larger companies, and that’s not how the platform is designed to work. Many of the features Microsoft has recently added are beneficial for small businesses that want to grow.

Small Business Office 365

An Upgrade from Traditional Licensing

New, small businesses tend to take a casual approach to licensing, buying individual licenses for their personal/work computers as needed. That’s fine, but only for a while. Eventually purchasing one-at-a-time licenses for the Office Suite or other important software becomes expensive and complex to manage from an administrator’s perspective.

O365 is designed for businesses that have grown beyond a few people, into a staff of employees with multiple desktop computers and mobile devices. When you purchase a package, you’re purchasing services based on the number of users, instead of trying to manage individual licenses, or one-time purchases. This makes it easy to plan for upcoming hires while creating a system that you can manage easily. It also helps you close the door on significant security vulnerabilities.

Collaboration Through the Cloud

Cloud tools are everyway these days, and O365 does a particularly good job of encouraging cloud collaboration. No matter what documents you’re working on, they are connected across Office 365 via platforms like SharePoint, so that you team can see them, share and work on them at the same time. Cloud collaboration is built in from the ground level for Word, Excel, Outlook, PowerPoint, and other core Microsoft apps.

Strategies for Telling the Difference Between Legit Companies and Scam Sites

Fraudulent Website

The online landscape can often feel like a field full of landmines. Phishing scams and infected websites are everywhere, waiting for unsuspecting victims to make a wrong click or inadvertently hand over sensitive data.

As technology professionals, we know the importance of being able to tell a scam artist from a legitimate service provider. We also know the value of using real-life experiences as teaching tools. That’s why we’re going to share a recent experience of ours.

How We’re Using a Message We Received to Empower Online Consumers

Not too long ago, we received the following message through our website:

I am highly concerned about getting my computer fixed through this company today. Is there anything you can send me to confirm this is not a fraudulent company? 

First, we should make it very clear, that no, we are definitely not a fraudulent company. On Time Tech has been providing strategic and reliable IT support to individuals and businesses in all industries for nearly 15 years. The combined experience and expertise of our team allows us to deliver the highest level of IT service for California business owners. You can check out our wide variety of dynamic and strategic service offerings here.

However, we also want to say: we get it. In fact, we applaud the vigilance in the message we received. Trusting your personal or business devices with an external company for repair requires a certain level of assurance. Businesses and individuals alike should never haphazardly send information to a company before doing their research.

So, we’ve decided to use this message as a teaching tool. What strategies can individuals and professionals use to detect fraudulent sites from legitimate ones? Our goal is to offer concrete tools that will help consumers of all kinds feel more informed and empowered when navigating the online marketplace.

Tips and Tricks: How to Tell a Legitimate Site from A Phony One

Understanding the Key Differences Between Microsoft’s OneDrive and SharePoint Applications

Sharepoint vs. Onedrive

Microsoft’s collection of software is continually evolving. As it continues to grow, many users are noticing quite a bit of overlap between application capabilities. For business owners, this can be a challenge – especially when trying to decide which apps are worth investing in.

Two Microsoft apps that are especially hard to differentiate are OneDrive and SharePoint. The simple fact is that both apps have a lot in common and are stocked with very similar features. However, they aren’t identical and understanding the key differences can help business owners make more informed decisions when choosing an application to invest in and deploy.

Breaking Down the Basics: How Microsoft Defines OneDrive and SharePoint

In order to get a lay of the land, it’s helpful to try and understand the purpose of each application. While they do have some overlap, the applications were created separately and Microsoft defines the purpose and features of each application differently.

  • OneDrive: Microsoft defines OneDrive as an online document/file storage hub. It’s most commonly used by both individuals and business teams looking for a centralized headquarters to access, save and store files. OneDrive is also configured to allow file-sharing and versioning, which allows it to serve as more than a digital filing cabinet. Additionally, Microsoft has two versions of the OneDrive app – one for individual consumers and one specifically designed for business optimization, adequately named OneDrive for Business. OneDrive is also built into the Office 365 online platform.
  • SharePoint: Microsoft defines SharePoint as a collaboration tool for businesses that helps team members work better together. SharePoint allows business teams to open, share and access files and allows team members to work on the same document, together, in real-time. SharePoint also allows for process streamlining and has data and app management tools. Microsoft has an on-premise version of SharePoint as well as a version that’s built into Office 365 for the Cloud.

Confused Yet? Let’s Explore the Key Categories of Difference

Outlooks Shareable Calendar and How It Fits into Aspects of Everyday Life

A shared calendar is one step in the direction of having all involved on the same page. It is little more frustrating than trying to work on a project or develop ideas when everyone is not equally informed. With Outlooks shared calendar these issues are a thing of the past, and keeping everyone informed and up to date has never been easier. The shared calendar option is one that is relatively new and boasts a number of positive impacts on everyday life.

Easily Share Important Information

Outlook has designed their sharable calendar to be incredibly user-friendly. Through Office 365 users are able to find and share their calendar events with ease. By first opening Microsoft Office 365 and then continuing to “view all apps” users will find their calendar. Here the option to add or edit events is available. Also available is the share option. After selecting the share option, you will be prompted as to who you would like to send this email to. You can also choose what details of the event they will be able to see. This might mean they can view all the details, only the titles, and dates, or other adjustable options which the sender chooses.

This is extremely easy for the recipient as well. They must only accept the invitation to view the details of the event. This way both the sender and recipient are easily able to share calendar events including the desired details through the simplicity of a few clicks of the mouse.

Keep Everyone on the Same Page

Friday, 08 December 2017 00:00

HOLIDAY CYBER SCAM ALERT

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The Leading Ways Cybercriminals Target Consumers and Businesses During the Holidays

Holiday Cyber Scams

As the holiday season is now upon us, everyone is starting to get in the spirit. Decorations are going up, shopping malls are getting busy and gifts are being wrapped. However, unfortunately, the holidays have a tendency to bring out the worst in some people – especially cybercriminals who prey on others for their own gain.

Every year, around this time, reports of hacks and scams skyrocket. Cybercrooks do whatever they can to take advantage of the chaotic holiday shopping environment in order to trick and rob unsuspecting victims. This is easy in a busy online environment, that is especially hectic during the holiday season.

Inboxes fill up quicker than usual with Christmas lists and last minute RSVPs to Christmas dinner. Not to mention the massive amount of order confirmations, online receipts and special holiday promos that come through from retailers. Because of this, our guard is down and we may not be as vigilant at identifying suspicious looking emails. For cybercriminals, this presents an amazing opportunity to deploy phishing scams and play the cyber-Grinch.

Breaking Down the Basics: How do Phishing Scams Work?

A laptop would just be a cold piece of aluminum with a flat battery if you don’t have a power socket at hand. It’s hard to get any work done when you’re peppered with pop-ups and warning messages when the battery power gets low. So here are some tips you can use to prolong the life of your precious laptop battery.

Some truths about your laptop battery

Batteries in many devices nowadays are lithium-based — either lithium-ion or lithium-polymer — so users must take note of the following guidelines for their proper maintenance:

  • They can’t be overcharged, even though you leave your battery plugged in for a long period of time. When the battery hits 100%, it’ll stop charging.
  • Leaving your battery completely drained will damage it.
  • Batteries have limited lifespans. So no matter what you do, yours will age from the very first time you charge it. This is because as time passes, the ions will no longer be able to flow efficiently from the anode to the cathode, thereby reducing its capacity.

What else can degrade your battery

Thursday, 07 December 2017 00:00

Microsoft Office 2019 is on its Way!

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A Timeline of Important Rollout Dates for Microsoft Office 2019

Microsoft Office 2019Recently, Microsoft announced the development of a brand-new Office suite, appropriately named Microsoft Office 2019. However, aside from mentioning that the new suite would launch sometime in late 2018, the Microsoft camp has been pretty quiet about the specific rollout and release dates.

However, Office 365 is just as much a service as it is a software. This is a helpful fact because as a service model the new Office Suite will require a series of predictable dates so business users can prepare. Those dates will include release schedules, maintenance milestones as well as key support expiration dates.

This makes anticipating important dates in the transition from Office 2016 to Office 2019 possible. To ensure your business is up-to-date and prepared for the Office 2019 release, check out this timeline of important dates.

Outlook 2019 Release Phase 1 – Preview: Summer 2018

Earlier this year, Microsoft released a statement claiming that previews of the new Office 2019 application would start shipping by mid-year, 2018. As a result, many in the tech industry have been making estimations for an actual date and Computerworld has placed their bet on July 10th, 2018.

Computerworld’s guess is strong, because of July 10th, 2018 is the scheduled date for the release of what Microsoft has coded the “Semi-Annual Channel” of Office 365 ProPlus. For clarity, ProPlus is the suite that provides the rights to locally installed applications, including Excel, Outlook, and Word for Office 365 subscribers. Because licensed versions of Office 2019 will be built from code already released as Office 365 ProPlus, it’s most likely that Microsoft will use the March 2018 feature upgrade for Office 365 ProPlus subscribers as the basis for Office 2019.

Wednesday, 06 December 2017 00:00

Reduce Your Tax Burden

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Take Advantage of the IRS 179 Deduction Before the End of 2017!

The IRS 179 Deduction was enacted to help small businesses like yours by allowing you to take a depreciation deduction for certain assets in one year, rather than depreciating them over a longer period of time.

It allows you to take an outright deduction equal to the full purchase price of a qualifying piece of equipment. This means you can lessen your taxable income, and ultimately your tax burden.

Reduce your tax liability by acquiring new technology before the end of 2017. Section 179 is only available to U.S. companies until the end of the 2017 calendar year.

The Section 179 Deduction

Taking a deduction on an asset in its first year is called a “Section 179 Deduction.” You reap a huge benefit by taking the full deduction for the cost of an asset immediately, rather than spreading it out over its useful life.

Who Gets the Depreciation? 

Wednesday, 06 December 2017 00:00

Imgur Breach Affects 1.7 Million Users

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The popular photo-sharing site Imgur was a victim of a data breach in 2014 that saw 1.7 million email addresses and passwords. The site put out a blog post on November 24th, 2017 notifying its users of the breach after its password algorithm was cracked.

Photo Sharing

Imgur was notified by Troy Hunt, who runs the data breach notification site Have I Been Pwned. Hunt notified the photo sharing site on Thursday, November 23rd after he was sent data that included the Imgur users.

Imgur’s CEO and its Vice President of Engineering, who securely received the data in order to verify that it was indeed from their users. Imgur did verify that the stolen data does not include information such as real names, addresses, or phone numbers, as the site doesn’t ask its users for such information.

The incident is still under investigation and Imgur CEO Roy Sehgal said that attackers likely cracked the site’s password encryption through “brute force”, due to an older algorithm. The algorithm has since been replaced and updated.

Imgur encourages users to make sure that they are using different password and username combinations on each of their online accounts. Also, it’s a good idea to reset your passwords for each account as well.

In the wake of recent data breaches and ransomware attacks, there are a few things to keep in mind to protect your data, both online and offline:

  • Stay up to date on software patches
  • Use a different password for each online account and don’t make any of them the same
  • Encrypt sensitive files
  • Back up your files

Cybersecurity is a big deal and a big job. But it is never foolproof. You have to stay vigilant and uncompromising in your security measures. Don’t let hackers take what you’ve worked so hard to build.

Tuesday, 05 December 2017 00:00

Try out Microsoft’s newest releases today!

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 At Microsoft’s 2017 Ignite conference, three new apps were announced that help small businesses streamline everyday tasks. The apps — Connections, Listings, and Invoicing — spent a few months as limited previews, but are now available to anyone with an Office 365 Business Premium subscription. Let’s take a look at what they do and how to enable them for your team.

Microsoft Invoicing

Word and Excel have hundreds of templates for generating company invoices, but this new app does much more than just create documents. Invoicing allows you to store the names, descriptions, and prices of your products and services in a connected database. You can also store your tax information, company logo, and a click-to-pay PayPal badge, which means half of the necessary information is automatically filled out the moment you click Create.

In addition to clean and professional looking documents, Invoicing also makes it easy to organize, store, and search past invoices thanks to a built-in QuickBooks integration. Last but not least, all of this is easily accessible from Microsoft’s mobile app.

Tuesday, 05 December 2017 00:00

Is Skype HIPAA Compliant?

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Breaking Down Compliance Concerns for Healthcare Providers Using Skype

Skype HIPAA Compliant

Every day, we work alongside a variety of healthcare providers to ensure HIPAA data compliance standards are implemented correctly. As technology-for-business continues to evolve, instant messaging platforms – like the one provided in Skype – offer a convenient way of quickly communicating information between team members or departments.

However, we’ve been getting this question a lot lately: is Skype HIPAA compliant? More specifically, can Skype be used to send electronic protected health information (ePHI) without violating HIPAA mandates? Very simply, should healthcare providers be using Skype when it comes to the transmission of sensitive patient health data?

The debate is still out on Skype and HIPAA compliance. Skype does include built-in security features to prevent unauthorized access of transmitted data, and all Skype messages are encrypted. However, built-in security tools don’t necessarily mean total HIPAA compliance. When it comes down to it, the way healthcare organizations implement and use Skype is what makes the difference when it comes to compliance.

First Things First: Is Skype Considered a Business Associate under HIPAA?

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