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Encrypted Email: What It Is and Why You Need It

August 9th, 2017 No comments

Encrypting email is ensuring that the information you send is only available to you and the person you are sending it to. Unprotected data is particularly vulnerable when it is in transit between email servers. Those with malicious intent often see the time when data is being transferred as a prime opportunity to attempt a hack. When you encrypt your email, you are protecting things like passwords and personal information from third-party access.

Although it may seem like a hassle, evolving technology has advanced encryption to make it as simple and easy for you to adopt as possible. Some providers, like Zix (our current partner in email encryption), have a framework where you essentially don’t even need to do anything yourself once the system is set. Once they enable encryption with your email, all the work is done in the backend. Your emails are automatically scanned for keywords and sensitive information and then encrypted for safe delivery.  It then automatically decrypts the message upon delivery if the recipients organization also has Zix; if they don’t, the recipient simply clicks on a link in the e-mail to retrieve the encrypted message.

Email protection in the modern world is truly a must have and the provider choose can make more of a difference than you realize. Sure, there are “free” solutions out there, but with cyber threats constantly evolving, the risk you take with a sub-par system might cost you. Trust your most important information to high quality providers that keep up with most advanced and changing security technology.

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A Note on the Recent Cyber-Attack

June 14th, 2017 No comments

You’ve probably recently heard about the cyber-attack that was executed on an unprecedented scale. The attack was executed globally with more than 150 countries affected; companies of all sizes and various government agencies were targeted. Known as “WannaCry”, this ransomware gains access into the computer, encrypts data, and locks the user out until a ransom has been paid. This has been an increasingly popular tool for hackers who use vulnerabilities in security and software to exploit business for financial gain.

While not an extensive list, we wanted to give you a reminder on basic steps to take to increase your security and decrease your risk for attacks like this one.

  1. Review with every member of your organization the importance of careful browsing habits. It is strongly suggested to never click on unknown links, especially those embedded in email. (This cannot be stressed enough, as the recent examples we’ve seen have resulted from users opening an email that at first glance appeared to be legitimate.)
  2. Assure that all apps (for example your browser; Flash; Java; etc.) are updated with the latest versions, contingent upon compatibility with your company’s third party applications; and that all relevant Microsoft security updates (patches) have been installed.
  3. Make certain that you have a good backup. Intellicom may or may not manage your backup already – if you’re not sure please contact our helpdesk.

This is real and very serious, and we continue to see examples of local companies and individuals being affected by malware.

If you would like our assistance in implementing any of these steps, please let us know by calling us at (308) 237-0684, option 1. We believe that these types of attacks and exploits will continue into the foreseeable future and will require us all to be ever more vigilant with the security of our networks. Intellicom is committed to staying on top of the most current toolsets to help you protect your business.

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How to Know it’s Time for a New Website

April 19th, 2017 No comments

There are several signs to indicate that a website needs to be updated. Outdated design and functionality are a classic sign because it’s easy to notice the pain and hassle of trying to navigate a site that wasn’t designed for modern browsing. The thing is, our detection system sometimes turns a blind eye when it comes to our own sites. Apply these three areas of inspection to your own site and see where yours stands.

Outdated

Like stated in the opening, outdated design is one of the easiest things to check for but sometimes is hard to identify in your own site. One of the biggest telltale signs that your design needs an update is if your site over explains what it is trying to convey to your audience.

Modern design has been moving more and more towards visually telling your story. Think about breaking up large chunks of text into “bite size” chunks that allow users to scan and easily find what they are looking for.

A website being outdated doesn’t only refer to its look and feel either. One sign of a website that needs a revamp is having an outdated content management system. The problem with having a faulty or older content management system is that sometimes support for security is stopped and your website could be at a higher risk for malicious attacks without you even knowing.

Lack of Functionality

Having your site work for you includes working for your customer as well. This is to say that having features on your site that actively contribute to your business goals is important. Enticing customers with helpful content, then capturing your visitors with online forms and registrations is vital for turning your website into an active asset to your company.

The other side of the coin is that your website needs to be helpful for your visitors as well. Along with providing helpful content through your website, you also need to focus on navigation. Having intuitive navigation helps visitors find that great content fast and easily. Check your website, do you have a website that offers value to your visitors and your company?

Fear of the Unknown

Can you easily run analytics on your existing site?  Do you know what is working and what is not?  When it comes down to it, you can have a great looking website but you will still be missing a key element if you don’t know how it performs. That’s because the key to a successful website is tracking how it performs and reinforcing what works.

With analytic systems like Google Analytics, you can track how individual pages are performing in your website so you can tweak that site to perform better and better.

There is no magic formula when it comes to creating a great site.  Although there are factors that generally help with all websites, each business and their respective audiences require different strategies that work best for them. With the right website, you have the potential to have an asset that actively works for you 24/7. Take these steps to help determine if you should start looking for web providers that help you unlock the right solution for your specific needs. 

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Office 365: What You Need to Know

March 13th, 2017 No comments

Office 365 is the latest in the modern push for services that allow businesses and individuals alike to take advantage of having enterprise level software at a fixed monthly fee. If you are new to Office 365 or are thinking about whether it is right for you, there are a few defining aspects of the new software that you should know.

Applications Offered

With Office 365 you can choose your bundle.  Many Office 365 bundles contain all the applications that were previously available in the Microsoft Office Suite. This includes Word, Excel, Publisher, Powerpoint, Outlook, OneNote, and Access. This aspect of Office 365 is on par with previous versions of Microsoft’s Office software.

This is important to know because it means that the transition will be smooth in terms of how you use the applications you are already familiar with. Changes that Office 365 brings from previous versions are how you can now use these applications to collaborate and increase efficiency.

Cloud Based

Office 365 has taken to the cloud. All activity that you do on the included applications will be saved and stored online. Cloud-based computing can completely change the way that you work with your team and can increase productivity greatly. When you have all your working documents set up in the cloud, you can have that file available to any team member with any edits being made to everyone in real-time. Not only this, but all updates are done over the cloud which allows users to continually have the latest updates instantly.

The cloud-based service also applies to how to get started with Office 365. In most cases, there isn’t any physical CD or hardware that comes with Office 365.  All installation is done over the internet, which makes it simple to install for many users.

Subscription Pricing

With the increasingly popular payment structure, Office 365 operates on a subscription based billing schedule. So instead of one, large, upfront cost; users pay annually or monthly at a lower cost. This could be appealing to businesses that desire being able to budget for the service without having to worry about one large payment that they must pay again when they need new software.

Security

Much debate has been said over security of cloud-based software. Businesses want to be assured that their information is secure and they need software that does that.  With the rising use, programs like Office 365 are only becoming more secure. As stated earlier, since you are automatically getting the latest updates online, your software will always have the newest security patches and additions with Office 365.

Bottom Line

If you decide to should make the switch to the cloud based Office 365, you need to take into consideration exactly how this software works. Understanding the cloud, payments, and security may require further research. Consult with professionals to get the most from your Office 365 and see how it can boost business in the connected world.

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4 Tech Trends that Will Shape Small Business in 2017

February 10th, 2017 No comments

A new year always has the tendency for bringing new changes to businesses large and small. Both internally and externally, companies must evolve to continually compete with the ever growing competitive landscape.  For small businesses, technology is bringing some key trends that could potentially change the way we do business.  These four are key areas you should pay attention to in 2017 as small business is increasingly utilizing them all to become more adept in the modern world.

1. Cloud Computing

Cloud has been popular over the last few years with small business but looks to be taking another leap in 2017.  A large part of this is the expanding availability of analytics that small businesses are beginning to utilize.  No longer is in-depth data analysis limited to large enterprises.  New software is allowing more companies gather data to help them make better decisions and a large portion of that is being done with cloud services.

Cloud services like Office 365, Salesforce, and Google Drive are continuing to help small business shift to internet based services; providing management and data sharing capabilities that rapidly becoming more mainstream

2. Subscription Bases Services

More businesses are opting to a subscription based sales model in industries that have traditionally never done so; think companies like Dollar Shave Club that take something like razors and make it into a monthly subscription. The benefits like recurring payments create easier sales projections for small business; while consumers also benefit from the ease of an automatic payment while receiving what they need monthly.

For small businesses, this form of recurring payments has benefits that include more stability and an increased capability for accurate budgeting and planning.  Look for more businesses to develop ways to add subscription services for their consumers.

3.  AI Support

Machine learning has taken off in the last year and 2017 may be when we see an explosion of the applications in action; one being online support.  With the advance in technology, small businesses can now able to utilize “smart bots” that can live chat with customers via instant messaging and solve a multitude of problems for them.  This may raise some eyebrows among small businesses because it allows them to handle a much larger workload with less manpower.

One such bot is Facebook’s version of this technology.  Companies can utilize “Answerbot” on their Facebook pages and after connecting the bot to their information base, have the program respond to customers right away.  Technology like Answerbot is only becoming more advanced, too.

4. Cyber-Security

Ok, so security isn’t something that’s exactly new in 2017.  With this being said, the trend remains a top priority for small business because of the new trends and the overall societal trend.  That is an exponentially expanding network of technologies that are being connected.  Cloud computing, subscription based services, AI support; they all create massive opportunity but they also demand a high level of security because they lead the way in that tech connection.

The technology age has led the way for many years and doesn’t plan to stop in 2017.  The fact is, machines are becoming smarter and doing so paves the way for small businesses to have access to elements that have, up until now, have been solely available to large enterprises. Though there are many expanding aspects of tech, keep these trends in mind as you begin your new year, because technology isn’t slowing down.

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Cloud vs. On-Premise Solutions: What You Need to Know

August 18th, 2016 No comments

You’ve come to the point where you have to make the decision.  The dreaded decision.  Will you host your valuable data with a cloud-based vendor or will you opt to keep it close to home with an on-premise solution?  Well, before we dive into the pros and cons of each, we should probably cover what each option entails.

Cloud computing usually consists of your data sitting in a secure data center maintained by the third party vendor.  The client then connects to this vendor, and their data, via a secure internet connection.

On the other hand, the on-premise option is a little more self-explanatory.  Like the name states, this is when the client physically stores their data on servers that are located on their own premise.

So which of these options should you choose?  Well, like most technology decisions, it’s not so much of which option is superior, it’s more about which option is better for you based on your individual circumstances and needs.

Reliability

The strengths that cloud and on-premise solutions provide for reliability can also be their weaknesses.  For example, with cloud, you are very reliant on an internet connection in order to connect with your data.  This means that if the internet is down, so are you.  An on-premise server doesn’t rely on an internet because the physical servers reside in your building.

With this being said, the cloud’s reliability and redundancy can also be a benefit.  If an instance occurs when your on-premise servers are compromised, such as a natural disaster, the downtime will likely be significant.  With the same natural disaster, having your data in the cloud will prevent this downtime.  As long as you have an internet connection, you can access your data from anywhere in the world.

Cost

The cost can sometimes be misleading in the cloud vs. on-premise storage debate.  You can begin by comparing the higher up-front costs of on-premise storage with the usually ongoing subscription costs of the cloud. Another thing to think about is making sure you have adequate bandwidth to access your data in the cloud.

This isn’t where the costs come to an end, though.  Particularly with the on-premise storage, there are a number of on-going costs that people usually don’t think of right away.  You are going to need IT professionals that can maintain and update servers and buying more servers as you require more storage is a distinct possibility.  Even electricity must be taken into consideration when accounting for a room full of servers that must be consistently powered and cooled.

Security

Security is an issue that is many times at the forefront of any decision making; especially with technology.

Although you may have more control over your data with on-premise solutions, storing your data with the cloud usually means getting access to world class security for fraction of the cost.

There is also the matter of the breaches themselves.  Despite popular beliefs, most breaches are more about carelessness than foul intent.  It’s difficult for a company that doesn’t specialize in technology to keep their security practices up to date.

A Different Approach

There is also a third option that is gaining more ground among technology circles recently.  The hybrid approach takes aspects of both the on-premise storage and cloud storage and creates a new solution.

Many times, a company’s decision to take a hybrid approach is less about the sensitivity of the data and more about how critical the application is.  For example, a company may choose to have applications that they need on-premise while applications that aren’t as crucial, and storage of data, is opted to the cloud.

Whether you choose to store your data on-premise, in the cloud, or take a hybrid approach, considering your unique needs is paramount to finding the right solution.  Reliability, cost, and security play important roles in data management but this is by no means an exhaustive list.  Consider talking with a technology expert and make sure you are moving forward with the best option for you.

Tablets, Laptops, Desktops: Decisions, Decisions

March 17th, 2016 No comments

Desktops used to be the only option when it came to computers.  This was until the laptop came about and revolutionized the world with new mobility.  Now the tablet is beginning its rise to the top with even more mobility and rising capabilities.  The question still remains, “which one should I buy?”  When thinking about purchasing a new desktop, laptop or tablet, there are several factors to keep in mind.

Tablets

Tablets are probably the most versatile and easy to use of the three devices. They are navigated by simply swiping or tapping your finger on the screen. This could, however, be a con if you rely on the keyboard for typing activities (although some tablets can have a keyboard attachment).  Tablets also have a greater battery life than laptops and are easier to travel with because of their smaller size.  The size comes with a detriment to their processing power and screen size as well, though.

  • Pros: ultimate portability, ease of use, battery life, cellular connectivity
  • Cons: processing power, typing, capabilities, screen size

Laptops

Laptops offer an upgrade in processing power and the capabilities that you are able to perform in comparison with tablets while still lagging behind desktops.  They also bolster pretty impressive mobility factors with laptops being more light and slim than a desktop option.  The battery life is a major setback in laptops, however, which is usually half as long as tablets.

  • Pros: mobility, processing power, capabilities
  • Cons: battery life, screen size, cost

Desktops

If processing power and capabilities is your main concern and mobility isn’t, then the desktop is probably your best option.  With its superior size to laptops and tablets, desktops are simply the only device that are capable of handling the larger hardware necessary for impressive performance.  With that being said, you shouldn’t plan on going anywhere with this device.  Although they are beginning to make desktops that are relatively mobile, laptops and tablets are superior choices if you need to take your device on the go regularly.

  • Pros: processing power,  screen size, flexibility, cost
  • Cons: mobility

Bottom Line

If you are choosing between a tablet, laptop, or a desktop, it will probably come down to what your needs are.  All of these devices have their own unique strengths as well as weaknesses.  Are you constantly on the run and need to take your device with you?  Do you only need the device at home?  Are you going to be working on large projects or games that require processing power?

Brian Hemmer, Senior Engineer at Intellicom, put it well when he said, “I always look at my unique situation and take it in steps.  I begin with mobility because that can be a huge factor.  I then look at the unique functionalities that each device offers.  With more and more hybrids on the market, you can actually find several devices that offer a larger range of functionalities then ever before.  It is important to do your research when you’re buying and take the time to evaluate your specific needs with the device’s specific appeal.”  Ultimately, the number of devices that are available to you will continue to grow.  Use these tips and make sure you have the right one for your individual needs.

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Four Ways to Maximize your Online Presence

January 21st, 2016 No comments

Online presence is becoming more vital as the business world continues to shift from physical to virtual.  Many business interactions are now being done completely online and this presence can be the difference between success and failure.  These are four easy ways that you can make sure your business is ahead of the game and can be found in what may be an already  competitive market.

Professionally Designed Website

Your website could be the first interaction someone has with your business and first impressions really do count when it comes to consumers.  Having a professional look to your website can set up a positive connection that people have with your business. 

Although the look of the website is important, making sure your site operates efficiently is equally crucial.  You can have an absolutely amazing look to your website but if people have a difficult time navigating or struggle getting through transaction features, those looks will count for little and that positive impression could turn sour.  Nothing turns a potential buyer away more than frustration of an inefficient website.  With professional help, features such as e-commerce, accepting on-line payments, event calendars, photo galleries, statistical reports on visitors and trends, html newsletters, etc… can be made easy and take your site to the next level.

Social Media

Social media is a useful tool that can serve as gentle reminders throughout the day that bring your business to the mind of the consumers.  It is also a way to be a little more informal with your audience and put a human face to your business.  For example, this direct communication could come when someone posts to your page a question relating to one of your products or a problem they are having with your services.  You are now able to professionally display your customer service and responsiveness not only to that person but to a much wider audience.  If you struggle with content, try posting interesting industry articles or scenes from the office that display the personality of your company.  Some popular social media sites many businesses utilize include Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and LinkedIn.

Strong Blog

A strong blog can be a great way to demonstrate your expertise in your area of business and create a hub for people to get useful information.  Take topics that your consumers will care about and use your blog to address those topics, show your expertise, and really connect with people.

SEO

SEO, or Search Engine Optimization, is obviously paramount to online presence because, well, how can people enjoy your website if they can’t find it in a search engine?  There are many ways to improve your SEO rankings and many actually stem from the professional build of your website.  Improving your on-page content, creating effective meta tags, and keeping the content of your website new and relevant all will help keep your page at the top of searches. 

You can also compliment building your long term SEO strategy with PPC, or Pay-Per-Click, advertisements where your site can be sponsored at the top of the search results when certain keywords are searched.  This does have a cost associated with it but can be helpful for fast results.  

Taking advantage of these four areas will enhance your online presence but we would warn you against ever becoming complacent in the ever changing online world.  Many of these tips can be done personally so do some research for the best approach to suit your individual needs and don’t hesitate to seek professional help if you need assistance with implementation.

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The top tech trend for 2016 may already be here

December 17th, 2015 No comments

Well, 2016 is nearly here and many people are asking what to look for in new technology for the coming year.  While there have been many cool advances in trends such as 3D printing and drones, the greatest on the horizon is more of an idea than the actual product.  This is the Internet of Things.  The concept is basically the interconnectivity of, well, things.

In the home setting, the Internet of Things (IoT) could include the thermostat, fridge, stove, coffee maker, television, garage door, locks, etc… all being connected via the internet to create a space that is constantly gathering data and using that data for your convenience.  This idea isn’t limited to personal use, though.  IoT has proven very impactful at an industrial level as well.  Many factories are already using this in production where they have multiple machines gathering data constantly and then relaying it to each other.  This allows production to make real time changes and drive up efficiency.  

We had a chance to get some insight into the Internet of Things from Jeff Hasenauer, VP of Technology here at Intellicom.  Jeff made it clear that IoT isn’t just something that has popped out of nowhere.  He has actually been using many items that utilize this idea for years now.  He does think, however, that IoT is picking up speed in the commercial space.  He has seen countless ads for items this holiday season in particular using IoT that haven’t been in the past such as coffee makers, baby monitors, and crock pots.

Although there is a major cool factor in IoT that many are excited about, Jeff warns of some serious security risks you are taking when using these items.  When you add more and more connections to the internet, you leave more opportunities for hackers to gain access to those items and see the data that the devices are constantly collecting.

For example, a connected thermostat seems harmless enough but you need to be aware that if you set that thermostat to run according to the hours you are home (as most do) and a hacker gains entry into that system, they instantly have knowledge of whenever you are, or aren’t, home.  This also applies to devices that record audio or capture video.  Hackers who gain access to those devices would be able to potentially access that microphone or camera. 

Jeff advises that when you are looking into these type of products, try to find a company that  manufactures multiple devices or integrates multiple features into one device.  This way, if you have problems, you are only one phone call away from accessing support.   He also advocates buying from reputable companies rather than seeking out the cheapest solution.  With your security at risk, the costs are just too great to do otherwise.       

With this considered, IoT is still a concept that has monumental potential in enhancing user experiences, creating more efficiency, and revolutionizing the way people and businesses operate day to day.  It is growing exponentially and will most likely be a major part of technology looking forward.  We at Intellicom are proud to continue providing you with the latest insights into understanding the future of technology.  We wish you Happy Holidays and a successful 2016!  

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Intellicom Continues to Add Value by Extending Business Hours

November 24th, 2015 No comments

Intellicom’s help desk, or Network Operations Center (NOC) is one of the most powerful tools your company has available to keep your technology functioning at a high level.  Our NOC has the ability to monitor your servers and PCs 24x7x365, and can remediate many issues before they grow into significant problems.  Imagine a group of alert, knowledgeable, highly skilled, and friendly technicians, ready and waiting for your call – that’s our NOC team!

In the ongoing effort to provide you and your company with ever-better and more timely support, exciting new changes are being put into place within our NOC.  First, as you may have heard, we have extended our hours, making it easier for you to engage our support! Every member of the Intellicom team is focused on serving you, and with that thought in mind, we have formalized the hours in our NOC to reflect the time we are in the office and available to help.

The change went into effect on Monday, November 9th, and support from the NOC is now available starting promptly at 7:30 AM every Monday through Friday.  We remain open until 5:30 PM each weekday. 

This change gives us the opportunity to solve any technology issues your company may face at (or even before!) the traditional start of the work day. As always, the number to call is (308) 237-0684, option 1. 

In addition to letting you know about our extended hours, we want to remind you that email is also, and always, a great way to contact us.  Send your email to: support@intellicominc.com. This assures that every member of our NOC team sees your message, AND it automatically creates a new support ticket for your issue.

These changes help you get more out of your relationship with Intellicom, and reflect our desire to be here for you with timely and expert support.  Every technician on our NOC staff appreciates the opportunity to help you get the most out of your technology, and we look forward to your call!