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Tag Archives: network security

Sochi Olympics IT

The Sochi Olympics Winter Games are an outstanding opportunity to showcase the convergence of IT and sports medicine.  I would like to see more IT in the coverage of the games.

 

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IE11 and Buggy Software

~~November 2013 saw the release of Microsoft’s latest version of Internet Explorer, IE 11 for Windows 7. The new web browser’s impact is growing as many Windows 7 and Windows 8 users install this new version of Internet Explorer as part of their regular Windows Updates. As touted by Microsoft, there are a few benefits to the new browser such as faster rendering (loading) of web pages, better security, and it is also optimized for the touch screen interfaces that are now being used with the new Windows 8 platform. All of these sound like steps in the right direction, but, in providing desktop support for the business clients of TRA Consulting, I find that I am spending a considerable amount of time preventing IE 11 from being installed in the first place, and removing this latest incarnation of IE when it has caused problems for users. Whenever a new version of Internet Explorer is released, there is always quite a bit of trouble for computer users in making the transition. This is particularly true in the business world where businesses are tied in to other programs that need Internet Explorer in order to work and are needed in the day-to-day running of the business.
 
One of the problems caused by the update of IE 11 lies in the fact that the development of the many add-ons and extensions created for in Internet Explorer for business-use have not kept pace with Microsoft’s efforts to keep IE relevant to home users. These add-ons and extensions for business-use are often created by smaller third-party companies that usually don’t have the personnel or resources to keep up with Microsoft’s many changes. As a result, there can often be a disconnect in the coding between newer and older versions of Internet Explorer and its interfaces with other programs that were created for older versions of IE, causing users to report bugs.
 
For example, one of the companies we support has financial accounts at a bank that allows users to print checks directly from the bank’s web site using a compatible check printer. The bank’s site and the printer are accessed exclusively through Internet Explorer up through version 9. By default, IE is set to automatically update to the latest version via Windows Update. Once the IE 10 and IE 11 updates were released, users at this company started reporting problems regarding check-printing. We solved the problem by un-installing IE 10 and IE 11 and rolled the users back to IE 9 and blocked any further updates until printer add-on has been updated to be compatible for further versions of Internet Explorer.

Employees can sometimes waste valuable time trying to find a work-around or a solution to these problems, when their time could be spent more productively. Businesses can increase and facilitate the productivity of employees by providing them with smooth and user-friendly computer systems. We can help by providing pro-active desktop support through remote management software (RMM), and personal one-on-one service from TRA Consulting which means we can block and/or remove IE 11 on each managed system individually or as a group in a matter of minutes; thus saving time and keeping IT costs for our customers in line with their projections.

Desktop Support On An Organizational Level

~~Desktop support is a term that IT professionals use to describe the duties of keeping a desktop computer in tip-top working order. This can be achieved through in-person interactions with computer users, over the phone helpdesks, and remote control from a local computer. In the last ten years more and more of this desktop support work has been done through management software and services known as Remote Monitoring and Management (RMM). Tra Consulting has been encouraging the businesses it supports to upgrade to our current RMM solution in order to allow us to increase our support to users; streamline updates, upgrades, security systems, and malware and virus removal; and it allows us to be more proactive in preventing problems before they happen, which in turn, increases worker productivity.
 
RMM allows IT professionals like me at TRA Consulting to increase desktop support to businesses by allowing remote access to the computers on-site at the business. For example, RMM can decrease the wait-time between when a computer issue is reported and when it is resolved.  In the old days, when an employee at one of the businesses TRA Consulting supports reported a problem and a technician was not already on-site, there would be a longer lag-time between receiving the report, wrapping up at another location, then driving to the location where the issue was reported and that can mean valuable productive time was wasted while the employee waits for their computer to be fixed. Now with RMM, there is a shorter wait-time. I can log-in to the reported computer, and address the issue from a remote location. Getting an employee’s computer up and running more quickly using remote management software can increase productivity.
 
With the use of RMM, I can streamline many of the processes that would otherwise be very time consuming to complete one computer at a time.  For example, one of the companies supported by TRA Consulting was looking to upgrade their virus protection software. This project would have taken days to complete if we had had to install the program at each unit individually. But with the remote management service that we provide, we were able to complete the installation on all of the computers at one company in one day. RMM also plays an important role in keeping all of the computers at a company up to the same standards from machine to machine so that any employee can go to any computer and be assured that the programs that they need and use will be there for them.
 
TRA Consulting’s remote management service to the businesses we support also helps us to be pro-active in preventing potential problems that users might face during their workday. For example, we can block an incompatible update from installing onto computers where the update might cause problems. I talked about this in a previous blog post where we found that Internet Explorer 11 was causing compatibility problems with a banking add-on that allowed check-printing. In that case we were able to learn of the problem ahead of time through one or two early reporters, and then block future installations for all other computers at that site so that others never even experienced the problems.
 

Mac Security

~~So, you think you’re automatically safe from viruses and other malicious software because you bought a Mac? Think again.  Savvy Mac users know that some simple basic precautions will go a long way toward keeping their computer system in good working order.
While Apple originally tried a few forays into the business world with its Macs back in the 80’s, the company was successfully shut-out of the business market sector by IBM, Microsoft, and PCs. The reason for this is because PCs, while traditionally thought to be less user-friendly than Mac, were more reasonably priced.  For the last couple of decades, Apple has been marketing its Mac computer systems to specific markets like artists, musicians, and film makers. Not only has Mac been touted as being more useful than PC for artists, owning a Mac is seen to be aspirational for many; it has come to be seen by many as a status symbol, in part because of its higher price tag compared to PC. Macs have also been marketed as a very user-friendly computer; you don’t have to be computer savvy to do great things with your Mac, so Apple’s advertising tells us.
As another selling point, Apple has long boasted that Mac computers and peripherals such as the iPhone don’t get PC viruses and other malware. Many purchasers of Mac systems have slept easy knowing that they don’t need any expensive anti-virus software with all of the tedious updates and time-consuming scans that requires. But when an estimated 600, 000 Mac computers worldwide, including 274 right in Apple’s home town of Cupertino came down with a Trojan virus called “Flashback” that was originally designed for PC and converted to be a Mac virus, Apple had to re-think its advertising.  Ever since that discovery, Apple has changed its advertising to reflect the fact that some effort is required on your part to keep your computer system safe and healthy. While it is true that there are many, many more viruses and malware in existence for PCs than there are for Mac, there is a growing number of Mac users and therefore a growing sector of Mac hackers and people coding viruses and malware made specifically for Macs.
Whether you are an independent artist, a small business or a large corporation, everyone must make a choice for their business whether they will use Mac computers, PCs or some combination of the two. While historically there have been many incompatibilities between Mac and PC, Apple has come a long way in making sure its software is more compatible with PCs than ever. Microsoft, in turn has made efforts to adopt some Mac strategies for making PC operating systems more and more user-friendly. As a result, Mac and PC environments are becoming more similar and with that, security can become an issue.
At TRA Consulting, Inc., an IT consulting and computer repair business serving the Long Beach and Greater Los Angeles areas, we can help you with both your Mac and PC needs for your business. Tired of waiting in long lines at the Apple store? At TRA Consulting, we have friendly consultants who are trained to deal with issues that arise with both Mac and PC. Does your Mac have a virus or other malware? We can help you take care of it and provide you with protection against any future attacks. If you live in the Long Beach or surrounding area, give us a call! We have computer solutions for you.

The XPocalypse Is Upon Us

~~The XPocalypse: a real threat or a Y2K-like scare?

Is the XPocalypse as bad as everyone says it’s going to be? Well, yes and no.
With the proper preventative action steps, it doesn’t have to be.

All good things must come to an end. On Tuesday, April 8th, 2014, Microsoft will officially stop supporting their operating system, Windows XP.  What does this mean for people who are still hanging onto their old XP operating systems on their PCs? It means that Microsoft will no longer be offering security updates, patches, or platform support after April 8th.  This will make Windows XP vulnerable from that point on to viruses, worms, and other malware that Microsoft hasn’t designed protections for.  Moreover, any user who is having trouble with her/his operating system is on their own when it comes to troubleshooting support. 

The XPolcalypse doesn’t have to be scary, but it is the end of an era. It will become more and more risky and difficult to keep your computer and your information safe if you’re still using Windows XP after April 8th.  It is estimated that some 500 million computers throughout the world are still running Windows XP as their operating system. Very soon, all of those users are going to have to upgrade their operating systems to Microsoft’s flagship products, Windows 7 and Windows 8, or they run the risk of being vulnerable to viruses and malware. Save yourself the time, hassle, and heartache of lost files, identity theft, zombie computers, viruses and other malware by taking some simple precautionary steps today.

Whether you were a fan of Windows XP or not, the fact is that Microsoft has adopted “planned obsolescence” as a business model. Accepting the fact that Microsoft has chosen to end its support of Windows XP, thereby effectively ending the life of the operating system, is the first step to ensuring that your computer stays in good working order and your small business doesn’t lose productivity due to viruses and other malware invading your old, unprotected operating system. The next step is to take preventative action by upgrading your operating systems from Windows XP to Windows 7 or Windows 8 before the April 8th deadline. We can help!

Here at TRA Consulting Inc., an IT consulting firm located in Long Beach, California can help you and your small business upgrade your operating systems and avoid the XPocalypse all together. We provide computer solutions to individuals, small, and medium-sized businesses and we can help you upgrade your computers from Windows XP to Windows 7 before Microsoft’s April 8th deadline.

The bottom line is this: for better or worse, Microsoft has decided to end Windows XP as an operating system.  Save yourself time, trouble, and headaches by contacting TRA Consulting, Inc. today and we can help smooth the path for your transition to Windows 7 or 8.  If you waited and the XPocalyse has already come for you, there’s still hope! TRA Consulting provides computer repair and virus removal in and around the Long Beach area.

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