Benefits of Managed Services and Remote Monitoring & Maintenance (RMM)

Technology doesn’t last forever; there will come a time when it needs to be serviced in order to keep up with your business’ expectations. You can approach this in two different ways. The first way is the traditional break/fix model, which just asks you to address problems when your device breaks. In this case, you just use it until it doesn’t work the way you want it to. While this approach works at first glance, its high cost compared to the other alternatives due to the immense amount of productivity wasted and maintenance fees associated with fixing broken technology solutions.

The better option is managed IT services utilizing a remote monitoring system. This allows for a preventative system that can address issues with a network before they disrupt your organization’s operations. Since you’re preventing issues from becoming major problems, you’re cutting out unexpected fees in exchange for a much more predictable monthly rate.

How RMM Helps Businesses

Remote monitoring and maintenance is what enables managed IT services to exist in its current form. The premise of managed IT is that the managed service provider is the one responsible for the management and upkeep of your network. RMM allows this to happen without an on-site visit, allowing for less travel time (waiting time in your case) and fewer disruptions in the office. This translates to many benefits for your business, including:

  • Less wasted time: Since you’re not losing productivity due to issues as frequently with RMM, you can keep in-house disruptions–a visit from us included–from creating wasted time for your workers.
  • Faster resolution: If you cut out the costs of travel and the time involved with doing so, you’ll find that issues can be resolved much faster, allowing you and your employees to stay on task.
  • Streamlined maintenance: The best problems to have are the ones that can be resolved without knowing that they’ve even surfaced. This is the main draw of RMM–potential issues can be resolved before they become a problem in the first place, meaning that you’ll experience less downtime overall.

Kite Technology can help your business get started with RMM solutions and MSP services. To learn more, reach out to us at 855-290-KITE.

Better Security in Three Easy Steps

With the holidays just around the corner, most people are turning their attention to turkey, presents, and long drives to visit friends and family.  As a cybersecurity professional, I always see this as the Season of Spoofing, where bad guys send you convincing emails about packages left on your doorstep, and gift card balances you’ve left behind, all with the goal of stealing your credentials, like some overseas Grinch who doesn’t want you to get any presents.

So, in the spirit of giving, I’d like to kick off this holiday season by giving you three easy steps that you can take towards avoiding the Grinch this year.

Step 1:  Better Passwords

I’m sure we’ve all heard the speech:  Password must be 8+ characters in length, contain a letter, number, special character, and must be changed every 90 days.  But did you know that even those are often easily guessed?  And even worse, they’re often used on multiple accounts, creating a domino effect.  If one is compromised, they’re all compromised.

So, consider using a password manager such as LastPass or RoboForm to generate secure passwords, that are unique to every website.  This will make your passwords significantly more secure.

Step 2:  Security Awareness Training

Now that we have better passwords, let’s make sure we keep them to ourselves!  We can do that by training employees how to spot malicious emails, and what to do when they’re found.  And more importantly, put that training to the test!  A system that sends harmless emails to your employees to trick them into clicking a suspicious link will let you know who “gets it”, and who needs a little extra help.

Step 3:  Multi-Factor Authentication (MFA)

I saved the best for last.  Sometimes referred to as “two factor authentication”, MFA is a fantastic strategy for keeping your data secure.  Every time there’s a login from an unexpected computer or location, you’ll be notified and prompted to either allow or deny the login, from an app on your phone (which is also protected by a passcode, right?).

If you’re using Office 365 for your email, you already have the ability to turn on MFA.  It does take a little work to get up and running, but once configured, we’ve found that folks love the peace of mind that comes with this level of security.

Now, it wouldn’t be Thanksgiving if I didn’t give you something, right?  So, here’s my gift for you, to help you get started with Step 1.  Complete the contact form on the sidebar during the month of November and we will provide you with a Weak Password Report, for free!  This will show you any weak or non-expiring passwords that are used on your network and start you on the path to better security.

Fileless Malware Attacks Increasing

Ransomware has been far from low-profile since its inception several years ago. Everyone knows what the file-encrypting malware does, and they all know that paying the ransom can make the nightmare go away by decrypting the files located on their computer. As if the threat of losing data forever wasn’t enough, you’re staring down a ticking clock while this is going on. Nowadays, ransomware is becoming more difficult to manage through various tactics.

Businesses are forced to invest in IT security to prevent themselves from making the next headline regarding cybersecurity (or lack thereof). Unfortunately, even the best and most comprehensive security solutions can’t help you if the file is already on your computer or network. If the malware has gone wireless, there’s a very real possibility that this can happen. We’ll help you understand the concept of fileless ransomware, and why it’s not a good thing for users and organizations.

The reason why hackers are so intent on making their malware fileless is because security professionals and organizations have really stepped up their game in recent years to fend off these infections. 99.9 percent of all would-be malware attacks were actually turned away outright in 2017, emboldening users and convincing hackers that they need to take new measures to get victims. Thus, the arms race continues with the development of new types of ransomware.

Ransomware has represented a shift in the way that businesses look at the dangers of the Internet. Fileless malware takes this a step further by attacking the default Windows tools (Powershell and Windows Management Instrumentation) to support malicious activity. Since these tools are on every Windows machine, these types of attacks are effective at hitting a lot of users where it hurts.

How it Works

Fileless ransomware is generally dispersed in the same way as traditional malware–through phishing emails and messages. This is why it’s so important for your business to train employees on how to identify suspicious messages. However, rather than using email attachments or downloading malware onto the system directly, fileless ransomware will instead run a macro in the RAM of a machine to create a command line and run the application. In this situation, the program doing the encrypting is actually PowerShell or WMI (talk about a stab in the back). A message is then shown indicating that the files have been encrypted and are being held until payment is received. Once this happens, the user is given a short amount of time to make a decision regarding the fate of their files.

We at Kite Technology know the frustrations and challenges associated with network security, and you can bet that we know a thing or two about how to keep ransomware off a network. To learn more about how we can help your organization keep itself safe, reach out to us at 855-290-KITE.

Tech Terms: Responsive Web Design

In an age where mobile devices are commonplace, what a website looks like on a smartphone screen is extremely important from a user’s perspective. This is called responsive web design, and this week’s tech term will provide an overview of what it is and why it’s helpful.

What is Responsive Web Design?

The primary goal of responsive web design is to make sure that a website stays functional on any kind of device or screen size. Web designers make this happen by using special elements to display the content in different ways based on the device viewing it. Basically, the website “responds” to the device and displays its content in the way that best suits that device. This means that instead of displaying information in the way it’s meant to be viewed on a computer monitor, you’ll instead see it in a much more manageable format on your mobile device. This can often mean an increased text size and a more compact design.

Responsive web design is made possible through three basic web design processes: fluid grids, responsive media, and media queries.

Fluid Grids

Fluid design grids arrange your site elements in various ways to make them appear as organized as possible. Fluid grids are a bit different from your standard design grids as they are adjusted based on the size of the screen using relative measures rather than set pixel amounts. Think about it like this; instead of assigning a value of 300 pixels to a site element, you’re making it 30% of the overall width, or something along those lines.

Responsive Media

Just like the rest of the elements on the page, media files (videos or images) will need to be able to adjust to the size of your screen. This usually requires having fixed dimensions, but since the fluid grids don’t use fixed measurements, you’ll need to assign the max-width property to 100%.

Media Queries

Media queries are basically the web design equivalent of crowdsourcing. A website collects data to determine the size of the screen it needs to adjust to. This happens thanks to Cascading Style Sheets, or CSS, which are loaded according to which device is being used.

Why Responsive Web Design Is Important

You should aim to have some sort of responsive website for a variety of reasons. All of them have to do with providing your visitors with a pleasant experience. A responsive website can help you attract and retain visitors, as well as help with search engine optimization rankings. Fast-loading mobile-friendly sites help you gain visitors, as well as retain those who could turn into buyers or clients.

My Computer Is Slow. What Do I Do?

There is a special kind of frustration that comes from a slow computer. We think it’s a combination of being unable to get something done combined with your computer’s inability to take a hint and register your frustration as you furiously click your mouse. Either way, slow computers are annoying. Fortunately, there are some steps you can take to speed things up before you consider throwing it out a window.

Have You Tried Turning it Off and Then On?

This age-old proverb might seem a little overused, but it’s easy to forget that sometimes a quick reboot can actually solve a lot of issues. About a decade or so ago, it was common for PCs to start showing signs of instability and slowness after 1-to-3 days of continuous use without a reboot. These days, software is much more efficient and hardware is much more powerful, so users don’t start seeing this for days or even weeks. We’re generalizing a little bit here, but modern PCs tend to be more stable and can typically go longer between reboots. If you are noticing degraded performance on your desktop or laptop, your first step should be to save your files and click or tap on the Windows Key, click the Power Icon, and select Restart.

Determine What is Actually Slow

If restarting your computer doesn’t do the trick, it’s going to be important to try to identify what is slow. Sometimes if you can narrow down the issue, it can help reduce your options. Here are some things to check for:

  • One or two particular programs are slow, but generally, everything else feels normal, indicating something wrong with those programs.
  • Clicking between web pages on the Internet is slow, and content is slow to load, indicating that either the Internet connection is slow, or your web browser needs it’s cache cleared.
  • Things slow down as soon as you start looking at or working on files on your network, indicating it might be network related.
  • The PC slows to a crawl at a certain time of day, maybe indicating that a virus scan or some other resource-intensive task is happening.

Run a Scan With Your Antivirus

If you can’t identify a specific issue above, it might mean your computer is infected. Viruses and malware can utilize a lot of system resources, not to mention cause plenty of other issues. Open your antivirus, make sure that updates have been ran recently, and perform a scan. You might need to let your computer do this overnight, as the scan may slow things down more while it’s happening.

It’s important to run regular scans and keep your antivirus updated. For businesses, you’ll want to make sure you have a centrally managed antivirus designed for businesses of your size, and that antivirus should be properly maintained so it’s always up-to-date and running regularly.

Close Programs Running in the Background

If your computer is still slow, then it’s time to do some digging. There may be services or applications running in the background that are chewing up a lot of system resources. You can check this by looking at the Task Manager.

To do so, right-click the taskbar and select Task Manager or press Ctrl+Shift+Escape to bring it up. Make sure you are on the Processes tab.

You’ll see a few columns labeled CPU, Memory, Disk, and Network, with various percentages.The percentages will tell you how actively utilized that part of your computer is. It’s pretty common for Disk and Network to be at zero percent or close to zero percent unless you are actively doing something like saving or rendering files. Your Memory column will have a percentage in it and it should generally be pretty stable until you open and close applications, and CPU tends to jump around a lot.

If any of these percentages are consistently high, it means your computer is straining to function. If your CPU or Memory is constantly at 90% or higher, that tells us that something is chewing up those resources. You can sort the columns to determine what application is the culprit. Right-clicking the app and selecting End Task will close that application. Keep in mind, you’ll want to save any work you were in the middle of, because ending the task might not prompt you to save.

It’s also very important to remember that some applications are critical to your computer performing properly. For example, if you end your antivirus, you might not be protected from threats. It’s best to consult with IT with anything you aren’t sure about. If there are applications constantly chewing up resources that don’t need to be running, they can be uninstalled to prevent them from coming back.

Upgrade the Hardware

It’s possible that your computer simply isn’t powerful enough to do the work that you want it to do. If it’s an older computer from the Windows 7 or early Windows 8 era, and it’s not running Windows 10, that might be the case. Computers do tend to last longer than they did several years ago, but as time goes on, newer software and operating systems start to demand more computing resources.

Fortunately, there are some fairly low-cost ways to upgrade a PC, depending on how old it is and it’s form factor. Laptops and smaller, thinner desktops may be a little more challenging to upgrade, but there is one trick you can almost always count on.

Switch to an SSD

A solid state drive is a type of hard drive that doesn’t utilize mechanical parts. These drives tend to be faster, more energy efficient, they run cooler, and are less prone to failures. The price for an SSD has decreased dramatically over the last few years, and for most users, it will only set you back one or two hundred dollars depending on what you need.

You won’t find affordable options for high-capacity drives, so if you need to store several terabytes of information, you can expect the price to be much higher than a standard mechanical drive.

Keep in mind, swapping out your hard drive will require some work, as you’ll need to migrate the data from your old drive over to the new one, so that’s something you’ll want IT to handle for you.

Tech Tips: Why Optimization is Key to Your Success

In order to keep up with today’s competitive environment, your business must have the tools it needs to be better than the alternatives. Part of this is a great staff, yes, but for today’s tip, we’ll discuss how optimizing your technology can help.

What Does Optimization Require?

Optimization of your operations is key to remain successful in an increasingly competitive market. This optimization will require you to do three things:

  1. Identify, understand, and accept the way to optimize your business.
  2. Change your focus to meet the demands of your market and clients.
  3. Give your employees the power and tools to succeed.

These three requirements may sound fairly vague, but there are plenty of ways that you can adjust your business to embrace them.

Practically Using Business Optimization Practices

To better understand the three requirements of optimization, it may help to review a few real-life scenarios in which these optimization practices would appear.

Identify, understand, and accept the way to optimize your business.

The first key to optimizing your business is to understand what about it can be improved. Through careful analysis of your processes, you will be able to identify where your inefficiencies lie. From there, you can identify whether something is necessary to your business, or is ultimately just wasting time and resources. Then you can determine if an improvement can be made, or if it should just be abandoned. With this knowledge, you can trim the fat from your processes and boost their efficiency.

For example, perhaps there is a member of your business who needs to approve projects at every stage before progress can continue, but this member is exceptionally busy and therefore can’t always review things efficiently. This would most likely hold back your progress. Understanding this could lead to a reexamination of your process, and the determination that approval may not be necessary beyond the initial implementation of a project and the final confirmation to put it into action, saving everyone involved some time and stress.

Changing focus to meet the demands of your market and clients.

While you may view your business as the culmination of a personal goal and the means to put food on the table, your audience is going to have a much different impression. The way they see it, you’re there to provide them with what they need, whether that’s a particular product or service. Since your business can’t really exist without them, their priorities will have to come first.

Automation provides a few simple methods of ensuring that you know what those priorities are, and that your audience finds your business effective at fulfilling them. This is especially true where issue reporting is concerned. Let’s face it, while the first report is useful, the rest quickly become a distraction as the issue is resolved – plus, you have to acknowledge that the report was received. The right IT can help you optimize this process as much as possible by handling these responses through automation, letting you better spend your time solving the problem.

Give your employees the power and tools to succeed.

The right technology solutions can help to make sure that your entire team is managed properly, given a comprehensive schedule to keep each of them on track and their processes standardized.  These solutions can have the added benefit of providing you with the data needed to further optimize your workflows, boosting productivity, and reducing the stress put on your employees.