Latest blog entries http://www.vbs-no.com/blog/latest Sat, 18 Nov 2017 06:38:11 +0000 Joomla! - Open Source Content Management en-gb How Safe is Your Email? http://www.vbs-no.com/blog/entry/how-safe-is-your-email http://www.vbs-no.com/blog/entry/how-safe-is-your-email Email is (and has been) a prime method of communication for businesses of all sizes. With email comes a whole slew of issues that are essentially synonymous with the technology; spam, information overload, phishing, and information privacy. Even Louisiana small businesses that only do business locally are at risk of these issues. Personal email accounts are equally at risk. Employing proper precautions and practices whenever communicating via email is very important to prevent the risk of security compromises, monetary loss, and even legality issues.

Spam Inundation

If you've been using email for a while either professionally or personally you have almost certainly gotten email from people you don't know. Most of these emails are blatantly unwanted while others can look 'almost' legit, as if a real person is trying to contact you. Often (and unfortunately) spammers can get your email address when you put it online or use it to register for accounts on sites on the internet. The good news is standard spam protection is getting better these days, and more advanced spam protection is cost effective for businesses that need the extra layer of protection. Spam can cause a lot of harm for a business network if it isn't kept under control - spam can bog down email servers and eat up network bandwidth and plus it drastically slows down employee productivity because they need to sift through it all just to find their real email. If you and your staff are getting more than a few spam emails a day, contact us at 504-840-9800 ext 105 and ask about our anti-spam solutions.

Don't Open Attachments from Unsolicited Emails

This has been a golden rule for general email usage for a very long time. If you received an email from a stranger and there is an attachment, don't touch it. If you receive an email from a contact and there is an attachment, but anything is suspicious, don't touch it. This goes the same for links - if the email was unexpected and just seems fishy, it is possible your contact's email may have been compromised. Use your judgment on this, but remember it isn't your contact trying to trick you, they are merely the victim of a similar hoax from one of their contacts. If you have any doubt, simply reply or pick up the phone and ask them about it before continuing.

Keep your Computer Safe

Be sure to keep antivirus definitions up to date, and run scans regularly. Running adware and spyware removal software at regular intervals is important too. Be sure your Windows Updates are up to date as well. For businesses, you'll want to invest in network protection to keep external threats from leaking in. Even for small Louisiana businesses, security and threat management is important to keep operations running smoothly and to prevent expensive downtime and data theft.

Don't Rely on Email for Storage

Everyone has done this at least once; you are working on a report or document on one computer and you email it to yourself in order to pull it up on another computer. That's fine as long as you mind your inbox capacity, but you shouldn't rely on email for storing files, not even as a reliable backup. Imagine having to painstakingly pick through all of your email to restore your most important files. It doesn't sound like a good idea now, does it? On top of that, email isn't any less prone to data corruption or loss than any typical storage solution, and unless the server hosting your email is backed up with a reliable solution, it could be here today and gone the next.

Encrypt Sensitive Data

If you send sensitive data to other recipients, you will want to consider email encryption. Some industries require this. Email encryption simply scrambles the message while it is being sent, and depending on what type of encryption, will descramble itself or allow your recipient to log in to a secure location to view the data. Although email encryption services vary, most of them are very cost effected especially when put beside the risks of sensitive data getting leaked and stolen. Give us a call at 504-840-9800 ext 105 to learn more about email encryption and what solution is right for your business needs.

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toliver@vbs-no.com (Tom Oliver) IT Blog Wed, 03 Apr 2013 15:51:00 +0000
Slow Computer? Increase your memory to boost computer Speeds http://www.vbs-no.com/blog/entry/slow-computer-increase-your-memory-to-boost-computer-speeds http://www.vbs-no.com/blog/entry/slow-computer-increase-your-memory-to-boost-computer-speeds Sometimes when your workstation feels bogged down, a relatively cheap and simply hardware update can make a huge difference in performance. Adding more RAM (Random Access Memory, often just referred to as memory) can be a game changer for your bogged down PC.

There are several factors that contribute to the speed of a PC. Let's very briefly break these down:

CPU/Processor

The CPU handles all of calculations a computer performs. These days consumer-class CPUs handle billions and even trillions of instructions per second. While dated processors can greatly influence the actual speed of a computer, if your PC is fairly new (as in 1 or 2 years old, and possibly older for higher end builds) it's likely not bottlenecking your performance. Today, CPUs are equipped with two, four, or even more cores, which means the CPU can handle an more calculations exponentially and consume less electricity.

RAM/Memory

Random Access Memory is basically the short-term memory of your computer. While your computer is loading and running applications, they get stored in the RAM. The RAM is much faster than the hard drive, so your computer doesn't need to spin it's wheels looking for specific files and parts of applications. The more RAM you have, the more "stuff" that can be stored in it. The faster your RAM, the faster your computer can sift through the data that gets temporarily pushed into it. Once your RAM is full, your computer will depend on the hard drive to retrieve information, and that's where things get sluggish. Once you stop running a program, it will remove itself from the RAM to free up some space for everything else running.

Hard Drive

The hard drive is the storage device of a computer. For extremely high-end PCs, the hard drive is the bottleneck. Hard drives, when compared to RAM, are very slow to access and write information. Once your computer needs to rely on your hard drive heavily for RAM, things are going to start getting bogged down. While it's great that your PC can rely on your hard drive in this way for those times it needs some extra memory, it is likely this is the slowdown. Unfortunately, because hard drives are mechanical and have moving parts, there's limitations to how fast science can make them perform. There are costly solid-state drives, but as a performance-improving factor on a standard workstation, typically solid state drives aren't the cost-effective answer.

Of course, there are software factors as well. Malware and Spyware can bog down your system, and after a lot of use, temporary files can bog things down. Before upgrading hardware, you'll want to have a technician run a quick evaluation on your PC - it's possible a little cleanup can make all the difference in the world.

Otherwise, the next step is upgrading the RAM. RAM is usually relatively cheap, even to double or triple your existing RAM with faster, higher performance memory. Often the cost of the new RAM itself will be between $50 and $100, and more than likely less than that, and that's for a substantial increase, but it depends on your PC.

Is your computer running slow? Does it get bogged down by the time you have all of your day-to-day applications open? Contact us at 504-840-9800 ext 105 for a quick evaluation to see if a simple, cost-effective upgrade will help you perform your job more effectively.

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toliver@vbs-no.com (Tom Oliver) IT Blog Wed, 03 Apr 2013 15:49:00 +0000
What is your Identity Worth to You? http://www.vbs-no.com/blog/entry/what-is-your-identity-worth-to-you http://www.vbs-no.com/blog/entry/what-is-your-identity-worth-to-you Your identity has quite a lot of value, especially in the wrong hands. Security firm ZoneAlarm put together some numbers in 2011 concerning identity fraud, and it even shocked us. Let's talk about a few of these statistics and what it means.

First of all, what shocked us the most is that according to the FTC, in the United States, 9 million individuals have their identities stolen each year. Identity theft is a little different than identity fraud, however. Theft is when personal information is exposed and taken without permission. This is happening all the time by malicious software like spyware, but it can also happen when legitimate websites and services get infiltrated by cybercriminals. If a reputable online store (or even a database for a brick and mortar store) gets hacked into, your personal information can be stolen. That's identity theft.

Identity fraud is when that data is misused for financial gain. This is when things start to get very dangerous. In 2009, $56 billion dollars were accumulated by cyber criminals through identity fraud. The good news is in 2010 that number went down to "only" $37 billion. What does that mean to the average person? On average, victims of identity fraud had $4,841 dollars stolen per victim. Trouble is, the world has had to improve drastically to protect consumers from identity fraud. This means higher costs of doing business which then get reflected on prices of products and services. In other words, because of identity fraud, we all lose.

How does your data get stolen?  There are plenty of ways, but here are a few popular methods:

  1. Hackers can pick up credentials via public Wi-Fi and public PCs.
  2. Credit Card Skimming - a process that involves your credit card data being stolen when your credit card is swiped at a standard ATM or credit card terminal.
  3. Selling or discarding used computer equipment that isn't properly wiped can expose personal information.
  4. Hackers can infiltrate networks and databases.
  5. Dumpster diving and paper mail theft.
  6. Malware and viruses
  7. Phishing.


In almost half of reported identity theft cases, the victim knew the criminal.

What do you do if your identity is stolen?

Almost half of all reports of identity frauds are discovered by the user first, although banks and credit card companies have methods in place to stay on top of it as well. If your financial credentials are stolen, you need to contact your bank and/or credit card companies immediately, both by phone and in writing. You'll want to file a police report with details about where your identity was stolen, what you believe was or could have been stolen, and documented proof of the crime.

You don't want to risk identity fraud. Monitor your credit reports closely, shred sensitive mail and documents before throwing them away, and ensure your computers and network are running latest security updates and antivirus, as well as other security measures. For a complete review of your security, contact us at 504-840-9800 ext 105 and we will help pinpoint vulnerabilities and fill in the cracks before a costly event occurs.

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toliver@vbs-no.com (Tom Oliver) IT Blog Wed, 03 Apr 2013 15:45:00 +0000
Disaster Recovery and Why it Matters to Louisiana Businesses http://www.vbs-no.com/blog/entry/disaster-recovery-and-why-it-matters-to-areaserved-businesses http://www.vbs-no.com/blog/entry/disaster-recovery-and-why-it-matters-to-areaserved-businesses When you mention the term 'disaster recovery,' most people think about the big ground-shattering events like earthquakes, fires, floods, tropical storms, etc. While these natural events are certainly disasters and devastating in their own right, smaller things can constitute as a disaster for your business, and they aren't seasonal.

Let's look at the definition of disaster.

dis·as·ter

A calamitous event, especially one occurring suddenly and causing great loss of life, damage, or hardship, as a flood, airplane crash, or business failure.

To Virtual Business Solutions, a disaster is anything that involves a major loss of data or major downtime. When one of our clients experience a server malfunction that leaves most employees sitting idle unable to work, that is a disaster.

The Cost of a Disaster

Downtime is a very terrible expense to not try to avoid. Try this simple formula for yourself:

Number of Employees Affected by an IT Outage X Average Employee Hourly Cost (NOT WAGES)
+ Average Company Hourly Income X Percentage of Income Lost Due to the IT Outage

This simple formula will tell you about how expensive every hour of downtime is for your company. The hardest value in the formula is understanding the percentage of income lost. Not all companies might have a figure, but you will want to consider it as you do the math. This doesn't include the cost of repair, consultation, parts, or any of the remediation required to get things back up and running.

Disaster's Harbinger

Disaster can strike from any direction. Hard drives can go, data can be corrupted, hardware can fail, and networks can go down, and systems can become infected with viruses and malware. User error can cause disaster, as well as theft and other malevolent activity. While companies should take precautions to safeguard themselves against threats both external and internal, and managed maintenance can prevent a lot of foreboding issues, having a solid disaster recovery plan can mean faster turnaround when there is devastating downtime.

Employing a disaster recovery plan starts with the data - your most important IT asset. Computers can be replaced, hardware can be repurchased and software can be reinstalled. Your data is the culmination of countless hours of work by all of your employees ever. It's no wonder why most businesses that suffer a major data loss go out of business within the first year. You can lose your credibility, and things go into disarray. Data needs to be backed up.

Your backed up data should be archived regularly offsite. Most importantly, your backup solution needs to be easy to test, and tested regularly. You don't want to find out your backups are corrupted when it is too late.

The time to put together your company's disaster recovery solution is now. Contact Virtual Business Solutions at 504-840-9800 ext 105 to talk about solutions for safeguarding your data and your business in the event of a disaster, large or small.

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toliver@vbs-no.com (Tom Oliver) IT Blog Wed, 03 Apr 2013 15:42:00 +0000
5 Tips for Saving Money on your IT http://www.vbs-no.com/blog/entry/5-tips-for-saving-money-on-your-it http://www.vbs-no.com/blog/entry/5-tips-for-saving-money-on-your-it Saving a little on your technology can go a long ways, but cutting too many corners can lead to additional problems and expensive downtime. Here are a few ways you can cut costs without creating long term issues.

Don't be Afraid to Replace

Got an older PC that's causing you a lot of issues? Older technology is typically more expensive to run, and after a while, it's cheaper to simply buy a new desktop than it is to continue pouring money into something that always seems broken. It's a great time to buy workstations, and if things are tight you can even buy refurbished desktops to keep costs low.

Enforce Energy Efficiency

If you reduce the amount of energy your technology uses each day, your utility bill from the electric company will decrease as well. Switching to LCD monitors (if you are still using old CRT dinosaurs), and enforcing company-wide policies to turn off monitors or put workstations to sleep at night can make a big difference.

Stop Dealing with Vendors

You hired your employees to work, not sit on the phone with a PC manufacturer because your hard drive crashed. Businesses waste money by paying employees to go around in circles with vendor tech support all the time. IT firms like Virtual Business Solutions build relationships with vendors and are able to get things done faster. This means issues get resolved quickly and your employees don't need to deal with less-than-helpful support.

Stop Paying your Phone Bill

Yes, you heard us right. Cease paying your phone company by switching over to a VoIP solution instead. Small businesses save up to 80% on their telephone communication expenses, so the investment pays for itself quickly. Many VoIP systems allow your users to take their phone and use it anywhere, giving you increased flexibility and functionality.

Get Proactive Monitoring and Maintenance

Nearly all day-to-day IT issues can be completely prevented with just a little bit of maintenance. Virtual Business Solutions offers these services to our clients, reducing the amount of downtime they experience. Traditional computer support only fix computer issues when they arise. Virtual Business Solutions provides proactive monitoring and maintenance to ensure fewer issues plague your business.

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toliver@vbs-no.com (Tom Oliver) IT Blog Wed, 03 Apr 2013 15:41:00 +0000