Windows 7 End of Life Sneaking Up on Some Businesses

All good things must come to an end eventually, and Windows 7 is no different. Microsoft is officially ending its support of this operating system relatively soon, but this doesn’t mean that you should jump ship without a plan. In fact, Microsoft realizes that some businesses and organizations simply can’t make the jump in time, so they have implemented contingency plans for these companies. The problem is that it’s expensive. We’ll walk you through everything there is to know about how Microsoft is handling the end of life events for Windows 7.

 

Background Information

Windows 7 is one of the most popular operating systems of all time. More PCs ran Windows 7 than any other operating system in history. In fact, Windows 10 was launched in July of 2015, even being offered as a free upgrade from Windows 7 and 8.1 for a time; still users persisted with Windows 7, and the numbers for Windows 10 failed to exceed those of 7 until December 2018. Windows 10 now runs on over 700 million devices.

 

All things considered, Windows 7 is still running on over 600 million devices, and as of January 2020, Windows 7 will likely be run on over 30 percent of devices in the world. As a result of this widespread popularity, there are naturally many organizations out there that can’t feasibly pull off an upgrade to Windows 10 in time for the Windows 7 end of life. Unsupported software can create issues with security and compatibility, which is the primary reason why organizations should be upgrading away from out-of-date software. Of course, it’s never as easy as it sounds, which is why Microsoft is providing extended support.

 

Windows 7 Extended Security

Organizations that can’t get away from Windows 7 can continue to receive support from Microsoft, but for a price. In situations like this, where there is a considerable amount of computers still running the operating system not even a year from its EOL date, Microsoft has made Windows 7 Extended Security Updates available. This program provides support through January 2023, providing plenty of time for organizations to “get it together,” so to speak.

 

While it might sound convenient, the price tag is going to be the heavy hitter. The add-on support is sold on a per-device level in one-year increments, with the costs doubling every year. Covering a single Windows 7 PC for three years would run approximately $175 if the company is already a Windows 10 Enterprise or Microsoft 365 Enterprise customer. If it isn’t, or doesn’t plan on becoming one, the cost jumps to $350 per Windows 7 system. There are other fees that must be included in this as well for organizations that require coverage in the second or third year following the end of life event.

 

What Are Your Options

Overall, you really need to love Windows 7 if you want to pay this much to avoid an upgrade to Windows 10 for as long as possible. It basically becomes an ultimatum–either pay up or grade up. If you’re having trouble upgrading your systems, or you are concerned you won’t be able to make it in time for the end of life event, consult the technology professionals at VentureNet.

Taking a Trip Through Data Privacy, Part II

In part 1 of this two-part series, we discussed how robocallers collect your information. Today, we continue our discussion on data privacy and what you can do to keep your organization and personal data safe.

 

Pay Attention to What You Agree To

When you install an application or sign up for a service, they will provide you with a terms of use that includes what they can or can’t do with your information. Android, for instance, requires you to opt in to any information the app wants access to. Instagram wants access to your device’s camera and photo storage, but it might also request access to view and access your contacts, SMS, location, microphone, and even phone calls. This is used to improve the user experience through geotagging for photos and sharing images based on the location, but you should always be wary of what these apps are asking of you. After all, situations like Facebook’s sharing of personal information with Cambridge Analytica is a perfect example of what could go wrong. We don’t want to point fingers at any apps in particular, just to caution you to be careful about what data you share with your applications.

 

Marketers Love Big Data

This personal data is used by marketers to identify potential consumers and to generate customized advertisements to entice them. Many find targeted ads annoying, but the fact of the matter is that they work; why would they be used if they didn’t?

 

Even if you aren’t going to give in to the robocaller, for example, there are plenty of people out there who won’t think twice about doing so. When a business has access to the technology that sends out countless messages to prospective buyers, it’s no surprise that there will be at least a couple of takers–even for shady business like this. Of course, a business can just pay money to target only the most valuable customers with their personal data, making it more profitable than even the smaller targets.

 

All of the data shared in this manner adds fuel to the fire. Businesses need to ask themselves if they would take advantage of these technologies to connect with potential customers who would pay for their goods or services. It certainly might be tempting.

 

This is a double-edged sword in a sense, as people might have good experiences from using apps and websites, but they are doing so at the cost of their personal privacy. On the business end of things, you might enjoy the data for the purposes of collecting clientele, but you don’t know where the data comes from, who has access to it, and whether or not someone has given consent.

 

Hackers and Cybercriminals Aren’t Completely out of the Picture

A cybercriminal could easily steal data while it’s in transit from an app to a website, but this isn’t even necessarily the case here. The truth of the matter is that it’s not always clear how data is collected, who has access to it, and where it ultimately ends up. We’ve seen this countless times when a large organization is hacked, and millions of customer records are stolen or leaked online. Sony, Target, Marriott, and Equifax are only a few of the notables here. The data may have been collected normally, but was stolen by nefarious users. Hackers might even be willing to scrape together some funds to purchase some of this data from the dark web.

 

Privacy Continues to Be an Issue

It might just be tempting to get rid of social media, the smartphone, and live far away from the Internet, but this simply isn’t the answer. Technology is so ingrained in the way that society functions that it’s borderline impossible. The answer is being more mindful of the data and services used. It’s understandable why data sharing is helpful for so many organizations, even if we don’t like it.

 

Thankfully, there are methods being put into place to protect the privacy of users, like the stringent policies put into place by the EU’s GDPR. While it has established policies to help privacy, it has also created issues for businesses that can’t afford to comply. To this end, we want to help your organization best understand how to protect the data it collects. To learn more about how we can help your organization ensure data privacy, reach out to us at 214-343-3550.

Taking a Trip Through Data Privacy, Part I

Protecting your business’ data is no simple task. To make it as secure as possible, you’ll have to understand how personal data flows through online channels. We’re digging pretty deep with this one, so get ready for an informative and, if nothing else, interesting read. This topic is especially important in an age where Facebook and Google exist, but there are countless other threats to data privacy out there that we all experience on a regular basis–business or not.

 

DISCLAIMER: This article is written from the perspective of someone who is a heavy user of technology. We might be passionate about its use in a professional environment, but this doesn’t mean we can’t be critical of it, too.

 

Have you ever received a call from a robocaller? You’re not alone; some of us receive upwards of 10-to-15 robocalls on our personal cell phone a day. The product they offer will vary, but for the sake of this article, let’s say it’s health insurance. The company might not be local, but the number they are dialing from is a local number. Already sounds fishy, doesn’t it?

 

These aren’t the only calls you might receive. Sometimes they might be from the IRS to collect back taxes, or they might be from a car insurance company to inform you of your car’s extended warranty. The list goes on and on, but one question remains the same: how do these robocallers get your contact information in the first place?

 

What’s the Big Idea?

The robocallers are probably just using an auto-dialer to cast a wide net and maybe get a couple of catches, but this doesn’t excuse the behavior. It’s actually a huge enough issue that the FCC in the United States has been attempting to convince carriers to get the problem under control. While the numbers might look local, the robocallers are likely spoofing numbers based on the device’s area code. But the story doesn’t end there.

 

Robocallers are able to collect location information, as well. You may have noticed this, too, while out and about at a conference or other situation that requires you to travel. The callers will appear to come from locations that you have previously traveled to. Quite unnerving, to say the least.

 

How Far Does It Go?

It’s simple in theory – a robocaller can dial millions of random numbers – and can track the ones that are real, scraping public lists to get important information about users that might be found in any given area. Credit bureaus may give away information, and websites or local charities might have a cache of information attached to them as well. But if these callers are able to collect real-time location data, well… there must be something else going on.

 

Is It Your Cell Phone Carrier?

At this point, you start to suspect the people providing your cell phone service are the one disseminating your information. After all, they track the location of the device, even without using GPS, through the use of tower triangulation between cell towers. This isn’t the main issue, though; four major carriers in the United States and some in Canada have been selling location data to a company called LocationSmart for years without the consent of the consumer. This was only recently discovered (May 2018) when a Missouri sheriff was charged with using this data to track a judge and several members of the state highway patrol.

 

Basically, it’s likely that your cell phone carrier has been selling your location data without asking you first. While this is alarming, there is a silver lining: AT&T, Verizon, T-Mobile, and Sprint have all agreed to stop sharing location data. Whether they actually have stopped, however, is up for debate. Until there’s an official verdict to this question, it’s not a bad idea to consider the other ways your personal data is discovered by robocallers.

 

Simply Put, Your Apps Know Too Much

The apps on your phone are pretty telling. You can tell who is a big fan of reading or audiobooks, or even who likes mobile games or particular news sources. You can even tell a lot about someone by looking at what kind of news sources they use. Social media also doesn’t help much, either, as it collects a considerable amount of information about the user. There isn’t anything wrong with an online service collecting data to make a better user experience. The perfect example of this is Google’s search engine, which will use location to deliver local search results based on your history and the device used. Even websites that aren’t mobile-friendly will be less likely to show up on a mobile device.

 

It’s likely that the future will hold more ways for user data to be taken advantage of, though the real danger comes from the data being shared without the user’s consent or knowledge. To find out how you can protect your data while protecting yourself, continue reading in part 2 of this thorough examination of data privacy.

A Data Recovery Plan Is a Must Have

Disaster recovery isn’t the easiest topic to approach for a business, and it’s precisely because it’s something that nobody ever wants to talk about. The reality of the situation is that it’s something that must be discussed, as the future of your organization depends on it. This might seem like an exaggeration, but we assure you that it’s not.

 

The fact remains that not even the presence of a data backup and disaster recovery solution is enough to ensure redundancy. Therefore, we recommend taking the following preventative measures:

 

Determine Your RPO and RTO

Recovery Point Objective (RPO) and Recovery Time Objective (RTO) are both key to guaranteeing the success of your disaster recovery plan. In essence, RPO and RTO correspond to how much data you want to back up, as well as how long you have to recover it before your business fails. You should shoot to back up as much data as you need to get back into a decent operational situation, all while making sure that your recovery time is kept to a minimum, while reducing downtime and data loss.

 

Figure Out Where Your Backups Are Stored

Once you’ve determined how much data you need to back up and how long it will take to restore it, the next step is figuring out where you want to store these backups. Storing them onsite is risky due to the fact that disasters often affect entire networks and infrastructures, but it probably doesn’t hurt to have one copy available close by. You absolutely want to have copies of your data both in the cloud and in a secure off-site location like a data center.

 

Test Your Backups to Ensure Reliability

The worst-case scenario is that you’ve figured out the perfect setup for your organization’s data backup only to find out that it doesn’t work. This is why you have to routinely test your data backups to ensure that they aren’t corrupted or damaged in any way. Granted, this might seem like a lot to remember, especially when you have so many other responsibilities to deal with throughout the day. This is why we recommend leaving this to a third party like VentureNet.

 

VentureNet can help you with each stage of your data backup and disaster recovery implementation process, whether you’re new to the entire concept or have put a considerable amount of thought into what your business needs. To learn more about our BDR solution, reach out to us at 214-343-3550.

Data Management and the Small Business

All businesses need to be as efficient with their resources as possible. You might be surprised by the difference you can make simply by using your data more effectively. Stronger data management platforms, or DMPs, can put you in a better position to understand your organization’s needs, including its market and its customers. It’s time to look at how a DMP can make your business more effective and resource-efficient.

 

Data Management

If you’re new to data management, you might be surprised to find out that your organization creates, receives, and stores a considerable amount of data that can be leveraged to its benefit. Unfortunately, most businesses have this data not in one single location, but strewn across their entire network. Some of this data might even be found on old servers, in the cloud, or on disk drives.

 

First, you’ll have to determine what your business’ storage needs are. You should aim to centralize your storage without making it too complicated, all while keeping costs to a minimum. VentureNet can help you make the choice that’s best for your business. Once your data is in a convenient location, your data management system will be much more effective.

 

Data Warehousing

Business intelligence platforms can allow your organization to take advantage of high-end business analysis, but you’ll need a data warehousing solution before you can truly leverage it. A data warehouse is a location where you can run business intelligence (BI) and business analytics (BA) software to improve your business. Innovative software can help you crawl through standing data to discover new trends.

 

What are BI and BA?

While they might sound similar, BI and BA are two different things. Business analysis is the act of defining how certain strategies and processes work, as well as outlining why they are used. The business analyst will generally identify ways in which these processes aren’t used as efficiently as they could be, or even predict the outcome of a particular situation.

 

Business intelligence, on the other hand, is using your business’ data to determine what your business is doing, how it’s being done, and the results of such actions. You can use business intelligence to determine metrics for measuring the effectiveness of your business.

 

Data Backup

Of course, when you have so much data being used in everyday operations, you’ll want to make sure it’s backed up. VentureNet offers a comprehensive data backup solution that you’re sure to find valuable. To learn more about ways to use and protect your organization’s data, reach out to us at 214-343-3550.

Make Sure Your Staff Understands How Data Disasters Come to Be

Disasters lurk around every corner in the workplace, even on an end-user level. All employees of a business should understand how to identify specific office disasters and what to do when they are encountered. We’ll discuss some of the most common (and deceptive) disasters, as well as how your team should handle them on the off chance they show themselves.

 

User Error

People make mistakes; it’s a fact of life. Unfortunately, making mistakes in the workplace carries with it a stigma of being chastised, slapped on the wrist, or punished, making it enticing for employees to either not admit to mistakes, or actively seek to hide them from those who should certainly be notified of them. As a thought leader and professional in a business environment, you need to take some time to sit down with your employees and reinforce the fact that it’s okay to own up to mistakes–especially when they cause downtime or lead to considerable issues for your organization.

 

Hardware Failure and Technology Issues

Users need to speak up if they are experiencing technology troubles. Productivity suffers if users aren’t getting the most out of their technology. Think about it–if your workstations are constantly at odds with your workers, they can’t get anything of substance done. Hardware failure in particular is nasty to deal with, as it can cost your business a considerable sum while keeping your employees from getting work done. Have them report anything out of the ordinary with your devices before they suffer the consequences.

 

Phishing Scams

This goes hand-in-hand with user error to an extent. Phishing scams are known to cause considerable trouble for even the most hardened business professionals. These scams convince users to send their sensitive credentials to them by posing as tech support or other professionals within your organization. Some even take this step a bit too far by posing as your organization’s CEO. Be on the lookout for suspicious messages that shouldn’t be sent your way, and never hand over information unless you can guarantee the authenticity of the sender.

 

A good data backup system can go a long way toward mitigating issues for your business. To learn more, reach out to us at 214-343-3550.

Here is a Short Introduction to File Versioning

There are certain instances where you might think having multiple versions of a file is important. After all, nobody is perfect. A file can be lost, damaged, or altered beyond belief, and you’d be none the wiser unless you have multiple versions of it. In this sense, file versioning is crucial to the success of any business that has an eye on the future and a fear of losing progress. Let’s take a look at how file versioning works and why you should take advantage of it.

 

What is File Versioning?

File versioning in its most basic form is when you store multiple versions of the same file in an inventory that you can view or restore at a later time as needed. Basically, multiple versions of the files can be stored, with the specific number of copies varying with the solution. The administrator can assign values for how many versions of files it can store, as well as how many there are.

 

It’s likely that you may have already seen file versioning in action. One of the best examples is the most recent version of any Microsoft Office application. If you shut down your device while a document is still open, you can restore these versions of the file if they are needed. Even if it’s a limited aspect of file versioning, it’s a good example of how your business can benefit from it.

 

Why Would This Benefit You?

Everyone makes mistakes, even the best and the brightest. If you use file versioning software, you’ll be able to have a safety net whenever you’re having trouble with your files. This is especially the case if the most recent version of the file isn’t available for whatever reason. In a way, it’s very similar to snapshot-based data backup and disaster recovery, and it has a preventative component that can be a valuable asset.

 

Does your business need a way to take advantage of file versioning? VentureNet can help. To learn more, reach out to us at 214-343-3550.

Here Are Some Hacks You Should Be Cognizant Of

In today’s modern business environment, your organization faces untold danger. There are several threats out there that your organization’s users could fall prey to. We’ve put together a list of some of the most dangerous ones out there, as well as how your business can respond to them.

 

Malware

Malicious software is one of the oldest threats out there, and damage caused by it can range from minor to incredibly awful. A particularly nasty variant is ransomware, which can encrypt files on your computer so that they are inaccessible to users. The user must then pay a ransom to unlock the files with a decryption key. We always urge users to never pay the ransom, as there is never a guarantee that you’ll get your data back. Instead, we recommend preventative measures as the best way to make sure ransomware doesn’t become a problem for your business. Be wary of spam messages, and make sure that you have a quality data backup and disaster recovery solution and are sure it works.

 

Phishing Attempts

Phishing attempts, spread via email and spam, are also a considerable threat to be on the lookout for. Phishing attacks are used to steal sensitive credentials and information from users by posing as someone else. While they are typically spread through email, attacks can come via phone or social media. It’s critical to keep in mind that credentials should never be handed over to anyone via email, or in general. If you cannot verify who sent the message internally, then be careful about sending any information to them at all.

 

Password Hacks

There’s no doubt that you’ve seen the countless high-profile hacks out there that make great headlines with the media. Sometimes these hacks will include passwords and other sensitive data that will be posted for sale on the dark web. Password hacks like these mean that millions of users could be put at risk at any given time. The best way to avoid this is to change your passwords often, or whenever there’s an indication that they have been stolen or hacked.

 

Denial of Service Attacks

Distributed denial of service attacks, or DDoS, are targeted attempts to launch so much activity at a server that it can’t possibly handle it all, thus bringing down whatever services or solutions are on it. These attacks are often orchestrated by botnets, large groups of infected computers that have been rigged to launch traffic at the server or infrastructure and bring it down.

 

Man in the Middle

Man in the middle attacks occur when an attacker inserts themselves directly between communications between two parties. This can happen quite often over an unsecured wireless network. A hacker can send data to both parties and interact with them, often without either party knowing.

 

Drive-By Downloads

Downloads can happen without the device owner’s consent. Malware or other threats can trigger the download by clicking on the wrong tab, a bad download link, or a dialog box. Drive-by downloads are dangerous because the user has no way of knowing what they have just downloaded until it’s too late, meaning that it could be something potentially incriminating or dangerous.

 

VentureNet can help you keep your business’ computers safe from threats of all kinds. To learn more about comprehensive security management, reach out to us at 214-343-3550.

The Cloud: What Is Missing?

The Cloud: What Is Missing?

Cloud computing has been a godsend for many businesses by providing the flexibility and scalability they need to grow and enhance their offerings. Cloud computing, of course, also provides some capital cost reduction. There is no question that the cloud brings plenty of benefits to companies small or large–they now have the ability to pay per month for the computing resources they were making hefty capital investments for not too long ago; and, by-in-large, these investments pay off.

How to Protect Your Business with BDR

How to Protect Your Business with BDR

How would your company react to the worst-case scenario of your technology failing during a critical moment? By this, we mean a server unit failing or a hardware failure causing a catastrophic loss of data. There are other situations where you experience a similar loss of data, including natural disasters that completely destroy physical infrastructure; yet, the end result is the same, and it keeps your business from functioning as intended.