Archived Newsletters Blog

Tech News – Massachusetts Data Breach Reports Continue To Rise in 2014

Seal_of_Massachusetts data breach graph

In January and February of 2014, there were 349 reported data breaches affecting the residents of Massachusetts — a 15% increase over last year’s pace. Since 2007,  Massachusetts has required that data breaches involving personal information (such as bank account, credit card, or social security numbers) be reported to the Attorney General’s office. The Attorney General has been collecting statistics from these reports.

 

Then, for 2012, the Attorney General released a comprehensive report on those data breaches — they have since updated their numbers for 2013 and the first couple months of 2014. The 2012 comprehensive report showed a lot of interesting trends in the data — including the fact that stolen laptops were the most common source of the most serious data breaches, and that executives were often involved in data breaches. Mobile device breaches were also a big trend for 2012, with stolen mobile devices being responsible for 26% of the total number of effected residents.

You can read the 2012 report here.   Or, for older reports, see:

2011 breach report

2009 breach report.

Tips and Tricks – Connect Your iPhone To Your Corporate Mail, Contacts, and Calendar

If you have an iPhone and corporate email with Microsoft Exchange, or cloud-based email with Microsoft Office 365(tm), then it is easy to connect your iPhone to your mail, contacts, and calendar.

Beware, though — if you sync contacts and calendar, your personal contacts and calendar entries may get synced to your corporate server — some users may only want to sync e-mail.

Step 1. First tap Settings, then go to Mail, Contacts, Calendars, then Add Account and choose Microsoft Exchange. 

Step 2. Fill out the Email, Username, and  Password fields.  Some users may also have to fill in “Domain” — note, this is not your email domain, ask your corporate IT person for your Windows domain if you do not know it.   If you make a mistake, you will be prompted to change the information.

Exchangeiphonestep1

Step 3.  Choose whether you want to sync Mail, Calendar, or Contacts and tap save.

exchangeiphonestep2

 

That’s it — now your iPhone should begin syncing with your corporate email.

Product Review – Synology DiskStation DS214 NAS (Network Attached Storage)

SynologyLogo_enu_no_slogan_for_web

 DiskStation DS214

Synology has been bringing enterprise storage functionality into a much lower price range for years. The Synology DiskStation DS214 is an affordable 2-drive NAS with a number of enterprise features, released in 2014. We’ve tested out a number of these units both in our lab and in the field, and here’s what we have found:

Synology DS214

Quick Facts:

  • 2X 3.5″ SATA drive bays (sold diskless)
  • Gigabit connectivity
  • DS214+ available — the “plus” edition has 2x Gigabit connections instead of 1
  • Supports CIFS, SMB, NFS, and iSCSI
  • Compatible with Vmware(tm) vSphere hypervisors
  • Other features include encryption, syncing between multiple devices, and LUN snapshots

Our experiences:

  • Performance: The Synology will easily saturate the gigabit network interface (unlike many other similar low-cost devices); read and write speeds approaching 100MB/sec mean this device performs quite well
  • Reliability:  While not as reliable as an enterprise SAN, the Synology is a reliable and
  • Setup and Maintenance: The DS214 can be a bit tricky to setup, but maintenance is a breeze

 

Overall, we have tried a large number of different NAS units and at the price point, the Synology is hard to beat.

April 2012 News Letter

Announcing Our New Website

The Direct iT Web Team is proud to announce the launch of our new directitcorp.com site! We have news, product info, a cloud-services blog, and lots of other new features. Please check it out and let us know what you think!

Previewing Windows 8

Windows 8 is the next generation operating system coming from Microsoft. They have not announced a release date yet — at one point last year CEO Steve Ballmer mentioned a 2012 release date, and based on the normal Windows release cycle we expect it to go on sale in the fall of 2012. Our engineers recently downloaded a pre-release developer version of Windows 8, and here are a few things we noticed about the new OS:

Designed for Tablets: Remember how the look and feel of Windows completely changed between Windows XP and Windows 7 / Vista? Well, get ready, because it is completely changing yet again. The new interface, called Metro, makes Windows 8 look and feel a lot like a smartphone or tablet — in fact, the Metro interface is used on Windows Phone smartphones and is designed to allow Windows 8 to be used on tablet devices. The Windows Explorer file explorer interface is also changing, moving to a “ribbon” style interface like that pioneered in Office 2007. Some pundits are saying that this is more of Microsoft trying to imitate Apple.

Hardware Support, Storage Spaces, and Security Updates: Like with any new version of Windows, you can expect built-in support for newer hardware and improved security. Also, a new feature called Storage Spaces will allow users to create redundant storage spaces where files are spread across multiple disks (similar to RAID).

Windows To Go: Another announced feature will be Windows To Go, a feature where you can setup a USB stick with your files and applications and boot any Windows 7 or Windows 8 compatible computer off of it.

Windows Store: Again taking a play from Apple, Windows 8 will feature an official Microsoft app store, where you can purchase Microsoft-approved software in a digital download format (allowing Microsoft to collect a percentage of the revenue every time you purchase software from Adobe, Quicken, or any other software vendor). The idea is that you can know that the software you are purchasing has been tested and approved by Microsoft when you download it from the App Store.

When should you consider switching?

In the IT industry, there is a rule of thumb called the Service Pack 1 rule. The idea is, a new Microsoft OS isn’t going to be supported or tested well enough for business users to consider switching until the first major service pack for the OS is released.

There is still a lot of time and opportunity for things to change before the release of Windows 8 — the Direct iT engineering team will be keeping a close eye on developments and will keep you updated.

 

The iPad’s Role in the Paperless Office

Can the iPad be part of your paperless business?

Few computing devices have ever captured the imagination like the iPad. Sleek, futuristic, lightweight, and powerful, the iPad (and with it, other tablets) has been rapidly moving out of the realm of home and personal use into businesses. More and more iPads are appearing in sales presentations and meetings; chances are, there will soon be an iPad in a cubicle near you.

Electronic Signatures

For years, fedex and UPS have used electronic signature pads for delivery confirmations. There are a number of electronic forms products on the market that allow users to sign documents in electronic format, and special iPad-compatible styluses are available that look and feel a lot like a normal pen. However, we don’t yet see much adoption of electronic signature systems by small businesses and law firms; generally, the idea is that very little can go wrong with physical paper and ink, while a tablet may have software or network issues, a hard drive might die, etc. As these products become more mature we will see electronic signature technology move more and more into smaller businesses and more applications.

Tablet Camera as Scanner

There are also many apps and devices on the market designed to let people use a tablet’s camera as a scanner to scan documents. What could be more convenient than taking a quick snapshot of a page with your tablet? However, this is not going to produce nearly as good an image as a real scanner. Issues with page size, lighting, angle, and editing can make working with a document that was scanned on an iPad difficult.

BYOD – Bring Your Own Device

Another facet of the tablet revolution is the BYOD ( Bring Your Own Device) model for business networks. For a long time, many businesses have focused on being able to control their information infrastructure — laptops, desktops, servers, all managed, secured, and provided by the company. Now, with the proliferation of iPads and other tablets, many employees are requesting that their personal iPads be connected to the corporate network. This allows them to use the iPad as a powerful business tool, but also brings up a number of different problems:

  • Security — iPads are one of the most common targets of theft, and the iOS operating system that runs the iPad does not provide enterprise-grade security features (like an encrypted root filesystem or centralized policy management). When you start connecting insecure devices to your corporate network, this creates a risk.
  • Control — when using employee-provided equipment, the business does not have full legal control over the equipment, its setup, and its use. With company-provided gear, you can install your own system policies and settings.
  • Ownership — in the case of terminated employees, you are left without any means to make sure their device does not have any trade secrets, intellectual property, passwords or other company data on it. The IT department loses a level of control.

My Efact: Paperless Office iPad Support

My Efact: Paperless Office has been tested to work with iPads, iPhones, and other common tablet devices. Our development team is also in the process of getting an app in the Apple app store, look forward to news in the future when our app (which will feature much quicker and easier iPad/iPhone scanning support) is released to the app store.

More Adobe Exploits in 2012

So far in 2012, there have been 4 major Adobe exploits — in January, we saw an Adobe Reader PDF exploit where an attacker can hijack your machine using an infected PDF file. Then in February, we have seen both an Adobe Flash exploit (patched on February 15th) and an Adobe Shockwave exploit, and then another Adobe Flash exploit in early March. Remember to keep your Adobe programs updated, don’t open untrusted PDF files, and stay away from dangerous websites when possible.

It’s also worth noting that almost all of these exploits had “in the wild” periods — a period of time when there were websites and hackers using the exploits to infect machines before Adobe had released a patch or fix. Because of this “in the wild” period, we have to recommend that anyone who requires a secure network (i.e. banking and financial institutions, people with access to medical records, etc) should not use an Adobe Flash enabled web browser from a secure computer.

Thailand Flood Update – Hard Drive Shipments Resuming

We’ve been continuing to monitor the impact of the floods in Bangkok on the hard drive market — and although availability has not yet returned to pre-flood levels, we are noticing that shipments of popular enterprise SATA drives have started to resume in greater quantities. There are still some delays in system orders and there has been an overall impact on the market of reducing PC shipments, especially through the last Christmas season.

One welcome impact the floods have had on the market is that SSDs (Solid State Drives) have become more and more price-competitive with hard drives, as SSD prices have fallen while hard drive prices increased. SSDs work much like a hard drive but have no moving parts, produce much less heat, use much less power — however, SSDs are new technology, while hard drives have been a tried-and-true staple of computing for over 50 years. We are seeing more and more SSDs in enterprise storage and server systems as well as in laptops, and believe SSDs will become the norm in the future for performance-critical applications because SSDs significantly outperform even the fastest hard drives.

December 2011 News Letter

Direct iT Adds Office 365 to Cloud Offerings

Direct iT is now a Microsoft certified Office 365 reseller.  Office 365 is Microsoft’s cloud-based email hosting and office solution.  Office 365 is hosted by Microsoft and includes 25GB of email storage per user, shared calendars, Smartphone connections, file sharing, and instant messaging.  They have a number of plans, including basic plans with barebones e-mail support and enterprise plans with the latest full version of the latest Microsoft Office Professional included (currently Office 2010) as well as Blackberry Enterprise and Active Directory account sync.

We feel this product strongly complements our other cloud offerings, such as cloud document management, cloud-based backup, and Google Apps(tm), Google’s competing product to Office 365. If you have questions about this or any of our other cloud offerings, give us a call right away.

Read more here.

Hurricane Irene Follow-up

It has been more than a month since Hurricane Irene hit New England, and we thought we would share our experiences from during and after the storm. We had engineers in Waltham on 24-hour standby the entire weekend of the storm, but we were lucky enough that neither our main office nor either of our two datacenters lost power. We did have an internet connection go down, but it was a backup line and we have enough redundancy that no services at our main office were affected. We’re also proud to report that our cloud-based services such as My Efact Paperless Office and our email service were completely unaffected by the storm.

Some of our client, however, were not as lucky. A significant number of our clients lost power for 48-72 hours, and some of them went up to 5 days without power. As you know, every generator in New England was sold out days before the storm hit, so for customers without power or generators, there were not that many options. We had some clients visiting our office during the storm so they could temporarily access their email even though their servers and offices were down.

Events like Irene are a good excuse to review your business continuity, backup, and disaster recovery plans. Are you ready for the next big storm?

New Adobe Flash Security Hole

The Adobe Flash player had another severe security hole discovered recently — the bug allows hackers to infect your computer with spyware and viruses when you are browsing the web.  There are many infected websites using this hole to infect machines, some of them are legitimate websites whose owners do not realize they have been hacked or who participate in advertising networks that are spreading the infection.  Please update your Adobe Flash player — if you have not updated Adobe Flash since October 6, then your computer is vulnerable.

Announcing Bluebox 2.0

The Direct iT development team is proud to announce the release of Bluebox 2.0.  Bluebox is Direct iT’s custom network management, monitoring, and backup system.  The new 2.0 version gives our engineers better tools for backing up, monitoring, and scanning networks as well as for helping end-users.  Bluebox 2.0 also includes better tools for auditing your network to help determine which machines are old or have out-of-date software.  You may have noticed a Direct iT engineer visiting your site and replacing your Bluebox recently — we are in the process of upgrading all of our customers to this new system.

Call Direct iT Today!

781-996-4918

One of our IT specialists is waiting to talk to you.

About Direct iT

Direct iT, Inc. is a New England based IT services firm offering products and services for small businesses in Greater Boston, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, and the rest of New England. Cloud, compliance, and document management services are also available worldwide. Many of our customers are along the Route 128 technology corridor.

Direct iT, Inc. Main Offices

39 Emerson Rd. Suite 215
Waltham, MA 02451
Sales: 781-890-4400
Support 781-890-1907
sales@directitcorp.com