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Lane Griffing

Lane Griffing

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If you are a small to medium sized business that has frequent e-mail problems including servers going down, slow performance, too many spam e-mails and high IT support and software costs, read on.

Hosted Exchange is often a much cheaper and easier way of getting rid of all these issues at a much lower cost to your company. Here’s how it works: Instead of you purchasing and maintaining your e-mail in house which can be costly and time consuming, your Exchange server is hosted (and maintained) in a high-performance, high-security hosting company “in the cloud” where you can access it securely from any device or PC. 

Best of all, you don’t have to make any changes in HOW you access your e-mail – your messages will simply be delivered to your inbox, phone, or other device faster and with fewer issues, and it will always be synchronized and up-to-date!

Here are just a few of the advantages:


-No more software, hardware or maintenance costs. YOU don’t have to purchase the hardware and software, nor do you have to maintain the system. This is all included in a low monthly fee.

-High speed, 99.999% uptime e-mail. The Hosted Exchange platforms we provide our clients are high-performance systems with multiple “fail over” backup servers, maintained and monitored like Fort Knox; something you wouldn’t need for your small business. However, since you are hosting on this platform, you get all the benefits of a high-performance system without the costs. Your in-house network could go down and you’d STILL have access to your e-mail, contacts and calendar.

-Fewer issues with SPAM and phishing emails – our Hosted Exchange system is configured in accordance with best practices which reduces SPAM, reduces risks of ransomware, and keeps your users productive.  And forget about constantly whitelisting email addresses, that is no longer an issue!

-Automatic backups and archiving. What would you do if your in-house e-mail server failed and erased your messages? Or what if a disgruntled employee deleted all their e-mails? If you were hosting your Exchange, these would be non-issues since your e-mails are backed up.

-Faster set up. Installing an Exchange server can take days. When you host Exchange, setting up a new user takes minutes.

-Access your e-mail and calendar from anywhere. You don’t have to remote into your office PC; now you can securely access your e-mail from any device or PC.

-Access to Office 365 apps – this can be rolled into your Hosted Exchange for specific users as desired

 

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Most people in business take for granted that when they turn on their information systems, things just work. It is important to understand that this investment in business support needs to be protected. Before Dolce Vita contracts with a client one of our first tasks is to send the client a brief questionnaire which asks a few important questions about the client. We then meet onsite with the client and review their existing infrastructure. What we find varies, but we often see infrastructure issues which are a root cause of reliability problems. We’ll discuss a few of the most important here. 

Environmental Issues 

Temperature and Humidity – it may not be obvious but servers and computer hardware including routers, switches, printers, perform best and last the longest if they are operated in conditions which are between 60-75 degF and humidity which is in the 30-60% range. In other words, if it is uncomfortable for users it will be harmful to the hardware. And it is important to note that these temperature ranges are 24/7…so offices which adjust their thermostats to 80 degF during nights and weekends can expect to see much lower equipment lifespans. Assume that if the office is 80 degF overnight, that workstations will have internal temps of 110 degF+. Higher temps lead to warping and circuit damage over time. Low humidities of less than 15-20% will lead to static discharge, so server rooms need to have their humidity controlled. 

It is also reasonable to ensure that all workstations, servers, and battery backups are supported off the floor at least 1-2 inches. If a hot water heater or even a toilet fill line leak over a weekend, having all electrical components above damp carpet will avoid numerous issues, even outside of safety considerations. Servers and their battery backups should always be in appropriate racks with electrical and network cabling off the floor and properly secured. 

Power 

We take for granted that power will be available…however one of the significant infrastructure issues we see is related to improper protection from dirty power. Dirty power entails not only surges but “brown-outs” in which circuit amperage drops below standards. This is damaging to electronic components over time. 

Servers – any servers should be connected to rack-mounted battery backup which is capable of performing an automated shutdown of servers in the event a power outage is long enough to deplete battery power to a specified point. 

Workstations and all networking equipment – any workstations, switches, routers, wireless access points should be connected to the battery side of battery backups. We commonly find that users connect their workstations to surge-only outlets on their battery backup unit, or that they connect floor heaters, fans, printers to their battery backups. This will overload the battery backup and will cause damage to components. 

Printers – Laser printers will typically have problems if they are connected to a battery backup. In most cases they should be connected to an appropriate surge suppressor. 

It is never a good idea to “daisy-chain” battery backups or surge protectors. Appropriate practice is to ensure that electrical systems are sized appropriately, with appropriate breaker capacities and appropriate numbers of circuits. 

Networking 

Another “feature” which we periodically see when doing a site survey for a new account is a creative effort to supply a number of network ports from a single network cable. This is periodically seen in older offices which refuse to appropriately upgrade infrastructure in order support growth. It is seen in situations where a single cable feeds to a particular user work area. And found stuffed behind or next to a desk or a chair is a small network switch which feeds to three other workstations, two printers, and a wireless access point. And of course the small switch is not connected to a battery backup. 

This situation creates problems because each time the small switch sees a power fluctuation it resets the connections for all devices connected to it thereby briefly dropping the network connection. In addition the small switch can create major network issues due to its limited ability to properly handle network traffic in a larger environment. 

We recommend for new offices that they build in additional cable plant which tries to account for potential growth as well as additional devices such as printers, scanners, and wireless systems. It costs roughly 25% as much to install cabling during new construction or renovations as it does to later disrupt users, move furniture, etc. Why not do it now instead of save a few bucks now and pay four times as much in 2-5 years? 

If you are planning a relocation, new construction, or renovation call Dolce Vita today at 404-822-7912. We will assist with planning your infrastructure and can make your IT more reliable, more cost effective, and more profitable for your business.

 

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Posted by on in Information Security

Most of us have dozens of credentials which we use unconsciously…to log into our business network, to check Facebook, payroll, accounting, encrypted email, Dropbox…the list seems endless. But we log in so automatically that we tend to forget what those credentials are protecting. 

 

Access credentials are a critically important piece of information infrastructure, and in many cases they are one of the ONLY things which separate our critical data from the Internet (and unwanted access by third parties). So let’s play a little game…we’ll ask you for a list of the things you would do with credentials IF YOU ABSOLUTELY WANTED SOMEONE ELSE TO GAIN ACCESS TO YOUR SENSITIVE INFORMATION. 

  • Use a simple password such as password123 
  • Use a short password 
  • Never change your password 
  • Use a password with your name, a child’s name, your address, or your phone number 
  • Place your password on a sticky note and tape it to your monitor, or to be really secure, tape it under your keyboard 
  • Use the same password for Facebook and your accounting, payroll, or tax accounts…or for that matter use the same password for 30 or 40 different accounts 
  • Keep your password in a note on your phone (which is probably not encrypted, nor is it set with a passcode) 

 

You get the point. So let’s start to fix this… 

  • Assemble a written list of all your credentials – it will need to go in your safe between uses 
  • Mark the credentials which are business critical…these are the ones that if a malicious outsider carefully used them, they could make your life miserable. Think accounting, banking, payroll, taxes, sensitive cloud storage, backups, etc. Make sure that these are changed at least 2-3 times per year, minimum. Make sure that they are changed in the event of any significant staffing change 
  • Try the habit of using a passphrase which is complex, i.e. upper case, lower case, numbers, and special characters, and which is strong (over 8 characters) 

 

Examples: 

If I love my dog:  iL0V3MyD0G 

If I hunt:  iLiKe2BL@$TPeskyW@bb1t$ 

 

The key is to use multiple words, associate them with something important to you (to make it easy to remember), and substitute special characters or change letter case in a consistent way (consonants can be caps, vowels lower-case for example). 

  • For unimportant accounts such as Instagram or Facebook usually credentials are not as big an issue 
  • Change your passwords on a regular basis 
  • Remember to NOT use consistent credentials for important accounts. If your Facebook account is the same as your payroll account, if FB is compromised, so are you. 
  • Protect your credentials list carefully, ensure that others cannot access it electronically.
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When Dolce Vita initially engages with a potential new client, we take a hard look along with the management team on the different data repositories the business has in play. This breakdown varies depending upon the business vertical, but some categories are consistent regardless of the type or the size of business: 

 

- Accounting data 

- Public facing website 

- Email 

- HR 

 

With reference to email, when dealing with rapidly growing or relatively new businesses, it is common to see them with POP3 email hosted by Cox, or GoDaddy, or other low-cost providers. This can be a solution in cases where there is no need to recover email or when cost is the only item of concern. 

 

But every client we work with typically wants to improve collaboration, and this means email systems which allow for exceptionally easy sharing of calendars and tasks. We typically lean hard on Hosted Exchange to satisfy these requirements because it offers 99.999% uptime at minimal cost, provides all of the same functionality as on-premise Exchange with fewer maintenance headaches and less downtime.

 

Clients without IT staff like the ease of use and the painless migration from their current email system, regardless of whether it is on-premise Exchange or POP3 email. They also like the built-in functionality such as anti-SPAM and exceptional security features like anti-phishing which are available for protecting email flow before it arrives on the client site. 

 

Other features such as backup, archiving, and encrypted email are configured by Dolce Vita, so for environments where security and availability are important, Hosted Exchange is a convenient and cost-effective solution. 

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Startups and small business owners often find themselves frustrated when they try to implement their own technology solutions. Larger firms sometimes face problems their in-house staff isn’t sure how to handle. In many situations, it’s beneficial to hire an IT consulting firm and turn technology worries over to an experienced professional.

 

Receive Critical Insights

 

When you work with a professional IT consulting company, you have an impartial resource available to evaluate how your infrastructure is currently set up, evaluate chronic issues and recommend approaches to improve usability and reliability. You’re no longer in danger of missing the technological forest for the trees.

 

Your business receives professional services and advice. As technologies emerge, your chosen expert can help integrate them into existing solutions. Experienced professionals can often predict future business technology trends and help you position yourself to use change to grow with the pace of technological demands.

 

Save Money

 

Hiring an in-house solution costs money, and you may not hire someone with the extensive experience a consultant offers. IT consulting companies deal with a wide variety of environments, and have experience with an array of solutions most in-house hires never deal with. 

 

Consultants also save your organization because you only pay for your services as you need them. One month you might need licensing upgrades and training on new systems, and the next two months you might not need anything at all. You only receive a bill when you require services.

 

Free Your Time

 

Properly utilized consultants manage routine infrastructure tasks. If you currently handle your own technology needs, you are free to focus on your business. If you employ IT staff members, they can work on high-leverage business situations, versus troubleshooting singular issues. 

 

Improve Data Security

 

Your business keeps data on your clients, your employees, your finances and more. You’re a target for cyber criminals who would steal that data. IT experts can help you analyze where your business is at risk and develop a plan for keeping data safe.

 

Dolce Vita IT Solutions provides systems management, data recovery, strategic consulting and more. Contact us to find out more about receiving professional services for your business.

 

 

Sources:


https://the-lmj.com/2017/11/5-reasons-your-business-needs-an-it-consultant/

https://www.snagajob.com/job-descriptions/it-consultant/

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Ransomware has grown exponentially during 2017, and the trend seems likely to continue in 2018 as well. There are few options available once a ransomware virus has taken over your system. The time to act against ransomware is now. It is important to protect yourself before your system is affected.

 

Alarming Numbers and Trends 

Ransomware attacks on business increased 36 percent in 2017, with small businesses presenting the biggest targets. Keep in mind this is a 300 percent increase over 2015. Some of the most concerning trends in ransomware attacks were attacks on healthcare related organizations being the fastest growing targets, and that mobile devices are showing signs of being the next channel that attackers zero in on. The odds that your system will be hit with a ransomware attack at some point is almost certain. 

 

Responding to an Attack 

Once your system is hit, your options for responding are limited, and many Americans simply pay the ransom. Just like cooperating any blackmailer, however, paying the ransom makes it more likely that you will be targeted again in the future. In some cases, it may be possible to decrypt a system that’s been hit by a ransomware attack, but even in cases where the decryption is known, you may still lose some data. The best hope for recovering from a ransomware attack is to have a quality backup system in place beforehand. 

 

Take Action Now

Most ransomware attacks are not brand-new threats. Hackers recycle old attacks hoping to catch systems that have not updated their software with the latest security patches. Close the known vulnerabilities in your system by staying on top of software updates and keeping your system current.

 

Emphasize the importance of not opening suspicious emails. Infected emails remain the number one gateway to your system. Make regular reminders a part of life to avoid those emails and forward anything remotely suspicious to the IT department.

 

Have a backup system in place to recover data from before the infection occurred. Once your system is compromised, having a backup is the only good option for recovery.

 

By being proactive, your system may weather the crisis of a ransomware attack. The odds are you will take action against ransomware. The only question is whether this action will take place before or after an attack.

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Posted by on in Managed Services

Do you feel like you spend way too much time putting out IT fires? Whether it’s a Monday morning crisis or the need to decide on the latest software or hardware, a business owner usually is more reactive than proactive when it comes to IT. Rapidly advancing technology can help your business continually improve when you identify and manage potential concerns ahead of time. 

Data and Network Security 

Any company can potentially be hacked be hacked, and small businesses are often targets. According to Ponemon Institute, half of all small and mid-sized businesses have experienced a breach in the past calendar year. Forty-eight percent of these security breaches happen because hackers target smaller businesses. The other 52 percent are related to human or system error. 

Prioritize the security of your systems and customer data. A suite of IT procedures and solutions is much less expensive than the repercussions of a security breach. 

Disaster Recovery 

Another one of the most common IT problems involves issues with data backup. Here’s why you need a good business continuity plan. 

  • If ransomware gets through your security, you can simply restore systems to the last backup. You may lose a small amount of data, but you won’t have to pay a ransom.

  • If users accidentally delete files, the power goes out, or you experience a server crash, you can restore what you lost while minimizing costly downtime.

  • Lost files are expensive. One Verizon report finds data breeches that lead to lost data cost on average between $18,120 and $35,730.

Employee Frustration

When your staff has access to user-friendly systems that work flawlessly, they are happy and productive. When they spend the day on slow machines and outdated technology, it impacts their productivity and frustration level. Keep technology updated for improved output and increased job satisfaction.

Hardware and Software Problems

Just because a computer still runs doesn’t mean it should be still in service. Older hardware and software which is not vendor-supported is more vulnerable to security exploits which raises the risk of data loss or destruction.  Many businesses expect to use computers between four and six years, and while they will probably function for that long, technology evolves so quickly they will most likely need expensive repairs to continue to function.

Obsolete machines cost money, time, and opportunities. Plan equipment updates into your budget so you have a plan for the regular updates. When business owners approach IT proactively, technology supports the buisness instead of being a maintenance struggle.

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Posted by on in Uncategorized

This past summer, the Equifax breach exposed the personal data of millions of Americans. If you were one of them, and you haven't dealt with it yet, it’s important to know what steps you can take to protect yourself. Here are a few reminders!

Equifax has taken steps to address the breach, but more is needed to safeguard your information. From monitoring credit activity to offering tips you can follow for greater digital security, including real-time alerts and credit trackers, two-step authentication on all logins, credit freezes, and more, Dolce Vita IT Solutions wants to help you protect yourself.

 

  1. Be Informed

 

Equifax, one of the big three consumer credit reporting agencies, collected information on consumers and businesses to help lenders determine credit worthiness. Hackers stole that information, including Social Security numbers, home addresses, credit card numbers, driver’s license numbers, and birth dates. Equifax believes nearly half the United States population may be affected.

 

       2. Enroll in Identity Protection

 

Equifax offers one free year of this protection, but you may not trust them now. It requires you to give them even more information. Dolce Vita recommends taking action to protect your data and finding alternative forms of identity protection. Many of their solutions for companies apply to individuals. Learn more here.

 

       3. Beware Suspicious Activity

 

You should always review your credit reports and bank statements. After the breach, Dolce Vita recommends doing this again. Keep an eye out for new accounts opened in your name, late payments on debts you don’t recognize, and any other unfamiliar activity. Report any fraudulent activity immediately, and take steps now to recover your identity.

 

      4. Set Up Real Time Alerts

 

To make sure you know if someone is using your identity, set up fraud alerts. This stops anyone trying to open new credit card accounts. Make sure you understand what types of alerts are set up and for how long. If you feel the need for more security, you can freeze your credit, restricting access to your credit report until you request the freeze to be removed. This will not affect already open accounts or your credit score.

 

Once you’ve completed these steps, you can be more comfortable that your identity is protected.    Remain vigilant and contact Dolce Vita IT Solutions for help or recommendations.

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What used to be a simple inconvenience is now a fatal blow to a lot of companies. Data loss has become a critical problem in an age that revolves around information technology. One large data loss could be enough to stop a budding company in its tracks. Luckily, there are ways to reduce the risk of serious data losses. Learn the best practices for data backup and recovery your company needs to be using, including having a written recovery plan, backing up to the cloud, relying on automation, and using the right technologies. Dolce Vita IT Solution offers Sempreon DATTO as a comprehensive data recovery solution perfect for any company.

1.     Have a Recovery Plan

 

Dolce Vita recommends making a written plan to prepare for emergencies. Everyone should know the plan and take ownership of both their day-to-day role and their role in an emergency. Establish different layers of redundancy, as well as what to do when data loss happens. Review the plan regularly to keep it up to date.

 

2.     Vary Storage Methods

 

Using multiple methods of data storage provides flexibility and redundancy. The cloud offers cost-friendly protection free from on-site risks and allows for quick recovery of information. Dolce Vita makes image-based backups, not files/folders only, tests the backups daily to make sure they restore correctly, and provides virtual machines on your network as backups, getting you back online in minutes, not hours.

 

3.     Capitalize on Automation

 

Automation provides constant protection that avoids such circumstances. People forget to back up their data; automated processes remove that from the equation. Manual processes can miss steps, while correctly configured automated backup will complete each step before going on. Sempreon DATTO automates the process for you, giving your administrator real-time oversight on backups both on-site and off.

 

4.     Have the Right Technology

 

Make sure you have the right technology for your company before you need it. Self-Monitoring Analysis Reporting Technology (SMART), for example, monitors storage drives to spot potential failures before they happen. SMART allows IT staff to back up data before the drive dies. 

 

Having a plan helps everyone feel confident regarding the security and integrity of their data. Sempreon DATTO provides the solution your company needs to protect your data, keep you aware of its status, and be ready for whatever happens. Contact Dolce Vita for more information.

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