Amazon Has Taken Over the Cloud

Posted December 26, 2017 by

Amazon Web ServicesAmazon Web Services, or AWS, has long been a provider of quality web-based applications and services for businesses of all shapes and sizes. Nowadays, AWS is providing more services than ever before for the business world with more offerings regarding video creation, augmented reality, and virtual reality. With these new cloud-based services, Amazon is hoping to take advantage of a new market for emerging technologies.

Amazon’s Elemental Media Services introduced five new solutions that allow users to implement workflows to produce high-quality video content. The idea is to give users of AWS the capability to build custom video infrastructures to deliver content to viewers. Users can even build out custom video applications that only use technology resources that have been paid for. This comes at a time when it’s much more efficient and cost-effective to hire outward for managing and maintaining a video delivery system, which allows for more flexibility.

Until recently, companies were spending most of their time and resources ensuring that the infrastructure they build works in an efficient way. In other words, they were more focused on the operations aspect of managing an infrastructure rather than the quality of the content produced. Amazon Web Services users can now outsource the management and maintenance of their video content infrastructure so they can focus on creating content that outshines the competition.

Some of the notable features of AWS’s new service include:

  • AWS Elemental MediaConvert: Formatting and compressing videos for distribution to devices
  • AWS Elemental MediaLive: Encoding for live broadcasts on televisions or connected devices
  • AWS Elemental MediaStore: Delivery of video from high-quality storage
  • AWS Elemental MediaPackage: Prepare and protect live video streams
  • AWS Elemental MediaTailor: Insert targeted advertising into media without compromising on quality

All of the above services will be compatible with other Amazon Web Services applications, so it’s worth considering for the deployment of a video infrastructure, even for small businesses who are on a budget.

Other new services offered by Amazon Web Services include Sumerian, which is AWS’s augmented reality and virtual reality development platform. Users can build out environments using 3D applications for multiple platforms, including some of the most well-known VR and AR technologies like Oculus. You can also import assets to edit 3D scenes, as well as using your own created imports or the pre-installed library of objects.

How do you see these new Amazon Web Services changing the way that your business functions, if at all? Let us know in the comments, and be sure to subscribe to our blog.


Tip of the Week: Sync Your Inboxes with IMAP

Posted December 20, 2017 by

Person checking email on a smartphone while sitting in front of a laptop.How many emails do you send on a daily basis? You use it so frequently that you might not second-guess how it actually works. Depending on the way your business uses email, you might be able to optimize the way that it works for your mobile devices. There are two types of protocol that work to varying degrees for your email solution.

The first kind of email protocol is called POP, or Post Office Protocol. This can be seen in a similar way to snail mail. POP works by downloading messages to your device from the mail server through your email client. However, this keeps you from downloading the messages onto other devices. If you want to check your email on your smartphone, the same messages will not be accessible on your desktop–it’s just the way it works.

On the other hand, you have the preferred method of handling multi-device email: IMAP, or Internet Message Access Protocol. IMAP stores the messages live on an email server rather than downloading them directly to the devices. This means that the messages remain on the email server and are accessed by a mail client on any device you use. Any actions performed on the messages are done so through the mail server. This is the best way to use email if you’re hoping to keep your messages in sync across your devices.

Modern email systems generally allow for IMAP, including Google’s Gmail, Microsoft Outlook, and Mozilla’s Thunderbird. Some, like Apple’s iCloud, even default to it. Depending on your business’ needs, you’ll want to implement a communications solution that allows your team to access email on a multitude of devices–that’s where we come in.

If your business is unfamiliar with mobile devices, Excalibur Technology can work with your organization to ensure that your mobile device policy matches up properly with your email client. You want to ensure that any devices accessing company information are secured from end to end. Furthermore, these devices need access to information unimpeded so that productivity can commence. We can work with your organization to make this happen.

To learn more about email, mobile devices, and business technology for a modern workforce, reach out to Excalibur Technology at (877) NET – KING.


Does Credit Card Theft Mean Identity Theft?

Posted December 19, 2017 by

A thief running away with a stolen credit card.Almost anyone would consider having their credit card stolen to be a major problem, but while it may technically constitute identity theft, identity theft itself can be any number of things. Today, we go over the difference between credit card theft and identity theft and what you can do to keep your staff, clients, and vendors safe.

Defining the Crimes
The first thing you have to know is that credit card theft and identity theft are not mutually exclusive, but while credit card theft is identity theft, identity theft obviously isn’t credit card theft. Credit card theft is when someone has stolen your credit card information and is able to use that information to purchase goods, services, or dispense money.

Identity theft, however, is a blanket term that covers these three situations:

  1. Fraud or misuse of an existing account — With 16.4 million of 2014’s 17.6 million victims being targeted by this variety of identity theft, this is easily the most prevalent form of identity theft. This is defined by a situation where a party gains access to an account without the account holder’s authorization and uses its credentials to benefit them in some way.
  2. Fraud or misuse of a new account — Opening a new account in another party’s name. This type of fraud can happen all over, and can range anywhere from opening a consumer benefits account, to opening a line of credit or a checking account, to buying property. This type of fraud was reported about 1.1 million times in 2014.
  3. Fraud or misuse of personal information — All other uses of stolen personal information added up to a relatively paltry 713,000 reported cases. This is mainly when someone uses your identity to gain a benefit they couldn’t have otherwise. You see this used mostly to find employment, rent property, see a doctor, or lie to the authorities.

Protecting Yourself
As a business owner, you are responsible for the data people have entrusted with you. By knowing what to do to protect your own data, you’ll know how to approach securing the clients’, employees’, and vendors’ personal data you hold on file. Make sure to have a strong firewall on your network to keep unwanted intruders out, and antivirus and spam blocking solutions to eliminate threats when they do get past your defenses. Excalibur Technology’s DNS Web Filtering and firewall and VPN products are great options. Also, consider learning today’s best practices to ensure you are always in the right position to keep your identity secure. Here is a resource from the University of Pittsburgh to help you.

For more information about identity theft and network security, visit our blog regularly.


VoIP Delivers Benefits That a Traditional Phone System Can’t

Posted December 18, 2017 by

Tablet showing a silhouette of a person talking on a headset.Communication is a critical part of your business’ operations, but how can you ensure that you’re not holding your business back by failing to consider modern solutions to age-old problems? While your telephone system likely gets the job done, you shouldn’t let complacency keep you from striving for improvement. For telephony solutions, you can consider leaving behind your service provider and investing in a digital solution called Voice over Internet Protocol, or VoIP.

Traditional telephone solutions rely on telephone lines being installed throughout your office. If you are privy to the finer details of this particular process, you know that it can take quite a while to fine-tune your infrastructure to best suit your organization’s needs. Depending on the number of users, each handset needs to be hooked up to your organization’s phone infrastructure. This makes adding new users quite a pain, as you may need to move your office around in order to accommodate such growth. Furthermore, you may find that you don’t use all of the services provided by your telephone service provider. Many providers bundle together services, like television or Internet, without giving users the option to section off exactly what type of service they want. This means that you’re ultimately paying for services that you don’t want or need, which is a considerable waste of resources on your part.

Thankfully, VoIP improves the communications conversation. VoIP allows your organization to take advantage of more flexible telephony solutions by using your Internet connection to transmit and receive calls. It works in much the same way as your traditional phone solution, but with less reliance on your physical infrastructure itself. While you can acquire physical handsets for your employees’ desks, the main draw of VoIP comes from the fact that you can use the application in any way you see fit, whether it’s on your smartphone or your desktop.

Imagine being able to take your workplace phone number on the go so that you won’t miss a thing, or being able to dodge extra costs for long-distance calls. Imagine ditching the expensive services that you’re forced to pay for, like cable television, when all you use is your Internet and phone. By implementing VoIP, you’re eliminating unnecessary expenses that would otherwise place restrictions on your ability to effectively communicate and afford the comprehensive solution your business inevitably needs. With Excalibur Technology’s Cloud VoIP solution, it’s easy to add user accounts, and since you’re using your Internet connection instead of telephone wires, you’re saving quite a lot of money that could be better utilized if spent elsewhere.

Of course, you still have to be wary of your bandwidth, as you’ll be putting additional strain on your business’ Internet connection in order to use VoIP, but this is only a minor hurdle that a managed IT provider like Excalibur Technology can help you work through. To learn more about VoIP, call us today at (877) NET – KING.


Tip of the Week: Would Remote Workers Benefit Your Business?

Posted December 15, 2017 by

Young man sitting in a lounge chair with his laptop on the beach.If you allow your workforce to work remotely, your business can flourish under the right conditions. You still need to think about the risks associated with it, though. If you’re not careful about your remote work strategy, it could blow up in your face. Here are some of the ways you can minimize the risk of remote workers.

The Benefits of Remote Work
Have you ever stopped to consider that a lot of your budget is spent paying for rent and other utilities, like heat, power, and air conditioning? These are some of the major costs associated with operations. You need to pay for these services in order to actually make a profit for your organization. However, if you downsize your office space and eliminate unnecessary expenses, you can take advantage of new opportunities. You also provide your employees with more flexibility so that they can work how they want. Thanks to this flexibility, you can provide your workers with benefits that they may not be able to find elsewhere. That’s not even mentioning that you can hire anyone from anywhere, eliminating geographical barriers for good for any new hires.

A good example to consider is how a remote working plan could help parents with young children. They need to work, but it’s also important for them to spend time with their new family. A flexible schedule is the ideal way for a parent to keep their work schedule while taking care of their kids, allowing them to be there when it’s needed. The freedom and flexibility associated with remote working can help you retain employees, as it costs more to hire new employees than keep current ones.

The Downsides
The freedom and flexibility that comes from remote working can also be a major issue. What if the worker decides to just throw away the workday on chores or television instead of doing their work? These types of distractions don’t exist in the office environment, but they might prove to be too irresistible to the remote worker. Plus, remote employees have been known to suffer from reduced communication and interaction skills with their coworkers, which can limit productivity and morale.

Correcting the Downsides
To keep remote workers from holding your business back, you should focus on hiring only remote workers who have strong communication skills and use them to foster a sense of connection during the on-the-job training stage. You should periodically check in with your remote workers to ensure that they are working properly and to remind them that they are an important part of your workplace. Make sure that they feel valued and develop camaraderie. However, there is a fine line that you don’t want to cross here, as a misstep could lead to micromanagement.

Having the technology to ensure your workers can collaborate is a crucial step toward making sure your business is ready for this development. Technology can reduce the gap between your in-house and remote workers to create a great workplace for your entire staff. To learn more about remote workers and managing them effectively, reach out to Excalibur Technology at (877) NET – KING.


Which Approach Puts Your IT in a Better Position?

Posted December 11, 2017 by

Conceptual image of silhouetted directional sign and businessman on binary code matrixTechnology management is one of the major issues that challenges small businesses. Do you know the various strengths and weaknesses of having an in-house IT department versus an outsourced IT provider? As a managed service provider ourselves, we’re in a unique position to help your business make an educated decision about the future of its IT management.

In-House IT Management
If your business is fortunate enough to have its own in-house IT department, you know that to get the right people for the job you need to painstakingly assess all applicants. Since your business’s in-house team will always be at your disposal, your technicians have to be chosen with the applicable know-how to mitigate the technology troubles your organization will most frequently come across.

On the other hand, small and medium-sized businesses are known to have some troubles, even when working with an in-house IT department. Training new team members can be tricky, time consuming, and expensive, especially if your business has complex technologies that need to have dedicated management. Once these technicians are trained to cover the bases your business technology demands, they will only get more expensive; so seeing a substantial return on your investment may not be possible.

Managed/Outsourced IT
Outsourced IT provides one of the most sought after assets for a business: predictable technology costs. When you hire a managed service provider, your business will always be using maintained and monitored technology, where issues are solved remotely for a flat monthly fee. An MSP generally stays updated on the latest findings and technologies in the industry, making them more well-rounded technicians than those who are simply concerned with the workings of your business’ current technology. It’s actually much more affordable as well, as you’re only adding one payment to your budget compared to the multiple salaries that would be impacting payroll for an internal IT department.

The only issue that you’ll encounter with a managed service provider is letting go of the reigns a bit and trusting someone else with control over your business’s IT. Therefore, trust is something that is absolutely crucial if you choose to outsource your IT management.

Excalibur Technology wants your business to benefit from outsourced IT solutions. To find out what we can do for you, reach out to us at (877) NET – KING.


5 Security Analogies to Help You Better Understand Hacking

Posted December 08, 2017 by

Outline of a house with valuables inside.How often do you read a blog article about network security only to be blown away by all of the overly complicated and confusing jargon of the industry? We know that it’s not necessarily your specialty, but it’s still important that you understand how network security works for your organization. While the complicated details should be left to IT professionals, we can help you better understand the general idea of security by comparing it to a locked door.

Brute Force Attacks
Let’s say that a robber wants to break into your home. He will try to go through a door, but he might not have the keys required to get in. In this case, he will have to use everything at his disposal to get in. He might try to kick the door down or smash a window. In other words, he’s getting into your house by brute force.

Brute force in computing can consist of a hacker trying to use as many passwords as possible in a short period of time to get in. There are programs that can randomly generate countless passwords in seconds, making this method of attack quite devastating when it’s effective.

Social Engineering
Let’s say that you have a new neighbor on your street. They ask you over for dinner and you get to know them. You feel like you are getting along with them quite well–well enough to trust them to water your plants while you’re out of the state on vacation for a few weeks. You give them a key, but when you come home, all of the plants are dead and you’re missing some furniture or technology. Yup, they’ve robbed you–you’re sure of it.

Social engineering takes a calculated approach to hacking and data theft. Hackers will make personalized attempts to steal your passwords and information by taking on the identity of someone you think you can trust with this information, like an “old friend” or “your elderly grandmother.”

Security Exploits
Robbers may try to find weak points in your front door. Maybe the door doesn’t quite lock all the way due to a defect in the manufacturing process. In this case, the robber may research what the weak points of the door are so that they can know the best and most efficient way of getting past your defenses.

Security exploits are weaknesses in software on your computer that allow hackers to sneak into your system and get into all sorts of trouble. These can range from weaknesses in the way that sensitive information is handled, to particular lines of code that create problems for your organization. Ultimately, it only takes a single crack in your defenses–a security exploit–to allow a hacker into your infrastructure.

Trojan Horse
Someone might knock on your door and tell you that something within your household is in need of repair. Maybe they know that you have a leaky faucet that needs to be addressed, or they know that you have some concerns about your furnace. They are then invited into your home and go about their business. You may then notice that you’re missing important items afterward, hinting that the off-the-street good Samaritan was, in reality, a scammer.

Trojans work like this in many ways. Just like the Greek horse of old, a Trojan sneaks onto your system and plants a backdoor, allowing for secret re-entry at a later date. Often times, a Trojan will use a larger data breach to mask its presence, and then continue to steal information in small doses as time goes on.

Two-Factor Authentication
Two locks are better than one in most circumstances. For example, you can have one lock on the doorknob and another on the deadbolt, which keeps the door fastened in place even if the door is forced open near the doorknob. Basically, having two types of locks makes it twice as hard to get to anything of value.

Two-factor authentication can be used to provide this secondary credential to your digital assets, including online accounts or network logins. A secondary code can be sent to an email address or mobile device, which allows your employees to access important information only when both of these are present.

Does your organization need help with network security? Excalibur Technology can help. To learn more, reach out to us at (877) NET – KING.


Tip of the Week: Saving a Windows Product Key to a Microsoft Account

Posted December 06, 2017 by

Icon with the word KeyTo activate Windows 10, every user will need a product key. Every legitimate version of the software has one, but often times, users will need the product key later down the road, only to find that they’ve lost it or tossed it. For this week’s tip, we’ll describe a way to link your software’s product key to a Microsoft account so that you’ll never lose it again.

Step One: Get a Microsoft Account
In order to link your Windows 10 product key to your Microsoft account, you’ll have to have a Microsoft account in the first place. If you don’t have an account under the Microsoft umbrella (Hotmail, Live, Outlook, etc.) and depend on another platform such as Google or Apple, have your IT administrator set up a Microsoft account for you. This way you can know you have an authorized account that is ready to go.

Step Two: Link the Product Key to Your Account
Now that you have a Microsoft account that is authorized by your organization’s IT administrator, you can log in and navigate to Settings in the Windows 10 Start Menu. Click on Update & Security, and then on Activation.

The Activation page will read “Windows is activated with a digital license”. If it doesn’t, you can stop because your product key doesn’t enable you to digitize your license and you won’t be able to link your Microsoft account with Windows 10. If this happens to you it is important that you keep your Windows 10 product key on file.

If you have a digital license, you then have to change your type of account to successfully link your Windows 10 product key to your Microsoft account. To do this, open Settings and then click on Accounts. You will then click on Your Info. Find the hyperlink on the page that reads “Sign in with a Microsoft account instead” and click on that.

You will then sign in using your Microsoft account using your username and password and click the Sign In button at the bottom of the screen. Enter your Windows password if it is different, otherwise click Next and it will ask you to Set up a PIN. If you don’t want to set up a PIN, you can click on the “Skip this step” hyperlink on the left side of the box.

Step Three: Verification
To check to see if this process has been successful, open your Settings, click on Update & Security, click on Activation, and you will see “Windows is activated with a digital license linked to your Microsoft Account” under the Activation subheading in the main box under Windows.

To protect your software and yourself, knowing the best practices of software management is important. If you would like to know more great tips and tricks in Windows 10, visit our blog regularly.


BDR Needs to Be a Business Priority

Posted December 05, 2017 by

Diagram representing files being backed up to a server.Of any of your business implementations, a data backup and disaster recovery system is a serious contender for the most important. However, many neglect to prepare for a data loss event or disaster, which means they leave their business vulnerable to the ill effects of both. Protecting your business begins with a data backup and disaster recovery solution that prepares you for a worst-case scenario.

For a long time, tape backup was the preeminent form of data backup for business purposes. This process, storing a copy of your data on magnetic tape, is no longer sufficient for the modern business due to shortcomings that would only slow down your recovery efforts after a data loss event.

First of all, backing up on tape isn’t an automated process, so it falls to an employee to initiate the backup process when the workday is over. How likely is it that one of your employees will be focused on running a data backup at the end of a particularly long and stressful day? In addition to this, restoring from a tape is also a manual process. All it would take is a slight mistake, and poof–there goes your data.

Secondly, a tape backup doesn’t keep a full backup of your data in the first place, only saving changes that have taken place over the previous 24 hour period, technically even less. Tape backup is a resource-intensive process, and so can only be run once each day, typically after-hours. Therefore, you could lose a full day’s worth of data to a disaster.

Finally, the third reason that tape is considered outdated is the amount of time it takes to restore your backed-up data. If you needed to restore your data, the process could easily take hours–and that’s assuming that whatever event caused you to need to restore from your backup didn’t also damage your internal hardware infrastructure. This downtime will undoubtedly have a negative impact on your business, and can be avoided.

Instead of relying on tape, companies today leverage enterprise-level Backup and Disaster Recovery (BDR) solutions such as Excalibur Technology’s Net-Safe Cloud Internet Backup solutions. Utilizing the cloud, BDR takes data backups that are more complete and can be restored much more quickly, leading to decreased downtime. This is accomplished through ‘snapshot’ data backups, which updates any changes as often as every fifteen minutes. This means that any data that may be lost is minimized, offering your business improved protection from threats to your data.

If BDR sounds like the right choice for your business, reach out to Excalibur Technology at (877) NET – KING to learn more about our Net-Safe Cloud Internet Backup.


Is a Generation Gap Causing Workplace Issues?

Posted December 01, 2017 by

People at work in an officeThere are over 83 million millennials in the United States. That is one out of every four Americans; and, now the most populous generation of people in the U.S. are all of working age. It is not a surprise, then, to find out that there are more workers who were born between 1981 and 1997 in the United States than any other generation. Millions of new workers for the modern economy that continues to grow.

A problem has come to light, however: the workers they would typically replace aren’t finished just yet. For the modern worker there are fewer opportunities to save money, and as a result, people are working longer and longer. What happens when young workers clash with the workers who have been in the trenches for decades? What specific issues do they have trouble with? We’ll look at this phenomenon and try to identify ways your business can limit generational strife among workers.

The Millennial Mindset
While only a few can definitively say that their job was great before millennials came along and ruined it, there has been a major shift in the type of work that companies do; and, the way that work gets done. Moreover, there is a shift in the way that these new workers (millennials) look at their job’s role in their life. People can argue about the viability of it, or the justifications behind it, but “The Millennial Mindset” (as it is sometimes referred to) has grabbed the business world’s attention as millennial workers demand more from a business than any other generation of American workers in history.

The millennial mindset, to explain it simply, is one that embraces flexibility, innovation, connectivity, collaboration, and most of all, transparency. This can cause conflict with older workers who have been plugging away for decades and have a routine method to work. Both the millennial’s perceived lack of respect for traditional constructs, and excess of pride in their own abilities can often set the stage for conflict. Since millennials have spent their formative years surrounded by technology, they tend to take for granted that they’ll have access to it at all times. Other generations have adapted to the use of technology and, as a result, often avoid it whenever possible. While technology has allowed people near-ubiquitous access to information, simply having access doesn’t make people experts.

Millennials also seek flexibility with their time, tending to leverage technology into jobs that feature access to remote work and flexible schedules. Like many of the workers before them, they want to be mentored, but can often rebuff potential mentors. They often seek for quick promotion, or at the very least, demand say in how they approach their jobs. Those who find it difficult to have their ideas taken seriously, or who feel underappreciated at work, are willing to look for other opportunities and explore their options. Since the workplaces of today have changed, largely as a result of technology, it really isn’t all that surprising that the people most proficient in the use of this technology are in high demand.

What’s the Problem?
Generational conflicts are nothing new. Young people of every generation have always been seen as a problem in America; but, those young people age. As older people, they then take issue with the next new generation of young people. That’s not to say there aren’t major differences between this particular set of people, but by-in-large, people will always squabble with people younger than them because young people generally are far more ambitious and less interested in convention. As useful as it is, the current generational friction in the workplace has been exacerbated by business’ reliance on technology.

Older workers tend to take exception to the millennial’s “me first” attitude, even if that attitude is based in an optimistic view of the work they are doing. Generation X-age workers tend to understand the world the millennial comes from a little bit better than Baby Boomers do, but since, as a whole, Gen-Xers tend to view the world, and people’s motives, through skeptical eyes, their motivations are typically their own.

One of the major problems you will see among your workforce is a misunderstanding on how each generation communicates. In a study performed by Robert Half, managers were asked “In which one of the following areas do you see the greatest differences among your company’s employees who are from different generations?” The results:

  • “Communication skills” – 30%
  • “Adapting to change”- 26%
  • “Technical skills” – 23%
  • “Cross-departmental collaboration” – 14%
  • “None” – 7%

What Can You Do?
You’ll have to consider two major steps if you hope to get them on the same page. The first is simply understanding that no matter what generation a worker is from, they are all individuals whom you are asking to work with others for a purpose. While older workers may respect you for looking at the bottom line when making decisions, younger workers may not as often, so leveraging the options you have at your disposal (pay increases, more time off, flex schedules, etc.) is always going to be a good strategy.

The second step is to follow a relatively simple four-step plan to get the most out of all of your workers. The four steps are as follows:

  1. Identify to what generations workers belong – Baby boomers were born between 1946-64; Generation X 1965-1980; and millennials 1980-2000.
  2. Employ the talents and strengths for each set of workers – To resolve negative conflict you need to find positive attributes of each set of workers and ensure they are dispatched in a manner that makes it possible for them to succeed and stay positive.
  3. Try to enable each generation with alternative management style – If there is generational friction going on in your workplace, you may have to alter your management style to gain the respect and trust of your staff.
  4. Focus on the merits of each generation, not the stereotypes – It’s best to stay positive and focus on the strengths that each can bring to your team, rather than dwelling on negative attributes that cause the conflict in the first place.

By following these steps, you will prove to your staff that you are committed to understanding what exactly every person is after. Using these principles can also help you ascertain who among your staff is ready for more responsibility, and which members of your staff may just not be a good fit to keep your organization working productively.

What do you think about generational conflict in business? Do you consider it a major hurdle to success, or just a blip on the radar? Let us know in the comments below.



Excalibur Technology
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Excalibur Technology