27 Feb 2020

Finding the Right Computer Support Service Provider

Many small and medium-sized businesses choose to hire IT management and computer support service providers for their ongoing technology needs. Contracting out your IT and computer needs comes with several benefits, including: 

  • Lowered overall costs for hours spent 
  • More advanced employee training & support
  • Faster service and less down-time for the business
  • Services that are geared less toward “break and fix” and more toward prevention and maintenance 
  • Services that help your business operate more smoothly and efficiently

If you’re considering hiring a managed service provider, choosing the correct provider is essential. You want to make sure that your company’s computer system is in the best possible hands, so you never have to worry about something going wrong. Here are our top tips on selecting the perfect computer support service provider in Edmonton for your business.

 

What Does a Computer Service Provider Do?

Computer service providers are experts at ensuring that your business runs smoothly. They have many roles in the inner workings of your business, from installing and maintaining software to providing support for all of your IT-related issues. 

For a small to medium-sized business, using a managed service provider (MSP) may be more beneficial. An MSP helps you outsource your business’s IT infrastructure, making it far less costly for you. Many SMBs don’t have access to the full scope of IT services when they’re managed internally, so an MSP is often a better choice. MSPs help your business stay on top of things and protect you from threats like ransomware, which can easily cost businesses thousands of dollars. 

 

Our Tips For Finding the Perfect Computer Service Provider

Do They Provide the Services You’re Looking For?

One of the first things to do when researching potential service providers is to check exactly which services they provide. Find out when they’re available to provide support, which programs they work with or specialize in, and if they can help you meet your specific expectations and business goals. It’s good to find a company that delivers a diverse number of services as well, as it’s never a bad thing to have more versatility and options as your business grows.

 

What Does Their History Look Like?

You can see a lot about a company by looking at their background and who they’ve worked with before. Customer testimonials and reviews give you an inside look at the company from people who have worked and dealt with them before. If you feel hesitant or you’ve been burned by other service providers before, don’t be afraid to ask specifically for a business’s qualifications (and the qualifications of employees) to be sure they have the quality training and education you’re looking for. Think of it as if you were hiring an employee and conduct your research and meetings like you would for a job candidate.

 

What Are Their Prices and How Do They Work?

 Being unsure about any aspect of pricing is a surefire way to be disappointed. Be upfront with your potential providers about their pricing and the costs of working with them. Your provider should offer their services for a fixed fee that you can trust. Also peak with the provider about when you’ll be paying for their services, and whether it’s on an ad-hoc or scheduled basis. 

 

What Are Their Response Times Like?

When you have an IT-related issue, you want to get it solved as soon as possible, and you’ll want to know how long it will take to get these problems fixed and get up and running. The amount of time it takes for a response is partially dependent on how much you’re willing to pay, so be sure to talk to your provider about finding the balance between cost and response time.

 

Finding The Perfect Managed Service Provider

Be sure to reach out and ask your potential computer support service providers in Edmonton any questions you have before you begin working with them. You want a service provider that is dedicated to prioritizing your business’s success, and is willing to offer high-quality work to help you get the most out of your technology infrastructure. 

If you’re looking for a well-reviewed managed service provider in Edmonton for your small business, contact Alt-Tech to learn more about how we help our clients strengthen and grow their businesses through computer, cybersecurity, and IT services.

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21 Feb 2020

The Top 3 Security Risks for Mobile Payment Methods (& How to Stay Safe)

Technology is making payment methods more convenient every decade. First, there was chip technology in credit cards. Now, the newest payment options have done away with physical plastic altogether.

Mobile wallet options like Apple Pay, Samsung Pay, and Chase Pay cut down on the need to carry a wallet around in addition to a cell phone. However, many individuals and business owners alike are worried about the cost of that convenience when it comes to online security.

Are Mobile Payment Methods Safe?

Depending on the situation, almost any payment method can be risky. Schemes in which fake credit card readers are fitted over regular card readers in locations like gas stations aren’t uncommon. It can be unsafe to carry too much cash because you become a better target for mugging. For a while, chips in credit cards and some debit cards caused concern because people were worried about others carrying around chip readers that could steal their information from a short distance. 

The newest technology always comes with this question: is it safe? The short answer is that mobile payments aren’t 100% threat-free, but there are some easy ways to manage the small risks that do exist. In fact, some would say mobile payment options are more secure overall than a physical credit card or cash, as long as you have security measures in place. 

 

Risks & Security Tips for Mobile Wallets

1. Losing your devices

These days, losing your phone is just about as dangerous as losing your credit cards. And, when you have multiple devices in the hands of multiple employees, that threat feels a little too close for comfort.

The good news is, a lost device with security precautions in place isn’t usually a big deal for businesses. Here are some questions to help you assess how great your risk is, and a few simple solutions to increase security in case of a lost device.

Questions to Consider:

  • How many devices do you have?
  • Who has access to your devices? 
  • Which devices are connected to payment methods? 
  • Are your mobile devices locked?
  • Do you have a password manager in place?
  • Do you have policies in place about using personal and business devices? (i.e. not allowing business use on personal devices and vice versa)
  • Do your employees understand those rules? Have they been trained on how to protect their devices?

 

Tips for Mobile Device Security:

  • Create an inventory of your devices and who has access to them. Keep track of what apps are used where (and which are allowed in certain places). This way, if a device goes missing, you have all the information on hand to intervene and protect your financial data.
  • Use a biometric locking feature on every mobile device (such as facial or fingerprint recognition) for the highest level of security 
  • Require multi-factor identification on your devices. Or, if that’s too inconvenient, you could require a second verification before you can activate payment methods on your phone.
  • Spend time on educating and training your employees about the safe use of mobile payment options. Set parameters and guidelines and make sure you’re monitoring credit card accounts and business accounts for inconsistencies.

 

2. Malware

In the past, malware mostly only infected computers. However, the threat to mobile users is growing quickly. In fact, mobile cyber incidents are becoming more common than those aimed at desktops. 

Here are a few ways to help prevent your device from being affected by malware:

  • Be careful when clicking on suspicious links on your phone (again, ensure you have employee training in place to help employees spot phishing and malware)
  • Install an antivirus on your phone. 
  • Keep your apps fully up to date to avoid being a target for hackers. Outdated app versions aren’t as well protected against attacks.
  • Look out for app clones when you’re downloading your apps, especially when it comes to banking apps or apps that require a purchase with a credit card number.

 

3. Stolen Card Numbers

This is the last point here because it’s actually fairly rare. E-wallets on smartphones are typically designed to encrypt your data. For example, Apple doesn’t store or have access to your credit card information just because you uploaded it to your iPhone. 

However, one tiny exception to this can happen when you use a public Wi-Fi connection to upload your cards. In this instance, hackers can intercept and decode the information if they’re nearby and on the same network. 

Although it’s a very small chance that your financial details will be stolen this way, be sure to use your own network (a virtual private network is best) to upload credit card information into a mobile wallet.

Get Mobile Smart & Stay Protected

If you’re nervous about mobile payment methods or want to know more about how to use the technology safely, get in touch with an expert managed service provider in Edmonton. Our IT specialists can help you design a simple safety plan for all your mobile devices. 

 

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18 Feb 2020

Why & How to Use Password Managers Like LastPass

Up to 80% of hacking-related incidents are the result of weak or stolen passwords. 

 

Stop for a minute and consider how many online business accounts you have. Be sure to think about all your programs, software, apps, email accounts, and cloud accounts. Even if you only have a few employees, it’s easy to think of a dozen off the top of your head. 

 

When you think about all of these accounts as your “network,” you start to see that a password is not just a single gateway to a single account; it can actually be an entry point for your entire network. 

 

What are your Credentials Worth to You vs. a Hacker?

 

Weak passwords, reused passwords, password sharing, and unprotected password storage are three major security issues in many small businesses in Canada. In fact, information from leaked passwords in 2018 showed that plenty of people still use terrible passwords

 

So, what are the costs vs gains when someone steals your information? Individual businesses spend an average of $34,604 per year on cybersecurity incidents. Meanwhile, login credentials being sold on the dark web cost as little as $2. 

 

It’s worth getting to know how you can protect your organization’s passwords (without losing access to accounts or making it difficult for employees to login).

What is a Password Manager? 

Think of a password manager as a vault for all of your passwords. It creates and stores difficult passwords for your accounts, locking the whole thing with a single master password. That means you only need to remember one password to get access, and that you’ve taken those multiple access points and brought them into a single access point, leaving less room for hackers to get in.

You also have more control over who has access to your accounts. If an employee leaves, you can change the master password without going through and changing every individual account.

Options for Password Managers: 

LastPass

Our top pick for a password manager for small businesses is LastPass. There’s a free version that allows you a ton of range, but the premium version offers a lot more features to increase security and convenience.

1Password

This is another great option for a subscription-based password manager. If you’re a solopreneur and you want to use touch or face recognition as your master password on Mac/iOS devices, 1Password is the perfect option.

Dashlane

Dashlane is another great option, but it tends to cost more, and the free version is limited to one device and 50 passwords, making it a bit less cost-effective for small businesses.

 

Are Password Managers Secure? 

Yes, password managers are secure and they’re still your best bet for password protection. According to How to Geek, LastPass and 1Password have both passed third-party audits and code reviews. They state that these companies don’t actually have access to your master password, which stays on your device, meaning they don’t have access to any of your stored passwords. 

 

One of the best features of any manager you choose is the ability to share passwords with others without typing them in. This means you never have to reveal the passwords under those big black dots, which adds a thick layer of security, especially if you have an extensive team or deal with multiple contractors.

 

Other Ways to Protect Your Business Passwords

Although password managers come highly recommended by most managed service providers in Edmonton, there are plenty of other ways to boost your password security. One way is to include multi-factor authentication on your accounts (which you can also typically do with your master password in your manager). 

 

Never write down passwords or share them over a device. Never reuse passwords across accounts as this creates a major point of entry into your entire database, even if it’s spread across multiple accounts. 

 

Finally, be sure to have a security audit and staff training from a trusted MSP in Edmonton. This can help kickstart a cybersecurity program that can easily save your business thousands of dollars, many hours of lost time, and other major risks.

 

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10 Feb 2020

10 Tech Trends for Businesses to Watch in 2020

Technology is advancing faster than ever before, and there are plenty of new game-changers working their way into the technological trends for 2020 and beyond. Here are the top ten tech trends that will help you optimize your business this year:

 

1. The Release of 5G

The race for 5th-generation mobile networks has already begun. While 5G became available in some areas during 2019, the tech still has a low availability. In 2020, it’s expected to become far more widespread. 5G allows for much faster downloads and uploads plus a more stable connection than its predecessors, as well as an easier way for other trends like autonomous driving to advance and develop. 5G will make your work more time-efficient and productive.

 

2. The Multi-Cloud

Using a multi-cloud strategy involves using multiple different cloud providers to meet separate requirements. Multicloud is becoming more and more commonplace every day thanks to multiple benefits. One reason you may decide to use multi-cloud strategies is if you want to avoid getting ‘locked in’ to the infrastructure of a single cloud provider. Another reason may be the security and recovery – putting all your data into one cloud can hurt if that cloud suffers an outage or something similar. Overall, it can make your work more efficient, and you’ll have fewer problems accessing your information. Keep in mind that it’s important to have a strategy before you migrate your data to the cloud successfully

 

3. AI Security

Cybersecurity is key, especially with new and improved technological developments. Businesses are beginning to discover that using AI can be a fantastic way to combat security issues and keep your servers and data safe. This AI can be used in multiple different ways, from analyzing data to defending against network attackers, protecting your business from harm.

 

4. Digital Twinning

Digital twins are ideal for developing and operating assets and infrastructure. A digital twin is a software model of a physical object, essentially a replica of a real-world object designed to predict accurate outputs for the inputs you provide. This tool can be used for many different issues, with manufacturing being the most common; it even includes the healthcare sector, with accurate replicas of human patients. Being able to understand how a structure will react in different situations allows for a safer and easier work process.

 

5. Autonomous Vehicles

You’ve probably already heard the buzz around autonomous driving. Companies like Tesla are testing the limits around intelligent driving, and the concept is becoming more and more rational. It’s not just driving, either – concepts like drone delivery are finally becoming possibilities instead of fantasies. These autonomous devices can lower the safety risks in your work environment and improve your efficiency.

 

6. The Rise of Blockchain

A blockchain is a form of database used to record transactions in a more encrypted and safe way. A popular form of blockchain you’ve likely heard of is Bitcoin, but other blockchains are likely to rise in 2020. Blockchains use technology, making it impossible to alter or manipulate your transactions, making it an attractive choice as it allows for complete safety in your business’s transactions.

 

7. Quantum Computing

Quantum computing is a relatively new concept in the technological world, but the appeal is growing fast. A quantum computer uses aspects of quantum mechanics to work. Quantum computers would be able to store far more information than a classical computer today and would solve problems today’s computers can’t even begin to handle.

 

8. Edge Computing

Edge computing essentially brings the cloud to you. Instead of your data needing to be sent to a data centre, it can be processed much closer to you. This means your data can be prospered even faster; whether it’s going to a website or talking to a voice assistant like Google Home, you’ll get a response faster than the speed of light. Efficiency is incredibly important in a business environment, and this is a great way to take advantage of it.

 

9. Medicine and Health Advancements

Health technology is developing more and more every day. Advancements in tech like AI and double twinning now allow for multiple new possibilities in the world of medicine. We are constantly gaining a better understanding of how our bodies respond to diseases and illnesses as well as medication. This year we will be able to see more personalized healthcare as well as new breakthroughs in medicine.

 

10. Extended Reality

Extended reality (XR) is an umbrella term for all kinds of immersive realities, like augmented reality or virtual reality. These technologies have been mostly used for entertainment purposes but are quickly becoming more useful for businesses, particularly in terms of training. Training through simulation allows for a consequence-free learning environment for any new workers.

 

Stay Up to Date on Technology in Your Business

2020 is a year of great opportunities for your business. Staying caught up on new tech trends and implementing them into your business is a fantastic way to stay in the market. The way you use technology has the potential to change the future, so use it to your advantage. 

To learn how to bring new hardware and software solutions into your business, get in touch with Alt-Tech’s experts. There’s nothing we love more than helping a business take their technology capabilities to the next level. 

 

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