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Pandoras Box…

  Check the article link attached for what this post refers to. In this post I am going to talk about bit about our smart devices and trying to not let them own us. I am writing another post for this same article on my personal page where I talk more about the detrimental impacts of our smart device but in this one I will keep it to some simple advice. 

 I will admit straight up, "My name is Andy, and I have a problem with addiction to my smart device". This is part where you clap, and thank you and welcome me. OK now that is over with, lets talk about my and your addiction, our smart device. Our smart phones and social media have not only been designed to keep as addicted but to also make access to our addiction easy for getting our "fix". There are some simple things you can do to keep your addiction and make sure it isn't being to detrimental on your life. One simple one that has made a huge impact on my life, or controlling my addiction is using the DND or Do Not Disturb feature on my phone. DND is the name used by Apple on the iPhone and I am sure Android has a similar feature. I will use the iPhone DND in my explanation here. When DND is set to On, your still receives all those juicy pieces of addiction that you need your fix from, but it stops the notifications which are what keeps the addiction going. With confidence you know that you are still getting all those pieces of information you have learned to crave but you can take a safe break from them knowing they are not disrupting your life. Oh and for added piece of mind, you can add your children or significant other or aging parent into your favorites for phone contacts. If they call you, your phone will still ring, which means you can relax knowing you aren't missing the house is on fire, your parent has fallen down, or your significant other just discovered that you won the lottery and has to tell you right now. This means emergency phone calls are still going to get to you. I would hope we haven't got to a point of emergency texts. "COME HOME NOW #HouseOnFire". So with the DND feature I can go to the movies and know I can relax for 2 hours and escape from my phone and my addiction. I also use DND before I got to bed at night, so I can get a nice peaceful nights sleep without my phone waking me up for a Facebook notification of one of my long lost school friends has posted their midnight snack and Facebook thought it was important enough that I needed a notification. DND is your first step to regaining control over your addiction.

  The next step to controlling your addiction is to go into the Settings section and turn off the notifications that have no immediate dire impact on your life. Do you really need Facebook to alert you when someone comes online? Do you desperately need to know someone has gone off an erratic rant on Twitter in the middle of your day? Find time during your day to sit and really enjoy your addiction at appropriate time and not while driving down the road or while your children are playing in sports and would really appreciate your undivided attention. Missing little Johnnies first goal in soccer because you had to feed your social engineered addiction to Facebook, could lead to expensive unnecessary therapy for you child in their later years. 

  You can go even further with your notifications, and in the iPhone you can turn off notifications from specific users. So unlike and Ex who have gone straight to block to avoid them disrupting your day, you can take good ole crazy aunt Betty when you are ready without her disrupting your life. You will still get her messages, just like DND and if she happens to spontaneously combust, she can still call you on the phone and your phone will ring, although we would hope she would call 911 instead. There will still be message notifications from these people, but you can deal with them when most appropriate to keep your addiction from increasing to dangerous levels. Which can come back and really haunt you later if you do not deal with them later.

  And for our final look at controlling our smart phone addiction, lets talk about why gaining control is so important. If you don't learn to control your level of addictions, you will at some point start cause disruptions to your normal social life and I am just talking about the fact you will text your partner to ask if they are going to join in bed for the evening, but how people will become more attune to your addiction. I have already seen people who are known addicts try and lie to others with excuses for failing to interact. My favorites are; "I missed your message", or "I never got your message", or my personal favorite from the extreme addict "I was too busy and meant to reply later". I think I love that last one best because people who have realized the extent of your addiction, have also realized you'd stop to reply to a text message while trying to run out of a burning building. 

Here is the article in question. 

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IT the unfortunate red column for accounting

  One of the toughest thing I come across working in IT is trying to help business owners understand what is the most important parts of IT within their business. Many business owners understand the basic concept that IT is necessary evil to their operations but they fail to understand the areas they can't see or they put to much assumption in. Everyone seems to understand that they need technology to compete in todays modern society, which is a very obviously statement. But to understand what technology really is at the heart of things for their business, they fail at understanding what it is is and how important it. The answer is one simple word "DATA". Technology is all about data. Email is data being sent back and forth. Word and Excel documents are just data once again. The information you use for your Point of Sale system, Record keeping, Book keeping, even Contact Management system is all just DATA.

  Now so far much of what I have talked about seems rather obvious when I put it in these words, but most businesses fail on the handling and care of data. Imagine you were to buy a new vehicle and wash it regularly, make sure it clean, take it for trips to the grocery store or even across the country. You spend money on fuel and insurance, you may look for economic solutions to keep those costs down, but you do understand they are necessary part of operating a vehicle. You rely on certain parts of your car to keep it useful to you, and other components that a failure is annoying but you can learn to live with out. If the radio stops working that is not the end of the world, but if a tire blows out, then this will impede your ability to use your vehicle. The good news and the piece of mind most drivers have is their spare tire in the trunk. The vehicle came equipped with a spare tire, so your down time will be minimal, is the thought of most vehicle owners for this situation.  So when is the last time you checked that spare tire to make sure their was still air in the tire, or have always assumed just because their is a spare tire, there should always be air in it? If the spare tire is also flat, we can seek comfort because of mobile phones we can call for other assistance and our down time now is extended but still some what manageable. Now what if your spare tire is flat, you are in an area with no cellular signal because you have driven to a very, very remote area? Imagine you just drove for over 2 hours at 60mph without cellular reception this entire time. OK the situation has changed very drastically now. How long would it take you to walk to find help? How long will have to wait for maybe someone to be able to come by and fix it, if any one travels this remote route? Do you have food to survive? Is there now a possibility your life might actually be in danger? Now imagine the vehicle is your data, and imagine your spare tire is your backup that you have just assumed would be there. Imagine your remote location without cellular reception is your data not moving for an unknown amount of time and wondering how long you can survive being down. Imagine this whole situation if you allowed more room in your budget for a professional mechanic/IT person to check your spare tire/data backups properly. Maybe having the mechanic/IT person spend time coming up with other additional backup an safeguards, even though having additional cost, could have made all the difference. 

  IT is unfortunately seen as a red mark by many business owners when they look at their accounting. Although ironically they do not consider building or liability insurance a red mark to cut from the budget but a necessity. Even more ironic is how many business owners will gladly throw large sums of money at large accounting firms, such as KPMG, Grant Thornton or Deloitte, because they handle and work with the data in your system to regain potential profits. Many business owners, in my experience and other IT professionals, will not pay for IT professionals to check their data backups. The business owners assume they are ok, like the spare tire in the trunk of their vehicle. 

  In one large organization I worked as the IT Director for several years. The company had 10 locations, and did several millions of dollars in sales each month. One day their Point of Sale provider made some big experimental changes during regular business hours, and the results were catastrophic to that single day of sales. All sales and data input on that day had been destroyed, I had backups from before the disaster but not for during the occurrence of the disaster. The company went into immediate alert and made sure every shred of processed paper work was sent to head office. Over the next few weeks all information was manually re-entered by administration staff in effort to mimic the input of work of employees from 10 locations. In the end I think the cost was a wash for what they made in profits that day and what they spent in the weeks to come to correct the event. But they were able to re-establish the integrity of their data again. Another organization that I occasional do work for, in the process of resolving another issue, I had discovered their offsite backups were over 3 months old. Even though management had assumed, like the spare tire in the trunk, that it was always there and available. In this case I was able to catch it, but if I had been contracted to look after their IT, this issue would have been caught in within two days, three if you include a weekend. Sooner if it had been the direct backups and not the off site backup media. But if I had not caught their failure with their off site media and their server room had been exposed to a disaster such fire, flood, or even an air conditioning failure, I suspect their business operations would have been over in less than a year. Statistically over 50% of small to medium sized business go bankrupt within a year of a major data failure. Only 6% of these small to medium sized business ever recover completely.

  Technology has provided some great services to assist keeping the costs lower than they have been in the past. Cloud based solutions are a fine example of that, but like a spare tire, you need to have professional IT people to occasional look at your data and insure it is covered in this modern changing world. As technology changes, so do the methods your data is protected and so do the threats that your data is vulnerable to.

  Another thing to consider about your data is how business owners expose it to potential dangers. Do you have professional trained IT people looking after your data, maintaining and planning how data is looked after in your organization, or do you have employees you assume know what they are doing? This is an easier question to answer than you might realize, and I will help you answer it with another question. If this was a company vehicle, that was used by many employees and even your family, would you have this same employee fix or work on the brakes for it because you thought it seemed simple enough and they seem to know what they are doing? If you said yes, then I assume this employee is a licensed auto mechanic, because if they are not, you are putting your life, your employees life, your family members lives and your vehicle in danger. Just like an professional auto mechanic, IT people many times make what they do look easy. You have seen IT professionals install software and it is easy enough to do and in many case you are correct. But do you realize most IT professionals question software before they install it. There is lots of safe and properly written software out there. But I have seen many users with good intentions download software from non safe sites and with a lack of knowledge to realize the potential danger. The assumption that giving everyone administrator rights makes things easier for an organization and cuts down on IT costs is a huge misguided misconception. Hackers love this thinking, because if you have 50 users on a server all with administrator rights, then the hacker just needs to now find a way into any one of the 50 accounts to own your server. If there are only 50 users and only 3 accounts with administrator rights, then they have to figure out one of those 3 users. Which do you think is easier to keep secure, 50 accounts or 3 accounts?

For more information and statistics in this post see the follow articles:

http://www.certustechnologies.com/scary-statistics-data-backup-failure/

https://securityintelligence.com/media/2016-cost-data-breach-study/

https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/statistics-data-loss-backup-laughing-matter-dale-shulmistra

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Another damn password?!?!?!

One of the most common statements I hear from users is "Another Password??? I hate having to remember all these passwords". I want to give some tips I use for making a good password. What is a good password? Well it was one that you should feel confident enough people cannot guess in less than 3 tries or use a brute force to compromise. There are two basic forms of Brute Force attacks on passwords. The first one is a dictionary attack, a "bot"(automated routine) hits your password field entering basically a dictionary of common words in hopes one will work. The other type of Brute Force involves just hitting a password with every possible combination of letters and numbers. For example; A, then AA, then AAA, then AAAA,  and so on cycling till it gets to ZZZZ or 9999, trying to find every combination to try. Even keeping it simple with 4 digits and using numbers and letters, upper and lower case, it takes a ton of time. To add special characters would even take longer with all the possible combinations. So this is why we like to use a password that has Numbers, Letters in upper and lower case and even special characters.

So this comes to the reason for this post, a way to teach you have to make a secure password you can remember. So the first thing to do is come up with a word that is at least 8 characters you can remember. Could be a word like FLINTSTONES, that reminds you of when you were a child. Now lets make that a complicated password that you can remember. We will start with some simple reworks by retyping it as Flintstones, now it has upper and lowercase letters, but it is still pretty simple. A simple little trick is to change letters into numbers that look like letters. For example i=1(one), or o=0(zero), or e=3(three). If we rewrite it again, it is now Fl1ntst0n3s. OK this is a bit better, but we can go better yet. What special simples look like letters? These are always some of my favourites; s=$, n=^, a=@. Now with these, let us rewrite our password again, Fl1^t$t0^3$. Our password is still Flintstones, so you already know this, but we have just written it with 'bad handwriting'. With these little tricks even your name can become a complicated password. Check out some of these examples; John Smith=J0h^$m1th, your pet even Mr. Cuddles=Mr.Cuddl3$, another one that I do NOT recommend but I will show you as an example is Password=P@$$w0rd(this one is known by a lot of the malicious people out there, although if you were to change that to "I Hate Passwords"=1H@t3P@$$w0rd$" would be a doozy for security. 

Well I hope this little tip helps you feel better about passwords and your security,

@^dy(Andy)

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What is Cloud???

I often get a lot of clients who ask me or misunderstand or misuse understanding of "Cloud Services". There are all types of cloud services, some of the most know ones are iCloud, Google, Dropbox, and even Facebook have been used by many as a "Cloud Service". Many of us have email accounts that we keep a Cloud Status too, whether it is your Shaw, Telus or Gmail account, when you leave all your messages on you server(mail provider), this is Cloud computing. So how do we define Cloud Services to make it make a little more sense, well basically it is a place to store electronic files that the files always reside. An example of a simple understanding of the difference of cloud and non cloud, would be your email account and how it reacts. If you can access all your email, past and present from any computer and any time with a simple login, then you probably are using a cloud service. If you have ever had email on your computer and then your computer stopped functioning and your old email was lost with your computer, then you wouldn't have been using a cloud service. 

Cloud Services are basically servers that store your data that the server administrators look after. A good quality Cloud Service will back up data, keep speed and accessibility to your data reliable. Where these servers are for the most part isn't that important, but keep in mind with privacy laws, there is a chance in some legal situations, these locations may need to be known. Lawyers in Canada cannot store their data outside of Canada because of fears of privacy violations by outside countries, in particular for Canada, the US government has free access to any data stored in their country for national security reasons. For most of us this is not an issue, but I would not risk storing Copyrighted material that you are not the legal owner of on your cloud services. 

So why do we like Cloud Services? Because it gives us assess to our data, email, pictures, files or anything else that is in a digital format, and from any location that has an internet connection. This also means you get a backup of your data too, in the event of a disaster you have another place to recover it from. So what are cons of Cloud Services? Well you need access to an internet connection. The speed of that connection could be detrimental to the the efficiency of your Cloud Services. But those are your two major pit falls of concern in terms of Cloud Services. Also to note, cloud services can be very economical and even free in many cases, depending on how much data you are storing.

I hope I was able to give some clarity to understanding cloud services.

 

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Size matters still…

In todays modern age we have a habit of getting digital devices with some pretty impressive numbers. Everything from a new 24 megapixel camera, or to a phone that shoots 1080p video, or a camera that shoots 4k video, songs at 512kb/sec bit rates for music. All these numbers sound impressive when we are purchasing our exciting new consumer electronics, but as we work in this digital world, we work everywhere digitally. We want to post a video on Facebook, or send some pictures from our brand new camera to our families, or even find a way to share a hot new song with our friends. We are also very spoiled with high speed internet as well, and people have a bad habit of assuming everyone is. In the area I live in, I have 150mb/s download capability, which is pretty descent but the area just went to fibre and people are now pushing over 256mb/s down and upload speeds, and they don't realize the neighbouring towns that are just down the road have not caught up yet. Some of the areas that are less than 40 mins away driving distance are still on dial up. 

Lets take a look at some of the size produced when we use some of our new technology. A 24 megapixel camera shooting an image a high quality jpeg image, will average close to the 7MB mark. Which means a 150 pictures would be close to over 1GB. Which doesn't seem so bad when think of the size of disks these days or the RAM on our computer, or memory sticks in our cameras. Which means to transfer all those files to a cloud drive at 15Mbps would take approximately 9 minutes. But you might be thinking, I am never going to send that much. You might to your cloud drive, but lets say you want to email, say 10 pictures, so about 70MB to a family member who likes to spend most of the time out by their cabin or they happen to live some place remote that still has to use a dial up connection. 70MB in an email, which is way too big and most mail servers won't even let you attempt to send something that big, which is being sent to someone on a 96kbps dial up connection. Those 10 pictures would take approximately close to 2(TWO) hours for them to download. 

But there are other considerations. How about our data plans on our phones. A 12 megapixel camera on a phone is making picture files that are about 4-5MB. If you shoot high quality 1080p 1 minute video from a device, the file size can be as big as over 700MB. This is a 1 minute video file. So 1, one minute video and about 70 pictures sent to your friends in a month, would have you over your 1GB allotted data plan. This is not including downloading your regular email, Facebook surfing, some fancy apps that use data, or even worse music stream, or even worse yet, video streaming. Yes we try and jump on WiFi spots when ever we can, but how respectful are you being to the person that doesn't have a large data plan or a slow connection? Also if you sending files that are not going to be used for video productions or images that are going to be used for print press, then it is like sending a 55 gallon drum of soup when someone asked for a bowl of soup. 

So take some time and learn about your device and don't always be impressed with those numbers, because unless you eat a lot of soup yourself, why have 55 gallon drums of soup around?

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But it is my name…?

In the past I have always tried to protect the best interests of my clients, and one of the items that I put on the top of my list, is helping them register their own domain name. Many web designers and webmasters, feel it is easier to assist clients by taking ownership of a clients domain name, and in the process add a bit of service fee for that service. I have always been worried that for if some reason I was ever incapacitated indefinitely, anyone can be run over by a bus. So I have always made a practice to help clients setup a domain name with a registrar and they also will pay the renewal fees. Your name is yours, why would want to lose it because of a complication in your web designer/masters life? You maybe concerned about the technical part of owning your domain name, but any person with technical experiencing including a new web designer/master should be able to help you change your settings to push your domain to the appropriate servers. You also now are in a position to change web designers/masters at any time without any obligation, unlike if someone else owns your name.

So the question to a lot of people is how likely is this really to be a concern? Well years ago when I first got into assisting clients with domains, one of my first clients, had a couple who ran a web design company and they unfortunately had started into a messy divorce, and not only had stopped talking to each other, but all their clients as well. There was definitely some struggles and we were able to resolve and move the ownership. Now we jump forward almost a decade later, and some other clients of mine had a web designer/master who became very very sick and kept hoping he was going to recover, but unfortunately he never was able to and passed away. The family had no technical knowledge and his record keeping was not the easiest to follow, and to add to things, he used different registrars here and there with different credentials. Some of his clients I am still struggling to find their domains names to help them move over to their own registrar. So if you think it can't happen, that is like thinking, your computer will never crash and you do not need a backup. Make good backups of your computer and also make sure you are the owner of your domain name, there  is no need for your web designer/master to own your name.

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