New Technology: Sharp AQUOS BOARD

One of Sharp’s many new offerings aims to match your organization’s BIG thinking: the AQUOS BOARD.  Designed with the idea that a BIG SCREEN provides a BIG IMPACT with BIG ADVANTAGES over conventional display solutions, the AQUOS BOARD definitely delivers.

Three available size options exit to fit your needs: 80″ class, 70″ class, and 60″ class.

The brilliant high definition LCD panel, with energy-efficient design, provides a beautiful display while also allowing you to annotate, store and sharing your information.  The easy multi-touch operation with a pen or finger defines the functionality of the device.  The exclusive, user-intuitive Sharp Pen Software™ pairs well with high-performance optical imaging and infrared detection systems for quick response.  The Direct Sharp MFP connectivity makes it easy to import or export data between machines.  To further usability, the device comes with built-in templates that include calendars, to-do lists, and more.

For more information on the AQUOS BOARD or other Sharp products, give us a call at (616) 977-2679.

Smart Video™ by LifeSize

Smart Video is a term coined by LifeSize, a division of Logitech, to describe a video conferencing experience that is feature-rich, simple and doesn’t require any training.  Smart Video is following the trend of smartphones by having a keen focus on providing a radically simplified user experience.

The top five reasons that LifeSize believes they offer truly Smart Video:
1.  Easy enough for anyone to use without training
2.  Lots of infrastructure applications with none of the hassle
3.  Heads-up experience
4.  Name-based dialing
5.  Smart scheduling

Seeing is believing, so click here to request a demo to see LifeSize Icon Series in action.

Give us a call at (616) 977-2679 to have us answer any questions you may have or to get involved with this exciting technology.

Information Technology: As Easy As IT

With mobility, cloud, converging voice, video and data services and other technology innovations helping drive end-user productivity and business results, Managed Workplace from Level Platforms solves your increasingly complex IT network and device management issues.

Managed Workplace is a next-generation remote monitoring and management software platform, which delivers end-to-end visibility into the networks, cloud, applications and devices relied on by your end-users.  See everything that is happening in your IT environment through a unified web-based dashboard, with automatic discovery and monitoring of existing and new devices.  Use alerting to proactively address performance and security concerns.  Automate configuration and network settings to increase productivity, enforce usage policies and improve security.

For more information about Managed Workplace, visit: www.levelplatforms.com

For more information on how you can use this and similar tools to grow your business, contact Kraft Business Systems at (616) 977-2679.

World Backup Day

Yesterday was not only Easter, it also served as the third annual World Backup Day.

“There are two kinds of computer owners: those that backup their data, and those who will backup after they lose something irreplaceable. It’s that last group for whom World Backup Day exists, and the special occasion has returned for a third year to make sure we all wind up in that first, very responsible camp.”

Don’t be a part of the second camp, ask us about our Disaster Recovery services.

Read the full article by Jon Fingas: http://www.engadget.com/2013/03/31/world-backup-day-2013/

How to Keep Your Phone Juiced Longer

Keeping your phone alive throughout the workday can be a challenge, especially if you are traveling on a continual basis. This past week Hurricane Sandy has taught hundreds of thousands of people how to keep their phone batteries running beyond its basic battery life.

USA Today has highlighted a few ways to keep your phone alive even after you’ve run out of traditional energy sources. Here are the two most effective ways suggested:

“The most important one among them is having an external charger that can replenish a phone’s battery multiple times, yet is light enough to carry to the nearest working outlet. Most of you already own one: a laptop computer.

Next, remember how to set your phone to sip power. The simplest way to do this is to disable as many of its built-in transmitters as possible: GPS, Wi-Fi and Bluetooth are all expendable when you only need mobile broadband service.”

There are hundreds of creative ways to squeeze an extra percent out of your phones battery life. What effective ways have you found that keep your phone running longer than expected?

Read more here/Source: http://www.usatoday.com/story/tech/columnist/2012/11/01/smartphones-storms-tips/1674461/

Save Money on Electricity by Unplugging

What would you do to save an additional $100/year on electricity. There are a few simple steps you can take to ensure your electric bills stay low, especially in the winter months when your bills are much higher.

USA Today has a few suggestions on how to fight these ‘vampire electronics’ who are continually sucking your excess electricity.

“The most obvious way to stop vampires from using electricity is to unplug them when they aren’t in use. If a plug isn’t in the wall, it can’t keep running up your power bill.

Of course, nobody wants to spend 10 minutes every night unplugging stuff and 10 minutes plugging everything back in the next morning.

Several companies sell inexpensive power switches that plug into your wall sockets. Instead of unplugging the gadget, you simply turn off power to that socket with the flick of a switch. It’s a great way to control countertop appliances such as microwaves and coffeemakers.

Some socket adapters have built-in timers instead of switches. Use them on your rechargeables — smartphones, camera batteries, electric toothbrushes and cordless power tools.”

By changing your habits, you and your businesses can save money each year by maintaining a consciousness of your electronic devices.
Read more here/Source: http://www.usatoday.com/story/tech/columnist/komando/2012/10/26/komando-electric-bills/1649195/

Advice for Cooling your wiring closests and small IT spaces

Just a little research can help avoid future performance problems.

Currents Magazine, August 2012

Cooling for small IT spaces is often not planned and only implemented after heat associated performance problems occur.  The typical approach to a heat problem is to ignore it, deploy equipment, and then respond with the corrective action if and when equipment overheats and fails.

Careful consideration must be given to small, confined environments where a UPS is deployed.  Increases in temperature have a much more pronounced effect on UPS battery longevity than on other types of IT equipment.  A user can expect a typical UPS battery operating at 104F (40C) to only last 1.5 years or less, as compared to a typical 3 to 5 year lifespan.

The problem should be considered in terms of heat removal, rather than on cold air supply.  The heat within a space that houses IT equipment accumulates, raising the temperature.  Every kilowatt of heat used by the IT equipment creates a kilowatt of heat power which must be removed.

4 ways to solve the heat problem

Heat can leave a small confined space like an office or a closest in 4 different ways.  The 4 methods differ in performance, limitations, and cost.  The decision on which method to use depends upon the physical attributes and constraints of the space.  An explanation of each of these 4 methods follows:

  1. Conduction:  Heat can flow through the walls of the spaces – If a small space or closest is effectively sealed, then the only way for the heat to leave is by conduction through the walls.  For this to work , the air in the closest must heat up to the point where it is hotter than the temperature that is on the other side of the closest walls.
  2. Passive and fan-assisted ventilation: Heat can flow into cooler air via vent or grille – Closest can be cooled by venting them to the ambient building air.  The venting can be passive using appropriately placed holes or vents, or it many be fan-assisted.
  3. Comfort cooling: Heat can be removed by a comfort cooling system – Many buildings have an existing air conditioning system for creating a comfortable environment for personnel.  It would appear that one way to take advantage of this system would be to install additional ducting to closets, in the same way that ducts are added when new office or rooms are added.  However, simply adding ducts rarely solves closet rarely solves closet cooling problems and often makes them worse.  Comfort cooling systems cycle on and off.  A thermostat placed somewhere in the zone, but not in the closet, is the usual control mechanism.  For a small space like a closet with IT devices, this means that the temperature will decrease when the cooling system is on, and increase when it is off.  This results in significant swing in temperature that stress IT equipment more than sustained higher temperature conditions.
  4. Dedicated cooling: Heat can be removed by dedicated air conditioner – The most effective way to gain control of closet temperatures is by installing dedicated closet air conditioning equipment.  However, dedicated air conditioning is more expensive and complex than using passive or fan-assisted ventilation.  In general, when the power level in a closet exceeds approximately 2000 W for critical closets or 4500 W for non-critical, dedicated air conditioning equipment is recommended.

 

Salesforce’s Answer To Facebook? Communities: A Private Social Network For You And Your Customers

 

Ingrid Lunden  - techcrunch.com

Tuesday, August 14th, 2012
salesforce

Salesforce has officially closed its acquisition of Buddy Media, but it looks like it is far from closing the door on what it intends to do in the space of enterprise and social communication. Today the company announced Social Communities, a private social networking service where users can engage with customers and partners using some of the features that have largely become commonplace in this era of social media. These include user profiles, real-time feeds, trending topics, recommendations and influence measurement. The platform also incorporates the cloud-based business processes and database services that form the core of Salesforce’s business today. Set for a limited pilot in the autumn 2012, the service will be available generally in the second half of 2013.

The move looks like a clear salvo from Salesforce to competitors that are also converging on the nexus of social tools and enterprise services. They include Microsoft — which already has Sharepoint and is upping the ante now with Yammer; as well as smaller companies like Huddle and Hootsuite, which respectively offer cloud-based collaboration platforms and social media dashboards to serve the two sides of enterprises’ social media needs.

It is also another step in the increasing consumerization of enterprise services. Salesforce notes that nearly a quarter of all time spent online is spent on social networks like Facebook and that people access the Internet more from mobile devices than from desktops.

And what it also does is potentially extend out the kinds of customers that Salesforce can target with its services: if the comany’s ethos started as a cloud-based database for people to track and reach out to sales leads, this product shows how Saleforce could potentially use its platform for significantly more.

“Today, more than ever, companies need to put customers at the heart of their business,” said Doug Bewsher, senior vice president, Salesforce Chatter, in a statement. “With Salesforce Communities, enterprises will be able to break the boundaries of their companies, connecting them much closer to their customers and partners.”

The move is part of Salesforce’s push to capitalize on that surge in interest in social media services, both as a way for people to collaborate with each other, but in the sales and marketing world, as a way of monitoring how well a campaign or brand is resonating with consumers. In that sense, Salesforce Communities looks like an all-things-to-all-people product: not only is it a social network for users to interact with each other, but it can be used as a place for people to research and mine social information that is relevant to their sales and marketing goals. Buddy Media and Saleforce’s other holdings are not mentioned in the release, but this IP will presumably also be included in the mix. Among the features:

- the ability to create “customer service communities” as well as ad-hoc marketing communities for particular campaigns

- networks for companies to serve their partners, suppliers and distributors, “to drive more sales through seamless deal registration, access to proven sales tools and collaboration with the right experts.”

- creating social networks for specific functions, such as retailers ”delivering custom shopping experiences” and universities creating alumni networks.

There is even an element of Facebook Groups to Communities: One customer that is using it, GE Capital, noted that it had used the platform to deploy “more than 50 custom communities,” between the firm and its partner companies. ”Our goal was to build deeper relationships with our mid-size business partners across the world, and be seen as builders, not just bankers,” said Ian Forrest, vice president, Global Marketing, GE Capital, in a statement.

Report: QR code use rising in unexpected ways

A new report from ScanLife found the number of people scanning QR codes has increased substantially over the past year, though not in places or ways many had envisioned.
By Matt Wilson | Posted: August 12, 2012 | ragan.com

Sometimes, research data confirm conventional wisdom. Sometimes they don’t.Case in point: A new report from ScanLife, a firm that generates and manages QR codes for brands, confirmed that many more people are using QR codes than did so even a year ago. In the second quarter of 2012, the company’s QR codes got 16 million scans, almost 10 million more than what it saw in the second quarter of 2011.

Here’s the unexpected part: 60 percent of the people who scan QR codes do so from home. They’re using mobile technology without leaving the house.

The report also found that people tend to scan codes that lead them to contests or loyalty programs more than codes that go to videos or app downloads. Toys and beauty products are the most-popular industries for QR code scanners. And most people who scan QR codes—more than two-thirds—are men.

For some help making sense of the numbers, Ragan.com asked mobile communication and marketing experts for some analysis.

Popularity explosion

One reason for the huge growth in QR code use is pretty simple, says Shel Holtz of Holtz Communication + Technology.

“They’re getting more and more common,” he says. “Despite the arguments from QR haters that they’ll never take off, you see them everywhere.”

Government agencies such as the TSA and state DMVs use them, Holtz points out, and they’re increasingly on billboards and advertisements in public transportation hubs, in magazines, and in stores.

That near-ubiquity is almost certainly tied to the increasing prevalence of smartphones. According to Nielsen, more than half of U.S. consumers carried smartphones as of May. Dan Slagen, head of advertising at Hubspot, says that growth isn’t happening in the United States alone.

“With more sophisticated technology being in the hands of a larger percentage of the masses, there will be a paralleled growth with QR codes as their general applicability lies with smartphones,” he says.

Holtz adds that many smartphones now come equipped with QR code scanners, so people don’t even have to fish around to find apps with which to scan them.

Jonathan Rick, CEO of The Jonathan Rick Group, says it’s a combination of convenience and trendiness that is driving the numbers up.

“For one, scanning a barcode is easier than typing a URL on tiny keys,” he says. “For another, QR codes benefit from ‘shiny new object’ syndrome. They’re the cool thing to do.”

Lessons for communicators

Rick says QR codes still have a long way to go before becoming totally mainstream—the key question is, “Will my mother use this?” he says—but they should certainly be an option for communicators and marketers, especially if they’re developing contests or loyalty programs.

Everybody wants a deal, Slagen says, so the notion that contests do best hardly surprises him. Other research has shown that discounts and coupons are by far the No. 1 thing people scanning QR codes want.

Nor is Slagen shocked that people scan from home. Citing data from Search Engine Watch, he said nearly 50 percent of the Olympic-related searches people in the United States and United Kingdom have made this year have been through phones and tablets.

“People have their phones with them as they watch TV, are influenced, and then use their phones to search, and the same can be said about QR campaigns that are done well,” he says.

Where campaigns don’t work, Slagen says, is the place lots of brands put them: in subway stations, where people can’t access mobile Internet signals.

“So stop running your QR campaigns in subway stations where smartphones don’t work, understand how people currently see the value of QR codes, and then lead them into the next generation of QR codes,” he says.

Holtz adds that brands simply need to be more creative with how they implement QR codes.

Most implementations are pretty boring, he says, but some, such as this one at a South Korean department store, get people interested by being creative. In another example, a brand of AC adapter puts QR codes on its packaging so people can check whether the adapter works with their laptops. That’s just handy.

Future uses

Some tech experts have already rung the death knell for QR codes, as new technologies such as near-field communication become more widely available, but Holtz says NFC isn’t likely to subsume QR codes.

“You have to be close enough to touch your phone to the item containing the NFC chip, while QR codes can be scanned from a distance,” he says. “Each will wind up being used based on its strength.”

Leslie Handmaker, marketing manager at Next Day Flyers, an online printing service, says QR codes are showing up on more and more print materials, such as brochures, postcards, and business cards. Scanning codes at home isn’t that far-fetched.

“Many of the materials we print are postcard mailers containing QR codes that are sent out to people at their residence,” she says. “We also see freelancers and consultants incorporating QR codes into their business card and postcard layouts to easily direct potential clients to websites and LinkedIn profiles.”

Max Goldberg, a comedian and co-founder of social media marketing firm Shmedia, says QR codes will explode much further once smartphones aren’t limited by 3G wireless Internet.

“A higher-speed mobile Internet will drastically affect the adoption and creativity in use of QR codes,” he says. “Expect that in 2013, or maybe 2014 at the latest. The codes themselves can lead to a much richer experience at that point, because the pipe itself is wider for that experience to travel.”

10 crazy IT security tricks that actually work

IT security threats are constantly evolving. It’s time for IT security pros to get ingenious

by:Roger A. Grimes

Network and endpoint security may not strike you as the first place to scratch an experimental itch. After all, protecting the company’s systems and data should call into question any action that may introduce risk. But IT security threats constantly evolve, and sometimes you have to think outside the box to keep ahead of the more ingenious evildoers.

And sometimes you have to get a little crazy.

10 crazy IT security tricks that actually work

Charles Babbage, the father of the modern computer, once said, “Propose to a man any principle, or an instrument, however admirable, and you will observe the whole effort is directed to find a difficulty, a defect, or an impossibility in it. If you speak to him of a machine for peeling a potato, he will pronounce it impossible: If you peel a potato with it before his eyes, he will declare it useless, because it will not slice a pineapple.”

The world of network security is no different. Offer a new means for IT defense, and expect to meet resistance. Yet, sometimes going against the wave of traditional thinking is the surest path to success.

In that vein, we offer 10 security ideas that have been — and in many cases still are — shunned as too offbeat to work but that function quite effectively in helping secure the company’s IT assets. The companies employing these methods don’t care about arguing or placating the naysayers. They see the results and know these methods work, and they work well.

Innovative security technique No. 1: Renaming admins
Renaming privileged accounts to something less obvious than “administrator” is often slammed as a wasteful, “security by obscurity” defense. However, this simple security strategy works. If the attacker hasn’t already made it inside your network or host, there’s little reason to believe they’ll be able to readily discern the new names for your privileged accounts. If they don’t know the names, they can’t mount a successful password-guessing campaign against them.

Even bigger bonus? Never in the history of automated malware — the campaigns usually mounted against workstations and servers — has an attack attempted to use anything but built-in account names. By renaming your privileged accounts, you defeat hackers and malware in one step. Plus, it’s easier to monitor and alert on log-on attempts to the original privileged account names when they’re no longer in use.

Innovative security technique No. 2: Getting rid of admins
Another recommendation is to get rid of all wholesale privileged accounts: administrator, domain admin, enterprise admin, and every other account and group that has built-in, widespread, privileged permissions by default.

When this is suggested, most network administrators laugh and protest, the same response security experts got when they recommended local Administrator accounts be disabled on Windows computers. Then Microsoft followed this recommendation, disabling local Administrator accounts by default on every version of Windows starting with Vista/Server 2008 and later. Lo and behold, hundreds of millions of computers later, the world hasn’t come crashing down.

True, Windows still allows you to create an alternate Administrator account, but today’s most aggressive computer security defenders recommend getting rid of all built-in privileged accounts, at least full-time. Still, many network admins see this as going a step too far, an overly draconian measure that won’t work. Well, at least one Fortune 100 company has eliminated all built-in privileged accounts, and it’s working great. The company presents no evidence of having been compromised by an APT (advanced persistent threat). And nobody is complaining about the lack of privileged access, either on the user side or from IT. Why would they? They aren’t getting hacked.

Innovative security technique No. 3: Honeypots
Modern computer honeypots have been around since the days of Clifford Stoll’s “The Cuckoo’s Egg,” and they still don’t aren’t as respected or as widely adopted as they deserve. A honeypot is any computer asset that is set up solely to be attacked. Honeypots have no production value. They sit and wait, and they are monitored. When a hacker or malware touches them, they send an alert to an admin so that the touch can be investigated. They provide low noise and high value.

The shops that use honeypots get notified quickly of active attacks. In fact, nothing beats a honeypot for early warning — except for a bunch of honeypots, called a honeynet. Still, colleagues and customers are typically incredulous when I bring up honeypots. My response is always the same: Spend a day spinning one up and tell me how you feel about honeypots a month later. Sometimes the best thing you can do is to try one.

Innovative security technique No. 4: Using nondefault ports
Another technique for minimizing security risk is to install services on nondefault ports. Like renaming privileged accounts, this security-by-obscurity tactic goes gangbusters. When zero-day, remote buffer overflow threats become weaponized by worms, computer viruses, and so on, they always — and only — go for the default ports. This is the case for SQL injection surfers, HTTP worms, SSH discoverers, and any other common remote advertising port.

Recently Symantec’s pcAnywhere and Microsoft’s Remote Desktop Protocol suffered remote exploits. When these exploits became weaponized, it was a race against the clock for defenders to apply patches or block the ports before the worms could arrive. If either service had been running on a nondefault port, the race wouldn’t even begin. That’s because in the history of automated malware, malware has only ever tried the default port.

Critics of this method of defense say it’s easy for a hacker to find where the default port has been moved, and this is true. All it takes is a port scanner, like Nmap, or an application fingerprinter, likeNikto, to identify the app running on the nondefault port. In reality, most attacks are automated using malware, which as stated, only go for default ports, and most hackers don’t bother to look for nondefault ports. They find too much low-hanging fruit on default ports to be bothered with the extra effort.

Years ago, as an experiment, I moved my RDP port from 3889 to 50471 and offered a reward to the first person to find the new port. Two people discovered the port right away, which was no surprise; because I told them what I did, it’s easy to discover the right spot. What blew me away is that tens of thousands of hacker wannabes, scanning my system for the new port using Nmap, didn’t realize that Nmap, if left to its own defaults, doesn’t look on nondefault ports. It proved that by doing a simple port move you significantly reduce your risk.

Innovative security technique No. 5: Installing to custom directories
Another security-by-obscurity defense is to install applications to nondefault directories.

This one doesn’t work as well as it used to, given that most attacks happen at the application file level today, but it still has value. Like the previous security-by-obscurity recommendations, installing applications to custom directories reduces risk — automated malware almost never looks anywhere but the default directories. If malware is able to exploit your system or application, it will try to manipulate the system or application by looking for default directories. Install your OS or application to a nonstandard directory and you screw up its coding.

On many of my honeypots, I install the OS to nondefault folders — say, in C:/Win7 instead of C:/Windows. I usually create the “fake” folders that mimic the real ones, had I installed the software and taken the defaults. When my computers get attacked, it’s easy to find complete and isolated copies of the malware hanging out in the C:/Windows/System32 folder.

Changing default folders doesn’t have as much bang for the buck as the other techniques mentioned here, but it fools a ton of malware, and that means reduced risk.

Innovative security technique No. 6: Tarpits
My first experience with a tarpit product was LaBrea Tarpit. It was developed during the outbreak of the Code Red IIS worm of 2001. Worms readily replicate to any system that matches their exploit capabilities. LaBrea worked by answering connection attempts for addresses not already assigned to legitimate machines. It would then answer and tell the worm to connect, then spend the rest of the time trying to slow down the worm, using various TCP protocol tricks: long timeouts, multiple retransmissions, and so on.

Today, many networks (and honeypots) have tarpit functionality, which answers for any nonvalid connection attempt. When I penetration-test these networks, my attacks and network sweep scanning attacks slow to a crawl — they’re unusable, which is exactly the purpose. The only downside: Tarpits can cause problems with legitimate services if the tarpits answer prematurely because the legitimate server responded slowly. Remember to fine-tune the tarpit to avoid these false positives and enjoy the benefits.

Innovative security technique No. 7: Network traffic flow analysis
With foreign hackers abounding, one of the best ways to discover massive data theft is throughnetwork traffic flow analysis. Free and commercial software is available to map your network flows and establish baselines for what should be going where. That way, if you see hundreds of gigabytes of data suddenly and unexpectedly heading offshore, you can investigate. Most of the APT attacks I’ve investigated would have been recognized months earlier if the victim had an idea of what data should have been going where and when.

Innovative security technique No. 8: Screensavers
Password-protected screensavers are a simple technique for minimizing security risk. If the computing device is idle for too long, a screensaver requiring a password kicks in. Long criticized by users who considered them nuisances to their legitimate work, they’re now a staple on every computing device, from laptops to slates to mobile phones.

I remember one time leaving my smartphone in a cab, right after an argument with the cab driver over the bill (he had taken me on a much longer, more circuitous route than necessary). I immediately considered that phone long gone. I was worried because I had just chatted with my wife, so the phone was open and exposed. I store my passwords and other personal information on the phone, although slightly modified so that anyone reading it directly wouldn’t know the true passwords or numbers. I was more worried about the contact information for my wife, daughters, and other loved ones. Luckily, I knew my screensaver would kick in momentarily. I never found the phone, but I didn’t get any weird calls or charges either.

Innovative security technique No. 9: Disabling Internet browsing on servers
Most computer risk is incurred by users’ actions on the Internet. Organizations that disable Internet browsing or all Internet access on servers that don’t need the connections significantly reduce that server’s risk to maliciousness. You don’t want bored admins picking up their email and posting to social networking sites while they’re waiting for a patch to download. Instead, block what isn’t needed. For companies using Windows servers, consider disabling UAC (User Account Control) because the risk to the desktop that UAC minimizes isn’t there. UAC can cause some security issues, so disabling it while maintaining strong security is a boon for many organizations.

Innovative security technique No. 10: Security-minded development
Any organization producing custom code should integrate security practices into its development process – ensuring that code security will be reviewed and built in from day one in any coding project. Doing so absolutely will reduce the risk of exploitation in your environment.

This practice, sometimes known as SDL (Security Development Lifecycle), differs from educator to educator, but often includes the following tenets: use of secure programming languages; avoidance of knowingly insecure programming functions; code review; penetration testing; and a laundry list of other best practices aimed at reducing the likelihood of producing security bug-ridden code.

Microsoft, for one, has been able to significantly reduce the number of security bugs in every shipping product since instituting SDL. It offers lessons learned, free tools, and guidance at itsSDL website.

This story, “10 crazy IT security tricks that actually work,” was originally published atInfoWorld.com. Follow the latest developments in security at InfoWorld.com. For the latest developments in business technology news, follow InfoWorld.com on Twitter.