You arrive at home and the door unlocks because it knows who you are, sensing the key in your pocket. The lights switch themselves on and your favorite music begins to stream gently through the living area. It’s already the perfect temperature, and as you head for the fridge, you notice an alert on the screen congratulating you on meeting your exercise goal today and suggesting a tasty snack.

Okay, it sounds like a scene from a movie, but it’s actually reality today thanks to the Internet of Things (IoT). Almost anything that can be turned on or off is now able to be connected to the internet. An entire industry has popped up to help users create a custom experience designed around their unique needs. Electronic locks, lights, healthcare wearables and household appliances are just the beginning. IoT goes beyond devices you can use to surf the web – it’s a global revolution.

Adapters can transform even the most random appliance into a connected gadget, as well as add new layers of functionality. Cloud software is creating piggy-back connections, resulting in not just a new experience, but a new way of interacting with the data produced. It may all seem impossibly futuristic, but IoT is less about technology and more about enhancing relationships between people-people, people-things and things-things.

Millions of people are wearing a Fitbit or Jawbone to track steps and calories, while others are letting their fridge order groceries! The practical applications are almost endless, commonly including: GPS trackers on pets, home security via webcam, patient monitoring of blood pressure/heart rate, weather monitoring, and remote power points. No more worrying all day if you left the iron on, just push a button on your phone and know for sure it’s turned off.

Of course, with all this connectivity comes risks. While the idea of having your toaster hacked is a bit mind-boggling, technology connected to the internet is open to exploitation. The webcam that allows you to monitor your pets may also allow other people to glimpse inside your home, but only if it’s not secured properly. Unfortunately, it only takes one small gap for a cyber-attack to get through, and once in, all connected devices are at risk.

Having your lights taken over by a far-away prankster may seem like a small risk, but gaps allow them into your computers, phones and tablets too. That’s the part the movies skip over – the networking protections that exist in the background, shielding against attacks.

Taking the time to properly secure your IoT device is essential to making sure you get the whole, happy future-tech experience. We’re big fans of IoT and can’t wait to see what comes next!

Got an IoT device? Give us a call at 07 4767 7202 to help you set it up securely.

So your desk is buried in paper, your shelves are overcrowded with stacks of documents, and you’ve carved out just enough space for your keyboard, mouse and coffee? It’s time to go paperless, not just for your own sanity, but to streamline the entire business. It’s the one move that saves time and space while gaining flexibility for your mobile workforce. When you’re ready to adopt paperless processes, consider these 4 steps:

  1. Leverage the cloud for storage and search: Documents can be uploaded, viewed and edited only by those with permission. Google Drive is the easiest tool to begin implementing paperless storage and collaboration, though Evernote and Microsoft OneNote are also strong contenders. No matter which you choose, you’ll be able to easily find files using search functions, and no longer need to remember whether it was filed by name, subject or category – just enter what you need and let the system locate it for you. Then simply update, share or email the file as required. No more filing cabinets or archive rooms, just clutter-free workspaces, room to breathe, and possibly even lower overheads now that you could fit into a smaller office space. Digital files will also allow remote access, perfect for working on the go or telecommuting staff. Access files at any time using your secure login, on any device, from any location.
  2. Provide training across the board: Establish ongoing training to ensure all workers are up to speed with the new system and the way you’d like things done. This is the time to set standards for file and folder names, new collaboration norms and security protocols. Long-term adoption will require cooperation from workers at all levels of the business, and training for everyone will go a long way towards success.
  3. Scan necessary papers: The move towards digital files often requires a step back to scan necessary files into the system. Many of the office grade multifunction printers offer double-sided feed scanning, so you can quickly scan papers into the system and then dispose of the paper. Alternatively, you can obtain special scanning hardware like the Fujitsu Scansnaps. Any new paper documents can be scanned likewise, and even faxes can be set to accept digital files only. Each file will digitize to quite a small size, so running out of hard drive space shouldn’t be a concern.
  4. Prioritize backups: The best way to prevent file and document loss is to have a robust backup system, including a regular off-site backup. Treat your backups as a vital insurance policy, so that your files are readily available and intact if required. Use your backups to address any issues as soon as they arise and keep your new paperless files well-managed and secure.

Ready to go paperless? We can help. Call us today at 07 4767 7202.

By now you know that the cloud isn’t going away any time soon. In fact, cloud computing has become a natural step in business growth, thanks to the numerous (and continually growing) benefits. More and more applications are coming out in web-based form and staff are exceptionally comfortable with this type of change. So when is the right time to move your business computing to the cloud?

Many businesses are facing this question now that cloud computing has become a mainstream norm. After all, you’ll be able to roll out new apps in days, not weeks, and nobody ever says ‘no thanks’ to increased security and efficiency. Like any strategic business decision though, timing is everything. Here’s how to assess your need before you make the switch:

Age of servers and workstations

If your workstations and servers are reaching their end of life and a large capital investment is coming up, you’ll be able to minimize the expense by moving to the cloud. You may even be able to skip certain upgrades completely. Your staff will still need devices to access the cloud data, but you’ll have a lot more flexibility in your choice and they won’t need to be as powerful. This can be a huge cost saving made in just moments.

Need for remote and mobile access

Many businesses are growing while on the move, with a mobile workforce needing to access files from anywhere at any time. This could range from moving around the one location, between offices or even working from home. Forget frustrating connections and lost productivity, cloud computing allows staff to work securely and efficiently from any location with internet access.

Current support setup

If your business currently outsources all your network management, you’re perfectly suited for the move to cloud computing. Network maintenance and monitoring becomes a non-issue, handled 24/7 as part of your cloud service. Network efficiency just keeps rising too, as your cloud provider is always improving their systems. You’ll find problems are fixed before you knew they existed, and server downtime becomes a thing of the past.

Need for predictable IT costs

If it feels like IT costs can spiral out of control at times, challenging your budget and patience, cloud computing will seem like a dream come true. When you make this shift, you’re moving from a capital expense to an operational one – server and system replacements are no longer your concern. You’ll be able to budget for IT costs in advance, knowing no blowouts are hiding around the corner. Monthly costs are known and (usually) capped based on what you use, leaving your cash flow much relieved.

Today’s cloud computing is more advanced, secure and priced more competitively than ever before. At its core, cloud computing is purely about doing things better, and it can have a massive impact on your profits, productivity and even staff satisfaction rates. If your business requires a robust, always available infrastructure with easy monthly costs, it’s time to take a serious look at your cloud computing options.

We offer a variety of cloud services to help your business. Give us a call at 07 4767 7202 to discuss how we can improve your business IT.

There has been a ton of talk about the cloud. Cloud this, cloud that. But what actually IS the cloud? It’s okay if you don’t know, most people don’t understand it and even some tech people tend to wave their hands towards the sky when trying to explain it!

Since it actually has nothing to do with the white fluffy things in the sky, let’s lay it all out:

Cloud computing is about storing and retrieving your data (personal or business) within your own piece of the internet. It’s so you can access it from anywhere, just like you do a web page, and it won’t matter if your office is closed and you’re squeezing in a little work on your phone at midnight. Everything will be saved and ready to pick up when you get back to your desk. Colleagues in different locations can even collaborate on documents in real time.

If that all sounds a bit futuristic, think about how an email service like Gmail works. None of your emails are actually being stored on your hard drive or device, they’re stored on the Gmail server and you can access them anytime you like.

Your read/send/receive changes are applied instantly, remembered for next time you log in. This is a form of cloud computing. So is Netflix, where you can stream movies and TV shows on demand. All the video is actually stored on a computer somewhere else in the world and sent to your device in tiny pieces as you watch it. Netflix remembers what you watched, where you got up to, and even if you’re hopping immediately from one device to another, it still has it all ready to go.

Where is ‘cloud’ data stored?

Good question. And it’s why the term ‘cloud’ causes so much confusion. The data absolutely must be physically stored somewhere. Companies who offer cloud storage have huge warehouses dedicated to holding servers whose sole job is to send and receive data all day. And by huge, we mean HUGE.

You could get lost walking the rows of servers, just box after box for what seems like forever. The biggest server farms or ‘cloud campuses’ are still growing, but to give you an idea: they can be upwards of 1million square feet. It’s big business, literally.

In terms of location, the US and UK are popular server farm locations, but the company could also have copies of your data stored elsewhere in the world. This is so they can fulfill their redundancy guarantees – if disaster hits one location, the other still has a copy.

Having additional locations and copies also increases the speed of access. With some companies, you can choose your preferred location so that data doesn’t have to travel quite as far across the world, increasing speed even further, which of course, saves time and money. Collaboration, security, redundancy, AND savings? We’d call that a win.

Ready to take advantage of cloud computing? Give us a call at 07 4767 7202.

The Internet is growing and evolving so fast even the dictionary has trouble keeping up. Here are 12 suddenly common terms that are helpful to know.

Browser

A browser is a free piece of software that lets you view web pages, videos and other online content. It’s a core requirement of going online, as it converts the computer languages HTML, Javascript and XML into human-readable form.

The most popular browsers in 2017 are Google Chrome, Safari, Firefox and Microsoft Edge*. (*Internet Explorer has been superseded and is no longer recommended due to security concerns)

Email

Electronic Mail (formerly spelled with a hyphen: ‘e-mail’) is typed messages sent from one person/business to another via the Internet. It’s delivered almost instantly and then waits patiently for the recipient to open and read it.

You’ll need a webmail service (e.g. Gmail) or installed software (e.g. Outlook) to read, write and send, but you can also set your smartphone up for this. Most emails are in the form of letters, newsletters or catalogs, often with a more casual tone. Email can include text, links to the internet and images, but not video/sound.

Encryption

Before important data is sent over the internet, it’s scrambled to turn it into gibberish that means nothing to anybody who might intercept it. Unless there’s been a massive security breach, only the sender and intended recipient will have the decryption key to turn it back into readable data.

You don’t have to encrypt your own data as it happens automatically. Your email provider and important places like banks and online stores have digital security systems that take care of the encryption/decryption for you.

Firewall

A firewall is a security measure designed to act like a door bouncer to your network. When an unauthorized user attempts to gain entry, the firewall blocks their path until it’s checked them out thoroughly. If there’s anything suspicious, the firewall refuses to let them in.

HTTP and HTTPS

These are acronyms for the rules of how data is transmitted to your computer screen. The actual mechanics are incredibly complicated, but the terms have one very important distinction:

HyperText Transfer Protocol (HTTP) means the images, text and links should appear in your browser.

HyperText Transfer Protocol Secured (HTTPS) means the page has an added layer of security to hide your personal information from hackers. Data sent through pages with this prefix is securely encrypted before transmission.

IP Address

Every device that accesses the Internet is assigned a unique IP address to identify itself. It’s used to make sure when you request a page or document, it’s sent to you – and not someone in Alaska. Your IP will look something like ‘202.9.64.55’ and may be referred to as fixed or dynamic.

ISP

Your Internet Service Provider (ISP) is the company that allows you to connect to the Internet. They’ll also offer extra services like email or web hosting. It’s impossible to bypass the ISP level and connect directly to the Internet.

Malware

A broad term to describe viruses and malicious software from hackers. Malware can manipulate you into paying money, take control of your computer, steal your private details or break your computer in some way. Instead of listing each specific threat, you’ll commonly see them lumped together under ‘malware’.

Router

The traffic system for your network, connecting computers and devices within the home and acting as a defensive gateway to the Internet. These hardware devices can be wired or wireless, and allow you to share one Internet connection amongst all the computers/devices in your home.

Social Media

A broad term to describe all the websites and applications that let you share and interact with others online. To fit this umbrella, the site needs to allow user profiles, live updates and the ability to add friends/followers.

The most common social media applications are Facebook and Twitter.

Spam and Filtering

Any unsolicited messages sent over the Internet, usually in bulk, are called spam. Usually, it’s electronic junk mail, but it’s also a technique hackers use to trick people into clicking links to their malware.

Email applications are reasonably good at identifying spam and should shift it automatically to a spam folder before you see it. Occasionally, the filters get it wrong and you may find a relevant email needs to be dragged back to your inbox.

URL

Each website has a unique address on the web known as a URL (Uniform Resource Locator). URLs commonly end in .com but can also end in a country specific extension like .com.au or .fr, or more recently, in new and exciting extensions such as .xyz or .me