Thursday, August 26, 2010

Top Malware Infection Method

According to Trend Micro over 90% of malware infections are transmitted via infected web sites.  The "bad guys" just need to do two things, 1) embed some nefarious code in a web page somewhere and 2) entice a user to visit that page.  Neither one of those things are all that hard to do.

Official looking emails and socially engineered enticements leveraging our fascination with Facebook, My Space, and Twitter are just too hard for some people to resist.  Facebook and My Space scams are notoriously effective at getting people to click on a link which takes them on a one way trip to the infected website.  Heck who wouldn't want to see a "funny" video of themselves on Facebook!  Sign me up!  But, sadly, instead of yukking it up over a funny video, you find yourself staring at a fake anti-virus warning that just won't go away!  What a buzz kill!

What's an IT service provider to do? Most people are still thinking like it is 2002 (ancient history) when it comes to the transmission of malware.  I find that a significant percentage of people still think if they don't open email attachments they're safe!  From my perspective, there are two things we professionals must continue to do (over and over and over):
  1. Educate, educate, educate....teach users how malware is transmitted and how to avoid falling prey to a well crafted, socially engineered, correctly spelled, ruse which takes full advantage of a raging Facebook (My Space, Twitter,...)  addiction.
  2. Install security software that provides some form of website reputation screening or scanning.
At my Geeks On Call francise, we recommend Trend Micro Worry Free Business to our small business customers.  Trend's full suite of security protection includes web reputation services to prevent users from clicking on links to websites containing malware.  The current Symantec/Norton product also does a very good job of preventing users from visiting infected websites.

Man, it's a constant battle out here!

Thursday, August 19, 2010

A Pure Cloud for Small Business? How would that look?

As an IT service provider, it can be hard to take a step back and objectively examine the evolving small business IT landscape.  But unless you are a service provider whose been living under a rock (or, more likely, a couple of Dell Power Edge T310’s) for the past two years, it’s hard to miss the cloud evolution currently sweeping the land.

How will the evolution to the cloud impact small business?  Well, probably in the same way it’s impacting individuals.  Our phones and computers are connected to the internet constantly accessing data and services stored and maintained “in the cloud”. However, we still create, collect and store data on our personal PC’s and laptop hard drives. For some reason we are reluctant to let go and move our data to the cloud.

The same is true for small businesses. They too are reluctant to move their data to the cloud. Even though in almost all cases the data would be more secure and more accessible than it is on their own hard drives. Most small business owners cannot effectively articulate a specific technical reason for this reluctance. When small businesses become comfortable with providing a home for their data in the cloud they will realize significant benefits and savings in terms of IT expenditure and worker efficiency.

To make the case - lets say a small business completely embraces the concept of “the cloud” including moving their business data.  If all of their data were in the cloud, and the cloud they used was a pure cloud service like Google Apps, they could radically simplify their IT infrastructure.  They could use any kind of PC, laptop or mobile device for access to their data, email and intranets. All they really need is an internet connection (and even a connection is not necessary for synchronized data). The operating systems they use (coming soon) need only provide the connection to the cloud. Think Android, iPhone and Chrome OS as examples of a "connection only" operating system.  Even the configuration settings for the OS could be stored in the cloud.  If so, when (not if)  the user’s current device crashes, the new one would boot up looking just like the old one, with all of the user’s customizations and preferences already in place.  Instead of a day of downtime to replace a PC and a week to get the PC “just right” the worker is back to work almost immediately!  Wow, for us old “break fix” IT guys this might seem a little scary.

Another important new twist is the price of these new connection devices will be considerably less than the price of a current road warrior’s laptop.  Your cloud based applications, like Google Docs, would work the same no matter which device or operating system provides the connection. In addition, and of significant importance, those cloud based applications would be updated, upgraded and maintained by the cloud service provider. Last, but certainly not least, the applications are included with the service, think about the cost savings there! Potentially you could survive without a copy of Microsoft Office on every computer/device/...whatever! certainly is a brave new world!

The small business that fully embraces the cloud today won't be considered a bleeding edge beta tester of something new and perhaps fleeting, rather they will considered simply as "ahead of the curve" (and their competitors). From this old IT service providers perspective, the cloud is the way of the future, it really is coming, and it is coming fast!   At my Geeks On Call franchise in Charleston, SC we encourage our small business customers to consider Google Apps as the most cost effective, simple and productive cloud solution for small business.  Take a close look, it makes so much sense!

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Google Apps Marketplace Provides Easy and Inexpensive Access to Enterprise Class CRM to Small Businesses

One of the many things we at Geeks On Call in Charleston, SC like about Google Apps is its extensibility through many excellent business applications in the Google Apps Marketplace.  Market Place applications are easy to try and buy (many are free!) and they integrate to one degree or another with the already impressive suite of applications in Google Apps.  One class of business application available in the Marketplace is Customer Relationship Management (CRM) software.  The Google Apps Marketplace has seen a rapid growth in the availabiltiy of Google Apps integrated CRM products.  Many small businesses have shied away from CRM software either due to complexity of integration with their own internal systems or due to the cost.  Google Apps addresses both of those concerns.  For a recent listing of several Google Apps Marketplace CRM applications see this recent Google Apps Enterprise Blog posting.   My Geeks On Call franchise is a Google Apps Authorized Reseller.  To contact us about Google Apps please visit our Google Apps information page.