13 Aug

Meet Edge, Microsoft’s New Replacement for Internet Explorer

Microsoft Edge's User Interface

Are you Ready for Microsoft Edge?

Alongside Windows 10’s release, Microsoft has introduced a new browser which they have dubbed Edge, and they’re making it the default.  Internet Explorer 11 can still be used in Windows 10, but Microsoft has indicated that they will only be supporting it in the future with security fixes, and it’s being kept around mostly to support corporate customers and older/intranet websites.  For most users, Edge will be the browser that Microsoft will want them to use.  With Edge, Microsoft has decided to start over from scratch instead of trying to continue building on top of Internet Explorer and all of its legacy features and code which were holding them back.  So what’s new with Edge?

Faster

Internet Explorer 10 lagged behind all of its competitors in most every speed metric there was for browser performance.  With Edge, Microsoft has finally caught up, at least for the moment.  See Anandtech’s test results here:

http://www.anandtech.com/show/9458/examining-microsoft-edge-browser-performance

Cleaner

Demonstration of Microsoft Edge's Reading View

Microsoft Edge’s Reading View

Microsoft has also gone back to the drawing board with their user interfaces, and come up with a look that mimics the minimalist look of Google Chrome.  Nothing extraneous; a back button, a forward button, a refresh button, a home button, and an address bar.  To the right are three additional icons:  A Share button for social media integration, a Web Notes button which allows you to add annotations and notes to the web page then save it or share it with others, a favourites button, and a settings button.  There’s also a Read mode, which tries to strip out extraneuous advertisements and clutter from pages in order to make for a better experience reading articles and the like.

Your Personal Assistant

Demonstration of Microsoft Edge and Cortana

Microsoft Edge and Cortana

Cortana can be thought of as Microsoft’s equivalent to Siri found on Apple I-Devices.  It’s powered by Microsoft’s Bing search engine, and fully integrated into Windows 10.  In Edge, it also tries to help out whenever you type into its address bar, similar to what Google does with Chrome’s address bar: if you type in a question about the weather, Edge might show you local weather reports, and if you type in a stock symbol, it’ll show you its current price.

Is it Better Than Internet Explorer?

It’s definitely much faster than Internet Explorer 11 was, and it integrates many of the features that its other competitors have introduced.  If you like sticking with Microsoft browsers, then certainly you should try it out when you get Windows 10.  There might be some older websites which won’t play well with Edge, because with their new browser, Microsoft has stopped supported some less secure older technologies, including ActiveX. For those older websites, you can always fall back to IE.  Also keep in mind there is no extension support yet in Edge.

Is it Better Than Chrome or Firefox?

Performance wise, they’re all on a level playing field at the moment.  If you’ve already fallen in love with one of those browsers, and are using features such as Google’s browser syncing or any extensions or plugins, there isn’t that much of a reason to switch back to Microsoft.  At the moment, there is no extension support for Edge, so if you are using a bunch of extensions already in those browsers, then keep that in mind.

31 Jul

Windows 10 is Out. Here’s What You Should Know.

An example of Windows 10's User Interface

Windows 10 User Interface

Windows 10 is out!  If you have Windows 7 (Service Pack 1) or Windows 8.1, the upgrade is provided free from Microsoft for the first year!  Here’s how to upgrade, direct from Microsoft: http://www.microsoft.com/en-ca/windows/windows-10-upgrade

What’s new with Windows 10?

Windows 10 builds on the base of Windows 8.1; on the surface the two look fairly similar. They’ve rolled back some of the more tablet-focused elements to make the interface make more sense for desktop users, though, including the return of the start menu.  There’s also a new web browser included which is a big improvement on the last version of Internet Explorer: more on this new browser later on.  From Microsoft, here’s a list of the features that Windows 10 provides:  http://www.microsoft.com/en-ca/windows/features

Should I upgrade now?

Our recommendation is to hold off on updating for now if you are thinking about using your computer for business purposes and are using 7 or 8.1.  If you are purchasing new hardware though, Windows 10 is much more business-friendly than Windows 8.1 was,  and if you still have computers running Windows XP then you should certainly think about replacing them with modern, faster, and more secure Windows 10 machines.  For personal use, you can definitely download it if you’re curious to play around with it.  There is no rush, if you’re worried about the free upgrade offer expiring; you have a year to get this free upgrade.  You can also “reserve” it without actually installing Windows 10.  Just don’t go through with the “upgrade” step in the link to Microsoft’s instructions provided at the top of this post.

Have there been any problems reported so far?

Some users are criticizing Windows 10 over privacy concerns, including the data it collects, its default settings, and the personalized advertisements it serves up: http://www.theguardian.com/technology/2015/jul/31/windows-10-microsoft-faces-criticism-over-privacy-default-settings

Windows 10 will also change your default browser if you are upgrading and not doing a clean install, which has drawn criticism from users and also Mozilla’s CEO, Mozilla being the company behind the free and open-source browser Firefox: http://fortune.com/2015/07/31/windows-10-browser/

A successor to Internet Explorer

We will have a blog post later on about Microsoft Edge, the new browser that comes with Windows 10 that will be replacing Internet Explorer, and what you should know about it; stay tuned for that.

If you have any questions about how Windows 10 will effect your business, contact Advance Micro Solutions and we’ll be happy to help!

22 Apr

“Google Mobilegeddon”: Google Changing Search to Favour Mobile Friendly Websites

Google-Mobile-Friendly-UpdateGoogle is tweaking their search algorithm so that on Google searches on mobile devices (ie. smartphones and iPhones), sites designed to display correctly on mobile devices will be ranked higher.

From Business Insider: Google is making a giant change this week that could crush millions of small businesses

From Google itself:  Rolling Out the mobile-friendly update

Is your business’s website ready for this?  If not, contact Advance Micro Solutions today.

24 Feb

“Superfish” Security Vulnerability on some Lenovo Laptops

Badfish - Superfish Vulneribility ScannerHave you recently bought a non-ThinkPad branded Lenovo laptop?  If so, your passwords and banking information could be vulnerable to hackers!

Recently, it came to light that a piece of software called Superfish was pre-installed on some recently released Lenovo laptops, and that Superfish circumvents SSL, which is what many sites – including major banking and social media websites – use to secure the exchange of sensitive data such as login information and passwords. This circumvention could be exploited by hackers and third parties to silently intercept that information.  Many people are referring to Superfish as “adware” because of the exploitative behaviour it exhibits.

This is a large breach of trust issue for Lenovo and for computing in general, so if consumer privacy is a topic that concerns you, then this is a story to keep an eye on.  Yesterday, a lawsuit was filed against Lenovo for this, and certainly there will be more fallout from this before everything is said and done.

You can check if a certain model is affected in the official statement Lenovo released: http://news.lenovo.com/article_display.cfm?article_id=1929

You can also check if your computer is affected using this website, built by security experts at CloudFlare: https://filippo.io/Badfish/

If you’d like to learn a bit more about Superfish, CBC has an article that gives a broad overview of the situation:  http://www.cbc.ca/news/technology/superfish-adware-frenzy-over-lenovo-betrayal-of-trust-1.2968640

You can also download the tool to remove Superfish here, in this additional released statement from Lenovo:  http://news.lenovo.com/article_display.cfm?article_id=1931

Finally, here’s an open letter from Lenovo CTO Peter Hortensius: http://news.lenovo.com/article_display.cfm?article_id=1932
20 Feb

Top 10 Reasons Why Every Small Business Needs Data Backup

SyncBackPro Data Backup Software - The Professional's Solution

SyncBackPro Data Backup Software – The Professional’s Solution

Today’s information technology touches every aspect of your operations, challenging small businesses like yours with developing and maintaining networks to ensure uptime, reliability, and cost effectiveness. Despite this, the majority of small companies still keep and maintain their servers in-house instead of utilizing a third-party data center for either cloud computing or colocation services. This is not the wisest business decision when you consider the costs of interruptions in the form of fire, power outages, and server failures, not to mention cyberattacks.

The honest truth is interruptions are going to happen more often than not. The best way to defend your company’s data is with a backup and disaster recovery plan offsite. Below are the top ten reasons why every small business should have a data backup plan:

  1. Backing up your critical data to the cloud is more reliable. Cloud computing simply means that your data is stored over the Internet. External or portable hard drives can break down. Utilizing the cloud allows for easier backup, management of data, and sharing of content.
  2. A backup and disaster recovery plan minimizes costs of downtime. The findings of a recent study entitled 2013 Cost of Data Center Outages conducted by the Ponemon Institute showed the full costs associated with an unplanned data center outage.
  3. Using the cloud for data backup is very affordable. The cost of this technology can easily be acquired at an affordable price—a wise investment that secures your data offsite.
  4. Security at an online backup data center is like Fort Knox. Data centers are like the Fort Knox of data protection (without the armored tanks). Not only are data centers hard to break into digitally, but also physically because of enhanced security.
  1. Upgrading your firewall network creates faster access to data while preventing unauthorized use. Your old firewall may be causing your system to slow by letting in too much unwanted traffic. Consider an upgrade that can take care of annoyances like SPAM.
  2. Combining solutions for data storage saves money and energy. According to Gartner, Virtualization has surpassed 50 percent of all server workloads and is expected to reach 86 percent in 2016. Using your existing server and cloud backup, you can save money and energy, which helps offset the cost of server management, maintenance, and upgrades.
  1. Freeing up your IT department from laborious backup tasks. The added benefit of storing your backup on the cloud eliminates the time-intensive task of manually backing up data, which gives your IT staff time to focus on other duties.
  1. Easier access to your data. Having your data on the cloud makes it easier for your employees and customers to conduct business because they can access your information from virtually anywhere.
  2. Switching to a Vancouver data center for your storage needs ensures privacy. Many Canadian businesses use cloud storage in the United States. But according to the January 2012 Cloud Computing Report by the Law Society of British Columbia, there are over 10,000 US-based government agencies that could get access to your data without a warrant.
  3. Enlisting a Vancouver third-party specialist in creation of a detailed business recovery plan. Collaborating with a local provider can be vital to finding flaws and opportunities in your current system.

Choose a Vancouver Outsourced IT Management Team can ensure business continuity
Advance Micro Solutions, a Certified Business Partner with IBM, is dedicated providing backup services in an affordable way. Get peace of mind with a no-cost review of your IT and hardware infrastructure. And be sure to ask us about 2BrightSparks Backup software.

For a free consultation, please call 604-303-6622 or send an email to inquiry@ad-micro.com.

12 Feb

Avoid the top 3 security flaws most SMBs make

Network Cyber-SecurityWith advances in Internet technology, Vancouver SMBs have flourished. However, that success comes with the increased risk of cyberattacks and security breaches. It seems that hardly a week goes by without hearing about a new attack on a company’s vital data or a new malware that’s been unleashed.

 

Keep undesirables out with a network firewall
A good firewall and network security system can keep out undesirables who shouldn’t have access to your network while allowing in the good traffic you do want. But that system needs to be constantly monitored and updated to stay relevant. The lesson for today’s companies is to “take cybersecurity as serious as physical security of their employees or security of their physical facilities,” says Cynthia Larose, chair of the privacy and security practice at the law firm Mintz Levin in Boston.

Ensure the protection of your customers’ vital information
If you want your customers to trust that you have the highest online protection possible that ensures their private information won’t be stolen, a firewall is the most critical IT investment you can make. And there are affordable yet top-of-line hardware and systems that detect mischief but also limit any damage before it gets too far.

Stop cyberattacks with an affordable yet top-of-the-line system
One of the best Network Firewalls on the market for small businesses is Fortinet Unified Threat Management (UTM) Network Security Appliances.  Fortinet has won numerous awards for technological innovation, product performance, and functionality, including “Company of the Year” from the British Columbia Technology Industry Association (BCTIA) in June 2014. The FortiGate-40C and FortiWifi-40C offer comprehensive network security protection against all manner of cyberattacks. Part of a complete, high performance security solutions portfolio, the system is a powerful blend of firewall, IPS, application control, antivirus, and other defensive measures that can help ensure that your computer network keeps humming.

Make sure your company’s data isn’t at risk of a security breach
The experienced team at Advance Micro Solutions can review your current system and provide consultation on where there are potential weaknesses. For a free consultation, please call 604-303-6622 or send an email to inquiry@ad-micro.com.

09 Feb

Top 2015 Tech Trends in Canada

Internet of EverythingAccording to several recent IDC reports, commissioned by Telus, 2015 will be a year of rapid technology transformation in Canadian businesses. The reports have identified six key drivers to keep an eye on.

1. The cloud, still?
Cloud adoption in Canada has been slower than the rest of the developed world for a variety of reasons. A survey of 350 SMBs by IT Business Canada late last year indicated that over half would be making partial moves to the cloud. Still, there were several concerns:

  • Forty-six per cent of respondents ranked data security as their number one concern in leveraging cloud technologies
  • 22 per cent said their biggest worry was keeping the sovereignty of their data intact.

Many Canadian businesses simply want to keep their mission critical data in Canada, and understandably so: high profile attacks in the U.S. have weakened confidence in U.S.- based cloud providers. As the availability of Canadian cloud providers grows, more SMBs are expected to start taking advantage of cloud technologies.

2. The Internet of Things will proliferate, creating business opportunities
IDC predicts that by the end of 2018 Canadian workplaces will be home to more than 114 million smart connected devices. These devices, ranging from auto-usage sensors for insurance companies to smart gas meters will enable businesses to accurately price services based on usage.

3. Computing Everywhere
As the communications infrastructure evolves to 100% IP-based and wireless systems, the mobile workforce grows. Two-thirds of Canadian businesses are using an IP-based VoIP telephony system as their primary telephone system, while 90 per cent of Canadian businesses use smartphones. Gartner refers to this as “computing everywhere”, providing employees with seamless access to all their business applications across all their devices.

4. The BYOD trend will expand
The study also revealed that 73 per cent of Canadian executives support a BYOD smartphone program and 58 per cent support BYOD tablets. This will expand to additional devices and apps, particularly as wearable and IoT technology proliferate.

5. The security challenge will increase
The growth of trends in cloud, IoT and BYOD have created needs for enhanced data security in transit and at rest. The explosion in data being generated and stored across a wide array of devices provides cyber thieves with more ways to hack into networks, making security one of the largest areas of spending growth in 2015.

6. Migration from legacy skills and systems
As the profound benefits of third platform computing begin to outweigh the risks, Canadian businesses will be investing in new skills and systems while aggressively shutting down legacy technologies.

Advance Micro Solutions helps Vancouver area businesses capitalize on emerging technologies and optimize for growth. For a free technology assessment, contact Advance Micro Solutions today.

05 Feb

Attack of the Hacks! See where cyberattacks may strike next in 2015

Kaspersky Labs Security Landscape FeaturedIn 2013, $11 billion was lost to credit and debit card fraud. Last year, hackers compromised
the personal information of 76 million households from JPMorgan Chase. Other hackers exposed 56 million credit and debit card numbers of Home Depot customers. And of course we all know about the cyberattack on Sony Pictures, which was arguably the most notorious computer hack of the year. The numbers aren’t out for 2014 yet in terms of dollars and intellectual property lost, but cybercrimes such as these can best describe the year as the “Attack of the Hacks.”

These high-profile cyberattacks exploit age-old flaws in open frameworks. Last June, the Government Accountability Office stated that “more than 46,000 cyber incidents were reported by federal agencies in fiscal year 2013—an increase over the prior three years.”

Expect more mobile payment system cyberattacks in 2015
The numbers aren’t in yet for 2014, but cyberattacks are expected to increase on digital transactions from mobile devices in 2015. Security firm FireEye predicts that point-of-sale (PoS) attacks will be more rampant. Cybercriminals are likely to focus on finding the vulnerabilities of new types of online payment systems like Apple Pay, a mobile payment system. But you can also expect more creative targeting on payment processors and PoS management firms as retailers strengthen their defenses.

Beware of ransomware and cyber extortion
SentinelOne Labs sees a possible coordinated “time bomb” attack on enterprises through the use of ransomware. This nasty piece of software locks computer systems (usually with a fake notice from a government agency) after taking customer personal and financial data “hostage.” The cyber thief then demands an extortion be paid in Bitcoin or via PayPal before the system is released back to the company or individual. If the demand is not met by the stated time period, malicious software is unleashed on the operating systems of enterprises who fail to pay.

Can your network withstand a cyberattack?
In October 2014, famed VC/PayPal co-founder Peter Thiel spoke about cybersecurity and its current state of readiness. As data breaches pile up, Thiel expects cybersecurity to remain a big problem. “So much commerce is happening on the Internet and we often have no good intuition of how poor the security is.” He suggests that the situation can only be addressed by software.

What can your company do to ensure readiness against a cyberattack?
You can’t afford to be complacent so monitor your accounts as closely as possible. In addition, be sure to review your risk management and damage control procedures to keep corporate network intrusion to a minimum. This includes keeping up with operating system security updates and having the latest security software on your systems.

Need further help?
The experts at Advance Micro Solutions would be happy to offer a no-cost review of your IT and hardware infrastructure and suggest ways to increase security against cyberattacks. For a free consultation on data security plans and top-of-the-line disaster recovery systems, please call 604-303-6622 or send an email to inquiry@ad-micro.com.

02 Feb

Top Networking Trends In 2015

Network Signal Strength BarKeeping up with evolving technologies in the data center can be a 24-7 exercise, particularly when it comes to networking. Now that data, voice, video, ERP and other applications are moving to common IP platforms, network management has become increasingly complex. According to the tech pundits, more complexity is on the way.

One of Gartner’s top ten tech trends for 2015 is “software-defined applications and infrastructures.” As with anything “software-defined”, there is some debate about what that really means. According to the Open Networking Foundation, “this migration of control, formerly tightly bound in individual network devices, into accessible computing devices enables the underlying infrastructure to be abstracted for applications and network services, which can treat the network as a logical or virtual entity.”

While that may sound a little abstract, it promises very real benefits to the enterprise:
Increased uptime: Removing manual intervention to individual networking devices eliminates errors that potentially cause downtime.

Tighter security: conventional hard-wired networks can’t provide the kind of granular security for apps, endpoints and BYOD devices facilitated by an SDN.

Faster and more agile provisioning: a SDN can be set up as easily as a virtual machine (VM), since an SDN is basically a virtualized network environment. As a result provisioning services across the network is a much faster and agile process.

Freedom to experiment: When the network is centrally controlled individual device adjustments can be made quickly from the command center without having to touch the device. This lets administrators try out new network configurations without being stuck with the consequences if something doesn’t work right.

Efficiency and lower operating expenses: Lower hardware costs are a strong selling point for SDNs. Operating expenses are also decreased by improved efficiency.

Virtual network services, lowered capital expenses: SDNs provide savings for clients of cloud providers and other managed IT shops.

Another popular network security technology is Data Loss Prevention (DLP), which ensures that end users do not send sensitive or critical information outside the corporate network. In addition to being able to monitor and control endpoint activities, some DLP tools can also be used to filter data streams on the corporate network and protect data in motion.

Then there is Application Delivery Networking (ADN), a comprehensive IT strategy for the safe and efficient distribution of business-critical applications across a company’s network for increased overall business performance.

Finally, and of utmost importance, are the ever-evolving network security solutions. Advance Micro Solutions recommends Fortinet Unified Threat Management network security appliances with next generation firewalls with centralized network security management and reporting solutions. For SMBs, Advance Micro Solutions provides NetGear smart switches for a cost-effective solution.

To learn how Advance Micro Solutions can build and maintain your network with proven industrial strength technologies, call for a free network assessment today.