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.

26 Jan

July 15th is Closer Than You Think

Windows Server 2003 End of Life CampaignWhat does the date July 15th, 2015 mean to you? If you’re one of the reportedly millions of servers across the globe currently running live applications on Windows Server 2003, that is the date that Microsoft will cease supporting your server OS. That means:

  • No security updates
  • No hot fixes
  • No applications support
  • Nobody at Microsoft to talk to
  • Armies of hackers just waiting ‘til after July 15, 2015 to raid Windows Server 2003 systems
  • Armies of regulatory compliance monitors ready to swoop down on offenders

For those suffering from FOM (Fear of Migrating), there is plentiful practical advice. First, it’s generally agreed that current WS2003 users acquaint themselves with the key features of the new OS. These include improvements to server management, automatic de-duplicating, licensing, storage, and much more. When you consider the time that’s elapsed since WS2003 was released and today, coupled with the technological advances of the past ten years, plain old logic would suggest that migrating is in order.

Nonetheless,  many MS2003 users are happy where they are. “While it’s a common occurrence to see support for older products retired by software vendors, it’s annoying if either the old stuff is still running perfectly well or if the upgrade option is financially onerous, will significantly disrupt the business or offers little in the way of real added benefit.” – Forrester

No matter how happy you are with Windows Server 2003 or how dismayed you are by Microsoft’s impending abandonment, staying put on MS2003 is risky business. You could upgrade the server, but you should expect functionality errors with your applications that need to be resolved in a “live” environment. If you’re running WS2003 on equally old hardware, the Band-Aid approach is a ticking time bomb.

The smart thing to do? Migrate and upgrade.

Microsoft officials warned Windows Server 2003 holdouts recently, “With the average Windows Server taking over 200 days to migrate, now it is the time to act and start planning for your migration. With the Architectural changes in 32-bit to 64-bit technology – everything changes in Windows Server 2012.” In other words, you’re either on the bus or off the bus.

Need help? Advance Micro Solutions has been performing Windows Server migrations from 2003 to 2012 since it’s release in November of 2013 and can help in any number of capacities. We’ve got a team of experts that can help assess your situation make the transition as painless as possible. We also have many migrations under way. To ensure your place in the migration queue, contact Advance Micro Solutions today.

21 Jan

Insurance Industry Challenges and IT Solutions

Family InsuranceThe challenges facing the insurance industry and Canadian brokerages can be daunting. The manner in which insurers address many of these challenges depends to a large degree on the ability of the firm’s IT infrastructure to scale, adapt, and otherwise adjust to the changing landscape.

Earlier this year, insurance firm Stikeman Elliot listed what they viewed as the top ten challenges facing Canadian insurance brokers. While all of these developments have an impact on a firm’s IT strategy, some being impactful than others. Here are some that have a direct impact on the IT department.

  1. The 2014 ORSA (Own Risk and Solvency Assessment) Guideline came into effect at the beginning of the year, burdening IT with unforeseen data management demands. Firms with old, inflexible data storage systems may have struggled to comply by the March deadline.
  2. Compliance with new regulations almost always has an impact on data management. Intelligent tiering of technologies for backup and recovery and more powerful analytics is critical for compliance.
  3. Capital requirements are forcing firms to look for cost savings, much of which can be found in the data center. Technologies and solutions, such as virtualization and cloud, can reduce physical data center footprints by requiring fewer servers and related appliances, less office space, lower energy consumption, and fewer management hours.
  4. Mitigating security threats, especially in mobile environments like insurance sales, can be expensive and time-consuming. The OSFI (Office of the Superintendent of Financial Institutions) cyber security self-assessment guidance lists many preparatory measures that require additional IT focus and expense.
  5. Emerging technologies will continue to reshape Property and Casualty personal lines business. The potential of telematics will become clearer, big data will get bigger, and internet-based distribution will continue to gain market share.


One local insurance firm with 6 branches and 40 employees addressed these challenges by turning to Advance Micro Solutions, whose team of experts implemented a solution that continues to help control costs and increase flexibility, reliability, and efficiency.


The solutions consisted of:

  • x3550 M4 server with 32G memory,
  • 2 x 900G hard drives with Raid 1 mirroring
  • Windows 2008 R2 server standard
  • Microsoft remote desktop service


The insurance firm received a scalable global solution with a highly secure and internally controlled data center that their existing IT staff could monitor, update, and operate remotely. There was no new need for additional internal employees to support the server since everything was set up and customized by Advance Micro Solutions based on the insurance firm’s specifications.

If you are looking for ways to control IT costs in a dynamic, highly regulated industry like insurance, reach out to the experts at Advance Micro Solutions for a free technology consultation.

Icons made by Freepik from www.flaticon.com is licensed by CC BY 3.0
06 Jan

How an International Valve Manufacturer Gained Remote IT Capabilities With an In-House Server Solution

ValveInternational manufacturers have a lot to worry about. Production regulations are different country to country, which requires constant awareness of. Once products get into a country, the business needs to monitor and keep the items flowing through the many avenues of distribution. Product cost must be minimized, but should be balanced with the business needs and marketplace competition. And these are just a few of the larger struggles facing these corporations.

Sometimes when one is so wrapped up in the big problems, it helps to take a giant step back and look at the business like a large tree with large branches. If the structure of the tree is nourished and the roots are given attention and can grow strong, then the tree’s chances of longevity are increased. In an organization, we can view the roots and structure as the internal components that keep the business running smoothly and optimized.

Nurture the roots and build that strong foundation

Let’s explore what happened when a world class manufacturer of valves, with offices in Taiwan, China, United States, and Canada decided to take a giant step back and figure out one way to strengthen their roots, starting with the way they handled email.
But why start with email? Have you heard the claim by the consulting firm Ponemon Institute that the cost per square foot of data center outages now ranges from $45 to $95. Or, a minimum cost of $74,223 to a maximum of $1,734,433 per organization The valve manufacturer wanted to start at the very roots that held their company together: their communication through email.

The challenge was chosen: In-house vs. hosted 

What would be the most cost-effective way to handle email communications to ensure optimal performance and control? Would it be through paying a third party company to build, host, and maintain servers that this business could use for a higher annual fee? Or would it pay a higher upfront cost to hire a company to build out an in-house server solution that the valve company would own and control?

After much research, this international valve manufacturer decided to make an investment for an in-house solution, which included the following:

  1. There is less of a risk of downtime with an in-house exchange server solution because the organization has control over the physical equipment and can potentially bring the server back online faster by having their own IT fix the issue immediately.
  2. An in-house exchange server is more secure and offers better privacy then a hosted solution.
  3. An in-house exchange server solution offers more control for the core IT team of the business.
  4. There is more functionality and custom integration options with an in-house solution since the organization can have the system build for their needs and to integrate with their internal systems out of the box.

The valve manufacturer reached out to Advance Micro Solutions to offer an in-house solution that would service the many locations of the business. Through several rounds of consultation, it was decided that Advance Micro Solutions would build an exchange server in Vancouver, BC to host all of the company’s global email accounts.

The solution and the equipment used to build it

With three pieces of IBM hardware, IBM x3530 M4 server with 64G memory, 4 x 1 TB hard drives, and one additional gigabit Ethernet dual-port server adapter, Advance Micro Solutions was able to build out an in-house exchange server solution that could be remotely managed and updated by the valve manufacturer’s already established IT staff in Taiwan.

The outcome

The valve manufacturer received a scalable global solution with a highly secure and internally controlled exchange server that their existing IT staff could monitor, update, and operate remotely. There was no new need for additional internal employees to support the server since everything was set up and customized by Advance Micro Solutions based on the valve manufacturer’s specifications.

The manufacturer gained peace of mind knowing that if they needed any future support or help with the newly implemented system, Advance Micro Solutions would be there to assist.

If you are asking yourself if having a hosted or in-house server solution is right for you and want to start with a consultation about your needs, reach out to the experts at Advance Micro Solutions.