Cloud computing is a buzzword and topic that everyone seems to be talking about lately. Have you looked at how cloud computing can help or not help you?
One of my goals when starting TBJ Consulting was to see if I could run my business with offering from the cloud. I did not want any time of onsite server. I did not want to have to purchase a server and maintain it for only a few users. I was surprised at the options I found.
Office Live 365
I really like Microsoft Exchange and Outlook for email. They have a nice product with features that I use every day. Plus, they have great support for mobile devices. The hosted service I chose was Microsoft and the Office Live 365 product. It has been great. I was able to get it up and running in about two hours and I have very little maintenance it has a nice web interface that makes it easy to add users and distribution groups. The price was also right.
This is a line of business application that a majority of IT businesses use. It helps automate the backend, making it easy to track time, projects and assets of my clients. When I purchased this last time it was a $10,000 – $15,000 investment plus quarterly maintenance fees. We also had to purchase a server, have a place to host it and have an office internet connection. I was able to use a cloud version that was much less. I pay about $150 a month and I do not have to maintain a server.
Rack Space Cloud Drive
I also did not want a local file server or have to worry about coming up with some sort of backup routine for my laptop. I found Rack Space Cloud Drive. I have the ability to store my files securely in the cloud and have the ability to access them on multiple devices. I can also backup local data on my laptop and after the initial large backup, it only does the changes. It is very nice, I don’t have to worry about backing data up to a hard drive and if a laptop crashes (mine just did), you can rebuild it and restore your data. I personally find little use these days of restoring an entire operating system. It seems pointless and I can rebuild a computer in the matter of a few hours. I was able to restore my files quickly and did not lose anything.
I have been running mostly in the cloud for the past year. I have a few items I did not put in the cloud such as my accounting program and also my quoting system. With my security background, I do not like my books in the cloud and have to depend on someone else to secure them. My quoting system does not offer a cloud product yet, but if it ever does I would be willing to look at it.
The thing I have found about cloud solutions is they are much easier to manage and allows you to focus on the things that make you successful. Not all applications make sense to put to the cloud. Next Month I will discuss the different cloud types as you can also have a cloud that is hosted on your own hardware.
I have been installing and maintaining firewalls for clients for years and I am offering a new service called Defigo Firewall service. I will supply and manage your firewall for a monthly fee. This firewall will include web filtering, virus scanning and VPN for Laptops, IPADS, Droids, etc.
[tech-tip]If you want to provide some basic web filtering, opendns has some great options for you. With Open DNS, you point your computer at their DNS servers. You can point at DNS servers that provide spyware and malware filtering. This service is called Phish Tank. You can also sign up for an advanced version that allows you advanced filtering options. You can find out more about this service here http://www.opendns.com/business-solutions/premium-dns/benefits/[/tech-tip]
New Gadget of the Month –Verizon Home Connect
I know a lot of people do not have a land line, but with 3 Kids I feel I need it. I got tired of the prices I was paying with the current phone provider as we don’t use it that much and it seemed like we were paying an outrageous fee. My parents also came looking for a solution. They live in Northern Wisconsin and were paying over $70 dollars a month for just basic phone services.
We switched them to Verizon Home Connect. I like the service, you can move your home phone number over to and save a bunch of money. In my parents case, they also have very bad phone lines and the phone call quality went up. I understand other services such as magic jack exists, but this is a very simple and easy way to go.
Final Thought of the Month – Don’t Use Debit Cards Online
If you shop online, you want to make sure that you are using a credit card instead of a debit card to protect your bank account from online attacks and scammers.
The advantage your credit card has over your debit card is you only have a $50 loss if it is stolen and most times your insurance or credit card company will cover it. With a debt card the funds come directly out of your bank account. You might have trouble disputing the charges or recoverying the money if you are unhappy with the service. If your card is stolen, you could have your bank account drained before you know it.
1. Use Familiar Websites
Start at a trusted site rather than shopping with a search engine. Search results can be rigged to lead you astray, especially when you drift past the first few pages of links. If you know the site, chances are it’s less likely to be a rip off. We all know Amazon.com and that it carries everything under the sun; likewise, just about every major retail outlet has an online store, from Target to Best Buy to Home Depot. Beware of misspellings or sites using a different top-level domain (.net instead of .com, for example)—those are the oldest tricks in the book. Yes, the sales on these sites might look enticing, but that’s how they trick you into giving up your info.
2. Look for the Lock
Never ever, ever buy anything online using your credit card from a site that doesn’t have SSL (secure sockets layer) encryption installed—at the very least. You’ll know if the site has SSL because the URL for the site will start with HTTPS:// (instead of just HTTP://). An icon of a locked padlock will appear, typically in the status bar at the bottom of your web browser, or right next to the URL in the address bar. It depends on your browser.
Never, ever give anyone your credit card over email. Ever.
3. Don’t Tell All
No online shopping store needs your social security number or your birthday to do business. However, if crooks get them, combined with your credit card number for purchases, they can do a lot of damage. The more they know, the easier it is to steal your identity. When possible, default to giving up the least amount of information.
4. Check Statements
Don’t wait for your bill to come at the end of the month. Go online regularly during the holiday season and look at electronic statements for your credit card, debit card, and checking accounts. Make sure you don’t see any fraudulent charges, even originating from sites like PayPal. (After all, there’s more than one way to get to your money.)
If you do see something wrong, pick up the phone to address the matter quickly. In the case of credit cards, pay the bill only once you know all your charges are accurate. You have 30 days to notify the bank or card issuer of problems, however; after that, you might be liable for the charges anyway.
5. Inoculate Your PC
Swindlers don’t just sit around waiting for you to give them data; sometimes they give you a little something extra to help things along. You need to protect against malware with regular updates to your anti-virus program. PCMag recommends Webroot SecureAnywhere Antivirus(4.5 stars, Editors’ Choice, $39.95 direct), which has extras to help fight ID theft, or at the very least the free Ad-Aware Free Internet Security 9.0(4.5 stars, Editors’ Choice).
6. Use Strong Passwords
We like to beat this dead horse about making sure to utilize uncrackable passwords, but it’s never more important than when banking and shopping online. Our tips for creating a unique passwordcan come in handy during a time of year when shopping around probably means creating new accounts on all sorts of e-commerce sites.
7. Think Mobile
The National Retail Federation says that 5.7 percent of adults will use their mobile devices to do comparison shopping before making a purchase. (And 32.1 percent will comparison shop online with a computer, as well.) There’s no real need to be any more nervous about shopping on a mobile device than online. The trick is to use apps provided directly by the retailers, like Amazon, Target, etc. Use the apps to find what you want and then make the purchase directly, without going to the store or the website. (For more complete information, be sure to also read our tips for shopping safely on a mobile device.)
8. Avoid Public Terminals
Hopefully we don’t have to tell you it’s a bad idea to use a public computer to make purchases, but we still will. If you do, just remember to log out every time you use a public terminal, even if you were just checking email.
What about using your own laptop to shop while you’re out? It’s one thing to hand over a credit card to get swiped at the checkout, but when you must enter the number and expiration date on a website while sitting in a public cafe, you’re giving an over-the-shoulder snooper plenty of time to see the goods. At the very least, think like a gangster: Sit in the back, facing the door.
9. Privatize Your Wi-Fi
If you do decide to go out with the laptop to shop, you’ll need a Wi-Fi connection. Only use the wireless if you access the Web over a virtual private network (VPN) connection. If you don’t get one from your employer, you can set up a free one with AnchorFree Hotspot Shield, if you’re willing to put up with the ads, or pay $4.99 a month or $44.99 a year to skip the ads. There’s even an iOS app version of Hotspot Shield, but that will cost you $.99 per month or $9.99 a year after the first seven days.
By the way, now is not a good time to try out a hotspot you’re unfamiliar with. Stick to known networks, even if they’re free, like those found at Starbucks or Barnes & Noble stores that is powered by AT&T. Look for the network named “attwifi,” then open a browser to click into the “walled garden” to get final access. You can also find free Wi-Fi at McDonalds, Panera Bread, and FedEx Office locations, not to mention libraries and local cafes.
10. Count the Cards
Gift cards are the most requested holiday gift every year, and this year will be no exception. Stick to the source when you buy one; scammers like to auction off gift cards on sites like eBay with little or no funds on them.