Cookies on your browser

What are Cookies in your browser?
They are not programs; they don’t do anything. Cookies are text files, which can be read by users anytime on the Notebook program. Those files are stored on a computer and designed to hold a modest amount of data specific to a particular user. That data allows the websites to tailor pages according to previous cookies saved on their computer. They usually contain two pieces of information in the text files; a site name and unique user ID.

How do Cookies work?

When visiting sites, cookies are downloaded onto the PC and next time you visit that site they will be found by your PC and used again. As a result of that, it will send information from that cookie to the website, so it knows you have been there before. This then enables the website to tailor displayed pages according to that information.

Can I see my cookies?

If you’re curious about what cookies you have on your computer, you can easily view them! Most browsers will allow you to do that on their configuration screen, where also you can delete them. If your browser doesn’t offer that, there’s also a way to find cookies on your computer files. Folders containing cookies are usually stored in your browser’s folder or subfolder. You can easily look at those files simply by finding those folders.

All the good stuff about cookies…

The overall role of cookies is so you can have a better and tailored to your needs, browsing experience. From colour schemes of pages to what you put in your shopping cart. Some claim that without cookies, online shopping would be much harder.

Can’t be all good, the downsides of cookies…

Cookies have been very controversial when first introduced. Not everyone will feel good about having little files track your every move online. Therefore, the downsides are up to how an individual feels about them. Main concern users had up to date with cookies is that their name will be added to marketing and target lists for some special offers.

The government introduced a new law in May 2012 to control the use of cookies.  That law states that every site using cookies has to seek permission from users to store any information from your machine or your browsing habits, therefore websites will draw your attention to cookies, so you can make the decision.
What do you thin about cookies? Are they something that you accept or deny them? Share us your thoughts in comments!

We’ve been busy updating our products and services…

We’ve been busy updating our products and services…

The world of technology never stands still and neither do we! We have updated our portfolio of products and services to reflect recent technology changes and improvements – all things designed to make our clients lives easier, allow you to manage your business on the go and make your systems more secure.  So how can we help you get ahead of your competition?

Office 365 

As Microsoft partners, we can manage your migration from on-premise Exchange or older email technologies such as POP and IMAP to hosted Exchange via O365.  This provides a cost-effective solution to bring your company’s communication services up to date – get all your email, contacts, tasks and calendars on multiple devices, synchronised in real-time.
More about O365 >>

Microsoft Teams

As an O365 subscriber, all users have access to Microsoft Teams. When you have a place to create and make decisions as a team, there’s no limit to what you can achieve. Teams brings everything together in a shared workspace where you can chat, meet, share files, and work with business apps.
More about Teams >>

VoIP Telephone Solutions

Voice over IP telephony solutions allow greater flexibility on call handling and could also save money online rental and calls. Our VoIP solutions are all-inclusive packages including pre-configured telephones, transfer of existing numbers and setup and configuration of your solution.  If you are looking to change from your old PBX let us give you a quote and see how much you could save, as well as improving your communication with your colleagues and clients.
More about VoIP >>

Remote Backup

With increases in Ransomware attacks its more important than ever to ensure your backup and recovery solution is reliable and data can quickly be restored in the event of data loss.  Our remote backup solutions are fully managed and monitored to offer peace of mind, plus we have full access to our servers in the event that full data recovery is required.
More about remote backup >>

ESET Security

ESET offers a full range of security solutions from individual desktops to complete network protection.  Systems are centrally managed and reported either via the Cloud or your on-premise server.
More about security solutions >>

Windows 7 End of Support

When Windows 7 support ends and what it means?

Microsoft has officially announced the End of Extended Support date for Windows 7. On 14th of January 2020 the company will stop updating and supporting the operating system.

Microsoft is trying to encourage all Windows 7 users to update their operating system before that date comes. To do so there will be an update released, which will send notifications reminding about upgrading to Windows 10.   Windows 7 has been on an ‘extended support’ phase since 13th of January 2015. That means that no more new features have been added with the updates though it has still been patched and updated to fix all security issues and bugs. From the 14th of January 2020 the operating system will continue to work, so all its users will still be able to use their PC’s as normal, although with much increased risk to their safety. When the End of Life date arrives, all support and updates from Microsoft will come to an end, which means PC’s with Windows 7 will be very vulnerable to new viruses and malicious attacks. It also means that if anyone encounters problems, Microsoft won’t offer any help and support.

What should you do if you still use Windows 7?

The most obvious and simple option is to upgrade your system to Windows 10. It means that you and your employees will experience least disruption. Both Operating Systems are really similar in layout and interface, so everyone should also find it easy to adjust. The updating process is fairly straightforward and allows you to keep all the files, although Microsoft still recommends to make a backup just in case.

Upgrading to Windows 10 might not be the right solution for some users as it requires buying the license, which can be quite expensive (£105+vat for the Home Edition and £180.00+vat for Windows 10 Professional for business users). Even though Microsoft have done a lot of work on making Windows 10 being able to run on older hardware, it’s still not guaranteed that your older PC or laptop won’t struggle with new update. In addition you will need to make sure any existing software and peripherals will be compatible with Windows 10.

Our recommended specification for Windows 10 would be:

  • Processor: Intel i5 or AMD A10 or better
  • RAM: 8 gigabytes (GB)
  • Hard disk space:  128 GB for the OS but we would recommend 256Mb minimum for a light user.
  • Graphics card: DirectX 9 or later with WDDM 1.0 driver.
  • Display: minimum 800 x 600 resolution

If you want to upgrade to Windows 10, but don’t have the required minimum specification you may be able to upgrade your PC, though it may be more cost effective to look at replacing it with a new unit. The team at ACS Technologies are more than happy to recommend the right machine for you, whatever your budget and requirements!

 

What to do when you decide on upgrading to Windows 10?

Any upgrade should be planned, whether you have 1 PC or laptop or are looking to upgrade the whole Company’s infrastructure. Firstly, you will need to make sure your hardware and any associated software and peripherals are compatible.  You should make sure that all of your documents are safely backed up before starting any updates. Even though transferring your files is part of the process in the upgrade, you never know when something might go wrong and you’ll lose all your data. And we don’t want that to happen, right?

Our engineers at ACS Technologies can make your switch from Windows 7 to Windows 10 easy and hassle-free.  Contact our friendly team to discuss our current hardware offers and how we can help you upgrade and stay safe and secure! As well as doing the update itself we can offer training to show you the latest features of your new operating system.

Contact us now via Email sales@acstech.co.uk or telephone 01628819500.

Your Disaster Recovery Plan

How many people have a DR plan in place for their business?

Would you know where to start or do you think that it’s OK as the business insurance will cover everything?

Making sure your business insurance is up to date and all-encompassing should be part of your DR plan but the main focus should be on keeping your business working should you have to move premises, lose the use of your PC’s, server and laptops and/or have restricted use of your facilities and equipment.

The idea of a DR plan is to keep your business trading and making money whilst the problems are sorted out. After all, if you can’t keep selling your products and services where will the money come from to rebuild your business, or at least tide you over whilst the insurance company processes your claim?

A DR Plan should cover your whole business but we’ll focus on the IT side. Here are a few pointers to get you started:

  1. Think about the most important things you need to have access to and use on a daily basis. That could be your accounts package, your contact list, your CRM system. Do you have a backup plan if you can’t access these such as paper records or alternative systems.
  2. Make sure your PC’s and servers are backed up regularly onto tape, external hard drive or remotely. Check your backups to make sure they are completing, that you can restore and that all your data is included in your backup jobs. If you do backup to tape or hard drive, make sure that you rotate your devices and take the latest backup offsite.
  3. Have details of all important information such as Administrator user names and passwords, email account details and any backup services securely stored offsite. Keep them up to date and know where they are!
  4. Make sure your important equipment is attached to a UPS – Uninterruptable Power Supply. This will offer a short amount of battery backup, to cover short power cuts, and should shut your servers down in the proper manner in the event of a longer power outage. A UPS should also protect against power fluctuations.
  5. Have a plan on where you can work and alternative business processes you can use in the event that you cannot get in to your offices or have access to your systems.
  6. Consider your communications. Do you have all the information you need to hand to divert telephone calls to your main number to another landline or mobiles? Can you access your email via a web portal if your server is inaccessible?

If you need help to put together a DR plan or would like to look at remote backup or email continuity services, please contact us.

Cyber Attacks Soar to 26 million a day

Cyber Attacks Soar to 26 million a day

These were the initial words of a recent national newspaper headline and it went on to say that ‘as hackers find new ways to wreak havoc’.

This newspaper article was based on an annual report by specialist Sonicwall which can be downloaded at https://www.sonicwall.com/resources/white-papers/2018-sonicwall-cyber-threat-report-2/.

In October 2018, the UK government said “98% of UK businesses now operate online in one way or another, with even the smallest of firms benefiting hugely from the use of websites, social media, staff email addresses, online banking and the ability for customers to shop online.  However, the latest Government statistics show over four in ten (43%) of all businesses and charities experienced a cyber breach or attack in the past year.”   This is a quote from https://companieshouse.blog.gov.uk/2018/10/08/why-cyber-security-is-important-for-your-business/.

For most SME the detail of the cyber arms race – whether it be hackers or malware – are too complex to deal with for themselves.   But it should be remembered that almost half of cyber attacks target small businesses.

TYPES OF CYBER ATTACK

The types of cyber attack relevant to small business are:

  • The Denial of Service Attack – Attackers send enough information and data all at once from multiple computers to overload your system so it shuts down.
  • The Inside Attack – Some of the most crippling breaches occur when past employees decide to misuse the access to data
  • Malware – The phrase covers a large swath of worms, viruses, Trojan Horses and other pests like Ransomware
  • Password Attacks:
    • Brute Force Attack
    • Dictionary Attack
    • Key Logger Attack

ACTON TO TAKE ON CYBER PROTECTION

The FSB (Federation of Small Business) has suggested that small businesses could and should take action on:

  • Passwords – use them, make them strong, change defaults
  • Two factor authentication – use when available. It adds an additional layer of security to accounts or transactions.
  • Backups – data loss can be caused without warning and the result is typically a massive disruption to you and your business. Preferably offsite and check regularly to make sure you can restore
  • Software – Despite manufacturers’ best efforts, it isn’t possible to create perfectly secure software and so it must be patched and maintained to ensure it remains protected as new flaws and vulnerabilities are found.
  • Vigilance – People can sometimes be the weakest link in the security chain, but they can become your strongest asset if they understand the risks. Train them on cyber security and best practice.

The full FSB article can be found at https://www.fsb.org.uk/resources/top-five-cyber-security-tips-for-small-businesses.

SME ADVICE ON CYBER PROTECTION FROM THE GOVERNMENT

The UK government also publishes helpful information for small businesses.  Two good sources are:

ACS Technologies take our clients security seriously.  We manage and maintain our clients network security and backups as part of our contract services.

If you would like advice or guidance on improving data and network security within your company, contact us today.

What is ‘The Cloud’?

Overall Concept of the Cloud

In essence, the ‘Cloud’ is the internet.  The cloud allows users to access applications, information, and data of all sorts without necessarily housing the actual hardware on which it is running and stored.

When the software that you’re using is accessed over the internet and runs on servers operated by the software company, it is said to be ‘cloud’ based.

Cloud storage is a service which lets you store data by transferring it over the Internet or another network to an offsite storage system maintained by a third party.  Examples include Dropbox, OneDrive and Microsoft’s Azure service.  Such systems provide the ability to share data with a controlled list of allowed users, each with configurable ‘rights’ to add, view or amend.

Businesses also put publicly accessible information into systems on the cloud.  Examples of this would be social networks like Facebook and LinkedIn, video sites like YouTube and Vimeo and music streaming sites like Spotify.

Similarly, when you access up to date flight arrival times from airlines, news from bbc.co.uk etc that information is on the ‘cloud’.

Advantages of Having your Software / Data on the Cloud

  • Access from anywhere you have Internet access – on the road
  • Resilience and backup should be better than SMB’s can afford inhouse
  • Cost competition due to economies of scale
  • Software kept up to date (saved maintenance cost)
  • No upfront hardware costs or maintenance

Disadvantages of Having your Software / Data on the Cloud

  • Security – Your data is held on someone else’s server with other people’s data
  • Compliance risks – is the server UK based? Does it meet industry standards?
  • Need to pay for a business service to get SLA’s
  • Can be more expensive than having your own server if used for a long time as it is a subscription service
  • Captive customers – difficult to move data and services away
  • Automatically updated software may offer incompatibility with internal systems

Models of Cloud Computing

There are several different methodologies for getting your systems ‘Cloud’ based.

Subscription based services

Subscribe to a fully hosted and maintained service such as Office 365, Quickbooks Oline, SalesForce online etc. Where the software and hardware is fully managed by the provider and you pay a monthly or annual fee to use the service.  You will have little ability to configure such software as much as the on-premise versions and software will generally be automatically upgraded to the current version, adding or removing features.

Hosted Hardware in a DataCentre

Build your own virtual servers and desktops which sit on datacentre server hardware managed by the provider.  You can specify CPU, RAM and storage requirements and then install the operating systems and applications you need (subject to licensing in a Virtual / Terminal Services environment).  Can work out expensive in an ongoing basis but useful for short term projects, testing or when staff numbers increase seasonally.

Your own Hardware hosted in a DataCentre

Buy, build and configure your own server hardware and software which is then hosted in a DataCentre, where you ‘rent’ rackspace.  You have full control over the hardware and software (so long as it meets the Data Centre’s terms and conditions.  You benefit from resilience and enterprise level networking and connectivity but have full control over your servers and software.

On Premise Servers with Remote Access Capability

You buy, configure and install your own server hardware and it is kept at your offices.  It is configured to allow users to work and connect remotely, either from home or remote offices.

You have full control over everything but are also responsible for all communications, hardware and software maintenance.  Reduces ongoing costs but you will have the upfront cost of the initial hardware and software purchases.

Hybrid Solutions

You buy, build and configure an in-house server but couple this with hosted services such as Office 365, online accounts or online CRM systems.

Your internal server manages your internal network security, stores files and possibly line of business applications but it links in with external hosted services.

The Future of Cloud Computing

There is no doubt that Cloud Computing is here to stay.  The increased requirement to work remotely and access data and applications from anywhere at anytime is not going to disappear in a hurry.

However, we have seen a change in attitude recently and instead of wishing to ditch all their own servers, Companies wish to retain their in house network security and data storage rather than subscribe to ongoing services.

We have also seen an increase in clients retaining in-house Exchange Servers as opposed to subscribing to Office 365 services as the TCO over 3 years works out more cost effective with on premise solutions even accounting for ongoing maintenance and support.

If you are considering migrating your systems to the Cloud or need to review your current Servers and infrastructure, contact us to discuss the options available and what would be best for your Company.

What is Office 365

Office 365 is a subscription service, sold with per year and per month options, that allows access to various Microsoft software products and services. With an Office 365 subscription, you get the latest Office apps – both the desktop and online versions – and updates when they’re released.  Plus, a professional hosted email service, online storage and various other app services, from online booking to form creation (dependant on subscription level).

You can still purchase Office in the original perpetual license method but Microsoft no longer provides upgrades.  Therefore, to keep up to date, you have to buy another full, current version of office.

Office 365 Subscription Options

Office 365 Personal

One solution for you across all your devices. Includes premium Office applications for PC or Mac for 1 user.  Not licensed for commercial use so don’t buy this if you need to use for your business.

Same as Office Home & Student 2019 plus:

Office Application: Outlook, Publisher (PC only), Access (PC only)
Services: OneDrive, Skype

Office 365 Home

One solution for you and your family across all your devices. Includes premium Office applications for up to 6 users on PC or Mac. Again, not licensed for commercial use so don’t buy this if you need to use for your business.

Same applications and services as Office 365 personal.

Office 365 Business

Best for businesses that need Office applications plus cloud file storage and sharing. Business email not included.  Good if you need online storage and want to keep your office apps up to date as well as using the collaboration features but have your email hosted elsewhere.

Office Application: Outlook, Word, Excel, PowerPoint, OneNote, Access (PC only)
Services: OneDrive

Office 365 Business Premium

Best for businesses that need business email, Office applications, and other business services.  The best solution for business users.  Everything included from email hosting and online storage to all your apps.

Same as Office 365 Business plus:
Services: Exchange, Sharepoint and Microsoft Teams

Office 365 Business Essentials

Best for businesses that need business email and other business services. Office applications not included.  Great if you already have Office on your devices but want a reliable and cost effective emails solution coupled with online file storage and collaboration.

Services: Exchange, OneDrive, Sharepoint and Microsoft Teams

Individual Applications & Services

Access – a database management system that combines the relational Microsoft Jet Database Engine with a graphical user interface and software-development tools

Excel – a spreadsheet featuring calculation, graphing tools, pivot tables, and a macro programming language called Visual Basic

Exchange – a collection of applications that enable digital messaging and collaboration in an enterprise IT environment

Microsoft Teams – a unified communications platform that combines persistent workplace chat, video meetings, file storage, and application integration.

OneDrive – a file hosting service and synchronization service

OneNote – a computer program for free-form information gathering and multi-user collaboration. It gathers users’ notes, drawings, screen clippings and audio commentaries

Outlook – a personal information manager. Although often used mainly as an email application, it also includes a calendar, task manager, contact manager, note taking, journal, and web browsing

PowerPoint – a presentation program

Publisher – a desktop publishing application, differing from Microsoft Word in that the emphasis is placed on page layout and design rather than text composition and proofing

Sharepoint – a web-based collaborative platform that is primarily sold as a document management and storage system

Skype – a telecommunications application software product that specializes in providing video chat and voice calls between computers, tablets, mobile devices.  Skype additionally provides instant messaging services.

Word – a word processor application including template and graphical options.

Would you like to find out more about Office 365 or set up a trial?  Have a look at our website for more information – http://www.acstech.co.uk/cloud-solutions/office-365/ and of course you can contact us for a demonstration or information on pricing and implementation.

It’s time to plan to replace your Windows Server 2008

Windows Server End of Life

Microsoft’s extended support for SQL Server and Windows Server 2008 and 2008 R2 comes to an on July 9, 2019 and January 14, 2020 respectively.

If you’re running Small Business Server, that includes you!

Some businesses may be tempted to continue with the non- supported software after these dates as long as their virus protection is up to date.  But in doing so, businesses with these servers expose themselves to security attacks and make themselves out of compliance with industry regulations such as GDPR.

Don’t let the end of support for Windows Server and SQL Server 2008 sneak up on you.   It is essential to plan now to avoid business disruptions as a result of leaving it too late.

What End of Support Means

No security updates

There will be no access to critical security updates, leaving your servers open to vulnerabilities and lack of compatibility as other software continues to update.

Compliance concerns

As support ends, your organization may fail to meet compliance standards and industry regulations by not maintaining supported and updated software.

Higher Maintenance Costs

Maintaining legacy servers, firewalls, intrusion systems, and other tools can get expensive quickly.  Plus, issues can take longer to resolve.

Support with Server Replacement Planning

More information on preparing for Windows Server 2018 end of life can be found at https://www.microsoft.com/en-us/cloud-platform/windows-server-2008.

As time goes by, upgrading software on the same hardware can prove to be a challenge – sometimes it’s impossible and nearly always it will be poor value for money.  To avoid unforeseen problems, the need for hardware change should be assessed as part of your Windows Server 2019 planning.  Disruptions to your business will be best minimised by changing hardware at the same time as you move to a new operating system.

The end of the year may seem a long way off and you may feel that planning for the move to Windows Server 2019 can be delay for some months, but major changes in your network need to be scheduled for appropriate times in the business year and leaving the planning of a change to the last minute may lead to major disruption of your business.

Contact us for an assessment of your needs and support in planning your upgrade.  ACS will work with you to determine the best hardware and software to see your business through the next 5 – 6 years.

Windows Server 2019

Microsoft’s customer research revealed that four themes were consistently in business’ views of future challenges: Hybrid, Security, Application Platform, and Hyper-converged infrastructure. 

Hybrid Security

There is much debate nowadays about the relative merits and disadvantages of cloud or on-premise servers.  Often a hybrid approach, combining on-premises and cloud environments working together, is what makes most sense.  Extending Active Directory, synchronizing file servers, and backup in the cloud are just a few examples of what customers are already doing today.

Project Honolulu is a flexible, lightweight browser-based locally-deployed platform.    Microsoft say that “With Windows Server 2019 and Project Honolulu, customers will be able to easily integrate Azure services such as Azure Backup, Azure File Sync, disaster recovery, and much more so they will be able to leverage these Azure services without disrupting their applications and infrastructure.”

Security

Security continues to be a top priority for businesses. The number of cyber-security incidents continue to grow, and the impact of these incidents is escalating quickly.

Attackers can stay in the penetrated environment – without being detected – for months if software is not up to date.  In Windows Server 2019, Microsoft have embedded Windows Defender Advanced Threat Protection (ATP) that provides preventative protection, detects attacks and zero-day exploits among other capabilities, into the operating system.

Application Platform

A key requirement of server software is meeting the requirements of developers.  Microsoft have already made it possible to run Linux containers side-by-side with Windows containers on a Windows Server, but in Windows Server 2019, they are improving Windows Sybsystem on Linux (WSL), to help Linux users bring their scripts to Windows while using industry standards like OpenSSH, Curl & Tar.

Hyper-converged Infrastructure (HCI)

The trend to HCI is primarily due to the value of using x86 servers with high performance local disks to run compute and storage needs at the same time.

Microsoft say that “In Windows Server 2019 we are building on this platform by adding scale, performance, and reliability. We are also adding the ability to manage HCI deployments in Project Honolulu, to simplify the management and day-to-day activities on HCI environments.”

For a further details on the benefits of upgrading to Windows Server 2019 see http://www.acstech.co.uk/hardware-software/servers/