Blog

September 28th, 2009

sacramento-bj

SACRAMENTO, Calif. – GNT Solutions has been named one of the Sacramento Region’s Fastest Growing Companies by the Sacramento Business Journal.

In September, the Sacramento Business Journal announced its 2008 Fastest Growing Company list makers. GNT Solutions was ranked 14th on the list with a significant growth of 163% over the past three years.

Topic News
March 28th, 2017

Microsoft has been working closely with software vendors to make it easier for businesses of all sizes to have access to virtualization services. The latest development in this effort has resulted in cheaper, simpler, and more modern solutions to the complexities of remote desktop administration.

For those who don't know, Azure is Microsoft’s build-it-yourself cloud platform. With more than 600 services, Azure is all about giving network administrators access to Microsoft data centers to pick and choose how your cloud is structured.

Citrix is one of the largest virtualization software providers on the market. And its most famous product, XenDesktop, was one of the very first software solutions to allow multiple users to access Windows from a networked desktop with a different operating system already installed.

Now compatible with Windows 10

With the recent release of XenDesktop Essentials for Microsoft Azure, these two solutions are becoming one. Administrators can now build fully-stocked Windows 10 desktops stored in Azure, and employees can access them from any machine with Citrix’s lightweight client installed.

The whole setup costs only $12 per user, per month, and comes with a host of administration settings for managing and monitoring your virtualized desktops and how users access them.

A better way to work

It’s like Azure is a moving truck, XenDesktop is the box holding all your stuff in the back of the truck, and your company applications and settings are what’s inside the box. With the right configuration, the whole box can be delivered to employee desktops anywhere in the world.

As long as employees are accessing virtual desktops from verified devices running MacOS, iOS, Android, or even an older version of Windows, they can work as if they are sitting right in front of the Windows 10 install located within your company’s cloud.

Virtualization is a wonderful solution for cutting costs and increasing efficiencies. Unfortunately, even with two of the most user-friendly vendors in their respective industries, virtualizing Windows 10 desktops is still a monumental task. For 24/7 access to support and expert advice, call us today.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

March 23rd, 2017

2017March23Windows_BMicrosoft has quietly begun doing the unthinkable: inserting advertisements into your File Explorer. The last place anyone ever expected to see a OneDrive promotion is right alongside their ‘My Documents’ folder, and we expect the first thing they’ll think is, “How do I turn that off?” Read on to find out how.

Who is getting these ads?

Right now, we’re still unsure of how widespread Microsoft’s new advertising strategy goes. Not every Windows workstation has started displaying File Explorer banners, and based on some overwhelmingly negative reactions online, the campaign might get shut down before it even reaches your desktop.

However, even if you have yet to be targeted, you can quickly and easily disable these ads right now.

How do I turn them off?

At the moment, these pushy promotions show up only in Windows’ File Explorer window, so that’s where we’ll begin. After you’ve opened a new window, there are only five steps to boot them off your screen:
  1. Select View from the ribbon along the top of any File Explorer window.
  2. Click Options on the far righthand side.
  3. In the new window select the View tab.
  4. In the Advanced Settings window pane, scroll down and deselect ‘Show sync provider notifications’.
  5. Click Apply and close the Folder Options window.
That’s all it takes! Keep in mind that we highly recommend the services Microsoft chose to advertise with this move. Office 365, OneDrive, and others are all great cloud platforms for safely working and collaborating from any device in any location -- we just don’t want to see advertisements for them when we’re hunting down sales records.

When you’re in the market for the Windows tips and tricks, this is the best blog on the web. If you’re looking for something a little more robust however, our managed services are second to none. Get in touch with us today to learn more!

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic windows
March 22nd, 2017

2017March22Security_BWe’ve gotten so caught up discussing ransomware prevention with our clients that we’ve neglected to mention that several strains have already been defeated. In fact, there’s a decent chance you can actually decrypt all your data for free. Always make sure to check these lists before responding to a cyber attacker’s demands.

The state of ransomware in 2017

It’s been almost 30 years since malware was first created that could encrypt locally-stored data and demand money in exchange for its safe return. Known as ransomware, this type of malware has gone through multiple periods of popularity. 2006 and 2013 saw brief spikes in infections, but they’ve never been as bad as they are now.

In 2015, the FBI estimated that ransomware attacks cost victims $24 million, but in the first three months of 2016 it had already racked up more than $209 million. At the beginning of 2017, more than 10% of all malware infections were some version of ransomware.

Zombie ransomware is easy to defeat

Not every type of infection is targeted to individual organizations. Some infections may happen as a result of self-propagating ransomware strains, while others might come from cyber attackers who are hoping targets are so scared that they pay up before doing any research on how dated the strain is.

No matter what the circumstances of your infection are, always check the following lists to see whether free decryption tools have been released to save you a world of hurt:

Prevention

But even when you can get your data back for free, getting hit with malware is no walk in the park. There are essentially three basic approaches to preventing ransomware. First, train your employees about what they should and shouldn’t be opening when browsing the web and checking email.

Second, back up your data as often as possible to quarantined storage. As long as access to your backed-up data is extremely limited and not directly connected to your network, you should be able to restore everything in case of an infection.

Finally, regularly update all your software solutions (operating systems, productivity software, and antivirus). Most big-name vendors are quick to patch vulnerabilities, and you’ll prevent a large portion of infections just by staying up to date.

Whether it’s dealing with an infection or preventing one, the best option is to always seek professional advice from seasoned IT technicians. It’s possible that you could decrypt your data with the tools listed above, but most ransomware strains destroy your data after a set time limit, and you may not be able to beat the clock. If you do, you probably won’t have the expertise to discern where your security was penetrated.

Don’t waste time fighting against a never-ending stream of cyber attacks -- hand it over to us and be done with it. Call today to find out more.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic Security
March 17th, 2017

2017March17Business_BIf business value is all about the long-term health and well-being of your company, there are few things more important than getting your product into customers’ hands swiftly and efficiently. Thankfully, modern technology has revolutionized these tasks and how you add value to your business. Let’s take a look at one of the most recent examples.

First off, we need to clarify that inventory management systems (IMSs) are not the same as order management systems (OMSs). The former is a solution for analyzing your sales history as a means to forecast demand for your product and the materials you will need in the future, while the latter is all about the here and now.

What does an OMS do for you?

One of the toughest things about managing an eCommerce store is juggling a growing number of sales, each at totally different steps in your shipping process. An OMS service is all about organizing your orders into a coherent and manageable workflow. Here are just some of the difficulties it helps you wrangle:
  • Your eCommerce store can be connected to your inventory. If something is out of stock, it can be reflected on your site so customers aren’t misled about the availability of your product.
  • Payment authorizations can be automated and integrated with your shipping services.
  • You can provide reports to your customers about their order's shipping status. From intra-warehouse movements to on-the-truck updates, one page will have all the information they need.
  • Products and materials can be automatically restocked once they dip below a certain threshold.
  • Refund and returns can be automatically processed by your OMS.
And like any industry, there are dozens of OMS platforms with niche functionalities that may be better for your specific business model. The most important thing is that you find a solution that decreases the most tedious organizational tasks for tracking your store’s orders.

The cloud-based OMS

Orders are streaming in at all hours of the day, and you can’t guarantee that you’ll always be in the office when you need to check the status of an order. A cloud-based OMS stores all your information in a centralized location so you can access your information from home, the warehouse floor, or even while waiting for takeoff.

The cloud is generally one of the most reliable ways to add value to your business. There are dozens of platforms, just like OMSs, that require virtually no hardware and allow you to pay for exactly what you use. For advice on which solutions are best for your business, and how to deploy them, call us today.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic business
March 13th, 2017

170px_shutterstock_440831806The 21st century is the age of social media, with a plethora of outlets available, users are spoilt for choice. Business owners are faced with the same dilemma, between Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and about thirty more - which one should they invest in? It’s important that the platform is simple, interactive, and touches base with numerous users with every post. And that's what Snapchat is.

Over 71 percent of Snapchat users are under 34 years old; as of 2015, the social network boasted over 100 million active users. It’s an ideal marketing option for businesses targeting a millennial audience. If you’re still unsure about Snapchat for your small business, consider these statistics:

    • 58 percent of college students are likely to purchase a product from coupons sent over Snapchat
    • 65 percent of Snapchat users contribute content on a daily basis
    • Only 1 percent of marketers are taking advantage of Snapchat, which means you can be an early adopter and gain a competitive advantage
Snapchat is a social media application that allows users to send pictures and videos - called “Snaps” - to others. The media sent can only be viewed for 10 seconds or less (you can specify the length), after which it disappears for good. You can add a Snap or multiple Snaps to create your own “story” which can be viewed by others for 24 hours.

The reason Snapchat is getting the attention of marketers is that it allows users to personally interact with brands. Instead of regular content, you audience gets a candid, behind-the-scenes look at your business. Also, by using Snapchat regularly, you’ll be able to keep your brand in the forefront of your audience’s mind. Then, when they’re making a purchasing decision between you and your competitors, they’ll choose you because of the relationship you’ve established with them. Now that you know what Snapchat is, the next step is to gain followers.

How to grow a following on Snapchat Unlike other social networks like Twitter and Instagram, hashtags don’t suffice when you want to get your audience’s attention. They have to find and add you - not the other way around. Even if you want to add other users so they could add you back, you can’t base the search on vague terms -- you have to know their Snapchat username to add them. Basically, Snapchat has no native discovery features.

In order to gain followers on Snapchat, you’ll need to use your online presence as well as other social media sites to create awareness and entice others to follow you. Here are some easy methods to get the ball rolling:

    • The “Add Me URL” feature - share a custom URL on other social media platforms that allow other users to quickly add you as their Snapchat connections. To do so, replace “yourusername” in the following URL: https://www.snapchat.com/add/yourusername
    • Promote your username in your social media profiles - promote your Snapchat username by posting it in other profiles to encourage people to add you. You can also share your username in email signatures, blog posts, and even your company website.
    • Share relevant content - plan an interesting series of Snaps to share with your followers and post all the details on other social media accounts along with your username and/or QR code image, this gives followers an incentive to connect with your brand.
    • Snapcode image as your profile picture on other social networks - take a screenshot and crop your Snapchat QR code image (Snapcode) and set that as a profile picture on your other social media accounts. Anyone who points their Snapchat camera at the code will automatically add you to their friends list.
Snapchat is one of the newest social media outlets to date. If you start building your brand on it now, you’ll be taking a huge step ahead of your competitors - especially now that Snapchat is catching up to Facebook and other social media giants. If you would like to know more about what Snapchat can do for your small- and medium-sized business, feel free to give us a call!
Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic Social Media
March 10th, 2017

2017March10Virtualization_BNobody’s perfect, even IT technicians. We’ve seen plenty of people interpret software-defined networking and network virtualization as the same exact service, but it’s time we clear up the difference. It’s small, but it could be the difference between major cost savings and a small increase in functionality.

Software-defined networking (SDN)

Managing storage, infrastructures, and networks with high-level software is something IT technicians have been doing for a long time. It’s a subset of virtualization and it is one of the oldest strategies for optimizing and securing your IT hardware.

Despite its popularity, SDN does have one major drawback -- it needs hardware to do its job. SDN allows you to control network switches, routers, and other peripherals from a centralized software platform, but you can’t create virtual segments of your network without the hardware that would normally be required outside of an SDN environment.

Network virtualization

Evolving beyond SDN was inevitable. Whenever a technology can’t do it all, you can bet someone is working hard to fix that. Network virtualization uses advanced software solutions to allow administrators to manage physical hardware and to create virtual replicas of hardware that are indistinguishable to servers and workstations.

Network virtualization simplifies the field of network design. You can reduce spending on expensive hardware, reconfigure network segments on the fly, and connect physically separate networks as if they were in the same room.

A virtualized network may sound like an exciting technology that doesn’t have much use at small- or medium-sized business, but that’s exactly the beauty of hiring a managed services provider! We provide enterprise technology and advice as part of your monthly service fee. Call today to find out more.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

March 7th, 2017

170px_shutterstock_435798766Cortana, Microsoft's voice-activated personal assistant, is extremely helpful for day-to-day tasks. Whether you need her to reschedule a meeting or draft an email, she’s always happy to help. If you're dealing with several time-consuming tasks, use these Cortana commands to make your life a lot easier.

Hey, Cortana Before asking her to do anything, we need to get Cortana's attention by clicking or tapping the Cortana button on the taskbar. If you do not see Cortana on your taskbar, right-click the taskbar and go to Cortana > Show Cortana icon. To enable 'Hey, Cortana', simply say "Hey, Cortana," followed by your question. If you're using a Windows Phone, you can press and hold the search button to activate Cortana.

Basics tasks If you’re looking to launch a program or open a website, simply use the word ‘Launch’ or ‘Open’ followed by the website’s name. Make notes by uttering the words ‘take a note’ or ‘note it down’. As for making drafts, start with ‘Write an’ followed by email or text and end with the contact name and the message itself. Lastly, ‘Show me emails from [contact]’ will display all the texts or emails sent from the specified contact.

Scheduling/Reminders It’s important for small- and medium-sized business owners to stay on top of their schedules. Take a glance at your calendar events with commands such as ‘How’s my schedule looking?’ or ‘What do I have next week?’. Add or move appointments with ‘Add’ or ‘Move’ followed by the appointment and time. Reminders are easily scheduled by uttering the words ‘Remind me’ followed by whatever you need to be reminded about and when.

Search If you can’t locate the file you need, don’t worry. By asking Cortana to ‘Find’ a document, video, or picture on your device from a specific time frame, she will sift through everything quickly to find what you need. You can easily initiate search queries with ‘Can you find’ followed by whatever you are looking for. You can even look at basic search results without having to open a browser window: Simply ask whatever question you have and enjoy combing through the results.

Window’s voice-activated personal assistant, Cortana, helps you accomplish daily tasks with ease and efficiency -- but only if you use the right commands. If you have further questions or would like to know more Cortana commands, feel free to contact us. We’re ready to help!

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic windows
March 3rd, 2017

2017March3Security_BHow many times have you read a shocking headline, only to find the attached article incredibly underwhelming? Over the last several weeks headlines decrying the threat of “fileless malware” have been everywhere, but the truth is a little less scary. Let’s take a look at what’s really going on and who's actually at risk.

What is this new threat?

To oversimplify the matter, fileless malware is stored somewhere other than a hard drive. For example, with some incredibly talented programming, a piece of malware could be stored in your Random Access Memory (RAM).

RAM is a type of temporary memory used only by applications that are running, which means antivirus software never scans it on account of its temporary nature. This makes fileless malware incredibly hard to detect.

This isn’t the first time it’s been detected

Industry-leading cyber security firm Kaspersky Lab first discovered a type of fileless malware on its very own network almost two years ago. The final verdict was that it originated from the Stuxnet strain of state-sponsored cyber warfare. The high level of sophistication and government funding meant fileless malware was virtually nonexistent until the beginning of 2017.

Where is it now?

Apparently being infected by this strain of malware makes you an expert because Kaspersky Lab was the group that uncovered over 140 infections across 40 different countries. Almost every instance of the fileless malware was found in financial institutions and worked towards obtaining login credentials. In the worst cases, infections had already gleaned enough information to allow cyber attackers to withdraw undisclosed sums of cash from ATMs.

Am I at risk?

It is extremely unlikely your business would have been targeted in the earliest stages of this particular strain of malware. Whoever created this program is after cold hard cash. Not ransoms, not valuable data, and not destruction. Unless your network directly handles the transfer of cash assets, you’re fine.

If you want to be extra careful, employ solutions that analyze trends in behavior. When hackers acquire login information, they usually test it out at odd hours and any intrusion prevention system should be able to recognize the attempt as dubious.

Should I worry about the future?

The answer is a bit of a mixed bag. Cybersecurity requires constant attention and education, but it’s not something you can just jump into. What you should do is hire a managed services provider that promises 24/7 network monitoring and up-to-the-minute patches and software updates -- like us. Call today to get started.
Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic Security
February 28th, 2017

2017February28_Business_BNo matter how much we analyze your network activity, or how many cyber-security conferences we attend, nothing educates us like the missteps of real-world businesses. Learning from example is by far the best way to beef up any disaster recovery plan (DRP), and the recent audit of a state government office gifted us plenty of useful information. Read on for our three takeaways from the report.

Hosting certain types of data, or managing a government network, legally binds you to maintain DRPs. After an audit of the Michigan Department of Technology and Budget, several failures lead to a trove of helpful tips for small- and medium-sized businesses attempting to create a bulletproof disaster recovery plan.

Update and test your plan frequently

One of the first and most obvious failures of the department’s DRP was that it didn’t include plans to restore an essential piece of their infrastructure. The plan didn’t include steps to restore the department’s intranet, which would leave employees unable to complete even the most basic of tasks.

The reason for the oversight? The last time the plan was updated was in 2011 -- leaving out more than six years of IT advancements. If annual revisions sounds like too much work, just consider all of the IT upgrades and improvements you’ve made in this year alone. If they’re not accounted for in your plan, you’re destined to fail.

Keep your DRP in an easy-to-find location

It may seem a bit ironic that the best way to store your top-of-the-line business continuity solution is in a binder, but the Michigan Department of Technology and Budget learned the hard way that the alternatives don’t work. Auditors found the DRP stored on the same network it was meant to restore. Which means if something had happened to the network, the plan would be totally inaccessible.

Your company would do well to store electronic copies on more than one network in addition to physical copies around the office and off-site.

Always prepare for a doomsday scenario

The government office made suitable plans for restoring the local area network, but beyond that, there was no way for employees to get back to work within the 24-hour recovery time objective.

Your organization needs to be prepared for the possibility that there may not be a local area network to go back to. Cloud backups and software are the best way to keep everything up and running when your office is flooded or crushed beneath a pile of rubble.

DRPs are more than just an annoying legal requirement, they’re the insurance plan that will keep you in business when disaster strikes. Our professionals know the importance of combining both academic and real-world resources to make your plan airtight when either auditors or blizzards strike. Message us today about bringing that expertise to your business.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic business
February 24th, 2017

170px_shutterstock_321247400The first thing that comes to mind when you think of social media is Facebook and for good reason. Not only does it boast the most users, but it also has the biggest reach and cultural impact. Since there is no one-size-fits-all social media platform, it’s imperative for small- and medium-sized businesses to examine their options before making an investment.

Facebook According to the 2017 Wasp Barcode State of Small Business Report, Facebook is the most utilized social media of all the options. Out of the survey’s 1,100+ respondents, 68 percent used Facebook as an integral part of their marketing strategy, with LinkedIn coming in second at 39 percent.

One of the contributing factors to Facebook’s popularity is the fact that it’s currently approaching a total of 2 billion personal users, making it the first place companies go to when they want to increase their brand awareness. Other marketing-specific reasons businesses choose Facebook are social media referral traffic, terrific conversion rates for e-commerce traffic, and a huge impact on user purchasing decisions.

YouTube YouTube is considered an undervalued social media resource for two main reasons. Firstly, although it’s the second-largest search engine on the internet, it still looms in the giant shadow of its rival Google Search. But when properly utilized, YouTube allows you to create channels for your products or services to be discovered by users, with little more than search optimizations.

Secondly, Google actually owns YouTube, and videos are reportedly 50 times more likely to appear on the first page of search results than other organic content. Keep in mind that video production quality is more important than ever, so your content needs to be well-produced in order to make an impact.

Google+ Engagement and content on sharing might pale in comparison to Facebook, but an active Google+ page measurably contributes to the Google search ranking of your website -- just another way you can ensure your site’s position on the first page of Google results should be done. Also, Google+ has hundreds of millions of users and some of the platform’s features -- such as live Hangouts -- can be utilized to share content across all Google channels, including YouTube.

Snapchat and Instagram If your target audience is on the younger end of the scale, Snapchat is the way to go. The important thing to keep in mind when you want to connect with 18-24 year olds is to always be fun and creative. Your content doesn’t need to be overly-polished or corporate. Currently, there are over 100 million active users on Snapchat.

As for Instagram, it boasts over 400 million monthly users as well as a more well-rounded user base in terms of age and geography. The content on Instagram should look more professional and more artistic, and there’s an added benefit of direct integration with Facebook every time you post a new picture or video.

Yelp Review sites might not be the purest form of social media, but Yelp is another great way to connect with users and respond to (hopefully positive) feedback. If you’re concerned about the controversy and negativity that have arisen from Yelp reviews, the Yelp team is known for helping businesses improve their online status and rise above the harsh comments.

If you still have questions about social media platforms and how to utilize them to your advantage, feel free to contact us today!

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic Social Media