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VersaTrust has been serving the Texas area since 1997 , providing IT Support such as technical helpdesk support, computer support and consulting to small and medium-sized businesses.

If you don’t use HTTPS on your website, it will now be labeled “NOT SECURE” in Chrome.

secure

Even if you haven’t considered using HTTPS (HyperText Transfer Protocol “Secure”) for your business website, you’ve probably seen it before. The history of this security protocol goes back many years to the beginnings of the commercialized Internet – And it’s about to get a big emphasis, thanks to upcoming changes from Google. If you haven’t thought about transitioning your website to HTTPS, now is an excellent time to start making plans. Here’s why.

HTTPS: The Security Format Ahead of Its Time

The HTTPS protocol was developed in the mid-1990s thanks to efforts by companies like Netscape and Spyglass (remember them?). The problem was, at that time, the Internet wasn’t very secure, and exchanging data for commercial transactions (payment and contact info) was a risky business.  As a result, organizations developed SSL (secure sockets layer) security, encryption that could be used to verify their website’s authenticity and protect consumer information.

This quickly became a go-to security measure for large online retailers, especially once Microsoft officially adopted HTTPS. Rival protocols battled for a few years, but as SSL continued to evolve, global standards took hold. By the 2000s, HTTPS had become the universal way to protect data and assure individuals that a site was secure.

A Quick History of Google and HTTPS

As the Internet grew in the 2000s, HTTPS slowly expanded beyond commercial sites into other types of websites, including news and service organizations. It moved slowly because internet security was still relatively new. HTTPS was primarily relegated to website data behind logins, or data managed by particularly large organizations.

Google was surprisingly ambivalent about HTTPS for many years. It even refused to index HTTPS pages up through 2013.  It didn’t see those pages as an appreciable, easily measured part of the Internet. But this soon changed as Google realized the role it played by encouraging internet security through page rankings, and how it assigned value to online content.

Google algorithm updates focused on improving the quality and safety of the Internet. They added a new algorithm in 2014 designed to factor in secure sites of all kinds. And, for the benefit of users, they started labeling secured sites more prominently in Chrome.

This new algorithm had one primary purpose: It improved rankings for sites that invested in HTTPS security, in real time. This meant that companies could basically get a ranking boost just by switching to the HTTPS protocol.  However, there were difficulties in this approach. For one thing, while Google boosted HTTPS rankings, the company (probably unintentionally) made it difficult to change over to HTTPS with Google Webmaster Tools. Plus, the SEO boost that HTTPS provided was minuscule. This led companies to ask, “Well, why bother?” As a result, Google didn’t see the intended growth of HTTPS sites.

Google’s Latest HTTPS Change.

Fast-forward to the end of 2016: Data security has become more important than ever as security threats rise at an alarming rate. Today, Google has decided to take its HTTPS encouragement up several notches with a big upcoming change:

  1. Companies that adopt HTTPS will be designated as “SECURE” on Chrome browsers.
  2. Companies that don’t use HTTPS will now be labeled “NOT SECURE” when users open the site in Chrome. This will apply to all websites without HTTPS, no matter what other security measures they employ.
  3. This change will go into effect in October 2017 – a swiftly approaching deadline.

Google didn’t mention whether or not it would add more weight to HTTPS in its ranking algorithm. They’re under no obligation to tell anyone if they’re changing the algorithm, so this move could easily be followed by harsher SEO penalties for HTTP-only sites.

What Should You Do About HTTPS?

Fortunately, Google is good about giving companies advice on what to do to improve their sites. If you’re worried, the company breaks down the solution into two different steps.

First: Make sure that all forms associated with passwords and credit fields of any kind are provided via the HTTPS protocol. That means the entire page at the top-level must be HTTPS, as well as any iframe inputs. Don’t make the mistake of simply searching for, and converting all your iframes: Google specifically says this won’t work – you need to make the entire page HTTPS to avoid the “Not Secure” warning.

Second: The first step is simply a patch to treat immediate symptoms. Your long-term solution should be to convert your entire site, in all its various forms, to HTTPS. The “Not Secure” warning will still show up on other pages without HTTPS. Customers may be less likely to notice it on, say, content-only pages, but it will be there, and you need to get rid of it.

Remember, October 2017 is the cutoff date, so it’s important to make the change to HTTPS if you want to prevent the Chrome warning label from showing on your site. If your site is hosted, look at the services and packages provided by your host. Most will offer an upgrade to HTTPS that allows for a quick site conversion. Check to see if you have room in the budget for this upgrade.

{company} helps businesses in {city} with security updates and data services. Contact us at {phone} or {email} for this, or other IT issues.

As an employer, it’s essential that you understand the responsibility you have when managing your employees’ social media use.

How should you regulate the social media activities of your employees? You’ve probably heard this question before – It’s been an issue since social media first became popular.

Unsure Of What Social Media Sites Your Staff Frequently Visit?

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However, as social media keeps evolving, so do your responsibilities to protect your employees’ privacy, your customers’ data, and your business.

Tough issues for sure – But, to help out, here are some important facts to know.

Understand the Security Risks of Social Media

There are two sides to the social media question – How to view employees’ social media activity, and how to regulate it while on the job.

Let’s start with an answer to the first question: As an employer, you must understand how employee use of social media can pose a risk to your security. This includes the danger of them accidentally giving out (or being tricked into providing) sensitive employee or customer information. This could be as innocent as them falling for a phishing scheme.

Additionally, malware circulates on social media in the form of corrupted links that can infect your devices if employees click on them.  This would be disastrous for your organization.

Social Media Risks

Understand Employee Privacy Concerns

On the other hand, you must understand how employees view their own social-media privacy. It’s not realistic to say, “Well, you can never use Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, or other social media sites.”

This also goes as well for other modes of communication. For example, if employees use their phones for work purposes, can IT monitor their calls? What about their texts? The organizations that have adopted this type of oversight end up regretting it, because it leads to a tense workplace environment.  So where do you draw the line?

You Must Know and Adhere to Local Laws

Social media privacy rules are evolving at a fast rate.  This makes decisions even more complicated for businesses when it comes to social-media policies for their employees. Not only are these laws highly politicized, they are often far removed from workplace realities.

As part of your social-media strategy, review the current social media laws in the states where you do business. Keep in mind that there are a lot ongoing changes in regard to these rules. So keep an eye on legislative developments in the future as well.

Create HR Rules for Accessing Social Media Information.

After you’ve done your research, it’s time to establish basic rules when accessing employees’ social-media use. There are two general parts to these rules:

  1. Social-media use prior to employment. Reports indicate that around 70% of companies “Google” potential employees before hiring them. About 61% do a social-media screening as well. They are typically looking for either noinformation (a major warning sign) or signs of the employee being irresponsible. We already warned about the potential issues of viewing all public information on a social media account, but in this case, recruits can reasonably expect a certain amount of scrutiny. If your business is investing in respecting privacy, then you should consider limiting these searches to confirm resume details only.
  2. Social-media connections after hiring. Where do you place employee rights, not only according to law but according to company policy? Are employees fully aware that you’re watching them on social media? There are circumstances where reviewing social media can be invaluable – such as when investigating an employee for lying about activities or sharing confidential information.

You Must Create Employee Rules for Using Social Media at Work.

HR rules are typically employer-focused. However, you should also consider employee-focused guidelines. Make sure everyone knows whether they can post company information on social media, and if so, specifically what.  Also, specify what social media platforms can be used on break times at work (on personal accounts). Banning all social media activity is rare these days.  Remember, employees can act as valuable brand ambassadors.  Yet, for this to be effective, you should have specific guidelines in place in a formal written policy.

Provide Professional Alternatives.

Your employees need a place to exchange information and communicate with clients (and each other) at work. Some companies say, “All right, you can use LinkedIn for communications, and here’s how.” Other companies set up a more private social network and instead, say, “All right, we’re using Yammer (or other professional social tool) to talk between ourselves and plan out projects. Don’t use anything else for these purposes.”

Either way, it’s important to give employees vehicles to communicate in a professional environment. Otherwise, you’ll restrict their productivity. (Obviously, this can vary by industry and trade. But, as social communication becomes more ingrained in society, it affects nearly every job, today).

Don’t Be Afraid to Make Changes.

We started by saying that social media is always changing, and we’ll end with this reminder: It’s tough to predict just how tomorrow’s employees will use social media, or what new platforms they’ll adopt. Social media policies must be reviewed at frequent intervals, and compared to the currantlandscape of social behavior. Certain policies should be phased out, and new guidelines adopted based on risks and productivity data.

Have concerns?  We can help. {company} provides data and IT security services to companies in city. Let’s talk about your concerns. Contact us at {phone} or {email} for more information.

The Apple iOS Notes application is a great tool with so many practical features.  However, many don’t know about these hidden tools to extend the Notes experience.  Check them out here.    

The Apple’s Notes application is built into all versions of iOS. Ever since the release of the original iPhone in 2007, it’s been the perfect way to handle word processing on-the-go.

tea lover

Notes will get a significant overhaul when iOS 11 is released in the fall of 2017. If beta versions are any indication, you’ll be impressed with the new capabilities Notes provides.   Here are just a few of them:

Notes Stationary

With Notes, iOS 11 you’ll be able to change the default stationary—select yours from a range of lined and gridded paper styles.  Change the default style for all your notes, or on a note-by-note basis. Just tap the “New Note” button and select the “Share” arrow. Or from your computer keyboard hit “CMD” + “N”. Once you select the “Lines & Grids” option, you see all the styles to choose from.

Superior Organization

The iOS 11 version of the Notes app has some great options for organizing. Until now, Notes appeared on one screen. You could create folders, but extensive organization wasn’t a possibility—Until now, that is.

In iOS 11, all you have to do is swipe the title of a note with your finger to open up a new list of organizational options. In addition to moving and deleting notes, you can password-protect a note. This is perfect for people in enterprise environments who share devices like iPads.

Pinning

You can also pin a note to the top of your list, so it’s always within reach. To do this, simply swipe right on the name of the note, and release. The note will be pinned in place so it can’t be moved even if you organize by date created, or alphabetize by title, etc.

Moving and Deleting Notes

Previous versions of Notes allowed you to quickly delete a note or move it into a folder with a few swipes of your finger. This basic functionality remains in the iOS 11 version—However, it’s gotten a significant makeover.

Now, when you swipe on a note and select “Move,” you won’t see a list of all the folders you created. Instead, you’ll see icons that represent things like attachments and images.  This lets you quickly view your options so you can move your note. All you have to do is tap on the folder and the selected note will move there instantly. This won’t take more than a few seconds.

However, when you attempt to delete or move a password-protected note, you’ll now be prompted to enter the password (or use Touch ID depending on the settings on your device). You won’t be able to do anything unless you provide the proper credentials, which, again, helps to keep your confidential information private.

If at any point you make a mistake when it comes to moving and organizing your notes, all you have to do is physically shake your iPhone or iPad for a second or two to undo it. You don’t need to go through the menu system.

More New Features

The new iOS 11 Notes app comes with advanced features that add value for enterprise users in particular. If you own an iPad Pro and an Apple Pencil, you can now sketch anywhere in any note, at any time. Certain text tools that were only in the macOS version of Notes, will now be available in iOS 11.

Use the camera on your device to scan paper notes and save them in Notes until you move them to the folder of your choice. Previously, this feature was only available in third-party apps, most of which will now be unnecessary.

These are just a few of the new, hidden features in Notes iOS 11.  If you’d like to learn more for your business in {city} contact {company} at {phone} or {email}.

Outsourcing your IT support may not be something you’ve thought about, but the cost savings and innovative growth they can bring will energize your business.

managed it service

Today more than ever, business leaders are being pushed to provide speedy access to services and products that may be outside their technical expertise. The rapid change in technology is driving deep specialization in niche markets, often without the broad spectrum of knowledge that’s required.

With looming security challenges and the need for constant innovation, smart business owners and managers are looking outside their organizations to IT Managed Service Providers (MSP).  This trend is growing as organizations see a greater need to save money while continuing to drive growth and innovation – goals that can’t be achieved without a focus on IT planning for the future.

A Strategic Focus on Growth and Innovation

Innovation is a term that’s used loosely throughout the business world.  What does it mean for small to mid-sized businesses (SMBs)? It can be challenging for them to be leading adopters simply due to the cost of entry.

IT decision-making is vastly different for SMBs than it is for larger enterprises.  Leaders of SMBs often have more input into how technology dollars are spent than their larger counterparts. However, it typically takes them longer to implement innovative IT projects.  The answer for many is to outsource this task to a managed services provider rather than using in-house techs.

Structured, Reliable Budgeting

The bane of every IT manager is having to go back to a finance team to request additional funds for technology, especially when it can be tough to justify why they need things like additional servers or other peripherals.

Unexpected expenses can siphon funds away from technology upgrades, which potentially makes an organization vulnerable to security issues.   If patches are applied late, or not applied as recommended, data breaches can result.  This is expensive and damaging to an SMB, leaving them in a defensive position where they must clean up problems instead of proactively working towards improving the status quo.

Relying on an IT Partner provides the peace of mind knowing that an expert is watching over your technology infrastructure. Plus, budgeting is easier because expenses can be budgeted on an annual basis instead of on an emergency basis.

Rock-Solid Business Infrastructure         

The speed of your network affects a variety of factors: customer and employee satisfaction, long-term customer retention, and relationships with vendor partners and suppliers. On the flip side, a network that fails, or is unreliable, erodes customer trust, along with significant employee frustration and turnover. This is NOT a great recipe for long-term success.

Partnering with an IT Managed Services Provider improves network uptime, and ensures that emergencies such as power failures or natural disasters won’t be catastrophic for your business.

Quick Access to New Technology

Whether it’s the latest in spam filters, or a new firewall, having a dedicated IT support partner means you’re gaining ready access to software and hardware that will be a great fit for your organization.  No longer will you incur technology costs and discover later that a solution is incompatible with your system.

Few in-house IT teams in SMBs have time to research or stay certified in new tools and solutions. Fortunately, when you leverage the power of an IT MSP, you’re gaining the depth-of-bench and group research power of a much larger organization, without the high cost of employment.

Proactive Security and Support

When something goes wrong with your network, you need to know that someone is immediately jumping into action to bring your services and infrastructure back online. While not all failures can be prevented, the good news is that early detection can often help mitigate damage, and ensure that critical data is secure at all times.

These are just a few of the ways that working with a Managed Services Provider like {company} will save you money, while providing you a significant competitive advantage by using more innovative IT solutions. Find out more by calling us at {phone} or sending us an email at: {email}

A discussion of how to best go about taking complicated IT concepts and communicating them to your team in the right way.

The world of information technology is something of a natural contradiction. On the one hand, the resources that we depend so heavily on are designed to make our lives simpler, not more complex. They’re intended to allow us to work smarter, not harder. To do that, they need to be accessible to everyday people — both those who have devoted a lifetime of education to the topic and those who haven’t.

complicated IT

Yet at the same time, IT professionals find themselves awash in a world of highly technical terms and acronyms that describe incredibly complex subjects. Again, being able to properly utilize those IT resources requires an infrastructure that is aligned with your long-term strategy, but oftentimes this level of technicality can keep most people at a distance.

Luckily, communication skills will come in handy when operating in the IT space — just not necessarily in the way you may have thought. If you really want to learn how to communicate IT concepts in the easiest way possible to those who may not be experts, there are a few key things to keep in mind.

Understand Your Audience

In many ways, the secret to effective communication involves knowing who you’re speaking to and adapting to their capacity — regardless of whether you’re talking about IT, science, mathematics or some other complicated topic. If you’re speaking to a tech-based audience, naturally you would be able to get away with some of the jargon that keeps others at a distance.

If you’re speaking to a non-technical audience, put things in terms of what they can do, not what they are. For example, don’t talk about the finer points of a server, breaking down the detailed technical specifications as precisely as you can. Talk instead about what that server does — how it changes their lives, makes things easier and the very real value that it provides. Your audience may not know how a server works at the end of your conversation, but they will know how it is about to change their lives and why it is so important.

Get Comfortable With Metaphors and Analogies

One of the best ways to take complicated IT concepts and distil them down into something more easily accessible for novices is to use metaphors and analogies when explaining certain key ideas. If you were trying to tackle a topic like the internet of things, for example, you wouldn’t necessarily describe the billions of connected devices that are designed to make up this concept over the course of the next few years. You wouldn’t talk about complicated sensors and other elements all creating, sending and receiving data among themselves at all times.

Instead, you might focus in on something that is a point of reference in their lives — a more easily accessible idea like a thermostat that automatically learns your schedule and starts adjusting the temperature of your home based on the time of day and when you’re going to get home from work. Start simple with something that matters to them and build out to the broader and more complicated implications of the concept from there.

Explain, Explain and then Explain Some More

Another helpful way to explain complicated topics to non-IT people — which also works for explaining any other highly technical idea — is to get to the same destination in as many different ways as you can. Remember that everyone is a little bit different. Some people grasp new ideas right away, while others will require a bit of extra love and care.

If there are two different ways to explain something, don’t pick one or the other. Instead, use both. If there are eight different ways to explain an IT concept, that’s even better. Though it may feel like overkill to you, remember that you’re the one who already grasps the concept — not the person you’re speaking to. At some point, something is going to stick and both parties will be much better off because of it.

Lean Into Pop Culture to Make IT Sound Fun

Finally, another useful way to take a complex idea and present it to a non-technical audience is to rely on pop culture and other types of references to make it memorable, relatable, and most importantly, fun.

Think back a few years ago to the debut of the iPad. Though Apple’s tablet may seem commonplace today, it was a totally foreign concept to many people when it originally debuted. A lot of people didn’t really understand the broader implications of it or what allowed it to be more than just a giant iPhone.

Explaining how a tablet fits into your workflow may be difficult when someone has just, minutes earlier, learned what a tablet is, but with pop culture you can do the next best thing. What is an iPad if not one of the communicator devices from Gene Roddenberry’s sci-fi classic “Star Trek”? Or how about that scene in “Minority Report” in which Tom Cruise is hiding on a subway train and he spots a man reading a digital newspaper that he’s controlling entirely through touch?

Points of reference for modern day IT concepts and items exist all throughout popular culture. You should try to use them as a bit of a “common starting point” whenever you can. If someone understands your pop culture reference, terrific — you now have something to build from to introduce them to the more technical IT concepts with relative ease.

IT concepts can often seem overwhelming and insurmountable — but if you approach things from the right direction, getting everyone on the same page doesn’t have to be nearly as difficult as certain people often make it. If you’re in {city} and would like to find out more information about these or other essential IT concepts, please don’t delay. Contact {company} today by phone at {phone} or by sending an email to {email}.