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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.

Debunking Common Myths About VPNs

What a Virtual Private Network Is and Isn’t.

Virtual private networks are an understandably complex topic. We shatter all the myths here—Read on so you’re informed.

VPN is an acronym for “virtual private network.” It’s a term that describes a popular way to extend a private network across a public one (like the Internet).

Think of a VPN as a special lane on the highway that only you and your employees can use. You’re still traveling up the Interstate with hundreds or even thousands of other cars— Yet, anything you do in your lane stays safe and secure at all times.

VPNs are essentially like this, just played out across the technological landscape. They’re a fast, efficient and (most importantly) a secure way for you to send and receive information over the Internet without worrying about identifying the information being compromised.

Myth #1: Free VPNs Are Perfect for Your Business.

Perhaps the biggest myth surrounding VPNs is that you shouldn’t have to pay for them because there is a wide range of free options available. When you need a VPN for business use, this is absolutely not the case. Paid VPNs not only offer a higher level of security by way of better encryption, but they also provide faster speeds and larger data allotments.

Myth #2: VPNs Are Too Slow to Use.

Many people think that because VPNs encrypt data at the device level before transmission, they’re too slow to use for most professional purposes. This is only true if you’re talking about a free option. If you’re willing to pay for your VPN service (and you should be) this isn’t an issue because you’ll get priority service.

Myth #3: VPNs Are Too Hard to Use.

Another common misconception is that they’re too hard to use unless you’ve got an advanced level of technical knowledge. This may have been the case at one point, but it isn’t today. While configuring your VPN may take some time, it really isn’t difficult to do. Once you get your service up and running, you won’t have to think about it again. You’ll be able to use the Internet the same way you always have.

Myth #4: VPNs Are Completely Anonymous.

Many people think that because VPNs offer a sophisticated level of data encryption, their online activities are totally anonymous. This isn’t so. While it’s true that 256-bit encryption is difficult to break, it isn’t impossible. Likewise, your VPN provider will keep a log of some or all of your activities for a period of time dictated by the terms of service. You’ll be more anonymous and more protected than ever before, but nothing in life is certain – especially when you’re talking about technology.

Myth #5: All VPNs Are Created Equal.

This is another myth that creates problems, particularly among enterprise users. People think that because all VPNs work in essentially the same way, those VPN providers are all the same. In reality, there are a number of factors that separate one provider from another. Speed, supported platforms, the number of available servers, and price all play significant roles in the quality of the service you’ll receive. As always, it’s best to shop around to ensure you’re teaming with a VPN provider who can meet your needs.

Myth #6: When You Use a VPN, You’re Totally Safe Online.

Unfortunately, a lot of people think that because a VPN offers increased privacy and security, they are totally protected online. Just because you have a VPN doesn’t mean you can do whatever you want online (like clicking on that link in an email from a recipient you’ve never heard of without fear of consequence).

A VPN isn’t a suitable replacement for antivirus software, network protections, and good, old-fashioned common sense. All a VPN does is offer additional protection while you’re online, and allow you to keep some of your activities private. That’s it.

A virtual private network was not, nor will it ever be, designed to keep your browser safe and secure. As a business leader, you should continue to invest in additional training for your employees to prevent costly mistakes that could easily lead to a data breach or other cyber incident.

One thing’s for sure: As privacy and security become more important in today’s fast-paced digital world, technologies like VPNs are going to become more essential. However, at the same time, it’s important to always do your research to make sure you understand what a virtual private network can and cannot do. Only then, do you stand the best chance to stay safe from the types of people who want to do you harm?

If your business is in {city}, and you’d like to find out what type of virtual private networks is best for your purposes, contact {company} at {phone} or {email}.

Stay Ahead of Your Competition with The Digital Trends of the Future.

Are you afraid of new technology disrupting the way you do business? Don’t be. These three tech trends will completely change the way people do business by 2027—And for the better. 

Technology changes, but what it takes to run a successful business never does. The most capable business owners are the ones who have the foresight to adopt new ideas and to adapt to different ways of doing things.

{company} helps our clients use advances in technology to build their companies and to help them reach their personal and business goals. We believe the best way to grow any business is keeping one eye future while working hard today.

We’re living during a time of rapid innovation when it’s close to impossible to catch your breath between each new extraordinary development. Although it’s true that tech trends come and go, we believe these three technologies are here to stay—And they just might change the way you do business five or ten years down the road.

Three Digital Trends That Will Influence Tomorrow’s Business World

  • Artificial Intelligence.

Embrace it or fear it, AI is coming—And it’s going to alter everything. Already, AI programs have the capability to beat human players in games like Go and DOTA 2. While that may seem impressive, within the next ten years, the abilities of companies to harness the power of AI is going to be something to behold.

When you hear the term. “AI”, don’t imagine Andrew Martin, the android from “The Bicentennial Man”, or even HAL 9000 from “Space Odyssey. Instead, picture a powerful computer with the capability of self-monitoring and correction. This is the type of AI that will have the ability to increase productivity by completing tasks and helping humans to make better decisions. They will do this in part by analyzing the big data most corporations have been collecting for years—And, AI will do it better and more quickly than any human ever could.

Companies will come to depend on AI to make major (and minor) business decisions from the best way to market products, to making extremely accurate predictions regarding financial markets.

  • Augmented and Virtual Reality

Augmented and virtual reality is just now on the cusp of what these technologies will become in the future. Virtual reality (VR) is the technology that most are familiar with–However, augmented reality (AR) holds more promise for businesses.

As you probably already know, VR creates a fully simulated environment by using computers much in the same way as the holodeck from Star Trek. AR. It lets a user see the real, physical world but creates and superimposes images on top of it. A popular example of this technology is the Pokémon GO game.

Within ten years, companies will be able to take advantage of both technologies in a variety of ways. Virtual reality is a natural for immersive training scenarios, virtual meetings, and inspections, or for walking a client through a computer-generated model of a home. Augmented reality will let consumers “see” how they’ll look in an outfit, or if a new sofa will look good in their apartment before ordering it.

However, this technology offers more important capabilities. The real power of AR won’t be completely realized until technicians can use it to guide them through a critical repair, or doctors to perform delicate, life-saving surgeries.

The Internet of Things

The Internet of Things (IoT) will radically influence almost every aspect of the way large companies do business within the next ten years.

But what is the IoT? It’s a network of physical objects that constantly interact with one another, remotely. These connected objects can be anything from the cell phone you use to start your “smart” coffee maker, to Wifi-enabled chips to keep track of the precise, physical location of inventory items.

The IoT will also allow companies to make better and more timely decisions. This is because it can remotely monitor things. By using the IoT, companies will have access to a constant stream of up-to-date information.  This is thanks to the use of connected sensors and cameras. Whether a business uses this information to decide when to fill up a vending machine or to know when it’s time to do preventive maintenance on an engine, depends on the type of company using it.

The IoT is a marketer’s dream. Using the IoT, businesses will be able to collect enormous amounts of data about the behaviors and preferences of customers from the ways they interact with their connected devices.

The future of business is here. If you want to remain competitive in your market, you should begin to investigate which future technology is best for your particular company.  We can help. To learn more, contact the experts at {company} at: {phone} or {email}

Did you know you can use Excel to create process diagrams in Visio?
It’s true – and it’s a whole lot easier than you probably think!

Most of us are visual learners. Our brains process visuals more effectively than written words.  Plus, we also retain more information from images—Days later we can easily recall a visual form versus words on a page.

Diagrams make it easy to convey “big- picture” ideas and bring those details to life. This is essential in the world of business, which depends heavily on employees working together on projects.

These concepts are some of the many reasons why Visio’s new Data Visualizer feature is so useful. With Visio Pro for Office 365, you can process and map data from Microsoft Excel and bring it to life in the form of stunning data-driven diagrams. The Visio Data Visualizer reduces the number of steps required to do this and gives you the option to create diagrams based on data parameters.

Visio’s Data Visualizer: Breaking It Down

Business analysts often use tables in Microsoft Excel to display complicated processes and metadata. Now, thanks to Visio’s Data Visualizer feature, they can convert this information into a fully visualized diagram with just a few clicks of their mouse.

There are two options to choose from: You can use a pre-made Excel template or an existing spreadsheet of your own design. The pre-made templates provide for both basic and cross-functional tables containing a wide range of criteria like:

  • Process step numbers
  • Phases
  • Descriptions
  • Functions
  • Dependencies
  • Owners, and much more

Once an Excel table has been populated, all you have to do is launch the Visio Data Visualizer wizard to help you complete the remaining steps. The wizard is designed to walk you through the process, ensuring the diagram is created with minimal fuss, and without losing essential information.

Regardless of whether you choose to use the pre-made templates or create one of your own, the Data Visualizer wizard will help you map flowchart parts like swim lanes and connectors – Before now, this would have to be done manually.

Here’s the best part of all—The resulting diagram in Data Visualizer is linked back to that original Excel table. If the data is modified or changed in any way, the diagram automatically updates accordingly.

This means that Data Visualizer is a process you only have to run once, and from that point on, any other changes you make in Excel are visualized instantly.

Shape modifications in Visio are still preserved if the Excel data is changed. This ensures everyone stays on the same page when working on major projects, prevents confusion, and increases the ability of people to collaborate and share information.

Thanks to the new Data Visualizer feature, you can save both your Visio diagrams and associated Excel mapping tables in a single package for easy sharing.  This is perfect when the file has been completed, and no further changes will be made. All you have to do is employ the “Export as a Template Package” feature and your designs are preserved for all time.

And, thanks to the flexibility of the associated file format, these packages can then be shared with others, or even reused on future projects. This totally removes the need to create the same diagram time and again from scratch.

Not only will this make the lives of both Excel and Visio users easier than ever before, but it also encourages total process consistency and maximum visibility across an entire organization. When sharing files like these across a business, many people worry about variations on files, old versions, and outdated data.

Perhaps the best news of all is that the underlying Excel data travels with the Visio Data Visualizer file wherever it goes, guaranteeing all team members have access to the most recent version of a diagram at all times.  

While solutions like Visio and Microsoft Excel are undoubtedly valuable, their true power is unlocked when combining them to reach common goals. The volumes of mission-critical data your business creates on a daily basis shouldn’t exist in a silo. Visio’s Data Visualizer goes a long way towards breaking down those silos.

If your business is in {city}, and you have any questions about using Excel data to create process diagrams in Visio—Or, if you have questions about other essential IT-related topics, please don’t delay—Contact {company} at {phone} or {email}.  We’re always here to help.

“What’s This About an Updated Protocol in Outlook on Halloween?  Should I Be Concerned?”

If you’re like most people, you rely on Outlook email to maintain connections both inside and outside your business.  Now there’s critical protocol change in Outlook that could negatively affect your ability to use it if you’re not informed.

shock

If you’re running Office 2007, 2010, 2013 or 2016, take heed – The winds of change (or perhaps a hurricane) are coming your way.

On October 31, 2017, Microsoft will officially replace RPC over HTTP protocol in Exchange Online with the more modern MAPI over HTTP. No, it’s not a trick for Halloween, however it can trip you up if you’re not prepared. Whether your specific configuration is affected depends on a variety of factors, such as whether you’re running on premise or cloud-based software.

At a bare minimum, you should review your current control settings to ensure the latest patches and updates were applied.

The Updated Protocol

In May 2014, Microsoft released an updated protocol called MAPI over HTTP to create a modern networking environment that supported seamless mobility, regardless of the device used. This release included a time schedule to retire RPC over HTTP, a 10+ year old protocol that doesn’t provide the same ability to hop between networks as the updated MAPI convention.

Remote Procedure Calls, or RPCs, were revolutionary in their day, as they allowed Outlook Anywhere to transport information without the need for a firewall or VPN (virtual private network) –as long as a secure HTTPS connection was enabled. Microsoft’s utilization of this protocol allowed Outlook clients to reduce dependence on extended synchronization sessions and tiresome dial-up connections, and move into the new wave of WiFi connectivity and mobile computing.

Today, the enhanced functionality from MAPI over HTTP enables additional sign-on scenarios, removes dependence on legacy technology, and improves overall connection resiliency when the network drops packets in transit.

“Will My Platform Be Affected?”

Organizations are currently using an on-premise Exchange Server will continue business as usual and experience no adverse effects from the protocol migration. (If you run Windows 10 Mobile, Outlook on the Web, Outlook for Mac, iOS, Windows Mobile or Android you won’t be affected by the switch.)

However, businesses connected to Exchange Online mailboxes in Office 365, and that use Outlook for Windows must review their current setup and determine which upgrade path makes sense (or they risk losing system functionality and availability).

“What Upgrade Recommendations Do You Advise?”

In many cases, the best recommendation is to bring your Outlook installation into a more contemporary platform, such as the latest version of Outlook 2016 within Office 365 (part of Office 365 ProPlus).

However, if this option isn’t feasible for you to do before October 31, 2017, there are a few options that will allow you to continue using your corporate email and avoid disruptions in connectivity until you can put a more permanent solution in place.

The minimum updates are listed below:

  • Office 2016: December 8, 2015 update, MSI: 16.0.4312.1001
  • Office 2013: Office 2013 Service Pack 1 (SP1) and December 8, 2015 update, MSI: 15.0.4779.1002
  • Office 2010: Office 2010 Service Pack 2 (SP2) and December 8, 2015 update, MSI: 14.0.7164.5002

However, while these updates should provide you the ability to maintain usability of your Outlook software, it’s recommended that you move to Office 365.

Remember, maintaining a solid update schedule for your office productivity software ensures you’ll have access to security patches for identified vulnerabilities.

“What Are the Benefits of Migrating to Office 365?”

While some organizations are still most comfortable with an on-premise solution, Office 365 offers a variety of benefits. Since all upgrades are handled on the server side, there’s no need to update individual workstations, or even push an upgrade to users.

Office 365 provides a variety of benefits over on-premise solutions, including:

  • Scalable options that allow you to right-size your licensing over time.
  • There’s no need to overspend on licensing when planning for future growth.
  • You can select the pricing level that fits your budget and needs.
  • It provides the flexibility to install one license for up to five individual devices.
  • It reduces the overall risk of data loss due to rigorous backup and disaster- recovery protocols.
  • There’s no need to perform upgrades, as new functionality is available immediately.

While migration can be a bit challenging, with the support of a managed service provider, you can successfully achieve a fast adoption of Office 365 online.

If you need assistance with your Outlook Exchange or Office 365 migration, contact the professionals at {company} at {phone} email}. Our security and infrastructure professionals will work closely with you to ensure you’re receiving the best possible pricing and support for your office productivity needs.

Should I Consider the Windows 10 Fall Creators Update for My Business?

The Windows 10 Fall Creators Update is right around the corner—And it’s coming with a number of incredible new features that you’ll definitely want to take advantage of.

Windows 10

To say that Microsoft’s Windows 10 operating system is popular is something of an understatement – Particularly as far as adoption rates are concerned. By the end of 2016, Windows 10 was already running on more than 270 million devices around the world. This put it on track to reach one billion users a bit faster than expected!

A large part of this had to do with Microsoft’s massive course correction from the poorly received (yet widely used) Windows 8. After the initial and disastrous launch of the 8 operating system, (and in an effort to fix as many of the flaws as possible) Microsoft responded quickly with Windows 8.1. This was a bit more in line with the previous (and more popular) Windows 7. However, by that time, it was “too little, too late.”

The Windows 10 Fall Creators Update—You’re Sure to Like It.

Windows 10 users already received one fairly popular “Creators Update” earlier this year. Another is right around the corner, as the Windows 10 Fall Creators Update is set to launch. It brings a number of changes that business users, in particular, are definitely going to applaud.

Expected to launch in October 2017, the Fall Creators Update can be summed up in a single word: “improvements.” This isn’t a “reinvent the wheel” update—And for many, not nearly as drastic as the previous 2017 update that rolled out in May, June and July. It does, however, bring a variety of “under-the-hood” and productivity improvements that are more than worth exploring.

The biggest set of changes involve the Windows Shell, which is the main part of the operating system. Made up of components like the Start Menu, the Taskbar and File Explorer, the new version of the operating system will bring with it the following new enhancements:

  • The Action Center that features a more fluent User Interface design, and will share the same acrylic background as the Start Menu.
  • A variety of new icons added to the Start Menu.
  • The Start Menu that can be resized diagonally – something that we’ve all been clamoring for.
  • The ability to resize the Start Menu, particularly horizontally—now a much smoother experience.
  • Improved OneDrive integration with File Explorer. It’s now possible to see files that have been saved to the cloud with a new “On-Demand Sync” option.

Microsoft’s Edge browser will also see some much-needed improvement, particularly with the way it handles file compatibility with formats like PDF and EPUB. It’s now possible to “ink” onto PDFs directly within Microsoft Edge.  This prevents the need to download a file and open it in a separate program. You can also see the table of contents from within a PDF, and directly interact with forms within a document. This brings Edge much closer in line to applications like Adobe Reader.

Settings: Some of the most relevant changes for enterprise users come in the way of settings adjustments.

  • The “About” area of the “Settings” app has been completely redesigned to display more relevant information and paint a much clearer picture regarding the health of a particular machine.
  • “Storage Sense” is also a new feature making its debut. It allows the operating system to automatically delete files in the “Download” folder after a period of 30 days. “Storage Sense” can also be used to automatically delete previous versions of Windows after a successful upgrade has taken place.
  • Remote Desktop functionality, now in the “Settings” app, brings it more in line with how you’ll actually interact with this feature.

Updates: Each update file has its own individual progress indicator when downloading and installing – making it easy to see what’s going on “behind the scenes,” and how much time is left before updates are available. There’s also a new “Activity Monitor” that shows comprehensive statistics on downloads, updates and other essential factors that occurred during the previous month.

General Improvements: The Fall Creators Update now allows Windows 10 to run on the ARM64 architecture (Advanced RISC Machine, a family of reduced instruction set computing (RISC) architectures for computer processors). This will let you “future proof” your machines in a much more effective way.

Windows is also now “smart” enough to throttle inactive programs, which should go a long way towards generating incremental performance improvements across the board.

Cortana, Microsoft’s Siri-like voice assistance, will also support dedicated speaker devices – something that should improve compatibility with peripheral hardware, and address certain accessibility concerns that some had in the past.

Our Advice? –-You Should Definitely Consider Windows 10 Fall Creators Update for Your Business. 

Windows 10 has come a long way since its original release, especially in terms of the productivity and collaborative benefits that it can bring to enterprise users in particular. For a company still struggling to recover from the lukewarm reception to operating systems like Windows 8 (and the outright disaster of Windows Vista), the Windows 10 Fall Creators Update proves that Microsoft is willing to listen to the people who matter the most of all: its users.

If you’d like to find out more information about the Windows 10 Fall Creators Update—Or for answers to your IT questions—Contact {company} at {phone} or {email}. We’re {city}’s trusted, IT Managed Service Providers.