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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.

Are SAML-enabled Enterprises Needed?

SAML-enabled Enterprises Increase Network Security with SSO

SAML helps organizations implement single-sign-on. End-users need a single username and password for system access. SAML simplifies management of network security  

One of the first things most of us do when we arrive at work is sign-on to the corporate network. On the rare occasion that we have to sign on to a specific application, we’re irritated. Why is the separate sign-on necessary? The simple answer is SAML.

SAML Enterprises

What is SAML?

SAML stands for Security Assertion Markup Language. It is an open standard for sharing information across an enterprise for authentication and authorization of the end-user. It’s what lets you sign on once to access multiple applications. For SAML to work, all applications must communicate using the SAML specification. If an application cannot support SAML, the end-user will have to sign on separately.

How Does SAML Work?

A single-sign-on (SSO) environment has an identity provider where the user’s identity information is stored. When the end-user wants to use an application in the SSO environment, the application or service provider makes a request to the identity provider. The identity provider authenticates the end user’s identity and responds to the service provider’s request. The end-user is either granted or denied access.

A simplified SAML process for an end-user named Joel might flow like this:

  • Joel tries to sign on to his work computer. His sign on initiates a request to the company’s identity or SSO provider, asking for authentication.
  • The SSO provider authenticates Joel’s identity and grants him access to the network.
  • Joel launches his email program. His request initiates an exchange with the email application referred to as a service provider.
  • The service provider is configured to authenticate using SSO, so the application asks the identity provider for authentication of Joel.
  • The identity provider responds to the service provider with a digitally signed response that identifies Joel.
  • The SAML-formatted response either authenticates and authorizes Joel for the email application or denies access.
  • The service provider validates the identity provider’s response and either grants or denies access to the email application.
  • Joel accesses his email via the service provider’s application, based on the identity provider’s response.

All requests and responses must conform to the SAML protocols for exchanging information.

Why Use SAML?

SAML centralizes the authorization process. It also externalizes authentication to a separate identity provider. The configuration provides several benefits for both the end-user and the organization.

  • SAML provides a standard for deploying internet-based single sign-on.
  • SAML raises security access to the highest level. An identity provider can enforce a high level of authentication, such as Two-Factor Authentication, even if the individual applications do not support a high degree of authentication.
  • SAML simplifies the sign-on process for the end-user, who only has to remember a single user name and password.
  • SAML offers a single point for deactivation by centralizing access rights.
  • SAML enables the identity provider to audit access across SAML-enabled applications.

With a SAML-enabled enterprise, administration and monitoring of user access are reduced. Using an identity provider with a higher level of authentication than other applications within the network increases security. Allowing end-users to sign-on with a single username and password minimizes the number of times individuals require assistance because of forgotten passwords or usernames. The ability to control user access from a single point enables an organization to de-activate end-users quickly.

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Chrome Users Need to Update Now

Why Google Chrome Users Should be Concerned About Security Patches

Does Your Organization Use Google Chrome? Find Out Why Recent Security Flaws Have Created an Urgent Need to Update Your Devices’ Browsers Immediately  

Google Chrome Updates

If users in your organization use Google Chrome, there is a high chance that several of those systems are creating an opportunity for hackers to install malware. Google recently identified a major security flaw with its Chrome browser that impacts Windows, Mac, and Linux-based devices. Although Google has released a security patch to correct the security vulnerabilities, the patch fixes two separate problems.

Security Vulnerabilities

One of the security vulnerabilities Google identified is Chrome’s audio component. The other vulnerability is tied to the browser’s PDF library. Both allow unwanted modifications or corruptions to memory data. This allows hackers to elevate privileges on the device or within applications installed on the device. If someone is able to gain administrative access to a system or software on a system, the individual could make unwanted changes or wreak havoc on the device’s operating system. There is also a high chance that a hacker could install malware or execute malicious code on the device.

Version

The version of the browser that fixes the security issues is 78.03904.87. Although the Chrome browser may be configured to automatically update itself in the background upon launch, it is a good idea to manually check each device. The browser can be manually checked by selecting the Help menu and then “About Google Chrome.” If there is an update available, the browser will automatically search for it and find it. The browser’s version will also be displayed in the “About” section. If the listed version is 78.03904.87 or later, then the device has received the necessary security patch.

If there are problems with the browser updating, it may need to be removed from the system and reinstalled. Some organizations have an automatic process to uninstall and reinstall applications from the server once the devices connect to the organization’s network. Reports can be run to see which systems still have outdated versions and technicians should manually check those systems to diagnose why automatic updates are not going through.

Other Considerations

A system that is not receiving automatic updates from Google Chrome may have other issues. Technicians should check for the following:

  • Is the anti-malware program up to date and running correctly?
  • Is the OS receiving approved updates and are these updates installing?
  • When was the last time the system pinged the network?
  • Has the system been restarted recently?
  • If the system has been disconnected from the organization’s network, how long has it been offline?
  • Has a malware scan recently been run? Were any malicious items identified and removed?
  • Are there are any suspicious executables or unauthorized programs installed?

Sometimes wiping a system and completely reinstalling the OS are the best courses of action. Signs that a device may be too infected, corrupted, or outdated include the presence of unauthorized or suspicious applications, more than 100 pending OS updates or a previous update date that is more than a month old, and an anti-malware program that will not update or run a scan correctly. Before wiping a system and reinstalled the OS, a technician should check for and back up any user data that may be installed on the device’s hard drive. However, the data should be carefully scanned for any malware infections prior to transferring it back onto the system.

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How Do You Insert a PDF Into a Word Doc?

Insert a PDF Into a Word Doc

Need to know how to add a PDF to a Word document? Head here and learn two tried-and-true techniques for seamlessly adding PDFs to any Microsoft Word doc.  

PDF Document

Have you ever needed to insert a PDF file into a Word document?

Let’s say you’ve found a relevant chart or graph in a PDF file that you’d like to insert into a report you’re writing in Microsoft Word as a static image. Or, let’s say you want to insert an entire PDF file into a Word document as a linked object.

Below, we’ll explain just how to do both of these tasks using your Windows computer and the following versions of Word:

  • Word 2010
  • Word 2013
  • Word 2016
  • Word 2019
  • Word for Office 365

Before we explain these procedures, however, let’s explain what a PDF file is.

What Is a PDF file?

A PDF file is a type of file. PDF stands for portable document format. This format allows you to view a document of text, graphics, or both in a layout that appears as if it’s a printed document. Users can view PDF files on a computer or portable device, print them, or send them electronically.

How do you insert a PDF file into Word as a static image?

To insert a PDF as a static image (that is not expandable or clickable as an object or icon), you’ll first need to convert the PDF to a JPG file. Once you’ve done this, make sure you save the JPG in an easy-to-find location. The following process works best on older versions of Microsoft Word.

1. Open Microsoft Word.

2. Put your cursor in the exact place you want the PDF image to go.

3. Click “Insert” in the menu at the top of Word.

4. Click “Picture.”

5. Within the “Insert Picture” dialog box, find the JPG version of the PDF image you want to insert.

6. Click “Insert,” and the image will be inserted where you last had your cursor.

How do you insert a PDF file into Word as a linked object?

You may want to insert a link to a full PDF file in your Word document. This will result in the first page of the PDF being displayed as a preview. If the preview is clicked, it will bring the user to the full document.

1. Open Microsoft Word.

2. Put your cursor in the exact place you want the PDF file to go.

3. Click “Insert” in the menu at the top of Word.

4. Click “Text.”

5. Click “Object.”

6. Within the dialog box that appears, click “Create From File”

7. Select “Browse” and navigate to the PDF you’d like to insert.

8. Click “Link to File.”

There are other techniques for inserting PDF files into Word documents as well. If the above techniques do not work with your unique device or your specific version of Word, talk to your managed service provider to see how you should go about this procedure.

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How to Prepare Your Device for iOS 13

Apple has launched the latest iteration of its mobile operating system: iOS 13. Here’s what you need to know before installing the update to your iPhone.  

Apple is set to release the latest version of its mobile operating system this fall. iOS 13 aims to bring major security, functionality, and aesthetic updates to your iPhone. Here’s what you need to know before installing the update.

An Overview of iOS 13

The biggest changes that iOS 13 will bring include:

  • Dark Mode
  • Swipe to Type
  • Updates to Photos, Maps, Reminders, and other apps
  • Improved privacy and security

iPad users will enjoy new iPadOS features including:

  • A redesigned Home screen
  • Slide Over and Split View
  • Full-page markup
  • Improved text editing

Preparing Your Device for iOS 13

Before you can update to iOS 13, you’ll need to make sure your device is compatible. The oldest devices that can receive the update are the iPhone 6S and the iPhone 6S Plus, both released in 2015. Earlier models of the iPhone will not be able to update to iOS 13. For iPads, the cutoff sits at the iPad Air 2 and the 4th Gen iPad Mini, introduced in 2014 and 2015, respectively. Newer models of these devices can be updated to iOS 13.

Delete Unused Apps

Because iOS 13 is a sizeable update, you’ll want to make sure your device has enough space to accommodate it. A good way to clear up space is by deleting apps you don’t or rarely use. Don’t worry; you can download them again after the update if you change your mind. Apps that you paid for will not charge you to re-download them. An easy way to see which apps you don’t really use is by navigating to Settings > General > iPhone Storage. From there, scroll down the list of apps to see when each app was last used. The ones on the bottom of the list or that don’t appear on the list at all are candidates for deletion.

Enable iCloud Backup

Before you update, make sure that iCloud Backup is enabled in case an error occurs during the update process. To do this, navigate to Settings > Your Name > iCloud and check that iCloud Backup shows ‘On.’ If it was Off, switch it to On and give your phone time to back up its data to the cloud. Depending on how much data you have stored, this process can take anywhere from less than an hour to 24 hours or more.

If you follow these tips, your iPhone and/or iPad should be ready to update to iOS 13 in fall 2019.

IOS 13

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How to Automate Microsoft Outlook Email Responses

Automate Email Replies in Four Ways to Share Information Better

Learn how to use four powerful tools to automate Microsoft Outlook email responses, including Automatic Replies, Quick Parts, Signatures and Templates  

Managing email responses, especially if you are a busy executive looking to keep in touch with clients, colleagues, investors and partners.

With Microsoft Outlook, you have multiple opportunities to automate your email responses. Here’s a look at four of the most effective ways to automate your email responses.

How Can I Use Templates to Automate Email Responses?

Templates are a simple way to create automated messages.

You can start with templates by creating a new message or replying to one.

On the ribbon, click on the View Templates button. This will bring up a new window with a section called My Templates, with a few common responses listed.

You can edit or remove these templates or create your own. For each template, you can give it a title and in the text box enter in any standardized response you choose, including copying and pasting from other documents.

Once you have your templates selected, you can add them to a new email or response quickly and edit them within the body of the message. For frequent phrasing and responses, the templates option helps to accelerate your communication.

The advantage of templates is that they are very easy to use, edit, update and delete. The downside is that they are very basic and include no formatting options within the template itself.

How Can Signatures Be Automated?

Preset signatures can help create various messages for different situations. In most cases, a default signature will be applied to all your outgoing messages. These signatures typically contain the following:

  • Full name
  • Title
  • Phone numbers
  • Website
  • Social media links

Often these signatures are standardized throughout an organization or division, and often contain specific marketing or legal language.

Signatures are highly formattable and can contain graphics or photos to convey further messages.

You can use signatures to be more productive and create messaging that varies based on the email recipient or whether the email is for business or personal reasons.

To create, modify or delete signatures, there are several ways to proceed. If you’re in a new message, go to the Message tab and click on the Signature button. This will bring up any existing signatures already in your account. To create a new one, click on the Signatures … selection at the bottom of the menu.

Another way to access the Signatures functionality is to use the File menu, clicking on Options, then Mail then Signatures.

No matter which option you choose, you’ll reach a new screen where you can select an existing signature to edit, rename or delete, or create a new signature. In the bottom box, you can:

  • Add text and images
  • Adjust the font and size
  • Insert hyperlinks
  • Set the signature’s alignment

Signatures are listed alphabetically, so naming conventions are important, especially for employees managing emails for other people or corporate accounts.

The top right section of the Signatures screen allows you to choose the email account to use and the default signature to use for new messages and replies or forwards.

Signatures have additional functionality. For messages that are sent repeatedly, the Signatures tool helps automate communication. The signature box can be used to include copy that is used for regular messages — a much faster option than saving text to a draft message or copying and pasting from a Word document. You can create multiple response signatures for typical inquiries.

What Is Quick Parts?

Quick Parts, formerly known as Building Blocks and Auto Text, helps you copy and save repeated boilerplate text blocks that can be inserted into an email. This is helpful for messages that include requests for information or other repetitive content.

To create a new Quick Part, reply to a message or create a new one. Type new text or highlight and copy existing text that you want to retain. Formatting will remain. In the ribbon, under the Text group, click on the Quick Parts button. This action brings up a list of existing Quick Parts, sorted by category, and allows you to create a new entry. A new window appears, where you can create a name, gallery category and description for the entry. (You can create new categories from this screen, too.)

Finally, you can determine in what email template you want the Quick Part available and some options for insertion.

Once saved, the Quick Part is now available for use. Create a new message, click on the Insert button and then the Quick Parts option to see a list of options for you to insert.

Quick Parts has several advantages. It allows for the inclusion of long entries with retained formatting for text and graphics. It also allows you to add multiple Quick Parts to the same message.

Right-clicking on any of the Quick Parts pops open options for where to insert the quick part, edit its properties or organize your available items. Quick Parts can also be inserted into Calendar entries or Tasks.

How Do Automatic Replies Work?

Automatic Replies are a standard staple in most offices. It’s an excellent time-management tool that quickly lets those within and outside your organization know your status.

To use Automatic Replies, you’ll need to be using an Outlook version that includes Microsoft Exchange server account or Exchange Online through Office 365. Standalone versions of Outlook do not support this feature.

Access Automatic Replies by going to the File tab and choosing Automatic Replies (Out of Office) from the Info tab. Select the Send automatic replies button and if you prefer, enter the dates and times you want the feature to be used in response to incoming messages.

The window defaults to the message you want sent inside your organization. You can add the text you need and apply basic formatting (font, size, effect, bullets or numeration, and indentation.

Remember to review the content so you don’t use an old message.

You can also opt to have a different message for those outside the organization. You can cut and paste between the two audience windows to create customized communications options.

The basic information to include in an Automatic Reply message is:

  • The length of your absence
  • When you will return
  • Who to contact for urgent matters

The Automatic Reply message is also a great way to share other information, such as social media links, news or other high-value content.

You can also set rules regarding your messages, such as whether to alert or copy a coworker regarding messages from specific senders or to reply with a specific template.

Once turned on, you’ll see a message bar in yellow at the top of your Inbox reminding you that Automatic Replies are turned on, along with an option for turning them off.

Automation is a powerful way to save time, deliver important messages and improve communication in your email responses. Using the four featured solutions here, either independently or together, can keep projects moving and share information.

Microsoft Outlook Training

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Complimentary Microsoft Outlook Training

Every month, we host Microsoft Office and other technology training sessions. Our training sessions are completely free of charge and are available “on-demand”.  Yes, you can tune-in whenever and wherever you like.

Microsoft Outlook Training 

This month’s training session: 4 Ways To Use Microsoft Outlook Efficiently.

Our in-house Microsoft training specialist, Dawn, will guide you through some very important tips and tricks, such as:

  • Quick Parts
  • Templates
  • Automated Responses
  • Signatures

Tune into this month’s training by clicking here.

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10 Tips for Navigating Microsoft Excel



Shortcuts and Keyboard Tricks Make Navigating Excel Easier

Learn 10 tips to improve your mastery of Microsoft Excel, including tricks for navigating, adding, deleting, renaming and grouping worksheets within a workbook.

Microsoft Excel has become a powerful tool used in businesses of all types. What started (and is still used) as an accounting tool, the product now is ever-present in offices around the world.

Mastering some key functions in Excel can help your users work more efficiently. Here’s a look at 10 top navigation tips.

1. Use the Arrow

If you have lots of worksheets open (Excel lets you have as many as 1,000) in your workbook, it can be difficult to find the one you need. On the bottom left are two black arrows that can be used to scroll through the different worksheets to find the one you need. Click on it and it becomes the active sheet. You can also use the Ctrl key with the arrows to move to the first or last sheet.

Right-clicking on either of the arrows brings up a pop-up window with a complete list of your worksheets. Click on the name and brings you to that worksheet.

2. Use the Shortcuts

The following shortcuts can save you time moving through your workbook:

  • Ctrl + Page Down: Go to the next worksheet
  • Ctrl + Page Up: Go to the previous worksheet

3. Right-Click to Manage Worksheets

Right-clicking on any worksheet brings up a list of helpful options. Here you can quickly change the worksheet color, rename a worksheet, or copy or delete it.

4. Insert a New Worksheet

There are four ways to add a new worksheet to your workbook.

  • Right-click on any worksheet tab and select the Insert option
  • Shift + F11
  • Click on the plus sign in a circle on the bottom right of the tab listings
  • Go to the Home menu, go to the Cells section, click on Insert and select Insert Sheet

5. Delete a Worksheet

Right-clicking provides you with the option to delete a worksheet. If there’s data in the worksheet a warning will appear. You can also go to the Home tab in the Cells group and click on Delete and select Delete Sheet.

A word of warning about deleting sheets. You cannot undo a sheet deletion.

6. Rename a Worksheet

There are three options, from slowest to fastest:

  • Go to the Home tab, click on the Cells group and the Format option. You’ll see a choice to Rename Sheet. This will activate the name box for the sheet
  • Right-click on the worksheet tab and choose the rename option
  • Double-click on the worksheet tab

7. Add a Tab Color

Large workbooks can make it difficult to organize and find a needed worksheet. Adding color tags to the worksheet tabs is a big help. Right-click on the tab, select Tab Color and choose the shade you want.

8. Move a Worksheet

This is a simple tip. To move a worksheet, click the tab and hold. A mouse pointer will appear and you can move the tab to the spot you want.

9. Copy a Worksheet

When you need to copy a worksheet within the same workbook, copying and pasting is not the best option. The copied data often does not look the same and can require a lot of time to fix. Another option is to again click and hold the tab you want to copy, and hit the Ctrl key. Move to the spot you want to add the copied worksheet and a new tab will be added.

To copy a worksheet to a new workbook, first open the destination workbook. Go to the source workbook and the sheet you want to copy or move. Right-click anywhere and select the Move or Copy option. Next, move to the destination workbook and choose the location.

One note: It’s best to copy the sheet you want, even if you want to move it, just in case it gets misplaced. You’ll still have the original.

10. Group Worksheets

When you want to add headers and footers or formatting to multiple worksheets, Excel does not have an intuitive solution. Using the Grouping function lets you handle several key tasks that apply to more than one sheet, including:

  • Page setups
  • Printing
  • Entering or editing data
  • Formatting
  • Moving, copying or deleting

To group sheets, select the first sheet you want in the group. Depress the Shift key and you can select consecutive sheets you want to group. If sheets are not consecutive, use the Ctrl key instead.

These tips will accelerate how fast work is done and give your employees more confidence and control of their Excel work.

Managing Excel Workbooks

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The End Of Windows 7

As of January 14th, 2020, Microsoft will be ending all support for their hugely popular Windows 7 operating system, which has technology professionals strongly recommending businesses upgrade to Windows 10 in response.

This brief video on the subject discusses what the end of Windows 7 support means for users and the risks that come with choosing not to upgrade before January 2020.

 

 

If you have questions or want to find out how we can assist you with upgrading smoothly to Windows 10, give us a call at {phone} or email us at {email}.

Windows 7 End of Support

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Are You Tired of Google’s Background?

Google Chrome Background

Change Your Background Image on Chrome

Do you want to add a little bit of your personality to your web surfing and internet searches? It is easy with the Chrome browser and this simple guide.  

Google’s is far and away the most popular search engine online. Besides returning helpful and fast search results, the website is streamlined and utilitarian in nature, letting visitors find the information they want without needing to deal with all the distractions of other search engines out there. And while the search bar on the home screen of Google’s Chrome browser is fine, some businesses and individuals may prefer a more customized experience such as adding a favorite photo or a company logo. Lucky, that is not a problem. Google, and the Chrome browser gives you the ability to choose any background image you want. And the best part is that’s it easy to set up!

How to Set Up a Personalized Google Background

  1. Load your Chrome browser. Chrome is a fast, secure, and easy-to-use browser, so, if you don’t already have it, download it now.
  2. Decide whether you want to use a pre-made Google theme or if you prefer to use one of your own photos. You can find a wide selection of pre-made themes to suit a wide variety of different styles and interests in the Google Store.
  3. Choose the pre-made theme you want. You can access the Google Store by launching the Chrome browser. Once the browser loads, look for the icon with the three dots in a vertical row. It is located to the far right of the address bar. Click on the icon and choose the Settings option near the bottom of the drop-down menu. From the menu on the left side of the Settings page, select Appearances. A new menu will open in the middle of your screen. Click on Themes from the new menu, and you will have access to dozens of themes from landscape photos to Zodiac symbols. Once you find a theme you want, choose Add to Chrome. Now when you open a new tab, your new theme will appear.
  4. Choose your own background image. Do you want to personalize your background even more? Then you can opt for using your own background image. You can do this by opening a new tab in the Chrome browser. On the bottom right of the screen is a button which says Customize. Older versions of Chrome may display a gear icon in the same place. Clicking on either will bring you to a Customize this page menu. Select Upload an image, and you can navigate to the file you want to upload. Once completed, open a new tab to make sure it worked.
  5. You can always reset. Do you prefer the official Google page? No problem, you can easily reset. Click on the Customize or gear icon at the lower right of the screen and select Restore default background.

Now that you know how to change the backgroud image, go ahead and experiment. You will be amazed how making one small change can have such a significant impact on a tool you use every day.

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Free On Demand Excel Training: Tips & Techniques For Managing Workbooks

Organization Shouldn’t Be Complicated

Out of all of Microsoft’s Office programs, Excel is one of the most universally used. What started out as a fairly basic spreadsheet program has evolved into a must-have business tool. However, the more you use Excel, the more data your workbooks will accumulate.

Keeping these workbooks organized and easy to navigate can be a challenge. We can help with that. Check out our short Excel: Tips and Techniques for Managing Workbooks training video, available to you free and on-demand.

Simply Click Here.

Watch at your leisure, and say goodbye to your Excel frustrations.

Managing Excel Workbooks

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How Can You Insert a Text Box in Google Docs?

Woman working on computer in Google Docs

How Can You Insert a Text Box in Google Docs?

There are two simple ways to add a text box into your Google Doc. Each lets you set apart text that stands out. Both methods allow you to copy-paste or move the text box between documents. The methods include inserting a textbox into a table and inserting a text box in a drawing. This article covers inserting text into a table.

How Can You Create a Table Text Box in iOS, Android or in Google Docs?

You can create a Google text box on iOS or Android devices in Google Docs by inserting a table. The app lets you edit the table text box on any device. The default table dimensions are three rows by three columns. The trick is modifying the table to display one row and one column. This results in a single cell, where you can add text.

Here’s how to do that in a Google Doc on iOS and Android:

  1. Select + (add).
  2. Select Table.
  3. Select the down arrow to the right of Columns and reduce the number to 1.
  4. Select the down arrow to the right of Rows and reduce the number to 1.
  5. Select Insert Table.

Your table is created and displays a single cell, which servers are a textbox.

What if I Use Desktop Chrome?

You still use a single-cell table, but the process is a bit different.

Here’s how to do that in a Google Doc on desktop Chrome:

  1. Select + (add).
  2. Select Table.
  3. Adjust Columns and Rows by selecting a single cell. (1×1 will display).
  4. Select Insert Table.
  5. Enter your text into the table cell.

What Should I Know About Entering Text in the Text Box?

In both cases above, you can enter any appropriate text. You can change the font size, font and color just like regular text. If you’re working on a mobile device, select your text and look for and select the text format icon. It’s near the top of your screen and looks like an A with four horizontal lines to the right.

For Chrome Google Docs on the web, highlight the cell text and make format changes using the font controls available on the menu bar. You can also use Format | Text Options to make your changes.

These fast, easy methods give you more control of your content on a variety of platforms.

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How to Select Between Office 2019 and Office 365

Office 2019 and Office 365

Without the ability to quickly and easily access the right business productivity software, your office is likely to come grinding to a halt. The basic tools and functionality that businesspeople utilize throughout the world are something that we are so used to we often forget it is there — until something happens and it’s not working! With the latest release of updates to the perennial favorite Microsoft Office suite of software, there are two key options for obtaining licenses and many businesses struggle to determine which is right for their needs. While the core functions of the platforms are nearly identical, there are significant differences in the pricing models as well as how often you receive updates to the software. This quick overview will help you select between the two primary options for Microsoft Office based on your current needs and where your business is headed in the future.

What Is the Difference Between Microsoft Office 365 and Office 2019?

There are a few key differences between the two versions of this most popular business productivity software suite. Office 2019 provides the core functionality of Microsoft Outlook, Access, Excel, Word, PowerPoint and OneNote. This perpetual, on-premise license is valid for a single device and named user. While transferrable, this more traditional license model does have some serious limitations. You won’t receive support, you won’t receive improvements and you’ll be missing some of the cool new AI and cloud features. What you gain is a one-time purchase of software that your business can safely use for years.

With Office 365, Microsoft generously provides a set amount of storage space per license and the licenses are valid for up to 5 total devices so you’re able to work with more flexibility. This includes fully-featured mobile versions of the popular Office software as well as real-time collaboration tools and Skype minutes. New features, patches and bug fixes are dropped on a regular schedule and there are several different plans available so you can select the one that most closely meets your needs.

Which Microsoft Office Option is Best for Startups?

Startup businesses are often running lean and mean, making it difficult to make an early investment in business software. With Microsoft Office 365, you’re able to make a smaller monthly investment in your business software, while funneling any additional funds back into growing your business and attracting customers. Microsoft offers several attractive options for businesses that are just getting started, such as their Microsoft 365 solution, that brings together office productivity software plus Windows platform, cybersecurity options and device management. With a monthly or annual subscription, you will always have the right number of licenses as your business grows and won’t be overpaying for licenses that you’re not quite ready for yet.

Which Microsoft Office Option is Best for Small Businesses?

While it’s relatively easy to make a selection for business startups, small businesses might find that there’s a slightly different value proposition to consider. Some businesses are small simply because they’re in a period of growth and are still scaling up, while others are mature businesses that are considered small by design. If your small business is still in growth mode — regardless of the age of your business — you might be better off selecting Microsoft Office 365 or Microsoft 365 to support all of your business needs. These scalable solutions receive updates in real-time as they’re released and ensure that you are fully covered for all upgrades in the future.

Small businesses that are stable in size and have a fair amount of upfront capital available for purchase may find that the perpetual license option with Microsoft Office 2019 is more attractive. While you’re still receiving the full desktop versions of all the office software that your team needs to be productive, you can save money over time as many businesses keep their Office suite for multiple years without an upgrade. This isn’t necessarily recommended, even though critical security patches will still come through. You might be missing out on new functionality that will help your business move more swiftly or collaborate more cleanly internally and with external customers.

Which Microsoft Office Option is Best for Mid-Size Businesses?

Businesses that are in a stable growth pattern often reach for the more flexible software alternative that leaves resources free to re-invest in the business — Microsoft Office 365. As organizations mature, they are more likely to be multi-site and have more complex needs for management of their licensing, and also the added complexity involved with a larger pool of staff members. With Office 2019, some staff may find that the options are too limiting such as the inability to utilize popular programs on their platform of choice. Windows 10 and MacOS are the only two operating systems supported with Microsoft 2019, and customer support is not available. When you contrast that with the full support for Office 365 and the flexibility to also utilize older Windows operating systems, mid-size businesses may find that Office 365 is a better value for their organization.

There are no hard and fast rules about which solution is right for your business. If your organization runs on multiple platforms with professionals who need to be productive regardless of their physical location, Office 365 may be a better fit. More traditional office settings where there are limited changes and a fair amount of capital to invest may discover that Office 2019 perfectly suits their needs. Microsoft Office is still the choice for the vast majority of business users throughout the world, meaning new employees will be comfortable — and productive — right away.

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5 Social Media Mistakes Businesses Must Avoid Making

Social Media Business

Social media is an incredible chance for your brand to interact directly with your audience and grow it even further. If you’re not able to manage your social media marketing properly however, you’ll simply waste time and resources, or worse, actually harm your brand’s reputation. Here are five key social media marketing mistakes that your business must avoid at all costs:

1. Discussing Hot-Button Topics

Some topics, especially political and religious ones, are simply not worth bringing up. This is especially true in today’s divisive political environment. You’ll end up dividing your audience and perhaps even bringing negative attention onto your brand. It’s better to avoid these issues altogether and playing it a bit safer with your choice of topics.

2. Winging It

Social media marketing is the same as any other digital marketing strategy. You need to know what you want to get from it. If you don’t have specific goals for your social media strategies, you’ll never know exactly what to do or when they’re successful. Take the time to think about what you really want from each social media platform, and brainstorm about what you must do to get there.

3. Posting For the Sake of It

Research has found that the number of social media posts you need to be making on a daily and weekly basis is quite frequent in order to truly engage with and grow your audience. On Twitter, for example, you may need to Tweet up to 15 times per day. However, this doesn’t mean that you need to simply fire out meaningless Tweets all day to keep your numbers up. Each post needs to be meaningful and engaging. If you’re just posting low-quality content over and over again to meet a minimum criteria, your audience is going to see through it and will most likely unsubscribe. It’s important to post frequently, but only as often as you have something important to say. You cannot forego quality for the sake of quantity.

4. Treating All Platforms the Same

It’s likely that you have a presence on a wide variety of social media platforms. At the very least, Facebook and Twitter, and then probably a couple out of Snapchat, Instagram, YouTube, Pinterest, etc. The problem is when you treat all social media platforms the same. The average audience on Facebook and Twitter are much different. People use Instagram differently than they use Pinterest. If you want to truly thrive on social media, you need to understand each platform and what your audience is looking for on it. If you’re struggling to do that, you may want to focus on establishing a strong presence on just one or two platforms at a time.

5. Ignoring Negative Activity

It’s critical that you don’t get defensive on social media, but you cannot simply let negative feedback go unanswered. Not only does it further harm the relationship between you and the individual complaining, but it also adds some legitimacy to the complaint for everybody else to see. After all, if you had a reasonable response to the complaint, why wouldn’t your company voice it? Make sure that you have dedicated customer service resources handling your social media comments in a professional, expedient manner.

By avoiding the key social media marketing mistakes listed above, your business will be in a great position to not only survive on social media platforms, but thrive on them. Your audience will be engaged and energized, and you’ll reach more people than you ever thought possible!

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Google Trips vs. TripIt

Google Trips vs. TripIT

Have you been searching for a better way to organize your travel plans, reservations, and itineraries? You’re tired of looking through your email for separate flight, hotel, and car reservations and want a central place where you can instantly access all the information. A smartphone travel app is a convenient and efficient way you can get organized, find nearby attractions, and find suggestions of things to see based on your destination. However, you’re also wondering which app you will get the most use out of and which one will prove to be the most reliable. Google Trips and TripIt are two popular travel apps that allow you to plan ahead and access all of the information you need in one place. Before you decide which app is best for you, you’ll want to ask yourself a few questions.

Things You Need to Consider

Similar to other Google services and apps, Google Trips works with an existing Gmail account. If you already have a Gmail account or are planning on signing up for one, Google Trips will automatically gather your travel itineraries and reservation confirmations from your email’s inbox. TripIt offers both a free and paid version of the app, but you will need to forward your reservation emails to the app so it can add them. You can also manually add in the information to either app, but if you prefer the convenience of an app being able to automatically sync your data, Google Trips will be a better fit.

If you’re a fan of alerts and reminders, you can enable several different types of alerts within TripIt. Do you need reminders of when to check in for your flight, when you can check into your hotel room, and when to pick up your rental car? TripIt can remind you of all of these and keep your trip on schedule. The app will even alert you to any flight status changes and prompt you when it’s time to leave for the airport. TripIt’s notifications can also let you know when you’ve shared the details of your trip with others and when you’ve received new reservations in your email.

Google Trips has an offline mode you can use to access your trip’s information even when you’re not able to connect to Wi-Fi or a wireless carrier’s network. If you’re traveling to a remote area or a destination with unreliable cell service, you can still pull up details about your destination. The app integrates with Google Maps and individual contributors’ information about tourist attractions, restaurants, shopping, transportation, historical sites, and local parks. You can gather information about available discounts on dining, tours, events, and transportation using the app’s discount tab. You can also organize places or sites you would like to visit using Google Trip’s saved places feature.

Availability and Advantages

Whether you have an Android or an iPhone, you can use either app. Both Google Trip and TripIt are available for both types of phones. You can download and install the apps from the Google Play Store or Apple’s App Store. If you want to try both apps out to see which one you like the best, you can. Both of them will work without causing any compatability issues.

While you will find Google Trip easier to use and more of a personalized destination guidebook, TripIt’s robust itinerary features will let you add other travelers to your trip. These travelers can offer suggestions and make edits, which is helpful if you’re traveling in pairs or with a group. Google Trip offers a streamlined experience, but TripIt offers added customization tools. Both apps offer you a way to organize and keep track of your travel plans, without having to dig through multiple reservation details and manually map out your departures and arrivals. You can try each one without any commitment or risk.

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What Makes a Chromebook Different From a Conventional Laptop?

Chromebook

Chromebooks are a relatively new type of laptop, first hitting the market in 2011. If you’re in the market for a new laptop or are in charge of purchasing laptops for a group, Chromebooks may have caught your eye due to their low prices.

Before you jump onto the Chromebook bandwagon, it’s important to understand the significant differences between Chromebooks and conventional PC or Mac laptops. First, let’s take a high-level look at what Chromebooks are.

Chromebook Overview

The underlying vision for Chromebook was to create an entirely new category of laptop, one that’s streamlined, durable, and low in price. Chromebooks generally don’t look as flashy as higher-end laptops. They don’t have hard drives; instead, they rely on small amounts (16, 32, or 64 GB typically) of eMMC storage. eMMC storage is cheaper and less feature-packed than SSD storage. Critics call them underpowered; proponents say they’re intentionally streamlined.

Chrome OS

One of the most noticeable differentiators between Chromebooks and other laptops is Chrome OS. Chrome OS is a much simpler operating system than Windows or macOS. It’s quick and responsive — most Chromebooks boot up in around 8 seconds — but it lacks many of the features and much of the depth of both Windows and macOS.

Software Options

With a few exceptions, the apps in Chrome OS launch and run in the Chrome browser. Chrome OS’s file manager and media player launch on their own, but that’s it. Everything else runs in the Chrome browser. Granted, the Chrome browser is powerful, and these days many apps have a web version accessible via Chromebook. Still, this gives you an idea some of the limitations you might face when choosing a Chromebook. You won’t be running Photoshop, iTunes, or other popular desktop-only applications.

If you want to know more about what software is and isn’t available for Chromebook, search the relevant stores. All Chromebooks have access to the Chrome Web Store, and some additionally can access the Google Play Store.

Hardware

If you’re looking for a streamlined, lightweight machine to do basic office or education-related tasks, Chromebook may be a good choice. It’s no hardware powerhouse, though, and that’s by design. If you need raw computing power, you won’t find it here. Most Chromebooks have decent but not great displays. They have lower levels of eMMC storage, which itself is less powerful than SSD technology.

Their processors are adequate for what the OS allows you to do, but they are slower than what you’re likely to find in a late-model PC or Mac. Because Chromebooks don’t do a lot of heavy lifting, most of them are fanless, which reduces both weight and power consumption.

Chromebook battery life is usually fantastic. Smaller, slower, simpler components don’t need as much power, and along the same lines the sleek, streamlined OS doesn’t demand much, either. Bear in mind that the more intense the task, the faster the battery will drain—just like other laptops.

Cost

Cost is one of the biggest differentiators. Because Chromebooks don’t need to include the fastest and best components, they are far cheaper than flagship PC or Mac laptops. While prices vary depending on hardware specs, many Chromebooks are available for less than $200. The cheapest MacBook air starts at $999. You could buy 5 Chromebooks with that money!

Should You Get One?

The answer is, of course, it depends. If you need a powerful device capable of running any and all software, or if you have a strong preference for Windows or macOS, then a Chromebook isn’t right for you. On the other hand, if price is a big consideration, you’re a casual user, or you’re wanting a simple, streamlined device, Chromebook may well be a great choice for you.

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Mac Tech Tip: Deleting Content in the Photos App’s Hidden Trash

Recovery Files MacOS

Keeping photos and videos on your Mac is convenient. Depending on your line of work, it may even be essential. Photos and videos can eat up serious storage space, though, and today’s solid state drives aren’t always the most spacious.

Users who run into storage space limits often start paring down their photos and videos. Photo libraries transferred from phones usually end up with plenty of throwaway photos. Macbook users running MacOS Mojave may run into trouble still. They delete gigabytes worth of photos and videos, but that doesn’t make a difference in their available storage space.

Deleted, But Not Forgotten

What’s going on here? As the old saying goes, “it’s a feature, not a bug.” MacOS Mojave included numerous app updates, and the Photos app got a big behind-the-scenes overhaul. One “magic” feature is the ability to recover photos that were deleted within the app. For around 29 days, users can restore photos that they’d deleted, as long as they deleted them inside the photos app rather than in Finder.

The trick here is that Photos isn’t doing anything by magic. When you delete photos inside the Photos app, those photos don’t actually get deleted. Instead, they simply get moved to a hidden folder. If you later realize you made a mistake, you can undelete the photo. The app “magically” goes into the hidden folder, finds the photo, and moves it back to the normal location.

The Problem with the Hidden Trash Bin

This feature has a problem, though: since the photos don’t get deleted, you don’t get the storage space back. If your main goal is to gain storage space, and you’re sure you don’t need the photos back, it’s time for a workaround.

Finding and Emptying the Hidden Trash

To find and empty the hidden trash, first open the Photos app. In the sidebar, you should see a tab named Library. You’ll see a variety of entries here, including Photos, Memories, and People. At the bottom of the list you should see Recently Deleted. Click it.

In the Recently Deleted folder are all the photos and videos you’ve deleted in the last month or so. Right click on individual items to delete them permanently or use the “Delete All” button in the upper right corner if you’re sure that everything is really trash.

Find Something You Like? Click “Recover”

As you look through your Hidden Trash, you might see something you didn’t intend to delete. Right click on it and choose Recover. You may also use the Recover button in the upper right. Either method returns the item to its original location.

Conclusion

Finding the Hidden Trash is one way to alleviate storage concerns, but it isn’t always enough. For more help with storage concerns, contact us today. We’re ready to help your business’s IT reach the next level.

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The Top Online Productivity Apps

Productivity is huge, but it’s elusive in our digital, always-on, social world. Productivity apps can help you focus better.

Top Productivity Apps

We live in a serially distracted world. The internet is everywhere—and this is great, really! It allows many of us to work from anywhere we want. Entire industries have sprung to life thanks to the ubiquity of the internet. Along with the benefits, though, come some serious drawbacks. Information comes easily, perhaps too easily. We’re inundated with social media, device notifications, and targeted advertising.

To be our best, we need focus and productivity. Ironically, many people are solving this technology-induced productivity crisis by turning to more technology.

Here are our top 4 productivity app recommendations.

Focus Booster

Built on the principles of the Pomodoro technique, Focus Booster is a powerful productivity app that’s available just about anywhere: web-based, Mac, PC, and mobile. The Pomodoro technique encourages uninterrupted 25-minute periods of focused work, followed by a short (5 minute) distraction break. These shorter periods of focused work are grouped together. Once practitioners reach their set goal of focused work sessions, they take a longer (say, an hour) break. Focus Booster uses exactly these principles, and it gives you access to a depth of data as well.

With Focus Booster, your time is automatically logged, giving you the ability to create instant timesheets for employers or clients. Focus Booster also provides easy-to-read charts and graphs documenting how you spent your time. Use these tools to fine-tune your productivity by learning where you’re consistently losing time.

Though a free “starter” plan is available, Focus Booster describes itself as a subscription service that starts at $2.99 per month. That subscription allows you to track time and gain focus from any device in any location.

Focus Keeper

Focus Keeper is, in a way, the mirror image of Focus Booster, in that it’s mostly free with an optional paid Pro version. It’s a streamlined focus tool that also uses the Pomodoro technique. It covers all the basic functions that Focus Booster has, but it doesn’t go quite as far in depth. Set and use 25-minute timers and your usage goals, and Focus Keeper will gently remind you when your sessions (and breaks) are over. One nice additional feature is a “prevent lock screen” toggle, enabling you to use your iPhone like a persistent desk timer.

Like Focus Booster, you can view time graphs and charts in Focus Keeper, though they aren’t as comprehensive. If you want to access this data long-term, you’ll need to purchase Focus Keeper Pro, a separate app with a one-time $1.99 purchase price.

Both Focus Keeper and Focus Keeper Pro are iOS exclusives.

Flora

If the above options are a little too serious for your style, then Flora for iOS might be right for you. This app is yet another in the Pomodoro camp, but with an added layer of gamification, including collaboration. The idea here is that each 25-minute timer is “planting a tree.” If anyone involved with planting a tree exits their app before the 25-minute timer finishes, the tree dies. It sounds silly, perhaps, but killing trees is no fun!

Flora is a free app, but there are a handful of creative ways to spend money in it. Is the threat of killing a virtual tree not quite (pardon the pun) cutting it? Set a Price before planting a tree (that is, starting a timer), and if you kill your digital tree, you pay that price (in real money) to fund the planting of a real live wooden tree. You can also reverse the incentive by activating Flora Care. Now, each time you reach your larger productivity goal, you fund a real tree being planted.

If you’re an Android user that loves the idea of Flora, check out Forest, a similar but less polished “gamified productivity” app.

Fabulous

Fabulous is an exceedingly valuable tool that’s available for both iOS and Android. It’s not cheap: a monthly subscription is $9.99. The old saying “You get what you pay for” holds true here, though, as Fabulous is insanely powerful and deep.

Productivity is just one small part of Fabulous. You won’t find any Pomodoro-style timers here. Instead, you’ll start on a series of Journeys based on the information you give the app. Some call it self care, but the app creators (working at the Center for Advanced Hindsight at Duke University) prefer to call it behavioral science. That’s right—the science behind this app is backed up by research.

Use Fabulous to go on Journeys to make small changes that add up to big gains. Whether you need to lose weight, exercise more, focus better, or all of the above, Fabulous will help you get there through small changes. The Journeys available cover all sorts of areas, from sleep quality to learning Stoicism to eliminating specific bad habits.

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How To Share Files From Online Storage With Outlook Mobile

 

Microsoft’s mobile email solution, Outlook Mobile, is a powerful alternative to your phone’s native mail client. We’re offering some tips and tricks for those accustomed to another mail client. Today’s tip is how to share files from online storage using Outlook Mobile.

Step One: Create Message

To share files using Outlook Mobile, you’ll be sharing them within emails. First things first, you need to create the message that you want to use to send the file. Either create a new message or reply to an existing email by clicking “reply”.

Step 2: Click the Paperclip

Just below the area where you’d type your message, you should see a paper clip symbol. Click this, and on iOS you’ll see three options: “Attach file”, “Use last photo taken”, and “choose photo from library”. The latter two options allow you to send photos on your device, but that’s not what we’re learning about today. Click the first option, “Attach file”.

Step 3a: Add the Services You Need

(Note: If the online storage service where your file is located is already connected, you can skip this step.)

When you click “Attach file”, a list of services pops up. If the service you’re using is listed as “Add…” (such as “Add Google Drive…”), click that button and follow the login prompts.

Step 3b: Find Your Service and Your File

Once you’ve connected the services you use, you’ll see them listed in the “Attach files” menu. Scroll to the service you need. Outlook Mobile suggests recent files that you might need. Select the one you need, or if you don’t see it, click “see all”. Find your file and click on it.

Step 4: Choose How to Send

You now need to choose how to send your file. If you send it as an attachment, you’re creating a copy of the file. Your recipient can use the file as he or she sees fit, but you won’t see any changes that he or she makes until the file is returned to you. In many cases, the better choice is clicking “Insert OneDrive for Business link”. Doing so sends a link to the online version of the file. Changes your recipients make save in the online file, eliminating the possibility of duplicate files.

Other Things You Can Do

Outlook Mobile offers you additional ways to collaborate. Click the camera button in your email draft to quickly take a snapshot, perhaps of the whiteboard in your meeting room. You can even mark up the photo using markup tools, available in the upper right corner of the photo interface.

Got additional questions about Outlook Mobile? Call us today! We’re here to help.

Microsoft Outlook Mobile Tip

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How to Join a Microsoft Teams Meeting on the Go

 

Microsoft Teams is a relatively new addition to Microsoft’s Office suite. Teams is a powerful collaboration tool. It’s kind of like Microsoft’s high-powered answer to Slack. Create teams for whatever purposes make sense in your business. Communicate and collaborate within those teams to get stuff done. The killer feature in Microsoft Teams is the ability to collaboratively use nearly any other component of the Office suite directly inside the Teams application.

Team Meetings

Whether your team is a mix of on-site and virtual or completely virtual, you still likely need to hold meetings from time to time. Microsoft Teams includes a Meetings function, allowing those that aren’t present to join in on an in-person meeting. All you need is a device running Teams in the conference room. If you’re the host, all you need to do is create the meeting in your Outlook Calendar like you normally do.

How to Join a Microsoft Teams Meeting on the Go

If you’re the one that needs to join the meeting from a distance, here’s what to do. Open your Teams app and click or tap on the Meetings tab. If your organization is using Outlook for its calendar functions, this tab will populate with the meetings you’ve been invited to. Look for the one you’re trying to join, and click the big “Join” button. This will launch a call, and you’ll see avatars or photos for the others who are joining the meeting.

Controlling Your Presence During the Meeting

Tap anywhere (or, on a computer, move your mouse) to bring up meeting controls. You can mute or unmute your device’s microphone, toggle video on or off, and adjust volume. In the upper right corner (on mobile) you may see a button for adding additional people to the meeting (if you have the rights). You’ll also see a button to view any chats associated with your Team or the meeting itself.

You or others can share files into the Teams meeting. Once displayed on your screen, you can pinch to zoom in. When you’re done viewing the file, close it out and return to your main meeting window (whether that’s a video or just an audio interface with avatars).

If You Don’t See the Join Button

If you don’t see a “Join” button, then you’re dealing with one of two problems. If you sometimes see them and sometimes don’t, then your meeting organizer likely isn’t creating the meeting properly. The organizer might need to experiment with creating the meeting within Teams rather than from Outlook.

If you never see the button, then your IT group likely has not implemented the Meetings function within Teams. Contact IT with a request to enable this feature.

Wrapping Up

You now know how to join a Teams meeting on the go, but there’s a lot more to Teams than that. For help navigating Teams or the rest of the Office suite, contact us today. We’re here to help!

Microsoft Teams

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What Is PII?

PII Data

If you’ve seen the acronym PII in the news or in trade magazines, you may have questions. What is it exactly, and what is the danger surrounding it? Today’s tech blog post answers these questions and more.

What Is PII?

PII stands for personally identifiable information. Personally identifiable information (from here on, we’ll just use PII) is information tied to an individual that can be used to identify that specific individual. The term usually comes up in discussions of internet security and identity theft. Most everyone in the developed world has plenty of PII. Name, race, address, age, physical description, and even photographs can be PII. So can social security numbers, credit card numbers, email addresses, usernames, and passwords.

Is PII a Bad Thing?

No, PII isn’t bad. Some of it (like name, age, and physical description) is directly tied to our core identities. Much of it is the currency by which we live our lives. You need usernames and passwords to exist on the web, and you need social security and bank account numbers to exist in the financial marketplace. These elements aren’t bad, but they can be problematic.

Then What’s the Problem with PII?

The problem with PII is that if a bad actor (like an identity thief) accumulates enough of a person’s PII, the bad actor can compromise accounts or even steal the person’s identity. While PII isn’t a bad thing, people must do what they can to rein in access to their PII.

Is All PII Created Equal?

No, it’s not. Some items are more valuable (or sensitive) than others. If all a bad actor has to work with is your full name or a photograph, he or she isn’t going to be able to do much. Similarly, if someone gets ahold of your credit card number by itself, it’s almost useless. Some PII, like social security numbers, are more valuable even on their own.

The real problem is accumulation. Thieves can do a lot of damage if they manage to match up a name with the correct social security number. The more PII they add, the more damage they can do.

How Accumulated PII Facilitates Identity Theft

The fuller an identity a thief can build, the more serious damage the thief can inflict. Knowing your name and address accomplishes little on its own. Add in a bank account or credit card number and the last four digits of your social, and now the thief may be able to sweet-talk a customer service representative into issuing a new card or approving a transfer.

How Thieves Accumulate PII

Some PII (usually from significant data breaches) is available for purchase on the dark web. Some of it gets stolen using social engineering or phishing. In too many cases, a considerable amount of PII is freely displayed on a victim’s social media account. If “Where did you go to high school?” is one of your bank account security questions and the answer is freely displayed on your Facebook profile, you’re setting yourself up for ID theft.

Keep Your PII Safe

Much of keeping control of your PII is common sense. Limit what you share on social media, and don’t give away account numbers or your social security number when it’s not necessary. These small steps will go a long way to protecting your PII.

Does your organization need additional help managing PII? Contact us today!

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