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Most people in business take for granted that when they turn on their information systems, things just work. It is important to understand that this investment in business support needs to be protected. Before Dolce Vita contracts with a client one of our first tasks is to send the client a brief questionnaire which asks a few important questions about the client. We then meet onsite with the client and review their existing infrastructure. What we find varies, but we often see infrastructure issues which are a root cause of reliability problems. We’ll discuss a few of the most important here. 

Environmental Issues 

Temperature and Humidity – it may not be obvious but servers and computer hardware including routers, switches, printers, perform best and last the longest if they are operated in conditions which are between 60-75 degF and humidity which is in the 30-60% range. In other words, if it is uncomfortable for users it will be harmful to the hardware. And it is important to note that these temperature ranges are 24/7…so offices which adjust their thermostats to 80 degF during nights and weekends can expect to see much lower equipment lifespans. Assume that if the office is 80 degF overnight, that workstations will have internal temps of 110 degF+. Higher temps lead to warping and circuit damage over time. Low humidities of less than 15-20% will lead to static discharge, so server rooms need to have their humidity controlled. 

It is also reasonable to ensure that all workstations, servers, and battery backups are supported off the floor at least 1-2 inches. If a hot water heater or even a toilet fill line leak over a weekend, having all electrical components above damp carpet will avoid numerous issues, even outside of safety considerations. Servers and their battery backups should always be in appropriate racks with electrical and network cabling off the floor and properly secured. 

Power 

We take for granted that power will be available…however one of the significant infrastructure issues we see is related to improper protection from dirty power. Dirty power entails not only surges but “brown-outs” in which circuit amperage drops below standards. This is damaging to electronic components over time. 

Servers – any servers should be connected to rack-mounted battery backup which is capable of performing an automated shutdown of servers in the event a power outage is long enough to deplete battery power to a specified point. 

Workstations and all networking equipment – any workstations, switches, routers, wireless access points should be connected to the battery side of battery backups. We commonly find that users connect their workstations to surge-only outlets on their battery backup unit, or that they connect floor heaters, fans, printers to their battery backups. This will overload the battery backup and will cause damage to components. 

Printers – Laser printers will typically have problems if they are connected to a battery backup. In most cases they should be connected to an appropriate surge suppressor. 

It is never a good idea to “daisy-chain” battery backups or surge protectors. Appropriate practice is to ensure that electrical systems are sized appropriately, with appropriate breaker capacities and appropriate numbers of circuits. 

Networking 

Another “feature” which we periodically see when doing a site survey for a new account is a creative effort to supply a number of network ports from a single network cable. This is periodically seen in older offices which refuse to appropriately upgrade infrastructure in order support growth. It is seen in situations where a single cable feeds to a particular user work area. And found stuffed behind or next to a desk or a chair is a small network switch which feeds to three other workstations, two printers, and a wireless access point. And of course the small switch is not connected to a battery backup. 

This situation creates problems because each time the small switch sees a power fluctuation it resets the connections for all devices connected to it thereby briefly dropping the network connection. In addition the small switch can create major network issues due to its limited ability to properly handle network traffic in a larger environment. 

We recommend for new offices that they build in additional cable plant which tries to account for potential growth as well as additional devices such as printers, scanners, and wireless systems. It costs roughly 25% as much to install cabling during new construction or renovations as it does to later disrupt users, move furniture, etc. Why not do it now instead of save a few bucks now and pay four times as much in 2-5 years? 

If you are planning a relocation, new construction, or renovation call Dolce Vita today at 404-822-7912. We will assist with planning your infrastructure and can make your IT more reliable, more cost effective, and more profitable for your business.

 

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Ransomware has grown exponentially during 2017, and the trend seems likely to continue in 2018 as well. There are few options available once a ransomware virus has taken over your system. The time to act against ransomware is now. It is important to protect yourself before your system is affected.

 

Alarming Numbers and Trends 

Ransomware attacks on business increased 36 percent in 2017, with small businesses presenting the biggest targets. Keep in mind this is a 300 percent increase over 2015. Some of the most concerning trends in ransomware attacks were attacks on healthcare related organizations being the fastest growing targets, and that mobile devices are showing signs of being the next channel that attackers zero in on. The odds that your system will be hit with a ransomware attack at some point is almost certain. 

 

Responding to an Attack 

Once your system is hit, your options for responding are limited, and many Americans simply pay the ransom. Just like cooperating any blackmailer, however, paying the ransom makes it more likely that you will be targeted again in the future. In some cases, it may be possible to decrypt a system that’s been hit by a ransomware attack, but even in cases where the decryption is known, you may still lose some data. The best hope for recovering from a ransomware attack is to have a quality backup system in place beforehand. 

 

Take Action Now

Most ransomware attacks are not brand-new threats. Hackers recycle old attacks hoping to catch systems that have not updated their software with the latest security patches. Close the known vulnerabilities in your system by staying on top of software updates and keeping your system current.

 

Emphasize the importance of not opening suspicious emails. Infected emails remain the number one gateway to your system. Make regular reminders a part of life to avoid those emails and forward anything remotely suspicious to the IT department.

 

Have a backup system in place to recover data from before the infection occurred. Once your system is compromised, having a backup is the only good option for recovery.

 

By being proactive, your system may weather the crisis of a ransomware attack. The odds are you will take action against ransomware. The only question is whether this action will take place before or after an attack.

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This past summer, the Equifax breach exposed the personal data of millions of Americans. If you were one of them, and you haven't dealt with it yet, it’s important to know what steps you can take to protect yourself. Here are a few reminders!

Equifax has taken steps to address the breach, but more is needed to safeguard your information. From monitoring credit activity to offering tips you can follow for greater digital security, including real-time alerts and credit trackers, two-step authentication on all logins, credit freezes, and more, Dolce Vita IT Solutions wants to help you protect yourself.

 

  1. Be Informed

 

Equifax, one of the big three consumer credit reporting agencies, collected information on consumers and businesses to help lenders determine credit worthiness. Hackers stole that information, including Social Security numbers, home addresses, credit card numbers, driver’s license numbers, and birth dates. Equifax believes nearly half the United States population may be affected.

 

       2. Enroll in Identity Protection

 

Equifax offers one free year of this protection, but you may not trust them now. It requires you to give them even more information. Dolce Vita recommends taking action to protect your data and finding alternative forms of identity protection. Many of their solutions for companies apply to individuals. Learn more here.

 

       3. Beware Suspicious Activity

 

You should always review your credit reports and bank statements. After the breach, Dolce Vita recommends doing this again. Keep an eye out for new accounts opened in your name, late payments on debts you don’t recognize, and any other unfamiliar activity. Report any fraudulent activity immediately, and take steps now to recover your identity.

 

      4. Set Up Real Time Alerts

 

To make sure you know if someone is using your identity, set up fraud alerts. This stops anyone trying to open new credit card accounts. Make sure you understand what types of alerts are set up and for how long. If you feel the need for more security, you can freeze your credit, restricting access to your credit report until you request the freeze to be removed. This will not affect already open accounts or your credit score.

 

Once you’ve completed these steps, you can be more comfortable that your identity is protected.    Remain vigilant and contact Dolce Vita IT Solutions for help or recommendations.

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