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February 28th, 2014

BI_Feb24_ABusiness Intelligence (BI) has become an essential function of many businesses. Those who employ some form of BI often see increased sales, or at the very least the ability to make quicker informed decisions more often. When looking into BI solutions however, you will likely come across a number of terms that may be a little confusing. Three of these somewhat puzzling terms relate to data - data mart, data warehouse and data mining.

What is a data warehouse?

The concept of a data warehouse is an interesting one and also a difficult one to define and pin down largely because it can cover such a broad area. The most concise definition we can give is that it is a database that integrates data from many different locations and databases into one consolidated database.

Data warehouses store both current and historical data, and rarely contain unique data. Instead, they aggregate data from other sources in order to make this more accessible. They might store important information from sales, marketing, ERP, customer interactions, and any form of database in order to quickly generate BI related reports.

The name undoubtedly conjures up the idea of a large warehouse-like building storing infinite amounts of data. However, most data warehouses are actually tables which are created by taking data from various sources and cleaning it up so that relevant data is stored in the warehouse in a way that makes it easier to reach when needed.

What is a data mart?

A data mart is a smaller data warehouse that stores data. These are based on a specific area or business function e.g., finance or marketing, etc. In fact, most modern data warehouses are actually made up of a series of smaller data marts.

The key difference between a data mart and a data warehouse is that data marts are usually smaller, focusing on one specific area, while a data warehouse covers the whole organization.

What is data mining?

When talking about Business Intelligence, many experts will refer to data mining. This is the act of analyzing data in order to identify patterns. The data that is mined can then be transformed into useable information. Many companies store this mined data in databases, a data warehouse, or a data mart.

Want to learn more about these terms and how your company can benefit from a BI solution? Contact us today.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

February 28th, 2014

by Larry Velez, Sinu co-founder and CTO

We have all been there. Staring up at the ceiling at 4 o’clock in the morning. Mortgage payments, college tuition, the big pitch that day, making payroll. Jessica Bruder’s article, “The Psychological Price of Entrepreneurship,” in Inc. last fall, addresses the very real anxiety most entrepreneurs face, but very few talk about.

According to the article, “Entrepreneurs often juggle many roles and face countless setbacks–lost customers, disputes with partners, increased competition, staffing problems– all while struggling to make payroll.” But the underlying theme of the article is that few people talk about these challenges, leading to states of “ depression, despair, hopelessness, worthlessness, loss of motivation, and suicidal thinking.”

Read more…

Topic Articles
February 28th, 2014

Not all businesses have the resources to have a cultural anthropologist and her team travel the globe to get their fingers on the pulse of what consumers want from their technology, but Intel Corporation does and the New York Times ran an interesting report in this Sunday’s Business Section (1/15/14). The Intel team, led by Dr. Genevieve Bell, observes how people use technology in order to forecast consumer trends.

The report notes that some years ago, Dr. Bell’s team interviewed parents in China “who regarded home computers as distractions from their children’s school work.” Based on those findings Intel developed a prototype PC that allowed parents to prevent their children from playing online games during home study time.

What was really interesting about this report, is that even Intel – with all its resources – does not always bet on the right horse, so to speak.

Read more…

Topic Articles
February 28th, 2014

By John Christie, Sinu co-founder and COO

Connect with John on LinkedIn

Use of tablets and smartphones in the workplace continues to gain traction, with nearly half of small businesses reporting tablet use in the workplace according to an EWeek report. The report says that many businesses that are embracing bring your own device (BYOD) policies are experiencing increased productivity and profitability.

Over the past five years, our customers have followed this trend and we’ve seen wireless demands at small organizations grow from a conference room convenience for guests to a core productivity tool. To meet this demand, Sinu researched and found an excellent option for an enterprise-class managed wireless network for our customers.

This solution is powered by cloud-controlled Cisco Meraki wireless devices. These devices are significantly more robust than the consumer devices often found in small offices, offer very high speeds, excellent seamless coverage, and extensive options in terms of management tools, security, reporting and flexibility. They allow for the configuration of multiple networks with multiple security levels – think corporate network, guest network, tenant network, etc. – a capability often recommended by external auditors. They also allow for detailed reporting on wireless usage.

This solution is provided on a per-device basis, based on the wireless demands of your locations. Like most of Sinu’s services, Sinu Managed Wireless is sold as a subscription model, meaning that you would never have to buy wireless access points again in the future. The monthly cost covers the functionality and support of an enterprise-class wireless network, and if they ever need to be replaced, it is included in the monthly subscription.

In many cases, a single, powerful and centrally-located device (at $41/mo) can serve an entire office. Contact us at sales@sinu.com if you would would like to discuss the best option for you based on the size and configuration of your office.

Topic Articles
February 20th, 2014

Security_Feb17_AThere are numerous ways business security systems can be compromised. A common way is phishing - tricking people into giving up important information via email. Original phishing methods are now well known, and increasingly less effective. So hackers have become more skilled and have adapted their phishing methods into a new form of catching people out with what experts have labeled as spear phishing.

What is spear phishing?

Spear phishing is a specialized type of phishing that instead of targeting a mass number of users, as normal phishing attempts, targets specific individuals or groups of individuals with a commonality e.g., an office.

Generally a hacker will first pick a target and then try to learn more about the related people. This could include visiting a website to see what a company does, who they work with, and even the staff. Or they could try hacking a server in order to get information.

Once they have some sort of information, usually a name, position, address, and even information on subscriptions, the hacker will develop an email that looks similar to one that another organization might send e.g., a bank. Some hackers have been known to create fake email accounts and pose as a victim's friend, sending emails from a fake account.

These emails are often similar to official correspondence and will always use personal information such as addressing the email to you directly instead of the usual 'dear sir or madam'. The majority of these emails will request some sort of information or talk about an urgent problem.

Somewhere in the email will be a link to the sender's website which will look almost exactly like the real thing. The site will usually ask you to input personal information e.g., an account number, name, address, or even passwords. If you went ahead and followed this request then this information would be captured by the hacker.

What happens if you are speared?

From previous attack cases and reports, the majority of spear phishing attacks are finance related, in that the hacker wants to gain access to a bank account or credit card. Other cases include hackers posing as help desk agents looking to gain access to business systems.

Should someone fall for this tactic, they will often see personal information captured and accounts drained or even their whole identity stolen. Some spear phishing attacks aren't after your identity or money, instead clicking on the link in the email will install malicious software onto a user's system.

We are actually seeing spear phishing being used increasingly by hackers as a method to gain access to business systems. In other words, spear phishing has become a great way for people to steal trade secrets or sensitive business data.

How do I avoid phishing?

Like most other types of phishing related emails, spear phishing attempts can be easy to block. Here are five tips on how you can avoid falling victim to them.
  • Know the basic rule of business communication - There are many basic rules of communication, but the most important one you should be aware of is that the majority of large organizations, like banks, social media platforms, etc., will not send you emails requesting personal information. If you receive an email from say PayPal asking you to click a link to verify your personal information and password, it's fake and you should delete it.
  • Look carefully at all emails - Many spear phishing emails originate in countries where English is not the main language. There will likely be a spelling mistake or odd wording in the emails, or even the sender's email address. You should look out for this, and if you spot errors then delete the email immediately.
  • Verify before you click - Some emails do have links in them, you can't avoid this. That being said, it is never a good idea to click on these without being sure. If you are unsure, phone the sender and ask. Should the email have a phone number, don't call it. Instead look for a number on a website or previous physical correspondence.
  • Never give personal information out over email - To many this is just plain common sense - you wouldn't give your personal information out to anyone on the street, so why give it out to anyone online? If the sender requires personal information try calling them or even going into their business to provide it.
  • Share only essential information - When signing up for new accounts online, there are fields that are required and others that are optional. Only share required information. This limits how much a hacker can get access to, and could actually tip you off. e.g., they send you an email addressed to Betty D, when your last name is Doe.
  • Keep your eyes out for the latest scams - Pay attention to security websites like those run by the major antivirus providers, or contact us. These sites all have blogs where they post the latest in security threats and more, and keeping up-to-date can go a long way in helping you to spot threats.
If you are looking to learn more about spear phishing or any other type of malware and security threat, get in touch.
Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic Security
February 19th, 2014

BCP_Feb17_ASmall to medium businesses continue to struggle when developing a comprehensive disaster recovery plan. DRPs or Disaster Recovery Plans, can spell the difference between your business’s outright destruction when unforeseen calamities occur or a careful and systematic recovery to normal operations with little loss to operations or profits.

When creating a disaster recovery plan for your business, there are certain key elements that you need to consider.

Basics of a Disaster Recovery Plan

In building an effective disaster recovery plan, you should include thorough documentation that lays out the details of the ins and outs of the plan. You need to know that there is no right type of DRP, nor is there a single template that fits all. But there are three basic aspects to a disaster recovery plan: Preventive measures, detective measures, and corrective measures.

In addition, before building your disaster recovery plan, make sure that it can provide an answer to these basic questions:

  1. What is the objective and the purpose of making one?
  2. Who are the assigned team responsible when certain events occur?
  3. What is the framework and the procedure to be followed?

Plan for the worst case scenario

Since you’re planning for an unforeseen event, you might as well make sure that you have plan for the worst case scenario. That way, you’ll never be overwhelmed and you’re as prepared as you can be for any situation.

Having different tiers of backup plans is also advisable. It gives you a better assurance that when bad comes to worst, you have a system in place to make sure that these disasters are handled correctly, regardless of the disaster’s severity.

Data issues

One of the objectives of disaster recovery plan is to protect the collection of data. Almost half of the total population of business organizations experiences data loss from both physical and virtual environments. This is often due to corruption of the file system, broken internal virtual disks, and hardware failures. Thus, there is a real need for established data recovery plans such as backup features offered by many IT solution vendors.

Test-drive

Before deploying your disaster recovery plan, you need to have a sort of a test-drive to check if it works. Aside from making it work, you also need to know if it’s going to be effective. Through testing, any shortcomings can be identified and will garner corresponding resolutions to improve on your plan. Although the real score of its effectiveness can only be identified once a disaster occurs, at least you will have an idea of how your business and the recovery plan can operate during a disaster.

Building an effective disaster recovery plan is a must for your business. This might not directly lead to a positive impact on productivity but it will surely save you in the events that can possibly crush your business. Anticipating and adjusting for the things that might happen is one of the keys to a company’s success.

Setting up an effective DRP can be quite an intricate process since there are several elements that you need to consider. Should you want to learn more, give us a call and we’ll have our associates help you develop and test a plan that works best for your business.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

February 14th, 2014

Security_Feb11_AOur computer systems need a high level of protection against harmful viruses, worms and other malware currently spreading like wildfire over the Web. If you have a layered security or defense in depth strategy in place, then you’re probably well protected. But if not, then our guide will surely help you protect your computer systems.

Just like the human body, a computer system can also be attacked by many viruses that can infect and disrupt computer operations. And what's worse is it doesn’t just disrupt the operations of your computer, but these viruses and other malware can gather sensitive information or even gain access to other private and secured computer systems on the same network.

Although computer viruses aren't deadly, they can spread at an unimaginable rate across your entire computer system, affecting your database, networks and other IT-related sources. You can get these viruses by opening bogus email messages, downloading unknown file attachments, and accidentally clicking ads that pop up your screen. This is why there is a need for a strong and effective security system to protect your network.

One of the tested and proven security strategies used today is defense in depth. This concept focuses on the coordinated and organized use of multiple security countermeasures to keep your database safe from intrusive attackers. Basically, this concept is based on the military principle that a multi-layered and complex defense is more difficult to defeat than a single-barrier protection system.

The defense in depth strategy assures network administrators by working on the basis of the following guiding principles:

Defenses in multiple places

The fact that many viruses can attack the network system from multiple points means that you need to deploy strong defense mechanisms at multiple locations that can endure all types of attacks.

Defense in depth focuses on areas by deploying firewalls and intrusion detection to endure active network attacks and also by providing access control on servers and host machines, to resist distribution attacks from the insiders. This multi-layered defense also protects local and area-wide communication networks from denial of service attacks.

Multiple layered defense

Defense in depth is an extremely effective countermeasure strategy, because it deploys multiple layered defense mechanisms between the attacker and its target. Each layer of the defense has a unique mechanism to withstand the virus attacks. Furthermore, you need to make sure that each layer has both detective and protective measures to ensure the security of the network.

The reason for wrapping the network with multiple layers of defense is because a single line of defense may be flawed. And the most certain way to protect your system from any attacks is to employ a series of different defenses that can be deployed to cover the gaps in the other defenses. Malware scanners, firewalls, intrusion detection systems, biometric verification and local storage encryption tools can individually serve to protect your IT resources in a way others cannot.

Perhaps the final layer of defense should be educating your employees not to compromise the integrity of the computer systems with potentially unhealthy computer practices. As much as possible, teach them the dos and don’ts of using the computer, as well as how they can prevent viruses and other computer malware coming in and destroying your system.

If you’re looking to give your computer systems better protection against the harmful elements that the internet can bring, then give us a call now and we’ll have one of our associates take care of you and help defend your business.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic Security
February 12th, 2014

SocialMedia_Feb10_AThere are three common social media services that can benefit businesses if used in the right way. One of the most popular is Twitter, which is a service that allows users to broadcast their thoughts and ideas in short form to the public or their followers. At first look, Twitter is straightforward but there is one mistake many users make that could harm the reach of their posts.

Social media is an always evolving idea, so what works one day won't necessarily work in the near or foreseeable future. Combine this with the various changes and features of the different social media platforms and it is nearly impossible to master every service.

When it comes to Twitter, one of the most popular features is using @username to bring the tweet to the attention of the user and to tweet about them. When you do this you and the person will be able to see it, along with people who follow that person.

What is the #1 mistake Twitter users make?

The problem is, many people put the @username at the beginning of the tweet. What this does, as we stated above, is only make the tweet visible on your feed, to the user and their followers. Why is this a problem? Well, it comes from how most businesses use Twitter. They use it to share content, e.g., a blog article or a video, etc.; to essentially tweet about the person, not at them. You see this in many tweets, for example, "@microsoft's new blog is great. Read it!"

While you want to share the content with people other than those who created it, putting @user at the front of your tweet actually limits the audience to the person who created the content and their followers - in other words the opposite of what you intend, unless Microsoft is your target audience of course!

How do you avoid mistake tweets?

If you are looking to tweet about someone or the content that user has created, using the @user is still a good idea because it will bring to the content-creator's attention that you are sharing their content. This is a great way to form relationships and even have these individuals and businesses share your content. In turn, this can help increase the potential of your content being seen by a wider audience.

For many tweets it makes sense to put the @username first as it helps make the overall tweet easier to read. The problem is, this will also limit your audience. So, for those who want to have their cake and eat it too, so to speak, add a period before @username e.g.," .@microsoft's new blog post is great. Read it!".

What this does is ensure that the tweet isn't addressed only to the user, but can be seen by everyone.

Looking to learn more about utilizing Twitter or any other social media as a part of your marketing strategy? We have a lot to tweet about and can help you tweet too.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic Social Media
February 11th, 2014

Security_Feb10_AThe 2014 Olympic Winter Games is underway and athletes from all over the world have made their way to Sochi, Russia to compete. As with almost every other Olympic Games, there have been a number of issues for organizers to deal with. However, unlike the last Olympics, one of those complaints is about hacking of mobile devices and computers.

Hacking at the Winter Olympics 2014

Well before the Olympics even started in Russia, the Russian government said that they will be surveilling phone and computer communications. Many scoffed at this, writing off the government as being overly ambitious and boasting about a nearly impossible task. The thing is, the Internet in Russia may not be as secure as many believe, being full of hackers. At least according to a report aired on NBC shortly before the games started.

In the report, reporter Richard Engel took new, never opened laptops and mobile devices to Russia and used them. He found that within 24 hours all of the devices had been hacked, exposing the data stored within.

In part of the segment, Engel and a security expert go to a local coffee shop in Moscow and search for Sochi on a mobile device. Almost immediately the device is hacked and malicious software downloaded. Engel notes that the hackers have access to data on the phone along with the ability to record phone calls.

In a follow-up segment, Engel explains a bit more about the laptop issues. When he boots one up and connects to the Internet, hackers are almost immediately snooping around the information, transferring from the machine to the networks. Within a couple of hours, he received a personalized email from a hacker welcoming him to Russia and providing him with some links to interesting websites. Clicking on the link allowed the hackers to access his machine.

One issue is that it hasn't been stated in any reports whether the Russian government is behind this, or if it's hackers out to steal information. While you can be sure that the Russians are monitoring communication during the Winter Olympics, it is highly likely that they are not the ones installing malware on phones, rather it's probably organized crime rings or individual hackers.

I'm not at Sochi so why do I care?

As a business owner half the world away you may be wondering why this news is so important to you, or why you should care. Take a look at any tech-oriented blog or news channel and you will quickly see that the number of attacks on devices, including malware, phishing, spam, etc. is on the rise. It's now likely a matter of when you will be hacked, not if.

Combine this with the fact that many businesses are going global, or doing business with other companies at a big distance. This has caused many people to go mobile and the tools that have allowed this are laptops and smart devices. Because so many people are now working on a laptop, phone or tablet, these devices have become big targets. The main reason for this is that many people simply don't take the same safety precautions they take while on the office or even the home computer.

Hackers know this, so logically they have started going after the easier targets. The news reports concerning Russia highlight this issue and is a warning business owners around the world should be aware of, especially if they are going to be traveling with computers or phones that have sensitive information stored within.

That being said, there are a number of tips you can employ to ensure your data is secure when you go mobile. Here are six:

1. Use cloud services wherever possible

Cloud storage services can be incredibly helpful when traveling. They often require a password to access and are usually more secure than most personal and even some business devices. If you are traveling to an area where you are unsure of the security of the Internet or your devices, you could put your most important data in a trusted cloud storage solution.

This is also a good idea because if your device gets stolen, the data is in the cloud and is recoverable. If you have data just stored locally on your hard drive, and your device is stolen, there is a good chance it's gone forever. For enhanced security, be sure to use a different password for every service.

2. Back up your data before leaving

Speaking of losing data, it is advisable to do a full system backup of all the devices you are taking with you before you leave. This will ensure that if something does happen while you are away, you have a backup of recent data that is recoverable.

3. Secure and update all of your devices

One of the best ways to ensure that your data is secure is to update all of your devices. This means ensuring that the operating systems are up-to-date and any security updates are also installed.

Also, ensure that the programs installed on the devices are updated. This includes the apps on your phone, including the ones that you don't use.

You should also secure your devices by not only having an antivirus and malware scanner but also requiring a password to access your device.

4. Watch where you connect

These days Internet connections are almost everywhere. In many public spaces like airports, coffee shops, restaurants, etc. many of the connections are open, or free to connect to, and don't require a password.

While this may seem great, hackers are known to watch these networks and even hack them, gaining access to every bit of information that goes in and out of the network. When you are traveling, try avoiding connecting to these networks if you can. If you really have to, then be sure not to download anything or log into any accounts that hold private data.

5. Know the risks of where you are going

Before you leave, do a quick search for known Internet security issues in the area you will be visiting. If you find any news or posts about threats you can then take the appropriate steps to secure your system ahead of time.

6. If in doubt, leave it at home

In the NBC report, Engle finishes by telling viewers that if they are at all unsure about the security of their devices, or are worried about their data, they should leave the device at home, or delete the data before going. This is a good piece of advice and maybe instead of deleting data completely, you could move it to a storage device like an external hard drive that you leave behind.

If you are looking to learn more about ensuring the security of your devices while you are away from the office contact us today. We have solutions to help.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic Security
February 5th, 2014

Productivity_Feb03_AIf you’re running a business, regardless of whether you have physical premises or operate in a virtual world, you probably receive a continuous stream of emails every minute of every day and beyond. Because of this, many business owners have a hard time simply handling the sheer volume of emails. If you’re dealing with the same issue, then you'll probably welcome our top five tips to solving your email deluge problem.

1. Turn off email notifications

Notification sounds are helpful in letting you know you have received a new email - important or not. However, they can also be distracting if you're trying to concentrate. To avoid this, turn off new message notifications on both your Smartphone and computer, and schedule a convenient time to check and respond to your emails instead. This will not only improve your organizational skills, but will also give you peace of mind that you are focusing on tasks without neglecting your inbox.

2. Schedule when to check your emails

Unless your work demands replying to emails instantly, checking emails can be scheduled to a specific time of the day. You don’t want to live in your inbox the entire day, just checking the emails you receive as this can seriously harm your overall productivity. According to studies, a person takes about 64 seconds to recover from email interruption, a minute you could have spent on a more productive task.

According to research, the best time to check your email is the moment you log in to your computer at work, and before leaving at the end of the day. If you do this, create a to-do list for the rest of the day. Upon going through your messages, delete spam immediately and any emails that aren’t of value, so you’ll have a clear idea of what needs to be prioritized.

3. Organize your inbox

The key to optimizing your email inbox is to choose one main purpose for it, and stick with it. For example, use your inbox only for high-priority messages and filter other emails into another folder. This can be done in the settings of almost every email service.

Another way to organize your inbox is to get rid of unnecessary messages such as newsletters, promo emails, advisories and spam messages - what tech experts like to call Bacn. These kinds of email can mess up your inbox, so clean them up by using the tools in the settings, leaving only emails that are important and relevant to you and your business.

4. Connect with your smartphone

With the advent of smartphones, email handling has become rather convenient. You just need to install the email app on your mobile devices, register, and connect. Many business owners use smartphones to get in touch even when they’re not in the office.

Checking your email on your smartphone can save a lot of time, largely because you can check and respond to emails even when you're out of the office. Furthermore, you can benefit from using your mobile to sort out high-priority emails before getting to work. As a result, you will be able to work more smoothly in the office.

5. Unsubscribe from newsletters you don’t read

Newsletters and other email marketing messages can be useful. They might notify you of the latest information about your clients, colleagues, shops, etc. and may even provide you with your next sales lead. However, these kinds of emails can pile up so fast in a day or two, and you don’t even have the time anymore to check this info out anyway.

If you have not read several newsletter issues for a while then it might be better to unsubscribe. This will reduce the number of emails in your inbox, giving you a better chance of managing it.

When you know how to manage emails effectively, you will surely be able to increase your productivity. Just take control of your inbox and create a systematic process comfortable to you.

If you want to know more about how to manage emails effectively, call us today and we’ll offer you solutions to add to our tips.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic Productivity