Blog

August 26th, 2011

Disaster RecoveryIn light of Mother Nature’s recent earthquake in the Mid-Atlantic and now bracing for Hurricane Irene we want to ensure that we pass along some basic business preparedness tips to keep your business running after the storm passes.  With a high likelihood of power outages this weekend and flooding in low-lying areas, we encourage you review these tips to help protect your IT infrastructure:

  1. If you are going to power off your equipment (servers), be sure to notify your IT Service Provider.
  2. If you are known to lose power during storms, it is advisable that you shut down/power off your servers to avoid any power surges (be sure to see Tip #1).
  3. Power down all workstations (PCs/laptops, printers, etc.) that remain in the office, for the period of the storm.
  4. If your offices are on 1st floors or basements of your building, we advise you to move equipment off of the actual floor if possible.
  5. Do you have a Disaster Recovery plan?  Now is a great time to review it with your employees.
  6. Do you have an offsite data backup strategy in case something happens to your equipment?  Will you be able to continue business as usual once the power is restored?
  7. Do you have a remote worker policy in the event employees are unable to come into the office for several days?

If you follow our advice, you will minimize risk to your critical business data and be better able to assist your clients after the storm has passed.

On a Side Note

Unfortunately, there are sure to be many online scams targeting small businesses.  Don’t fall for viruses that can add further downtime to your business.  Review our network security tips so that you know what to watch out for. 

Be Safe

And most importantly, be safe.  Equipment can be replaced, your life cannot.

Published with permission from Sentinel IT Solutions. Source.
Topic General
July 28th, 2011

Cloud computing for small business

We hear it a lot.  What is “the Cloud”?  Cloud computing can mean a lot of different things to a lot of different people.  Depending on the size of your business and what your specific needs are; Cloud computing might be the right answer.  With Cloud computing you may be able to cut costs and improve efficiency.  As we said before, it depends on your needs:

  • If you’re looking for secure file storage because you are tired of keeping track of 10 different external hard drives, you should turn to the Cloud.
  • If you don’t want to purchase an application and deal with expensive licensing, you can host it in the Cloud for anywhere access and let your IT support company (Sentinel) take care of upgrades, patches and other maintenance.  Winning!

Access in the Cloud

This is the great benefit – access from anywhere – secure/remote.  Cloud computing can be as simple as accessing applications over the web for use from anywhere.  Think about it.  Did you forget to finish those TPS reports before vacation?  Still have time before the boss finds out?  Great!  From your hotel room, or poolside, you can access the TPS application at a data center (more about data centers in a minute), finish your calculations and email the TPS report to your team.  All while lounging in your best swimwear.

The Data Center Factor

If you have a server or two in a closet in your office, you have your own mini-data center.  Data centers need uninterrupted electricity and proper heating and cooling.  The larger the data center; the larger the costs associated with proper uninterrupted utilities to the servers. 

Does your laptop or CPU in the office ever get really warm?  Do you have to shuffle papers off of your desk or move the trash can out of the way to ensure that your computer has proper ventilation?  Do you have power outages in the summer or winter?  Think of that in terms of multiple servers and all of your critical business data.

Data centers are a secure fortress ensuring 24x7x365 uptime, access and security.  Because tens or hundreds of businesses utilize data centers; the facility and utility cost is spread out, making it a much more economical choice to house your data in someone else’s state of the art facility.  This is much better than propping a closet door open in your office to keep air circulation flowing.

Viruses in the Cloud

Data centers have multiple layers of encryption and protection against malware attacks, hackers and spam.  Depending upon how and from where you are accessing your critical business data, you can avoid penetration to your network security.  A couple of ways to securely access your data are:

  • Secure website entry
  • USB encrypted version that you carry with you

Click the button for more small business network security tips network-security-tips

More on the Cloud:  In Terms You Can Understand

In case you missed them, we’ve also written a few other brief introductions to Cloud computing.  Check them out:

cloud-computing-simplified

What are your thoughts, questions and concerns about moving to the cloud?

Published with permission from Sentinel IT Solutions. Source.
Topic General
July 22nd, 2011

Last week we spoke about the big hack attack in the Washington, DC area.  We mentioned several viruses and online scams to watch out for.  We also mentioned tricky scams that can lure you into paying for fake anti-virus tools.  It is a very persistent and real threat on the web.

Fake Anti-Virus:  What it Is

Fake AV or Anti-Virus is malware, which once downloaded onto the computer scares the user into believing that their system is infected.  Threatening virus messages will continue to pop up until you purchase services to clean up the threat.  The crux is that the threat never existed in the first place; hence the “fake” portion of the “Anti-Virus”. (more…)

Topic General
July 14th, 2011

This week a group of hackers claim to have exposed over 90,000 military network security for small businesspersonnel email address and passwords by penetrating a McLean, VA based defense and homeland security consultant to the US government.  If the hackers take a swipe at the big guys, imagine the havoc they can wreak on a small business.

The one issue we at Sentinel IT Solutions are seeing lately is rouge security viruses that seem to bypass Anti-Virus software.  This occurs when the end user unknowingly clicks on the virus and installs it – wreaking havoc all on their own.  (more…)

Topic General
July 6th, 2011

Who doesn’t want to shave a few minutes off of your busy day by enhancing productivity in all you do at the office?  How about a few easy (Windows-centric) keyboard shortcuts ?  Do you use any of these?  Is your favorite listed?  

If you like learning new things and saving time, and as an added bonus you like to feel really cool with extra knowledge, try using some of these keyboard shortuts (from Mashable’s recent list):

  • Move the Cursor One Word at a Time
    • Ctrl+Left Arrow or Right Arrow
  • Select One Word at a Time
    • Ctrl+Shift+Left Arrow or Right Arrow
  • Delete Entire Words
    • Ctrl+Backspace
  • Select All Text on the Current Line
    • Shift+Home or End
  • Minimize All Windows
    • Windows Key+M
  • Move Between Open Windows
    • Windows Key+Tab or Alt+Tab
  • Lock the Computer
    • Windows Key+L
  • Launch the Task Manager
    • Ctrl+Shift+Esc or Ctrl+Alt+Delete
  • Take a Screenshot of the Active Window
    • Alt+Prnt Scrn
  • Zoom In and Out
    • Ctrl+Scroll your Mouse or Ctrl+ +/-
  • Return to Normal Zoom
    • Ctrl+0
  • Open a New Tab in a Browser
    • Ctrl+Tab
  • Reopen a Closed Tab in a Browser
    • Ctrl+Shift+Tab
  • Focus Cursor on URL/Search Field in a Browser
    • Ctrl+L

Some others we like too:

  • Cut
    • Ctrl+X
  • Copy
    • Ctrl+C
  • Paste
    • Ctrl+V
  • Undo (one of my favorites)
    • Ctrl+Z
  • Find
    • Ctrl+F
  • Refresh
    • F5

Do you have any favorites that you use that aren’t listed here?  Feel free to chime in and be certain that you share this with your colleagues.  Be the office hero today!  We all like to learn new things, especially if they are easy and enhance our productivity!

Add Another Shortcut

If you want to save even more time in the office, think about outsourced IT support.  Bypass the IT headaches.  When you don’t have to think about virus protection, remote access or network security you can rest assured that a managed service provider is there 24/7/365.  Click here for a shortcut full of FAQs on outsourced IT support.

Outsourced IT Support FAQs

Published with permission from Sentinel IT Solutions. Source.
Topic General
June 30th, 2011

Google +1

Do you want to provide visitors to your website the opportunity to recommend your pages to their friends?  We do – Look to the upper right… 

Are you familiar with Facebook’s “Like” button?  You know, that nifty button you press when you like a link, video, or other item that you want to share with your friends; it shows up in their News Feed.  Well, Google has been working on something similar for a while and it’s up and running this week (globally, that is).  All you have to do is grab a snippet of code, paste it into the right place on your website and you are off and running.  Think of it as a Facebook “Like” button for the web.

How will Google +1 Affect Your Business

Google +1 gives you more opportunities to reach your audience.  If you are using Sentinel IT Solutions for your website hosting, call us to discuss how we can help you enable this feature.

Until this week the +1 button was only available on organic search results on Google.com and search ads, but now it is visible on both paid search ads and organic search results globally. (Source:  BrowserMedia)

The Catch: Kind Of

Hubspot’s 6/1/11 blog provides an excellent resource for explaining some of the nuances of Google +1.  However, the minor “…catch is that users must be signed into their Google Account in order to view +1 recommendations in search results, and web users must have a public Google Profile in order to +1 things.”

If you don’t already have a Google Account or Google Profile, you can create one for free.

Want to Add the +1 to Your Website?

Follow Google’s instructions and code generator here if you want to add the +1 to your website.  We’ve added the +1 to various areas of our website (Resource Center, Blog, Free Guide on How to Choose an IT Company, etc.).  The trick is to figure out the pages on your site that garner the most traffic and place the button there with decent visibility to promote more sharing.

Google + Project

A colleague described the Google + Project as “a different sameness.”  While Google +1 was has been in existence since March 2011; it only rolled out globally this week.  Google +1 is a part of the Google+ Project, which is currently being tested via invitation only across the world.  Many liken it to Facebook, but different…stay tuned as we learn how Google is changing ideas, sharing and social interaction for small business IT and beyond.

Published with permission from Sentinel IT Solutions. Source.
Topic General
June 23rd, 2011

IP Address BasicsIPv4 vs IPv6

If you are reading this, you are on the Internet either via your PC, Mac, tablet device or Smartphone.  Did you know that every device that is connected to the Internet is assigned a unique number called an Internet Protocol (IP) address?  IP addresses are made up of four numbers separated by periods.  They can look like this 98.163.243.33.  

“IP addresses are usually assigned to internet service providers within regions or countries.” (Source: WhatIsMyIPAddress) An IP address can also be used to show a user’s general location (Columbia, MD)

Currently, the Internet is using IPv4 (Internet Protocol version 4) addresses, but these are running out.  Soon IPv6 (Internet Protocol version 6) will be implemented.  “IPv6 is said to be a system that will not only offer far more numerical addresses, but will simplify address assignments and additional network security features.” (Source: Mashable)

VPN Management, ISP Support, Router Management and More

At Sentinel IT Solutions we make sure that your technology is working for you and not against you.  Our network engineers are staying on top of the IPv6 changes that may affect you. 

  • A virtual private network (VPN) protects your data and identity over public networks, like the Internet and wireless hotspots.  
    • A firewall can protect the data on your computer; a VPN will protect your data on the Internet. 
  • We’ll act as your ISP to ensure the complex network for your business is always running smoothly.
  • Router management is key to keeping your business up and running, especially with the move to IPv6.  Some software and routers may have to be changed – see below.

How Will the Move to IPv6 Affect You?

Mashable put together a nice, easy-to-understand guide on the differences between IPv4 & IPv6.  A few key points are as follows:

  • “To make the switch from IPv4 to IPv6; software and routers will have to be changed to support the more advanced network. This will take time and money. Google, Facebook and other prominent web companies are now testing the IPv6 network to work out any bugs.” June 8th was World IPv6 Day.
  • “Most operating systems actually support IPv6…However, many routers and servers don’t support it, making a connection between a device with an IPv6 address to a router or server that only supports IPv4 impossible.  IPv6 is also still in its infancy; it has a lot of bugs and security issues that still need to be fixed, which could result in one giant mess.”

We aren’t expecting the same Y2K doomsday hype as we did in 1999 (which, by the way, didn’t really happen).  We’ll keep you posted on any necessary next steps for your business.  Subscribe to our blog to stay in-the-know.  Rest assured that this change won’t take place overnight.

Published with permission from Sentinel IT Solutions. Source.
Topic General
June 16th, 2011

Like the majority of us you probably have a PC and use a Windows environment for work or at home.  However, if you have an iPhone or use iTunes for your iPod, or you love your new iPad, you’ll want to know about Apple’s recent announcement of its place in the ubiquitous world of Cloud Computing with iCloud.

Your first question is probably “What is iCloud?”

iCloud ComputingApple’s definition is, “iCloud stores your music, photos, apps, calendars, documents, and more.  And wirelessly pushes them to all your devices – automatically.  It’s the easiest way to manage your content.  Because now you don’t have to.”

OK, great.  What do we need to do to “join” the iCloud?  Introduction will take place this fall and you must upgrade to the free iOS 5 (click here to learn more about iOS 5 features) to have access to 200 new features and iCloud. 

An overview of how iCloud will make your life easier (Source: :

  • Documents. View and edit the same document from all your devices.
  • Music, apps, and books. Buy on one device and iCloud automatically downloads it to all your devices.
  • Photo Stream. Take a picture and iCloud automatically pushes a copy of it to all your devices.
  • PC Free.  With iOS 5, you no longer need a computer to own an iPad, iPhone, or iPod touch. Activate and set up your device wirelessly, right out of the box. This solves the #1 complaint of a lot of users.

Fortunately you don’t have to wait until fall for iTunes in the Cloud.  Our friends at Mashable have provided some great insight on the new features and benefits of iTunes in the Cloud.  Let’s say you have your iTunes library on your iPhone or iPod, but you’ve never gotten around to loading your iTunes library onto your new PC or MacBook.  Thanks to iTunes in the Cloud you can re-download content purchased years ago, including bonus and exclusive tracks, for free! (Source:  Mashable).  To do this you’ll need to be a GSM iPhone 4 owner (insert sad face here for Verizon users) and iPod touch or iPad user running iOS 4.3.1 or higher.  Once you’ve upgraded to iOS 4.3.1 or higher you will see a new “Purchased” tab in the iTunes app in iOS. FYI – iTunes 10.3 beta brings that functionality to the Mac or PC). (Source:  Mashable)

Interaction Requested Please

  • Have you upgraded your iTunes yet?  Let us know what you think about the new features.
  • Are you looking forward to the complete rollout of iOS 5 this fall?  I know I am.  It will be great to have access to my documents and more on the go.
  • How do you think iCloud will help you in the business world?
  • Do you own an iPad or other Apple device that you use in conjunction with a PC or Windows work environment?

We want to hear from you.

Cloud Computing

Published with permission from Sentinel IT Solutions. Source.
Topic General
June 9th, 2011

Recently we had to fight some nasty viruses for our clients as well as increase their network security to beef up protection against cybercriminals.  Here are a few IT security headlines that could affect you.

Citibank has been Hacked (collective sigh…)

Do you feel as though EVERYONE has access to your personal information due to a security breach at one company or another?  Well, this morning you can add one more data breach to the list.  Citibank has been hacked (are you looking in your wallet to see if you have a Citibank credit card?).  According to the Sophos IT Security blog on this latest breach,

“Citibank says that data for 1% of their cardholders was accessed through this breach, but customers’ Social Security Numbers (SSNs), birth dates, card expiration dates and CVV codes are safe.”

Here is some great advice from the security experts at Sophos:

“Considering that the attackers have your name, account number and other sensitive information they are able to provide a very convincing cover story to victims.

Never accept incoming communications purporting be from financial institutions you do business with, whether by email or phone call. Call them back using only the phone numbers published on your cards or statements. When logging in to perform online transactions, always enter their website address directly in your browser. Never click links.”

Citibank has stated that they will notify customers they believe are in the 1% affected by this breach.  What do you think about this?  What steps do you take to keep your data secure?  Have you sworn off credit cards and keep your cash under your mattress?

Fake Anti-virus Attacks

Fake Anti-virus AttacksCybercriminals are becoming more and more sophisticated and professional.  Their attacks are even spelled correctly (you know you’ve received an unsolicited email in the past with horrendous spelling mistakes). 

The folks at Sophos ask everyone to be on the lookout for these fake anti-virus attacks:

  • United Parcel Service (UPS) malware attack will spread a fake anti-virus attack.  If you receive an unsolicited (if it’s unsolicited that should make you stop and think before you click on anything) email from UPS notifying you of the status of your package (did you order anything lately?).  The cybercriminals that created this hope that you will be interested enough to open the attachment. Again, don’t open unsolicited attachments and don’t click on links.  Delete it and move on with your day.
  • To see what the email looks like, click here to go to Sophos IT Security blog (this link is OK to click on)
  • FYI – In other UPS news – the company is trying to reduce the weight of its trucks – becoming more fuel efficient and aerodynamic – this is true and was announced on 6/9/11.

Time to Change Your Privacy Settings in Facebook – Automated Photo Tagging/Facial Recognition “Feature”

Facebook Facial Recognition FeatureAre you one of the millions that have a Facebook account?  Do you use it to share photos with family and friends that are scattered around the globe like I do?  Well, you might want to know about a new feature that Facebook has been rolling out – Facial Recognition.  This new feature recognizes faces in photos.  The plus is that you won’t have to take the time to “Tag” people in your photos.  The minus is that your photos will automatically tag people that might not otherwise want to be tagged – you know; Kelly and John dancing on the conference room table during the office party, etc.  And, in typical Facebook style, the feature is enabled by default.  To disable it you can customize your privacy settings by following these steps:

  1. Click on Account and choose Privacy Settings.
  2. Click Customize Settings (it’s small and a blue link in the middle of the screen)
  3. Scroll down to Things Others Share.
  4. Find Suggest Photos of Me to Friends.
  5. Click Edit Settings
  6. Edit accordingly (Enable or Disable)

Chime in.  What do you think – is this a privacy concern?  If you admit that you can’t do without Facebook; it’s best to stay up to date on the latest Facebook “features”.  Subscribe to our blog, we’ll keep you posted on network and IT security threats.

And, in Angry Birds News…

Angry Birds and Foodie fans pay attention – an Angry Birds cookbook is in the works!  Just announced that Rovio’s Angry Birds cookbook will be targeted at families and include mostly egg-based recipes.  It sounds like the green piggies are getting their just rewards.  Thanks to Mashable for the heads up on this exciting development.

Did you like what you read here today?  Share this with your friends and ask them to become a Sentinel IT blog subscriber.  It’s easy; just submit your email address above and you will be notified each time a new blog is posted to our website.

Our next blogs will discuss Apple’s jump into the cloudsphere with its iCloud offering as well as IPv6 Day.

Published with permission from Sentinel IT Solutions. Source.
Topic General
May 23rd, 2011

Maryland IT Support

1.  We’re local.  You call us in real-time, in your time zone.  We will also come to your office to solve emergency IT issues.
2.  We have a Resource Center on our website.  It’s a repository for whitepapers, tips, tools and conversations to help you get the answers you need.
3.  We write a weekly blog to keep you up-to-date with ongoing ideas in the IT world.
4.  We have an FAQ page to answer all of your burning questions.  If you don’t see your question there, contact us and let us know.
5.  We’re on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn too!  Get your dose of Sentinel IT via the social media outlet that fits your needs.

Published with permission from Sentinel IT Solutions. Source.
Topic General