Copeland News - January, 2011
Happy New Year!
We welcome you to this winter edition of Copeland News. Trends like cloud computing, social networking, and mobile devices continue to create headlines in the technology sector.
Emerging technologies may or may not work for your business, and each quarter we try to highlight the most relevant ones to discuss in our newsletter. When considering Information Technology products and services, it is also important to be mindful of what has historically worked well for your company and your day-to-day business processes and not lose sight of the importance of these products and services. We are here to help you evaluate all options and help you make the right choice when it comes to these decisions.
If you have any questions, please feel free to give us a call anytime.
In this issue of Copeland News
- Cloud Computing, Simplified
- Increased Virus/Spyware Activity
- Credit Card Processing Within Your Business System
- Odds and Ends
Cloud Computing, Simplified
You hear about "the cloud" everywhere you look - in print advertising, TV, radio and web advertising. So many services we hear about today are "cloud-based," "cloud-aware," or "cloud-friendly." The cloud has certainly become the latest marketing buzzword and it seems to go hand-in-hand with everything technical. But what exactly is "the cloud?"
From the point of view of the non-technical user, we simply need to understand that the cloud refers to computing done somewhere else out on the Internet. That computing is charged back to the user, typically by the hour or by bandwidth consumption.
The big advantage of cloud computing is that you have a wide selection of resources at your disposal and you only pay for them "on-demand," or as needed. This flexibility allows you to easily expand or reduce your resources consumption as your needs change.
One speed bump to adopting the cloud model is the increased bandwidth required to support the remote application. There are still many communities where getting a faster Internet connection is easier said than done.
Another big issue to consider before migrating to a cloud-based application is security. Are you ready to take your application and have it under someone else's control?
Setup and maintenance is also handled as a do-it-yourself task. Administrative tasks can at times be cumbersome or confusing and may not be something for which you want to take responsibility.
Cloud computing will continue to become more and more popular, especially as Internet connections continue to become faster and security continues to become tighter. This transition will progress over time, but in the meantime, it's not too early to start asking yourself where you see a cloud services fitting into your business.
Without the fancy buzzword attached to it, many of us have actually been using cloud computing for years now. Some examples of early cloud computing include:
- Webmail (Gmail, Yahoo Mail, Hotmail/Windows Live Mail)
- Spam protection via Google Postini Services
- Internet-based backup like IBackup and IDrive
In summary, there is probably no immediate, short-term need to move all of your computing to the cloud. Each application and situation is unique and should be reviewed in detail before determining where the computing should physically take place and where your return on investment will be maximized. If you have any questions on cloud computing, please let us know.
Increased Viruses/Spyware Activity
The past six months, users have been plagued by an increase in virus and spyware, both in terms of frequency of infections and the dangers presented by the payloads. The latest attacks are crippling machines to new levels and in some cases, rendering the machine completely unbootable and unrecoverable. What was once just a nuisance is now a war.
Systems become infected in one of two ways:
By opening unsafe attachments or links in email
By visiting a malicious or hacked website
Most of our customers are protected from spam with Google's Postini Service. Google analyzes spam trends and offers the following advice to protect yourself against recent outbreaks:
Beware of shortened URLs (like shortcuts created at tinyurl.com). Spammers use these to hide a shortcuts to malicious sites.
Beware of false financial transaction records. These can be dressed up to look like your bank or PayPal. And in many cases, they may be painted in a tone that implies that you may have a transaction on your account that may not be legitimate.
Beware of fake celebrity gossip. News and pictures of the latest Hollywood stars or starlets are also used to lure you into visiting a malicious site.
As for the Web, be careful where you go and what you do. While there is more protection than ever in the latest browsers, you still have to be careful. With everyone connected to email and Internet browsers all day long, it takes only minutes for a new virus to spread - quicker than the anti-virus providers can write definitions. If you are asked to acknowledge a download, please know why you are downloading anything to your PC - no matter how appealing it may appear to be. Beware of popups that say your system is infected and appear to be running a scan.
Additional information on current Virus and Spam activity is available from Google/Postini.
You need to keep your guard up against all this activity by keeping your PC clean and up-to-date with the latest virus definitions, Windows Service Packs and automatic updates.
For maintenance and for managing an infected machine, tools like Spybot - Search & Destroy and Malwarebytes Anti-Malware can help with machine cleanup. A quick cleanup tool to manage temporary files like CCleaner is also popular. All of these can be safely downloaded from download.com. Many users will use these tools routinely every few weeks, just to keep their machine cleaned up and free of unwanted software and temporary Internet files.
Credit Card Processing Within Your Business System
Every merchant who accepts credit cards, debit cards, and gift cards needs to do so quickly, accurately and safely. Copeland Data Systems has teamed up with Heartland Payment Systems (HPS) and has integrated the HPS standard of payment card processing into our systems. Our integrated payment systems with HPS are PCI compliant and work with scanners as well as on your website.
Heartland Payment Systems is a worldwide company and is a leader in the payment card industry. While HPS has recognizable customers in many different marketplaces, their real forte is how they bring value to small business by offering affordable and diverse payment card solutions to "the little guy."
HPS has just released a new product in the payment card industry that paves a path for other providers to follow. Their new card scanner, called E3, is the first End-to-End Encryption card reader which provides complete security from the moment the card is scanned up until it is processed at the payment center. The entire packet of data remains encrypted from that initial point of swipe, giving complete protection to the complete transaction.
You can learn more about Heartland Payment Systems, their services, and the new End-to-End Encryption (E3) card reader at www.heartlandpaymentsystems.com. Please let us know if you are interested in discussing how you can accept credit cards through a swipe, on your website, or over the phone as a "card-not-present" transaction.
Odds and Ends
Another new Internet Explorer?
Microsoft has been working on their Internet Explorer 9, which is now available as a beta release on Microsoft's Website. The focus of this release is to provide a fast, clean browser that is easy to use and adheres to open web standards. Unfortunately, this new browser will not be available for Windows XP users because of the integration capabilities with Windows 7/Vista desktops.
HP has released new printers that support ePrint over the last few months, and they are becoming quite popular. An ePrint-enabled printer has a unique email address to which you can send an email, with or without attachments, and it will automatically print the email body and attachments. This means that you can now easily print from your smartphone or any emailed-enabled device. Find out more about this technology from the ePrint Datasheet at HP.com.
What is the best browser to use? Like always, that all depends on who you ask. With so many good options, third-party browsers like Firefox, Chrome and Safari continue to gain market share each month. You can find a nice month-by-month summary of usage trends at W3Counter.com.
You may have seen the commercials for the new Windows Phone 7 from Microsoft. While all previous Microsoft Mobile phones really struggled to compete in the marketplace, the new "Windows Phone 7" is able to capture some attention from perspective buyers. While there is some excitement over this phone, many still see it falling short of other smartphones like the IPhone, Droid, and Blackberry, which all support some type of enterprise email connectivity.
Social networking continues to increase in popularity and it seems all we hear about these day is Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn. We've typically gone to traditional search engines like Google or Yahoo when we need to find opinions, reviews and answers to questions, but there is a recent shift towards using social networks to get these same answers. We tend to value the opinions of our family, friends and acquaintances and have been recently turning to these social groups for advice. While we may know whether this trend will continue or emerge into something else, this shift does tell us that it is important to have some sort of presence on Facebook where you can publish your message to a captive, opt-in audience. You can create and moderate discussions on topics relevant to your industry and perhaps reach a wider audience. As mentioned in the last edition of this newsletter, you may want to consider getting your entity on Facebook with a business account. While you're on the site, please consider joining our page by clicking the "Like" button.
QR Codes are popping up everywhere. These small, 2-dimensional bar codes are for various uses, including taking the user directly to a Web page with specific content.
While support for QR Codes is built into many new Smartphones or available via a free app, you can also purchase standalone QR Scanners for specialized applications.
Next generation Tablet PC’s that mimic the iPad are out. These latest devices are more "smartphone-like" in operation and appearance as opposed to being Windows-based. Where the iPad is based on the IPhone software base, new tablets are coming out that use the Droid's Android operating system.
An example of this is the Galaxy Tablet from Samsung.
We're certain you will see plenty of additional offerings for tablet platforms in 2011.
If your business is utilizing credit cards, then managing PCI (Payment Card Industry) compliance is a new fact of life.
The credit card industry is moving aggressively to fight off ongoing attacks which can occur from both outside your network as well as from inside your organization.
If approached by your provider, you will need to spend some time and resources on moving through their protocol, which is in a state of flux all the time. These ever-changing PCI requirements deal with all locations where credit card information comes in contact with your systems or your employees.
Server virtualization continues to be another growing trend. When it's time to retire your current server hardware (usually every 3 or 4 years), you may want to consider virtualizing all your servers into one physical machine. Whereas you may currently have separate Windows Server, a MailClone Server, and a Linux Server, these machines can now easily be run with virtualization on one piece of hardware. Hyper-V from Microsoft and VMware continue to be popular software choices for virtualization.
Text messaging is more popular than making a phone call among the younger demographic and many people prefer to deal with customer service or technical support via chat or email rather than over the phone. Businesses can now easily and affordably add live chat capabilities to their websites, and there are several options available. At CDS, we have been using Provide Support, which has turned out to be flexible, affordable, and very reliable. Please ask us if you want to know more about adding live chat to your website. You can also visit their site for a tour and to start a free 10-day trial (no payment information is required for the trial).
Copeland Data Systems has been nominated for the Buffalo Niagara Business Ethics Award for 2011. We salute all businesses that "do the right thing" in their pursuit of commerce.
Google’s Gmail service now offers a Message Continuity service for those users with in-house Exchange Servers.
When your internal Exchange Server is down for any reason, you mail is automatically available in your account online at Google. Mail can be sent and received just as if you were connected up locally to your Exchange Server.
More information can be found HERE.
Want to automate your home? You can control lights and other devices from your PC by using various X10 home automation devices sold through Radio Shack or at www.x10.com. X10 has been around for years and is a very affordable way to control lighting and enhance security in your home with cameras, all from your PC or smartphone.
Your comments are always appreciated...
Have a comment on anything in this issue of Copeland News, or maybe an idea for a future topic you would like us to cover? Please connect with us on Facebook and let us know your thoughts!