Windows 8: A preview of things to come

The Windows 8 Consumer Preview is here my friends, and I have spent the last week test-driving Microsoft’s newest gamble in the OS market. While some things have remained the same from the current Windows 7 release, much of the Windows Graphic User Interface which we have become accustomed to has been revamped; some for the better, some for the worse.

I do want to add this disclaimer: while all marking indicates this is a beta release, this is still beta software (perhaps the reason Microsoft is using the Siamese fighting fish or ‘Beta’ as the mascot for this release), and because of this fact this is not the final release of Windows 8. There is a strong possibility that due to customer reviews or planned design changes not implemented in this release, the final version of Windows 8, due for release later this year, will have features added, removed, or changed. Given this, however, the Consumer Preview is a strong indication of what the commercial release of Windows 8 will roughly look like.

I tested the Windows 8 Consumer Preview on a Toshiba Satellite L305D-S5955. It has an Intel 2.2GHz dual-core chip, 4GB of DDR 2 RAM, Atheros Wi-Fi chipset, and for this test I used a 350GB Western Digital HDD. Why did I use a laptop that honestly should be retired instead of the latest and greatest, off-the-shelf wonder-rig? Well first, many people will not have the newest hardware and I did want to see how Windows 8 would work on older hardware. I also wished to simulate what many people will experience, and that is using Windows 8 on older hardware.

With all that said, onward to the review.

The Windows 8 Consumer Preview is available free to the public from the Microsoft website. You can download a small web-installer or, if you prefer, you can download the .ISO files for 32-bit or 64-bit systems. I chose to download the .ISO files and create an install DVD instead of using the web-installer.

I noticed that the installation of Windows 8 is very smooth and streamlined, even more so than Window 7. The boot time for the DVD is quite long and unless you are familiar with computers, this can make you feel like the installation has frozen. There is nothing to indicate that the installation is actually in progress, aside from the DVD drive working overtime. Once the installation boots, you notice initial installation pages are ripped right from Windows 7. Once you have passed the basic installation drive and partition questions, the remaining pages are new and very user friendly. This can only help allow users with no tech experience to install Windows 8 without the need to call one of their more tech-minded friends.

Once Windows 8 was installed, I had a feeling of apprehension when a page appeared asking me to either create or sign in to a Hotmail or Live account and link it to the Windows 8 user account. While I did create an account and it went quite smoothly, I will explain later why this makes me leery and leads me to question the direction that Microsoft is taking with Windows 8.

What I noticed immediately when Windows finally loaded into its GUI is that Microsoft has tailored this version of Windows towards mobile devices. I do understand why Microsoft is pushing a touch-based operating-user interface, since tablets and smart phones are a growing market for OS makers. However, I do not understand why the touch-based GUI is still being forced onto systems driven with a keyboard and mouse, not a touchscreen. It is cumbersome and awkward to use. I see no benefit to the desktop/workstation/laptop user and in fact the coding Microsoft has done to allow the GUI to be controlled by a keyboard and mouse feels like a half-hearted afterthought.

You are introduced to the new “Start” menu right away as it is Windows 8′s default GUI display. Many of the apps listed on the default start menu require you to have internet access and the Hotmail or Live account linked to your Windows 8 username for them to function properly (if at all). I noticed that if an Internet connection was not present, I was limited on the apps I could run. This can cause issues for those in areas without Internet access.

Once you wish to close a Metro application, you need to drag downward from the top of the screen until the app you’re looking at shrinks down to a thumbnail, then keep dragging that off the screen to close it, or use the Alt+F4 keyboard combo. Alt+Tab will allow you to see all other programs currently running and allow you to click on a red, circled “X” to close the app. This will cause much confusion to those who are unaware of any of these keyboard shortcuts or about the new drag-to-close feature. Bad form, Microsoft.

Windows 8 now has built-in auto-correct for your spelling which is a nice addition, however the library of recognized words is rather limited. Also, Windows 8 has native support for MP3, AVI, DivX, MKV, and OGG file formats, which I find a refreshing change.

The new notifications in Metro work quite well as they pop up in the top right corner of the screen where they’re not likely to be in the way if you are busy with an app and you can tap these notifications for various options. The first time I inserted a USB thumbdrive, I was given the option of opening Explorer or doing nothing. Users will need to be careful about how they respond, as that will happen automatically next time they insert the drive.

To access the Windows Explorer desktop, you just need to tap on your Windows Key on your keyboard (the one with the Windows logo, by the space bar). As the new ‘Metro’ GUI has taken the place of your start menu, Windows 8 no longer has the Start bubble on the taskbar (and there is no way to create one via options or preferences…it’s gone folks).

As a desktop user, I personally would like to see an option to go back to the old-style Start menu though I doubt Microsoft wants this to happen. Failing that, I would prefer least some changes to the new Metro-based Start menu that would simplify some common desktop functions or give the user the ability to make the Classic desktop the default GUI. Because of the lack of this option, I have serious doubts that corporate enterprise network administrators will move to Windows 8 for desktops and traditional notebooks no matter what Microsoft does at this point. For tablets, I see the reverse as true but as we are still just in the infancy of the tablet-era (with tablets in less than 20% of all computer/mobile device users hands) Windows 8 will need to become the 800-lbs Gorilla in the mobile device market to salvage the costs that Microsoft has placed into development of this OS.

Windows 8 also irritates me because Microsoft flips between the Classic and Metro user interfaces as it seems the developers have not managed to create a consistent user interface. It is annoying that clicking on a tile on the Metro Start Screen will dump you into things like a Classic Control Panel applet or Windows Explorer. Because of this jarring transition, Metro gives me the sense that Microsoft just bolted it on top of Windows 7′s desktop and haphazardly connected the two together. Memories of Windows 98/ME, when Windows was stacked on top of the original MS operating system, DOS, gives Windows 8 a Windows ME vibe, and Microsoft can ill-afford to suffer under another Windows ME-like failure in their OS line. Since I am a long-time Linux user, I have had experience with half-baked GUIs for various Linux OS releases. I find that incomplete user interfaces make you question the value of the entire OS and unless you are a power user that likes to work the command line, the GUI can make or break the popularity of an OS.

It only becomes worse in that much of the Classic user interface we have become accustomed with over the years has been Ribbonized by Microsoft. Paradoxically, the ribbon menus weren’t developed with touch in mind, which reinforces my belief that the development teams are not working with each other to create a cohesive OS. It feels like there are two separate development teams working with little to no communication or cohesion, tossing ideas at the proverbial wall to see what sticks.

Taking a cue from Linux and Mac OS, Microsoft has delved into invisible user interface elements in Windows 8. Move the mouse to the right side of the screen and out pops the “Charm Bar” with such elements as Search, Share, Start, Devices and Settings. The top-left side of your screen will bring up tiles showing apps that are currently open. The bottom-left of the screen gives you an anorexic replacement to the Start Menu. My biggest problem with this isn’t that the developers moved things around or that they added new user interface elements. My biggest problem is there’s nothing that gives the user any clue that these features exist unless they stumble on them.

As I use Windows 8, I keep having the feeling that this release would have been better off as two separate operating systems. A ‘Classic’ Windows 8 for regular desktop and notebook systems with perhaps a few upgraded interface elements (right now it feels more like a service pack for Windows 7 rather than a brand-new OS release) and a separate Metro’ version for touch-enabled hardware.

While Microsoft has made some concessions to keyboard and mouse users they are very limited and awkward to navigate with.

Why is Kinect, the X-Box 360′s motion sensing controller, not supported in the Windows 8 Consumer Preview? Given the touch-screen proclivity of Windows 8, this seems like one of the first items that Microsoft should have told the developers to create support for in this release. Since most people do not have touch-screen monitors for their desktops, Kinect support would make sense. Since Kinect is a Microsoft product, again this seems like the left hand not communicating with the right.

For mobile users, Windows 8 is not a boon. While there is a version being created for ARM processor systems (for mobile devices), which is supposed to be an energy miser, Windows 8 for the PC architecture is power hungry. My testing laptop normally runs Mac OS X, various forms of Linux, or Windows 7. Under web surfing, word processing, or basic light usage, my battery life runs between 3-4 hours (Mac OS X being the worst at 2:55, Windows 7 clocking in at 3:20, and Linux Mint or Ubuntu in the lead at 3:57 of battery life). If I am watching movies from my hard drive or using a data-intensive program, my battery life hovers around the 2 to 3 hours range. Light usage on Windows 8 delivers a battery life in the 2-hour range (2:12 to be exact from full charge).

Don’t even think about trying to watch a movie and expect to finish it, however. Battery life dropped to 1:36 hours. I made sure the battery was fully charged between tests and that the energy options in Windows 8 were all set to maximize battery life (even though I do not have those settings set in my Windows 7, Mac OS X, or Linux installations.)

I’m torn when it comes to this latest OS from Microsoft. It has vast potential as a tablet operating system. I can understand there being quite a few rough edges in this beta release that Microsoft may or may not iron out between now and the final release, however I don’t see the touch-based features being a driving force behind new PC sales. Outside of power users and those developers in Redmond, there isn’t a demand for touch on PCs from either the enterprise of consumer markets. Instead, what we have is Microsoft trying to stir up interest in touch devices and gambling that it will pay off.

I am not totally convinced that Metro works on larger screens. I have a 22” wide-screen monitor on my home system and when I connected the monitor to my laptop, I noticed a large amount of wasted screen real estate. In addition, I do not see a day when the sorts of tasks that a normal user of a desktop or notebook system will be any more efficient when using Metro apps. In point of fact, I’m not even sure that there will ever be Metrofied versions of software used for such tasks as image and video processing, or web development.

The only task that I think might be better through a Metro app might be word processing, mainly because a minimalistic word processor would focus more on the created words rather than the many features most current word processors boast. For the average user, this could be a boon but for the power user of word processors such as journalists, writers and bloggers there is nothing to be gained and much to be lost.

Windows 8 gives a sense that Microsoft’s newest OS is trying to be all things to all people… and failing. Bolting on the Metro user interface from the Windows Phone operating system into what is essentially a Windows 7 base has created a Frankenstein monster of a hybrid that’s disjointed and, as I have said before, awkward to use. One of the basic tenets of OS design 101 is that the OS designed for the masses should be easy to use for all users. Windows 8 is not that. If Windows 8 used more of the Metro influences throughout the platform, or even less of them, I would feel better about this OS. This lack of consistency is a killer when it comes to work flow and ease of use.

All in all, Windows 8, in my view, is a massive gamble for Microsoft. In its current state of being, Windows 8 has only the potential failure on the scale of Windows ME or Vista and that could be a serious detriment to Microsoft.

 

By Brian Schott, Blueprint IT Solutions

Malware Worm Spreading on Facebook – 45,000 Passwords Stolen So Far

Seculert issued a warning today that the Ramnit worm, which has traditionally targeted financial login credentials, is now targeting Facebook users. At the time of the release, 45,000 login credentials had been stolen with most of those from users residing in the UK and France.

Ramnit is known to attack windows executable files – (files ending with .exe), MS Office files and HTML documents. The worm’s goal is to steal sensitive  data such as user names, passwords, FTP credentials and browser cookies.

The evolution of the Ramnit worm becomes more sinister at each turn. In August of last year, researchers discovered that hackers had altered the code so that the worm is able to bypass two-factor authentication systems. Now, it has been reengineered and has turned it’s ugly head to the 800 million members of Facebook.

Security experts speculate that the compromised accounts are being used to spread malicious links on Facebook. There is also a growing and alarming trend of malware being targeted at social networks instead of spam emails. It was also mentioned that cyber criminals are profiting from the fact that careless users use the same password on multiple platforms.

We have warned several times in the past that it is essential for you to use a strong secure password, and do not use your Facebook password for any other accounts. If your Facebook account is hacked, you don’t want your email or banking account compromised as well.

For more password protection tips, check out the article below:

The Top Ten Commandments of Password Protection

It is also recommended that you keep your anti-virus software current and run scans frequently.

BitDefender Safego is a Facebook application you can install that will scan your News Feed and help keep you safe from malicious links on Facebook.

 

 

Tagged as: malware

Should I Repair or Replace my Computer?

Question

With Windows computers being so cheap these days, how do I know when it’s better to repair or replace my computer when I have a problem?

- Glenda

Answer

This question was answered on December 9, 2011. Much of the information contained herein may have changed since posting.

 

The ‘should I repair or replace my computer’ conundrum is one of the most common questions faced these days, especially since we see advertisements for cheap computers just about everywhere.

Although we are a computer service company, we also sell computers, so my perspective isn’t to try to talk everyone into repairing everything.

It’s really important that you completely understand the pros and cons of both repairing and replacing your computer before you make a decision.

If repairing a television or refrigerator costs nearly as much as replacing it, it’s a pretty easy decision to make.

Computers, however, are not like appliances because they have programs and data that need to be included in your evaluation.

Often times, folks that are in a hurry go out and buy a new computer assuming that it will solve all their problems.

It’s entirely likely that it won’t solve your problem, it simply changes your problem and can come with a few hidden expenses you hadn’t thought of.

What I mean is that your problem went from having a computer that had everything just the way you like it but wasn’t performing properly to having a computer that doesn’t have any of your programs, documents, address books, e-mails, printer drivers, bookmarks, pictures, music, video, Wi-Fi settings or a host of other items that you weren’t really aware were important.

What you must evaluate is if the actual cost (and the associated pain) to replace your computer is preferable to the cost of repairing it. This greatly depends upon your ability and/or desire to do all the work to get your new computer to look like your old computer.

Make sure you aren’t making your decision based on these common misconceptions.

Misconception #1: The advertised price of a computer is the total price!

Very few people can actually make use of a computer advertised at $300 because it’s usually a pretty basic, low-end computer designed to get you into the store so they can upsell you.

Here are a list of items that often add to the ‘advertised’ price:

Upgrades to memory, processor or hard drive space to make it suitable

Antivirus or other security programs (watch out for ‘trial versions’ that expire in 30-90 days)

Monitors (for desktop computers) if you need a new one

Higher capacity battery (for laptop computers) as some low cost units come with a small capacity battery

Transfer of data from your old computer to the new one (up to $200 if you don’t know how to do it yourself)

Updated versions of your programs (if they are older)

Misconception #2: Microsoft Office comes with Windows, doesn’t it?

This has been fed over the years by sneaky computer manufacturers that will pre-load a trial or limited-use ad displaying version to trick buyers that aren’t paying attention.

This isn’t a problem if you have your licensed copy of your old software and it will run on the newer operating system, but this leads to another ‘oh %@#$#’ moment: you don’t have any idea where your old program disks are which means you have to buy new disks (a $50 – $500 surprise) or switch to a free alternative that doesn’t work the same.

In early versions of Windows, you could copy programs from one computer to another and they would generally work, but today you must install each program you wish to have on your new computer.

Misconception #3: I have all my important files backed up!

This one comes from 20+ years of working with folks that get a new computer; everything I care about is in the My Documents folder right? WRONG!

Depending upon the programs that you have installed, your critical financial files, for instance, could reside within the programs folders far away from the My Documents folder. If you have multiple user profiles for different member of your family, you need to make sure the data that resides in each person’s profile has been backed up.

Misconception #4: Copying my old files to the new computer is all I need to do, right?

Even if you have done a good job of backing up all the data for each user, your new machine doesn’t know anything about your old computer or the various profiles you created on it.

If you had 3 profiles on your old computer, you need to recreate what is essentially 3 computers on your new computer if you want it all to work the same way.

Getting a new computer to look and work like your old computer is a lot of work, especially if you make the mistake of getting rid of your old computer before you get your new one completely setup.

I’m not suggesting that repairing your computer is the best decision in every case, I’m simply pointing out all of the things that have caused many a new computer buyer to say ‘I wish someone had told me before I bought this new computer’!

 

 

Author

Posted by Ken on December 9, 2011

Cloud computing disrupts the vendor landscape

Non-traditional players like Amazon and Google shake things up, but enterprise mainstays like Microsoft and VMware may get the last laugh

If you think cloud computing is a disruptive force within the enterprise, just imagine what the cloud is doing to the vendor landscape.

The sheer number of cloud players – or companies that claim to be cloud players — is staggering. By some estimates there are more than 2,000 software as a service (SaaS) companies alone. At this early point in the cloud revolution, there are certainly front runners, but the field is wide open.

Public cloud security: Mission impossible?

For example, the marquee SaaS player, Salesforce.com, owned a paltry 8.7% of the total SaaS market, according to a 2010 IDC report that tracked 84 vendors. Other big names –Intuit, Cisco, Microsoft, Google and Symantec – were all below 5% each. That leaves scores of other competitors with tiny market shares today, and no place to go but up.

Slideshow: 10 most powerful cloud companies

Infrastructure-as-a-service (IaaS) has more than 30 major players, both pure-play outfits that provide pay as you go, on-demand compute services, and those rising into the cloud from the traditional managed services realm. And Forrester research is watching at least 40 platform-as-a-service (PaaS) providers who say they can help developers build cloud apps better, stronger, faster.

To further muddy the waters, many vendors are extending their cloud offerings across the neat SaaS, PaaS and IaaS boundaries. (Read SaaS and IaaS: an expert’s guide.)

“It’s true that most of the disruption caused by cloud computing relates to enterprise [operations] and IT. But it’s also been pretty disruptive to the vendor community as well,” says David Mitchell Smith, vice president and fellow at the Gartner Group.

Smith believes that a tremendous shakeout will occur over the next year or two. He predicts that by 2013 a small handful of vendors will emerge as leaders delivering both enterprise systems and cloud services.

So who are those vendors? The two names on Smith’s short list are Microsoft and VMware.

Smith argues that Microsoft made a seismic shift to a SaaS delivery model in 2008 and has since delivered Microsoft Office365, SharePoint Online, and Microsoft Dynamics CRM Online. In the PaaS arena, Microsoft is pushing its Azure platform of AppFabric, SQL Azure and Windows Azure. And, Microsoft’s making headway in pushing Azure down into the IaaS space as well.

VMware’s vSphere hypervisor and management software has long provided trusted virtualization capabilities in the enterprise. VMware is also making a strong IaaS play by building anetwork of vendors who use vCloud to deliver cloud compute services.

And VMware has various PaaS irons in the fire. There’s its own vFabric PaaS platform. Plus, the company launched CloudFoundry, an open PaaS platform housed at www.CloudFoundry.org where developers can contribute to collaborative open source projects. And there’s a hosted PaaS platform operated by VMware at www.CloudFoundry.com.

“There are no guarantees in a market this size, but we see [Microsoft and VMware] as the companies in the best position now,” Smith says.

The SaaS landscape

SaaS is the most mature cloud layer and, in fact, existed well before the term cloud computing gained prevalence, says Robert Mahowald, Research Vice President of SaaS and Cloud Services at IDC.

Mahowald makes these two observations about the state of SaaS today: Most enterprises are looking to SaaS for “net new” applications, not as a replacement for existing apps. And many software vendors are developing their products to be consumed via the cloud first, and for on premise consumption secondarily, if at all.

IDC says the 2010 SaaS market rang in at $16.6 billion, a figure that represents three-quarters of all IT-based public cloud revenue. IDC predicts that by 2015, worldwide SaaS revenues will skyrocket to $53.6 billion annually.

“The SaaS market has solidified because it just makes financial sense for both the provider and the consumer. That combination always drives adoptions,” says Robert K. West, founder and CEO of Echelon One, an IT security and risk management consultancy.

Vendors with an edge today tend to be those that developed their products to run natively in the cloud. They were built to take advantage of the cloud’s elastic nature, to be sold on a usage-based model, have multi-tenancy as a basic tenet so that security is constructed accordingly, and have worldwide reach and a resilient infrastructure underneath the covers.

Companies held in high regard for their SaaS offerings include Salesforce.com (CRM), WorkDay (HR and financial management), Google (desktop productivity), Oracle (business analytics), Concur Technologies (travel and expense management) and NetSuite (ERP).

That’s not to say that the traditional enterprise software giants such as SAP and Oracle are out of the race. But they are playing a bit of catch-up. Some of the tension between those two camps came to the fore in the recent dustup between Salesforce’s Marc Benioff and Oracle’s Larry Ellison.

“The SAPs and Oracles of the world are trying to adapt their existing software to the cloud, which is extremely difficult and time consuming,” says Joe Coyle, CTO of Capgemini North America, a consulting and outsourcing firm that helps enterprises deploy cloud services. He argues that the process of putting these applications in the cloud is not difficult, but getting them to take advantage of the elastic nature of the cloud, is.

“Getting an SAP application to know there is more compute power available when it needs it, is the challenge,” Coyle says. Until those applications are reworked to understand what is dynamically available to them, they will lag behind the SaaS leaders, Coyle says.

On Saturday, SAP made a major cloud move, spending $3.4 billion to buy SuccessFactors, which offers an increasingly popular set of on-demand human resources applications. Analysts say the move by SAP could bring its entire cloud software portfolio into a new focus.

Paul Turner, senior product manager at NetSuite which has 10,000 customers using its SaaS-delivered ERP software, says there are several tell-tale signs of a “false cloud” application. Turner says a native cloud application is completely Web-based, from the user experience through to the administrator experience. “It needs to be as easy to access as Gmail,” argues Turner.

Secondly, the service must offer a customization layer that allows enterprise IT to make the tweaks to suit its needs, and those changes must migrate seamlessly with each upgrade to the service. And finally, Turner argues there must be a high level of transparency about any downtime and security issues.

SaaS begets PaaS

Many of the leading SaaS players — Salesforce.com, Google, NetSuite, and WorkDay — are trying to solidify their positions within their market segments by developing PaaS environments for third-party ISVs.

For example, Salesforce launched Force.com, a PaaS offering built to support its SaaS service; then bought Heroku in order to provide a more open PaaS service. The company claims 200,000 apps built on the Force.com platform.

“We’re adding developers daily,” says Byron Sebastian, executive vice president of platforms at Salesforce. The hot area is mobile applications running in the public cloud, he says.

The hurdle Sebastian encounters when pushing PaaS into the enterprise is inertia. “We get a lot of pushback from folks who are just used to doing business the old way,” Sebastian says.

A second segment of the PaaS market comprises general purpose development platforms that support multiple languages and cloud infrastructures, says Krishnan Subramanian, an independent industry analyst and blogger at www.cloudave.com.

Microsoft’s Azure and Google’s App Engine are leaders in this category, Subramanian says. The hot start-ups are CloudBees and Engine Yard, he adds.

And Subramanian believes VMware’s CloudFoundry shouldn’t be counted out, as the field shakes out over the next 18 to 24 months, because it espouses the open source approach popular with the developer set and cash-strapped start-up software companies.

But it’s still very early in the game.

Forrester analysts John Rymer and Stefan Rein describe the PaaS market as sprawling, fast-changing, and very immature. There’s little agreement on what comprises a PaaS in the first place, most PaaS vendors are small, some of the bigger ones have relatively immature products, and other major vendors like IBM, RedHat and Oracle have only recently entered the market.

Forrester divides the PaaS world into four categories, with some vendors competing in multiple segments.

In the largest group, software developers are allowed to use their current tools of choice locally and then push code out to the cloud. Playing in this segment are ActiveState, Appian, Force.com, Google, LongJump, Magic Software, Microsoft, NetSuit, OutSystems, Servoy, TIBCO, Vaakya, VMware, Wavemaker and WS02.

Then there are cloud development environments where everything happens in the cloud. These PaaS offerings are browser based and developers build applications in a remote data center cloud. The players here are Appian, Cordys, Force.com, Inuit, Trackvia and WOLF Frameworks.

Some companies target business experts, not “coders”. Caspio, Cordys, IS Tools, Mendix, Orange Scape, WorkXpress and Zoho provide tools for creating applications without coding in order to speed up app delivery times.

The last category allows developers to use whatever tool they want to build their cloud applications and the platform tackles the deployment, scaling and management of these apps in the cloud data center. The players here are Amazon, Appistry, Apprenda, CloudBees, Cloudsot, Engine Yard, Gigaspaces, Heroku, IBM, Joyent, Microsoft, Red Hat, Standing Cloud, TechCello and VMware.

Rymer notes that enterprise IT should act cautiously when it comes to PaaS because “start-ups are risky and big vendors move slowly and may use their PaaS offerings simply as calling cards to sell their current products.”

Rymer says the two companies likely to enjoy long-term success in the PaaS market are Microsoft and Salesforce. “Every other vendor is a long-term risk,” he adds.

If enterprise software developers do want to push forward, Rymer offers these tips. Find out how well the vendor supports “the ilities”: security, scalability, availability, reliability and serviceability. Next, determine how each PaaS service jibes with the enterprise’s existing application development talent. Finally, nail down what benefits PaaS is likely to provide. “Cutting costs is a hard one to obtain. Time to market is relatively easy to obtain,” Rymer says.

IaaS free for all

IaaS is currently the smallest market of the three major cloud categories, but is expected to have the fastest growth rate over the next three to five years. Gartner says last year’s total of just over $2 billion will grow by that much for each of the next four years.

The 800-pound gorilla is Amazon. Competitors see EC2 both as an ingenious use of surplus compute power and a nemesis to be defeated by the marketing mantra that says a mass-market retailer simply cannot cater to the complicated needs of enterprise customers.

But this market is evolving to be more complicated than simply Amazon vs. the rest of the IaaS world, says Lydia Leong, research vice president at Gartner.

“If your differentiation is ‘we’re not like Amazon, we’re enterprise-class!’, you’re now competing against dozens of other providers who also thought that would be a clever market differentiation. Not to mention that Amazon already serves the enterprise, and wants to deepen its inroads,” wrote Leong in a recent blog post.

Leong is Gartner’s go-to author when it comes to analyzing the IaaS market. Her report last December on the cloud IaaS and Web hosting provider market (encompassing private, public and hybrid cloud services) identified AT&T, Rackspace, Savvis (purchased by CenturyLink), Terremark (purchased by Verizon) and Verizon as the market leaders. Visionaries were Amazon, CSC, GoGrid, IBM and Joyent.

A new report (which was not yet made public at press time) analyzes a sub-category of IaaS vendors that offer automated, multi-tenant services for scale-out cloud hosting, virtual lab environments, self-managed virtual data centers, and turnkey virtual data center services. Rackspace, AT&T, Savvis, Terremark, Verizon (with its home-grown Computing as a Service), and OpSource are the big names in this market.

“The separation [of these segments] is grounded in the fact that some vendors provide very good infrastructures without any services and others get the managed services right, but don’t have very good clouds,” Leong says.

The traditional, old-school telecom carriers are sometimes seen as dinosaurs, but Coyle says they shouldn’t be discounted. “Just think of who controls all the bandwidth, right? It becomes a no brainer then,” Capgemini’s Coyle says.

The carriers have another advantage over cloud newbies: long-term relationships with enterprise decision makers. “When it comes to the cloud sale into big enterprises, we already have a seat at the planning table as a trusted service provider,” says Steve Caniano, vice president of AT&T’s hosting and cloud services.

AT&T, British Telecom and Verizon lead the pack of carriers in the cloud to some degree, but in terms of building out reliable IaaS-focused data centers, Verizon is the most advanced, Coyle says. He argues that the point of the Terremark purchase was not the extra data center footprint, but the management services that Terremark wraps around its IaaS.

Managed services are where the real money lies for cloud vendors, says Coyle, adding that the Amazon’s of the world are driving prices down so low that the carriers will not be able to compete on raw compute power alone.

“IaaS companies are starting to realize they have to offer these managed services – or at least create APIs so you can have management software plug in and monitor these clouds like you do your internal assets — to get into the enterprise and pull in their next level of business,” Coyle says.

Rackspace was so confident that customers would be willing to pay for these wrap around services like application deployment, deep system monitoring and unified hybrid cloud management, that the company spearheaded the OpenStack project to make basic IaaS platforms interoperable.

As vendors try to hone their competitive edges, customers are finding that they’re not limited to one IaaS provider.

Shelton Shugar, senior vice president for SaaS at CA Technologies, oversees IaaS vendor selection. “You have to factor in each IaaS’s scale, global footprint, quality, price and the flexibility in which they can adapt to your particular project.” The answers to those questions will vary with the scope of each cloud project.

Having multiple (he advises not more than three or management becomes a nightmare) IaaS providers will become common place, says Shugar, who divulged his company uses Rackspace but declined to name the others in CA Technologies’ multi-vendor IaaS strategy. Having multiple IaaS providers gives CA better worldwide coverage and a bit of an edge in negotiating favorable terms.

“It’s good to have a couple of IaaS providers working for you to share the load,” says Doug Harr, CIO for Splunk, a data mining and indexing software developer in San Francisco, which also runs all of its business operations in the cloud via Netsuite’s SaaS offering.

Harr explains that Amazon is the company’s default IaaS provider because its service is so wide and deep. “But every project brings a new evaluation, so the choice is wide open based on the use case,” Harr says.

And that seems to be the prevailing wisdom at this point. Enterprises looking for cloud services should check out the big names, but should also take a good hard look at the many innovative cloud start-ups.

By Christine Burns, Network World
December 05, 2011 12:06 AM ET

Burns is a freelance writer and editor based Carlisle, Pa., who has over 15 years experience covering the networking industry. She can be reached at cburns1227@googlemail.com.

Read more about cloud computing in Network World’s Cloud Computing section.

All contents copyright 1995-2011 Network World, Inc. http://www.networkworld.com

FBI’s holiday online shopping tips

Internet Crime Complaint Center wishes you a safe shopping season

By Network World Staff, Network World
November 21, 2011 02:14 PM ET
From the FBI Internet Crime Complaint Center:

In advance of the holiday season, the FBI reminds shoppers to beware of cyber criminals and their aggressive and creative ways to steal money and personal information. Scammers use many techniques to fool potential victims including fraudulent auction sales, reshipping merchandise purchased with a stolen credit card, sale of fraudulent or stolen gift cards through auction sites at discounted prices, and phishing e-mails advertising brand name merchandise for bargain prices or e-mails promoting the sale of merchandise that ends up being a counterfeit product.

Fraudulent Classified Ads or Auction Sales

Internet criminals post classified ads or auctions for products they do not have. If you receive an auction product from a merchant or retail store, rather than directly from the auction seller, the item may have been purchased with someone else’s stolen credit card number. Contact the merchant to verify the account used to pay for the item actually belongs to you.

SHOPPER SPECIAL: Will Thanksgiving upstage Black Friday for online tech sales?

Shoppers should be cautious and not provide credit card numbers, bank account numbers, or other financial information directly to the seller. Fraudulent sellers will use this information to purchase items for their scheme from the provided financial account. Always use a legitimate payment service to protect purchases.

Diligently check each seller’s rating and feedback along with their number of sales and the dates on which feedback was posted. Be wary of a seller with 100% positive feedback, if they have a low total number of feedback postings and all feedback was posted around the same date and time.

Gift Card Scam

The safest way to purchase gift cards is directly from the merchant or authorized retail merchant. If the merchant discovers the card you received from another source or auction was initially obtained fraudulently, the merchant will deactivate the gift card number, and it will not be honored to make purchases.

Phishing and Social Networking

Be leery of e-mails or text messages you receive indicating a problem or question regarding your financial accounts. In this scam, you are directed to follow a link or call the number provided in the message to update your account or correct the problem. The link actually directs the individual to a fraudulent Web site or message that appears legitimate; however, any personal information you provide, such as account number and personal identification number (PIN), will be stolen.

Another scam involves victims receiving an e-mail message directing the recipient to a spoofed Web site. A spoofed Web site is a fake site or copy of a real Web site that is designed to mislead the recipient into providing personal information.

Consumers are encouraged to beware of bargain e-mails advertising one day only promotions for recognized brands or Web sites. Fraudsters often use the hot items of the season to lure bargain hunters into providing credit card information. The old adage “if it seems too good to be true” is a good barometer to use to legitimize e-mails.

Black Friday has traditionally been the “biggest shopping day of the year.” The Monday following Thanksgiving has more recently (2005) been labeled Cyber Monday, meaning the e-commerce industry endorses this special day to offer sales and promotions without interfering with the traditional way to shop. Scammers try to prey on Black Friday or Cyber Monday bargain hunters by advertising “one day only” promotions from recognized brands. Consumers should be on the watch for too good to be true e-mails from unrecognized Web sites.

Along with on-line shopping comes the growth of consumers utilizing social networking sites and mobile phones to satisfy their shopping needs more easily. Again, consumers are encouraged to beware of e-mails, text messages, or postings that may lead to fraudulent sites offering bargains on brand name products.

Tips

Here are some tips you can use to avoid becoming a victim of cyber fraud:

• Do not respond to unsolicited (spam) e-mail.

• Do not click on links contained within an unsolicited e-mail.

• Be cautious of e-mail claiming to contain pictures in attached files, as the files may contain viruses. Only open attachments from known senders. Always run a virus scan on attachment before opening.

• Avoid filling out forms contained in e-mail messages that ask for personal information.

• Always compare the link in the e-mail to the web address link you are directed to and determine if they match.

• Log on directly to the official Web site for the business identified in the e-mail, instead of “linking” to it from an unsolicited e-mail. If the e-mail appears to be from your bank, credit card issuer, or other company you deal with frequently, your statements or official correspondence from the business will provide the proper contact information.

• Contact the actual business that supposedly sent the e-mail to verify that the e-mail is genuine.

• If you are requested to act quickly or there is an emergency, it may be a scam. Fraudsters create a sense of urgency to get you to act impulsively.

• If you receive a request for personal information from a business or financial institution, always look up the main contact information for the requesting company on an independent source (phone book, trusted internet directory, legitimate billing statement, etc.) and use that contact information to verify the legitimacy of the request.

• Remember if it looks too good to be true, it probably is.

To receive the latest information about cyber scams, please go to the FBI Web site and sign up for e-mail alerts by clicking on one of the red envelopes. If you have received a scam e-mail, please notify the IC3 by filing a complaint at www.ic3.gov. For more information on e-scams, please visit the FBI’s New E-Scams and Warnings webpage athttp://www.fbi.gov/cyberinvest/escams.htm.

Read more about security in Network World’s Security section.

All contents copyright 1995-2011 Network World, Inc. http://www.networkworld.com

Microsoft patch snuffs out major worm potential

Microsoft issued its four expected patches as part of its regular release cycle, including a fix for a potentially serious worm

Microsoft today released four patches as part of its regularly scheduled patch cycle, including a critical fix to a flaw that could allow attackers to launch a dangerous worm.

This month’s patches affects all versions, including Windows 7 and Windows Server 2008 R2, with two patches rated important and one rated moderate. All three patches require a restart.

The update labeled MS11-083 fixes a problem with the TCP/IP stack in Windows, or what Microsoft describes as “an externally found reference counter issue in TCP/IP stack.” The good news is that exploiting this vulnerability isn’t easy.

“Since this vulnerability does not require any user interaction or authentication, all Windows machines, workstations and servers that are on the Internet can be freely attacked. The mitigating element here is that the attack is complicated to execute,” says Amol Sarwate, manager of vulnerability labs for patch management vendor Qualys. “But otherwise this has all the required markings for a big worm.”

Essentially, the attack involves sending a large number of UDP packets to an unprotected port. When the system is deluged with network packets, the reference counter in the stack will keep incrementing and eventually wrap around. At that point, the system could crash, or if the attacker has planted other malware, the hacker could own the system.

Notes Joshua Talbot, security intelligence manager, Symantec Security Response: “We estimate an attack attempting to leverage it would take a considerable amount of time; perhaps four to five hours to complete a single attack. However, if an attacker can pull it off the result would be a complete system crash or compromise if the attacker develops a reliable means of exploitation.”

Among the important patches is one that fixes a DLL preloading vulnerability in Windows Mail (MS11-085). This class of attack has been around since August 2010, Sarwate says.

“The vulnerability could allow remote code execution if a user opens a legitimate file (such as an .eml or .wcinv file) that is located in the same network directory as a specially crafted dynamic link library (DLL) file. Then, while opening the legitimate file, Windows Mail or Windows Meeting Space could attempt to load the DLL file and execute any code it contained,” Microsoft says.

Microsoft has also fixed another vulnerability in Active Directory, Active Directory Application Mode (ADAM) and Active Directory Lightweight Directory Service (AD LDS) via MS11-086. It could allow elevation of privileges “if Active Directory is configured to use LDAP over SSL (LDAPS) and an attacker acquires a revoked certificate that is associated with a valid domain account and then uses that revoked certificate to authenticate to the Active Directory domain,” Microsoft says. However, Active Directory is not configured to use LDAP over SSL by default.

Although these two patches are only rated as important, Microsoft says that it is likely that exploit code is available in the wild, or will be soon.

The final patch, MS11-084, rated moderate, fixes a hole in Windows Kernel Mode Drivers. If executed, it could lead to a denial of service “if a user opens a specially crafted TrueType font file as an email attachment or navigates to a network share or WebDAV location” with the evil TrueType font file, Microsoft says.

A patch for the zero-day vulnerability used by the Duqu installer did not arrive, nor was it expected. Last week, Microsoft released a manual fix that IT administrators can execute themselves. Symantec’s Talbot believes that Microsoft may not wait until a routine Patch Tuesday and will release an out-of-band fix for Duqu when it is ready.

By Julie Bort, Network World
Julie Bort is the editor of Network World’s Microsoft Subnet and Open Source Subnet communities. She writes the Microsoft Update and Source Seeker blogs. Follow Bort on Twitter @Julie188.

Read more about software in Network World’s Software section.

Computer infected? Blame yourself, Microsoft report concludes

In its latest security findings, Microsoft says old holes with patches available are the cause of most Windows infections

Posted By Arday Ardayfio
October 11, 2011 04:06 PM ET

Zero-day exploits are nerve-racking for IT professionals but are far less dangerous than unpatched older vulnerabilities for which fixes are available, Microsoft says.

A zero-day is a vulnerability for which a patch is not yet available. These accounted for less than 1% of all detected infections in the first half of 2011, according to Microsoft’s latest security research report. Instead, Microsoft finds that Java remains the worst cause of infections — and old Java at that, with patches long since available.

SURVEY: Microsoft patching: Still painful after all these years

“Java exploits were responsible for between one-third and one-half of all exploits observed in each of the four most recent quarters,” says the Microsoft Security Intelligence Report Volume 11, released Tuesday. [Full report PDF]. Java attacks include infections from holes in the Java Runtime Environment, Java Virtual Machine, and Java SE in the Java Development Kit.

Like previous versions of this report, Microsoft finds that nearly all infections could have been stopped if the user had been using the latest version of software, or had not clicked on a malware-laced link. Note that the report is limited to instances of attacks that Microsoft can detect through its Malicious Software Removal Tool and its other anti-malware products. Zero-day attacks that it cannot detect would not be calculated in its findings. Using these, the company analyzed security incidents from more than 600 million systems in more than 100 countries for the first half of 2011, many of them Windows PCs owned by consumers or small businesses without dedicated IT staff.

It’s not surprising that Microsoft’s research validates that Microsoft’s newer products are more secure and that its prevention methods are working. Nevertheless, the report also offers insight into the types of preventable infections that PCs still fall prey to.

Second on the list of most popular infections were attacks against the Windows OS, which saw an increase in the second quarter. This was entirely thanks to exploits using a vulnerability in Windows Shell made famous by Stuxnet. Microsoft had patched this hole in August 2010 for all versions of Windows (including WS2008 server core installations).

The next most detected attacks were those that entered through HTML and Javascript, then holes in document readers including Office, followed by vulnerabilities in Adobe Flash.

The overall theme in Microsoft’s latest 2011 security threats finds that old is bad, new is good, while social networks are the new breeding ground for successful phishing attacks. Overall, 27 threats represented more than 80% of all malware detected in the period and nearly all of it was preventable through already available patches.

While hackers are forever finding software vulnerabilities, improved software security techniques are making it harder for those attacks to have much effect in the wild, says Jeff Jones, director for Microsoft Trustworthy Computing. Techniques like stack overflow protection, data execution prevention and address space layout randomization limit the severity of infections if they can plant malware on machines.

“Newer is better, and I’m not just saying for Microsoft products. Smartphone makers are building in newer techniques like address space randomization,” says Jones, who couldn’t resist adding a plug for Windows 7. “If you are running a product that’s 10 years old, time to think to moving product more recent than that.”

For instance, infection rates are dramatically lower between older and newer versions of Windows, with 10.9% of Windows XP SP3, the current version, succumbing to infections; Vista SP2 32-bit users were hit 5.7% of the time, Windows 7 32-bit 4% and Windows 7 SP1 32-bit a mere 1.8% (with 64-bit infection rates even lower). Microsoft normalizes these statistics, comparing an equal number of computers per version, so the number of XP users vs. Windows 7 users does not taint the findings. Windows 7 SP1 was released in February and was essentially a roll-up release of security and bug fixes, with no added functionality.

Meanwhile, the report says exploits affecting Android and the Open Handset Alliance were on the rise. These were detected when Android users downloaded infected programs to their Windows computers before transferring the software to their devices. The biggest was a Trojan family it calls AndroidOS/DroidDream, “which often masquerades as a legitimate Android application, and can allow a remote attacker to gain access to the mobile device,” the report says. Google fixed that hole with a security update published in March; however, detected DroidDream infections continued to rise through the second quarter.

There was some good news. Many of the methods Microsoft has implemented to limit the severity of infections are having some effect, if Microsoft does say so itself. For instance, in February, Microsoft released an update for XP and Vista systems which fixed the Autorun feature from being so easily abused. Windows 7 always included this feature. Autorun is a favorite method to spread Conficker, which still appears as a top infection on enterprise networks, the report says. A more secure Autorun doesn’t automatically launch applications on thumb drives and DVDs.

Microsoft reports that Autorun infections decreased by as much as 82%. However, Autorun is still a top prorogation technique, and 43% of malware included Autorun as a propagation method, the report says.

Likewise, with Microsoft’s help in taking down the botnets Cutwail and Rustock, spam rates dropped from about 90 billion blocked messages in July 2010 to about 25 billion in June 2011.

Indeed overall infections declined compared to the last half of 2010, from a high of 12.3 per 1,000 computers cleaned in 3Q 2010 to 9.8 in 2Q 2011.

Now for the bad news. What hackers are losing in the way of easy drive-by infections and Autorun propagation, they seem to be making up for in phishing via social media, such as Facebook clickjacking attacks. “In April 84% of all phishing was through social networks,” Jones says.

As Microsoft sees it, protection against these attacks remains in your hands, by keeping up on patches and fixes.

Julie Bort is the editor of Network World’s Microsoft Subnet and Open Source Subnet communities. She writes the Microsoft Update and Source Seeker blogs. Follow Bort on Twitter @Julie188.

Read more about security in Network World’s Security section.

Shopping in my sleep? No, just malware.

I received my confirmation email from Athleta so quickly, I didn’t even remember placing the order. But I was intrigued by the possibility of my having ordered a long list of great-sounding swimwear and summer clothes from Athleta without even realizing it. Am I that addicted to e-commerce that I can shop in my sleep? Or was I having a shopaholic blackout? Perhaps it was time for an intervention.

To dig a little deeper into the issue, I visited the Athleta site (NOT by clicking through the link in the email, after all I do work for a security company). How would the Shirrendipity halter tankini listed in the confirmation email look on me? Hmm… XL does seem a little bit too big, but, who knows, maybe their sizes run small… I’m really trying to convince myself there is a tankini on its way to me that I don’t remember ordering.

If you haven’t figured it out by now, this email was NOT sent by Athleta. It was sent by a purveyor of malware, trying to get me to click on one of the hyperlinks within the message. As part of my regular workweek, I see a lot of spam, malware and phishing emails. But this email message looked SO good, so convincing — down to the sporty shirred swim skirt in the order list, that quite frankly, I could have ordered — that even I was fooled for a minute. Even though I had never heard of the store. I even went to far as to type in my email address in the “forgot your password” wizard at Athleta.com, to see if maybe, just maybe, I had set up an account there & ordered something without realizing it, since after all, there are lots of e-commerce partnerships these days.

There is always some detail that is a little “off” on a phishing email, or as in this case, a targeted malware message, and Idid notice the sizing, and of course the fact that I didn’t remember ordering from the store. The message was so good, however, that I was even willing to overlook these tiny issues. But for the suspicious among us, another detail is a dead giveaway – the link in the email doesn’t match the link seen when you hover over it with the mouse. Even though “athleta-billing.com” looks like it could be a legitimate Athleta domain, the visible hyperlink should match the link it’s actually taking me to, so this is another hint that it’s not a real confirmation email. No legitimate business would include text that appears to be a hyperlink and stealthily hide the real hyperlink in the source code.

Once I realized I hadn’t been sleep-shopping, I relaxed and sent the message to my colleagues in the virus and spam labs and asked them: What would have happened if I had clicked on the link? The answer isn’t pretty (nowhere near as pretty as the Venetian Blue All Terrain Skirt I also supposedly ordered).

Clicking on the “order status” or “return policy” URLs in the email message downloads a zip file which includes the executable “invoice_athleta_order—.exe”. If opened, the first thing this malware does is determine my geographical location. Whatever happens after this may depend on the location since the results are sent to a control server. The malware then copies or downloads several other pieces of malware: “google.exe”, “googles.exe”, “googletools.exe” and “SOD.exe.” Note that the names of the files sound legitimate, so even if I notice them on my computer, I probably won’t be suspicious.

“googletools.exe” downloads a configuration file with a list of sites and URLs. Browsing to these sites will trigger another bit of malware, most likely logging my keystrokes or taking screenshots in order to steal my login usernames and passwords. Among the sites that trigger this behavior are:

  • AlertPay
  • Amazon
  • AT&T
  • Bank of America
  • Best Buy
  • Black Hat SEO Forum
  • CHASE Home
  • Citibank
  • Craigslist
  • Facebook
  • Fifth Third Bank
  • Go Daddy
  • Google Checkout
  • Hack Forums
  • Harris Bank
  • IBackup
  • IMVU
  • LastPass
  • Liberty Reserve
  • Lockerz
  • Moneybookers
  • Myspace
  • Netflix
  • Newegg
  • Payment Gateway (authorize.net)
  • PayPal
  • PlayStation
  • PNC Bank
  • RapidShare
  • RoboForm
  • Target
  • TCF Bank
  • TheVault
  • T-Mobile
  • U.S. Cellular
  • Verizon
  • Walmart.com
  • Warez-BB
  • WarriorForum
  • WebMoney
  • Western Union
  • World of Warcraft

In other words, almost every popular bank, e-commerce site, cell phone provider, etc. where I might enter a credit card or banking credentials is fair game for this nasty malware that tried to target me through my unfulfilled wish to own the perfect tankini.

They say a bathing suit is a slim layer of protection against the sun’s harsh rays. In this case I was barely a Lycra thread away from getting a serious malware infection.

Well, looking on the bright side, this malware-laden email got me to visit the real Athleta.com. So why didn’t I order anything from Athleta? Maybe I will.

Email text:

Dear Rebecca Herson Thanks for shopping at athleta.com. Your order number is #15YNB0G. Please print this page or write this number down, for future reference. This order should arrive within 9 business days.

You may check the status and order information of your order by:

http://www.athleta.com/myaccount/order?=15YN–G

 

Item
Description
Size Unit 
Price
Qty Total Return 
Type

 

Sporty Shirred Swim Skirt
Black
XL 44.00 1 44.00 Mail only
Shirrendipity Halter Tankini
White
XL 59.00 1 59.00 Mail only
Sporty Shirred Bottom
Garden Green
XL 42.00 1 42.00 Mail only
Shirrendipity Halter Bikini
Garden Green
DCUP 44.00 1 44.00 Mail only
Doran Dress
Indigo
XL 69.00 1 69.00 Mail only
Double Dutch Tee
Venetian Blue
XL 54.00 1 54.00 Mail only
All Terrain Skirt
Cargo
16 59.00 1 59.00 Mail only

 

Summary of Charges

 

Order Subtotal: 371.00
Shipping & Handling: Free
Tax: 28.64
Order Total: 399.64

 

Payment Info

 

VISA:

 

You will receive a shipment notification email message as soon as we send your order. We may also send you additional updates regarding the status of your order. This email is for your records only and cannot be used as a receipt for in-store returns. To receive a full refund, you must bring the invoice included in your shipment to the store.New: Gap, Old Navy, Banana Republic, and Piperlime return policies have changed. Return merchandise within 45 days of the original online purchase date. To view the entire return policy, CLICK HERE.

Sincerely,

athleta.com Customer Service

Reposted from http://www.dataprotectioncenter.com/security/shopping-in-my-sleep-no-just-malware/

IT Support for Small Businesses with Big Aspirations

To ensure profitability as well as perpetual existence, small business enterprises must invest in a sound business IT support system. In the times of globalisation, small businesses can take help from

Information Technology (IT) made inroads into the corporate sector a long time back and since then it has become an integral part of most modern business operations. Commonly used IT solution equipment includes computers, servers, Internet connectivity equipment, peripheral devices and phone systems. Small businesses can benefit largely using IT services.
To ensure profitability as well as perpetual existence, small business enterprises must invest in a sound business IT support system. In the times of globalisation, small businesses can take help from IT services to connect with their target audience and affiliates and expand their reach.

Here is a list of the advantages of IT support for small business enterprises-

1.Increases productivity- An effective information technology infrastructure ensures that your business is well managed and your workers work more efficiently to enhance the productivity.
2.Improves communication- Better communication allows better business decision-making and facilitate the small business enterprises’ expansion into new territories and countries. IT services also ease communication with customers.
3.Efficiency- IT services enable streamlining of work flow through data storage and management. It is a cost-efficient way of getting work done in a short period of time.
4.Gives a competitive edge- A business enterprise, no matter how small it is, can take advantage of IT solutions to stay head and shoulders ahead of the competitors. Through IT, these businesses can improve their services and products to attract their target audience.
5.Bridges the cultural gap- Information technology helps small businesses to dare reaching out to people from different cultures and establish business connections.
6.Helps in developing specific business technologies- Businesses can also make use of IT services to develop business technologies that no other company can duplicate, resulting in operational advantage.
7.Eliminates redundant tasks- A sound IT infrastructure eliminates unnecessary tasks by centralizing different business functions.
Various elements involved in IT services-

Typically, IT support for business includes support and maintenance of network, computer hardware, backup solutions, data storage, disaster recovery planning, networking etc.

1.Support & maintenance- This is very essential in maintaining constant work flow. It ensures that your employees work to the best of their capabilities without any glitches or interruption. It includes computer support, network support, computer hardware maintenance, remote network support and network maintenance services.
2.Backup solutions and data storage- Protection of data is of utmost importance for every business. Companies must invest in backup and data storage solutions to make good use of the data in the decision-making process.
3.Disaster recovery plan- Disaster may strike anytime, anywhere without a warning. It may be because of human negligence or nature-induced. A sound disaster recovery plan would ensure that no matter what the disaster is, the business data is well protected for future use. It reduces hardware costs and lowers the complexity of maintaining a backup site.
4.Networking- The networking services help businesses to manage their networks more efficiently. It includes network support, quick response time and firewall protection.
So if you own a small business but want to make it big, install a sound IT infrastructure that incorporates all the above mentioned elements and allows to be reach beyond limits.

Do you own a small business but want to make it big, install a sound IT infrastructure that incorporates all the above mentioned elements and allows to be reach beyond limits.

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