Sunday, March 25, 2012

How do you know if you can trust a website?

We use anti virus software, firewalls and spyware blocking software to keep our computers safe but it may not be enough. The truth is, if you continue to go to "bad websites" eventually something is going to get through and you'll be calling a company like ours for virus removal. So how can you avoid sites that may be "untrustworthy?"

Web of Trust is a free browser plugin that you should really look into. This great little utility ranks websites in a number of ways including trustworthiness, privacy, vendor reliability and child safety. It uses a simple, easy to recognize "traffic light" method of green, yellow and red color to inform you of the site's rating in any particular category. Based on the rating, you determine if you want to visit the site or not. It's simple, easy to use and gives you one more line of defense in the battle to keep your computer safe!

Is Web of Trust Perfect?

Of course it isn't perfect and it can't prevent you from going to bad sites if you choose to ignore the warning. We installed this on a customer's computer that was recently infected and cleaned up. After getting their computer back the customer called to explain that Web of Trust was giving  a red light on a particular page that they liked to visit. It was a trustworthiness and privacy warning but the customer insisted that they wanted to visit that page. A few days later the computer was back in for a virus!

Web of Trust is not a replacement for an anti virus software, it's simply one more layer of security. If you've been using an anti virus software and find yourself getting infected perhaps you might want to consider a smarter anti virus solution, one that is actually monitored by professionals to make sure it's working! We also highly suggest that our customers consider backing up their data on a regular basis. A great solution is a cloud based backup that simply operates in the background so you don't have to worry about it. This way, if you do get a virus you can be sure that your music, movies, pictures and documents are safe and sound.

Blueline Network Solutions is a computer sales, service and repair facility providing service to consumers, businesses and educational institutions. We can be contacted at (888) 748-2583 or by visiting our website.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Your own personal cloud...

Over the past few years we've heard more and more about "the cloud". At first it seemed to be some sort of mythical, magical wonderland but the truth is that the cloud is just the internet. I say "just the internet" as if it means nothing but the internet is of course much bigger than that. Mbaonline recently posted an Infographic detailing a day in the life of the internet that demonstrates just how much we use the web! It's a pretty amazing graphic with some interesting statistics (daily iPhone sales outpace daily birth rates!).

Looking at the article got me thinking about the internet, the cloud and about how we access our personal data. Whether we realize it or not, many of us are developing our own personal cloud. Each day the use of web connected smart phones and tablet devices is growing as people are recognizing the value in staying connected. Companies like Evernote have developed great applications that let us share notes between devices and access them anywhere we like. Apple and Google both give users the ability to store music on the web instead of their home computer and access it from anywhere we like.

For our company, we use an application to provide a cloud based backup of our critical files and data (if you aren't backing your info up to the cloud you really should consider it). This particular product also gives us the ability to provide our staff and customers with a "Cloud Drive" on their computers. The Cloud Drive acts like any storage device (hard drive, USB flash drive, etc...) and lets you drag and drop files to it for storage. No matter where you are, as long as you have an internet connection you can access the files from any device including smart phones, tablets and traditional computers. I often use it for storing information I may need for a meeting. That way, I have it available to me at any time! One of our customers uses it to allow their marketing team to save information to it so that the sales team can access the information anytime, anywhere on their tablets.

So just how are you using the cloud and what does your personal cloud contain? Music, photos, video, what else? If you give it some thought you might be surprised at how much you use "the cloud".

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Gone Phishin'

Sadly, that's not a "typo" in the title, but a reference to a nasty little practice that some folks have of trying to get you to visit a malicious site and give up your personal information. According to Wikipedia, "Phising is a way of attempting to acquire information such as usernames, passwords and credit card details by masquerading as a trustworthy entity in an electronic communication." 

Most often, your e-mail is the primary target for phishing scams although various social networking sites are sometimes utilized by scammers to make posts with links to the offending site. You can't really blame your e-mail client, ISP or favorite social networking site, these messages arrive with professional-looking logos and legitimate looking documentation that’s extremely convincing. All that's required to spring the trap is for you to follow the link they provide!
Clicking the link may take you to a very legitimate looking site that asks you to confirm your login information, social security numbers, passwords, etc... In fact, some phishing attempts have become so sophisticated that they can send you to a legitimate site (a bank for example) and then generate a pop-up window that asks you to confirm your information. In this case, the main page underneath the pop-up is a legitimate site, the pop-up is the actual scam!
So how can you avoid phishing scams?

If you receive an e-mail asking you to visit a Web site, you can find out who’s behind the message by checking the sender’s e-mail through WHOIS, before you click anything! Here’s how to do it:
  2. Hover your mouse over the link and copy the domain for the address that your e-mail client (Outlook for example)  displays. If you can't click inside the address box and highlight it, copy it down on a piece of paper. The domain is the component that is in front of dot com. For instance, the domain for is  bluelinenetworksolutions .
  3. Point your Web browser to
  4. Enter the domain from the e-mail’s link in the WHOIS Lookup control and click Go.
  5. WHOIS will display details about the site, including the company or person who registered it.
If your e-mail’s supposedly from a bank or legitimate institution but is registered to some company you never heard of, or even an individual out of the country, chances are this is a phishing attempt! Do yourself a favor and don't take the bait!
It's possible that the info you receive from WHOIS still doesn't provide you with the answer that you need. In that case, try to track down the phone number or actual website address for the company and see if things are legitimate. I remember a recent e-mail I received where all of the information was credible except for a phone number that was provided in the e-mail. When I tracked the legitimate company down I found out that they were aware of the scam being perpetrated in their name and an investigation was underway!

A few tips for avoiding phishing scams are:

  • If you receive an e-mail asking you to confirm information for your bank, credit card company, etc.. and it contains a link, don't follow the link. Close the e-mail and visit your bank's site the way you normally would.
  • Always make sure you are entering private information in on a secure website. These sites start with "https://" and a small "lock" icon will appear to confirm that the site is secure. If you click the lock icon the site's security information will come up and you can see who it is registered to.
  • Keep a close watch on the actual url of the site that you are at. For example, the text may say one thing but the link may lead you someplace else. In otherwords, if the link is supposed to go to "" but the address in the toolbar says "" then you need to get out fast!

If you'd like more information on how you can avoid phishing attacks, the FTC has published an article that can be found HERE. If you'd like more information on Blueline Network Solutions please feel free to visit our website at or check us out on Facebook at

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Why Should You Consider a Managed Anti-Virus Solution.

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Every minute counts in today’s business. Stop wasting your valuable and scarce IT resource time and energy on the selection, testing, planning, deployment, updating and reporting of your Anti-virus software. Managed Anti Virus service provides the skilled IT resources, domain expertise, centralized monitoring and management facilities and proactive approach to ensuring the protection of your desktops and laptops against the ever present  threat of viruses, spam and malware attacks.

A managed Anti-virus solution can provide you with the peace of mind of knowing that your system is up to date, that scans are being run  when they are supposed to be, and that a trained IT expert is looking out for your security. You no longer have to worry that someone may have disabled their Anti-virus software because it was "scanning while they were working" or wonder if they latest security updates have been downloaded and properly installed.

Advantages of a Managed Anti-Virus

• Provides proactive & comprehensive security, monitoring  and management
• Centralizes the deployment and updating of software to  ensure coverage and consistency
• Automates management processes to avoid errors and  reduce costs
• Leverages expert IT skills

The truth is that having a better anti-virus solution is really just the tip of the iceberg in terms of the benefits that you receive. A fully managed anti-virus solution also delivers advanced business solutions such as:

  • Enterprise Class Solution - Encompassing more than just anti-virus, this solution supports full endpoint security, providing you with an enterprise class method to combat viruses, malware, trojans and other malicious software.
  • Comprehensive Reporting - A wide range of detailed reports are provided to ensure you have visibility into what is happening and assurance that you are protected.
  • Fully Monitored System - We monitor the software to ensure it is working, has the latest virus definitions and we'll act immediately if there is an issue, potentially saving you from an attack.
  • Network Health Monitoring Included - We monitor the health of your network, servers and workstations with daily maintenance checks including memory, processor and drive usage to proactively discover issues before they impact your business.
  • Centralized management - Each machine is kept up to date directly from a centralized server. You no longer have to rely on end -users to manage their anti-virus.

While the list of features and benefits that a managed Anti-virus solution provide to your business is huge, the price is generally not much more than you are probably paying for your current Anti-virus solution. Here at Blueline Network Solutions we provide a managed Anti-virus solution not only to our business customers, but to our residential ones as well. Viruses are getting smarter and smarter everyday, isn't it about time your Anti-virus solution got smarter too?

If you'd like more information on how a managed Anti-virus solution can benefit your home or business, feel free to visit our website or give us a call at (888) 748-BLUE.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Data Backup - Can you continue to ignore it?

Data Backup. The 400lb gorilla in your IT strategy that nobody wants to talk about. Data backup is one of the single most critical aspects of any IT strategy and it is often overlooked, ignored, misunderstood and mismanaged. Perhaps most businesses don't pay attention to it because it isn't something we use on a daily basis. When the e-mail goes down or when we can't access a critical application we notice immediately, but backing that data up is something a lot of people just assume is being done properly. Sadly, we see businesses every week that have major backup and recovery problems. The hidden costs for managing a tape or hard disk based backup solution are unbelievably high. Backup is critical and it is not an overstatement to say that a successfully recovered backup could save your business.

What you need to know about your data backup and recovery strategy

  • It’s not about the Backup. It’s about the RECOVERY - You can backup every spec of information on your computer but if you can't recover it then you may as well have not backed it up in the first place. Regular testing of your backups to recover files is critical. We suggest testing miscellaneous files every 30 days and full server/system recoveries twice a year (you are doing full server backups right?)
  • Affordability - The IT world is growing and evolving quicker than any other industry. New technologies are constantly coming out that may lower operational costs or open up formerly cost prohibitive techniques. We suggest an annual review of your IT strategy as a whole, including your backup and recovery process.
  • Lose the Tape Drives - If ever there was an outdated technology that deserves to be put out to pasture it's tape drives. We see 3-4 times the number of problems with tape based backups as compared to alternative solutions and consequently, a much higher cost to maintain a tape based system. The tapes themselves have a relatively short shelf life (6-12 months) and are affected by environmental conditions like heat, humidity and magnetic interference.
  • Local as well as remote backup - The best backup and recovery strategies include the use of local backup for quick, easy recovery as well as offsite or remote backup in the event of a catastrophe. Offsite and secure copies of your data should be readily accessible in the event of a disaster situation or in the event a critical server failure.
  • Are you backing up everything you need and is it recoverable - Too often we are called to restore data only to find out that it is not recoverable because backup procedures were not followed; often because of lack of training or expertise. This is especially prevalent with SQL (and other) data base products as well as Exchange and other email systems. These systems typically require specialized backup procedures in order to ensure complete backup and recoverability of data.
  • What if a server goes down - For some of us, each hour of down time comes at a high cost. In some backup plans, even in the best of circumstances, the company can expect a day or more down with the solutions they have in place. Technologies such as server virtualization can often be used to get your systems back up and running in a few hours or less, as opposed to a day or more. Some companies even feel the need to implement a spare server on site.
  • Data Retention and Archiving - How long are you retaining your data for and how many copies of that data? We've seen some companies that implement a backup solution that simply overwrites the previous backup but what if you need an older copy of a file? Proper solutions should maintain numerous instances of your data and allow you to select which specific instance of a file or files you would like to restore. Additionally, many businesses require archiving of older data as well. Certain businesses may be required to retrieve data that is 10 or more years old. Understanding the rules and regulations that may affect your data retention policies is critical.
  • Is once a day enough - Many businesses follow a very traditional procedure of "nightly backups". For some businesses this may be perfectly acceptable but what happens in the event of a power outage or a failed backup? Is a full day's worth of data loss going to affect your business? Many new technologies can allow for files to be backed up within minutes of changes taking place to them, assuring your business of up to the minute data backup.
  • Backed up data needs to be secure (encrypted) - Maybe your business is regulated by various government policies that mandate your data be secure and encrypted or perhaps you're simply concerned that the private information on your system be kept private (and you should be!). In the event of a lost or stolen tape or drive, it is imperative that the information on that medium stays safe and secure, especially if your backup data contains information which is considered protected (i.e., name and social security number or patient health information
  • Write it down - Any process or procedure is only as good as the paper it is written on. Your backup and recovery policy needs to be clearly documented included a list of who is responsible for everything from backing the data up, monitoring the backup to ensure that it is taking place and testing the recovery process on a regularly scheduled basis.

If all of this sounds like a lot of information, it is. The fact of the matter is that implementing a proper backup strategy requires planning, expertise, monitoring and testing. If you are unable or unwilling to commit the resources to do it properly then consider having someone do it for you. Most Managed Service Providers (MSP's) can handle the entire process including providing offsite storage, encryption and more. Typically the monthly cost for this type of service are probably less than you would pay an employee to handle all of these tasks and you have the peace of mind of knowing that the procedures are being performed by trained experts. Most MSPs can provide weekly and monthly reports and reviews that document their monitoring, backup and recovery tests performed.

If you would like to know more about data backup procedures and Managed services in general give us a call at 888.748.BLUE (2583) or visit us at

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Patch Management - Who's Minding Your Network?

A patch is a piece of software designed to fix problems with, or update a computer program, operating system or its supporting data. This includes fixing security vulnerabilities and other bugs, and improving the overall usability and performance. Though meant to fix problems, poorly designed or improperly managed patches can sometimes introduce new problems.

Patch management is the process of using a strategy and plan of what patches should be applied to which systems at a specified time. The key works here are Process, Strategy and Plan. Without all of these in place you aren't performing patch management, you are simply installing (or not installing) patches without knowing what effect they will have on your network. A typical patch management strategy should look like this:

  • Detect. Use tools to scan your systems for missing security patches. The detection should be automated and will trigger the patch management process.
  • Assess. If necessary updates are not installed, determine the severity of the issue(s) addressed by the patch and the mitigating factors that may influence your decision. By balancing the severity of the issue and mitigating factors, you can determine if the vulnerabilities are a threat to your current environment.
  • Acquire. If the vulnerability is not addressed by the security measures already in place, download the patch for testing.
  • Test. Install the patch on a test system to verify the ramifications of the update against your production configuration.
  • Deploy. Deploy the patch to production computers. Make sure your applications are not affected. Employ your rollback or backup restore plan if needed.
  • Maintain. Subscribe to notifications that alert you to vulnerabilities as they are reported. Begin the patch management process again.

Unfortunately most businesses and even many IT Service Providers have no formal process for patch management.

A critical step in our process when we evaluate a company's IT infrastructure is a complete Network Assessment. One of the things we look at during this assessment is how the patches are being managed. The two most common methods we see are "download and install automatically" and "do not download or install patches and updates." Sometimes it is hard to determine which of the two methods is worse! 

Potential clients will often tell us they don't download the updates/patches because "everything worked fine when the server/workstations were setup so we don't want any changes". New bugs, threats and vulnerabilities are discovered everyday and applying patches and updates to protect against these is critical. Ignoring them and allowing your system to go unpatched is a recipe for disaster. We also have potential clients that simply allow updates to be installed at random, as they are made available. Doing this on a live system can often result in problems when patches do not install properly or worse, when a patch or update is not compatible with an application that you may be running or when servers reboot overnight during an update and fail to come back online in the morning.

Patch management is one of the most critical and most overlooked and misunderstood aspects of maintaining a stable network environment. Most Managed Service providers offer a basic patch management program as a stand alone option (as well as bundled with more complete services) that is very affordable. When properly performed, patch management will provide you with a safe, secure and stable network environment. We encourage all of our clients and potential clients to periodically evaluate their patch management process and make changes where they are needed.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Managed Services vs. Traditional IT Service

Traditionally, computers and printers get fixed after they are broken. Typically, while you or your staff is busy working, a problem occurs that prevents someone, or everyone, from doing their job. You place a phone call to a local IT Service provider and hopefully they are able to get out there in the next few hours, but you may have to wait until the following day...

The technician shows up and begins working on resolving the problem. In the meantime, your business is not being as productive as it should. With luck, the technician had things back together in a few hours and you get a bill for the work that was done. In most areas this will range from $100-150 an hour but could be more or less, especially if it was an emergency or priority response.

So to recap things, something on your network broke, it cost you time and labor because employees could not do their jobs and you also had to pay someone to come out and fix it. It really is a strange scenario when you think about it. Each day you hope nothing goes wrong so that you don't have to pay a technician to come out, and each day they plan on something going wrong so that they can make a living...

Why not think differently?

When you get in your car and head to work, or to the store, your car warns you of potential problems. If you're low on oil, the check oil light comes on. If your coolant system isn't doing the job the temperature light comes on. Even that old smoke detector in your basement beeps when it senses that the battery is low. Your computer systems on the other hand, they just fail with no warning and leave you scrambling for a solution.

A Managed Service Provider (MSP) is someone who thinks differently about your network. The break-fix mentality of the past is turned upside down and instead, an MSP makes money by keeping your network running smoothly. In this scenario an MSP charges a fixed monthly fee to service your network. The value of this service is far greater than simply fixing a computer when it goes down.

 A quality Managed Service Program is a proactive service, not a reactive one. This means that the smoother and more efficiently the MSP can keep your systems up and running, the more profitable they become.  Typical MSPs provider constant 24x7 monitoring of your entire network, monitor and deploy security and application patches in a safe, controlled environment, provide virus updates, maintain firewalls and user permissions and many can even monitor the amount of toner in a printer and tell you when to order.

As a business owner or manager, your overall IT costs are reduced and put into a single, manageable monthly fee. Your staff is more productive since your network and systems are healthy and maintained. Servers, desktops and network components are kept updated and security threats are significantly reduced. A recent study determined that an average business class desktop computer costs 60% less to have managed through an MSP than it does to have fixed when it breaks. Typical benefits of implementing a managed Service Program also include:
  • Lower Total IT Costs: Through a regular monthly fee that covers all preventative and proactive maintenance for client machines, total IT costs are lowered.
  • Reduced Hidden Costs and Increased Staff Productivity: Because client PCs and servers are stable and secure, with fewer disruptions or breakdowns, your staff will have more time to be productive. Additionally, incidents such as data loss, failed backups and corrupt database files can be virtually eliminated.
  • Greater IT Cost Predictability: With a fixed monthly fee that covers monitoring, preventative maintenance, and unlimited remote support, clients know their exact IT costs per month and can budget accordingly.

Not sure if Managed Services are for you? Perhaps your business is too small? Think again, Eric Goodness, Vice President of the Gartner research firm predicts that by 2014, 90% of all North American companies will be using a remote infrastructure managed service. The size of your company will directly determine the price an MSP charges, a company with 10 computers is going to pay significantly less than one with 50 computers.

If you'd like to learn more about Managed Services or if you're simply in the market for some new computing equipment, visit our website at