Virtualization vendors fix processor flaws

Everyone has been trying to make sense of recently discovered vulnerabilities that affect almost every computer in use today. All you really need to know about the Spectre and Meltdown bugs is that they make it very easy to spy on private information stored on a computer. But if you’re using virtual desktops or servers, you’re probably safe.

What are the risks of an unpatched computer?

Regardless of whether you are using a computer with all its hardware sitting on your desk, or you’re connected to a virtual computer drawing most of its computing resources coming from a cloud server, you’ll be using something called a central processing unit (CPU).

As unbelievably efficient pieces of technology, CPUs have been programed to recognize patterns. When a CPU recognizes a pattern, it stores everything it needs to complete that task in a temporary place. If the pattern changes, the information is thrown out. Spectre and Meltdown allow hackers to not only view trashed patterns, but also to trick a CPU into thinking a specific pattern has changed and should be dumped into this vulnerable storage.

In worst case scenarios, this could affect credit card information, passwords, and personally identifiable information. And even though a virtual desktop or server is created with software that partitions hardware resources on a large computer into several smaller, standalone computers — Spectre and Meltdown flaws are still present.

How are they fixed?

Because these are hardware-level vulnerabilities, the only way to truly fix them is by replacing the CPUs. But because there aren’t any processors currently available without the Spectre and Meltdown flaws, software patches are the only option.

Amazon Web Services, Microsoft, and Google have all installed updates that essentially tell CPUs to stop recognizing patterns to store data ahead of time. However, predictive functions significantly increased the computing speeds of modern computers, meaning turning them off will slow down computer performance.

Virtualization is more cost effective than ever

This all sounds terrible, but it’s actually a huge selling point for virtual desktops and servers. First, it proves that big-name cloud platforms can push out urgent security updates to thousands upon thousands of clients in a relatively quick fashion. Those using “traditional” computers (remember, the ones with all the hardware sitting on your desk), need to apply these patches one-by-one, on-site.

Second, most virtualization platforms charge on a pay-for-what-you-use model. So, you’re not paying for hardware and its flaws, you’re paying for the actual work that is finished on your web-accessible computer.

Spectre and Meltdown will continue to affect the computing world for several months to come. However, businesses that use virtualization technology will not be hit nearly as hard. There’s no better time to make the switch than now — give us a call today.

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Virtualization services safe from CPU flaws

You may have seen headlines highlighting the dangers of two recently discovered hardware flaws: Spectre and Meltdown. They create incredibly technical problems for just about anyone who owns a computer, even those with virtual machines in the cloud. Thankfully, most vendors have already fixed the issue.

What are the risks of an unpatched computer?

Regardless of whether you are using a computer with all its hardware sitting on your desk, or you’re connected to a virtual computer drawing most of its computing resources coming from a cloud server, you’ll be using something called a central processing unit (CPU).

As unbelievably efficient pieces of technology, CPUs have been programed to recognize patterns. When a CPU recognizes a pattern, it stores everything it needs to complete that task in a temporary place. If the pattern changes, the information is thrown out. Spectre and Meltdown allow hackers to not only view trashed patterns, but also to trick a CPU into thinking a specific pattern has changed and should be dumped into this vulnerable storage.

In worst case scenarios, this could affect credit card information, passwords, and personally identifiable information. And even though a virtual desktop or server is created with software that partitions hardware resources on a large computer into several smaller, standalone computers — Spectre and Meltdown flaws are still present.

How are they fixed?

Because these are hardware-level vulnerabilities, the only way to truly fix them is by replacing the CPUs. But because there aren’t any processors currently available without the Spectre and Meltdown flaws, software patches are the only option.

Amazon Web Services, Microsoft, and Google have all installed updates that essentially tell CPUs to stop recognizing patterns to store data ahead of time. However, predictive functions significantly increased the computing speeds of modern computers, meaning turning them off will slow down computer performance.

Virtualization is more cost effective than ever

This all sounds terrible, but it’s actually a huge selling point for virtual desktops and servers. First, it proves that big-name cloud platforms can push out urgent security updates to thousands upon thousands of clients in a relatively quick fashion. Those using “traditional” computers (remember, the ones with all the hardware sitting on your desk), need to apply these patches one-by-one, on-site.

Second, most virtualization platforms charge on a pay-for-what-you-use model. So, you’re not paying for hardware and its flaws, you’re paying for the actual work that is finished on your web-accessible computer.

Spectre and Meltdown will continue to affect the computing world for several months to come. However, businesses that use virtualization technology will not be hit nearly as hard. There’s no better time to make the switch than now — give us a call today.

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Spectre and Meltdown vs. virtual desktops

On January 3, 2018, two hardware flaws were announced that affect nearly every computer sold within the last 20 years. Every virtualization service available relies on vulnerable computers, but you needn’t worry — almost every vendor has already protected your virtual machines.

What are the risks of an unpatched computer?

Regardless of whether you are using a computer with all its hardware sitting on your desk, or you’re connected to a virtual computer drawing most of its computing resources coming from a cloud server, you’ll be using something called a central processing unit (CPU).

As unbelievably efficient pieces of technology, CPUs have been programed to recognize patterns. When a CPU recognizes a pattern, it stores everything it needs to complete that task in a temporary place. If the pattern changes, the information is thrown out. Spectre and Meltdown allow hackers to not only view trashed patterns, but also to trick a CPU into thinking a specific pattern has changed and should be dumped into this vulnerable storage.

In worst case scenarios, this could affect credit card information, passwords, and personally identifiable information. And even though a virtual desktop or server is created with software that partitions hardware resources on a large computer into several smaller, standalone computers — Spectre and Meltdown flaws are still present.

How are they fixed?

Because these are hardware-level vulnerabilities, the only way to truly fix them is by replacing the CPUs. But because there aren’t any processors currently available without the Spectre and Meltdown flaws, software patches are the only option.

Amazon Web Services, Microsoft, and Google have all installed updates that essentially tell CPUs to stop recognizing patterns to store data ahead of time. However, predictive functions significantly increased the computing speeds of modern computers, meaning turning them off will slow down computer performance.

Virtualization is more cost effective than ever

This all sounds terrible, but it’s actually a huge selling point for virtual desktops and servers. First, it proves that big-name cloud platforms can push out urgent security updates to thousands upon thousands of clients in a relatively quick fashion. Those using “traditional” computers (remember, the ones with all the hardware sitting on your desk), need to apply these patches one-by-one, on-site.

Second, most virtualization platforms charge on a pay-for-what-you-use model. So, you’re not paying for hardware and its flaws, you’re paying for the actual work that is finished on your web-accessible computer.

Spectre and Meltdown will continue to affect the computing world for several months to come. However, businesses that use virtualization technology will not be hit nearly as hard. There’s no better time to make the switch than now — give us a call today.

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Use Google Search like an expert!

Everyone is familiar with Google Search, and most of us use it every day to find the information we need. Ironically, very few people know how to make the most out of this search engine. Read on to use Google like a pro.

Include and exclude keywords
Google will understand most of the search terms you type into it. However, at times the search engine will match only some of the words you typed, showing limited results. To avoid this, just point out which keywords are the most important by adding a plus symbol (+) in front of words you would like Google to include in the search results.

And if the results you’re looking for get pushed off the page by similar yet irrelevant articles, adding a minus symbol (-) in front of keywords you don’t want to see will avoid them popping up in the first place. For example, “+cloud services -hybrid cloud” will provide search results about different cloud services while excluding results related to hybrid cloud.

Additionally, searching a phrase within double quotation marks guarantees to retrieve results that include only the exact phrase that matches your query.

Do a website search
Ever need to look for information from a specific website? Instead of visiting that website and sifting through different pages, Google makes it a breeze by allowing you to add “site:url” to the end of your search query.

For example, if you want to find what Forbes has written about security, simply head to Google’s homepage and type “security site:www.forbes.com.” This makes sure Google includes only pages from Forbes that are about security in your search results.

You can also limit search results to university and government websites by adding “site:.edu” or “site:.gov” to your search query. Combining this with the keyword manipulation trick above will narrow your search even more.

Search by time period
Google has been indexing the web for decades in order to add web pages into its database. Because of that, it could be quite time-consuming sifting through countless search results to find an old website or page, or even recent stories, too. Time period search minimizes this headache by allowing you to specify a date range so you can find recent stories or archived news faster.

Just run a search like you normally would. Then click on Tools under the search box and hit the Any time drop-down menu. From there, you can choose the time period parameter, such as past month or past week, or fill in an exact time period.

Use Google to locate files
While Google mainly focuses on indexing web pages, it also indexes publicly available files like PDFs and spreadsheets. To look for them, just type in “filetype:” after your search query. For example, typing “report filetype:pdf” will provide PDFs with “report” in the title.

Advance your search
Advanced Search can be accessed by clicking Settings from the toolbar located under the search box. This gives you more ways to refine your searches, such as by region or language. By default, search results are prioritized based on your location, so you should adjust that according to the topics you’re searching for.

While these tips might not be the most exciting thing from the tech giant, they sure help businesses save time and work smarter instead of harder. And in today’s fast-paced business environment, little things like these make a huge difference. If you have questions about how to use Google products to streamline your daily routine and increase productivity, just give us a call.

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Google Search tips you need to know

What will we do without Google? Sure, there are other search engines out there; but let’s face it, Google has left its competitors in the dust, thanks to its speed and ease of use. What’s more, the search engine is packed with advanced search features that make life a lot easier.

Include and exclude keywords
Google will understand most of the search terms you type into it. However, at times the search engine will match only some of the words you typed, showing limited results. To avoid this, just point out which keywords are the most important by adding a plus symbol (+) in front of words you would like Google to include in the search results.

And if the results you’re looking for get pushed off the page by similar yet irrelevant articles, adding a minus symbol (-) in front of keywords you don’t want to see will avoid them popping up in the first place. For example, “+cloud services -hybrid cloud” will provide search results about different cloud services while excluding results related to hybrid cloud.

Additionally, searching a phrase within double quotation marks guarantees to retrieve results that include only the exact phrase that matches your query.

Do a website search
Ever need to look for information from a specific website? Instead of visiting that website and sifting through different pages, Google makes it a breeze by allowing you to add “site:url” to the end of your search query.

For example, if you want to find what Forbes has written about security, simply head to Google’s homepage and type “security site:www.forbes.com.” This makes sure Google includes only pages from Forbes that are about security in your search results.

You can also limit search results to university and government websites by adding “site:.edu” or “site:.gov” to your search query. Combining this with the keyword manipulation trick above will narrow your search even more.

Search by time period
Google has been indexing the web for decades in order to add web pages into its database. Because of that, it could be quite time-consuming sifting through countless search results to find an old website or page, or even recent stories, too. Time period search minimizes this headache by allowing you to specify a date range so you can find recent stories or archived news faster.

Just run a search like you normally would. Then click on Tools under the search box and hit the Any time drop-down menu. From there, you can choose the time period parameter, such as past month or past week, or fill in an exact time period.

Use Google to locate files
While Google mainly focuses on indexing web pages, it also indexes publicly available files like PDFs and spreadsheets. To look for them, just type in “filetype:” after your search query. For example, typing “report filetype:pdf” will provide PDFs with “report” in the title.

Advance your search
Advanced Search can be accessed by clicking Settings from the toolbar located under the search box. This gives you more ways to refine your searches, such as by region or language. By default, search results are prioritized based on your location, so you should adjust that according to the topics you’re searching for.

While these tips might not be the most exciting thing from the tech giant, they sure help businesses save time and work smarter instead of harder. And in today’s fast-paced business environment, little things like these make a huge difference. If you have questions about how to use Google products to streamline your daily routine and increase productivity, just give us a call.

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Take Google Search to the next level

Google has become so popular that its name is actually a verb in the dictionary. Despite people using Google every day, many don’t know that the search engine’s simple-looking interface is chock full of features that’ll help you find information faster.

Include and exclude keywords
Google will understand most of the search terms you type into it. However, at times the search engine will match only some of the words you typed, showing limited results. To avoid this, just point out which keywords are the most important by adding a plus symbol (+) in front of words you would like Google to include in the search results.

And if the results you’re looking for get pushed off the page by similar yet irrelevant articles, adding a minus symbol (-) in front of keywords you don’t want to see will avoid them popping up in the first place. For example, “+cloud services -hybrid cloud” will provide search results about different cloud services while excluding results related to hybrid cloud.

Additionally, searching a phrase within double quotation marks guarantees to retrieve results that include only the exact phrase that matches your query.

Do a website search
Ever need to look for information from a specific website? Instead of visiting that website and sifting through different pages, Google makes it a breeze by allowing you to add “site:url” to the end of your search query.

For example, if you want to find what Forbes has written about security, simply head to Google’s homepage and type “security site:www.forbes.com.” This makes sure Google includes only pages from Forbes that are about security in your search results.

You can also limit search results to university and government websites by adding “site:.edu” or “site:.gov” to your search query. Combining this with the keyword manipulation trick above will narrow your search even more.

Search by time period
Google has been indexing the web for decades in order to add web pages into its database. Because of that, it could be quite time-consuming sifting through countless search results to find an old website or page, or even recent stories, too. Time period search minimizes this headache by allowing you to specify a date range so you can find recent stories or archived news faster.

Just run a search like you normally would. Then click on Tools under the search box and hit the Any time drop-down menu. From there, you can choose the time period parameter, such as past month or past week, or fill in an exact time period.

Use Google to locate files
While Google mainly focuses on indexing web pages, it also indexes publicly available files like PDFs and spreadsheets. To look for them, just type in “filetype:” after your search query. For example, typing “report filetype:pdf” will provide PDFs with “report” in the title.

Advance your search
Advanced Search can be accessed by clicking Settings from the toolbar located under the search box. This gives you more ways to refine your searches, such as by region or language. By default, search results are prioritized based on your location, so you should adjust that according to the topics you’re searching for.

While these tips might not be the most exciting thing from the tech giant, they sure help businesses save time and work smarter instead of harder. And in today’s fast-paced business environment, little things like these make a huge difference. If you have questions about how to use Google products to streamline your daily routine and increase productivity, just give us a call.

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AI-powered VoIP: what businesses can expect

Automating business processes is a necessity for most organizations. While the human element is still important, automation increases time to market and saves money. And because telecom is an essential part of businesses’ operations, AI developers are introducing advances in VoIP telephony that will take automation to a whole new level.

Contact Center Operations

Thanks to highly automated VoIP technology, businesses can manage their call centers easily. It also reduces the need for human interaction without sacrificing service quality. So how else can AI help?

AI-integrated VoIP systems can add back that human element to call routing by determining a caller’s personality, mood, and other characteristics so calls are routed to the agent best equipped to handle them. This makes call-center operations more seamless and cost-efficient because it reduces the need to deploy agents with specialized skills.

Interactive Voice Response (IVR) Systems

An IVR system is an extremely useful tool for businesses that get a high volume of calls. Not only does it save them from having to deploy staff to address queries, it also saves customers time.

AI enhances this feature by working in the background, gathering all relevant customer data such as personal information and recent transactions to resolve a query. The AI ‘worker’ then sends this information to the business representative, who will be much better able to serve the customer. It’s easy to see how this feature would lead to an increase in customer satisfaction.

Conferencing Capabilities

Internet telephony makes multi-location communication possible, which is indispensable to most organizations. Web conferencing has improved over the years, with internet speeds and telecom technology constantly improving. AI advances it even further with real-time language translation and speech recognition technology, which greatly benefits businesses with multiple geographic locations and whose stakeholders come from diverse backgrounds.

Chatbot Functions

Chatbots are intuitive entities that receive instructions via textual or auditory means to perform automated tasks. They’re not to be confused with applications aimed to make processes easier. Apps differ greatly from chatbots in that they aren’t designed to simulate human interactions and they don’t have an ‘identity.’

Like IVR systems, bots are used by businesses to automate customer interactions. AI-powered chatbots go beyond regular bot duties by performing more complex tasks like setting up meetings, inviting attendees, managing schedules, and much more.

With AI-powered systems promising improvements in contact center operations, customers’ IVR experiences, web conferencing, and scheduling, businesses are understandably eager to adopt them. There’s so much more that VoIP systems can do for your business, and we’ve got the expertise to handle all your VoIP-related concerns. Call us today.

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Artificial intelligence to reshape VoIP

Incorporating Artificial Intelligence (AI) in internet phone systems seems like the logical next step to improving business telecom. However, it’s only now that businesses are truly embracing such hi-tech advances in VoIP. AI developers are paving the way for automated processes that have the potential to significantly enhance VoIP performance.

Contact Center Operations

Thanks to highly automated VoIP technology, businesses can manage their call centers easily. It also reduces the need for human interaction without sacrificing service quality. So how else can AI help?

AI-integrated VoIP systems can add back that human element to call routing by determining a caller’s personality, mood, and other characteristics so calls are routed to the agent best equipped to handle them. This makes call-center operations more seamless and cost-efficient because it reduces the need to deploy agents with specialized skills.

Interactive Voice Response (IVR) Systems

An IVR system is an extremely useful tool for businesses that get a high volume of calls. Not only does it save them from having to deploy staff to address queries, it also saves customers time.

AI enhances this feature by working in the background, gathering all relevant customer data such as personal information and recent transactions to resolve a query. The AI ‘worker’ then sends this information to the business representative, who will be much better able to serve the customer. It’s easy to see how this feature would lead to an increase in customer satisfaction.

Conferencing Capabilities

Internet telephony makes multi-location communication possible, which is indispensable to most organizations. Web conferencing has improved over the years, with internet speeds and telecom technology constantly improving. AI advances it even further with real-time language translation and speech recognition technology, which greatly benefits businesses with multiple geographic locations and whose stakeholders come from diverse backgrounds.

Chatbot Functions

Chatbots are intuitive entities that receive instructions via textual or auditory means to perform automated tasks. They’re not to be confused with applications aimed to make processes easier. Apps differ greatly from chatbots in that they aren’t designed to simulate human interactions and they don’t have an ‘identity.’

Like IVR systems, bots are used by businesses to automate customer interactions. AI-powered chatbots go beyond regular bot duties by performing more complex tasks like setting up meetings, inviting attendees, managing schedules, and much more.

With AI-powered systems promising improvements in contact center operations, customers’ IVR experiences, web conferencing, and scheduling, businesses are understandably eager to adopt them. There’s so much more that VoIP systems can do for your business, and we’ve got the expertise to handle all your VoIP-related concerns. Call us today.

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How will AI impact internet telephony?

Artificial Intelligence (AI) brings to mind robots that can perform tasks and think like human beings. While that’s certainly possible in the future, AI today is simply an intuitive set of technology that automates business processes. It’s been around for decades, and now it’s poised to make significant improvements to VoIP technology.

Contact Center Operations

Thanks to highly automated VoIP technology, businesses can manage their call centers easily. It also reduces the need for human interaction without sacrificing service quality. So how else can AI help?

AI-integrated VoIP systems can add back that human element to call routing by determining a caller’s personality, mood, and other characteristics so calls are routed to the agent best equipped to handle them. This makes call-center operations more seamless and cost-efficient because it reduces the need to deploy agents with specialized skills.

Interactive Voice Response (IVR) Systems

An IVR system is an extremely useful tool for businesses that get a high volume of calls. Not only does it save them from having to deploy staff to address queries, it also saves customers time.

AI enhances this feature by working in the background, gathering all relevant customer data such as personal information and recent transactions to resolve a query. The AI ‘worker’ then sends this information to the business representative, who will be much better able to serve the customer. It’s easy to see how this feature would lead to an increase in customer satisfaction.

Conferencing Capabilities

Internet telephony makes multi-location communication possible, which is indispensable to most organizations. Web conferencing has improved over the years, with internet speeds and telecom technology constantly improving. AI advances it even further with real-time language translation and speech recognition technology, which greatly benefits businesses with multiple geographic locations and whose stakeholders come from diverse backgrounds.

Chatbot Functions

Chatbots are intuitive entities that receive instructions via textual or auditory means to perform automated tasks. They’re not to be confused with applications aimed to make processes easier. Apps differ greatly from chatbots in that they aren’t designed to simulate human interactions and they don’t have an ‘identity.’

Like IVR systems, bots are used by businesses to automate customer interactions. AI-powered chatbots go beyond regular bot duties by performing more complex tasks like setting up meetings, inviting attendees, managing schedules, and much more.

With AI-powered systems promising improvements in contact center operations, customers’ IVR experiences, web conferencing, and scheduling, businesses are understandably eager to adopt them. There’s so much more that VoIP systems can do for your business, and we’ve got the expertise to handle all your VoIP-related concerns. Call us today.

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Bloatware: From Annoying To Dangerous

Bloatware, junkware, trialware, third-party apps — whatever you call it. There’s now yet another reason to get rid of these annoying pre-installed programs and plugins indefinitely: security threats. Learn more about the other risk that might do more than slow down your computer.

Tavis Ormandy, a researcher from Google’s Project Zero, recently discovered that a compromised password management app, Keeper, had been installed with some versions of Windows 10. For a brief period, Keeper’s browser extension, when enabled, allowed websites to easily steal login credentials.

Users became exposed only if they have activated the plugin during Keeper’s setup process, or manually activated it in their browser. In response to Ormandy’s report, the Keeper team released a new version that fixes the security vulnerability, therefore addressing the issue once the software is up to date.

Although the issue was patched in a week, thousands of these third-party applications are added to laptops every day. This incident again highlights just how cautious individuals and businesses need to be in finding security vulnerabilities when purchasing computer hardware.

Why unwanted bloatware needs to go

Computer manufacturers make money installing third-party software along with Windows to laptops and PCs. Vendors pay to have their bloatware — such as trial versions of antivirus programs, video games, and browser toolbars — installed on new computers in hopes that people will purchase the full programs. In reality, bloatware slows down your computer, takes up disk space, and sometimes puts you at risk.
Thankfully, Microsoft has included an easy way to get rid of bloatware in Windows 10.

  1. Click the start menu, then the gear icon in the bottom right
  2. In the settings window, select Update & Security
  3. On the left-hand side, click Recovery
  4. Select ‘Learn how to start fresh with a clean installation of Windows’ and follow the instructions.

Bloatware not only clutters your PCs and laptops, but it can leave your business vulnerable to compromise as well. Don’t make this security mistake; learn more about protecting your computers from bloatware, and save yourself from tons of headaches down the line. Call our team of IT experts today!

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