Blog InfiNetwork provides professional IT Support and Network Services for Small Businesses in and around Bonita Springs, Florida. http://www.infinetwork.com Mon, 02 May 2016 03:35:44 +0000 Joomla! 1.5 - Open Source Content Management en-gb Tip of the Week: How to Reorganize Your IT Infrastructure http://www.infinetwork.com/blog/item/550-tip-of-the-week-how-to-reorganize-your-it-infrastructure.html http://www.infinetwork.com/blog/item/550-tip-of-the-week-how-to-reorganize-your-it-infrastructure.html Tip of the Week: How to Reorganize Your IT Infrastructure

Everyone needs a tip occasionally. Therefore, we want to provide our followers with what we like to call, "Tips of the Week." These helpful tidbits are targeted toward helping you understand certain aspects of business technology. For our first tip, we will walk you through how to reorganize your IT infrastructure. For more tips, see our previous blog articles.

At times, technology seems like it is advancing faster than we can keep up with it. As the industry evolves, your business must adapt to take these changes into account, especially if you want to stay as efficient as possible. Depending on how far behind you are, you might even need an IT reorganization.

Of course, changing the way you do business isn't something that can be done overnight, and it isn't exactly cheap, either. Getting the job done right the first time can make sure you don't have to invest heavily in it a second time. Thankfully, you don't have to go at it alone. With InfiNetwork at your side, you can build a powerful IT strategy that can help you revamp your current infrastructure and prepare it for future tech developments.

Identify the Problem, if One Even Exists
If it's not broken, why fix it? Before you begin your IT reorganization, ask yourself if it's really necessary. Look for problems in your infrastructure before starting the process. This helps you make sure that the restructure needs to happen, and it can help give you a place to start. If you aren't sure what to look for, InfiNetwork can find the weak points in your IT. Our professional IT technicians can help you find the best approach to your problems.

Determine the Best Starting Point
Most businesses deal with so much technology that it can be almost too much too handle. When you have no clue where to start, you can try asking your team what they need in order to do their job more efficiently. You just might get a great idea for how to increase productivity in the workplace. InfiNetwork can offer a professional analysis of your feedback with our comprehensive IT knowledge. Our professionals will work with your in-house IT department to figure out the best resolution for your technology hang-ups.

Find the Cracks in Your IT
Obviously, if you're having trouble with your IT infrastructure, some parts of it need to be reconsidered. If you want to fix the problems for good, you need to keep them from reoccurring. Rich Hein of CIO.com sheds some light on why organizations might need an IT restructure:

  • The current in-house IT department isn't as efficient as it could be. There are many reasons why an IT department doesn't operate optimally, but the important thing to remember is that technology is complex, and there is a lot to know. Even the most skilled IT veterans need help on occasion, and InfiNetwork can give them the hand they need, when they need it. We'll work with them to find the best solution for your current predicament.
  • New leadership can derail the IT train. New leadership often brings about changes in practices, which could in turn cause harm to your current working infrastructure. It's always best to make informed decisions rather than jumping to conclusions. If you're a new leader, InfiNetwork can be your trusted IT consultant.
  • New technology changes the way companies do business. Technology has seen an increased growth rate, especially over the past few years. These changes can affect the way your business deals with issues at hand, and hamper your ability to push forward. InfiNetwork helps you plan for future technology developments and model your business plans around them.

If you can find out the problems with your business's IT infrastructure, your chances of recovering and pushing your business forward are much greater. InfiNetwork can help you identify problems and plan for future IT developments. For more information on what InfiNetwork can do for your IT infrastructure, give us a call at (239) 263-4454.

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jmh@infinetwork.com (Jeffrey Heverling) How To Mon, 29 Sep 2014 14:49:16 +0000
Alert: Don’t Get Hit with Shellshock by the New Bash Bug http://www.infinetwork.com/blog/item/549-alert-don’t-get-hit-with-shellshock-by-the-new-bash-bug.html http://www.infinetwork.com/blog/item/549-alert-don’t-get-hit-with-shellshock-by-the-new-bash-bug.html Alert: Don’t Get Hit with Shellshock by the New Bash Bug

A new malicious threat in the technical marketplace has just been discovered. The bug, dubbed the Bash bug, or "shellshock," is on the loose for users of Unix-based operating systems, like Linux or Mac OS X. It allows the execution of arbitrary code on affected systems, and could potentially be very dangerous for your business. In fact, CNet is calling it "bigger than Heartbleed."

Bash, which is commonly referred to as "Bourne again shell," is a staple feature of most utilities in Unix-based operating systems. RedHat's official security blog details the nature of the bug in the Bash shell:

In Linux, environment variables provide a way to influence the behavior of software on the system. They typically consist of a name which has a value assigned to it. The same is true of the Bash shell. It is common for a lot of programs to run bash shell in the background. It is often used to provide a shell to a remote user (via ssh, telnet, for example), provide a parser for CGI scripts (Apache, etc) or even provide limited command execution support (git, etc).

The problem is found in the environmental variables with specific values being used before the bash shell is summoned. These variables can contain code which is executed as soon as the bash shell is called. The name doesn't matter, so the content could be disguised as another, non-malicious variable. The most concerning vulnerability this bug provides is the ability for remote users to execute malicious code before the bash shell is activated.

Attacks have already been reported utilizing this vulnerability for a number of functions, including denial of service attacks and password-guessing bots, which randomly input poor password choices on unprotected servers. Researcher Robert Graham has located at least 3,000 systems vulnerable to the bug with a fairly specific search, and it is estimated that several times more machines could be vulnerable to this bug. This makes the threat very real, and if you use Linux or Mac OS X, your business's networks and data are at risk.

The threat is such a big deal that the United States Computer Emergency Readiness Team (US-CERT) has warned the public to download the patch before it infects their systems. To put it in perspective, the last vulnerability to make "Alert" status was the Backoff Point-of-Sale malware discovered in late July this year, which was able to steal sensitive information through sales terminals across the world.

While a patch has been released, it doesn't fix all vulnerabilities presented by the bug. However, it is still recommended by RedHat that you acquire the partial patch until the complete one has been issued. For help acquiring the patch, call InfiNetwork at (239) 263-4454. We'll apply it remotely so you have to worry as little as possible.

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jmh@infinetwork.com (Jeffrey Heverling) Security Fri, 26 Sep 2014 14:27:12 +0000
Are You Sure Your Former Employees Won’t Stab You in the Back? http://www.infinetwork.com/blog/item/548-are-you-sure-your-former-employees-won’t-stab-you-in-the-back?.html http://www.infinetwork.com/blog/item/548-are-you-sure-your-former-employees-won’t-stab-you-in-the-back?.html Are You Sure Your Former Employees Won’t Stab You in the Back?

As a business owner, you've probably had the misfortune of letting a valued (or not-so-valued) employee go. The reasons might vary, but one thing is consistent: they're gone, and could potentially use their newfound residual malice to strike your business right where it hurts. How can you prepare yourself against former employees you may have once called "family?"

Almost Half of Employees Would Hold a Grudge if Fired
According to a Cyber-Ark survey, nearly half of all employees admitted that if they were to lose their jobs unexpectedly tomorrow, they would enact some form of terrible retribution on their former employer, like taking the company's data with them. These same employees have held down their jobs for years and felt secure about their current situation. Such a circumstance may suggest that the employer had done the employee wrong by firing them. It's only natural that, when prompted by the question, "if you were fired tomorrow," they would react in such a manner.

Whether the motives of these employees are justified or not isn't the topic at hand, but it does force business owners to consider the risk of irate former employees. If a flustered team member steals something like the office stapler or a few pens, it is of little consequence; but if they make off with a bunch of data, like database passwords, financial reports, or research plans, your business could be in for a real nasty treat.

Take it from Home Depot
IT sabotage from a disgruntled former employee isn't a hypothetical situation. In fact, there's a major real-world example of this recently happening with Home Depot. An incident where as many as 52 million credit card transactions were exposed. Apparently, there is more to this story than hackers breaching a firewall. It turns out that in May of 2014, Home Depot's former Senior Architect for IT Security was convicted of sabotaging the company's network.

Ricky Joe Mitchell is the former Home Depot IT employee. A more rigorous background check would have prevented this whole fiasco. According to Ars Technica, Mitchell has a history of doing this with other employers like EnerVest Operating:

When Mitchell learned he was going to be fired [...] he "remotely accessed EnerVest's computer systems and reset the company's network servers to factory settings, essentially eliminating access to all the company's data and applications for its eastern United States operations," a Department of Justice spokesperson wrote in a release on his conviction. "Before his access to EnerVest's offices could be terminated, Mitchell entered the office after business hours, disconnected critical pieces of...network equipment, and disabled the equipment's cooling system." As a result of his actions, the company permanently lost some of its data and spent hundreds of thousands of dollars repairing equipment and recovering historical data. It took a month to bring the company's office back online, costing the company as much as $1 million in lost business.

It's Your Responsibility to Protect Your Data
Preventing a catastrophe like this falls on your shoulders, and it is your responsibility to close every access point associated with your disgruntled former employee. Something of this magnitude is of the utmost importance. Before you let the employee go, you should start preparations for the upcoming fallout, just in case they get the bright idea to walk off with valuable information that might land them a job with a competitor; or worse, mess with the company infrastructure.

You have no idea what you can expect from a seemingly-normal former employee. Your best bet is to enact a standard set of procedures which will help you best combat the former employee, should they decide they want to take a memento of their time spent with your business along for the ride. Close off any access points which could allow the employee to take information from your network, and monitor your system for unusual traffic from that individual.

Of course, maybe they're just out to make a quick buck, too. A former employee might have been responsible for making company purchases, and could then use this authority to use company credit cards to purchase goods from vendors.You need to immediately let your vendors know that any purchases from this team member should be denied or void. Remember, your budget is on the line, and therefore, so is your business. You can't let a former team member be the reason that your budget is broken for the next several months.

How We Can Help
InfiNetwork can help your business make employee termination easier. We can't help you break the news, but we can help you ensure your network is secure from the terminated employee.

You can rest easy knowing InfiNetwork is watching your company's network, ensuring that each access point is protected against malicious intentions. All you need to do is let us know when the deed has been done, and we can lock them out of your network for good. If they try to use mobile devices, we'll block those too. If anything strange comes up, you'll be the first to know.

It might seem like a trivial thing, but failing to secure your network against a very real threat is just negligent. One single mistake can take down your entire company and livelihood. Protect the future of your company by calling InfiNetwork. We'll make sure unauthorized users stay out of your network. All you need to do is call (239) 263-4454.

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jmh@infinetwork.com (Jeffrey Heverling) Best Practices Wed, 24 Sep 2014 14:39:12 +0000
How to Find Greater Success By Reading More Books http://www.infinetwork.com/blog/item/547-how-to-find-greater-success-by-reading-more-books.html http://www.infinetwork.com/blog/item/547-how-to-find-greater-success-by-reading-more-books.html How to Find Greater Success By Reading More Books

As a business leader, you know that you should read more about the latest industry trends and helpful management concepts. How's that going for you? For many business owners, finding time just to run their business is difficult enough, making book reading a luxury. We've found that you can do both by learning how to speed read.

If you've not made books a priority, then check out this list of twelve benefits of reading from Lifehack.org.

  • You will optimize your brain power.
  • You will increase your odds of success.
  • You will immerse yourself in a new world.
  • You will improve your vocabulary.
  • You will have things to talk about at parties.
  • You will entertain yourself for a low price.
  • You will discover surprising new ideas that are interesting and engaging.
  • You will eliminate boredom during down-time.
  • You will strengthen your patience muscles.
  • You will become an expert in your field.
  • You will reduce stress and unwind into a good night's sleep.
  • You will change your life.

When it comes down to it, reading is a crucial component to your success. A list like this can be a good source of motivation to pick up a book (feel free to print it off and use it as a bookmark), but improving your motivation to read won't change the demands on your schedule. By learning how to speed read, you can find time to read everything on your book list, and thanks to helpful web browser extensions like Spreed, learning how to speed read has never been easier.

Spreed
Spreed isn't the only speed reading tool on the market, but it's one of the most popular and has received great reviews. Spreed is a web extension that is only compatible with Chrome. To install Spreed, go to Chrome > Tools > Extensions > Get More Extensions, and then search "Spreed." You can also install it directly by going here.

Spreed allows you to read the content of your web browser in a separate window like you would a book. To help you learn how to speed read, Spreed displays text like a video at a selected Words Per Minute, with 1600 WPM being the maximum auctioneer-like setting. When selecting a playback speed for yourself, be sure to challenge your brain and select a WPM that pushes your comfort level. FYI, the average WPM for readers is 200.

By using a tool like Spreed to challenge the amount of words that you can consume, you'll be well on your way to becoming a proficient speed reader. Subsequently, even though tools like Spreed only work for digital content, if you train yourself to speed read in the digital arena, then you will see improved results when consuming words via paper formats.

Tools like Spreed are ideal for those of us who find it difficult to find time to read, but we all know someone that's well-adjusted and seems to have time read all the latest books. Are you an avid reader? How do you do it? What's your secret to balancing work and reading? What books are you currently reading? Share with us your tips in the comments.

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jmh@infinetwork.com (Jeffrey Heverling) Miscellaneous Mon, 22 Sep 2014 14:16:17 +0000
How Are Modern Businesses Taking Advantage of the Cloud? http://www.infinetwork.com/blog/item/546-how-are-modern-businesses-taking-advantage-of-the-cloud?.html http://www.infinetwork.com/blog/item/546-how-are-modern-businesses-taking-advantage-of-the-cloud?.html How Are Modern Businesses Taking Advantage of the Cloud?

For the modern-day business owner, moving to the cloud means to take advantage of the several strategic advantages it offers. Companies no longer have to restrict themselves by relying on physical servers, desktops, or hardware. Most businesses see the value that cloud-based operations can offer them, and they are racing to take advantage of this fairly recent development. In fact, Joe McKendrick of Forbes magazine says that four-out-of-five small businesses will be based in the cloud in the near future.

One of the biggest attributes of the cloud which draws in business is the concept of increased mobility that cloud-based applications and software offer. The Schaeffer Manufacturing Company, which McKendrick references, has seen an incredible shift in its profit margin since the inception of its cloud services. Will Gregerson, an executive at Schaeffer Manufacturing Company, claims that their business has jumped from $85 million to $130 million dollars in sales, just by switching to the cloud. In fact, this spectacular 53 percent increase in profits came with no strings attached. No new staff members were brought on to increase sales. The change was all thanks to the sheer convenience that the cloud offers modern businesses.

A recent survey from Emergent Research and Intuit Inc. revealed that 80 percent of small businesses plan on moving to the cloud by 2020. The results were gathered from a wide range of different industries, some not even related to technology. Businesses, regardless of what they are selling, providing, or buying; all want cloud services in the future. Steve King of Emergent claims that businesses can utilize the cloud in many different ways, all of which aim toward giving themselves a competitive edge over the opposition.

Plug-in Players
Some businesses want to take advantage of the cloud, but their budget doesn't allow for it. These companies are called "plug-in players," who concentrate on specialized services and outsource their technology and other necessary components of business to a third-party managed service provider. InfiNetwork can help your business achieve this goal by handling your IT needs while you manage your company on the home front.

Hives
Businesses will take the form of busy beehives in the near future: several individuals will work toward one common goal, and they are all connected via cloud-based applications and software. The increased mobility of the cloud revolution will help workers check in anytime, anywhere. Everyone will be connected via a virtual workplace designed to increase productivity.

Head-to-Headers
The sky will be the limit for small businesses. They will continue to grow and take on industries thought previously unreachable, such as corporate juggernauts, with cloud computing applications. This "head-to-head" approach increased opportunities and possibilities for small business owners, previously limited by the size barrier.

Porfolioists
Each business is made up of individuals, and these individuals will find ways to integrate the cloud into their day-to-day lives. This might include building a virtual portfolio, which will help them find other sources of income to further augment their existence. These individuals want to be their own boss, and the cloud gives them a way to express themselves online in ways which previous generations would have given anything for.

Regardless of how you plan on using the cloud, InfiNetwork will help you find the best method of achieving your personal and professional goals. With virtual servers, cloud backup data, and cloud-based applications at your disposal, you'll feel as if your business is taking off without a hitch. Give us a call at (239) 263-4454 to see what we can do for your cloud business needs.

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jmh@infinetwork.com (Jeffrey Heverling) Cloud Fri, 19 Sep 2014 14:23:12 +0000
3 Shopping Tips to Protect Yourself from the Next Major Retail Data Breach http://www.infinetwork.com/blog/item/545-3-shopping-tips-to-protect-yourself-from-the-next-major-retail-data-breach.html http://www.infinetwork.com/blog/item/545-3-shopping-tips-to-protect-yourself-from-the-next-major-retail-data-breach.html 3 Shopping Tips to Protect Yourself from the Next Major Retail Data Breach

Major retailers are having a rough time of it these days concerning the security of their customer's financial information. Last December, Target was hit with malware that compromised 40 million customer credit and debit card accounts, and recently, Home Depot was hit with the same malware. What's a connoisseur of mass-produced boxed goods to do?

It turns out that hacks like these aren't limited to major box stores. Any business that wheels and deals with credit and debit cards is at risk of computer viruses, like the Target and Home Depot malware. As a consumer, you entrust your financial information to dozens of retailers of all shapes and sizes. You can't afford to have your personal or your company's financial information compromised because you unknowingly picked the wrong retailer to buy something from.

Checking out at a cash register shouldn't be a security crap-shoot when you swipe your credit card. Here are three shopping tips to help you minimize the risk of having your financial information compromised.

Use Preloaded Cards
By shopping with a prepaid credit card or gift card, you will be keeping your personal financial information out of the system. If the gift card information is compromised, then, in a worst-case scenario, only the money loaded on the card would be lost. In such an event, you may be able to have the gift card company reimburse you for the loss. As a bonus, the theft of a gift card won't penalize your credit score like the theft of your personal credit card would, and you can also use prepaid cards to make online purchases.

Don't Do Debit
Security experts recommend keeping debit purchases to a minimum. Debit cards work by drawing money directly from your bank account, which spells bad news for your bank balance if your debit card number is stolen. Credit cards are better suited for resolving the mess of a card theft because you can report the fraudulent charges to your credit card company and not be charged for them. WIRED magazine suggests that you only use your debit cards at secure ATMs, and nothing more, as you have a lot more to lose with a debit card than with a credit card.

Use Best Security Practices for Online Purchases
Before you go on your next online shopping spree, be sure to know about what traps hackers like to use in order to steal a user's financial information. Phishing emails that pretend to represent a well-known company are a favorite trap used by hackers. In a phishing email, they will link a bogus website that's designed to trick you into making a purchase. Be on the lookout for such websites and be sure to only visit official company websites.

Checking the URL of the website is an easy way to clue you into this trap. Be sure to look at the website's security certificate before making a purchase. Do this by looking for a padlock icon to the left of the URL. A closed padlock means that the website is encrypted and the information sent with the form should be safe.

Preventing such a breach with your own business means taking every security precaution and preventive measure that you can, including the implementation of network monitoring from InfiNetwork, and having an enterprise-level firewall with our Unified Threat Management solution. Call us today at (239) 263-4454 to prevent your business from making headlines as the next Target or Home Depot.

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jmh@infinetwork.com (Jeffrey Heverling) Security Wed, 17 Sep 2014 13:59:08 +0000
Make Dynamic Infographics with Microsoft PowerPoint http://www.infinetwork.com/blog/item/544-make-dynamic-infographics-with-microsoft-powerpoint.html http://www.infinetwork.com/blog/item/544-make-dynamic-infographics-with-microsoft-powerpoint.html Make Dynamic Infographics with Microsoft PowerPoint

Not only can Microsoft PowerPoint make great slideshows, it can also make engaging infographics. The latest trend in marketing is fairly simple: Visual content sells. Images and videos are the most popular way to take advantage of this. Infographics can offer your marketing campaign a combination of text and image, allowing your marketing content to be both engaging and informative.

Unfortunately, some businesses find it difficult to integrate infographics into their marketing strategy. Even if you have someone who is a dedicated graphic designer, you still need the expensive software to put together a quality infographic. To make things harder, this specific software generally has a high learning curve which can be difficult to learn effectively when under pressure. With a little ingenuity, you can bypass all of these problems by making professional infographics with Microsoft PowerPoint.

There are three key elements you must understand in order to make the most out of your PowerPoint infographic: Text, Picture, and Shape. Additionally, there are four tools that must be used to make a quality infographic:

  • Fill: The primary color of the object or text. Choose this option by clicking the bucket-type icon.
  • Line: This determines what color the outline of an object is.
  • Effects: You don't need to make your own effects. There are several pre-built options that you can use to give your objects outlines, shadows, and much more.
  • Style: There are pre-built styles that you can take advantage of to make professional-looking infographics with minimum training on your part.

The Proper Color Scheme Goes a Long Way
If you want the most effective infographic, be sure to use a fairly specific color scheme: Four colors at the most. Any more than four could distract the reader from what really matters - the content. You can include shapes, fonts, clipart images, and more through Microsoft PowerPoint itself, but if those don't suit your fancy, you can upload your own photos. Just make sure you keep it simple.

If you can't find anything you want to use in PowerPoint, try combining custom shapes and images to drive the point home. With several basic images at your disposal, you can essentially make anything you want. Altering the fill and line styles of these images is as easy as double-clicking the shapes, or using the toolbar that appears near the object. If you want to section off parts of the infographic into ideas, change the style to let the reader know that a shift in focus is occurring.

Text and Font Size Matter
The best infographics know how to utilize the power of different fonts and sizes. After all, what makes you look at statistics in an infographic? The font style and the size. When displaying lots of information, you want to use an interesting (but not overly complicated) font style. Only use around three colors maximum for your font. Avoid white space when you can, as an empty infographic isn't what the reader is looking for. Try these text and font tips on for size:

  • Alternating colors can put emphasis on what's really important. Your readers should be able to tell important information when they see it.
  • Custom graphics can easily be made in PowerPoint. Use several different shapes - you'll never know what you can make until you try.
  • Font size is important for statistics. For example, large numbers work well with larger font sizes.
  • Don't use graphs. People don't find them appealing, or even engaging. Use images to explain the point better.

If you can master the art of making infographics in PowerPoint, you can make powerful marketing tools that appeal to your audience. For more information, tips, and tricks about how to take full advantage of Microsoft Office 365, give InfiNetwork a call at (239) 263-4454.

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jmh@infinetwork.com (Jeffrey Heverling) How To Mon, 15 Sep 2014 14:33:32 +0000
Don’t Get Caught in a Software-Licensing Nightmare http://www.infinetwork.com/blog/item/543-don’t-get-caught-in-a-software-licensing-nightmare.html http://www.infinetwork.com/blog/item/543-don’t-get-caught-in-a-software-licensing-nightmare.html Don’t Get Caught in a Software-Licensing Nightmare

A business owner must understand the licensing status of their company's software, but this has grown more complicated since the inception of the Internet. If you feel like your employees, or maybe even your corporate culture survives off of pirated software or applications, or stuff you found "for free" online, then your business could potentially suffer from legal issues.

Some businesses find themselves in this situation when they are looking for a certain software that is absolutely imperative to their success, but can't afford to purchase it. For businesses who don't want to bite the bullet and buy the software, the magical place called the Internet may (or may not) have what they are looking for. Don't succumb to this seemingly-attractive option.

In the early days of modern computing, you might recall seeing the "Don't Copy That Floppy" anti-piracy campaign. The goal of this campaign was to diminish copyright infringement. As said by MC Double Def DP, the "Disk Protector," don't copy that floppy:

The Internet might be able to provide you with thousands of illicit programs and applications, but it's a double-edged sword. The software manufacturers can use the Internet to pinpoint where pirated versions of their software are, and, they can take steps toward making sure that you can't use that software again (at least, without paying for it) by disabling it. What would happen to your business if you are running multiple instances of pirated software and you need them for your day-to-day operations? Your team forgets that the programs weren't obtained legally, and they tip off the authorities by downloading extensions or patches required for optimal network security.

And then, your applications required for important projects are suddenly... gone. Or, at least, not working properly. Now, your time-sensitive projects have to wait for you to stop pinching pennies and pay the piper.

That is, if the software company even gives you the chance to shell out for the program before retaliating with lawsuits and fines. Before you know it, you're up to your ears, as much as thousands of dollars, in fines. HGExperts.com reports that this happened to the military/aerospace company A.E. Petsche:

Not only did they pay a fine of over $90,000 for using unlicensed copies of Adobe and Microsoft software, they also ate their own legal fees and the expenses of an intense audit. And now they have a black-eye as well as possible ramifications to their federal government contracts.

We doubt your business can afford such massive fines. In order to prevent turning your pockets out over something as trivial as software licensing, always be aware of what you are doing. Some businesses don't even know they are pirating software, and you can be charged with a crime you committed unawares. If you aren't absolutely certain that you purchased and licensed every single piece of software you are using, you may want to think about saving up for that bulky fine; you know, just in case you accidentally "copied that floppy."

When it comes to software licensing, you shouldn't leave anything to chance. InfiNetwork works with you to manage your software licensing and we make sure that you are authorized to use each piece of software you acquire. Our managed IT solutions allow us to remotely check whether or not your software is legally acquired and licensed, and when the license expires. With InfiNetwork at your back, you can rest easy knowing that your organization is as legitimate as can be. Give us a call at (239) 263-4454 for more information.

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jmh@infinetwork.com (Jeffrey Heverling) Business Fri, 12 Sep 2014 14:19:20 +0000
Can Minecraft Teach Kids Valuable Real-World Programming Skills? [VIDEO] http://www.infinetwork.com/blog/item/542-can-minecraft-teach-kids-valuable-real-world-programming-skills?-video.html http://www.infinetwork.com/blog/item/542-can-minecraft-teach-kids-valuable-real-world-programming-skills?-video.html Can Minecraft Teach Kids Valuable Real-World Programming Skills? [VIDEO]

Children across the world are heading back to school, and their parents breathe a sigh of relief. Instead of playing video games, children can now expand their minds in institutions designed for learning. But, what if a popular video game could teach children how valuable programming is as a real-world skill?

While Minecraft from developers Mojang isn't a new game by any means, new ways to use the open-world, sandbox title have emerged. A program called LearnToMod is teaching kids, including nine-year-old Stanley Strum, how to code by modifying their Minecraft games for fun new functions.

This is called "modding" in the gaming community, and thanks to LearnToMod, kids can create their own alterations to boost their gaming experience. For example, you can make a bow summon lightning bolts from the sky upon command, or you can create warp points at will for easy, fast transportation. As you can probably guess, kids love this new idea, and according to WIRED magazine, it's like "being able to create your own cheat codes."

The mod will become available to the general public sometime in October 2014, but at this time of writing, it is only available to the 150 kids who are participating in the program.

 

 

LearnToMod was created by ThoughtSTEM, a group of computer-science education experts who have made it their goal to teach kids real-world skills and expand the future of the technology industry. Stephen Foster, the co-founder of ThoughtSTEM, says that "kids are already spending ridiculous amounts of hours on Minecraft. So we thought this would be a good way to help them learn skills."

Kids are enjoying the opportunity to learn new ways to make their gaming experience more fun, and may be able to use these skills as building blocks for technology careers when they grow up. In fact, this class not only aims at teaching kids how to code, but even allows participants to earn college credit from the University of California in San Diego.

The LearnToMod interface isn't located in Minecraft itself, but is a separate interface. Kids build the code in this interface, and can then upload the file to their Minecraft account. This makes it available in the game, and the possibilities, quite honestly, are limitless. Players can literally build anything they desire in Minecraft, and the game appeals to all personality types. Creative children can build whatever their hearts desire, including huge dungeons and complex corridors built into steep mountain ranges or deep mine shafts. More adventurous kids can explore the randomly-generating variables in the world, such as underground temples and deep-sea dungeons, in search of valuable gemstones or creepy monsters. By learning how to code, kids can further enhance the experience they gain from Minecraft.

Of course, Minecraft can't get your kids a job right out of school, but it does show them what coding can accomplish. Industry professionals are hoping that by showing kids what coding can do early on, they will be able to apply this information to their future interests and potentially turn a passion into a career. Whether they become the next Steve Jobs or Bill Gates isn't for sure, but you can bet that these kids will have real-world skills that they can use to carve their niche in the technological industry.

What are your thoughts on teaching children how to code with video games? Do you or your kids play Minecraft? Let us know in the comments.

 

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jmh@infinetwork.com (Jeffrey Heverling) Miscellaneous Wed, 10 Sep 2014 14:38:20 +0000
New Study Shows Data Center Growth Threatens the Environment http://www.infinetwork.com/blog/item/541-new-study-shows-data-center-growth-threatens-the-environment.html http://www.infinetwork.com/blog/item/541-new-study-shows-data-center-growth-threatens-the-environment.html New Study Shows Data Center Growth Threatens the Environment

Most of the Internet's data is stored in data centers. Logistically, data centers are a great solution to store ridiculous amounts of data. However, from an environmental perspective, data centers may be doing more harm than good. This, according to a new report by the National Resources Defense Council.

Brace Yourself for the Data Tsunami
First off, let's discuss the growing need for data storage facilities. We are experiencing a Big Data revolution as 90 percent of the world's data was created in 2013 alone, and as the massive data-collecting trend known as the Internet of Things (IoT) skyrockets, data creation is forecasted to grow exponentially.

In the past, new models of hard drives with increased data storage capacity kept up with society's data consumption needs. However, with new data being generated at such a breakneck speed, it's impossible to expect the development of hard drives to keep up. Therefore, we're going to need more data centers.

Data Centers and Energy Consumption
The environmental problem with data centers comes from how they waste a lot electricity. Now, multiply this problem to keep up with the data demands of IoT's exponential growth, and you've got an environmental crisis on your hands. InfoWorld explains:

U.S. data centers are using more electricity than they need. It takes 34 power plants, each capable of generating 500 megawatts of electricity, to power all of the data centers in operation today. By 2020, the nation will need another 17 similarly-sized power plants to meet projected data center energy demands as economic activity becomes increasingly digital.

What kind of increased energy demand will we need in order to power data centers? According to the NRDC report, "Nationwide, data centers in total used 91 billion kilowatt-hours of electrical energy in 2013, and they will be using 139 billion kilowatt-hours by 2020 -- a 53 percent increase."

If our civilization happens to switch to a clean and sustainable energy source by 2020, then this will be a moot point. However, with our society's ever-increasing demand for energy, and the sad reality that we won't shake our dependency upon fossil fuels anytime soon, it's likely that these new data centers will be powered by an energy source pumping millions of metric tons of carbon dioxide emissions into the atmosphere.

The NRDC report goes on to claim that this environmental problem can be reduced if current data centers make stronger efforts to minimize waste. As it stands, 40 percent of the energy data centers use is wasted. Savings from controlling this waste would equal $3.8 billion for businesses. The report shines light on the problem:

Problems hindering efficiency include "comatose" servers, also known as ghost servers, which use power but don't run any workloads; overprovisioned IT resources; lack of virtualization; and procurement models that don't address energy efficiency. The typical computer server operates at no more than 12 percent to 18 percent of capacity, and as many as 30 percent of servers are comatose.

Where Do We Go From Here?
In light of this information, utilizing a data center to store your company's information may not be as green of a choice as you originally thought. Before choosing a cloud storage solution for your organization, one action you can take is to ask your provider about the findings of this report, and then question them about actions they've taken to address these environmental concerns.

Another takeaway from this report is to evaluate the energy consumption of your own IT infrastructure and make energy-saving adjustments wherever you can. Ask InfiNetwork about going green with server virtualization. This is a process where we consolidate underutilized and comatose server units with newer and more newer and more efficient units. In many cases, companies that take advantage of server virtualization have seen consolidation rates of 4:1!

If data centers around the world eliminated their comatose server units and consolidated by using server virtualization, massive amounts of electricity wasted by data tsunami trends like IoT would be stemmed. Take control of the energy wasted by your company's data consumption habits by calling InfiNetwork at (239) 263-4454.

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jmh@infinetwork.com (Jeffrey Heverling) Cloud Mon, 08 Sep 2014 14:19:40 +0000