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Top Tech Holiday Gifts for 2016

Do you struggle with gifts for that tech-savvy friend or family member every year?  Here are a few of our picks from the Ease Tech Team this holiday season.

The Apple Watch Series 2

iphone beach

The Apple Watch Series 2 brings advanced fitness-tracking capabilities as one of its more attractive features. The GPS, bright screen, and waterproof features make it incredibly compelling for anyone who has considered a smart watch. This device with the latest hardware and software is designed to work with the iPhone, offering the convenience of using a variety of apps like a calendar, texts, weather, notes, and reminders without needing to pull out a phone. It is ideal for the health-conscious geek in the family. The prices start at $369, and it's available at the Apple Store.

Amazon Echo

The Amazon Echo is a voice-activated home assistant. It is closely tied to many of Amazon’s Prime online shopping services. Echo can provide music, news, sports, weather updates, product ordering, and even get you a pizza delivered from Dominos, all from voice controls.  What’s more, it connects to many other home devices to control lights and thermostats for $179 at Amazon.com -  Amazon Echo - Black 

Netflix

Netflix is the most popular online entertainment provider of movies, TV series, documentaries, and self-produced programming. A preferred media service of geeks and those wanting to cut the cable company cord, prices start at about $9.99/month for the HDTV version. The easiest way to gift this is a gift card found at many local stores. However, you can also purchase gift cards online at Amazon for up to $100.              

Tile

Do you know someone who’s always losing their keys, wallet or purse around the house?  A Tile is an easy way of keeping track of your things while at home or traveling.  It’s a little device that is attached to the item you want to manage and then paired to your iPhone. Tiles work with keys, wallets, bags or even bikes. They work best when monitoring things in close range and urban areas.  They are relatively inexpensive and very easy to set up. There is a small clip-on version for bags and keys, and another that is a flatter style design for a wallet. The prices start at $25 for one Tile and set with a Tile Mate & Slim Combo Pack can be found online.

Battery Recharging Pack

All these mobile tech gear requires additional power while on the road.  There are a wide variety of small, powerful recharging battery packs that can keep those smartphones, iPads, and digital devices functioning and extend their battery life by many hours. They are perfect for road warriors and families that are always taking trips. The Anker Astro E1 5200mAh  found online is one of the best. 

Portable Bluetooth Speaker

The iPhone is one of the most advanced pieces of portable computing devices ever created. One way to turn that smartphone into a quality music player is by pairing it with a mobile Bluetooth speaker. The best speakers are portable, rechargeable, and waterproof, but with good-quality sound. You can take them on vacations, to the beach, and at parties. The UE ROLL Wireless Mobile Bluetooth Speaker meets all of these needs for about $69, and there are plenty of choices if you want to spend less too.

Stocking Stuffers Ideas

You can never have enough power adapters and charging cables. Great stocking stuffers are extra USB car chargers, iPhone USB cables and wall outlet adapters, as they are pretty inexpensive and always needed.  An adequate supply is great for travel, keeping in the car or office, or for use when a guest shows up.  Plenty of great choices at Amazon from between $5-$20.


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Acronis and US Signal Expand Distribution Agreement to Bring Backup and Disaster Recovery Solutions to Managed Service Providers

BURLINGTON, Mass., Nov. 11, 2016 /PRNewswire/ -- Acronis, a leader in hybrid cloud data protection, today announced an expanded distribution agreement with US Signal, an industry-leading network and cloud-hosting provider in the Midwest. As a result of the agreement, Acronis becomes the exclusive provider of backup and disaster recovery solutions for US Signal's managed service provider (MSP) customers. Acronis is a fast, easy to use and the most complete solution for on-premises, cloud and mobile workloads.

Today's businesses face new challenges when it comes to data protection, including massive increases in data volume, man-made and natural disasters, and cyber-threats, such as ransomware. According to Enterprise Strategy Group (ESG), data backup and recovery consistently rank among the top IT priorities for organizations of all sizes, but especially for midsized organizations. US Signal is addressing the growing demand for business continuity solutions as MSPs now have access to complete data protection solutions offered by US Signal. The addition of new backup and disaster recovery offerings give MSPs even better control of data and margins.

As US Signal looked to expand its offerings to the MSP market, having an easy to deploy and manage, safe and complete backup and disaster recovery solution as part of its portfolio was a vital missing component. US Signal needed a partner that would enable this product offering while using the current US Signal cloud infrastructure that was in place. The infrastructure, which includes eight data centers and one of the largest, fully deployed networks in the Midwest, consists of both physical and virtual servers. This meant the technology needed to be flexible, highly scalable and enable MSPs to have complete control of their offering.

"US Signal has made backup and recovery in the cloud a business success at Ease Technologies. Our ability to create additional revenue is greatly enhanced by leveraging the US Signal developed service with the Acronis technology, allowing us to offer our customers a fully managed backup and recovery product," said Jason Shirdon, VP of Operations at Ease Technologies, Inc., an MSP based in Maryland.  "The US Signal management platform is easy to use and allows us to efficiently control and monitor our pricing and product offerings for end users as needed."

Acronis Backup Cloud allows US Signal MSPs to offer backup targets in the cloud in order to provide a geographically diverse, scalable, and inherently highly available storage repository. MSPs can also perform backups from their on-premises physical or virtual environment or a US Signal cloud infrastructure and have restores done to the source or a disparate location, all while managing and monitoring all backup activities for an entire environment via a single, centralized management console with a modern user interface. This enables a MSP to meet the specific needs of its customers, creating stickiness with additional services to reduce churn.

"Acronis intimately understands the needs of MSPs, and offers a solution that not only provides the ability for service providers to easily sell managed services on top of the US Signal platform, but the company also ensures our MSP partners can sell recovery services using the US Signal public cloud as a recovery target," said Amanda Regnerus, vice president of marketing and product development at US Signal. "We had very stringent requirements for our backup and disaster recovery partner and Acronis met every need. We are very pleased with the turnkey focus of the product and service that Acronis provides, as it's very easy for our customers to get up and running quickly."

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6 Holiday Travel Tech Tips

Holiday traveling can be a challenging experience with planes, trains and automobiles.  For many, work follows them no matter how far they try to get away.  Before setting out the airport or hitting the highways, here are a few ideas on keeping your technology in order while on the road this holiday season. 

1. Backup Before You Go
iphone beachMake sure you have a good backup of all your devices.  If something were to happen to your technology while you are traveling it would be much easier to recover that data when you return.  Cloud-based backup systems can also provide some access to files that you may have forgotten while traveling.

2. File Your Travel Documents
Keep your travel plans, hotel confirmation, the contact information of your credit card company, phone numbers and other important trip information stored in a secure cloud notes program.  I like to use Evernote because I can add PDFs, emails, cell phone pictures and text notes, but you may already be using Apple’s Notes or Microsoft’s OneNote Online.  If your gear gets lost or stolen you’ll have access to your information online in one of these cloud-based apps from any device.

3. Stay Protected
Some travelers are required to get vaccinations before they go overseas.  In the same way, tech-savvy travelers should get the latest virus updates installed for their systems too.  Be sure to turn on the password protection options for your electronic devices, as this will ensure the data on your devices is much safer if they were to get lost or stolen.

4. Mark Your Stuff
Your name was written all over your gear back when you went to summer camp.  Well, your mom had it right, so be sure to label your equipment with your cell phone number.  That number on your electronic devices will be the easiest way for that Good Samaritan to call you with your lost gear. 

5. Find Your Friends
Apple iPhones and iPads have a feature called Find your Friends or Share my Location in Messages.  Once enabled the software provides an easy way to keep track of family and friends, provided you are within cell coverage.  Knowing the location of members of your group can be useful at the airport, amusement park or at the beach.

6. Power-up
Remember to bring all the proper power cords and an extra extension cord for your smartphone, cameras and laptops.  Being properly equipped for power during your vacation can make a big difference in getting that access you expect versus blowing a few hours of your precious time looking for Dell power adapters at grandma's house.  If you do lose a power cord, just ask the hotel front desk or housekeeping for a replacement.  You won’t be the first to do so, and it’s likely that they will have a pile of cords in a box with housekeeping. 

Ease Technologies provides IT support services and cloud solutions for organizations in Baltimore, Washington or Fairfax. Watch our Ease Cloud Workspace video and learn how our secure cloud offering can be your virtual office wherever you go. 

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How To Spot A Phishing Email

The primary method used by cyber criminals to gain access to your computer is through email phishing attacks. This tactic involves hackers creating compromising malware and sending a catchy email hoping to ensnare an unsuspecting victim to click on the attachment or links within the message.  Once the victim clicks on the attachment or link, cyber criminals look to extort victims for money, steal personal information, gain access to other business computers and countless other cyber heists.

phishing

It’s likely you are already using a firewall, spam filters and virus protection software to keep yourself protected. However, this is not enough anymore. What cyber criminals are relying on is social engineering techniques to dupe people into clicking on the attachments and links in cleverly crafted emails.  Once this is accomplished, they gain access to your compromised computer.  The most important thing for you is to recognize these phishing emails tactics and not get tricked by one of these malicious emails.

How do you spot a phishing email?

A cleverly crafted phishing email has you act, without hesitation, on the message within the document.  The cyber criminals create content in unsolicited emails that prey on your emotions, fears and create a sense of urgency for you to act quickly.

1. Attachments and links

Most phishing emails have an attachment of some type that includes what seems to be an ordinary PDF, ZIP, DOC and other file types.  What these attachments are is a payload of malware that infects your computer.  Another means of deception is providing a link in the email directing you to another site you think will be useful, which once clicked on, takes you to a server that installs malicious code.  So, for example, be wary of that credit union that sends you an unsolicited email that contains a PDF that you must fill out for credit verification.

2. Email sender is spoofed

Hackers will try and provide an email that looks like it is coming from a trusted source.  So, the email will look like it is from your bank, PayPal, Amazon, Fedex, your credit union and any number of other trusted entities.  Because phishing is a general blast to indiscriminate users, often, these emails come from a business you don’t even use.  An example may be receiving an email with an attached voicemail message from Verizon, but you have AT&T as your cell phone provider.

3. A message with a sense of urgency

All the emails create some reason for you to click on the attachment or the embedded links.  So, everything from the subject line to the message in the email directs you to you do something quickly.  They will include catchy subject lines and encourage fast acting activities directing you to the attachment or link in the email.  Sometimes, these emails may come at the end of the day, when your guard is down. They will also create a message based on the season or timely event.  Subject lines can contain things like: Your account is suspended, Login Notification, Incoming Wire Notice and Access to your has been restricted.

4. Flawed email construction

Often, the emails are poorly written, contain bad grammar, scraped from a real email and just flawed with bad information.  The emails are often hastily written with several errors that can include incorrect dates, awkward salutations, and incomplete sender contact information.  Another flag is the use of an uncommon or Courier font in the email.

5. Bad header information

Look at the address of who is getting the message.  Is it actually to a known email you have, someone you know or just a blanket blast of people?  Often, the email is sent to “Recipient” or not even to you.

If you get an email you are uncertain about, contact the business from a known trusted phone number or open a browser to type in the url access to the account.  Do not use any of the information provided to you in the email to initiate contact.

These are just a few of the obvious flaws that show up in phishing emails.  Cyber criminals use countless different phishing methods and are very adaptive in their approach in attempting to hack into your computer.  Since these are not the only methods, you must stay on your guard and recognize the general tactics used to help keep you protected from unwanted phishing attacks.

To learn more, watch our latest webinar on Keeping Your Business Secure on our site here.  If you are looking for ways to keep your business better protected with our secure cloud workspace, contact us today at (301) 854-0010. 

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Are You Ready For The Internet Of Things [Recorded October 2016]

It is estimated there are already 6.4 billion devices as a part of the Internet of Things (IoT) and there will 25 billion by 2020. Businesses, governments and home users are all quickly adopting these devices to be shared across the Internet.  We now can monitor an aging family member, remotely feed a pet, view live traffic conditions, monitor crops, observe buying habits and countless new exciting ways to help our businesses and lives with IoT.

How does IoT work? What are the business opportunities and what should our concerns be with embracing this new class of computing devices? 

Watch our recorded webinar to get caught up!



<span style="font-size: 14px;">The Democratic National Committee (DNC) and countless other organizations are cyber targets. A data breach can have a major effect on your business - loss of customers, reduced brand reputation, significant financial impact and more. If you think your business is too small to be an attractive target for cyber criminals or you don't have anything worth stealing, think again.&nbsp;<br />
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Watch our recorded webinar to get caught up!<br />
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