Top Holiday Tech Gifts for 2018

Do you struggle for gifts for that tech-savvy friend or family member every year?  Even millennials enjoy a lot of the newer tech gadgets on the market today. Here are a few of our picks from the Ease Tech Team this season.

The Apple Watch Series 4

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 extremely compelling for anyone that has considered a smartwatch. This latest hardware and software is designed to work with the iPhone, offering the convenience of using a variety of apps like calendar, texts, weather, notes and reminders without needing to pull out a phone. Ideal for the health-conscious geek in the family. Cellular options available but the base price starts at $399 at the Apple Store.

NytStand

First came the iPhone, then the iPad and Apple Watch ─ and now Apple TV with a remote that charges just like an iPhone.  At the end of the day, your devices become a cluttered mess next to your bed. NytStnd is a charging station for all of your devices and organizes them in a presentable fashion for ease of use and decoration. NytStnd takes the clutter and frustration of nightly charging and cleans it up with an attractive all-in-one charging station. 

Google Home Hub

The Home Hub is Google’s first own-brand smart display, combing Google Assistant, advanced smart-home control and a digital photo frame into a neat and tidy package. You access your home assistant through your voice commands and are able to hear responses back or see them on the display.  Going for about $150 from Google during the holidays.

Audible

Do you have someone that is always in the car and never has time to read? Audible is a provider and producer of spoken audio entertainment, information, and educational programming on the Internet. Audible sells digital audiobooks, radio and TV programs, and audio versions of magazines and newspapers.  

Tile Pro

Do you know someone who’s always losing their keys, wallet or purse at home? Tile is a simple way of keeping track of your things while at home or traveling. It’s a little device that is attached to the thing you want to manage and then paired with your iPhone. Tiles work with keys, wallets, bags or bikes. They’re best when monitoring things in close range and urban areas. Tiles are relatively inexpensive, very easy to set up and even have replaceable battery options. There are several versions for bags and keys and one that has a flattering style for a wallet.

Zero Grid Electronics Travel Organizer – Cord, Cable, and Accessories Case

No more messy wires and fumbling for cords. Fully customizable for electronics and accessory organization. Neatly manage tech, cords, and gadgets in one secure place with this travel cable organizer.  Carry your total tech arsenal ─ perfect for chargers, converters, camera and iPhone accessories. Zippered pouch holds smaller memory cards, USB flash drives and more. Of course, Amazon for $15.

Battery recharging pack

All this 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 cameras functioning and extend their battery life by many hours. Great for road warriors and families that are always taking trips. The RAVPower 16750mAh Portable Charger found Amazon is one of the best for about $35.

Portable 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, small and waterproof, but with good-quality sound. These can be taken on vacations, to the beach and to parties. The UE Roll Wireless Mobile Bluetooth Speaker meets all of these needs for about $90, and there are plenty of choices if you want to spend less too.

Stocking Stuffer Ideas

You can never have enough power adapters and charging cables. I always purchase extra USB car chargers, iPhone USB cables, and wall outlet adapters, as they are pretty inexpensive and always needed. A plentiful supply is great for travel, keeping in the car or office, or for use when a guest shows up. Again, found at Amazon for $5-$20.

Holiday Beer

A favorite amongst the Ease Tech Support Team is Mad Elf. Tröeg’s kicks off our inner Mad Elf momentarily taking over the support team. So blame “him” for this cheerful ruby red creation reminiscent of ripened cherries, raw honey and cocoa with notes of cinnamon, clove and allspice.

We taste: chocolate malt, cherries, honey, peppercorn

 

The Facts About Web Filtering at Schools

Technology has transformed education. Students have access to an endless supply of information, and teachers can leverage online tools to enhance lessons in every subject. However, there are drawbacks to allowing students unlimited use of the web through school-supplied desktops, laptops, and mobile devices.

Here are some facts that you need to keep in mind in order to make smart decisions about web filtering at school.

Web filtering at schools… and the law

When internet access started to become mainstream, schools were excited to have new research options to offer their students. Unfortunately, parents and teachers soon noticed a significant problem:

Unrestricted web-based technology made it possible for children to be exposed to obscene and dangerous content. Many cybercriminals took to opportunity to start collecting confidential data on school-based internet users. In addition, some of the more technologically-savvy students leveraged their school-based web access to partake in illegal hacking.

Congress developed a comprehensive response to these concerns by passing the Children’s Internet Protection Act (CIPA) in 2000. This law created requirements for web filtering at schools in exchange for participation in the E-rate program. The E-rate program gives educational institutions discounts on web-based technology.

CIPA requirements

If you choose to move forward with web filtering at schools, there are minimum standards you must meet to comply with CIPA. The most critical are as follows:

  • You must provide notice and hold at least one public hearing to discuss implementation of web filtering at schools.
  • You must also create an internet safety policy that covers monitoring the online activity of minors, access to inappropriate websites, safe use of email and other forms of electronic communication, illegal activity, and unauthorized collection and use of students’ personal information.
  • Additionally, you must offer education for students regarding appropriate online behavior and online safety.
  • You must choose software that can block access to obscene images, child pornography, and anything else considered harmful to minors.

It’s important to note that adult staff members are permitted to override web filtering at schools. Sometimes, they’ll need to so that they can conduct legitimate research or complete other appropriate activities.

Choosing software for web filtering at schools

A variety of technology vendors design and implement software for web filtering at schools. As a result, the specific results of a filter can vary. The biggest drawback? Web filters can sometimes block legitimate sources of information, causing problems down the line. For example, students may wish to research breast cancer, but they are unable to access the resources they need because the filter blocks all mentions of the word “breast”.

When choosing a provider and specific software for web filtering at schools, convenience and reliability are paramount. Administrators must install, configure, and maintain the software with ease. Additionally, they should have the ability to easily adjust the configurations as needed.

Most web filtering at schools functions through a combination of category and keyword filters. Ideally, you will be able to fine-tune these as necessary. Naturally, you’ll base this on your audience and the needs of your student population. Consider software that offers multiple access levels, so that teachers can conduct appropriate research without going through a lot of digital red tape.

Finding a school security partner

We’re experienced in scholastic IT solutions that take the burden of selecting, installing, and maintaining web filters out of your hands. Our experts specialize in full-service IT support, so that you can focus on your primary role as an educator.

Want to learn more? Reach out to us – we’re happy to answer your questions.

4 Must-Have Modern Technologies for Schools

Advances in digital technology aren’t just affecting the way that we work and live—they’re also improving how students learn in the classroom. 82% of teachers agree that students who use technology for education are better prepared for their future careers.

The good news is that adoption of these new-fangled technologies seems to be on the rise. In a 2016 survey, 60% of teachers said that they planned to increase their use of technology during the upcoming school year, and three in four said that they use technology every day with their students.

This article will go over four of the most transformative digital tools that are helping students of all ages learn more and perform better in the classroom.

  1. Interactive Whiteboards

Often called SMART boards after their largest manufacturer, interactive whiteboards are large displays that imitate the function of a whiteboard — without the need for messy chalk or smelly dry erase markers.

For one, interactive whiteboards are more “fun” to use than chalkboards, boosting students’ interest and engagement. Interactive whiteboards allow teachers to easily incorporate multimedia into their presentations, from text and audio files to videos and images. Teachers can even record lessons and save them for future playback.

  1. Laptops and Tablets

Laptops and tablets are a vital part of students’ digital lives. It’s only natural that they’re taking a more prominent place in the classroom.

In 2017, sales of Apple’s iPad to schools rose by 32% when compared to the previous year. Chromebooks, which are Google-issued basic laptops that run the Chrome operating system, made up just under half of all device sales in the education sector. More than 30 million children in the U.S. use Google apps for education such as Google Docs and Gmail.

There are a variety of benefits and use cases for laptops and tablets in the classroom. These include taking notes, watching lectures, finding useful information during lessons, collaborating with other students via Internet forums, allowing students to download and submit assignments online, and more.

Related: How to Build an Efficient IT Budget

  1. Class Websites

Students need access to a class website as their one-stop shop for learning. Class portals can host everything from lecture videos and homework assignments to blogs and discussion forums. These can allow students to help each other and share their ideas about what they’ve learned.

Depending on the institution and the tech-savviness of the teacher, this website may be custom-built. It could even be hosted on a third-party content management system such as Google Sites or WordPress.

  1. Augmented and Virtual Reality

The latest release of Apple’s iOS mobile operating system, iOS 12, includes support for augmented reality for the first time. While still not widely used, augmented and virtual reality (AR/VR) offer tremendous learning opportunities for students of all ages.

Related: 7 Ways to Improve Technology at Your School

By overlaying additional information onto real-world inputs, AR devices make it easier for students to learn through experience. For example, students looking at the night sky through AR glasses could see the names of the different constellations. It would be a great way to view more information about the stars in our galaxy.

Final Thoughts on Technologies for Schools

Regardless of the specific technologies for schools, all schools should seriously consider investing more in their IT infrastructure in order to improve educational outcomes for their students. By partnering with a managed education services provider, you can improve the predictability, efficiency, and security of your school’s IT resources.

 

6 Ways to Reduce Your Business IT Spending

The cost of implementing, managing and maintaining IT spending is one of the most challenging tasks any modern business faces. And like any expense, constantly searching for ways to minimize it is crucial to the long-term success of a commercial entity. But unlike other areas of expenditure, making significant cuts is often a highly complex process — fraught with potential for disruption and lost sales.

But there are a few quick-wins when it comes to reducing your business IT spending — you just need to know where to look for them.

1. Virtualize and Consolidate Your Servers

Don’t pay for servers that you’re not going to utilize fully — which is a mistake a lot of small business owners are still making today. Instead, adopt virtual servers that consolidate your total capacity by making applications share existing servers. This one move can slash capital expenditure within your IT department, and cut the costs of security, maintenance and repair.

2. Consolidate Systems and Software

As businesses grow, so do their IT infrastructures. Over time, these systems can become disjointed and inefficient. For example, imagine all of the employees in your IT team are expected to create their own documents. You might find that there are several word processing packages in operation, along with several different storage and email solutions. By consolidating these services within a new ERP platform, you should be able to make the processes involved more efficient — and cheaper.

3. Implement a BYOD Policy

More and more firms are slashing their IT budgets by implementing a “bring your own device” (BYOD) policy. For example, rather than splashing out on new phone contracts and laptops for your team, you can provide a small cash incentive for people to use their own devices. This, combined with a move to cloud-based business platforms, should deliver significant IT spending savings on both hardware and software.

4. Leverage Bundled IT Deals for Discounts

The average IT department has, at the very least, phone and internet charges to cover. But by bundling these together and buying them as a package from a single supplier, you might be able to secure a hefty discount. It may also be possible to add other services such as VoIP, mobile services and security to the bundle.

Related: How to Manage Your Business Technology

5. Outsource Support

Maintaining IT systems and repairing them when things go wrong is usually a complex, specialized job. A lot of firms hire employees to take care of these tasks and to oversee data security issues. But the cost of employing specialists directly is often prohibitive. In most cases, outsourcing this area of IT is the most cost-effective option for SMBs. When support is needed, help is usually available via email, live chat or a 24-hour telephone helpline.

6. Switch to the OPEX Cloud Model

There’s a cloud-based software platform for just about every business function imaginable. Whether you’re managing your business’ tax affairs or nurturing leads, the software you need is available on remote servers — for a relatively modest subscription charge. Switching to OPEX-based cloud services reduces your reliance on hardware, and cuts the cost of data security, malware protection and maintenance (all of which are included in the price).

Before you make cuts to your own IT budget, consult with an IT spending specialist from us at EaseTech. We’ll talk you through your options, based on your business’ specific requirements. This should allow you to trim your expenditure without adversely affecting your operations or the service you provide to your customers.

How to Build an Efficient IT Budget

Technology continues to advance at a rapid rate, and every industry has been affected. IT plays a role in most aspects of doing business, from connecting with clients to producing products and services.

Allocating an IT budget is no longer optional.

You simply can’t compete without digital communication and efficiency tools, so a certain amount of investment in IT solutions is crucial to your success. However, unrestricted spending isn’t practical. The key is finding a balance between the IT expenses that are critical to your business and those that add unnecessary costs.

Category 1: Basic IT Expenses

At first glance, it may appear that your basic IT expenses are non-negotiable. Many organizations carry the costs of IT hardware, infrastructure, applications, and related maintenance over from year to year with minimal review.

Related: 3 Ways to Save Your SMB Money with Technology

However, this assumption can be costly. As technology advances, replacing obsolete systems can add efficiency and productivity with little or no additional expense.

For example, if you still use an on-site storage system, you may wish to explore the opportunities offered by cloud storage solutions. If you are struggling with an outdated software application, look into cost-efficient, cloud-based SaaS (Software as a Service) options.

The bottom line is that none of your expenses should be carried over without proper examination.

Category 2: Projects with IT Components

Once you have considered the must-haves, review your plans for developing and expanding your business in the upcoming year. As your business grows and changes, your IT needs will change as well. Avoid unpleasant surprises by budgeting for related expenses.

Some examples of project-related expenses to consider:

  • New licenses for additions to the staff.
  • Additional offices that may require improvements to your infrastructure.
  • Regulatory changes that may bring IT-related compliance obligations.
  • Branding campaigns, client engagement strategies, and upgrades to business efficiency platforms.

All of these rely heavily on your IT capabilities, and you will need to account for them in your IT budget.

Related: GDPR: How Does This New Regulation Affect U.S. Firms?

Category 3: IT Safeguards

The final group of expenses to include in your IT budget are the services that keep your systems secure and operational. No business is totally safe from cyberthreats, as today’s rogue actors target organizations of every size, in every industry. Schemes typically involve various forms of data theft, such as holding your data for ransom and stealing personal information for sale or use in identity theft schemes.

Related: 5 simple ways to achieve IT device security

In 2017, ransomware payments exceeded $2 billion – double the figure from 2016. Cybercrimes have grown more sophisticated, and the number and variety of schemes is difficult to measure. Fraud through business email is particularly difficult to combat, and associated costs are expected to exceed $9 billion in 2018. Protecting your company must be at the top of your priority list, and standard security software may not be enough. In today’s complex security environment, engaging an experienced IT support service may save you the costs associated with a data breach.

Building an IT Budget with Expert Assistance

Organizations that rely on a salaried IT professional often learn that a managed IT services firm offers more value per dollar when it comes to preventative maintenance, troubleshooting, and repairs. Such firms ensure real-time support on an as-needed basis, and they have an expert staff with diverse skill sets to ensure a fast solution to any IT-related issues.

If you’d like more information on managed IT services or IT support (including IT budgeting), reach out to us today.

How to Meet the New GDPR Compliance Requirements

The new General Data Protection Regulations (GDPR) went into effect May 25, 2018. These European regulations ALSO apply to US companies who collect, maintain, or process personal data for individuals living in the European Union.

The monetary fees for non-compliance can reach over €20 million (approximately $23.2 million USD), but the reputation damage incurred can cost you your entire business.

Learn how to comply with GDPR and avoid costly mistakes with these tips.

1. Know Your Data

You likely know what your business process flows are, but map them to review what data you generate. Look at the types of personal data your business collects, stores and shares. Don’t forget to review internal data like personnel information as well as customer data.

2. Determine What Data You Need

Create lists and categorize data. Look at the purpose of personal data you keep to decide what you really need. Remember, the more you have, the more you can be fined for.

3. Decide What to Keep and Delete

Is your company a data controller, data processor or both?

Data controllers are companies that decide how customer data is to be processed and the purpose of the data. Data processors are companies that process that data for the controllers. Based on how your business fits into the controller and processor roles, start weeding out unnecessary data.

Related: Keeping Your Business Secure Online

4. Choose How Long Data Must Be Kept

Now that you have a clearer picture of the personal data you need for business operation, choose a relevant time period for storage. Your customers will need to know how long you plan on keeping their data and the process for requesting copies of their data usage. You’ll also need a process for how they can request to remove their data from your system.

5. Review Who Has Data Access

If you employ a 3rd-party processor, review its privacy policies to ensure compliance. Don’t be afraid to ask for clarification on GDPR issues. When the data originates with your company, you’re responsible to whoever you grant data access.

Related: How to Manage Your Business Technology

6. Define Who You Share Data With

Your processor may not be the only entity you share data with. Now is a great time to define exactly who data can be shared with as well as why. Be sure to include this in your own privacy policies.

7. Review Security Measures

Security breaches are a major issue in GDPR compliance. Look at past and present security for all of your protected data. Make any necessary changes, address training gaps and make certain that personal data is secure in all your business process flows.

Related: GDPR: How Does This New Regulation Affect U.S. Firms?

8. Implement Safe Storage Protocols

Know where you store your data. How safe is it? If you can’t answer that, it’s time to reevaluate storage protocols. Implement awareness trainings for staff so that protected data isn’t being stored in places it shouldn’t be. Also remember to focus your time on robust security tools and strategies.

9. Update Your Privacy Policies

As previously discussed, under the GDPR, customers have the right to request records and removal of their personal data from your systems. Update all of your privacy policies to include these process requests.

Companies can no longer assume consent to policies in the absence of an action. Make policies clear that the customer must give consent. When policies are updated, customers must also accept the new policies, even if they had previously given consent.

10. Appoint a Data Protection Impact Process and Officer

Implementing a data protection impact process means non-stop management of data. It may be suitable to assign these duties to a single data protection officer or a small team of data managers to ensure that testing and data protection processes run smoothly. This person or team can also address issues quickly without the distractions of other duties.

 

Still not sure if your company falls within GDPR compliance? Let’s have a chat and explore your unique situation. With proper preparation, you can gain and maintain GDPR compliance and avoid hefty fines.

GDPR: How Does This New Regulation Affect U.S. Firms?

Remember getting a bunch of emails in May from websites changing their privacy policies? You can thank the GDPR. Enacted by the European Commission, the GDPR (General Data Protection Regulation) is a law in the European Union that seeks to give individuals more control over how organizations store and use their personal data.

The GDPR has much more significant implications for your U.S. business than a few annoying emails, however. Unfortunately, 84% of U.S. companies confess that they don’t understand what the GDPR means for their business.

In this article, we’ll discuss the impact that the GDPR is having on companies in the United States. We’ll also cover what steps you should take to address that impact.

GDPR: What It Does and Who It Affects

The goal of the GDPR is to strengthen the protections that EU citizens and residents have over their personal data. This includes any information that organizations can use to identify a unique person. We’re talking about names, physical addresses, email addresses, ID numbers, and even online identifiers such as IP addresses and cookies.

In particular, organizations must be able to justify why they are storing personal data, and delete the data when it no longer has a justifiable business purpose. Organizations must also be transparent about how they use this information in response to an inquiry.

The guiding philosophy of the GDPR is that people, not companies, have ultimate ownership and control of how their personal information is used.

One of the biggest stipulations of the GDPR—and one that far too many U.S. companies are unaware of—is the fact that it doesn’t just affect businesses in the EU. Every organization that stores the personal information of EU citizens and residents must comply with the terms of the GDPR. Or, they could face the potential penalties: fines up to 4% of annual revenue or 20 million euros, whichever is higher.

Related: 5 simple ways to achieve IT device security

Companies that refuse to comply with the GDPR will be effectively shut out of the EU market, with an estimated population of 508 million people. This makes the GDPR’s impact effectively worldwide.

Because the EU is so large, it’s a near-certainty that any company over a certain size will do business with an EU national. That’s especially true for those that operate online.

GDPR: How It Affects Your Business

The GDPR has come into effect in May 2018. Therefore, your company should already be in compliance—or at least taking steps to do so. The sooner you prove that your business is GDPR-ready, the less likely you are to face penalties and fines.

Many websites have chosen to display a notification the first time that a EU user visits the site. This window either informs visitors how their data will be used, or asks them for their explicit consent to use their data in a certain manner (such as for marketing purposes).

Once the company collects this information, they must store it securely to minimize the risk of a data breach. In the event that a cyberattack does occur, you must notify an EU regulator within 72 hours of discovering the breach.

The GDPR has undoubtedly had an impact on the operations of U.S. companies with a strong web presence. Organizations that understand the GDPR requirements and take action will be able to thrive in this new regulatory environment.

Understanding GDPR with EaseTech

Have more questions? No problem.

Talk to an expert in online data privacy and security to see how you can make your business compliant with GDPR today.

4 Ways to Avoid Internal Security Threats

From malware and viruses to data breaches and denial of service attacks, it’s all too easy for companies to focus on external cybersecurity threats. Although they’re frequently overlooked, however, insider security threats are even more dangerous.

Nearly 75 percent of security breach incidents are due to insider threats, whether due to mistakes or malicious intent. What’s more, a majority of organizations agree that remediating the effects of an internal security breach could cost them $500,000 or more.

Because employees’ activities are so easy to slip under the radar, insider threats can go undetected for months or years. However, you’re by no means defenseless. In this article, we’ll go over the top 4 ways for you to prevent internal security threats at your organization.

1. Have a Strong Security Policy

Many internal security breaches occur due to employees’ misunderstanding of how they should be using enterprise IT resources. To prevent this from happening at your company, establish a clear, binding security policy and make sure that everyone knows and adheres to it.

Go over your existing security policy (if you have one) and add content that specifically addresses insider threats. Make sure that sensitive and personal data is only disseminated to people with a genuine business need for it and that this access is revoked when no longer necessary. Train your staff on the best practices for preventing attacks, and keep them up-to-date on the latest cybersecurity developments.

Related Content: 4 Business Benefits to Outsourcing Your IT Support

2. Do Background Checks

While they’re not an uncommon business practice, background checks should be absolutely essential for new hires who will have access to sensitive information. If you don’t have the funds to do a full investigation, even a cursory Google search can verify important details about employees’ education and employment history.

Because background checks can turn up new information and find new records all the time, it’s important that you screen employees at regular intervals. Your hiring contracts should include an “evergreen” clause that authorizes you to perform screening now and in the future.

3. Scan for Anomalies

Modern organizations generate reams of data about the activities of users within their IT environment: Unix and Windows logs, firewall data, intrusion detection system (IDS) logs, security reports, and more. With so much valuable information at your fingertips, it would be foolish to treat this data as little more than background noise.

Instead, you can use management and monitoring tools to keep a closer eye on what’s going on within your network. Insider threats typically lack the technical sophistication of external attacks, so they’re usually easier to detect. Common patterns to look out for include visiting suspicious websites and moving large amounts of data onto an external device.

Related Content: 8 Things to Include in the Perfect Disaster Recovery Plan

4. Identify “Problem” Users

While it’s true that any one of your employees could be an insider threat, there are certain types of users that pose a bigger risk. You should pay special attention to:

  • Employees who have recently been fired or received disciplinary action. They may feel that they need to retaliate by leaking your data or trade secrets to the world.
  • Privileged users who have access to more information than the average employee.
  • Third-party contractors and vendors who need to be granted access to your system. Make sure that these entities follow the same security policies as your internal users. For example, the devastating Home Depot data breach occurred after hackers gained entry to their systems using the credentials of a third-party vendor.

Internal security threats are just the beginning. If you want to keep learning, check out how to better keep your business secure online.

The HTC 2018 End of Summer Bash

We’re sponsoring the HTC 2018 Summer Bash. Come celebrate the final days of summer with the Howard Tech Council!

Enjoy an evening of live music, networking, summer refreshments, and food in the VIP backstage area of Merriweather Post Pavilion. This event is the HTC’s largest party of the year, drawing hundreds of local professionals together for the evening.

When:

Tuesday, August 28, 2018 |
5:00 PM – 8:00 PM

Where:

Merriweather Post Pavilion |
10477 Little Patuxent Parkway, Columbia, MD 21044

Register Now At: