Cloud Changing Lives

How the cloud is changing life as we know it

The cloud has opened up a plethora of opportunities to improve our way of living, in ways that we could only dream of a decade ago. Apps and devices are now readily available to keep track of daily activities, compare our habits to the rest of the world through analysis of big data, and raise alerts when something out of the ordinary occurs.

Think of something as simple as leaving for work in the morning. You know that D’oh! moment when you’re driving out of the driveway, and you see that you left your lights on. Or even worse, getting to work and panicking about whether you locked your door or not. Now there are products to help, such as SmartThings, which allows you to remotely monitor and perform tasks around the house such as locking your doors. Aside from security uses, it can assist with lifestyle improvements as well. Nothing better than going home to a preheated house on a cold winter night.

Keeping track of finances is now easier than ever. Gone are the days of writing down expenses and typing them back into your budgeting spreadsheet when you get home. Apps such as YNAB allow users to enter expenses as they occur through their mobile devices, and these are synced with their accounts through cloud and can be accessed on any other devices signed into the account. Super handy for those with goldfish memory!

The cloud is also dramatically changing the lives of the elderly, helping them live longer, healthier and more fulfilling lives. Car monitoring apps like Automatic are available to assess driving ability by keeping track of the speed, acceleration time, number of hard stops, swerves, etc, as well as monitoring the state of the car and triggering built-in emergency-response features. Cloud-based programs such as medication reminders, Personal Emergency Response Systems (PERS) and GPS tools ensure the safety and general well-being of seniors living on their own. Cloud-connected refridgerators notify the owner when foods are in low supply by sending a message to you or anyone else informing them that it’s time to go shopping.

Advancement in medical research has seen an increase in the use of cloud services as well. The Michael J. Fox Foundations (MJFF) recently announced a new partnership with Intel to better understand the disease. The chipmaker has built an open-source big data analytics platform utilising the cloud which allows researchers to analyse patient data collected by wearable technology. This assists with overcoming current challenges with battling the disease due to the “variability in the type of people who can get it, the wide-ranging symptoms and how it progresses”, as stated by chief executive of the MJFF, Todd Sherer, “Parkinson’s can be variable, subjective and episodic.”

It is evidently clear that the cloud has enabled technology advancements in a much broader scale than before, helping the world come together and improving lives across the globe.

What cloud technology are you using to assist with everyday tasks? Let us know!

Apple iPhone 6

What we know about the iPhone 6 so far

It is now less than a month away from the anticipated release date of the new iPhone 6 (maybe), and everyone is searching far and wide to find out more about it. We’ve done some research for you and put together a list of some rumoured features*:

  • Apple is expected to again release two models – a standard 4.7-inch model and a 5.5-inch model for the phablet lovers
  • Cosmetic redesign to make it even thinner than the 7.6mm iPhone 5s
  • Improved TouchID fingerprint recognition feature
  • Sapphire crystal display – expected to be stronger and more scratch-resistant compared to the Corning Gorilla Glass currently used in almost all the smartphones available
  • iOS 8 – with a larger focus on health and home
  • Faster new 64-bit “desktop class” A8 processor
  • Storage up to 128GB
  • Higher resolution camera
  • 2,100mAh battery – 45% more powerful than the 1,440mAh battery of iPhone 5
  • Prices likely to start around $915 AUD for the 4.7-inch and around $1,030 AUD for the 5.5 inch model
  • Launch date rumoured to be on Tuesday 9th September 2014, on which Apple has scheduled a large media event
  • Expected to go on sale Tuesday 14th October 2014, as an unnamed “senior store leader” was quoted saying the day would be “immense” while pointing to October set to be “very busy for stores and the company itself
  • iPhone 6 leaked photos and mockups

However, of course, we won’t know exactly what the iPhone 6 will include until it actually comes out, so all we can do for now is wait and see.

What are some other rumoured iPhone 6 features you’ve heard about? Let us know!

 

*rumoured features are sourced around the web and do not necessarily reflect the actual features of the iPhone 6

Unlocking the Cryptolocker

Unlocking the CryptoLocker

For those who have not heard of CryptoLocker, thank your lucky stars that you were not one of the estimated 500,000 victims that were affected by this ransomware. As for those who were unfortunately affected, or those who are simply curious to find out how to decrypt it, read on.

What is CryptoLocker?

CryptoLocker is a ransomware trojan which targets computers running Microsoft Windows. A CryptoLocker attack may come from various sources; one such is disguised as a legitimate email attachment. Once it worms its way into your system, it encrypts all of your files using strong AES-256-bit cryptography, which can only be unlocked by a private key.

What happened if someone fell victim to an attack?

The attacker demanded Bitcoins equating to around $300 USD in exchange for the key, or else the files stayed encrypted forever. According to BBC, 1.3 percent of victims paid to retrieve their files, totaling approximately $3 million USD before the criminal network was smashed by authorities and security researchers in May.

The solution is here – for free!

Researchers from FireEye and Fox-IT have managed to recover the private encryption keys used by CryptoLocker’s authors, as well as reverse-engineer the code powering the malware itself. Together they have launched the DecryptCryptoLocker – a free tool to assist victims of the CryptoLocker ransomware.

Use DecryptCryptoLocker here

However, FireEye warns that some data might not be recoverable, particularly if you’ve been infected by a CryptoLocker variant rather than CryptoLocker itself. “While these variants do appear similar to CryptoLocker, this tool may not be successful in all decryption processes because of code and functionality variances.”

How can I protect myself and my business from such attacks?

There are various preventative measures you can take from changes to your daily routines to restructuring of your IT systems. Here are a few we recommend:

  • If you receive an email with a suspicious attachment, do not click on it – this is especially so for files with .exe extensions (or .zip files containing .exe files)
  • Ask your IT department or service provider to block above mentioned file types from emails
  • Install or upgrade your email security to filter out spam more effectively
  • Show hidden file extensions – in the case of CryptoLocker, it frequently arrived in a file that is named with the extension “.PDF.EXE” – enable your computer’s ability to see the full file-extension to spot suspicious files easier
  • Backup your data regularly
  • Utilise external services to store backups on the cloud – ransomware such as CryptoLocker also affect files that are on mapped drives, so backing up to a cloud server ensures that your files are protected from such attacks
    (Learn more on protecting your business in the cloud from our previous post)

In a world where we rely heavily on technology for both work and personal uses, we must be prepared for the worst and protect ourselves at all times from attacks and other disasters. Speak to your managed services provider today to learn more about protecting your valuable business assets.

NEC Handsets

NEC takes Number One

NEC takes no.1 position as worldwide market leader in MZA’s Global PBX/IP PBX Market report.

NEC LogoIn a NEC Enterprise Solutions press release last week it was announced that NEC has become the leading vendor in the global PBX extensions / licenses market, taking the no. 1 position as worldwide market leader in MZA’s latest Global PBX/IP PBX Market report over Q1 2014.

MZA specialises in the provision of marketing consultancy services to the telecommunications and IT industries at a European and Global level, with expertise covering a wide range of enterprise communications solutions. MZA provides detailed analysis services on the global, regional and key country enterprise communications markets including PBX/Call Control, Hosted/Cloud Telephony Services, UC Applications, Contact Centre and Business Mobility.

With a market share of 13%, NEC remained ahead of competitors. “NEC’s continued strength in Asia Pacific, as well as strong share growth in North America helped it to maintain global market share and take top position,” stated Will Parsons of MZA.

MZA’s report noted that NEC retained its Q1 2013 global leadership in solutions below 100 extensions/licenses (excluding Micro PBX products) in Q1 2014, repeating its 17% market share in that segment.

The success underscores the strength of NEC’s portfolio of communications solutions, the company’s commitment to expand its global enterprise communications footprint and the ability to serve customers worldwide.

NEC offers a broad range of enterprise communications solutions – ranging from small to very large systems – that effectively support enterprise and SME customers whose requirements span from traditional TDM to full IP and 100% software-based deployments.

To find out how you can install NEC systems for your communications needs, speak to your NEC Channel Partner today.

Windows support ends in April 2014: Decision time for Australian businesses

Millions of enterprise users will be left with no protection against new security vulnerabilities from April 8, when Microsoft stops supporting its Windows XP operating system.

Despite knowing the extraordinary risks, millions of PCs continue to run the XP operating system. In reality this is a massive 31.4 per cent of computers worldwide, according to Netmarketshare, and at least 10 per cent of all PCs in Australia, about 2.5 million.

So what about your PCs – are they still running on Windows XP? If so, you need to take action now to make sure your business is fully prepared for the ‘end of life’ as you know it. With time rapidly running out, it pays to know your options:

1.  Continue to run Windows XP after April

To those planning to stick with the Windows XP operating system even after Microsoft ends support, my advice is simple: don’t do it.

When XP support ends, Microsoft will no longer invest any resources to maintain or update it. This has huge implications for business users. You will no longer receive new security updates, non-security hotfixes, free or paid assisted support options or online technical content updates.

Sure, Windows XP will still continue to work just as well as it has for the past decade – your computers won’t suddenly crash – but every day that passes once Windows XP support expires means new vulnerabilities that your PC will be exposed to. Malware, viruses, worms, data breaches, theft of critical business data accessible on unsupported systems; these attacks will strike repeatedly against your operating systems and there’s very little you can do to protect them.

2. Upgrade to Windows 7 or Windows 8.0

 Another option is to get an upgrade path to either Windows 7 or Windows 8. Sounds simple enough, but for some businesses this option presents some hurdles. You might find that some applications will not run under later versions of Windows. The migration is simply too big. You also may need to invest in new hardware to support a new operating system. And without the right technical expertise and guidance, the migration can be disruptive to business as usual.

The good news is Interlinked Pacific can help. As a Microsoft Certified Partner, we are able to automate application compatibility, test to ensure the right provisioning, reduce the time taken to deploy new desktops, and manage upgrades on PCs, laptops and tablets. But any plans to migrate from XP to Windows 7 or 8 at this stage should be acted on quickly – time is running out.

But before you make your decision, there is another way…

3. Cloud-hosted Desktops as a Service (DaaS)

Every end leads to a new beginning, and Microsoft’s end-of-support enables your organisation to take advantage of latest technology trends such as virtualisation and the cloud.

Rather an upgrade to Windows 8 for your on-premise computers, consider moving to virtual or hosted desktops – a user interface that connects applications and data from a secure data centre via an encrypted virtual private network.

With virtual or hosted desktops you can enjoy up to date systems all the time, with the added support and peace of mind of knowing your working data is stored in the cloud. This service is also known as Desktop as a Service (DaaS) because it allows your business to move from physical to a virtual desktop infrastructure.

Benefits of a hosted desktop

  • No need for new hardware: There’s no need to buy all new hardware. You can repurpose existing PCs to deliver employees cloud-hosted desktops, then you simply add new hardware as budget permits or needs arise.
  • Flexible connectivity: You can connect to your hosted desktop via a browser, thin client, or other handheld devices.
  • Fully Customisable: Applications (including Windows business applications) can be installed, preconfigured for each user and updated regularly.
  • Maximum Support: With Interlinked Pacific, hosted desktops are backed up by a 99.99% uptime guarantee and a dedicated help desk at a low monthly cost.
  • Lower running costs: Avoid costly desktop deployments, software installation, and backups associated with Windows operating systems. Instead, hosted desktops also allow you to replace capital expenditure with a low and predictable monthly payment.
  • Free up resources: Desktops also require ongoing management, which uses up valuable staff time. With hosted desktops, regular updates are done remotely and outside business hours so you can be sure your workforce (and productivity) is uninterrupted.
  • Scalability: With a hosted desktop, you can add users and increase storage almost instantly. For example, Interlinked Pacific’s cloud infrastructure has an extensive range of hardware and software resources to accommodate any expansion within minutes.

On top of all this, hosted desktops are continuously monitored and updated, meaning you will run the latest software all the time.

Act now

The decision is simple. A failure to migrate may lead to more serious security issues after the support runs out. Don’t waste any more time – speak to Interlinked for advice on migrating your systems today.