With the increase of working from home and distance learning for students, some customers have asked me about Wi-Fi extenders and if they work or not. Here is an explanation on what they do and if they work.
What do they do?
Basically, Wi-Fi extenders, as the name implies, extend your Wi-Fi network. Let’s say you have a two-story home. When the internet provider installed the modem, they put it in the most convenient place for them which is probably near where the wires connect to the road. Normally, this is a on a ground floor corner of the house. After they leave, the Wi-Fi signal is strong on the first floor. The bedroom on the second floor at the other end of the house is a different story. You only get one lousy bar and the internet is slow as molasses.
In come Wi-Fi extenders to save the day. Or not. These devices are called range extenders or repeaters also. The packing says it can turn dead zones into connected corners. Let’s discuss how they do it and if it works as advertised.
How do they do it?
Extenders connect to your existing wireless network and rebroadcast the signal. If you connect to an extender with your phone, the signal goes from your phone, to the extender and to the Wi-Fi router. Normally, they are plugged into an electrical outlet and don’t require a wire to be directly connected to the network. When they work correctly, they can extender the wireless into corners of the house that were previously dead zones.
Do they work?
Sort of. In my experience, they aren’t a silver bullet that fixes Wi-Fi issues that already exist. Extenders depend on a signal from the main Wi-Fi router. The internet speed from the extender is only as fast as the signal it is getting from the Wi-Fi router. If that signal is weak and slow, the extender isn’t going to make the speed any faster at that location in the house. The signal will look stronger and may be more stable, but it won’t be any faster.
The best place to put the extender in a spot between the Wi-Fi router and the place where the network is poor. Using the example above, if the Wi-Fi router is on the ground floor corner, put the extender in the middle of the house. Preferably in an outlet in the second-floor hallway. That way, the extender has a strong signal from the Wi-Fi router, but it’s signal still reaches into the areas on the other side of the house that had low signals before.
They are other factors that can affect the extenders performance. These are the same things that can affect Wi-Fi signal strength in general. Wi-Fi signals like open spaces and hate solid objects. This includes stone, metal, and brick. Many older houses have a solid chimney running through the center of the house. This is going to block the Wi-fi signal from getting to the other side of the house. Some houses have plaster and lathe walls. These walls make it extremely difficult for Wi-Fi signals to transmit. So, an extender may not work in this situation.
These devices can be difficult to configure also. Once you configure the extender, you aren’t able to get back to the configuration to make changes. If you typed something like the network password incorrectly, the extender must be completely reset and reconfigured which is time consuming and frustrating. Also, there can be compatibility issues with certain routers, specifically if the extender and Wi-Fi router are made by different manufacturers. Other issues occur if the router is older and not on the latest Wi-Fi standards.
If you have a situation where an extender may not work in your home, there are other options. The Wi-Fi routers provided by the internet company work well in small houses but are under powered if you have a large, spread out home. Purchasing a stronger Wi-Fi router may fix the issue. Most routers have the square footage that is cover on the box. I recommend getting one that is oversized for your sized home.
Some manufactures are selling what is called a mesh network. Specially, Google has a popular product now that I see a lot in customer homes. These work like range extenders. Mesh access points placed at different areas in your house. They connect to each other and back to a router that is connected to your internet. Mesh networks are great in concept but have the same limitations that range extenders do when used inside.
Another way to fix the issue is to run a cable from your Wi-Fi router to the range extender directly. This option connects the range extender directly to the internet. This provides the extender the fastest speed. The cost of running an ethernet cable through the house can be cost prohibitive. Running a cable can cost from $100-$200 depending on the distance and where the cable need go. We had to do this at a client recently that had a brick chimney in the middle of the house that was blocking the signal.
Are they worth it?
The answer is, of course, it depends. If you place the extender in a central location in your house that is not too far from the Wi-Fi router, that’s great. If it going to be far away or there are a lot of hard surfaces that are in the way, it is probably not a great solution.
The number of gadgets on your network has grown tremendously in recent years. Smart speakers, cameras, watches, and even appliances all connect to your Wi-Fi now. Wi-fi 6 ensures your devices all maintain the best possible performance.
Here’s the lowdown on Wi-Fi 6
It is the first big update to Wi-Fi since 2014. It’s designed to handle all those devices using the Wi-Fi at the same time. There have also been other smart updates that work behind the scenes to help do things like boost the battery life of your devices.
How do you get it?
If you’ve recently purchased a new device like a smart phone, the chances are it will already work with
Wi-Fi 6. Both the iPhone 11 and the Samsung Galaxy released in 2019 support Wi-Fi. The newest home
Wi-Fi routers support the new standard also.
If you would like some help in making sure your business has the best possible Wi-Fi performance, give me a call at (203) 837-1120.
VOIP phones have been out for a while now. Many businesses haven’t made the jump to VOIP technology and have stuck with the older, but more reliable phone systems. Some owners are concerned about the reliability and cost of switching to a VOIP phone system. Others may not need the features that VOIP provides. Bother systems have pros and cons. Which one you should use for your business depends on your companies needs. Here are the pros and cons of each technology.
What is VOIP?
Land line phone technology has been around for a long time (over 100 years). The technology hasn’t changed much since it was first developed. You pick up the phone and dial a number. The call is transmitted over a copper wire. Calls are normally routed by the local phone company. With VOIP, your voice is converted into a digital signal which is sent over the internet. The call is transmitted to your VOIP provider who sends it along to the phone on the other end.
Land Line Pros
Low Price: Land lines can be very inexpensive if you don’t need any features. This may be okay for a small shop, but once you need features like an auto attendant or transferring calls, this price goes up significantly.
Reliability: Land lines are very reliable. They work even if the power goes out or the internet goes down.
Land Line Cons
Lack of Features: The technology hasn’t changed much in 100 years. Other than call waiting and caller id, not many features have been added to land lines.
Land Lines Don’t Scale: Let’s say your business is growing and you need to add five new phones. You need to call the phone company to add them. You may need to wait for them to come out to your location to set it up. This can take weeks to complete.
Business Class Phone systems are expensive: If you do want business class features like transfer and auto attendant, the cost of land lines go up. These features require a system called a PBX, which can be very expensive to purchase and install. They are expensive to maintain. If an issue occurs, you need to call a specialist. It is getting harder to find support for these systems, because they are not used as much.
Limited portability: Land line systems haven’t adapted to how mobile business is today. Forwarding calls and getting voice mail can be tedious when outside the office.
Low Setup Cost: VOIP systems don’t require onsite system to work. These systems are hosted in the cloud. Support for the system is part of the monthly bill. No extra support costs.
More features: Since the system is digital, VOIP can offer many more features that land lines can’t. Call forwarding, auto-attendant, voice to email, and integration with CRMs are just a few features that are built into VOIP systems. VOIP providers add regularly new features. The new features don’t require a new system to implement.
Scalability: Adding a new phone line can be completed by filling out a form online. Plug a new phone in and you are up and running.
Reliability: In the early days of VOIP, VOIP systems were not very reliable. The calls were choppy. Calls would drop frequently. The technology has matured and is much more reliable now. With most business internet speed over 100 Mbps now, there are few call issues anymore.
VOIP is portable: Many VOIP systems don’t care where the phone is physically located. You can take you work phone home and it will work on your home network. Everyone can call you direct number and still reach you. This is great for companies who have employees that work from. VOIP systems can easily forward calls to a cell number, so you don’t miss that important call from a client.
Outages: VOIP phones don’t work if there is a power or internet outage. If you are in a location where internet or power is not stable, VOIP phones are not a good choice.
Bandwidth: If you don’t have a fast internet connection, call quality can be bad. This goes for old networking equipment also. If you are using an old ethernet hub to connect computers and voice phones, VOIP calls might not work well. Equipment and internet speeds can be upgraded though.
Need an Ethernet cable: VOIP phones use the same wired connection that your desktop computer uses. This is great if your building with wired with Ethernet cable already. If you are in a spot where you can only connect wirelessly, you will need to run an Ethernet cable. This can be costly if a professional cabling company needs to be hired.
Does work with Wi-Fi: Most VOIP phone don’t work with Wi-Fi yet. And those that do and limited if the Wi-Fi network is poor. This makes setting up a phone is remote locations difficult.
VOIP through cable provider
Some people get VOIP through their cable company. This is a mix between land lines and VOIP. Normally, you can use your old land line system. The cable company converts the land line signal into a digital signal at your cable modem. Technically this is VOIP, but you don’t get all the features that a true VOIP systems does when the phones are digital also.
Who is the winner?
It depends really. If you only have a few phones and don’t need any features, land lines work great. Other VOIP is the way to go. VOIP costs less and the has more features than a land line system.
Umbrella Infotech provides IT services for companies in Litchfield and Fairfield County, Connecticut. Reach out to use to discuss how we can help you to replace your land line system with feature rich VOIP system.
I was recently on site with a client. We were talking about changing their backups from using a server in their office to using a cloud backup service. I explained the pros and cons. Their major concern with moving their data to the cloud was security. They were hesitant to move data to the cloud because they are not sure how secure it was. The data is exposed on the internet where anyone can try to get to it. Concerns about cloud security are valid. The cloud is more secure in some ways and less secure in others.
What is the cloud?
Let’s discuss what the cloud is. The cloud is a network of remote computers around the world that are connected to act as one system. The cloud can store data, run applications, or deliver services like mail or office productivity software. These cloud systems can be accessed from any personal computer or device that has a connection to the internet. There are three types of cloud. Public cloud is available to anyone over the internet. Private cloud is hosted on a private network. The third type is hybrid cloud that uses a mixture of public and private clouds.
What is more secure about the cloud?
When cloud providers develop cloud solutions, they know that the service will be exposed to the internet and write the software to protect against that. They know that hackers will be trying to get into the systems and develop the software and systems to protect against attacks. On-premise software isn’t always developed with security in mind. The security is not as strong, because the developers expect it to be used in a private network. But we aren’t always using the software in the private network. People take their laptops home and airports where networks aren’t as secure. Even work networks can be broken into and if the systems don’t have another layer of security, important data can be accessed or lost.
Cloud services are generally run on servers in large data centers. These data centers have strong security in place to protect the systems and the data. A barbed wire fence may be on the outside of the data center. There are security guards who patrol the building and check the access of people trying to get into the building. Cameras record people’s movement and actions. Servers are locked in cages to prevent unnecessary access. In an office, the only physical security of a server maybe a locked door.
Cloud security is audited. Periodically, the security of the cloud systems is checked by a third party. The third-party checks that processes are in place to protect the systems and data. If the auditor identifies security issues and other ways that security can be improved. Auditing forces the cloud provider to be accountable for the security of the systems.
Cloud providers high security experts to develop their systems. Amazon and Microsoft hire the best engineers to create their systems. The engineers are experts in their fields and know how to develop systems that are safe. They are constantly looking for and security issues. They can quickly fix the issues and send out updates. These updates are sent out to all systems automatically. Security doesn’t depend on a user updating their system.
What is not secure about the Cloud?
Though there are number of ways that the cloud is more secure than on premise systems, it is vulnerable in other ways. If a user does not use strong credentials, systems can be hacked. Weak passwords can be guessed. Users can leave their username and passwords on a piece of paper on their desk. Accounts can be hijacked. Hackers use phishing emails to steal the credentials of users. They use these credentials to access their data that is stored in cloud.
One upside of cloud services is they are accessible if you are on the internet. This also gives anyone else on the internet a connection to the systems. Anyone from anywhere can attempt to attack a system. System on private networks don’t have this problem because it is much harder to access a computer inside a private network than one in cloud. The attackers can try to break into the system over and over since that access is always on. Sometimes systems are access by hackers and data is breached. A breach happens when sensitive, protected, or confidential data is released or viewed by someone who is not authorized. Some data breaches can expose client information, which is a big problem for small businesses.
While discussing moving a service or data to the cloud, the benefits and risks need to be assessed. Both onsite and cloud software can be compromised. Some questions to ask are:
A firewall is the first line of defense against hackers for small businesses. The act as a barrier between computers and threats from the internet. Firewalls are a necessity to protect your and your client’s data.
What is a firewall?
A firewall is a security system that analyses and controls traffic that comes in or goes out of a network. A set of rules are defined in the firewall that allow or block traffic from traveling through a network. It also Firewalls can block virus and malware from entering your network, before they get to a user’s desktop. They can keep employees productive also. Sites can be blocked based on the types of content they provide (Media, adult content). Netflix can be blocked, but work-related sites are allowed.
Two Types of Firewalls
Software firewalls are installed on most modern desktop computers. Windows 10 has a built-in firewall. Some types anti-virus software come with a software firewall included. These firewalls may work well on a home PC, but they are costly to manage on a business network. Each computer needs to be configured and maintained separately. This can be time consuming and expensive. An employee may be able to disable the firewall on their computer also.
A hardware firewall is a physical device that sits on your network. All traffic in or out of the network goes through the firewall. The firewall reads all traffic and determines if it safe for send along. If someone tries to download a virus, the firewall will block it. Hardware firewalls are easier to manage than software firewalls. Configuration changes that affect the entire network can be made in one place and not on each computer. If the firewall needs to be updated, only one device needs to updated, instead of every machine on network.
The Necessity of Firewalls
Firewalls protect against threats, like virus and malware. As traffic enters a network, the firewall scans the traffic. If it finds a threat, it is blocks and does not get forwarded to a user’s computer.
Firewalls can monitor network for breaches also. While the firewall is inspecting internet traffic, it is looking for suspicious activity. This activity could be someone from the outside trying to access a computer inside your network. The activity will be blocked if it determines that it is not safe.
Control Internet Usage
Some small business would like to control what sites their employees are accessing while at work. Employees access streaming services, like Netflix, can slow down the entire network. Employees accessing can reduce productivity and allow threats into the network. Firewalls can block access specific sites. Entire types of sites can be blocked also, like media streaming sites or gaming sites.
If a small business accepts credit cards, they need to follow PCI compliance rules. One of the rules requires businesses to have a firewall on their network. A firewall protects customer data such as credit card information that hackers are looking for. A network breach where customer data is stolen can be expensive too. The average cost of a PCI breach is $36,000.
Price of Firewalls
Firewalls prices aren’t out of reach for small businesses. Prices range from $500-5000 depending on features and length of support.
Choosing the Right Firewall
Firewalls must be compatible with your current network. They need to be configured correctly and updated regularly to protect your business against the latest threats. It is important to contact your IT professional before purchasing a firewall.
Umbrella Infotech provides IT services in Litchfield and Fairfield Counties in Connecticut. We have helped many small businesses choose, install, configure and maintain firewalls. Contact us to discuss your company’s IT needs.
One complaint I hear over and over from clients is their computer is running slowly. Some clients are using older computers with older hardware. Others complain that the brand-new computer is not running as fast they expect it should be. It isn’t necessary to replace a computer to speed it up. Here are some steps that can improve the speed of your computer without dishing out a bunch of cash.
Uninstall unused programs
When you purchase a computer, programs come preinstalled on the computer. You may have never used these programs and they can be removed. These may be program you installed a long time ago, but don’t use anymore. To remove unnecessary programs, Click Start>Control Panel>Programs and Features>Uninstall a Program. Select the program that you want to uninstall and select Uninstall/Change.
Delete temporary files
Temporary files can take up space on your hard drive and slow down programs. Most of these files are no longer needed and can be deleted. Click Start and search for “Disk Cleanup”. Select the drive you would like to clean up. Normally this will be the C: drive. Select Temporary Internet Files and Temp Files. Other files types can be picked also, but make sure you know what you are deleting. Then click okay. If there are a lot of temporary files, the process may take a long time to complete.
Clean up the registry
The Windows registry is a database of configuration settings for your computer. When a program is installed, items are added to the registry. When a program is uninstalled, the registry items may not be removed. If there is a large amount of data in the registry, it may take longer for your computer to start or to open programs. Deleting unused registry item can speed up your computer. There are a few free programs that can be used to do the cleanup. My favorite it CCleaner Free. Download and install the program. Select Registry. Click Scan for Issues. When it complete, click Fix Selected Issue.
RAM, also know as memory, is what your computer uses to load all the information that your programs and files use. If your computer is older, your computer may not have enough RAM to run the programs that your want. Programs that open large files, like AutoCAD, Publisher, or Photoshop, the large files maybe using a lot of your RAM also. Upgrading the RAM in your computer can be a cost effective way to speed up your computer.
Add Drive Space
Your computer uses your hard drive as temporary memory also. If your hard drive is low of space, your computer may not have enough space for temporary memory. Upgrading the size of your hard drive or adding a secondary drive to your computer can fix this issue.
Upgrade Your Drive to SSD
If you are upgrading your hard drive, you may want to replace the old drive with an SSD drive. SSD stands for Solid State Drive. These new types of drives don’t have moving parts like traditionally hard drives which have platters. The drives read and write data faster than traditional drive. SSDs can improve the speed of your computer over 50%. Boot time are faster also. The new drives are more expensive but the gains in speed are worth the cost.
Run a disk defragmentation
When your computer writes to the hard drive, the bytes of data are stored on your computer. The bytes are stored can be stored in random places on the drive. Parts of the same file can be on completely different parts of the drive. When your computer opens a file, it takes longer because to needs to look at two different places to get the information it needs. Defragmenting your computer reorganizes the bytes, so they are logically organized. To defragment your computer, click Start and search for Defragment and Organize Drives. Select your hard drive and click Analyze. The program will scan your drive and recommend if you drive needs to be defragmented. If it does, click optimize and the defrag will run.
If you are still having issues with your computer after completing these steps, there may be other issues with your computer. Contact Umbrella Infotech to schedule a time to review your computer.
Imagine this; It’s 5PM, your employee is rushing to get home. An email pops up on their screen. The subject is “Urgent Big Order”. He opens the email. It looks a little different than emails normally do from the client. The email says, “click the link to get the order details”. Without thinking, the employee clicks the link. The web page asks for a user name and password. He enters his information and clicks Login, but the page does go anywhere. He shrugs his shoulders and says to himself “I will take care of it in the morning” and goes home.
What the employee doesn’t know is that he was just the victim of a phishing attack. The web site was bogus, and now a hacker has his user name and password. While the employee is eating dinner with his family, the hacker is reading through company data or transferring money out of YOUR bank account. By the morning when the issue is discovered, it is too late to do anything. The data or money has been stolen.
The stolen data could have been prevented using a simple, new technology called two factor authentication or 2FA. Two factor authentication adds a second method of authentication when a user logs into a web site or company resource. After logging into a web site, you receive a text message with a code. The code is entered into the web site. If the code is correct, you get into the site. If you don’t have the code, you don’t get in. You may have encountered 2FA when logging into Facebook or Gmail on a new computer.
Two factor authentication requires you to have different types of identifying information, normally a password and code that is sent to a device you own. The code sent via text message or phone call. It can be sent through an app on your phone. Not having access to the phone makes it very hard for a hacker to get into your accounts.
Many small businesses in the New Milford/Danbury area are adding two factor authentication to protect their company resources. Unified Access Systems are can be implemented to protect systems like Office 365, Dropbox, and many other applications. Configuration is simple and can be completely cloud based. Pricing is affordable and billed on a per user basis.
Umbrella Infotech can help your business get started with two factor authentication. Click here to see how we can help you protect your company today.
All business owners know that a secure network is an important factor in keeping their business running. Getting hacked can cause loss of productivity and sales. Having up to date anti-virus software needs to be installed on every computer is important, but that is only part of keeping their organization secure. Many leaders aren’t sure of other ways to protect their business from cyberattacks.
Recently, the National Institute of Standards and Technology released the guidebook Cybersecurity is Everyone’s Job. It lists different ways organizations can protect their network. The guidebook is broken down into sections based on employee roles, like leadership, human resources, and sales. Here is the most important information that I found.
Leadership needs to be actively involved in the organization’s cyber security. They need to understand cybersecurity to make sound decisions. Third parties should be engaged to explain cyber risks and how they can be stopped. Leadership should assist in developing and maintaining organizational security policies and standards. These polices should be developed from risk assessments, regulations, and best practices.
Sales, Marketing, and Communications
The Sales, Marketing, and Communications departments hold important roles in an organization’s cybersecurity strategy also. These teams need to communicate important cybersecurity matters within the company and to outside stakeholders. These communications could be an explanation of the security policy or making employees aware of new security risks. The communications team should be part of the incidence response team and assist in planning for the inevitable cyber incident.
Operations and Facilities
The operations and facilities teams should be involved in security planning and implementation also. They can identify physical security risks of systems and work with the IT to protect these systems. This could be securing a server room. Both teams should develop a physical safety plan. Operations should incorporate cybersecurity measures into their safety program. Employee training should include cybersecurity risks to the physical environment. They can partner with IT to develop systems for guests, which could include a restricted guest network and limiting physical access to systems.
There are several things that every person in the organization can do to reduce cybersecurity risks:
The entire guide book, Cybersecurity is Everyone’s Job, can be read at the NIST web site.
Umbrella Infotech offers cyber security services and training to business. We can develop a cyber security plan for you company. We can monitor you network in real time to identify and act against security risks. Click here to see how we can help you protect your company today.