Keeping Kids Safe Online

As the world of technology moves ahead at breakneck speed for all of us, our children are left increasingly vulnerable to screen-time addiction, online bullying, and adult content. We could watch over our kids’ shoulders while they are on the computer, but frankly, the thrill of watching my fourteen-year-old play Minecraft is gone. Fortunately, there are some excellent programs to help concerned parents.

All four of the programs tested offer basic protections for Windows and Mac. They will all allow you to block website categories, such as gambling, violence, pornography, etc. In addition, you can add specific websites to block or allow. The parent will also be able to schedule hours when the child is allowed to use the computer, and the length of time the child is allowed each day.

Norton Family Free

Norton Family Free provides all of the basic tools needed to monitor internet activity and control access. The interface is modern, clean, and easy to navigate. Setup is a breeze.

Norton was the only program I tested that the time restrictions applied to the child’s use of the computer, not just the internet. Another great feature is the remote management. I can make changes to the child’s access from any internet browser, and it takes effect as soon as the child updates their rules. There is even a handy smartphone app.

The reports provided are excellent, except for the over-reporting of blocked advertisements and such. It makes it cumbersome to sort through the blocks to see which are real issues and which are not.

Norton Family Premier

Norton Family Premier has all the functionality of the free version, with a few key additions. With the Premier edition, you can see exactly which videos your children are watching on YouTube, receive weekly detailed reports, and manage Android devices.

Net Nanny

The Net Nanny interface is fairly easy to navigate, and installation is simple. It provides the ability to block website categories, with an added functionality to warn. For instance, you may allow a teen to browse to a site about alcohol, but you can give them a warning to tread carefully. You can also mask foul language. So if your child is reading comments on Facebook or YouTube, they will see “What the %@#” instead of the curse word. Pretty cool.

But surprisingly, Net Nanny does not offer a category to block social networking sites. You can create your own category and spend your spare time researching social networking sites to block. Or, if you allow your kids to use social networking, you can monitor that for an extra fee.

I found the Net Nanny YouTube videos and webinars to be useful tools. Check out their video called “8 Tech Tips for Parents with a Clever Kid”. Your clever kid does not want you to watch this video.

Safe Eyes

Safe Eyes by McAfee provides all of the basic parental control features, but it is difficult to find anything else positive to say about this program. The first impression was the very dated interface. Getting the settings entered was a little awkward, but I managed. We spent way too much time trying to get Minecraft to work until I let my daughter login with my account. The design of this program is such that when the child’s time is up, they lose access to the internet, but they still have access to the computer. However, you could use the built-in parental controls in Windows or Mac to limit access to the computer itself.

Another problem with Safe Eyes is the lack of remote management. The program must be managed on the device. So, if my son calls me at work, and he needs access to a website, there is nothing I can do about it until I get home.

How to Choose?

In some ways, Net Nanny is more advanced than the other parental controls tested. Net Nanny strives to block content, not just specific websites. That is very appealing. But the fact that I cannot totally block social networking makes Net Nanny impractical for our family.

Safe Eyes is rather clunky and since it does not provide remote management, I would not choose this one. The free version of Norton Family provides a better product.

I found Norton Family Premier to be the best of the four parental controls tested. It is easy to use for both the parent and child. Of course, there is the high cost to consider.

Norton Family Free has enough unlocked features to provide a good deal of control for most parents.  I have settled on Norton Family Free for now, and if I decide down the road that I would like more reporting, then I will probably upgrade to Norton Family Premier.

What I like best about all of these programs is that every time my children log in to the computer, they are reminded that they are being monitored. That may be enough in many cases to keep them in the safe zone.

 

Windows 10 release week: What to know, and what to expect

Windows 10 has nearly arrived after months of anticipation. You may have questions regarding the release or maybe you're not quite sure if upgrading is best for you. Well, we're here to clear up some confusion and get you in the know about the new Windows 10.

What's Happening?

Tuesday at midnight ET, Microsoft will begin rolling out Windows 10 in stages. 

While you may not receive a notification for the upgrade immediately, do not fret! The upgrade is scheduled to be pushed out in waves, beginning with Windows Insiders and followed by the general public. These waves will span out over a period of a few days to ensure a more stable launch, so don't be alarmed if you do not receive your update immediately. 

 

What will Windows 10 look like?

Windows 10 is a refined version of the Windows you know and love. The design and interface is meant to bring you the best of both Windows 7 and 8 with, of course, some new features. Cortana, Microsoft's intelligent personal assistant, will be deeply integrated into Windows 10 bringing an advanced start menu and convenient voice commands to the experience. Microsoft will also be debuting their new Edge browser, and their XBOX integration is deeper than ever before. 

Why should I upgrade?

The best thing about the new Windows 10 is that it's free! (for the first year) for qualified Windows 7 and 8.1 devices. So long as your computer meets the requirements, you are free to install and upgrade. As far as we know, this will be the latest and greatest, and will eventually become the standard for Windows. Getting familiar with it now will give you the upper hand if your company decides to roll it out onto every computer. 

What we suggest

We are excited about the launch of Windows 10 as much as you are, but you may want to hold off on it for a few weeks or until the first Service Pack arrives, and here's why. With every new software there is always the possibility of upgrade trouble or bugs. Before you implement Windows 10 into your business, always consult your technology service company and your in-line business application providers to ensure it’s compatible.  While we implore you to wait to upgrade on the business side of things, we do encourage you to upgrade your personal devices (but make sure to fully backup before you install!) to try out and hopefully fall in love with Windows 10.

 

Learn more about Windows 10 here

The email spam filter and you : A brief guide

New data from security firm Symantec has shown email spam to reach an all-new 12-year low as hackers and cyber attackers turn away from it. Falling below the 50% mark, the amount of spam emails sent in the first quarter of 2015 is on the same level as it was in 2003, which means although your spam filter might be working well, you simply may be receiving less than you previously were. What does all of this mean?

Well, while spam may be frustrating and unwanted, when clicked on, spam has an ability to generate money or attach malware onto your computer. The drop in sent spam suggests cyberattacks are currently adapting and refocusing their efforts on new ways to generate money. Malware attacks, ransomware, and crypto-ransomware are undoubtedly on the rise and may represent a new era in cybercrime.

Unfortunately, the same spam filters that prevents spam from cyber criminals may also be blocking emails that you might find important. Publicists, marketers, salespeople and other professionals whose jobs rely on emailing might find their work futile if their spam gets stuck in a folder with all the malware that the filter thinks it’s a part of. If your job relies on emailing, we’ve created a list of obvious words and phrases not to use when you want to ensure that your message gets to the right person.

Obvious words and phrases that set off spam filters

·         Cash

·         Money

·         Reduce debt

·         Home mortgage

·         Problem with shipping

·         Problem with your order

·         Cialis, Viagra, etc.

·         Cheap meds

·         Weight loss

·         As seen on Oprah

·         Replica watches

·         Gift card

·         Diet

·         Millions

·         Earn your degree

·         Bad credit

·         Easy income

·         Work from home

·         Lottery

·         Pay your bills

·         Free laptop/iPad

·         Job alert

·         Foreclosure

·         Bankruptcy

·         Timeshare

·         Take our survey

·         Discount coupon

·         Store credit

·         Huge deals

·         Free download

·         Discount shipping

·         Huge sale

·         % off

·         Holiday savings

·         Free gift

·         Free shipping

·         Regarding your order

 

Spam filters block more than just keywords, though. They seek out and dismiss emails containing symbols, words in all caps, and language that appears urgent. Ensuring that your email comes across non-“spammy” is a good step in making sure it gets to the right place. At Prototype IT, we offer spam filter support to prevent you from receiving spam before it even gets to you. Read more here!

The truth about malware and its 5 evil types

Lots of massive, technical terms get tossed around when it comes to computer security, and naturally, many of them can be a bit hard to explain, so they get used incorrectly. Well, one of the most (if not the most) frequent of these misused terms would be your normal, everyday computer virus. In its most technically-correct meaning, a virus is a malicious code that spreads by infecting existing files, similar to how a virus infects living cells (hence how it obtained its name).

Typically, when someone gets a virus on their computer, what they’re really referring to is malware. Malware, or “malicious software” is the blanketing umbrella term that houses all the funky “viruses” and “virus” subsets such as worms, Trojans, rootkits, spyware, and adware that you currently know. So really, a virus itself is a form of malware. In the list below, we clear up the confusion by explaining what Trojans, viruses, and worms are and how they’re different from one another.

Virus: This is a form of malware that spreads across your computer once it has been run. Unlike other types of malware, it can either attach itself to a good file on your computer, or can search out other machines to infect. Mostly common throughout the 1990s, viruses are no longer as common as new forms of malware are more sophisticated and advanced.

Worm: Think of inchworms rather than parasitic worms. This type of malware “inches” itself from one machine to the next, rather than latching onto its original host. Commonly spread by email and IM attachments, worms look for a way to penetrate your firewall, infect your computer, and then find a way to move onto another machine.

Spyware: Unlike the previous two malwares, spyware is in a league of it’s own. Rather than infecting your computer and attacking it – spyware penetrates your computer so that it can attack you. Spyware runs in the background of your computer, collecting data such as passwords, credit card details, important files, emails, etc. Which then gets used against you.

Trojans: Remember the story of the Trojan horse that ended up being full of guys with spears? Well, hence the name: this malware parades itself to be a safe, fun, or important file or software… and it turns out that the file or software is neither fun, nor important, and instead is full of malwares that unload themselves onto your computer.

Ransomware: Similar to spyware, the point of this malware is not to attack your computer but again, to attack you. Ransomware hits you where it hurts; locking your computer from being used until you pay the “kidnapper” a disclosed amount of money to unlock the computer.

 

So there you have it! Pretty much everything that infects your computer is actually a malware, and some can undoubtedly be worse than others. Yet, this is only a small list of the possible types of malware that are out there. This is why it’s important to have a good –and up to date– antivirus installed on your computer at all times.

For employers, naturally you can’t monitor each of your employees to ensure that they’re practicing safe computer habits, but what you can do is pick a trusted and highly received IT company to keep your computers up to date with the latest antimalware programs possible. It just so happens that that’s one of the solutions offered at Prototype IT. Read more about the solutions offered by our team here!

6 Reasons why you should move to The Cloud

A new technology that’s all the rage with businesses big and small, heckling all other technology in recent years is the Cloud computing technology. Amidst all of the commotion about it, it’s easy to lose track of what the technology does and why it’s so important. The Cloud offers steeled reasons to why people are dredging through the ins and outs of the Cloud. Let’s take a second to step away from all the commotion and take a look at the key benefits that Cloud computing offers.

 

1.   Automation

Easily one of the Cloud’s biggest benefits. Businesses do not need to set up teams that handle system updates, back-ups, or on-site security, as all of these tasks are done by the Cloud supplier. Automating these tasks frees up internal resources, as well as your customers’ time.

 

2.   Security

Following in the footsteps of automated back-ups, businesses using Cloud-based services have a disaster recovery plan. Your valuable data is protected through redundancy, and what that means, is that your data is no longer on one, central server, it’s on multiple servers across the world. This means that there will always be a way to restore the information you’ve lost.

In smaller scale, should you lose a laptop or flash drive containing important data, your data can now be restored through the Cloud. Your data can be accessed no matter what happens to a machine, without ever having to physically back it up yourself.

 

3.   Flexibility

And because your data is stored on multiple servers across the world, naturally you can access work-related information from anywhere, at any time. As long as you have internet access, you can work from anywhere, offering flexibility to travelling employees or for top-talent that work far from your businesses headquarters.

Should you have multiple operations across multiple continents, you can be assured that the files saved and used in your North American servers can be accessed from your European servers, allowing intercontinental flexibility and collaboration.

 

4.   Increased Collaboration

Not only does it save time, Cloud technology increases employee collaboration. With all of your files in one, central location, everyone works off of one, central copy. Companies that don’t use the Cloud must send files back and forth through email, making corrections to important documents in rotation.

With the Cloud, your employees can jointly work on the same document –no matter where they are- whilst chatting and making changes together. Because the file can be worked on at the same time by multiple people, no duplications of the file become generated.

 

5.   No Complications

All of the nitty gritty is done by your service provider, meaning all you need to do is install the Cloud. No need for new, additional hardware or software, and implementation is done remotely. Should you unexpectedly need more bandwidth, Cloud service providers can instantly increase the capacity of their servers, offering you the ability to quickly meet business demands.

 

6.   Environmentally Friendly

Because you’re only using the server space you need, your carbon footprint decreases. Using the Cloud results in a minimum of 30% less energy consumption and carbon emissions than using on-site servers. For small companies, the benefit is astronomical. The cut in energy use and carbon emissions is, on average, 90%.

 

The Cloud is redefining the way businesses are ran and how IT services are delivered. Your move to the Cloud is no longer a question of “when” but “how.” At Prototype: IT, we offer Cloud services which oversee all aspects of Cloud adoption, from the desktop, to the server, to your applications. Make sure you have power over your data. Give your business the flexibility it needs while reducing your total cost of ownership. Learn more.

5 Reasons to Consider a Managed Service Provider

If you’re the owner of a business, chances are you’ve heard of Managed Service Providers (MSPs), and have wondered what the benefit is to outsource IT rather than build a self-sufficient, fixed team? To alleviate the internal IT strain, MSPs take over the management of your network so that you can focus on what matters most: your business.

From improved reliability and better budgeting, down to more proactive guard duty to basic efficiency, MSP’s are valuable in their own right. At Prototype: IT, we’re happy to be your service provider. Even more, we’re happy to stand alongside the following benefits that our service can bring to you.

1.   Efficiency

Most companies that look for our services have become adapted to the “firefighting” method of tracking, responding, and putting out events. Because of our matured toolsets, as a managed service provider, we’re able to proactively target and extinguish events, allowing recovery to begin immediately. Typically, the efficiency, time, and resources gained through managed services are so great that businesses are shocked over the actual inefficiency of their previous IT systems.

2.   Early Issue Detection

Not only are we proactively responding to events at a rate typically faster than your in-house IT, but most times we’re able to head them off at the pass. With our tools and software, we’re able to divert your system failures before you even realize them. Should an event be imminent, we’re able to foresee the event and plan and prevent it from occurring, saving you from unnecessary downtime and risk.

3.   Patch Management

When your staff is too busy working on, you guessed it, your business, patch management falls to the bottom of the priority pile. This can leave your company at risk of security vulnerabilities that may occur when your patches are outdated. While your employees are doing their duty, we’re updating your hard and software so that your workflow can continue to flow like honey.

4.   Infrastructure

When a company approaches a managed service provider, an unexpected benefit comes as periodic reviews. Service providers like us are constantly looking out for technical faults that might jeopardize your company’s productivity, and mitigating it is our job. Your outdated devices, OS upgrades, system updates, pretty much anything that needs to be done but are put on the backburner due to limited resources, are placed under our watch. We monitor these issues and bring them to your attention so that we can come to terms on how to resolve them before things become outdated.

5.   Budgeting

Planning for technology can be difficult when things can change in an instant. Before you know it, a computer or server crashes, and your budget is busted on unexpected repair costs. With a fixed monthly cost, managed service allows you to better budget your service costs as well as plan for the future, without any unexpected back breakers. When an event occurs, you’re already losing money. The last thing you want to do is have to spend money, too.

 

Do the above benefits resonate with your particular situation? Click here to learn more about how our services could help you.