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I joined The Network Support Company shortly after graduating from high school in 1996. I was only 18, but having grown up with computers, I’d already developed some skills in this area. Fortunately for me, knowing ones way around a computer was a skill that was coming into demand. At the time, TNSC was a new business with a mission to provide IT services to its clients. I didn’t really pay a lot of attention to the business at the time, but I loved working with the technology and the clients. I thought it to be gratifying to solve someone’s technical issue. It’s important to note that, for many small and mid-sized businesses in the late ‘90s, computers served mostly to automate some processes; because the machines were often unreliable and frustrating, the nuts & bolts of a business’s day-to-day operations weren’t completely reliant on them.

Fast forward about 10 years - the landscape changed with the meteoric rise of the Internet and connectivity. The business impact for a computer failure had multiplied exponentially. Computers were no longer just a convenience, they were vital to virtually every process and task. Computers held all of the data employees needed to service their customers, so when the technology didn’t work, work would grind to a crawl, if not a halt. Further complicating matters, employees were no longer trained how to do their jobs without relying on computers! The result: when a network was down, waiting until the next day or when a technician was in the area was simply not an option. The business’s bottom line was impacted, in most cases, immediately.

Companies recognized their dependence on technology and often tapped a tech-savvy person from their staff to serve as technician when things went sour. Just as often, as the technology and associated needs (i.e. cybersecurity) got more complicated, that approach didn’t work for the long haul. So, if they didn’t already have a relationship with an IT provider, they established one. As the criticality of their computer systems continued to grow, IT service companies were faced with finding ways to be both more pro-active and more responsive, but less costly. So highly proactive services, assisted by automation platforms that both monitor and help maintain systems, were developed. IT providers that offer these highly proactive services are called Managed Service Providers (MSP). Businesses who use managed services experience systems that perform better, are more secure, and fail less often.

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Patch Released for Microsoft Security Flaw

Posted: July 23, 2015    

Another chink in the internet’s armor was uncovered this week, prompting Microsoft to release a critical patch to protect as many as one billion Windows users from hackers, who potentially have the capability to take complete control of a user’s computer.

While it’s not out of the ordinary for software companies to release patches to combat exploits used by viruses or other malware, this most recent security incident was classified as a “critical vulnerability,” Microsoft’s highest rated threat. Without the fix, “an attacker could then install programs, view, change, or delete data, or create new accounts with full user rights,” according to the company.

Basically, the breach happens if a user – running Windows Vista, Windows 7, Windows 8 or 8.1, or Windows RT - opens an infected document or goes to a website with vulnerable OpenType fonts – which are a font file type created by Adobe and Microsoft.

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Today I want to share another example of the transformation that can happen when a business leader swims against the tide and employs the “soft values” of love, compassion and kindness in the workplace.

Let’s go back to 1972, to the Pittron Steel mill in Glassport PA, a massive foundry that covered seven blocks along the shores of the Monongahela River. This was well before business analysts started measuring “employee engagement,” when workers toiled in an authority-driven management structure.

That year, Pittron was racked by labor strikes, fueled by generations of deeply engrained disdain between management and labor unions. It was ugly and there was no end in sight. A man named Wayne Alderson – a decorated WWII veteran who was badly injured in the war – worked in the mill’s finance department until he became VP of Operations and was called to lead the organization during an 84-day bitter strike.

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It’s not news that technology – reliable technology, I might add - has become the very foundation on which we operate virtually every business on the planet these days, regardless of its size and function.

It becomes news, though, when the normally dependable technology fails us, AND affects not one but three icons of American commerce, AND happens on the same day. In a world where the new boogeyman is a cyber-thug, capable of taking down the entire economic infrastructure by infiltrating a few key networks, such an event tends to put us on edge.

So we were very much on edge for a while this past Wednesday when both United Airlines and the New York Stock Exchange were each forced out of commission for a few hours when their respective systems failed. While United Airlines cited a connectivity issue, the NYSE blamed their malfunction on a misconfiguration in a system update that took place the night before. A third major company, The Wall Street Journal, became part of the news story when its website was simply unavailable for some time, although that crash was probably influenced by a throng of users looking for answers relating to the other two events.

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The Cloud - Public Cloud, Private Cloud, My Cloud, Your Cloud. Why is computing so cloudy lately?

The Term “cloud” is a loosely defined term used to describe any internet-enabled computing technology. When you snap a picture or listen to music on your smart phone, chances are pretty good that file is stored in a cloud somewhere. Conversely, when you sit down to work at your office computer, there’s also a good chance it’s using cloud computing services, whether you know it or not.

The answer, then, to “do you have the best cloud for you?” is really dependent on what type of cloud you have and how you’re using it. There are typically three primary types of clouds structures; Public, Private, and Hybrid Clouds.

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I start to anticipate my “Head Start day” even before it arrives each Wednesday. I really look forward to getting to the classroom full of 3 to 5 year-olds, sitting them down in front of me, and filling their little minds with wonderful stories.

Whether it’s Dr. Seuss, Fancy Nancy or Good Night, Moon, reading to kids is a great way to spark their imaginations and stimulate their learning - so I am so grateful to work at a place where the leadership gives me the opportunity to take an hour from my workweek, every week, to invest in the lives of children.

I’m in my second year as a volunteer reader for Head Start in Danbury, a non-profit agency that provides health, nutrition, education and mental health services to families. I really enjoy going because I get to interact with kids, which I love. And they seem to be having a good time too! I spent nine years in the Bethel School system, working with special education kids there, so this allows me to continue to give back to the community by doing something that I really enjoy.

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We’ve all heard the term “firewall.” In fact, it’s the firewall that’s often blamed when a user can’t do something he wants to do (like stream Pandora at the office). “It’s that darn firewall… it needs to be changed.”

But what, really, is a firewall and what is it designed to do? A firewall sits between your local computer/computer network and the internet, and acts like a gatekeeper. More specifically, it is the part of a computer system or network that enforces security policies designed to block unauthorized access to your system from the outside, while permitting communication to the internet from the inside.

Where would you find it? Is it software on your computer? Is it software on your server? Is it a piece of equipment on your network? The answer is yes … to all three. In today’s world, firewalls have evolved to be a multi-tier threat-detection and prevention collection of policies, rather than a one-size-fits-all device. There are NAT firewalls, proxy firewalls, application firewalls, stateful firewalls and packet filter firewalls. Some of these are included in your internet firewall, some are included in your PC’s firewall, and some may even be included in your server’s firewall.

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Promoting from within is, perhaps, the ultimate win-win scenario for value creation in any organization. It is, after all, the ultimate form of proactive recruiting.

At The Network Support Company, bringing bright, talented individuals into our organization is never viewed as simply filling a vacancy. Talent acquisition is always done with an eye towards the future. I’ve often heard someone on our hiring team say, “let’s get this person ‘on the bus’ and see where it leads.” In other words, sure, “person X” is qualified for an open position here, but, already, he or she is showing signs of having the potential to serve in a more challenging role with greater responsibility in the future. That’s a person we want on board.

Some would assert that smaller businesses don’t have enough bandwidth to truly engage in things like creating career paths and succession planning. But, not doing these things will ultimately result in a flat organization – one that exists only in the present.

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Computer viruses have been around for almost as long as computers themselves. They get the name “viruses” because of their ability to self-replicate, spread, and change the behavior of their host systems - a behavior eerily similar to a virus in a living organism. The first documented virus was called the “Creeper system” and was developed in 1971. It was designed to run on the DEC TENEX operating system, and the sum total of its “evil intent” was to display a message saying: “I’m the creeper, catch me if you can!”

Viruses continued to be developed in this mostly benign manner for the next 30+ years. These earliest cyberbullies craved only peer notoriety for being the coder behind viruses that spread far and fast, and produced the desired high detection counts. These viruses were malicious because their victims incurred expenses to clean out the bugs - but that was about the extent of it.

In the late 2000s malware developers found ways to monetize their viruses. Fake antivirus software started popping up on screens, telling a user that his or her computer was infected; to remove it, they had to give a credit card number. But users soon figured out the charade and this approach proved unsustainable.

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(Part 1 of 3)


Sometime last year, the number of personal computers in the world passed the two billion mark. That's about one for every three people. Each of those computers has several thousand individual components, which come in various brands, models, and types. In addition to that, depending on your operating system (and there are hundreds), there are millions of applications available for download and installation. This means that, at any given time, when someone calls me with a computer problem, there are more than one trillion possible variables in play, possibly contributing to the issue.

And I know how to fix every single one of them.

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