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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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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.

Sort of.

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Life Lessons from Dad by Jim Kennedy, CEO

Posted: June 18, 2015    

With Father’s Day this weekend, I’ve been thinking about the things I learned from my Dad. He passed away 13 years ago and, honestly, I can remember only two lessons he taught me verbally: “Turn the lights off when you leave a room,” and “When you borrow something, return it in better shape than when it was lent to you.”

No, most of the really important lessons I learned from Dad, I learned by watching him.

Dad worked for IBM for 20 years and then ran his own consulting company for 25 more. He traveled extensively and sometimes he’d take me along. Everywhere my dad went, he was greeted warmly by seemingly everyone. Hotel bellhops and front desk workers, diner waitresses, airline counter attendants; he greeted all these people by name. Often, he’d even give them small gifts - their favorite toffee or candy or some small item he’d picked up in his travels. I never got the sense this was an effort for him. He just loved people, and loved making them feel appreciated and valued, so it was simply a natural expression of who he was.

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Corporate America generally operates in a climate where people tend to bounce from company to company in search of the elusive “perfect fit.” So I often raise a few eyebrows when I tell people I’ve worked for The Network Support Company and CEO Jim Kennedy for more than 30 years.

“Really?” they say. “Why would you stay with a company that long?” I tell them I’d be crazy to work anywhere else, for anyone else. Here’s why: Jim Kennedy and The Network Support Company truly care about their employees – as people, with families and lives outside the office. And they don’t just say it, they walk the talk.

I have first-hand experience of this, and it has cemented my love for the company and my loyalty to it. For me, the issue was requiring “flex” time.

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You’ve probably heard the term “virtualization,” but might not be fully versed in what it is and what it can mean for your business. When it comes down to it, virtualization is not all that hard to understand; you just need to know some basics about how it works. In this blog we’ll walk through the concepts involved, as well as the benefits that can be reaped from virtualizing your infrastructure.

Most business networks contain at least one fileserver, and often several. Fileservers are beefy computers that handle centralized applications, like accounting and CRM, and centralized services like printing and security. All fileservers, or simply “servers” require an operating system, or OS, like Windows or Unix to operate. Traditionally, there is one OS running on each physical server in a 1 to 1 relationship. Virtualization changes that. Instead of installing one server operating system on one physical server, virtualization allows multiple instances of an OS to run on a single physical machine. Essentially you get the use of many “virtual” fileservers running on only one physical computer.

This capability to run multiple versions of an OS on one machine is enabled by virtualization software like VMWare or Zenworks. The virtualizing operating system takes control of the hardware resources and shares them amongst several virtualized servers. It does this by creating “Virtual Hardware” for the servers that it’s hosting. As far as those servers are concerned (if a server could be concerned with such things), they’re sitting on their own hardware out on the network. However, in reality, they all reside on one physical computer and share its resources.

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There’s a common misconception out there when it comes to a company’s identity – also known as its “brand.” And it’s this: companies often believe that they determine how their company is branded.

They write a mission statement, come up with a slogan and – boom – there’s the beginning of their brand. They flesh it out with some pithy core values, a logo, and maybe a few brand colors for consistency. They slap the logo on a website and maybe on some button-down shirts and call it “branded.”

But the truth of the matter is that companies don’t create their own brand. Their customers do. Because a “brand” is not the image a company projects to the world, but what their customers (or those who aren’t their customers) believe about it. When it comes to a company’s brand, perception is everything.

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Over the last few months, I’ve asked a lot of business owners, managers, and employees whether they think there is a place for compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, patience, forgiveness and love in the workplace.

Employees, as you might expect, are quicker to say yes. Managers and owners take longer to respond but ultimately agree that they do belong there. Overall, though, it’s pretty clear that this sort of thing is rarely considered or discussed in the work place. Well, why would it be? Work’s “work,” right? You go to work. You do “stuff.” It’s no place for touchy-feely gooiness.

But I’d like us to consider otherwise. What really brings home the value of these virtues is thinking about the opposite of each of them – and then asking yourself if you want THOSE in your workplace. So, therefore, there can be compassion between management and employees – or there could be cold-hearted indifference. I think we can agree that we all would want compassion. There can be kindness – or cruelty. There can be humility – or there can be arrogance, or egotistical or prideful behavior. There can be patience – or frustration and anxiety-provoking behavior. There can be gentleness - or harshness. Forgiveness - or holding grudges, bitterness and resentment. Love - or selfish, self-serving behaviors and hate.

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Business guru Peter Drucker doesn’t mince words with that statement, which succinctly sums up the need for a company to employ some level of business intelligence (BI).

Not sure what BI is? First and foremost, it addresses the integration of people, businesses processes and technology within any organization. At the next level, it is any activity, tool or process used to extract raw data from multiple sources and transform it into meaningful information to support faster and more informed decision making. It shouldn’t provide data for data’s sake; instead its purpose should be to glean information that is accurate, actionable, of high-value, and provided in a timely manner.

Few would dispute the need for BI, after all, since decision-making has always required information. But what is the real value of a successful IT-based BI strategy? Many people think of “value” only as a dollar-for-dollar return on investment. However, the byproducts of well-deployed business intelligence practices transcend the purely financial.

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