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Find the Missing Software Install Keys

belarcAt some point, you may find yourself wondering, “How do I find my Office install key, or a list of all the programs on my PC??” The Windows Control Panel for Windows and Features will show you some of this information (Add Remove CP if you’re running XP), but only the basics, and not all of the system software or install keys. Maybe you are migrating to a new computer, or just rebuilding the same PC and you can’t find the license info for your currently installed software. Well, Belarc Advisor can help.

Download the tool from www.belarc.com (free for personal use) and run it on your PC. This will return a copious amount of information about your configuration including the hardware details, installed software and keys, Windows version and key, user accounts, details of your surrounding network and more. In case you’re worried about security, Belarc Advisor does not send your information anywhere outside your local computer. (no data mining)

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You can print the details or save them as an HTML file for later reference. (Print the report, and file it for later!)

This is also a useful tool for documenting your baseline configuration after you build out a new computer with your basic applications. This is great for comparison to your system a year or so later, when things start to slow down or act wonky. It makes it easier to see just how much new software has accumulated (and possibly can be cleaned out), and also what is part of the base build and needs to stay.

It’s easy to use and a huge help in documenting your PC’s configuration now, and for reference later on.

Belarc also publishes a few commercially-licensed products, intended for business network management of computers, software, and various security-related details.

Sticky Notes are Not Secure

Windows Sticky NoteWe all have too many passwords and it’s hard enough to keep track of them…but to have to invent new, “good” ones every time they expire is a frustrating exercise. Befuddled by the complexity requirements set by your employer on your network login, or concerned that your password is too easy to guess? Not to worry! Here’s a quick and easy way to create strong passwords that will be hard for others to guess, but easy to remember.

The key elements of a strong (ie complex) password are to have a string of characters that is not a simple word (like dog or cat) or your name (Bob or Sue). Also, avoid your birthday, anniversary, children’s or pets names or any other word or number set that is easy to identify with you.

The strongest passwords (and hardest to crack) combine letters (upper and lower case), numbers and the other symbols into a memorable phrase. The goal is to create a secure password that is easy to remember, so it won’t end up on a sticky note on your display or under your keyboard.

One way to immediately strengthen your password without making it impossible to remember, is to add various non-letter characters:

Weak: bobsmith

Add caps and symbols: !BobSmith#

Add numbers and an underscore: !Bob_Smith#1

Much harder to guess –still not so hard to remember – and harder for hacking tools to crack.

Another option is to pick a word or phrase and replace a few letters with other characters:

ILikeCats à [email protected]

GhostHunters à Gh0stH%ntr3

Again, pretty easy to remember after you type it a few times, but hard to guess, and strong protection against password cracking tools.  So, update your passwords and throw out those sticky notes!

Tablets in the Workplace

Over the course of the last few years the computer industry has been experiencing an exciting change:  Tablets have arrived are changing the way users want to interface with technology. When the iPad broke onto the scene it was originally seen as a consumer-only product, with little interest from businesses. This has all changed, and many businesses are now welcoming tablets such as the iPad into their environments and are even starting to distribute them to users.   According to New NPD In-Stat research, some of the most common uses for Tablets in the workplace include: email and calendar management, note-taking, customer relationship management (CRM), and are presentation-equipped.

               Tablets are easy to use mobile devices that require very little training for users to be able to be productive on one. They also allow for instant-ON performance and great battery life making it an ideal tool for users on the go. One of the other benefits, is the vast array of Business and Productivity Applications available for for tablets. The online application stores have outgrown the infancy stage and have many free and modest priced applications that serve nearly all your needs. There are Apps out there to provide easy access to most of the items that business users need and provide it to them up to date and quickly.

Take Control with Web Filtering

With high speed internet being used in most businesses, employees have access to information whenever they need it. While there are certainly business benefits in utilizing the Internet, this can also provide for a diversion from their daily tasks reducing productivity and potentially putting the business at risk for inappropriate online behavior. In progressive work environments, employers may allow some latitude with non-business internet access, but at any level, this takes away from employee productivity as well as creating potential for inappropriate usage or unwanted network traffic.

Some employers have included an “Internet Usage Policy” (IUP) for employees to sign as part of the hiring process. This is an agreement outlining the acceptable ways that the Internet can be used. There are online samples of IUP’s however we recommend working with your attorney to create one as they will be most familiar with the local laws.

An IUP provides a guideline on how internet access should be used for business purposes, as well as defining the process for handling employees found to be in violation of the policy. In addition, such a policy would also inform employees that their online usage and related content is subject to monitoring at any time. This puts the policy in written form, but relies on the employee to properly interpret the intentions of “responsible internet usage”.

While this is a good first step and establishes a baseline for appropriate use, there are those employees who either do not understand or do not respect the terms of an IUP. Also, there are online resources that may contain legitimate business content, but may either link to sites or content that would not be considered acceptable. Additionally web sites can contain imbedded malware or other security risks.

With the overwhelming popularity of social sites like Facebook and Twitter, people are spending much more time online and sharing personal information that may not be in the best interest of the business. Some businesses and even educational institutions are making it a condition of employment that employees do not to post certain types of information on social sites. The line between business and personal information online has become less structured. For example if an employee is linked to your company Facebook or LinkedIn profiles it may expose their personal information to customers, suppliers and other business colleagues.

There have been instances of employees being fired for using their work internet connection to post comments on social media sites. An employee of the non-profit organization Coats for Kids in Chicago was terminated in January 2011 because of his commentary posted on Facebook. (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fCH33TgK8Mw)

A recent survey done by Salary.com shows that 44% of workers who responded, cited internet usage as their top way of wasting time while at work.

As a countermeasure to protect a business network from employee abuse or unintentional misuse of internet resources, many businesses have implemented web content filtering. This technology places controls on the types of resources that can be accessed online through the business Internet connection. Controls can be placed on specific web sites or categories (like blocking adult content or job sites).

A web filtering solution can also provide insight into:

o             Time spent online by employee.

o             Bandwidth utilization by employee.

o             Websites that employees are accessing and how much time was spent.

Web content monitoring and filtering can provide valuable insight into how your business is using your internet resources, as well as maintaining protection of your business assets.

Anna Fassano, Founder and CEO of A. Fassano & Company was concerned about how employees were utilizing the Internet. She also wanted to be proactive in controlling the types of online content that could be accessed from the business network. We worked with Anna to implement a web filtering solution by Barracuda Networks, a leading provider of this technology (Barracuda Web Filter).

“We needed to get a better handle on how the Internet was being used and be able to identify any inappropriate usage so we could address it. We also wanted to be proactive in placing some controls on how the Internet is used.

The Barracuda Web Filter gave us feedback right away on Internet usage. It also made the topic more visible the company discouraging any inappropriate use. It allows us to control the sites users can access by web address and by category and allows us to place more restrictive controls on users who need lower levels of access to the Internet.

As the principal I feel better knowing these controls are in place and that we are using the Internet for business purposes.”

In addition to the data that can be collected and the greater visibility of the solution to the end users, the intuitive management interface, makes it easy to adjust settings as business needs change. General Manager and Co-Owner of DCT Industrial Supply Company, Julie Gahwiler, also utilizes a Barracuda Web Filter.

“Barracuda Web Filter allows me to control and monitor the web activity of my employees. The software is very easy to navigate, even for someone without an IT background. It is important to me as a company owner for my employees to be productive, but even more important is that they are protected from unsolicited information in the work place.”

There are many options for web content filtering, and Beringer Associates can help you improve your employees’ productivity, as well an gaining an understanding of how your internet resources are being used. Click here for more information on web filtering solutions.

Deep Freeze

Protect your workstation computers with Deep Freeze

Deep FreezeHave you ever wanted to not have to worry about viruses or unauthorized installations on your company’s workstation computers? If so then we have great news for you Beringer Associates is proud to be a reseller of Faronics Deep Freeze Software. This exciting software allows for your computers to be “Frozen” once configured. A simple reboot is all that is needed to get rid of any viruses or unwanted changes. If authorized changes are needed the computer can simply be “Thawed” and worked on and then “Frozen” again. This will allow you to add increased levels of security and potentially lower your IT support bills while still providing your users with a full desktop experience. Please contact a member of our sales department for more information!