VOIP vs Analog Phones

VOIP vs Analog Phones

Written by Scott Hall on . Posted in Technology

4 Tips For Your Help Desk and IT Support

Comparing analog phones to Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) phone systems is like comparing a basic telephone to a computer. An analog phone is a basic phone you can plug in and you’re instantly ready to go. If you’re one of the shrinking number of people who have Analog phones at home, or any home phone at all, we know they are reliable and easy to use, but only offer so many features and applications. VoIP phones are different and a bit more involved.

An analog phone system, also commonly known as a Plain Old Telephone Service (POTS), converts voice signals to electronic signals that travel over the phone line until they reach the destination. These voice signals can travel in two ways because the phone system offers bidirectional communication. Users communicating to each other using POTS or analog systems are connected through a copper wire loop running from a central switch office to many homes and businesses. Subscribers are assigned to a phone number allowing them to contact others.

 

If you don’t know anything about VoIP, it is a system that converts analog phone signals into digital signals and runs your phone system on an IP network through your own IP address or the Internet, combining voice and data on one secure network. The digital signals being converted can be delivered over the Internet from one home or business to another. This communication method is extremely cost-effective. Of course, your features may differ depending on the size of your business, but it is generally the same installation and architecture for small and large businesses alike. So, why are more businesses are turning to VoIP communication and ditching their conventional landlines? VoIP communication systems offers several advantages for businesses of any size.

VoIP communication systems offer a secure and quality service, managing calls over their own private networks. VoIP also offers more features than a traditional analog phone such as voicemail, caller ID, Internet faxing, virtual receptionists, advanced call screening and forwarding, integrated office software, voicemail forwarding, hosted web conferencing, and more.

 

Business VoIP services are generally cheaper than traditional phone services, even with all of the extra features listed above. There is less hardware to buy or lease, if any at all, and monthly subscription fees are lower. Several hosted providers offer smartphone apps that allow the user to make and receive calls through their data connection which can be connected to your office phone or left as a standalone option. Adding new extensions is also a much easier task with VoIP phone systems.

 

Among all of these advantages of VoIP is increased productivity. Choosing the VoIP communication system simplifies and combines your communication tools. This is one step up from analog or traditional phone lines.

 

Choosing a VoIP communication system for added benefits, such as security, improved productivity, and features such as caller ID, voicemail forwarding, and call screening, can help your business stay efficient as possible, and offers enterprise-level features, at an amazingly low cost, while you scale to ‘right-size’ infrastructure as your business grows.

 

Do I need a Firewall?

Written by Scott Hall on . Posted in IT News, Security

If your computer is connected to the Internet, the answer is ‘yes’. You are a potential target to an array of cyber threats that attack through unpatched security holes. This means that if you, like most people, shop and bank online, you are vulnerable to identity theft and other malicious attacks.

According to a study by NCSA Cyber Security, only 4% of Americans say they understand firewalls “completely”, while more than 44% don’t understand firewalls at all – or know if they have one enabled on their PC.

A firewall works as a barrier, or a shield, between your PC and cyber space. When you are connected to the Internet, you are constantly sending and receiving information in small units called packets. The firewall filters these packets to see if they meet certain criteria set by a series of rules, and thereafter blocks or allows the data. This way, hackers cannot get inside and steal information such as bank account numbers and passwords from you.

Basic firewalls such as the one included in Windows, only monitor incoming traffic by default. This may give you a false sense of security, as outgoing traffic, with your credit card information, bank accounts, and social security number, is not protected. A good firewall will monitor traffic in both directions, both your incoming data and your outgoing data, keeping your private information safe. In addition to preventing unauthorized access to your PC, it also makes your PC invisible when online, helping prevent attempted intrusions before they start.

Most sophisticated firewalls also include a feature that continuously updates the list of known good and known malicious applications. This way, the amount of questions relating to Internet access is minimized and your computer protection is always up-to-date.

Although a firewall provides critical protection to keep your PC safe from unauthorized access, it cannot remove malware from a system that has already been infected. Therefore, a firewall should be used in conjunction with other proactive measures, such as anti-malware software, to strengthen your resistance to attacks.

If you own a business, this protection is even more critical, as you have a multitude of personally confidential information for many individuals at risk of exposure. Customers, employees, invoices – any data of theirs they share with you must be protected just as much as your own, as you may be liable for any breaches that occur through oversights in best practices in cybersecurity.

If you have any questions on firewalls, or are concerned you may not be secure enough, contact us today.

The State of the Internet: Cause for Concern

Written by Scott Hall on . Posted in IT News, Technology

fiber optic cables

In light of Mark Zuckerberg’s recent testimony on Capitol Hill regarding Facebook’s use of data and role in foreign nationals influencing the American public with engineered news, many questions have been asked about just how we utilize the Internet in 2018.

 

We’ve come far from the days of digital bulletin boards and dial-up modems. Now, our interface with the internet is seamless, and reflexive. It touches every aspect of our lives, from relationships to business, art, science, recreation and finance. But is the system we place ourselves wholeheartedly into ultimately healthy, in its own right? And that begs a second question – is it healthy for us?

The Mozilla Foundation, a known open source pioneer and the creator of the Firefox browser, recently published a report on the health of the Internet. Their goal was to foster a wider understanding of the human experience of the Internet – from connectivity barriers, to economics, to security and privacy, to online harassment – and find out how those issues all relate to each other, and find the existing patterns in these previously separate experiences. In short, changing the perception of the Internet from a technology experience, to a fundamentally human one, with a very real impact on the well-being of people in a number of ways.

 

With Big Tech

 

Companies such as Google, Amazon and Facebook have market share and influence the likes of which have never been seen before. They are seamlessly ingrained into almost all facets of our lives, from civil discourse & public engagement, right down to the contents of your refrigerator and washing machine. They built the internet through innovation, by dreaming big, and giving us exactly what we wanted. It’s not their wealth which makes them dangerous; it’s their market share. Are they now too big to fail, knowing that they take the convenience of modern culture, along with all of our personal data, with them?

 

With Fake News

 

One of the founding ideals of the Internet was almost true democracy and the openness of knowledge. In 2018, it looks more like targeted product placement and the manipulation of the data you’re shown based on how an algorithm believes you think. A growing number of people source at least 30% of their news from social media, one of the most malleable platforms for fake news. A story need not be ‘true’, it need only be ‘liked’ and ‘shared’ enough for the appearance of validity. Since some of these ‘news’ stories tend to be extreme or alarmist, to either side of the political spectrum, they become nothing more than propaganda for special interests at best, foreign spies at worst. Russian citizens were able to use Facebook pages to organize social protests, and even counter-protests to the original protests they had created. It’s no stretch to see the tools used in that case turned to causing outright violence and creating panic during disasters.

 

We are no longer separate from the Internet. It’s now a part of almost everything we do. It is very much a human system now. Keeping the Internet open, free, and diversified is the key to a prosperous and free 21st century.

Technology Impact: Self Driving Cars

Written by Scott Hall on . Posted in IT News, Technology

The innovation of self-driving cars has been happening behind the scenes for a few years now. It’s also been happening on public roads without much fanfare and in courtrooms with much more attention.

The two front runners in the field which will readily be available to consumers are Waymo, a Google spinoff, and Uber, the ridesharing pioneer that’s looking to become a disruptor in another field. There’s no clear leader yet, but the victor will be the organization that can acquire the best talent in data analytics and fast learning, both human and machine.

Driverless cars operate using a variety of cameras and sensors positioned strategically on a vehicle, in addition to a combination of LIDAR and RADAR to assess the environment the car travels through with enough distance to predict outcomes of other objects and vehicles on the road. Surprisingly, the amount of hardware needed to process that information is small; in fact, Chevrolet is using cars right off their factory floor with some small additions, to operate its Cruise service, due out in 2019.

What is also surprising is that while Waymo is investing a large sum of both capital and engineering expertise, it doesn’t plan on actually selling these driverless vehicle systems direct to consumers; instead it will leverage the technology in its rideshare platform.

 

But before you hop into an automated car for a quick trip across town, are they really safe?

 

Currently, legislation is before Congress to remove conventional automobile safety regulations from thousands of self-driving cars on the roads today, as the field of driverless technology is evolving so rapidly that attempts to regulate would be obsolete as soon as they are put into law. What makes more sense, is that more scrutiny is applied to Waymo, Uber and the like to make their test and operational data collected thus far to be available to authorities and the public at large. This would create oversite of a hard-to-govern new technology and provide transparency while allowing progress to move forward.

 

We are already sharing the roads with the future in some states, and a safe driverless taxi platform isn’t very far away.

WannaCry A Year After

Written by Scott Hall on . Posted in Computer Security

wannacry

WannaCry was a ransomware worm that spread rapidly through across a number of computer networks in May of 2017. While infecting a target computer, it encrypts the contents of the hard drive, denying access to the user, then demands a ransom payment, in the form of untraceable bitcoin, in order to restore access.

 

WannaCry arrives on the infected computer in a self-contained program that extracts the other components embedded within itself, which include the encryption keys, and a copy of Tor, a dark web browsing tool.

 

The program code was easy for professionals to analyze. Once launched, WannaCry proceeds to encrypt files in a slew of important formats, ranging from Microsoft Office files to MP3s, then displays a ransom note, typically demanding $300 in Bitcoin to restore access.

 

The initial spread of WannaCry was particularly noteworthy, in that it struck a number of high-profile & critical systems, such as the National Health Service in the UK, Nissan Automotive’ s manufacturing facilities in the UK, the University of Montreal, Boeing Commercial Airplanes in the US, and PetroChina, just to name a few. Victims were advised against paying the ransom demands, as the attackers were not restoring access after the ransom had been received. After the initial attack, payments totaling $130,635 USD were reported to the bitcoin wallet assigned to the ransom payments.

 

The last week in March 2018, Boeing Aircraft was hit by an evolved version of WannaCry, which is incredibly surprising, given the scope of last year’s initial attacks and the notoriety they gained. The vulnerability used by WannaCry was reasonably easy to patch and correct, so why did a Fortune 100 company with a massive and competent IT staff fall victim to it a year after Zero Day?

 

It seems security patching is still an overlooked practice. It’s routine, time-consuming and basic, but very important, considering that known vulnerabilities are still used in attack exploits up to 10 years after they’ve been exposed. Knowing that a solution exists but not implementing the patches and updates needed to close the vulnerability still leaves your enterprise vulnerable to exploitation. Managed service providers are critical partners in your business because you rest assured that all available upgrades and patches for known vulnerabilities are occurring regularly, and in accordance with best IT practices across the board.

 

Business continuity and disaster recovery devices are also part of a mature defense against ransomware. By allowing data from compromised systems to be recovered with minimal losses, you can minimize the impact from attacks of this caliber.

 

SOS Technology Group is always available to assist with implementing these solutions, call us today.

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