Moving your business' data to the cloud can be daunting, so understanding the benefits and security measures of cloud computing services is important.

The Cloud: Understanding More About Its Benefits and Security

Moving your business' data to the cloud can be daunting, so understanding the benefits and security measures of cloud computing services is important.

The cloud is a convenient and cost-effective means of elevating your business’ resource allocation processes.

What Is the Cloud?

“The cloud” is one of those popular tech topics people talk about but can’t always define.  The cloud is essentially a network of servers that does two types of things.  One kind of cloud server stores data and while the other uses its computing power to help applications run.

We all come across the cloud frequently in everyday life, especially for storage.  Every time you use an app like Instagram, a cloud server is what holds the pictures uploaded to your account.  These photos are not saved in your phone’s internal memory, but rather in Instagram’s network of servers.  Dropbox is also an example of a cloud server. Every time you save something on your computer that doesn’t take up your computer’s memory, you are using the cloud.

Other companies like Adobe use the cloud to deliver services.  Previously you could buy the Adobe Creative Suite™ in a physical box.  Now, all of these tools exist in the cloud and users pay a subscription fee to access them in the Adobe Creative Cloud™.

How the Cloud Benefits You

When businesses decide to move their resources to the cloud, overhead costs can be reduced.  Before cloud technology became widespread, businesses would have to purchase hardware and computer applications that lost their value over time.  With the cloud, applications previously downloaded on physical computers are now run and updated through the Internet.

Businesses can also be more flexible with their resources.  The cloud allows them to pay for only what they use since cloud computing is a subscription-based service.  It can also accommodate for businesses that have growing bandwidth demands since cloud capacity can be scaled up and down easily.  This kind of agility makes these services cost-effective and adaptive.

The cloud can make your business more secure in a variety of ways.  Lost laptops are a security breach for companies every year because many of them contain highly sensitive information. Not only that, valuable documents may be lost forever when devices are misplaced.

With cloud computing, you can access files at any time via your Internet connection.  This allows you to remotely wipe the memory of lost devices and not have to worry about information falling into the wrong hands.

The cloud benefits the environment by decreasing your carbon footprint, by reducing unnecessary hardware and only using the required amount of cloud storage.  Even in the digital age where more and more companies are going paperless, sustainability is important.

This image shows three different types of cloud securities, "private," "hybrid," and "public." How secure the cloud is depends on the measures you take to protect your data.

How secure the cloud is depends on the security measures you take to protect your data.

Is the Cloud Secure?

Contrary to popular belief, the cloud is quite secure.  However, it requires you to take measures to personally secure your company’s data.  When businesses “move to the cloud,” it requires that you have knowledgeable security staff that understands what that entails.  Your team must know that the data you are moving is sensitive, and apply end-to-end encryption to the data during both storage and transfer process.

A recent study found that 82% of public databases are not encrypted.  Make sure the cloud provider you are using suits your data needs and has what it takes to keep your files secure. Whatever service you choose, it is still the job of the user to define who can access the data, move it, add data, etc., and how those permissions change with each cloud provider.  Defining these terms is known as Identity Access Management (IAM).

In addition to these steps, it is wise to back up your data in separate fault domains.  Fault domains are basically stacks of servers.  They include features that, in the case of a network failure, make sure only the server with the failure would stop working.  This means you have multiple copies of your data, achieving maximum file resiliency.

Cloud Computing Creates a Level Playing Field

Anyone can utilize cloud computing services since they are inexpensive and require only an Internet connection to access.  It also allows small and growing companies to use enterprise-level technology, and even make faster business decisions than larger, more established companies.

Cloud networks facilitate collaboration from your team members, meaning that they can work and share files with everyone, from anywhere.  Cloud-based workflow applications allow real-time remote collaboration and streamline communication.  Gone are the days of attaching files to emails and ending up with incompatible file formats, and ineffective version-control.

Moving data to the cloud means that even the smallest companies are becoming more globally involved. Since growing businesses can be financially nimble using cloud computing services, they can now disrupt a market dominated by Fortune 500 corporations.

If you need assistance in moving data to the cloud, don’t hesitate to contact Geek-Aid. We’re here for all of your technology needs and computer repair questions.

Internet of Things banner with icons.

Protecting the Internet of Things

Internet of Things banner with icons.

Can the government protect Internet of Things devices?

Forbes describes the Internet of Things (IoT) as “the concept of basically connecting any device with an on and off switch to the Internet (and/or to each other). This includes everything from cell phones, coffee makers, washing machines, headphones, lamps, wearable devices and almost anything else you can think of. This also applies to components of machines, for example, a jet engine of an airplane or the drill of an oil rig.”

This concept plays a big part in the future of technology and the devices we use. The biggest concern surrounding the topic of the IoT is security. How do we protect these internet-connected devices from threats and hackers? As the components of important machines are left vulnerable, this issue becomes more and more prevalent.

Now, the government is getting involved. A new Senate bill seeks to improve the security of government devices. Many IoT devices, like cameras, computers, and more are vulnerable to attack. Recent attacks have even allowed hackers access to popular services. As more IoT devices are attacked, the government wants to make sure that they meet basic standards of security.

Internet of Things Cybersecurity Improvement Act

Several senators, including Mark Warner, Cory Gardner, Ron Wyden, and Steve Daines, introduced the Internet of Things Cybersecurity Improvement Act. The new IoT Cybersecurity Improvement Act wants to add better security to devices purchased by the U.S. government. It mandates that devices support patches and password changes, which would help decrease their vulnerability. The senators also want government devices free of known exploits. These standards allow government officials to keep their devices updated and prevent future attacks.

“While I’m tremendously excited about the innovation and productivity that Internet-of-Things devices will unleash, I have long been concerned that too many Internet-connected devices are being sold without appropriate safeguards and protections in place,” said Sen. Warner. “This legislation would establish thorough, yet flexible, guidelines for Federal Government procurements of connected devices. My hope is that this legislation will remedy the obvious market failure that has occurred and encourage device manufacturers to compete on the security of their products.”

What This Bill Could Mean for IoT Devices

Updating the security of these devices could mean a lot for the safety of government information and services. Sen. Gardner notes that “The Internet of Things (IoT) landscape continues to expand, with most experts expecting tens of billions of devices operating on our networks within the next several years.” The more IoT devices that we have available, the more opportunities hackers have to access or interfere with valuable information and services.

Hopefully, the bill will affect all IoT devices, not just the ones used by the government. Manufacturers could raise the standards of their security overall to gain government contracts. If it is passed, only researchers, who are meant to test security exploits, will be exempt from purchasing devices that don’t meet the new standards of security. If you wish to learn more about the Internet of Things Cybersecurity Improvement Act, you can find out here.

Businessman hands typing on computer keyboard similar to the Modern Keyboard.

What You Need to Know About Microsoft’s Modern Keyboard

Businessman hands typing on computer keyboard similar to the Modern Keyboard.

Microsoft’s Modern Keyboard makes a new addition to the Windows collection.

Technology never stops moving and it’ll be amazing to see what new advancements we will have in the world of tomorrow. As one the leading computer companies in America, Microsoft is constantly pushing the envelope of what it can do with its technology. Even the smallest advancements hold value. Take the “Modern Keyboard” for example. Microsoft’s latest accessory wants to reinvent how we use the age-old device. Find out everything you need to know about the Modern Keyboard. Their inventive twist to these classic computer accessories might make it your next purchase.

Fingerprint Sensor Integration

Biometrics are the latest security measure being implemented in various devices. You see them often in smartphones and tablets. Even using your fingerprints for online purchases and as sign-in credentials are becoming more and more commonplace. Microsoft’s Modern Keyboard brings that natural evolution to their home computer.

Built for the next generation of Windows 10 devices, the Modern Keyboard features a fingerprint sensor. Seamlessly integrated into the keyboard as another button, users simply have to press and hold their finger on it to activate the sensor.

Built for Durability

When you buy any device or accessory, you want to know that it will last. Microsoft made sure to craft this new device with an aluminum frame for durability. While heavy, the company also describes the keyboard as “thin & strong,” as well as “virtually indestructible.” This premium keyboard is sure to last users a long time. It’s also the perfect option for those who need it on the move.

Bluetooth Pairing

Another great feature that is built into the Modern Keyboards is it’s wired and wireless interface. The keyboard has Bluetooth pairing capabilities, allowing it to connect to devices that support Bluetooth 4.0 or higher. This applies to non-Windows devices as well.

According to Microsoft, they “optimized the Bluetooth pairing experience, enabling automatic pairing when you connect the cable at first OOBE.” This makes pairing simple and intuitive. It also has a 2.4 GHz frequency range, which allows it to work up to 33 feet away from a device or 17 feet if you are in an office setting.

When Will the Modern Keyboard Release?

Microsoft has yet to give a release date for the Modern Keyboard. We know that the accessory will cost $129.99 at retail, with a 1-year warranty. It also includes a rechargeable battery that lasts up to 4 hours on a full charge.

Along with the Modern Keyboard, Microsoft unveiled the Modern Mouse. This device sports a sleek look and a metal scroll wheel. It also has wireless Bluetooth, working with Bluetooth 4.0 supported devices. No release date has been announced for this device as well but it will retail for $49.99.

Design wise, both devices are silver and gray. The Modern Keyboard has flat, square shaped keys that match the look and feel of their latest Surface models. These two devices should make a wonderful addition to the Microsoft’s collection of electronics. We look forward to seeing more technological advancement from Microsoft in the future.

A broken laptop screen.

Repair Your Broken Laptop Screen

A broken laptop screen.

Fix your broken laptop screen.

Through some unfortunate circumstances, you have broken your laptop screen. What used to be your operating system’s display is now obscured by cracks and dead pixels. Unlike a computer monitor, you cannot just unplug the display and replace it with a new one so easily. You may even have to buy a whole new laptop. Before you start to run around in circles, crying out to sky “WHY?! OH! WHY ME?!!!” we may have a better alternative. With the right tools, you can fix the problem yourself and repair your broken laptop screen.

Access Your Laptop’s Damage

It’s important to examine the exact damage to your laptop, which can be the difference between you spending money to fix it yourself or having a professional do it. Also, you don’t want to risk fixing the issue only to have something else be the cause of your display issues. For example, if you accidentally hit the screen with something, your display is most likely the only thing damaged. On the other hand, if you dropped your laptop, you should consider buying a new one.

Most stores or computer repair shops can take a look at your laptop and let you know what you need to do. If you want to find out for yourself if the actual laptop is working, here are the steps you should take. First look for a VGA or HDMI port. Using one of these ports and their respective wires, you can connect your computer to your television. This process will display the images that should be on your laptop screen onto your TV screen. If everything looks fine on your television, then everything should be in working order. Your computer’s graphics card and other internal components haven’t taken any damage.

Buy an LCD Screen

Using your television as a display is a temporary solution to getting stuff done. This setup is not exactly ideal for a person on the move. Connecting the two devices is meant to make your laptop accessible until you can afford to have it repaired or buy the tools you need to fix it yourself.

If you decide to fix your computer, start searching online for a new LCD screen. Buying a new screen online is a rather straightforward and affordable option. Most online retailers (Amazon, Best Buy, etc.) will have the exact replacement that you need. To find the right screen, look up your laptop’s model number.

Replacing Your Broken Laptop Screen

Once you have the screen in your possession, you’ll need a Philips screwdriver, a needle to remove stickers on the laptop’s panel, a flat tool (like a knife) to remove laptop panel, and a container for keeping screws together. Make sure that you have a proper table with enough space to work. For safety reasons, you need to remove your laptops power cord and battery before fixing the display.

On the panel that covers your laptop screen, there are stickers. Remove the sticker to see if there are any screw. Remove any screws holding the panel in place. Next, you are going to carefully use the knife to pry the panel from the back of the laptop case. Once the laptop’s screen is completely exposed, unscrew the screws holding it to the back of the case. After detaching the broken laptop screen from the back panel, unplug it, plug in the new screen and follow these steps in reverse order.

Your computer should be back to its original condition, and you are ready to use it any and everywhere. Need a little help? Call Geek Aid.

Several payment cards stacked close up.

MasterCard Creates New Payment Cards With Fingerprint Sensors

Several payment cards stacked close up.

Are you ready for new payment cards?

Credit and debit cards are our most valued possessions. These tools give us access to our credit and bank accounts from anywhere, so it’s understandable that people want to keep them secure. When payment cards are stolen, thieves can gain the opportunity to take your money or increase your debt.

Card companies know the risk of fraud and people taking your private and personal information. That’s why they are always finding new ways to update the technology built in these cards. MasterCard unveiled its latest developments with the new fingerprint sensor-enabled payment cards.

Developments to Payment Cards

Payment cards have evolved over time. In the 1970’s, financial institutions introduced the magnetic stripe, allowing us to use ATM’s and process sales transactions without cash. The magnetic stripe is still used today, making purchasing items easier. More recently, card companies introduced the chip, which is the standard among Europay, MasterCard, and Visa.

While thieves and scammers can copy the magnetic strip, the chip cannot. Since the chip’s implementation, it’s become harder for scammers to steal and use payment card information.

Many people are already familiar with how to use a payment card. You swipe your card, and as an extra layer of security, you have to type your unique pin number. This pin prevents anyone other than yourself from using your card. Every method adds another layer of security so that only you can access your money.

New Fingerprint Sensors

Biometrics are the newest method of security for technology items. The most well-known adopters are phone makers. The newest smartphones use select fingerprints to provide quicker and more secure access to our phones. Now MasterCard is ready to introduce the technology into their payment card.

The new cards will still keep the magnetic strip and chip. However, they will add digital fingerprint scanner. Before issuing your card, your bank or credit card institution will store an encrypted digital template of your fingerprint on the chip. You have the ability to add two separate prints to the card; however, they can only be yours.

Engadget had a chance to demo the chip and notice positive results recently. You simply insert your card, put your finger on the scanner, and your purchase is complete. Editors at Engadget reports that process was fast and efficient. The card is also no different in size and shape from the general credit or debit card that you carry in your wallet.

The cards are currently available in South Africa for now. MasterCard plans to have the card debut across the world by the end of this year. As a result, we will most likely see banks and other financial institutions implement and distribute these cards to their customers soon after. In the end, the updated technology makes customer financial information safer. The new cards will also save these institutions money they would otherwise lose trying to solve fraud incidents. Hopefully, we will see the cards soon.

An icon on a digital keyboard for voice control technology.

Voice Control Technology Is Evolving

An icon on a digital keyboard for voice control technology.

Voice control technology is improving.

Whether it’s Siri, Alexa, or Cortana, a lot of technology company are starting to implement voice control technology. As it continues to evolve, we will soon see it everywhere, from our televisions to our appliances. We see the seeds of this evolution from researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). They have developed a low-power chip for automatic speech recognition in electronic devices.

The Rise of Voice Control Technology

It’s amazing how fast voice control technology has caught on with users. According to Timothy Tuttle of MindMeld, more than 10 percent of all global searches were made with voice controls in 2015. That more than 50 billion searches a month – an astonishing number!

Within the past decade, we have seen several advancements. Siri is implemented into all iOS technology, Microsoft experiment with Cortana and the Kinect, and cars are using the technology to assist drivers. As the technology becomes better and more accurate, people are also beginning to see its value.

The New Voice Control Chip

Most voice control technology requires about 1 watt of power to work effectively. MIT has created a new chip that only requires 0.2 to 10 milliwatts of power. This saves devices 90 to 99 percent of the power these chips usually take. Now, smaller and simpler devices can use voice technology without having to worry about the power drain.

Michael Price, the lead designer of the chip and MIT graduate student, has this to say: “I don’t think that we really developed this technology for a particular application … We have tried to put the infrastructure in place to provide better trade-offs to a system designer than they would have had with previous technology, whether it was software or hardware acceleration.”

Who knows what advancements this technology can lead to. The chip makes voice controls possible for a wider range of devices. Hopefully, companies can put the extra power to good use.

A 3d illustration of a computer and desktop in need of tech support.

Solving Common Tech Support Problems

A 3d illustration of a computer and desktop in need of tech support.

Simple steps to avoid tech support.

We all get that feeling. That nervous pit in our stomach. It’s the feeling that comes right before you dial the phone number to tech support. It might be the simplest issue that makes you feel stupid for not knowing how to fix it.

Before Calling Tech Support, You Should …

None of us want to go through the embarrassment of calling tech support. Let’s face it, phone conversations with strangers can be awkward. So, before you pull out your phone, here are a couple of ways to solve the simplest computer issues:

  • Restart Your Machine – It’s a very simple step, yet so many people ignore it. It should be the first thing you do, no matter what issue you have. A good reboot can realign your computer system to the way it should be.
  • Check Your Updates – Your computer should always be running the latest operating system (OS). If you are on a PC, check Windows Update. For a Mac, click software update in the settings. Remember, updates happen because hackers exploit an old OS.
  • Check Your Hard Drive – A full hard drive will slow your computer a significant amount. See where you can clear up some space. This may make your computer run a bit more smoothly.
  • Disable Startup Items – Have you ever had a billion things pop up every time you turn on your computer? Yeah, well those are startup items. Programs set to open when your computer receives power. Just press Windows-R, type msconfiq into the search bar that pops up, and enter. This will present you with a list of startup items. You can disable as many programs from opening up, just avoid anything labeled Microsoft corporation.
  • Speed Test and Network Hardware – Speed test can tell you how fast your download and upload speeds are. A really good one is Compare your results to what your provider promises you. If you are experiencing connection issues, then restart your router and modem.

Simple, easy, done. These are just some simple solutions to simple problems. Check back next week to find out more.

A graphic illustration of a home computer, monitor, mouse, and keyboard.

Home Computer Triumphs Over Supercomputer

A graphic illustration of a home computer, monitor, mouse, and keyboard.

Your home computer might be able to do more than you think.

Your computer might be more impressive than you think. In a recent test, Russian physicists have discovered that a home computer has what it takes to go against a supercomputer. In fact, it is more effective at certain tasks than a supercomputer. Find out how your machine can outperform a high-level computer in complex calculations.

Home Computer Performance

The test was performed by physicists at the Lomonosov Moscow State University. They wanted to see how well a consumer-level machine holds against a supercomputer. A supercomputer is a computer that has high-level computational capacity. This gives it the ability to perform weather forecasting, code breaking, simulations, and many other complex equations.

Researchers used a Nvidia GPU in order to perform the equations. These equations calculated how multiple quantum particles interact with each other. The researchers used multiple programs, along with the GPU, to calculate a numerous amount of data.

The Nvidia GPU excelled at the task. It even outperformed the supercomputer. Researcher begin to think differently about how they process data.

According to the team leader Vladimir Kukulin, “The program computes 260 million complex double integrals on a desktop computer within three seconds. No comparison with supercomputers! My colleague from the University of Bochum in Germany carried out the calculations using one of the largest supercomputers in Germany with the famous blue gene architecture, which is actually very expensive. And what took his group two or three days we do in 15 minutes without spending a dime.”

This test proves that a home computer is cheaper and more effective. It also changes who has access to this technology. Many groups do not have the resources to use one. Now, they can perform complex task, such as quantum mechanics and nuclear physics, on their own. Now that more people have access, eventually these test will lead to new discoveries.

Graphic image of a face made up of code, representing artificial intelligence.

Artificial Intelligence — How Concerned Should You Be?

Graphic image of a face made up of code, representing artificial intelligence.

Should we be concerned about how far artificial intelligence has come? What it is capable of?

The digital world is shifting toward artificial intelligence (AI). We want voice searches and digital assistants to be more human-like—and that means artificial intelligence. While the idea that someday there will be a robot apocalypse is the work of science fiction; however, there are legitimate concerns that make AI a difficult thing to accomplish. Here are a few of those worries.

Artificial Intelligence Have a Single-Minded Focus

One of the primary things that always come up in fictional AI storylines is the concept that robots take over the world to save it from humans, or to save humans from themselves. It demonstrates an interesting point. Even a machine that is programmed with a degree of AI will still struggle to weigh decisions like a human does. For example, a cleaning robot will not have the same sentimental attitude toward your trophy collection, and may knock it to the ground to get to all of the dust on the mantle. How do you program a robot to care about your things in the same way as you do?

They Are Rewarded for Shortcuts

True artificial intelligence would require a machine to have a sense of satisfaction in accomplishing its assign tasks. The problem is: how do you stop the robot from taking on the human attitude of looking for shortcuts to get to the reward? Will a cleaning robot (bot) feel just as good if it tosses your clothes under the bed and your kid’s toys in the closet as doing the actually cleaning? What if the robot goes truly rogue and starts messing things up just to clean and complete an assignment?

Exploration Dangers

Like a human, a machine programmed with AI will want to explore possibilities and expand horizons. What if your cooking robot decides to experiment with an ingredient that in theory will taste good, but in reality, is deadly? The droid may be programmed to never intentionally poison someone, but what if it was an accident in an effort to create a new and exciting dish?

These are just a few of the concerns that developers have as they work on AI for future automated helpers. For now, about the worst things a digital assistant can do is to give you bad directions or a recommend a crummy restaurant.

A person is on their tablet using cortana,

Windows 10 — Operating System for the Next Generation

A person is on their tablet using Cortana, a virtual assistant designed for the Windows 10 operating system.

With the popularity of Windows 10, some predict that Microsoft may stick with the operating system for a long time.

As we can clearly see, Microsoft has discovered the importance of moving forward while not leaving behind the things that made Windows the most popular operating system in the first place. With Windows 10, Microsoft incorporated many of the beneficial aspects of 8 that worked well on Windows phones and tablets, but now has returned many of the things we love from the previous desktop versions. We also finally get to enjoy Cortana without having to be on a mobile device. But Microsoft isn’t done yet.

Why the Start Menu Is So Important

The one thing that made Windows 8 unusable to many longtime fans of the operating system was the drastic Start menu change. It basically wasn’t there at all. In Windows 10, we get to enjoy the old menu with some new additions.

Right next to your Start menu on a Windows 10 desktop is Cortana. You don’t even have to open a browser to search. You can type in the taskbar box or just speak to Cortana if you enable the speech option. You can even set reminder notices for meetings and projects that you have to work on, and Cortana will alert you so you don’t need little reminder notes all over the office.

Apps Are Good

Whether you are using Windows 10 on a mobile or desktop device, you have access to the growing number of apps for Windows devices. This addition helps to streamline the operating system and make it workable across devices rather than requiring a completely unique operating system for mobile and desktop.

Plus, Microsoft has stepped up its web browser usability, replacing the virtually unusable Explorer with Edge. Edge is particularly useful on touchscreen devices, although using the drawing tool with your mouse to edit directly on the screen can be fun too.

Is This Operating System the Final Iteration of Windows?

There are rumors that Windows 10 may be the final version of the operating system and that future updates and enhancements will just be additions to Windows 10. Whether or not that is the way Microsoft intends to go, and how long it will last, remain to be seen.

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