Can Your IT Company Do All This and More?

Although it’s not hard to find an IT support company, it can be a challenge to find one that can provide a full range of leading-edge services. It can be a further challenge to find an IT company that can do it all, and provide long-range solutions which are custom-designed to fit the unique idiosyncrasies of your IT network infrastructure.

We have set out to be that rare IT support company that does it all, and brings 21st Century solutions to the table for an ever-changing Web-connected business world. But, we also set out to make ourselves easy to find, which is what brought you here to learn all about how we are one of the top-tier IT service providers. Our IT solutions run the gamut, and include:

Effective IT Partnership – Our vCIO services and consultations come complete with custom-fit and cost-effective IT plans designed to boost your business productivity in partnership with your overarching business goals.

Money-Saving IT Plans – Our proprietary and innovative virtualization and Cloud-based solutions economize your IT budget by removing onsite hardware costs, all while effectively streamlining your business communications processes.

Forward-Thinking Cybersecurity – Your security concerns regarding unauthorized access, viruses, malware, and other cyber threats are readily met, as we provide you with comprehensive, long-term security solutions that meet your company’s ongoing needs.

Innovative Cloud Services – We make your migration to the Cloud one that ensures you are utilizing the best Cloud configuration for your business model, including customized Cloud PBX phone frameworks that further enhance your global connectivity.

IT Company

Can your current IT company do all that and then some? We cover most of the area with winning IT strategies that address every part of business computing and connectivity. We also offer hosted Exchange services that merge your mail, calendar, contacts, and tasks into one easy-to-access-and-use dashboard, easily linked-to via computer or smartphone. We apply all these tools and then some into a streamlined service protocol that ensures the long-range security, productivity, and performance of your business network.

If you have yet to work with an IT company in {city} that can provide such forward-thinking IT solutions, then give {company} a try! Our name comes from a dedication to doing what is most natural – including our innovative, cost-cutting green server solutions – instead of that which unnecessarily causes cost overruns and wastage.

Need a new IT Company?

Contact one of our {city} IT experts today and discover how our economizing, solution-driven services can enhance your business productivity and connectivity. Call us at {phone} or send us an email at {email} to find out more.

Yahoo Data Theft –A Good Reason to Regularly Change Passwords

In case you needed another reason for regularly changing your passwords, the recently-uncovered Yahoo hack of 500 million accounts is probably the reason of the decade so far. The hack and subsequent data theft involving half a billion Yahoo accounts is the largest of its kind – ever. Granted, it is Yahoo, where most people don’t send or store any sensitive data like payment card information (PCI) or other personally-identifiable or compromising information anyway, but it’s the principle of the thing. The Web-based giant has confirmed that the hacked information includes:

  • Names
  • Email addresses
  • Telephone numbers
  • Dates of birth
  • Hashed passwords (the vast majority with the password-hashing function bcrypt)
  • And, “in some cases,” encrypted or unencrypted security questions and answers.

Yahoo Serious?

Yahoo is alleging that the massive data breach “didn’t include unprotected passwords, payment card data, or bank account information.” The popular search engine and email host denies that it stores any payment card or bank account information in its database. And, although it blames a “state-sponsored actor” for the cyberattack (apparently from Russia, according to Yahoo and US intelligence officials), the fact remains that Yahoo allowed a hack of epic proportions to happen on its servers and domains, making the practical point clear to all of us: “Change and encrypt your passwords regularly.”

Yahoo Hack

The Yahoo hack resembles previous data breaches of huge Web-based giants like LinkedIn, Tumblr, and Adobe, as well as healthcare facility hacks where Ukrainian hackers claimed responsibility for at least one of them. This latest and biggest hack ever is so disconcerting, because the cyber breach occurred a full two years earlier. It repeats a pattern we have seen in these cybercrime cases where we don’t learn of the data thefts until well after they have happened. And, it’s also disconcerting for another glaring reason: Yahoo failed to inform its users of the hack and suggest a password reset in August 2016 when the news was first made public.

The Password-Changing Argument

There is great debate amongst white hat hackers and IT specialists on whether regular password changes are a good thing or not. The argument for seems to stem from situations like the Yahoo hack – basically, the “change when urgently required” rule. Studies have shown that routine password changes of every few months appear only to frustrate office staff, with new passwords only being variations on old ones anyway, and written on sticky notes attached to monitors, which defeats the purpose of safety. But, the pro-password change argument remains in serious cases like data breaches involving half a billion accounts.

The Takeaway

Basically, no one’s data is 100% safe online, even when supposedly protected over secure servers and databases. Too-frequent password changing may be just as risky as never changing them, so a happy medium here is prudent. A good rule of thumb is to stick with one hard-to-decrypt password, maybe alter a number or letter here and there, and never share any financial or personally-compromising information on unsecured channels of communication.

5 Helpful Smartphone Battery Charging Tricks

Some smartphone battery-charging myths die-hard. One of them is that allowing your phone to charge all night is a good idea. It isn’t. Frequently charging your phone is also a bad idea, believe it or not. Why? Ions traveling from the electrical outlet to the battery cause wear and tear on the battery, which in the long run reduces your smartphone battery’s lifespan. The New York Times published an article reporting that frequently charging Li-Ion batteries “accelerates corrosion”. Another bad battery-charging charging habit? Using the wrong charger, not meant for that phone model, as it will be delivering electricity in the wrong capacitance or voltage, which, again, is hard on your smartphone’s battery.

Cell Phone Charging

Below are some battery-charging tricks that will extend your battery life:

  1. Only charge when your battery gets to 50%. This will cut down on the frequency with which you charge your smartphone battery, and will also keep you from letting it get too low or die, which is equally as bad for it. This will add years to your battery life, if you aren’t the type to “trade up” every year. If you are, this is still a good habit to get into, kind of like not riding your car brakes.
  2. Use the correct charger. As already mentioned above, you will want to use the charger that came with your smartphone. Microsoft confirms that using the wrong or faulty hardware for phone charging is a bad idea.
  3. Turn off unused apps or features to save battery life. A good trick for saving smartphone battery power is to turn off those power-draining apps that aren’t being used. Battery Saver for Windows 10 phones works to constantly inform you of what features you can power off in order to conserve battery juice. It will also help you to optimize your phone’s settings for ongoing battery power savings.
  4. Don’t let your phone overheat, i.e. overcharge. Letting your smartphone get overheated due to overcharging it is also a bad idea. One tip on this point is to seek out a less powerful charger for the same model, as that’s a common cause of smartphones overheating. iOS, Android, and Windows devices have lithium ion batteries which can corrode at a rapid rate if they are charged too frequently and/or overheat.
  5. Restart or reboot your device. Restarting iPhones, in particular, can help to cut down on the battery drain. How you do this is simple: Just turn your iPhone off using the slide to power off feature, and turning it back on again to load the system software. This will reset features and apps, if you aren’t sure how to cherry pick the ones you want disabled.

Have Questions? Call an IT Expert

If you have questions about battery charging tips and tricks, {company} is the leader in providing IT consulting in {city}. Contact one of our expert IT staff at {phone} or send us an email at {email} and we will be happy to help out.

Digital Creative Spotlight: Josh Feldman

feldmanWhere do you live?

Los Angeles

What are you listening to this week? (music, podcasts, etc.)

A lot of an electronica group called Mum. It’s got a good vibe and is helpful in both productivity and life mindset. I also love the podcasts “Radiolab” and “On Being“.

What’s your current profession / project / passion?

I’m the director of the Springboard Fellowship, a project of Hillel International, which seeks to launch the careers and ideas of early career professionals, with 0-3 years of work experience post-college. Hillel is based in Washington DC, but the Talent Team that I’m a part of is spread out across the country, so almost all of our work is done remotely.

My passion is at the intersection of Leadership Development & Creativity. There are huge and exciting challenges that face human beings in the 21st century, and I really truly believe that helping all of us invest in our creativity — and invest in each other — is how we can solve those challenges. I believe that people are the experts in their own lives and that if we can be of service in helping them harness that, then incredible things are possible.

What are some recent examples of your work that you’re most proud of?

This July, we launched the Leadership Development program that I direct, the Springboard Fellowship. Twenty early-career professionals met at Hillel’s HQ to make prototypes, learn about human-centered design and explore what it would mean to create more inspiring and creative communities on college campuses across the country. I felt immense joy to be part of the trajectory of these emerging leaders of the Jewish community.

We hope and believe that Hillel investing in the creative potential of young professionals will create a whole new talent pipeline in the community.

Describe your creative process.

Design

  • I do a lot of pacing.
  • I then am a little bit of a cliché of design thinking work in that there’s a lot of Post-It notes
  • I engage in a feedback rich process where I speak to a lot of people and get feedback

Pondering

I try to live in the world of big “How might we?” questions as much as possible. I ask questions such as:

  • “How might we create experiences that are radically about rest?”
  • “How might we help create vibrant communities where everyone feels heard?”
  • “How might we harness the power of cultural specificity to create a more peaceful world?

Testing & Prototyping

  • Once I get through the above steps, I test the assumptions – I don’t want to use a hammer when the right tool is a screwdriver!
  • I make this all concrete – go from an open pond to a well-focused plan.
  • This plan then enters the prototype process, where we try something but acknowledge that we’ll probably need to change it.
  • Stir and repeat.

Creativity

  • Parallel to all of this…having a personal creative process is key to my professional work
  • I like to do “Creativity Pushups” — Seeing what type of creativity comes out in 5 minutes or less

Which tools, products and services do you use in this process?

ANALOG

DIGITAL

  • Slack is a really effective communications tool for our Hillel team
  • Zoom is just the best for video conferencing
  • Google Apps collaboration suite works great for our documents

What is one major benefit do you get from technology that you can’t imagine creating without?

I don’t have a great memory, so my smartphone is the keeper of my information, allowing me to be more focused and present on the tasks at hand at any given moment.

What do your colleagues / collaborators always want to do manually / analog that you wish they would automate / design a system for?

I’m going to re-direct my answer a bit…I really do believe that digital tools are constructive to our work…but one thing that I’ve yet to make stick digitally is To-Do lists. Paper is the best for me here.

What do you do when you need a break from screens?

  • I garden, hike, play with my kids, and try to learn the ukulele.
  • Also, sometimes I make a phone call or schedule an in-person meeting instead of relying on Skype for Business. There are some conversations that are better voice-only or face-to-face instead of video chats.

Anything you want to add on the relationship between creative work and tech?

We live in the most disruptive time in at least the last several hundred years, technologically. There’s huge room and space for creativity, but we all have to admit that this is a large period of experimentation. Books, in their current form, evolved slowly. Just like books, we need to give ourselves permission to allow technological tools to develop so that they serve us, rather than serving their makers. We need to ask questions like “What do we want life to be like?”, and influence design from that perspective, not the opposite.

Josh’s Monthly Musings…

It’s been another exciting month here at LACT headquarters. I’ve been hard at work spearheading a number of projects for LACT clients, while also putting the finishing touches on L.A. Creative’s structural and visual re-branding.

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Lots of our clients are growing their businesses or moving into new offices, which means we get to do one of our favorites things: design I.T. systems from scratch. There’s something I find very satisfying about learning what my clients really need to get their work done efficiently, and then managing the project of getting this gear setup in fresh, clean spaces. This always involves collaborating with architects, low-voltage installers, electricians, telecom companies, contractors and more, managing timelines so clients don’t have to. And the best part is seeing clients move into the new spaces and put them to work!

picture2

In between project management and keeping client networks up and running, I’ve been continuing to work on the structural and visual re-branding that started with Ulistic’s awesome redesign of our website earlier this year. Getting the site up and running inspired me to really think about who I want to work for and how I want to serve them. Which led to brand strategy with the lovely ladies at Run & Hop who have really helped me answer those questions more clearly than ever:

To anyone tasked with Executive or Marketing duties of any business, I can’t stress enough the how important and satisfying it is to create a marketing and brand strategy, and to get help from experts who really know what they’re doing!

picture3

Check out a little bit of what we’ve created below:

L.A. Creative Technologies Positioning Statement

LACT is an I.T. consulting & implementation company for lifestyle and creative businesses that turns technology into a growth tool by optimizing IT infrastructures and empowering clients to use them efficiently.

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LA Creative Technologies – This is Who We Are

Usually there is nothing particularly exciting about a business’ About Us section. We know that. So while we were working on our website, we followed the lead of one of our advisers and took a creative approach to our “About Us” page. One that allows us to show off the un-orthodox and exciting way we’ve created our company structure, out of the hope this will inspire our clients, prospects and friends as well!

LA Creative Technologies firmly believes in the “small but mighty” philosophy. You can accomplish a lot of great things with a small staff, as long as you have the right resources, the right tools and the right clients. Which we do. So please, read below to learn more about “us”.

Small But Mighty

The Core

Of course we need executive leadership, technical know-how and operational assistance to keep the company going. Josh, Eddie and Sunny handle the running of L.A. Creative Technologies from their humble offices in L.A.’s Westlake district.

Beyond the three of them, The Core includes our top-notch Help Desk team, and our NOC team that works tirelessly behind the scenes to keep our clients’ critical systems up and running.

Our Advisors

We like to think of these folks as our company Managers. They bring decades of combined experience to the table, making us more knowledgeable and professional by extension. They also allow us the opportunity to provide our clients with specialized professional services without needing to grow our staff

The distinguished list includes Kristin Noelle from Fiberline Communications, Chris Butler from Sea-Level Operations, Denes Purnhauser from Reframe Your Clients, and Stuart Crawford from Ulistic, as well as Attorney Jordan Cohen and CPA Kimie Aryai.

Our Tools

Synology. Cisco. ConnectWise. Continuum. IT Glue. Office 365. Mimecast. Basecamp. Trello. Todoist. Masergy. QuickBooks. Soonr. Datto.

These programs, applications, and companies are our backbone. Just like we do for our clients, we’ve carefully developed a lean but expansive toolkit, which, when combined with our advisors’ expertise, allows us to run our business and service our clients efficiently and effectively.

Our Clients

Our client base is wonderfully diverse, spanning real estate agencies, lifestyle companies, creative entities, non-profits, and civic and city corporations. You represent the fabric of Los Angeles, and are the very best and most important part of our business. There is no us without you.

Our Friends

Without our incredible network, we wouldn’t be able to run our company. There would quite literally be no LA Creative Technologies. We’re lucky to have a group of friends and mentors who have taught us so much about technology, business, creativity and more, while always being there for us at times of need. They have influenced the way we work, and the way we handle our client relationships.

Why Tech Mapping Is Worth The Effort

At {company}, we are tech visionaries. We understand exactly how technology can be used to enhance your business, and devise strategies to help you reach your goals. But we’ve found that it becomes a lot easier to make thoughts and ideas reality when we’re all on the same page.

Tech Mapping is an excellent way to make that happen. It allows us to turn ideas into execution by providing benchmarks to measure progress and success, and takes some of the back-and-forth out of decision making. Most importantly, it helps our clients become more efficient, more profitable, and better at what they do.

Tech Mapping

The first step is all about preparation. We learn everything we can about your business, and what your needs are. Next is the planning session, which is the key to the entire process. This is where we sit down with you and sort everything out, making long-term decisions for your business. The goal is to create a rock solid IT strategy in as short a time frame as possible.

Once there is a plan firmly in place, the vCIO services needed to make that plan reality can be discussed and put into action. We want to make sure that we are available to give you everything that you need. We won’t make promises that we can’t keep. The final step is a meeting with your business’ key decision maker, so that we can present a final plan without needing to bring your executives up to speed.

Once we know you are all-in, we can get everything in writing and provide you with a complete suite of summaries and documentation. All of the information, and everything we’ve discussed and agreed upon, will be there for your reference.

New Strain Of Ransomware Masquerades As Windows Update

A new bit of ransomware known as ‘Fantom’ has been discovered by Jakub Kroustek of AVG Technologies. Fantom tricks users by dropping an executable file onto infected devices named a.exe. The file poses as a “critical update” for Windows, with a 2016 copyright from Microsoft included for an added appearance of legitimacy.

Fake Windows Update

Once activated, the ransomware generates a replica of the Windows Update screen, complete with percentage meter and a reminder not to turn off your computer. The user can’t switch screens once the “update” starts. While the screen informs the user that the “update” is being configured, the virus is quietly encrypting the user’s personal data. The virus targets a wide array of file extension, and a ‘.fantom’ file extension will be appended to infected files.

The virus then generates a random AES-128 key, which gets uploaded to the malware’s command and control center. When the “update” completes, users are greeted with an HTML file that explains in broken English that their files have been encrypted, and the only way to get their data back is to pay the hacker for the decryption key within a week’s time.

This is not the first instance of Cybercriminals using fake Windows Updates to fool victims. A scam was uncovered last May that involved users being told that their Window’s licence key had expired, and to call a specific number to have it reactivated.

As with any type of malware, the best defense against Fantom ransomware is to avoid visiting unknown websites or clicking suspicious links.

Is your business protected against malware threats? Contact us today at {email} or {phone} to find out how we can help. We’re the trusted IT experts for businesses in {city}.

How to Prevent Updates from Reinstalling in Windows 10

Windows 10 has become a sometimes tricky beast to master, what with all of its updates, versions, and appurtenances that have made it both highly praised and also controversial and criticized. One of these tricky features is device driver updates that can block certain features on your PC or other device. We’ve all heard about the Kindle app freezing up computers in Windows 10 snafu by now. Well, there is a way you can temporarily disable automatic driver updates, called a device driver roll-back. The problem many users of Windows 10 are facing is that the device driver feature reinstalls itself after Windows 10 updates are implemented.

Windows 10 Updates

There are ways to rollback a device driver, for both the W10 Anniversary Update and November Update from last year. Here’s how you do it:

First, it is recommended that you update to the latest (Anniversary Update) version of Windows 10 before you attempt to uninstall any device drivers. The reason is that that update may resolve the issue in and of itself. If you aren’t sure which Windows 10 version you are running, go to the Start button, select Settings >> System >> About, and then follow these instructions:

  • If the About window indicates you have version 10.0 (or Build 10240) or version 1511 (Build 10565), you can install W10 version 1607 (Anniversary Update).
  • If the About window shows that you are running version 1607, or Build 14393, you are already updated to the latest W10 version.

Rolling Back the Device Driver

Assuming you have completed the Windows 10 Anniversary Update installation process, you can then move to the following steps:

  1. Start Device Manager (press and hold, or right-click the lower-left corner of your desktop, then select Device Manager.
  2. Find and right-click the device that has the driver installed that’s being problematic, then select Properties.
  3. Select the tab called Driver, then select Roll Back Driver.

That should fix the problem of device drivers automatic reinstalling themselves after Windows 10 updates are made. You can get more help on other Windows 10 driver issues here, from Microsoft’s TechNet forum. Other driver-oriented complaints about Windows 10 include its attempts to install drivers for hardware you no longer have or use. You can learn more about Device and Driver technology ins and outs here.

When in Doubt, Call on the Pros

If you still have questions about getting computers and devices rolled-back for auto device driver updates in Windows 10 on your home or company network, {company} is a leader in providing managed IT services in {city}. Contact one of us today at {phone} or send us an email at {email}, and we will be happy to answer all your questions concerning this issue.

Maximize Your Law Firm’s Potential and Work-Life Balance with Cutting-Edge Cloud Technology

If your law firm is in need of a boost in productivity and you’re looking for a way to leverage technology to create a more organized, flexible customer relationship management system, the cloud is your answer.

Law Firm Technology

The opportunities to use cloud technology to help better manage all aspects of case and client management are many; here are a few that we recommend:

Customer/Client Relationship Management (CRM)

Client Relationship Management has seen a major facelift since the cloud became more mainstream in the legal world. Lexicata and Insightly offer law-firm-specific platforms to make running your business easier and more productive:

  • Lexicata – Specifically built for law firms, Lexicata offers a seamless client intake method that integrates with your CRM and keeps things running smoothly for the entire client relationship.
  • Insightly – This CRM offers a free version for solos and startups with up to two users. When combined with Insightly’s project management feature, the platform integrates CRM and project management in a convenient online environment that works with Android and iOS for remote functionality.

Online Meetings and Conferences

For solo and small law firms looking to communicate efficiently and consistently with clients and colleagues, consider these cloud-based collaboration tools:

  • Appear.in – Operating straight from your browser window, Appear.in allows you to click start and invite up to eight contacts for an instant audio or video consultation. Bonus: it’s completely free!
  • GoToMeeting – The collaboration software standard for online meetings, presentations, webinars, and video-conferences.
  • Slack – The Slack app can be downloaded or opened in a browser tab for all-day access to your collaboration tools. Conveniently exchange documents, files, and information with your team no matter where they are. Slack users say that the platform helps cut down on inter-office email by about 50% while increasing productivity and cutting through office information clutter.
  • Skype – Skype’s been around for a while so it’s a great tool when you want to use a video conferencing feature that is familiar to most anyone.

Content Management Software

Most law firms these days recognize the importance of becoming a thought-leader in their respective fields. In order to maximize your firm’s exposure and grow your business, you need an effective website and blog that streams current, relevant information to those looking for your services.

To keep your content accessible and up-to-date, consider these cloud-based content management tools:

  • Feedly – Keep the sites and the content you prefer streaming content directly to you on your schedule rather than having to search anew each day.
  • Pocket – Keep your latest time-consuming search collection organized for access at a later time with a one-click save to pocket.
  • SlideShare – Give others access to your PowerPoint presentations with the SlideShare’s convenient save feature.
  • SpeakWrite – This legal transcription platform offers an easy-to-use record/write process. Simply record your information and send it to SpeakWrite for quick, accurate transcription.
  • WordPress – The gold standard for website and blogging software, WordPress is open-source so it costs nothing to use—and since it is built for the end-user, it is easy to learn and user-friendly.

Analytics Tools

  • Google Analytics – Once you have your online presence nailed down, you need to know what’s working and what isn’t. Check out who is browsing for your services and what content is actually making an impression.

Document Storage

A paperless way of doing business is fast becoming the norm in the legal world. Online document storage makes the transition from traditional paper-and-file-cabinet methods to convenient online document management easy and secure.

  • Box – Share and store documents in Box, which integrates with many communication apps for seamless collaboration.
  • Dropbox – This popular document storage and file sharing app is familiar to most everyone, easy to use, and free.
  • Google Drive – Great for collaboration and sharing files, especially when sharing and working from spreadsheets between multiple users.
  • NetDocuments – This cloud-based email and document management service offers advanced encryption and security tools, which makes it is popular with law firms and corporate legal departments.

E-Discovery

If your work includes litigation, you’ll need to deal with discovery requirements and electronic data management. These two offer a wide range of flexibility and price points:

  • Cicayda – Everything from small projects and complex, big data litigation is at home in Cicayda.
  • Everlaw – The speed of Google integrated with Apple products combined to provide a user-friendly platform.

Practice Management and Finances

Automate your financial processes for streamlined, seamless law firm budget management with these accounting tools:

  • FreshBooks – Solos love FreshBooks for its billing, time keeping, and accounting services.
  • LawPay – Designed specifically for law firms, LawPay gives your clients the safe and secure option of paying you with a credit card.
  • QuickBooks Online – Available in both desktop and online versions, this popular financial management tool allows you to track trusts, expenses, retainers, and invoices from one central location.
  • Square – If you want to accept credit cards in person, Square offers a device that conveniently hooks up to your smartphone or tablet for easy payment options.
  • Rocket Matter – This cloud-based platform offers a single app that integrates billing, time keeping, client portals, document storage, analytics, and reporting for the ultimate in law firm management in the cloud.

{company} is your local cloud and client relationship management specialist. If you’re looking for a way to leverage technology to improve your law firm’s productivity and grow your business, contact us at {phone} or send us an email at {email} for more information.