Horse Sense #57
A Personal Touch on the Web
It is nice to have friends who do interesting things. For some fun, try one of these sites:
www.embroidme-springfieldva.com Jason does "commercial" embroidery for companies and high quality screen printing. I have a shirt with one of our famous dog pictures on it that makes everyone laugh. The picture quality is excellent even though he surprised me by using a card I mailed him to produce the image.
www.islandshirts.com Lynn's mom runs this business. Lynn (a guy) wears these high quality Hawaiian shirts that are so colorful they can cause hallucinations.
www.moonlightthreads.com Cathy makes cute bibs and burp cloths that are perfect gifts for baby showers. My wife loves them and we go through a lot of them in a week. Fortunately, they hold up well to washing.
www.fruitsandberries.com A former computer dealer correspondent of mine left the business to sell fruit and berry plants. Not a day goes by when I don't think, "Hire me!" I haven't tried the berries because I don't have anywhere to plant them.
Chicken Little may be Right
Microsoft says recovery from malware is becoming impossible: www.eweek.com/article2/0,1895,1945782,00.asp
New Trends and Developments
In May 2005, portable computer sales outpaced desktop sales for the first time. Portables have become popular because they now rival desktops in performance and capacity. One portable can replace a home and a work PC. Their mobility is useful to travelers and even those who just change cubicles or who want to work in the conference room or library. They take less space and power than desktops. But, as people become more and more mobile, they encounter new issues and sets of risks. Wireless connections aren't as fast as wired connections. There are security, reliability, and use concerns. Is your wireless or wired connection safe? How do you keep it from getting stolen? What do you do if it gets stolen? What if you drop it or something just wears out? How can you connect to all the devices you need? What is the best way to carry it? How can you connect back in to your business safely? How do you back up the data? How do you manage users who might not be connected all the time to the corporate network?
Seagate bought drive manufacturer Maxtor for $1.9 Billion to become the dominant player in the disk drive business. Seagate owns the high end of the market with its server drives and Maxtor owns a large part of the consumer drive market, and especially, the external hard disk drive market. External drives are becoming more and more important as backup devices for portables and can also serve as additional storage for one machine or many. Storage use is exploding as businesses and individuals store more information on their computers. Many businesses are now asking themselves difficult questions. Is the information I am storing subject to any regulations? How long do I need to store something? Where should I store it? What information is valuable and for how long will it be valuable? Who should have access to this information, who shouldn't, and how do I control the access? What is involved in a disaster recovery plan? How does this fit in with my normal operations, my backup routine, and my needs to have an archive of critical information? How do I manage this mountain of data without paying a fortune and spending all my "free" time doing it? For answers to these questions, we suggest you call Iron Horse before you lose critical information, the federal government fines you, you get sued, or you simply end up working too hard and paying too much to manage your information.
Chances Are You Are Using an Insecure Browser
Microsoft's Internet Explorer (IE) has been the default browser for some time. However, it hasn't had a major update in some time and is extremely vulnerable to attack. For security reasons, I and many of my clients use Firefox. It is a lot safer than using IE. Tabbed browsing is indispensable. In one browser window, you can have many sites open that you can switch easily between as you might switch between tabbed folders in a file cabinet. You can also save multiple tabs as a group. Way cool. The speed is similar to IE, but Firefox flunks on some very IE specific sites. That's OK. The code Firefox won't run is the dangerous stuff IE will. Firefox has plug-ins that will make it more useful. It doesn't take up much disk space or memory. IE normally takes a large chunk of your available disk space to cache web pages. This is a very wasteful use of your computer's resources and can slow your access to everything else and cause stability issues. The Firefox toolbar search window can search various sites. The download manager is good and sends the downloads wherever I want them. It is easy to clear specific configuration and history data for security reasons. Password management is good. Updates are quick and easy. All in all, Firefox is a great browser. We only use IE when we can't use Firefox because the site owner has done something non-standard (dumb). Firefox is also free. Get it at www.getfirefox.com. Being able to download the full product in a single download makes it much easier for administrators to install and troubleshoot.
Is Your Network in Chaos? Moving Towards Utility Networking
Most small business networks are undocumented, unpredictable, not monitored or measured, without a coherent source of help, and heavily dependent on users and management staff to handle problems, generally in a reactionary crisis mode. It is a struggle just to maintain the configuration and keep the business running. Well managed networks resolve these issues and become tools for enhancing the business and implementing policy. While these networks aren't completely automatic, they do behave like utilities. You expect them to work. The costs are reasonable and somewhat predictable. The features and benefits are well known. There is copious documentation. Help is easily available. The benefits are measurable. Contact Iron Horse to find out where your network lies and see how you, too, can graduate from chaos to something better.
Multifunction Companies, Multifunction Appliances
Symantec has become the Borg of the security industry, assimilating companies like Veritas, PowerQuest, Axent, and other well known names to become the 800 pound gorilla of the security world. As a Symantec Enterprise Solutions Partner, Iron Horse has watched a relatively small company become a multibillion dollar behemoth in only a few years. Fortunately, Symantec keeps buying companies Iron Horse already represents, so we often know the products better than their own technicians and salespeople. Sonicwall has also been on a buying spree lately, buying Lasso Logic (disk to disk backup appliances) and Enkoo (SSL VPN appliances). What both Symantec and Sonicwall have in common is their recognition that network appliances are the wave of the future. The most common network appliances focus on security. Unified threat management products (firewalls with additional security features like VPN capability, antivirus, antispam, content filtering, etc) are a popular choice. Both large and small companies find buying a bag-o-securityappealing. Since multifunction security appliances consolidate multiple security technologies in one place with one interface, it makes them much easier to buy, manage, and support. The easier security is to manage and support, the more likely it is to be effective.
Cymphonix Network Composer is a "Bag-O-Security"
The Cymphonix Network Composer is so amazing, I had to buy one for our network. In simple terms, it allows me to manage how our critical link out to the Internet is being used. For example, I can see who is using the most bandwidth and what they are using it for. I caught one of my employees visiting web sites he shouldn't have been on company time and had an "interesting" talk with him. For myself and other customers, I've used it to block inappropriate web content, documented inappropriate use of the network, to enforce internet usage policies, pinpoint people abusing the network, to find infected machines, to ensure business critical communications like voice and video get priority over file downloads, to stop antivirus and spyware downloads from web sites, to find misconfigured machines that disrupted the entire network, and to generate meaningful graphs and statistics to show how much better things are with a Network Composer in place.
Some people have concerns about "Big Brother" looking over their shoulder and monitoring everything they do. Well, you can monitor a lot with this device, and surfing inappropriate web sites is a problem on a lot of networks, but even if you make the assumption that everyone that works with you is hard working and completely trustworthy, you can still have issues. Without the Network Composer you couldn't see or correct problems like these:
(1) Bob brings his daughter in to work one weekend and lets her play on a nearby computer. She decides to play a game over the Internet with some friends. A critical network backup doesn't complete.
(2) Jill wants to keep in touch with some friends visiting town and uses Internet Messaging to do so. Someone sends her a file which she executes and infects the network.
(3) Your part time bookkeeper receives a message from your bank to confirm account information and clicks on the link to provide it giving your information to a thief.
(4) You are making a voice over IP phone call when one of your machines decides it needs a software update from a manufacturer and begins to download it. Your call disconnects and you can't reconnect.
(5) You discover an infected machine on your network has been sending e mails with your name on it out to thousands of people touting an investment scam only because an annoyed customer calls you.
(6) On a temporary basis, you set up a link to a printer and fileserver at another office. However, you forget to take that link down. Months later, two computers on the network are still running slow and your link out to the Internet is slower than you expect it to be.
Do you know what is happening with that critical link out to the Internet? You manage what you cannot measure. The problem is that good management is hard to describe. But, it is easy to see. I believe you can make great use of it on your network, or I wouldn't have bought it for mine. Cymphonix makes inexpensive appliances for networks of all sizes. We are so sure you will like it that you can try out the unit for 30 days, and if you don't like it, you can send it back for a refund on your credit card or account. We do this because no one has ever sent one back. If you are worried that you don't have the time or expertise needed to install or manage such a device, we can provide those services as well for a fixed cost.
Truth or Joke?
Have you ever wondered how your computer works? Well ... It's finally explained here in one easy-to-understand illustration:
(This animation may take a moment to load. No, we didn't think of it, but we like it!)