The Ultimate GateKeeper February 27, 2008Posted by Doriano "Paisano" Carta in Enterprise, Freeware.
Tags: encryption, Freeware, Keepass, password, password manager, security
In all my years working in I.T. the thing that has always made me cringe is the way that people handle their login account information and passwords. I cannot tell you how often I’ve seen login names and passwords attached to monitors on sticky notes or taped to their desk or keyboard. The more security conscious ones actually try to be more safe by storing their passwords in their drawer, which still isn’t that smart really. The next level of security is taken by those who store all of their passwords in a Microsoft Excel spreadsheet, which is better than the post-it method of protection, but it’s still vulnerable because their isn’t any encryption which makes opening the file very easy. This is a serious matter that should be addressed by every organization, no matter how large or small they are. One security breach and any company can be exposed to devastating results from a potential hacker.
So what’s the answer? What can be done about this all too common problem that occurs in every company in America? Well, the first thing to do is provide some basic security training for all employees. Make sure everyone understands WHY this is so important. It isn’t just for the company’s safety but for their own safety as well. The next thing to do is provide a simple method for storing all of their login account information and passwords, perferably one that also provides encryption for added security.
Obviously, expense can be a concern so this solution shouldn’t be too expensive either. Now, there are countless password managers available these days, but to me there is only one ultimate gatekeeper.
KeePass is the best password manager available today because it doesn’t require installation, it’s easy to use, and it’s free! The best part of all is that you can keep thousands of passwords in one safe place with encryption. This means that you can have instant access to all of your accounts by remembering just one password from now on. Here’s a screenshot of the main interface (Click to Enlrage):
There’s a version for different operating systems, such as linux, Mac OS and of course all flavors of Windows. However, my favorite is the Portable version which doesn’t require any installation and can be launched from a USB stick! This means you can save the keepass program and the password database that it creates and encrypts for all your passwords in one safe place and with you at all times. Here’s the Keepass download page.
Companies and especially I.T. departments need to stop sticking their collection heads in the ground when it comes to this grievous security risk and address it as soon as possible. Don’t assume that your users know better and would never be stupid enough to do such things. I cannot begin to tell you how many times I’ve seen these things done by individuals with extremely high levels of intelligence, multiple degrees and usually good common sense. It only takes a few minutes and the Keepass utility is free and easy to use.
How to save big bucks on mobile phone bill February 14, 2008Posted by Doriano "Paisano" Carta in Enterprise, Finance, Mobile.
Tags: Cell phones, financial, free 411, goog411, mobile devices, mobile phones, saving money
I recently spent a great deal of time with our company’s account representatives for our mobile phone cariers, AT&T and T-Mobile. I learned some eye-opening, jaw-dropping yet simple tricks that will reduce our company’s monthly mobile phone bill by hundreds of dollars. The changes to make are simple little things that truly add up to a great deal of savings. Here are some ways that you can help your company reduce their monthly mobile phone bills by a significant amount by simply making a couple of minor changes in the way you use your company provided cell phone.
Directory Assistance (411)
Companies can save substantially if every employee uses Google directory assistance from their cell phone instead of calling 411 which charges for every call made that way. It’s approximately $1.79 plus airtime per 411 call made from a mobile device which adds up quickly if a company has many employees on their plan. It’s free to use Google directory assistance via text messaging for addresses and numbers. Simply save Google’s directory assistance number (466453) under contacts as Google. When sending a text to GOOGLE just enter the name of the business and city and state or zipcode. For example, Pizza Hut Atlanta, GA. Google will then immediately start sending you the contact information that matches your request.
Google also offers 1-800-Goog-411 (1-800-466-4411) as well for free information calling.
Change your voicemail number
You can also save a great deal when it comes to checking voicemail on mobile devices. By default, you are charged whenever you check your voicemail because you are dialing a special phone number. In order to be able to check voicemail for free, all you have to do is change that voicemail number to your own cell phone number. Here are the instructions for Blackberry and non-blackberry cell phone users.
1. Open the phone application.
2. Click the wheel and go to Options.
3. Click on Voicemail and it will display your Access Number. Change it to your own number.
4. Go into your Address Book and add an entry for ‘Voice Mail’ and put in the access number from step 3 as one of the phone numbers for that contact (it doesn’t matter which phone number slot you put it in).
5. Go back into your phone app. Click the wheel and select ‘View Speed Dial List’.
6. Select the  spot (or wherever you want the speed dial for voicemail to go).
7. Click the wheel and select ‘New Speed Dial’ (or ‘Edit’ if there is already something in that slot).
8. Select the Voice Mail contact you created in step 4.
9. Save your changes to the speed dial list and go delete the Voice Mail contact. The phone number will be left in the speed dial list.
Non BB users
1. Save your own number in contacts under yourself such as voicemail or “name” Jane voicemail.
2. Call the saved contact name and do not push 1 or 123 to call voicemail.
3. Depending on device:
a. Find phone options in device
b. Go to voicemail number
c. Select menu – edit voicemail number from default +8####### to your own seven digit mobile number.
WiFi Whenever Possible
Thanks to exciting new devices like the iPhone and the Skype Phone, mobile phone cariers such as AT&T and T-Mobile are offering models with WiFi capabilities such as the Blackberry Curve.
This is a significant move because it now enables mobile users to save airtime minutes by using “free” WiFi hotspot connections instead! There’s even a way to setup the phone to automatically switch to WiFi mode whenever one is available without user intervention. Look for mobile devices with WiFi features to become extremely popular.
Every Minute Counts!
This tip is just a matter of changing a habit and just common sense. Whenever possible, do your best to make and return phone calls from an office landline instead of your mobile phone. This will save a great deal of minutes and thus reduce your phone bill.
These are just some tips and ideas that can help you and your company save substantially every month. There are other things you can do to save hordes of cash such as adding your users to a pool of minutes instead of letting them each expense their monthly phone bills individually. Mobile cariers are much more flexible these days when it comes to porting phone numbers from personal accounts to corporate accounts and back out to personal accounts again so there isn’t a valid reason why an employee couldn’t join the company plan anymore. It also allows you to phone usages and control any financial bleeding that is taking place in your monthly phone expenditures. Each mobile carier provides powerful online account systems that allow you to examine how you are using your phones and minutes.
Networks 101 February 8, 2008Posted by Doriano "Paisano" Carta in Education, Enterprise, Networks.
Tags: Diagram, Network, Network Map, Networks, Visio
1 comment so far
A friend of mine said to me, “Sorry you have to work late tonight. I have no idea what a core switch is.” It made me chuckle and remember that most people don’t know the terms or jargons we geeks in I.T. use on a daily basis. Even technically savvy users like my friend don’t always understand how a network works. After all, it isn’t their job to know this stuff anyway.
Still, I always like to provide a little basic networking 101 to my network users just so they can get an idea of how it all works. I will give them a quick and dirty tour of the network operations center (sometimes called the Computer Room or Data Center, depending on the ego of the IT Manager). I like to demonstrate what happens every time you power on your laptop or desktop computer and log into my network. I want to show them that it isn’t just voodoo or magic or just dumb luck whenever things work.
Here is a basic diagram that I like to share with my network users that shows a simple overview of the entire process. Keep in mind that this map was designed for the average network user so please stop chuckling you I.T. knuckleheads. 🙂
For a larger image click this: networks101
Here’s what goes on every time you power on your laptop or desktop on a network.
1. Laptop/desktop powers on and loads operating system
2. The computer’s network card establishes connection with the network via an ethernet cable plugged into the wall jack or via wireless access point and wifi card.
3. The user enters their login information and it is sent back to the network server for authentication and verification.
4. Note that everything flows thru the network switch which connects all desktops/laptops, printers and servers inside the firewall which protects everything from the Internet and outside world.
5. Once a user is connected to the network, then they can access whatever has been assigned to them. For example, they can send print jobs to the printers they have permission to print to and access files on the file servers.
6. All emails enter the network from the internet after the firewall inspects it and forwards it to the company’s email server(s). The emails are then routed to the mailbox owners after being screened for viruses, spyware and spam. (It’s not an exact science, but most harmful elements are caught in time).
There you have it in a nutshell. The core switch is the hub of any network. It is the traffic cop that controls the flow of bits and bytes that travel across the network continuously. Even untethered items like laptops that use WiFi to connect to the network wirelessly still use an access point that ultimately connects to the switch via a network cable.
I hope this simple explanation and diagram gives a glimpse at the complexity of your local area network and perhaps a little more appreciation for the unsung heroes in your I.T. department (cough cough). Next time you see them, why not give them a hug? OK, scratch that. You don’t want to freak them out or anything, so a simple smile and head knod will suffice.
Free Search Engine for Your Enterprise January 31, 2008Posted by Doriano "Paisano" Carta in Enterprise, Microsoft.
Tags: Enterprise, Enterprise 2.0, Microsoft, Search Engine
What can You Search?
Network File Shares
Microsoft Exchange Public Folders
Federated Search Connectors
Federated Search Connectors allow your Microsoft enterprise search solution to pass search queries to a target system and accept and display results returned from that system.
They are based on the Open Search standard, making it easy to configure federated searches for a wide variety of existing information services. The configuration data for a Federated Search Connector can be packaged and reused as a Federated Location Definition (.FLD) file.
Here are just some sample connectors you will be able to search within your enterprise:
News: Live.com News, Yahoo News, Google News, Wired, The Register
Information Resources: MSDN, TechNet, Wikipedia, Encyclopedia Britannica, Yahoo
Media: Flickr, Yahoo Images, YouTube, PodScope
Blogs: Technorati, Google Blog Search
Comparison of Microsoft Search Solutions
The chart of features will show the differences in features for Microsoft Search Server 2008 Express, Search Server 2008 and their flagship SharePoint Server 2007. The free express version does everything that the commercial Search Server solution does except for High Availability and Load Balancing.
Microsoft Search Server 2008 Release Candidate is free. The RTM (Release to Manafacturing) version will also be free. Will it always remain free? Don’t count on it, bub! However, by then everyone in your organization will be so hooked on it that there shouldn’t be any problems getting the purchase order approved by the powers that be.
Free Download and System Requirements:
- Processor: 2.5 gigahertz (GHz) (minimum)
- Memory: 2 gigabytes (GB) RAM (minimum)
- Operating System: Any of the following editions of the Windows Server 2003 or newer operating system with the most recent service packs: Standard Edition, Enterprise Edition, Datacenter Edition, and Web Edition.
- Hard disk: NTFS-formatted partition with 3 GB of free space (minimum)
- Microsoft .NET Framework 3.0 with ASP.NET 2.0 enabled
- Windows SharePoint Services 3.0
- Microsoft Windows Workflow Foundation Runtime Components
Note: Search Server 2008 Express can be installed on one computer only. It supports an unlimited number of Web front-end servers, but only one application server.
No matter how you feel about Microsoft or their operating systems, their Search Server 2008 Express is worth a look if your organization needs a way to index and search volumes of documents and other bits of information. Besides, the price is right!
By the way, Microsoft’s Windows SharePoint Services (WSS) 3.0 is also free and commonly called SharePoint-lite.
Here is how SharePoint can help you build your own social network for the enterprise for free!