During an ice storm, I received a valid connection and network (IP) address, but still nothing would work.
After I did my own testing, I had to call the support line. Level 1 was “basic troubleshooting” and took 30 minutes. Level 2 was “desktop support” and took another 45 minutes, including a reboot. Final, disabling the “Acceleration” feature in Communications Manager solved the problem.
The process to fix this in Communications Manager:
- On the menu bar, choose [Tools] and then [Settings].
- Select the Acceleration tab.
- Change Startup Type to Manual.
- Click on [OK].
What was frustrating was that only Firefox reported the redirection properly. Attempting to browse www.google.com started, and then redirected to 220.127.116.11. But only Firefox showed this in the status bar. More frustrating was that this symptom (“connecting to 18.104.22.168“) should have been in the troubleshooting guidelines for the support staff.
The support staff would really not listen to the things I had already tested — they had to use their pre-defined process. I don’t object to a well-defined process, but when I can report a valid IP address and name server, it is entirely possible to skip past much of the checklist.
- The number of severe malware (virus, worm, phishing, adware, etc) keeps growing.
- Some reports indicate the percentage of inbound email that is spam or malware easily exceeds 90%; some organizations even report that the spam-rate is more than 95%.
- Small & medium-sized businesses need to spend less time on technology and more time on business issues.
How an Email Gateway Service Can Help
One strategy for preventing problems with email is to use an EMail Gateway Service. In essence, your domain’s configuration instructs external organizations to send your email to the “Gateway Service” which quarantines suspect messages and delivers only the “clean messages” to your mail server and inbox. The service quarantines the spam and kills the viruses.
Besides moving the potential threats farther away from your infrastructure, using a gateway service reduces the bandwidth consumption because only “clean” messages are delivered to your mail server.
Examples of Gateway Service Providers
I was recently asked about some general steps to ensure an organization’s email server is “clean.” Here is the advice for doing this (forward to your technical contacts).
- Use a service to check and monitor your email server’s reputation. A good example is MXToolBox.com:
You can sign up for a free monitoring service (2 hosts for free) to monitor your server for being placed on a blacklist. It gets checked daily, and they send you an email if you server’s blacklist status has changed.
- Make sure you have “SPF Records” defined for your domain. This proactive tool allows an organization to state explicitly what servers will be sending email for its domain.
- Make sure your have special email accounts defined:
- firstname.lastname@example.org (required)
- email@example.com (recommended)
- If you have listserves or send a fair amount of email (especially marketing content), you may want to create an account with http://www.emailreg.org, but there is a small annual fee for their service. I found it particularly useful when an email server was blocked by the “Barracuda anti-spam service”.
Your old copier might “leak” sensitive information if you do not take proper precautions. The liability could be substantial if your business is subject to regulations like HIPAA, GLBA, etc.
PROBLEM: Hard drives in copiers retain data that could be sensitive.
Most digital copiers (especially those with a network scanner feature) use a hard drive to keep copies of information as it is processed. However, the data is rarely (if ever) deleted until more space is needed. And when it is deleted, there are still remnants of the old data.
If the local technician does repair work, or the copier is exchanged for a new one, the information on the drive could be extracted even though the business thinks the data is not accessible.
RESOLUTION: Enforce data wiping on drives.
Choose one of the following approaches:
- Retain the hard drive and send it to a service provider for a security wipe.
- Retain the hard drive and physically destroy it.
- Require the service provide to certify that it has done either #1 or #2 above.
If your small-to-medium business or organization needs to schedule a meeting with 3+ people, Doodle.com has a free online service that will help you reduce the time needed to find an agreeable meeting time.
After you create an account with Doodle, you can use the “Schedule Event” task to define the meeting scope and potential meeting dates and time ranges. Here is an example:
When you use the “Yes-No-Ifneedbe poll” option, potential participants can choose the “If Need Be” option. Personally, I almost always use this option.
All you need to do is email the potential list of participants with the “Participation Link” (something like https://www.doodle.com/k6sZZsixqsr7qd99ks) and ask them to respond. I have found that even the most inexperienced user can complete this process.
I receive no compensation, etc. if anyone chooses to use the service, but I frequently recommend this to small businesses and not-for-profits. You can also do a poll by using Doodle’s “Make A Decision” task.
Doodle.com gets a “big thumbs up” from me.
A client called today to report a “fake anti-virus” on her screen. Luckily she left it on her screen so that I could remote in, see the problem, and fix it.
Here is a quick how-to on defeating this right when it occurs so that the “malware” does not get installed on a Windows machine with the Internet Explorer browser:
- Run Windows Task Manager by using [Start],[Run] from the task bar, type in taskmgr and click on [OK].
- Click on the Applications tab.
- For each Application listed, select and click the [End Task] button. If you get the prompt to either “wait” or “end now”, choose “end now.”
- Close the Task Manager window.
- Open the Control Panel and then open “Internet Options”.
- Find the option to delete temporary files. In IE8, there is a [Delete…] button in the “Browsing History” section.
- Choose the option to delete “Temporary Internet Files”. This is really the only item that needs to be checked.
- Close control panel.
- Reboot your machine.
WARNING: If you do not close the applications using the Task Manager, you will likely cause your machine to get infected when you reboot. It’s a long story as to how this happens — just be careful. Otherwise, you will likely need to make a call for IT support.
ANOTHER CAVEAT: If your machine is already infected, this will not disinfect it. This only prevents the “Fake Anti-Virus” from getting installed the first time.
Frequently, I respond to questions about “hosting” and quickly find out that everyone has a different view on what is included or intended. Here are the terms and concepts as I see them.
- Web Hosting – hosting a web-site. Frequently, this also provides for email and FTP hosting. It is important to know that web hosting can be separated from email hosting, application hosting, etc.
- EMail Hosting – hosting the email traffic and user mailboxes. For smaller businesses, this is done on the same server and with the same account as the web hosting, but if the email traffic get larger or needs “groupware” features, the email hosting will be separated from the web hosting.
- Dedicated Hosting – hosting on a server that it is totally dedicated to a single customer. For smaller sites with less traffic, this is usually not required unless the web application needs custom components or has special security concersn. A dedicated hosted server has a (at least one) unique IP address.
- Shared Hosting – hosting of multiple web-sites on the same server. This is very typical for smaller sites. These site usually share the same IP address, and there is an extra fee for a unique IP address. A unique IP address would be required if an SSL Certificate is required (to use HTTPS instead of HTTP).
- Virtual Private Servers – This is a combination of Dedicated and Shared hosting techniques. The hardware is shared by multiple customers, but each has a “virtual server” so that they can customize the software and/or resources. A VPS hosting has its on unique IP address.
- Co-Lo Hosting – Co-Lo is short for “co-location”, meaning that the hosting company provides physical space and power, and the customer provides the servers and the management of the servers. Each physical space is (usually) physically locked so that one customer cannot access another customer’s equipment.
- Cloud Hosting – This is a “virtual server” environment in which resources can be quickly and easily added. This is used frequently for hosting requirements that change frequently. With Cloud Hosting, the server administrators and add more processing power and/or bandwidth so that the site can handle more traffic.
This will be a place for business and technical advice for folks in small and medium businesses, with the primary focus on how to make technology improve effectiveness.
While most of this will be developed over time while working with clients, I will be happy to allow other knowledgeable authors and bloggers to contribute. However, this is not a place for advertising — this is a place for honest advice and sharing.