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CTN Solutions has been serving the greater Philadelphia area since 1997, providing IT Support such as technical helpdesk support, computer support, and consulting to small and medium-sized businesses.

Ransomware Shuts Down Doctors' Office - Is Your Business Protected?

Ransomware Shuts Down Doctors' Office - Is Your Business Protected?

Let me ask you a question… let’s say that you’re about one year from your projected retirement, when a ransomware attack encrypts all of your files. What do you do? Pack it in and retire early? This is precisely the situation that the practitioners of Brookside ENT & Hearing Services of Battle Creek, Michigan, have found themselves in - and it may not be over yet.

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Tip of the Week: Making a Functional Database in Excel

Tip of the Week: Making a Functional Database in Excel

A database is an incredibly useful tool for organizing a lot of information in a relatively concise and accessible way. Did you know that you can use a relatively common program, Microsoft Excel, to generate a database for your business to use? For this week’s tip, we’ll walk you through this process to help you keep your data organized.

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Small and Medium-Sized Businesses Need to Prioritize Data Management

Small and Medium-Sized Businesses Need to Prioritize Data Management

For the small business, being more efficient with resources can make a massive difference. In fact, it can be the difference between organizational sustainability and organizational failure. The bottom line is that, no matter how big or small they are, today’s businesses need to be smarter to compete. As a result, some businesses have begun to utilize data management platforms (DMP) in order to put themselves in a better position to understand their business, their market, and their customers. Let’s take a look at the DMP, and how it works to help businesses like yours be more effective.

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Tip of the Week: Improving Some Cybersecurity Basics

Tip of the Week: Improving Some Cybersecurity Basics

What are your chances of being hacked, or targeted by some kind of cyberattack? I hate to tell you this, but they’re probably a lot higher than you might think.

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Uber Demonstrates the Importance of Disclosing a Data Breach

Uber Demonstrates the Importance of Disclosing a Data Breach

If your business was breached, would it be better to keep it a secret, or should you disclose it to your clients? Uber has proven that trying to hide it is a mistake, and a costly one at that.

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Data Security Issues of 2018

Data Security Issues of 2018

Each year there are changes that need to be made in the way that organizations manage their IT security. In 2017, ransomware burst on the scene in full force, and cyber security strategies reacted, coming up with fully managed security platform that remediate issues better, and cost organizations far more than they would have spent on IT security just a short time ago. In 2018, the same problems persist, while other developing technologies threaten the natural order of things. Today, we will look at how cybersecurity is being approached in 2018.

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How to Intelligently Approach Business Analytics

How to Intelligently Approach Business Analytics

A solid business decision needs to be based on more than just a gut feeling. It takes quantifiable data to choose the right path for your company, leveraged in a process known as business analytics. Today, we’ll explore this process, as well as discuss a few ways you can use it to your advantage.

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Tech Term: Network

Tech Term: Network

It seems that the term “network” is tossed around an awful lot. Network security, network maintenance, social networking, network switch…but what is a network, really? That is precisely what we shall dive into here.

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A Short History of Data Backup and Storage

A Short History of Data Backup and Storage

Data backup has become an essential piece of the modern business computing infrastructure but the act of protecting data from being lost is centuries old. Before there was recorded civilization, there were humans writing on the cave walls and carving notches into bone to aid counting and other primitive mathematics. Today, we take a look at the history of backing up data, and how it has brought us to where we are now.

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Don’t Get Your Hopes Up about 5G Yet

Don’t Get Your Hopes Up about 5G Yet

There’s no getting around it: technology has spoiled us. We have had access to 4G mobile data speeds since 2009, and we’re already clamoring for the next thing. While 5G has been in development for some time now, it will likely be quite a while before it is available for common use. Here, we examine why 5G is likely going to take at least a few more years to arrive.


Technological Hang-ups and Impracticalities
The technology that is currently being proposed and developed to power 5G connectivity is rife with shortcomings and conflicts, many of which make its practical use unrealistic and complicated, if not effectively impossible. For example:

Range
One of the biggest issues is the range that the anticipated 5G signals are projected to have - more specifically, the range that Enhanced Mobile Broadband (eMBB) through millimeter wave (mmWave) is capable of reaching. This eMBB is what smartphones would utilize.

A 4G signal, the current standard, has a range of anywhere from three to thirty miles. In comparison, mmWave reaches about a third of a mile. Just imagine how many new cell towers would have to be added to the existing infrastructure for 5G to be implemented. Of course, it’s also likely that looming cell towers will be replaced by then, through the adoption of microwave oven-sized femtocells that can be affixed to other pieces of infrastructure, like traffic signs, light poles, and even buses.

Connectivity
Unfortunately, it would seem that there would need to be quite a few of these femtocells, just to ensure a clear signal to a device at any given time. This is because, in addition to being relatively short-ranged, mmWave is a notoriously easy signal to block.

Furthermore, there is also the question of providing each femtocell with enough bandwidth to support the high volume of use. This will require expensive high-speed fiber wiring to connect them, as the femtocells won’t be able to share their data with each other efficiently enough to make up for the difference.

Cloud Complications
Cloud computing has made it easier to manage networks by far, so it is only to be expected that these femtocells will leverage the cloud as a management tool. Virtual networks can be created in the cloud to help manage 5G through the utilization of software-defined networks (SDNs) and network function virtualization (NFV).

The problem here is that there are multiple SDNs and NFVs, which means there is no unified standard. While there is an effort being made by the Linux Foundation to resolve this, it will take some time before this can be resolved.

Don’t get us wrong, 5G is definitely on its way. There are too many potential benefits for femtocells to be abandoned as a solution (did we mention how cheap they are to use?) and demand for better mobile bandwidth is too high to ignore. It is just going to take some time to overcome some of the technical hurdles.

In the meantime, CTN can help you optimize your current business connectivity. Give us a call at (610) 828-5500 to learn more.

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Tech Term: Bits and Bytes

Tech Term: Bits and Bytes

Running a business sometimes requires attention to very minute details, and some things must be measured in order to achieve optimal efficiency. You’ve likely heard the terms bits and bytes used regarding data storage or transfer, but do you know what the difference is between them? Today’s tech term is dedicated to this explanation.


One of the first things you’ll notice when you go to buy a new computer is how much data the hard drive can store and how much random access memory (RAM) it contains. You might see numbers like 500GB or 2TB. The easiest way to explain this is by looking at the basics of data measurement. You can think of a bit as the smallest form of data measurement on a computer. Computers use binary math to showcase each potential digit as a bit. Each bit has a value of a 0 or 1. These bits are generated by the computer’s electrical current that activates the various internal components. These changes in voltage are used to transmit the bits, process calculations, and relay data across the network.

Here are some of the methods used during network message encoding:

  • Wi-Fi carries bits using radio signals
  • Ethernet connections carry bits using electric signals of varying voltages
  • Fiber connections use pulses of light to carry bits

Ideally, the bits are encrypted so that they can’t be interpreted without permission.

On the other hand, the byte is a fixed sequence of bits. Technology today relies on organizing data into bytes to increase the speed and efficiency of data processing. Bits are often too small to measure data, which is why a byte is easier to use as the standard measurement.

The rate at which a computer network connection is measured is through time (bits per second), and today’s technology has advanced so far that it can transmit millions, or even billions, of bits per second (called megabits (Mbps) or gigabits (Gbps). The speed at which this data is transferred depends on the size of the file sizes or components transferring the data.

This is one of the reasons why gigabit network switches and other devices exist. If a device can support 1 Gbps, it transfers a single gigabit per second. Depending on your infrastructure, you might need to transfer more than this amount of data so that the network can operate smoothly. Other devices on your network will also play a major role in determining what your overall maximum speed is.

Breaking Down the Numbers
Since every byte is eight bits, you could safely assume that a kilobyte is 1,000 bytes, but you would be mistaken. Computers use binary systems, so your hard drives, memory, and bandwidth are all measured in powers of two. Thus, 2 ^ 10 equals 1,024, not 1,000. This makes looking at the specific numbers somewhat confusing for the average user.

If you look at everyday examples of this in practice, it becomes a little easier to understand and work with. Take a look at your IP address. This contains a string of 32 bits (or four bytes). An IP address with a value of 192.168.1.1 has values of 192, 168, 1, and 1 for each of its bytes. If you look at the encoding of this IP address, it would look like this:

11000000 10101000 00000001 000000001

This means that:

  • 192 = 1100000
  • 168 = 1010100
  • 1 = 00000001

How to Convert Bits to Bytes (and Beyond)
If you ever need to convert bits to bytes or otherwise, here are the numbers.

  • 8 bits = 1 byte
  • 1,024 bytes = kilobyte
  • 1,024 kilobytes = megabyte
  • 1,024 megabytes = gigabyte
  • 1,024 gigabytes = terabyte

If you want to convert four kilobytes into bits, you need to first convert the kilobytes to bytes (4 x 1,024) and then use that total (4,096) to convert to bits (8 x 4,096 = 32,768).

From a consumer standpoint, if you purchase a hard drive that has a terabyte of data, it’s real value is about 8 trillion bits. Hard drive manufacturers measure content by rounding down to 1,000 megabytes per gigabyte, even though most computers will use the 1,024 number. This is why when you purchase a new terabyte hard drive, you’ll notice that about 35 gigabytes aren’t immediately available. In the case of a workstation, the operating system will also consume a certain amount of data on the drive.

Did we answer some of your questions about computing and the specifics of bits vs bytes? Let us know in the comments what you would like to see covered in our tech term articles.

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Warehousing Your Organization's Data Can Bring Serious Benefits

Warehousing Your Organization's Data Can Bring Serious Benefits

Your data is one of the most important assets at your business’ disposal. It’s really indispensable. Not only are large amounts of it the result of successful operations, it also can help your organization better understand the intricacies of its own operations, and where you want it to go in the future. Does your business have a process for collecting, storing, and sorting vital data so that your organization can figure out where to go next?


At CTN Solutions, our technicians come to work every day to help organizations like yours make full use of your technology. Moreover, we are just starting to realize the potential of data ourselves. By having our certified technicians build a dedicated data warehouse, you are creating a construct that embraces the future of data analytics. This analysis may just be the key that allows your staff to strategically plan the next initiative that will take your business to the next level. Here are some of the types of data a comprehensive data warehouse will hold.

Client Information
Your business depends on the patronage of many clients--people who buy your product or service on a varying basis. However, all of your clients will have information that you want to keep on-hand in the event that you lose it. This includes contact information (like email addresses and mailing addresses) as well as phone numbers and otherwise. You should also include any information about services that you’ve rendered for them so that you’re not caught unaware should you lose records of what type of relationship you have.

Vendor Information
Similarly, your organization also depends on contact with vendors who provide the resources required in order for your business to succeed. This could be in the form of software solutions provided by a developer, or hardware issued by a distributor. Utilities, like your Internet, electricity, HVAC, etc. are equally as important, as they make your office an environment suited for work. In the event the information about your vendors is compromised or lost in any way, you will want to be ready to recover it so that your business relationships can continue to function properly.

Analytics
While storing data and backing up any data related to your vendors and clients can help your business recover in the event of a disaster, you also want to use this information to learn more about your consumer base and create a profitable future for your organization. Doing this is called analytics. Leveraging analytics is a great way to take seemingly arbitrary numbers and find trends that mean something for your business. There are applications that can help your organization find new markets, target the best client base, and identify inefficiencies that compromise your organization’s ability to turn a profit.

If your business wants to truly utilize data in the new year, now is the time to take the initiative and invest in data warehousing and corresponding analysis. To learn more about these solutions, reach out to CTN Solutions at (610) 828-5500.

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Protecting Your Data With Multifactor Authentication

Protecting Your Data With Multifactor Authentication

Multifactor authentication (MFA) is a security system that requires more than one method of authentication from independent categories of credentials to verify the user’s identity for a login or other transaction.

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What Happens to Your Data When You Delete It? The Truth will Surprise You

What Happens to Your Data When You Delete It? The Truth will Surprise You

When you delete a file off your PC, or your hard drive becomes corrupted, you just take for granted that the data is gone in perpetuity. That isn’t the case at all, and it can present problems for businesses and individuals alike. The thing is that it’s deleted, it’s gone, it ceases to exist, because you deleted it with your own hands.


However, depending on the method of deletion, your files may still be intact and ready for a hacker to steal. We’ll walk you through what happens when you delete a file so that you’re aware of the way your computer stores data on its hard drive or network.

Deleting a File
When you delete a file from your computer, it will be moved to your Recycle Bin. You might think that the files are gone forever, but that’s absolutely not the case. The only thing that changes is the location of the file. You can still open it and everything included with it is intact. Even deleting the file from the Recycle Bin isn’t going to be enough. Deleting the file simply eliminates the file’s link to a name. After this, the space once held by the file is labeled as “free,” but it’s not overwritten.

The file data is still available, but since it’s marked as free by the system, it can be overwritten and used to store other files. The data from your previous files won’t be truly gone until you replace it with other data--which will take a long time to fill up, if you’re using a large amount of storage. The reason for this is simple: you don’t want to ever be anywhere close to maxing out your available data storage.

What About Cloud Storage?
Let’s say that you use Google Drive or Microsoft OneDrive for your data storage needs. What happens when you delete a file from your account’s drive? You might wonder if the cloud provider stores information that you delete behind your back. Well, the truth is that these cloud providers do keep your deleted files for a few days after the initial deletion, mostly just in case you have made a mistake and need to correct it. After that, if you are a consumer-grade cloud customer, you’re likely out of luck for getting any deleted data back.

Business cloud storage solutions are another story altogether, though. If you are a business customer of any notable cloud provider, it’s likely that your deleted data will be stored for as long as you would like, assuming you want it deleted at all. Depending on your business’s needs, you may have other plans in mind. CTN can equip you with a data storage system that can help you keep your business’s data under control, whether you want to store it forever or keep it from being recovered, even when it’s deleted. To learn more, reach out to us at (610) 828-5500.

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Collecting Data is Easy, Using it to Benefit Your Business is the Challenge

Collecting Data is Easy, Using it to Benefit Your Business is the Challenge

Big data is a trend that’s gaining traction in the business environment. By taking a close look at the data that you collect, and identifying trends, you can potentially predict how your business can perform, and how your clients will respond to your products or services. Yet, there are two major questions that you need to ask: how are you going to use this data, and is the data that you’ve collected specifically to achieve that goal?


Big data, according to Gartner’s IT glossary, is “high-volume, high-velocity and/or high-variety information assets that demand cost-effective, innovative forms of information processing that enable enhanced insight, decision making, and process automation.” In other words, businesses collect this data, and then use tools to analyze it to find trends and other useful information that can be used to improve the way that they do business. Yet, there’s one thing that can holds businesses back, and it’s in the actual data that they collect.

The problem here is that, even if you manage to collect all sorts of data and analytics, how much of it is actually useful and relevant to your organization’s operations? For example, as an IT company, we could take a critical analysis of support requests that technology companies receive, and see if there are common themes amongst them. This would help us by allowing us to build out workflows to combat the commonly-occurring issues. However, since we typically target SMBs, any information related to how enterprises handle their technology would be, while somewhat helpful, not nearly as useful as examining the major pain points of small businesses.

For your organization, big data, depending on what your goods and services are, can help you better target your audience and find potential buyers. Therefore, you want big data that accounts for your target audience, and information outside this realm won’t necessarily help you.

Granted, big data doesn’t always seem to make sense; at least, not for Tom Goodwin at Forbes. He explains that the human condition itself is counterproductive to big data, and that we often act in unpredictable ways: “Big Data doesn’t get how weird we are. Big data can’t explain how I can be a Guardian reading, Whole Foods loving, Golf playing guy that owns an old lowered plastidipped BMW with spinning chrome wheels. Well, I know I can’t. People are irrational, they do things for strange reasons that even they don’t understand. They may explain it, but they will post rationalize to seem more logical.”

Basically, what big data comes down to isn’t just about the data that you collect, but what you manage to do with it. While you might be able to predict some things, it’s important to take what you collect with a grain of salt, as when dealing with people, chances are that when you try to predict their actions, you’ll continue to be astounded on a daily basis. That’s just how we are as individuals, and until an algorithm can understand that, big data will be an interesting way to almost guess an outcome.

How will your business take advantage of big data? Let us know in the comments, and be sure to subscribe to our blog for more tech news and tricks.

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Avoid Getting Fined By Understanding How Regulatory Compliance Works

Avoid Getting Fined By Understanding How Regulatory Compliance Works

Technology is invading all practices, including those of medical offices and other health-related institutions like hospitals and dental offices. With the advent of electronic medical records (EMR) and their management systems, medical institutions are capable of eliminating the physical space required to store paper documents, and can instead easily store them in a digital environment. Unfortunately, this also brings its fair share of problems, such as regulatory compliance.

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From Magnetic Tape to the Cloud: A Brief Look at the Past 60 Years of Data Storage

b2ap3_thumbnail_history_of_data_storage_400.jpgData storage is such an important part of today’s business environment, but when was the last time you took the time to consider technologies that came before? Technology that exists today couldn’t possibly have existed 50, or even 20 years ago. How have the leaps and bounds made in the tech industry affected the status of data storage, and what does this trend mean for small and medium-sized businesses?

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Here’s Why BDR is WAY Better Than Backing Up Your Data With Tape

b2ap3_thumbnail_backup_dr_blue_400.jpgData backup, regardless of its form, is a critical component of any modern IT infrastructure. If you’re not using data backup or disaster recovery, your business could be risking crippling data loss. Even if your infrastructure is protected from typical threats like viruses and malware, these security solutions aren’t going to prevent a devastating hardware failure.

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26 Billion Connected Devices By 2020 Will Dramatically Change Things

b2ap3_thumbnail_indroducing_big_data_400.jpgThe incorporation of mobile devices into day-to-day life has changed the culture significantly. In fact, when Apple introduced “iPhone” less than a decade ago, Steve Jobs famously said, “It’s like your life in your pocket.” Now, over eight years on from the launch of the first iPhone, it’s hard to remember what life was like before you had a full-function information system in the palm of your hand. We’ve come to rely heavily on these devices, driving mobile profits up and creating a market that didn’t have any substance only a short time ago.

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How Fast Can Your Business Recover from a Data Breach?

b2ap3_thumbnail_efficient_recovery_time_400.jpgHow much thought have you honestly put into your business’s data recovery procedure? It’s likely that you, like many other businesses out there, are taking a minimalist approach with both your data backup and disaster recovery. It’s not that you aren’t aware that they’re a good thing; you might just feel that you don’t need it because you feel hackers have no reason to compromise your data. Unfortunately, that’s what hackers are counting on: complacency.

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