Google Location History - IT Networks - Big Brother is Watching

Holy Big Brother! Google Location History: An All Knowing Function You Probably Didn’t Know You’ve Enabled

Technology has changed our world forever. What’s the first thing you do before you get out of bed in the morning? Chances are it has something to do with your smartphone. These items open up worlds of possibilities but they can also bring issues and privacy conflicts with them. For this month’s IT article we bring you an article from our President and CEO Jeff Borello on the intersection of instant access (google) and user privacy (location sharing) – focusing on something called: Google Location History. Without further ado . . .

Holy Big Brother

Have you ever heard of Google Location History?

Yeah, me neither.

Let me start by saying I am not a guy that cares about intrusions on my privacy.  I don’t care if the government is listening to my phone calls or reading my Emails.  I figure I am not doing anything wrong – so if they are interested in my boring life – so be it.  Especially if it helps them catch some bad guys.

Now, with that said, even I was a little freaked out when I discovered how much Google and my Google App know about my daily movements.

These days, almost everyone has a Google login and is quite often signed into their account – especially from a mobile device.

So, let’s play a little game.  Where were you on January 17th at 4pm?  You probably don’t remember, but if you have location services enabled on your device . . . Google does.

Google Location History is a comprehensive (and by that I mean every detail imaginable) history of places you have visited as tracked and logged by your smartphone’s GPS function.  Besides being comprehensive, it also has a very long memory – like years.

Give this a try to see if Google Location History is enabled on your phone.

  • From a desktop browser, go to (from your phone you need to open the Google Maps App)
  • Sign in to your Google account (if you aren’t already).  Top right-hand corner will either show a Letter (first letter of your login) or a Sign In button.
  • Click the 3-bar menu in the top left corner and select “Your Timeline”
  • If you see some bar graph data there, click the bar for a given day shown from the last month.
    • How long did it take you to get to work that day?
    • Where did you have lunch?
    • Did you walk anywhere during the day?
    • Did you take any pictures?  (Yes, those might be logged in there as well)

See a screenshot below of my recent trip to Nashville.  Yep, lunch at Monell’s (great place BTW) from 12:25 to 2:06 and dinner at 9:14 at the Peg Leg Porker BBQ

Google Location History - IT Networks - IT Quick Tips

Walking, driving, flying.  It knows and records those differently.

So, the obvious question is why on earth would you want something this invasive turned on?  The answer is convenience.  As often is the case, to gain some convenience you need to give up some privacy.

It is this information that Google uses to help you throughout your day.  It will inform you of traffic issues based on your travel habits and places you may visit often.  The more information the system has on you, the more helpful an AI-powered app (Google Assistant) can be.

Okay, I have Google Location History turned on. Now what?

The good news is you do have control over this.  If you aren’t comfortable being tracked, you can turn this feature off.  From the Timeline there is an option to Pause that feature, which in effect disables it until you turn it back on.  You can also delete your entire location history as well, or just delete individual entries if you wish.

Of course, as long as the GPS is enabled on your phone, there are still plenty of apps out there that could be tracking you.  Only truly private solution is to disable the GPS completely (which probably causes you more issues than you think) or just leave your phone at home (yeah, right).

Is Google Location History too much an invasion on your privacy?  That is for you to decide but at least now you’re aware you are under the microscope.

Happy travelling.

Enhanced Phone Features For Enhanced Business | ATS

Enhanced Phone Features For Enhanced Business Part 2 (3 Part Series)

Last month we brought you the first portion of a three part blog series dedicated to enhanced phone features and what they can do to enhance your business. If you missed it, please check it out here. As we mentioned in our first article, your phone system can and should do a whole lot more than simply ring. There are many features that can make your day to day simpler as well as more productive. Today we area going to focus solely on hunt groups and their functionalities.

Phone Features: Hunt Groups

A Hunt Group is a collection of users, typically users handling similar types of calls, e.g. a sales department. An incoming caller wishing to speak to Sales can ring one number but any number of extensions assigned to that Hunt Group can answer the call.

There are several styles of Hunt Group and each phone system has different options. For the purpose of these examples we are going to use an Avaya IP Office phone system and the phone features available. If you would like to learn more about the different Hunt Groups available on your specific phone system, feel free to reach an Andromeda rep at (815) 836-0030.

  • Sequential

    One extension at a time rings sequentially always starting at the top of the list.

  • Collective

    All extensions in the Hunt Group ring simultaneously.

  • Rotary

    Start with the extension in the list immediately following the extension that answered the last Hunt Group call.

  • Longest Waiting

    Start with the extension that has been free for the longest time.

There are more extensive features available as well such as “Assign Call On Agent Alert” that allow for overflow or after hours call forwarding features such as night service/out of service modes. If you would like to learn more about these specific features or want to discuss how they can fit into your daily operations don’t hesitate to reach us. Feel free to fill out a contact us form or give us a quick call.

Mobile Friendly Website

Do You Have A Mobile Friendly Website?
5 Reasons It Matters

In 2017, smartphones are king. Almost everyone nowadays has some form of smartphone. We use them to explore video, music, and for social networking. Smartphones take advantage of practically anything the internet has to offer. Why does this matter? Well, with so many using their phones to access information on the go, mobile friendly websites are more important than ever before. It isn’t enough merely to have a website, it must be responsive to phones, tablets and other devices as well.

Before the rise in responsive websites- websites that adapt the screen size to fit whatever device they are being viewed on – most websites came as just a standard desktop website. Being mobile friendly really did not start being a real necessity for business until 2013. During that time, reports show that a substantial chunk of the user traffic came from mobile devices. In the years since, mobile search user traffic has only increased as more and more people use their smartphone and/or tablets instead of actual home computers as a primary tool for web surfing.

Don’t be left behind – 5 Reasons A Mobile Friendly Website Matters

  1. It’s becoming standard practice – more people use mobile than computer for internet searching: As the years have gone by, more and more people are using their mobile devices for their digital media as opposed to the traditional desktop computer. As of April 1, 2017 – comScore reported that 69% of digital media time is spent on mobile devices in the US. Comparing rates from a 4 year period, comScore found that there was a 26% increase in tablet viewing time compared to data recorded from 2013; a 99% increase in mobile viewing compared to 2013, and a decrease of 8% in desktop viewing compared to 2017. Researchers also found that over 8 in 10 internet users will use a smartphone to access the web regularly in 2017 (eMarketer). The amount of U.S. desktop/laptop only internet users is dwindling. Reports show that desktop usage was down from 25 million in 2015, to 18 million people in 2017. And expected to be down to 11 million desktop-only users by 2021. Meanwhile, Mobile-only internet users have grown 28% in the last two years alone, at 41 million U.S. in 2017. Mobile-viewing is becoming the standard practice in the US and that doesn’t look like it’s going away. So, you want to make sure your site can be viewed properly on mobile. Otherwise, without a mobile friendly website, you might be missing out on this growing market.
    5 Reasons A Mobile Friendly Website Matters - Growth in Digital Media Time
  2. A mobile friendly website benefits your reputation and provides for an easier user experience: Having a mobile friendly website can only improve how people view not only your website but your company branding as well. People are on the go, go, go and therefore are not using their desktops to perform appropriate searches. They are using their smartphones. Having a website with a great user interface, that is clean and easy to navigate, and provides a visual impression does wonders for a company’s reputation. Most modern sites have responsive design built in. So there’s no need for multiple versions of a website depending on what device users are using.
  3. Mobile users buy more than any other platform: While desktop still has the higher overall numbers for ecommerce, mobile users are not only catching up – they tend to spend more per transaction than traditional platforms. Users using smartphones tend to buy multiple smaller dollar transactions. While tablet users outperform desktop in overall transaction amounts – with larger purchases made via smartphones. (fastcompany)5 Reasons A Mobile Friendly Website Matters - Search is the most common starting point for mobile research
  4. Google Prioritizes mobile-friendly websites, and penalizes those who don’t: As of 2015, Google announced that it changed their searching algorithm. Websites that are not mobile friendly will not only not show up on mobile searches, but will also penalize a website so that it has lower rankings overall, even on desktop. With the vast majority of digital media users performing their searches on mobile platforms, this can critically impact a business and their customer click-thru-rate (CTR). So, unless Google sees your site as mobile friendly, chances are new potential customers are not going to be able to see your website when performing searches thru the internet’s most powerful and popular search engine.
  5. You’ll lose business if you haven’t made the switch already: You’ve probably already seen a decline in business if you still use only a standard website. If not, go with a mobile friendly website before you do. Most aren’t yet completely ditching their desktops or laptops for their mobile devices, but an increasing number are. Give your customers what they want with fast loading pages, easy navigation, and a streamlined site with great content and great products. Grab hold of that growing number of customers who use mobile devices to shop. Keep Google happy, too, and you won’t risk “disappearing” from search results.5 Reasons A Mobile Friendly Website Matters - Number of Global Digital Media Users Desktop v Mobile

How do I make my business site a mobile friendly website?

With growing trends showing increased growth in mobile viewing at a steady pace, the sooner to move to a mobile platform, the better. How do you know if you need a mobile-friendly website? You can always check with Google to see if they register your site as mobile friendly. However, sites that are 5 years or older need updating to more modern best practices – including upgrading to responsive web design. Not sure how to accomplish that? No worries, Andromeda is here to help. Our talented team of designers and developer can help you optimize your business website so that it can be reached by multitude of potential new customers. Reach out today to start a website redesign!

security camera cloud storage and backup add-on feature

Camera Cloud Storage & Backup: The Add-On Feature Your Security Cameras Need

Security cameras are an important addition to any business. You spend so much time building your business, protecting it from threats is a top priority and you get that. There are many features and decisions you must consider when choosing the right system for your unique needs. Whether you choose IP cameras or high quality digital, whether you go with fixed view, 360 degree or PTZ (pan tilt zoom); these are just a few of the many decisions you will weigh while picking out your solution.

We help businesses design, install and maintain these systems every day. The system itself is important but there is one feature you should really consider adding when you invest in your business-grade system – camera cloud storage & backup.

The cloud is everywhere in business these days. It can host your servers, improve productivity via software and applications, even our phones are now being hosted in the clouds. With all this movement towards cloud solutions, it is no surprise that cameras and the way we manage them are now moving to the cloud as well.

Camera Cloud Storage & Backup for your security footage/data is scalable – even unlimited.

You installed your camera system. You are recording video footage. All cameras are capturing proper angles and views. A year goes by, the system is functioning properly and you haven’t had any complaints or issues. One random weekday, an employee files a complaint that their car was damaged in your parking lot. You think, “We have cameras, this won’t be an issue”. Then the employee explains that this incident occurred over a month ago. You go to look through your camera footage and realize your system only retains data for up to 30 days.

No footage – Now we have a problem.

Your on premise recording device has a maximum capacity. There is no avoiding it. Sure you can add memory or change recording settings to try and squeeze more data in. However, the reality is your hardware has limits.

Enter security camera cloud storage for your camera system. With the cloud, you gain access to an unlimited amount of storage space. This means that you can save footage for days, months, years and beyond. No worries about recording over critical moments.

Camera Cloud Storage and Backup is the disaster recovery plan for your security cameras.

We spend a lot of time helping our clients prevent disaster . The same level of attention you give your network should be paid to the other technologies your business depends on. Disaster strikes in many forms: flood, fire, malware, theft etc.

Take theft for example. A clever criminal knows that it is important to either steal or destroy your recording equipment to avoid capture. If you are storing your data and footage offsite, even though the DVR or NVR is no longer functioning, you can still view the incident and maintain footage from the event in the cloud.

Problem Solved!

Camera Cloud Storage is a budget friendly option.

Recording devices are expensive. Depending on the type of recording equipment, number of cameras, desired backlog of footage . . . a recording device can easily cost you thousands of dollars. Some expenses are unavoidable. Nevertheless, if you want a hybrid system cameras or other special features, you are going to be investing a lot on the front end in hardware. BUT, there is an alternative to expensive hardware and add on features when it comes to extending the storage capabilities of your devices – the cloud.

Camera cloud storage is much more budget friendly than adding new equipment and hardware to the equation. You can purchase as much or as little as you need to get the job done and set a specific budget aside annually.

In summary, camera cloud storage and backups are a fantastic add on to your professional security system. The cloud allows for scalability, budgeting and disaster recovery.

This month we are offering a special on cloud storage – get 2 months FREE with a one year subscription to cloud storage for your security system.

Reach out to a representative or your account manager today to discuss how this solution may be easily implemented or fill out the form below to take advantage of this promotional offer: good thru July 31st 2017.

Disaster Recovery Plan IT

5 Critical Components Any Professional Disaster Recovery Plan Must Have

We hear a whole lot about ransomware and cyber criminals these days. Andromeda helps our clients combat most data breaches with multi-tiered security solutions and employee training. But, every business is still vulnerable to incident. That is why a full proof and dependable Disaster Recovery & Business Continuity plan is an essential. Before you hit the world wide web searching for DR solutions and backup plans, take a look at these 5 critical components any professional disaster recovery plan must have.

Your disaster recovery plan should consider appropriate business continuity variables.

Disasters happen; they come in many shapes and sizes. Server crashes, accidental file deletion, physical disasters such as fire or flood and the increasingly common ransomware or malware infection are all scenarios.

You must ask two important questions yourself in regards to business continuity:

  1. How much time can pass between recovery points, ie: how much data can you afford to lose; this is commonly known in Business Continuity as RPO – Recovery Point Objective
  2. How much time can pass between the disaster and recovery, ie: how much time can you afford to lose; this is commonly known in Business Continuity as RTO – Recovery Time Objective

Ideally, your RPO and RTO are as low as possible.

A good Disaster Recovery Plan will consider these factors and have various options for restoring files, folders or even whole servers. On top of that, it is important that these options take into account minimalizing data loss and interruption.

Data should be stored both locally and offsite.

Many people have an easy time seeing the value in the offsite backup.  Whether that’s tape drives taken offsite daily, external USB drives treated the same, or data sent to the cloud for storage, it carries with it a feeling of great comfort knowing that “if the building burns down” the data is still safe.

What few realize is what we mean when we speak about downtime, for incidents that are not quite as catastrophic as a burning building. In those cases, it can take an unacceptable amount of time to get your hands on that offsite backup or to download an entire server from the cloud.

With a Disaster Recovery Plan option that offers backups both locally and offsite (cloud based), you are able to restore large quantities of files and entire server images quickly. Your onsite device should also have the capability to virtualize as a temporary server in the event your main server crashes.

Find a disaster recovery plan option that provides multiple restore options

When you think about restoring from a disaster, you may believe that so long as you have a version of your data somewhere, you are secure. In reality though, your recovery time objective can be greatly impacted by the different options available to you after a disaster. A disaster recovery plan with multiple options for virtualization, restoration and data access is an absolute must.

You may have heard the term “virtualization” before. Being able to virtualize your server either on a physical device at your location or in the cloud simply means that you have a temporary solution that will keep your business up and running while you resolve whatever issue corrupted your data, server or situation in the first place.

A catastrophic hardware failure can put your business down for hours, sometimes days. Rushing that process up can incur huge costs as well: rush delivery, emergency dispatch etc. In the event of a hardware failure, a virtual copy of your last backup can be spun up. Once completed, you can resume working swiftly. This quick recovery allows you to deal with hardware replacements, scheduling and budgets in an organized fashion.

A top tier solution will provide you with onsite virtualization and an option to virtualize in the cloud. Cloud virtualization is not as quick and can produce some lag time. Nonetheless, in the event your backups are stolen or disaster strikes your building (fire, flood etc.) – the ability to spin up and virtualize data from the cloud means that your business is not at a standstill.

Find out what type of support a vendor provides for disaster recovery plans.

Your company does not want to struggle to get their files restored.  You can’t wait hours and hours to restore a file you accidentally deleted.  Don’t wait for hours to hear back on the status of a data restore. Your IT partner should understand the solution they are providing and be able to work with you directly. Cut out the intermediary. Ensure your vendor monitors all the warranties, all the software support calls, and all monitoring; ensuring your backups are humming all day every day – as they should be.

Don’t trust just any business continuity or disaster recovery plan solution.

There are literally hundreds of options out there for Disaster Recovery. A quick Google search will give you pages of results.  Comparing them is mind numbing, and if we are being honest . . . who takes the time to do all that?  Your first step is to find an IT partner that you trust. Check their references. See if they have case studies to show how a disaster recovery functions with the product. Ask for a demonstration of the product. This is serious stuff and you need to trust the hands maintaining and protecting your data.