Losing Net Neutrality and How the New Ruling Could Affect Schools

On December 14, 2017, the FCC voted to repeal net neutrality rules in a 3-2 vote along party lines and signaling a victory for telecommunications companies, according to the Los Angeles Times.  Now lawmakers are fighting back and in mid-January, CNET reported that Democrats announced all 49 of their senators, and one Republican, Susan Collins of Maine, will vote on a bill that uses the Congressional Review Act to reinstate the regulation.

DDoS Attacks on Schools – Why Schools are an Easy Target for Cyber Crime

Recently, DDoS or “distributed denial of service” attacks have been launched against schools, preventing faculty and students from accessing important educational materials online.

DDoS attacks have long targeted industries like finance and banking where cybercriminals can gain access to important financial data. But now, even non-profit organizations such as healthcare and educational institutions are being victimized.

According to one report, by THE Journal, education is now the most targeted sector for malicious attacks beating out healthcare.

Student Mobile Usage Infographic

Student Mobile Usage Infographic

Try a Telco Audit First: Where to Start When Revamping a School Telecommunications Network

School districts must have a solid telecommunications network in place in order to protect, inform and enable communication across district campuses.

While many educators want to offer their students the best in technology, they must first lay the foundation for an effective digital teaching environment, and that starts with a reliable telecommunications or telco solution. However, the path to a good telco solution isn’t always exceedingly clear.

This article will outline how a Telco Audit can identify the funding and the fit for the right telecommunications network for school districts.

What Do Educators Really Want from Technology?

What do educators really want from technology today?

Over the years, DiamondIT has worked with hundreds of K-12 schools in improving their IT infrastructure, as well as updating their hardware and software.  As such, we have heard numerous testimonials from educators and school IT pros about their technology needs when looking to invest or upgrade technology. The main IT requirements identified for area schools were affordability; ease-of-use; workability and excellent customer service.

All I Want for the Holidays: DiamondIT Engineers Discuss Their Favorite Business and “Fun” Technologies for 2017

Every holiday season, technology analysts and reporters write up seemingly hundreds of articles about their business technology picks for the New Year.  But what about the people who are on the front lines, working with customers on creating a seamless, working IT infrastructure?  These are the strategists – charged with deploying the servers, next-gen firewalls, security features – everything to help a business run smoothly.

We asked some of our DiamondIT engineers what business technologies would they recommend to their customers in 2017? But life is not just about work – so we also wanted to know, what “fun” cool, tech gadgets would DiamondIT engineers recommend as well (and by the way, some of these tech toys have serious business purposes as well!)

Steve Davis, Senior Systems Engineer

Steve Davis, Senior Systems Engineer

Let’s explore the business side first:

Windows Server 2012/2016:

Still using Windows Server 2003 or 2008?  Well, Steve Davis, senior systems engineer and Cody Cooper, senior support engineer would like to see organizations upgrade to Windows Server 2012/2016.  While Windows Server 2003 and Windows Server 2008 were solid products, Windows 2003 has been completely unsupported since July 2015 and Windows 2008 R2 left mainstream support in 2015 and is on extended support until 2020 (meaning no updates aside from security patches).

Many years later, Microsoft has made major changes that are more suited to the 2016/17 world.  For instance, Windows Server 2012/2016 has revamped its security options to become a more holistic product suited to today’s threat landscape.  In addition, Windows Server 2012/2016 offers more affordable options for storage.  One of the main benefits is the ability to deploy Microsoft’s Hyper-V for virtualization purposes.

More IT Security Training:

Security is one of the top IT concerns today, ranking up there with the top threats in the United States.  IT experts caution that data breaches are not a matter of “if” but when.  Since cybercriminals are out in force, Cody says, “All employees of an organization should receive annual security training.” Cody noted that often workers are responsible for many of the vulnerabilities that occur.  After all, it is not hard, even for a tech-savvy employee, to accidently click on rogue emails and links, exposing their business networks to data breaches and viruses.

Cody points out that while “bring your device” BYOD is a windfall for businesses – saving companies lots of money on hardware costs — it is also a policy that needs to be instituted with guidelines or policies.  These BYOD policies are intended to instruct employees on which websites and applications are appropriate for use on their personal devices when connected to the work VPN.

 

Cody Cooper, Senior Support Engineer

Cody Cooper, Senior Support Engineer

Most organizations that implement strict BYOD policies do very well in keeping their networks safe.

Cody says that annual IT training can be helpful in educating employees about how to identify strange emails or counterfeit websites.  “Today’s cybercriminals are savvy, and counterfeit websites can look a lot like the real thing,” says Cody.

The cool tech gadgets for 2017!

Here’s the deal – business technology is interesting and helpful, but sometimes a techy just needs to have some fun.  DiamondIT employees love creative and fun technology products from drones to smart watches.  Here is what they are hoping for this holiday season:

Virtual Reality (or VR):

vr

DiamondIT employees, including both Cody and Steve, need some VR time! There are a ton of virtual reality products out there ready at all price points, including Oculus, Samsung, PLAYSTATION 4 and many others. What is so amazing, is that simple lightweight hardware devices such as visors/goggles or even Cardboard  (Google Cardboard that is) and your phone, can transport you from your living room to a battle with a dinosaur; a gun fight in the old west; the feeling of being atop a sky scraper with scary views that look as if you are hundreds of feet high.

If you are wondering if VR has a place in businesses – the answer is YES! There are myriad of ways to incorporate VR into the workplace. For instance, meetings and conferences can be turned into virtual off-sights, whisking workers to an exotic location for a fraction of the cost and travel time, according to Successful Meetings Magazine.  Immersive sales videos are another way to use VR technology in the business world. Imagine walking a job site, reviewing the interior and exterior of a car, or doing a museum tour without leaving your office or home!

Smart Devices: 

internet-of-things-pros-cons

Cody does not want to get up from his couch this holiday season and apparently, millions are in synch with that.  The “Internet of Things” (IOT), is a term that refers to how everyday objects have network connectivity, allowing them to send and receive data.  This IOT technology has created smart devices ranging from talking refrigerators to just pushing buttons to have your Hulu or NetFlix appear – without having to scroll on your television screen or even get up from the couch. And now we can talk to our devices through the likes of Siri, Alexa, and Cortana.

IOT is not just a hit in the consumer world creating fun gadgets that offer updates and information, but its business applications are endless.  In the health world, TechTarget says that devices such as heart and biochip monitors are improving the way doctors are receiving information from their patients (both humans and animals).  Connected traffic signals to “smart” production services in factories are changing and improving the ways people work and travel.

So, if you have a couch potato only willing to press a few buttons while taking off for the holidays, like Cody, then just know, the technology they are using to “rest” is also being used to make a better world.

Drones:

Today your child and “adult kid” can purchase fairly sophisticated drones from about $35 to $1,000 depending on capabilities, size, and design.  These flying machines can reach heights and distances that can wow even the most cynical.  Why a drone?  Well, most people think drones are about spying on people, which is right, but there are other applications as well.  For instance, the new camera options can take pictures from many different views – even from angles and distances you could never go.

drone-2

These flying machines can reach heights and distances that can wow even the most cynical.  Why a drone?  Well, most people think drones are about spying on people, which is right, but there are other applications as well.  For instance, the new camera options can take pictures from many different views – even from angles and distances you could never go.

The business applications for drones are endless.  Yes, government agencies can use them for spying purposes, but many industries such as engineering, construction, and others use the flying camera devices for photos and data collection that can be used for analytical and planning purposes. Drones will also help Virtual Reality designers incorporate real world visuals into the Virtual worlds users will experience – whether walking, running or jumping.

If a drone is on your holiday list, be sure to fully research local and federal laws concerning the operation of a drone in your area. Personal and commercial use of drones may require special licensing.

Wearable Tech: Smart Watches

David Rice, the COO for DiamondIT, has his own favorite “fun tech gadget:” smart watches. The most famous of the smart watches are from Apple.

apple-watch

The newer versions of the watch, the  Apple Watch Series 2 with built-in GPS, lets you leave your iPhone at home when you go for a run or ride — and still measure your workout accurately, for instance.  While the charging time is only a few hours, battery life is typically less than 24 hours. LG also came out with a “smart watch.”  According to Wired, “…the LG Watch Urbane 2nd Edition is LG’s sleeker, higher-end lineup of smartwatches…and it doesn’t need your phone to connect to the Internet. It does that through a built-in radio, which can connect to LTE and 3G.” David said he is sticking to his FitBit Surge activity tracker/watch until the “smarter” watches have a battery life of a week or more.

The business applications for smart watches are many, from looking fashion forward to using the watch’s applications for work.  You can check travel times and updates on the watch, as well as share work with colleagues by downloading such apps as Slack and even Microsoft’s One Drive.

Whatever your tech desires are for 2017, DiamondIT wishes you happy holidays and a wonderful 2017. Just remember to use good digital safety-sense like changing the default password on that new IoT device!

 

 

Tips for Shopping Safely Online During the Holidays

There is good news regarding online shopping.  For years, after being barraged with news of security breaches at large retailers such as Target and DSW, experts are starting to see some light at the end of a very long tunnel: according to eWeek, the instances of credit card fraud are down for consumers who have the new EMV chips on their cards.  One of the most perilous online shopping hazards has been the ability of cybercriminals to steal credit card numbers.  Now the EMV chips have made that much more difficult.

E-Rate Helps Schools Become More Wi-Fi-Centric with New Funding Announcement: DiamondIT Helps Schools in Kern County Improve Broadband Capabilities

 Two years ago, a major technology funding announcement for $2-billion was released to much media fanfare: The U.S. Federal Communications Commission (FCC) voted to improve the 20-year old E-Rate program with a large influx of funds.  Excited by the progress since that 2014 announcement, the FCC  recently announced they have voted to increase the E-Rate budget to US$1.5 billion, annually, to improve Wi-Fi networks at schools and libraries across the country.

DiamondIT Gives Thanks the day before Thanksgiving with a Community Blood Drive

The need for blood is a constant in today’s world which is why so many organizations focus so intently on blood drives and public awareness.  The Houchin Blood Bank, which first opened its doors in 1951, covers all the hospitals and medical centers in Kern County.  Houchin Blood Bank is always looking for volunteers to donate blood. According to blood donation experts, blood donations tend to decrease during the holiday season so blood drives during this time are critical to sustain available supplies.

give-blood-give-life

DiamondIT, a Bakersfield-based technology solution provider, is sponsoring a Thanksgiving Blood Drive for the Houchin Blood Bank on Wednesday, November 23, 2016.  The blood drive begins at 8 a.m. and will continue until noon.  Donors will be treated to beverages, pastries, and DiamondIT swag. In addition, all participants will be able to enter raffles for both, a Target gift card and a gift basket donated by the Bakersfield Condors.

Does Your Legacy PBX Phone System Support Your School’s Required Emergency Notification Systems?

It is an uncomfortable truth that emergencies can happen in schools.  While parents and guardians hate to think of such a scenario, the one consolation is to know that the school administration is prepared in case of an emergency.  Most educational institutions have special emergency procedures in place for a number of situations from natural disasters to inclement weather, illness, violence and more. images

That said, while schools have procedures for dealing with emergencies, one of the ongoing challenges is the ability to communicate in a timely matter. Without the proper technology, getting the news out can be difficult. The absence of communication can be devastating to those waiting to hear if their loved ones are safe. Recently, there was a case where parents first learned about an emergency at their children’s school from watching the evening news.

Upshot is — if people are not notified immediately, a crisis can be exasperated.