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Five Key Benefits of Cloud Computing

By Erik Briceno

Five Key Benefits of Cloud Computing

In business, you know that being focused on your vision is paramount to your success. Obstacles and distractions constantly threaten your attention. One of the biggest impediments to success can be technology — researching it, acquiring it, maintaining it and upgrading it.

That’s where cloud computing comes in. Turning to a cloud service provider to design, implement and manage your technology allows you to concentrate on your core vision and pursue your business objectives.

Simply put: Would you rather your employees focus on what you hired them to do? Or do you want them spending valuable time learning how to upgrade software, run anti-virus scans and deal with hard-drive crashes?   Read more

By Erik Briceno

NIST SP 800-171: The Deadline Is Near, and I’m Not Ready. Is It Time to Panic?

Absolutely not! But like that famous ball in Times Square on New Year’s Eve, the clock is ticking down. It’s time to get in compliance with the upgraded cybersecurity standards outlined in the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) Special Publication (SP) 800-171, “Protecting Controlled Unclassified Information in Nonfederal Information Systems and Organizations.”

Federal government contractors need to meet these enhanced stipulations before the ball drops on Dec. 31, or they risk losing business.   Read more

What Are CUI and CDI? (And Why Should You Care?)

By Erik Briceno

What Are CUI and CDI? (And Why Should You Care?)

With the year-end deadline rapidly approaching for meeting updated federal cybersecurity standards, it’s important to know what’s involved.

What we’re talking about is safeguarding Controlled Unclassified Information (CUI). This type of information regularly moves through or resides on the internal networks or information systems of most federal contractors. Simply put, the government wants to strengthen security to keep that information secure.   Read more

What You Need to Know: Navigating NIST SP 800-171 Compliance to Meet Dec. 31 Deadline

By Erik Briceno

What You Need to Know: Navigating NIST SP 800-171 Compliance to Meet Dec. 31 Deadline

If you’re a federal government contractor, you might already know you need to conform to the updated cybersecurity standards outlined in the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) Special Publication (SP) 800-171, “Protecting Controlled Unclassified Information in Non-Federal Information Systems and Organizations.”

If that bit of government-speak has you perplexed, don’t worry. We’re here to guide you through the bureaucratic maze, so you can meet these requirements by the rapidly approaching year-end deadline of Dec. 31. We’ll explain what this means for your business and how to make sure you meet the requirements.   Read more

By Dan Lhotka

Pay Attention! and I’m back!

Pay Attention! And I’m back!

Welcome, dear readers! I know it’s been a while since I last posted in my blog. Well, I am back writing again, and I have something that came up recently that I want to share.

So in the early days of the Internet, Network Solutions was the go-to registrar company. This was primarily due to the fact that they were the first domain name registrar, they were geared towards business, and in general were easy to work with. Their website makes it easy to setup and configure domain names, and to modify DNS, and do all the other things that a registrar provides. My parent’s domain name is on Network Solutions, and many of our older clients are still using Network Solutions for domain registration and DNS.
However, I had something happen recently that has made me start to think about moving away from them.

I had a client that wanted a new domain name. I was going to setup email services on this new domain name, and use it as the primary repository for email going forward with this client. Simple thing. We signed up for the domain using Network Solutions. I setup the A records and MX records, and then configured the email service to use this domain name. All was working as expected until the end of the month, when due to a bit of miscommunication, the bill for the domain name was declined.

One day later, email suddenly stopped working. I checked the settings, and found that the MX records were changed, and the A records for the domain were pointing to an Under Construction page. I called Network Solutions about the issue, and they told me that the domain name has been released and that another company has purchased the domain name. The company in question is called New Venture Services Corp. I checked the Whois information for the domain, and confirmed that this other company now owns the domain. Knowing that it will take time to sort out the domain name problem, I decided to setup the client with a new domain name. Within the course of a day, I bought a new domain name, changed the mail server’s MX records to point to that domain, and got email working again.

Once that was done, a whole new nightmare awaited me in order to get the old domain name back. I researched the issue and New Venture Services, and found that they were owned by web.com. Web.com also owns Network Solutions. I contacted New Venture Services Corp, and found that they wanted $300 to sell the domain back to us.
This method of buying a domain name and then ransoming it to a company that might want it for an exorbitant amount is called cybersquatting.

So what happened is this –

1. The domain was released to the public
2. Network Solutions sold the domain immediately to New Venture Services (who probably has a standing contract with NS to buy all the domains that are returned or expired for almost nothing)
3. New Venture Services charges a premium to sell the domain back.
Legal, but very shady.

I found several different forums that talk about the same thing happening to other people –
http://www.scamful.com/2014/07/warning-if-you-own-domain-names-avoid.html
http://community.sitepoint.com/t/new-venture-services-corp-network-solutions/3062/6
http://dotweekly.com/new-ventures-services-corp-who-are-they/

Interesting reads, and a serious rabbit hole to fall down.

Bottom line – Pay Attention!

Make sure your domain isn’t set to expire for a very long time. Create Calendar entries to remind you when registration is coming up. Make sure you have valid credit card information entered in.

At this point, I recommend against using Network Solutions for new domain names. Godaddy is terrible, but they at least give you 45 days to renew if your domain runs out.

Oh and by the way – about 3 months after this whole thing happened, Network Solutions sent my client an email warning them about the practice of Cybersquatting.

By Dan Lhotka

Windows XP will no longer be supported after April

Windows XP Professional is reaching End of Life status in April.  What does this mean?  Well, after April 8th 2014, Microsoft will no longer provide updates for Windows XP.  This means that security updates and fixes for the operating system will no longer be sent to XP computers.  XP will continue to run on computers past the deadline, but it will be more vulnerable to online threats as time goes on.  What’s worse is that more and more software vendors will stop supporting their products on XP after the deadline.  This includes antivirus vendors.

Microsoft has said that it will continue to supply virus definition updates to Microsoft Security Essentials.  However, just updating the definitions does not keep the computer protected.  Currently, Microsoft sends out program updates to MSE to make it more effective.  This will no longer be the case after April.

 

It is very important to replace any aging computers that are still running Windows XP.  To keep your network protected from external threats, and to keep things running efficiently.

 

For more information go here : http://windows.microsoft.com/en-us/windows/end-support-help

By Dan Lhotka

Why do I need to replace my computer every three years?

At V2 Systems, we recommend replacing your computer every three years.  There are multiple reasons for this.  Warranty concerns, Productivity concerns, and Security all play into why we chose three years as the cut-off point.

Warranty

Most computers ordered by us come with a 3 year warranty.  After that time period, if hardware within the computer goes bad, then we are stuck with replacing the part out of pocket, instead of relying on the warranty.  With laptops, this is especially a concern, since many of the parts within a laptop are customized and can only be obtained from the manufacturer. 

Productivity

Productivity is the main reason for why the three year cutoff.  Computer technology changes so quickly that a computer built three years ago is quickly obsolete.  Each generation of hardware increases the speed of the computer, and each generation of software uses more of the hardware to do what it does.  After three years, something that took 1 minute to do now takes 5 minutes to do.  This problem gets more and more prevalent as the computer ages.  Four minutes of lost time daily equals 20 minutes a week, which equals roughly an hour a month, which turns into 12 hours a year.  Twelve hours in which someone can do something a lot more productive than sit and stare at a computer screen.  I have heard of computers that take 15 minutes to boot up each morning.  Imagine the time recovered in lost productivity if that boot up time was reduced to 30 seconds.  More than enough to recuperate the cost of a new computer. 

Security

Lastly, newer operating systems and programs are more secure from security threats than older computers.  As time passes, software companies find and fix security holes.  Granted, new ones are found and exploited by hackers.  But, the fact remains that newer operating systems are much more secure than old ones.  This leads to less work required to clean the computers when they get infected, and less of a chance of getting infected overall.

 

We want computer users to use their computer efficiently.  We don’t like it anytime a user has to wait to do something on their computer.  In order to accomplish this, though – the computer has to be replaced on a schedule.

By Dan Lhotka

Virtualization

 One thing that we use frequently, and that users frequently have trouble wrapping their heads around, is virtualization.  This is commonly used on servers, and to a lesser extent, workstations.  It is used because it is a way to evenly distribute hardware resources, and provide service separation.  What does all that mean?

 

Around 2005, the first dual core CPU was introduced.  For the first time, computers got more powerful through parallel processing rather than sequential processing.  These new chips were not much faster at executing a single application than the CPUs before them, but they could run multiple applications much faster than earlier CPUs.  As time progressed, software developers looked for ways to distribute computing more and more, to take advantage of the advances in parallel computing.  Computer virtualization was born.

 

Virtualization is the process of running one or more virtual computers on one piece of hardware.  The RAM, CPU, hard drive, network card, and all other devices in the hardware computer (referred to as the Host) are shared with a program that mimics those resources to a virtual machine.  Using the virtual machine, it works and runs as if it was a separate computer, but it is still software located on the Host. As the diagram shows, doing this lets someone utilize the resources of the hardware much more efficiently than before virtualization.

One of the things we run into many times is problems where a single program is messing up, but in order to fix it, we have reboot the server and disconnect everyone.  Virtualization helps solve this problem.  Instead of having one server that stores files, keeps track of users and user permissions via Active Directory, and provides internet access, we have three servers.  One hardware server, with two virtual machines.  One virtual machine stores files, while the other one handles Active Directory and internet access.  That way, if a problem requires a reboot, we can just reboot the affected server and leave the other alone (unless, of course, the problem is on the Host!).  This is called service separation.

 

In some cases, service separation is required.  Microsoft requires Active Directory to be on a different server than an Exchange Server, for example.  Microsoft also recommends SQL (a database program) be on a separate server from Active Directory.

With desktop computers getting more powerful, virtualization can be done on them as well.  The most common example is Windows 7 XP Mode.  XP Mode is a virtual machine that runs Windows XP that works with Windows 7 computers.  It is a great way to run old programs that may not be compatible with the changes in Windows 7.

 

 

By Dan Lhotka

CPU : AMD vs Intel

Last month I posted an article discussing how to pick out a new computer. So let’s begin the promised deeper discussions of the various hardware components mentioned in said article.  The first component of significance is the CPU or central processing unit.  Many many people refer to their entire desktop as the “CPU” which is understandable as the actual CPU pretty much drives all the functions of your computer.  It is what allows the operating system to run all your programs.  But in reality the CPU is a small gizmo of silicon and gold (yes there is gold in your computer) that acts like your computer’s brain.  And like our human brain the CPU uses electric signals to tell the other computer components to do things.  It’s pretty cool actually.

But unlike humans who only have one brand of brain – squishy – CPUs have two:  Intel or AMD.  So the question facing most new computer shoppers is “which brand is better?”  Frankly it’s not an easy choice.  Intel has more brand recognition and better performance.  But you pay a lot more for that slight edge.  AMD is more of an underdog – their CPUs come close to matching Intel’s performance but just fall a little short.

And for the average home user that performance difference does not negate the significant price difference.  The AMD CPU will usually save you about $200 over its Intel match.  Yeah that is a lot of savings for a home computer.  But here’s the kicker – Intel CPUs are more efficient at what they do.  This does not mean they run your computer better – it means they take less energy to perform functions and generate less heat.  Which translates to less wear and tear on your computer as whole.  Remember that computer life span I discussed in previous article?  Intel CPUs contribute to a longer life span for your computer.  AMD CPUs run very hot inside your computer which degrades the motherboard, the hard drives, the power supply, and the network/component cards.

Now we’re back to the question of what you do on your computer – if you use your home computer in short bursts then the AMD CPU isn’t going to be much of a problem and you can put those dollars you saved in the bank.  But if you like to spend a couple hours a day taking care of your personal business and surfing the Internet then ultimately the AMD CPU is going to cost you computer life.  Which means another big purchase is closer than you were expecting.

It’s a matter of upfront cost vs. long term cost.  AMD is cheaper up front but more expensive long term.  Intel is more expensive up front but cheaper over the long run.  Let’s break that down a little.  Let’s say you buy a new desktop with an Intel CPU for $1200 that you use for 4 years.  That’s a per day cost of $.82.  Now let’s say you buy a desktop with an AMD CPU for $1000 and try to use it for 4 years.  But in year 3 the motherboard and power supply finally died so you wound up just buying another new computer for $1000.  So to get to 4 years of computer usage – you had to drop $2000 or $1.37 per day.  That’s a difference of $200 per year!  Which is exactly what you thought you were saving yourself with the AMD CPU.

Well let’s end on a positive note.  I’m not saying AMD CPUs are bad – they are very good performers for most of the home computers out there.  Again the best thing you can do for yourself is figure out how you want to use your new computer and then weigh it against the information I’m providing.  In any case I’ll be posting additional articles soon!

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Five Key Benefits of Cloud Computing
Five Key Benefits of Cloud Computing
What Is Cloud Computing?
What Is Cloud Computing?
What Are CUI and CDI? (And Why Should You Care?)
What Are CUI and CDI? (And Why Should You Care?)
What You Need to Know: Navigating NIST SP 800-171 Compliance to Meet Dec. 31 Deadline
What You Need to Know: Navigating NIST SP 800-171 Compliance to Meet Dec. 31 Deadline