Data privacy concept

Do Google’s New Policies on User Data Privacy Indicate Larger Changes?

Just in case you haven’t been paying attention, online privacy has been highlighted significantly in recent years—in no small part due to the sale of our profiles by the tech giants that provide today’s most (in)famous websites… including and especially Google. Having said this, it is also important to acknowledge that some of Google’s recent policy changes could suggest that this may change at some point.

Let’s dive in and see what we can piece together.

How Google Makes Its Money

In fairness, there are a lot of answers to this question. For our purposes, we’ll focus on just one.

The short answer is simple: by selling advertisements.

Make no mistake about it: whenever you use the Internet, you are being watched. Giant platforms, including and especially Google, monitor your activities while using their services and use it to create a knowledge base of user behavior.

For instance, by using a combination of Google Search, Google Analytics, and Google Maps, Google could likely deduce that a user in Anytown, USA looking up “best pizza in anytown” would be interested in the most popular pizzeria. By analyzing which websites, phone numbers, and navigational directions got the most positive reaction after coming up as a search result, Google’s algorithms can figure out that this user would be happy to get the result for “Mario Rossi’s Fine Italian Ristorante and Pizzeria” and continue through the link to the establishment’s website.

This is that website’s goal—for more users to click into it, where they’ll be more encouraged to do whatever that website is trying to get them to do. As it stands, Google’s search results are organized based on an extensive list of factors far too numerous to go into depth with here… basically, it depends on how much Google likes how your website is put together, how other users have behaved after clicking the link to your website, and again, so much more.

As a result, Google has some leverage here, effectively serving as the gatekeeper for a staggering amount of Internet traffic. This puts them in the position to profit from these other websites.

One way that they do so: selling advertisement space in key positions on their search results pages. Another way: selling ads that are personalized to your web browsing history.

Google’s Recent Announcement, and What it Means

Google’s revelation that they will no longer create or support trackers that can follow an individual’s behavior and activity across the Internet has some significant ramifications regarding privacy and the Internet as a whole.

This is a sizable shock, as it seems to say that Google plans to hamstring one of its profit centers. However, it is important to clarify that this isn’t the entire truth.

Rather than eliminating tracking altogether, Google is simply shifting its approach to doing so. Instead of using cookies to compose in-depth profiles for each user, Google is shifting over to evaluating trends amongst groups of similar users and phasing out the comprehensive data collection that their past efforts were based in.

This “privacy sandbox,” as it is called, will allow users to be anonymously bundled together by browsing behaviors and other interests, with the data these groups generate being sold to advertisers. The idea is that this way, an advertiser can still target their most likely prospects, without that prospect’s information changing hands more than they may anticipate.

Caveats and Conditions

Of course, Google has left themselves a few loopholes in their new strategy. First, if a user signs into a website using their Google account, that information can still be tracked and used to shape advertising. Plus, this change only applies to the websites—mobile apps are still fair game as well.

This new sandboxing approach has already inspired scrutiny from regulatory bodies, with officials in the United Kingdom investigating these tools to catch any anticompetitive features. This comes as Google is also facing numerous antitrust lawsuits stateside, suggesting that this change in tack could be construed as an effort to show how important customer data security is to the corporation.

So Really, What Does This All Mean?

In terms of Google, these tactics seem to telegraph that the company is preparing for a future where data collection is much more controlled than it is now—and that Google is in a place where the downsides of such tracking have overtaken the value that these activities once net them.

In terms of the Internet as a whole, a player as large as Google might inspire other large providers who have not yet addressed how they balance data collection and data privacy. Having said this, Facebook’s current battle against Apple’s privacy-boosting features show that this approach will certainly not be universally accepted, either.

One way or another, this move will likely create some shifts to the Internet as a whole—and should reinforce how you need to be careful about your own organization’s data collection and storage practices.

Point North Networks, Inc., can help you out in that regard. To find out how our solutions and services can make your company more secure, efficient, and compliant, reach out to us at 651-234-0895.

image of cables and connections

Does Your Organization Have Enough Bandwidth?

A lot of business is being conducted over the Internet right now, in terms of communication and transactions alike, which makes a business’ capability to remain connected to its clientele even more important. Now is not the time to wonder if your business is as connected as it should be, which means that you need to know how much bandwidth you have available—and that what you do have is sufficient.

Does Your Business Have Enough Bandwidth?

Obviously, if your business is experiencing bottlenecks, the answer to this question is no. Unfortunately, many organizations will simply adjust and adapt to these inefficiencies and “make it work” (to a point, at least). Despite this, you need to be sure that you at least know how much bandwidth your business should have to meet its needs.

In addition to this, it is important to be sure that your Internet service can support your needs. With so many options—including Digital Subscriber Line (DSL), Cable Modem, Fiber, Wireless, Satellite, or Broadband over Powerlines (BPL), and more—you need to know if your capacity is sized to match your consumption, and that you’re getting all you can for your investment.

Point North Networks, Inc., can help you figure this out by evaluating your broadband needs and work with your ISP to ensure you’re getting everything they should be delivering.

When it comes to your broadband, here are some important things to keep in mind:

Run a Speed Test

A speed test is a great way to establish your current access to bandwidth and whether it is sufficient for your productivity. An internet consultant will have plenty of testing tools to use, but you should also take a moment to visit speedtest.net or another speed testing utility to help inform your conversation with them.

Here are some measurements to examine:

  • Ping, or latency, is how you measure the reaction time of your connection. For instance, how quickly a webpage can recognize that another tab has been opened. Issues here could come from your Internet service provider (ISP), an improperly configured firewall, router, or modem, and your overall bandwidth. A ping of about 20ms is good, as a lower ping indicates a better-performing connection.
  • Upload and download speed are another important consideration, as the speed of the data that you push out of and pull into your computer will help you evaluate your bandwidth. As downloads are typically more common than uploads in the business setting, it is normal for bandwidth to be more focused on downloads.

How Wi-Fi Will Factor In

Wi-Fi is a significant utility in any office, especially with the mobility that so many offices rely on nowadays—particularly when personal space is as large of a concern as it is now. This makes the prospect of losing connection in the office such an issue.

Unoptimized wireless can seriously hinder business productivity, and these issues are only worsened by insufficient bandwidth. Productivity issues are often the inciting factor behind the use of shadow IT, where these obstacles lead employees to install and utilize unapproved software without your knowledge.

Does Your Business Need More Than You Have?

If its bandwidth is insufficient for its needs, your business simply won’t have the capability to support its services sufficiently for your customers. In this way, your bottom line could be seriously impacted by any holdbacks—especially with so many of your customer-focused services being based online.

Your broadband is what also allows your team to work productively. Today’s popular conferencing solutions require a large amount of bandwidth to work effectively, and while VoIP isn’t all that resource intensive, it does require some reliable bandwidth availability. Without the resources to support your processes, they are guaranteed to become a problem sooner or later.

Lean on Us for Help with Your Connectivity

It isn’t a secret that the Internet plays a mammoth role in modern business, in such a way that a prepackaged, one-size-fits-all strategy just won’t sufficiently fill. With Point North Networks, Inc., in your corner, you’ll have a resource to turn to so that you are sure to get the connectivity you need to compete and grow.

For any assistance with your company’s use of technology, give us a call at 651-234-0895 today.

working on calculator

Accounting Firms are Finding Their IT Overtaxed

With tax season quickly reaching its crescendo, accountants and CPAs face increased threats to their data security. Your clients’ financial information is too good for a cybercriminal to pass up. Now is the time to prepare yourself to fight a cyberattack. Learn how managed IT can support your business in a variety of ways.

Is Your Data Secure for Tax Season?

Cybercriminals are well aware of the stress most accountants and CPAs face during tax season. They also know that with stress comes mistakes and opportunities for them to attack. The reality is most businesses, regardless of size or industry, usually have cybersecurity protocols that are underpowered. Cybercriminals know this and wait for predictable moments of distraction to target a company. What’s more predictable than tax season, and what’s a better target than a CPA or accountant?

Why are Accountants and CPAs Targets?

The answer should be obvious: these industries are most likely to have access to the type of data cybercriminals are most interested in: financial. However, it is also important to remember that with the ascendance of ransomware, the cybercriminal’s MO has evolved. These days cybercriminals are more likely to hold your accounting firm’s data/computers hostage than to try and steal your client’s data to resell on the dark web.

 

As you can imagine, a cybercriminal would be able to exert considerable pressure on your business if they gained control and locked you out of your system around April 15th, rendering you unable to file your client’s tax returns electronically. How much damage would your business suffer, and how much would you be willing to pay to regain access to your data?

 

Finally, even if you’re a smaller business, chances are you are linked to larger organizations. This connection makes cybercriminals treat you as the weakest link and will use you as a way to gain access to the other businesses you are connected to. It should be apparent that losing control of your data could well cause enough damage that your business may not be able to recover.

How to Protects Your Data

The most effective way to protect the data your accounting firm is responsible for, is with a comprehensive backup and disaster recovery plan. A ransomware attack can only hold your data hostage if you cannot regain control of it. Your backup is going to be the solution to this problem. A data backup and recovery solution in the form of a business continuity strategy should be a prominent part of the foundation of any well-designed managed IT plan, regardless of your business or industry.

 

We also manage and maintain your network to prevent threats from coming in.

Why Managed IT for Accountants Is Essential For Business Growth

While it’s evident that managed IT can benefit your firm’s data protection, it can do so much more. Due to the wide range of solutions provided, managed IT should be considered an essential service for any business. Due to their services’ nature and the data they are responsible for, accountants and CPAs can benefit from the full suite of managed IT.

 

While during tax season, it makes sense for accountants and CPAs to request that their managed service providers (MSP) focus on cybersecurity (however, cybersecurity is a 24/7, 365 issue), the benefits of partnering with an MSP stretches beyond cybersecurity protection. Managed IT can provide your organization with increased protectivity, stability, collaboration, and communications, all of which can benefit your company’s bottom line.

 

Some benefits managed IT brings to your accounting firm include:

  • 24/7 Monitoring – We watch your network to identify and prevent incoming threats.
  • Patches and Security Updates – By having us keep your software updated, your team can work without interruption.
  • Less Downtime – Solving problems preventatively will reduce the amount of time that users can’t get their work done.

Are You Ready to Embrace Managed IT?

Managed IT’s wide range of services allow your firm to leverage your technology into a resource and not a liability. Point North Networks, Inc., can help you accomplish this with the solutions that your firm needs to boost productivity while developing best IT practices to stop your technology from holding back your growth. A managed IT partner allows you to stop worrying about your technology.

 

Call 651-234-0895 today to schedule a free IT consultation, and learn how our personalized, proactive IT support for small and medium-sized businesses can be of service.

Power button

The Power Button is Capable of More Than On/Off

If you’ve ever used technology, the power button has had a pretty consistent appearance, and an even more consistent use. However, there’s a reason that the power symbol we’re so familiar with looks the way it does. Furthermore, there’s more that the power button can ultimately do.

What the “Power” Symbol Means

The symbol that appears on the power button looks somewhat unique. However, this makes more sense when you consider that it’s just what you get when you smoosh the “|” for on and the “O” for off into a single symbol.

How the Power Button Can Be Used

Hopefully, you’ve already learned that your power button should really only be used to power up your system, or—if no other options are available—to power off the device after all your work is saved and your programs are all closed out (again, only as a last resort). Whenever you can, it is better to use the shut down option nestled into the operating system.

We take this so seriously because abusing the power button is just a convenient means to abuse the device itself. Improperly powering down your system in this way can lead to file corruption and potentially give the device a hard time when you start it back up.

Of course, with help from a technician, it is possible to remap your power button to do something different when it is pressed if you so choose.

Remapping Your Power Button

You have the capability to change your power button’s functionality, allowing you to set it to do something other than turn off your system when it is pressed—or, if you’re working with your laptop, your lid is closed when it’s plugged in or running on stored battery power. In your Control Panel, under Hardware and Sound, find your Power Options and Choose what the power button does.

Your options as to its function include:

  • Do nothing
  • Sleep
  • Hibernate
  • Shut Down (when pressing the power button on a laptop)
  • Turn off the display (when pressing the power button on a laptop)

Make sure you Save changes so that your settings are properly applied.

Interested in finding out more about your technology and how it can most benefit your business? Give Point North Networks, Inc., a call at 651-234-0895 to find out more.