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  • 23 Jan 2020 7:25 AM | Fred Costa

    The security of data is imperative for every business, irrespective of its size. In today’s era, where every business operation is carried out with the help of computers, it is crucial to secure business information and data. 

    While large scale companies practice extensive cyber security measures, small or medium companies are in constant threat of cyber security breaches. Every year we come across thousands of reports of data leaks or cybercrimes leading to the downfall of companies. However, with strong measures towards cyber security, a business can protect its important stuff, which eventually adds to its growth. 

    As technology has taken the front position in every aspect of the business, such as email communication, financial assistance, data storage through a word document, networking and collaboration, etc., businesses are completely dependent on technology now. With the breach of cyber security, a business can fall into huge trouble, which will decrease the faith of the stakeholders and will also result in extensive loss.

    Cyber security has a huge role to play in business growth. Here are some of the most common threats that your business can experience:

    • Protection from data leak- This is one of the most damaging cyber threats an individual or a company can come across. Companies keep a lot of data related to employees as well as clients. This data can be sensitive, which may include personal details of individuals. During a data leak, such information is passed on to an unauthorized person who then exploits the data for personal benefit. A company should look for after protecting their data against such cyber threats to keep business running in a smooth way.
    • Protection from ransomware- This is another major threat when it comes to cyber security. In such cases, a computer is affected by malware that encrypts business data. However, the data can be recovered only after payment of a huge fee. Such expenses can add to the cost of your business and hence, hamper its growth. To protect data and prevent data loss, a company has to have a personal database in multiple secured devices that will ensure protection from malware.
    • Protection against phishing- In modern days, the term phishing has been prevalent. This means when an individual or company falls into a trap over the internet, which results in loss of information, data, and financial loss as well. A business can safeguard itself from such activities by keeping alert for unexpected cyber activates. However, keeping antivirus software active in all your systems also protect you in a way when it comes to cyber security.

    When a business lacks cyber security, the consequences can be both financial as well as reputation damage. Here are a few points which will explain how cyber security can affect your growing business.

    • Repair or affected devices- When hardware is affected with malware, it requires a huge amount of money to check all the systems and thus repair them.
    • Reputation damage- While a company data leaks, it has to undergo a huge loss in terms of trust. Customers start losing their faith in the business, which cannot protect their data.
    • Legal aspect- While a company is unable to protect sensitive client’s data, they have to face serious legal consequences, which may have an adverse effect on the overall business.

    However, it is essential for a company to practice safety measures regularly to minimize the risk of cyber-attack. Businesses should update their system to keep growing. 

  • 14 May 2019 10:01 PM | Mark Madeley (Administrator)

    Does switching from cash basis to accrual basis for recognizing your company's profit have a hidden cost in your own accounting department?

    On first reflection, It wouldn't seem so. But it does.

    On first reflection you wouldn't expect a difference. There are no changes to be made inside your accounting system. For example, QuickBooks products can report on both cash basis and accrual basis simultaneously. It's only a matter of adjusting your reporting preferences or customizing individual reports on the fly.

    And if you are already using invoices in QuickBooks, as long as you date the invoice correctly (instead of using the date you receive payment!) then you are doing all that is necessary from the revenue side.

    But what about expenses?

    Many business owners simply write checks from QuickBooks to pay their vendors when they are due, or they may set up an autopayment method with a bank account or credit card to pay their vendors. However, those are cash basis results.

    To show accrual basis, you will need to enter a payable (called a "Bill") in QuickBooks, likely dated the earliest date the expense is incurred and often the date the bill is received. For example, if you receive a utility bill with a closing date of the 10th that is due on the 5th of the next month, the expense is incurred on the 10th for accrual basis, even though your autopayment triggers the next month.

    Also, paying the bill in QuickBooks is not done from the "Write Checks" menu but from the "Pay Bills" option under the Vendors menu item. You may also need to select multiple bills to pay at one time and enter and apply credits from your vendor, too. You must also stay on top of your Accounts Payable reports to be sure all your vendor balances are accurate. So you can see how the effort, time, and expense start to build up.

    Most businesses stay cash basis until tax reporting requirements force a change or their CPA offers a significant reason to do so. But it can be helpful for a cash basis business to know how it's doing on an accrual basis as well. Why?

    Using accrual basis reports, you can better compare revenues and expenses related to the same project or phase of a project. And when you are managing different timing of payments from your customers (e.g. slow) versus when you need to pay your key vendors (e.g. not so slow), accrual basis reports will give you insight into cash demands and can be used for forecasting, planning credit terms with customers and vendors as well as setting up a bank line of credit or considering the value of factoring.

    It's never helpful to make things more complicated than necessary. If you are consider the move to accrual basis or want to get a better handle on project costs and cash flow, I can help you set up what you need in QuickBooks based on your specific concerns -- without putting you into a bog of numbers or processes that cost more than the value they produce.

    Any other concerns about your accounting, inventory, payroll, reporting, or something else financial? Please let me know. 

  • 06 Sep 2017 6:32 AM | Fred Costa

    Protecting the enterprise was a far easier endeavor ten or more years ago.  Companies primarily relied on the castle wall strategy of protection with the utilization of a strong firewall perimeter that encircled the servers, users and workstations within the confines of the on premise enterprise.  It felt safe and pretty much was.  However, much like the reliance on the medieval castle protection strategy that was eventually thwarted by the invention of gunpowder, trusting your network to the singular protection of a perimeter firewall is no longer enough.  This is due to both the growing sophistication of the tactics used by cybercriminals as well as the evolvement of the enterprise itself.  Businesses that have a web presence require triple firewall protection strategy today.

    The Network Perimeter Firewall

    The network firewall still serves as the foundation piece of your company’s security strategy.  Its job is to protect the internal network from external threats originating from the Internet and secure outgoing traffic as well.  Basic firewall protection does so through the opening and closing of ports.  This requires a security professional to analyze what types of applications are utilized within the organization.  Although this type of protection is still required, hackers rarely attack enterprises through port scans anymore.  For this reason, firewalls now offer additional services and components in order to analyze traffic and terminate malevolent traffic streams.  This multi-faceted approach is commonly referred to as Unified Threat Management (UTM).  A UTM is an all-inclusive security solution that offers multiple security functions within a single system.

    UTMs include intelligence-based services such as an Intrusion Detection System, (IPS) which analyzes incoming packets in order to identify suspicious activity.  Once detected, an IPS will issue an alert and then attempt to eliminate the threat.  Antivirus gateways have become a staple in order to cleanse incoming web traffic of malicious code and viruses.  Basic web filtering is another popular component today as web filtering encompasses much more than eliminating games sites and web sites exhibiting poor taste.  Web filtering also combats known launching sites for malware as well as parked sites that can be used for malware delivery or typosquatting.  Some UTM devices even scan traffic at the layer 7 application layer to discern undesired traffic such as peer-to-peer traffic or media streaming.

    A firewall is only as effective as its configuration however.  Often times, outgoing firewall rules are ignored, yet their inclusion is vital to prevent outgoing SPAM and worms from spreading to the Internet, which can result in the blacklisting of your public IP addresses.  It is important to have a knowledgeable cybersecurity professional on staff or contract one for implementation and support.  For smaller businesses can utilize a managed services provider. 

    Local Firewalls

    We live in a mobile world today in which computing devices are regularly transported outside of the protection of the enterprise perimeter.  In these instances, your company laptops and tablets are completely vulnerable.  For this reason, it is imperative to enable and configure a software based firewall on all mobile computer devices.  Fortunately, Windows operating systems are integrated with an effective firewall component so no additional cost or licensing is required.  Windows Defender, which is included with Windows 10 goes beyond the mere routine of port protection and is constantly being updated in each subsequent branch update with new features including intelligence based scanning.  A host based firewall can also serve as a tool of last resort when the device resides within the enterprise itself.  Again, a local firewall must be configured correctly to not only protect the host device, but also not inhibit its users from running authorized applications and tasks required to do their job.


    Web Application Firewall

    There were 4,149 data breaches in 2016 resulting in the compromise of more than 4.2 billion records.  This seems surprising to many companies today as nearly all enterprises employ enterprise level firewalls to protect their infrastructure.  The problem is that a network perimeter firewall is designed to protect the network at large.  It can shield the servers that make up the hosting infrastructure for the web application site, but does little to combat malicious code and is unable to discern the complicated interaction exchanges between users and the application.   Just as an online retail customer can interact with an online retail site, hackers can conduct malicious interactions as well.  These attacks predominantly occur as SQL injections, cross-site scripting and malicious file executions.  A modern day WAF is designed to protect against these and other OWASP Top Ten application risks.  WAFs are able to discern fraudulent interactions from legitimate traffic.  This is a highly complex task as hackers today weave their attack code within safe-looking website traffic.  A WAF accomplishes this by intercepting and analyzing each and every HTTP request before they reach the web application.  Because a WAF is a highly specialized and expensive security tool, many businesses choose a managed services provider rather than expend precious capital on the purchase of one.

    Protecting your enterprise is no longer an easy feat today.  Threats of all types come from all angles.  By implementing a triple firewall protection strategy, your enterprise can be prepared to combat them on all fronts.

    Please call NSC Information Technology Group at 713-974-3889 if you need to tighten up your security.

  • 08 Aug 2017 5:28 AM | Fred Costa


    You probably hear a lot about the cloud and how much your businesses are benefitting from it.  If you believe everything you read, it seems like everything is better in the cloud.  So what is the cloud exactly? 

    The cloud is a network that hosts applications and services either onsite or remotely thanks to the dependable fast Internet services today.  Unlike the traditional network located in a typical datacenter, the cloud it not hardware centric and location is irrelevant.  It can service users whether it is located on premise or a thousand miles away.  The generally accepted definition of cloud computing comes from the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST).


    ”Cloud Computing is a model for enabling convenient, on-demand network access to a shared pool of configurable computing resources that can be rapidly provisioned and released with minimal management effort or service provider interaction.”


    The cloud has some distinct advantages for business and their enterprises, but it is important to understand what the cloud can do for your organization.  According to a recent report, 95 percent of IT professionals reported migrating some part of their infrastructure to the cloud in the past 12 months.  However, 35 percent said they had also ultimately moved workloads out of the cloud and back on premise.  Undoubtedly, some of the respondents who reversed their cloud migrations may have been overanxious to move to the cloud and neglected to scrutinize if the cloud is indeed a fit for their organization.  The truth is, the majority of enterprise applications are not ready or the cloud.  There are also many organizations that cannot use the cloud due to compliancy and regulatory reasons such as those who must follow HIPAA or PCI standards.  Other organizations may have strict security policies that prohibit the hosting of company data on third party platforms. 


    Cloud Deployment Models

    It is imperative to have an understanding of what the cloud can do and develop a cloud strategy beforehand.  The first step is to understand what type of cloud deployment model fits your organization.  There are three primary cloud deployment types.

    • 1.      Private Cloud – A private cloud exclusively serves a single organization and serves its employees and/or clients within that autonomous organization.  It can be hosted on premise with some type of virtualization platform or provided by a third party such as a managed services provider.
    • 2.      Public Cloud – A public cloud is provisioned for use by the general public by a cloud provider such as Azure or Amazon Web Services.  These public cloud providers can host resources and provide services for thousands of companies.  This type of deployment is attractive to a startup business that does not have an existing network infrastructure.
    • 3.      Hybrid Cloud – A hybrid cloud is simply a conglomerate of a private cloud and one or more hybrid clouds.  Although each cloud is often a unique entity, the network infrastructure is bound together by proprietary or standardized technology.  An example could be a company that employs a public cloud to scale peak or unanticipated usage.  An organization utilizing Office 365 while retaining an on premise active directory database is a classic example of a hybrid cloud.

    Cloud Service Models

    The next step is to pick a cloud service model.  A service model dictates what elements the cloud service provider and the customer are responsible for managing.  This is similar to the demarc of a public telecommunications company that provides phone and Internet services to a company.  The demarc is the point of separation between the customer’s equipment and the provider’s.


    • 1.      Software as a Service (SaaS:  Customers use an application provided by the SaaS provider that runs on the provider’s infrastructure.  The customer does not have to worry about supporting or maintaining the application in any way.  Users can access the application from anywhere in the world using either a web browser or some other type of thin client application.  Office 365 and Salesforce.com are classic examples of SaaS applications.
    • 2.      Platform as a Server (PaaS):  This model is especially beneficial for companies who develop their own business applications.  In simple terms, the PaaS provider the hardware infrastructure (servers, switches, etc.) as well as the operating system.  Customers then simply install their applications for which they are responsible for maintaining.  Azure is an example of a PaaS provier.
    • 3.      Infrastructure as a Service:  Customers can create their own datacenter in the cloud.  The cloud provider supplies the physical datacenter, the racks of servers, storage and network equipment.  The customer then provisions the virtual they need and is in charge of supporting them.  A perfect example of IaaS is vCloud Air and Amazon Web Services.


    The Need for a Consultant

    Cloud providers are constantly changing their service offerings and price structures so it is important to consult with a cloud expert who stays abreast with the latest trends, innovations and alternatives that are available.

  • 20 Jul 2017 3:46 AM | Fred Costa

    Two years, ransomware was barely on anyone’s radar.  Today it is at the top-of-mind-awareness (TOPA) for IT teams and business leaders alike.  Its presence has dominated headlines of nearly every media type over the past fourteen months.  Its manifestation has affected nearly every type of industry, bringing operations of its unfortunate victims to a grinding halt.  If it were a traditional business, its growth rate would be the envy of the world as ransom payments grew from $24 million in 2015 to $1 billion in 2016 according to a recent FBI report.  Yes, that is correct; ransomware is a billion dollar industry.  This is no flash in the pan that garnered its fifteen minutes of fame.  Ransomware is a perpetual threat that continues to plague business operations throughout the world over as has been the case thus far in 2017.

    There are a number of things that happens when a billion dollars of revenue is involved.  It attracts substantial levels of investment dollars and innovation as well as a multitude of opportunistic individuals with little scruples.  Last year brought about Ransomware as a Service (RaaS), providing do-it-yourself packages for any cybercriminal wannabe for as little as $40.  This led to multilevel marketing like structured organizations with their own distribution channels, tiered hierarchies and shared revenue plans.  Top-level distributors are estimated to make somewhere around $300K. 

    Innovation is resulting in new releases of ransomware that boasts user-friendly GUI interfaces so that users can more easily navigate themselves through the ransom payment process.  Some ransomware variants even provide help functions such as chat boxes that allow the victim to communicate with client service specialists who are more than happy to educate “customers” through the bitcoin transaction process. 

    According to Symantec, the average ransom demanded in 2016 was $679 and 64% of victims paid it.  Many financial institutions report to carry bitcoin balances on hand in order to pay as quickly as possible in order to return to normal operations if afflicted.  Hospitals are popular targets due to the critical nature of their operations.  From small business to corporate giants, no one seems to be spared.

    Ransomware is a process in which malware infiltrates a device and encrypts some or all of the local data residing on any local, external or mapped drives.  Some ransomware variants only target designated file types while other encrypt everything.  Once encrypted, the data can no longer be accessed without the encryption key.  The final step in the process is an automated screenshot that informs the victim of their circumstance and provides some type of link to click for further information. 

    So the billion-dollar question to this billion-dollar menace is, “How do I protect my business from ransomware.”  The task seems daunting at the least as businesses and organizations much larger than yours probably have found themselves victimized.  The fact is however, that the blueprint used to combat ransomware and negate its nefarious manipulation of your data is quite simple.

    • 1.      Email Security Protection – Email continues to serve as the primary deployment mechanism to deliver ransomware.  Ransomware distributors utilize phishing attacks that coax users to click on embedded URL links or attachments.  Once a user clicks on the enticing bait, a web session is initiated, which downloads the malware.  Mere SPAM protection is no longer enough today.  You need solutions that utilize intelligence as well as integrated antivirus services to strip away malicious code
    • 2.      Web filtering – It used to be that web users were only suspect to malware if they ventured into the murky regions of the Internet.  Not so today.  Hackers now embed legitimate websites with their malicious codes in order to initiate “Drive-by downloads” to which users unintentionally download the virus.  Proper web filtering can strip away malware from the web sessions as well as prevent users from accessing sites that are known malware-launching locations.
    • 3.      Patching and Updating – Two recent and highly publicized ransomware attacks that inflicted thousands of organizations across the globe titled WannaCry and Petya, took advantage of a known exploit within the Microsoft operating system.  Microsoft in an unprecedented move, released a patch for all Microsoft operating systems, including XP, (which was no longer supported) to eliminate the given exploit three months before the attacks took place.  Had the IT teams of any inflicted organizations simply patched their devices, none of them would have suffered the devastating interruptions to their operations.

    This three-legged shield provides ample protection supported by an intelligent network firewall provides ample protection for most ransomware attacks.  This defense system of course requires capital investment as well as the support of a dedicated IT staff, all of which can be expensive.  The other way to obtain this protection is through a managed services provider, who can monitor and protect your network on a 24X7 basis for one set monthly fee.  If you are a Houston area business, contact NSC Information Technology Group to ask about our ransomware solution.  713-974-3889 or info@nscitgroup.com

  • 12 Feb 2017 2:00 AM | Mark Madeley (Administrator)

    I always look forward to Charlie Russell's insights and analysis. I see QuickBooks Self-Employed merely as Intuit's return to take the market share it had left behind to FreshBooks, Cheqbook, and similar products in the sub $19.99/month price point. These companies have been offering easier-to-use bookkeeping for many years to get self-employeds out of their shoebox, calculator, and excel solutions. The problem with these systems, including QuickBooks Self-Employed, is inadequate reconciliation tools. A business owner can lose more revenue AND tax deductions than the extra cost of implementing a complete bookkeeping system. That doesn't seem to matter if Intuit can grab revenue from merchant services, payroll, self-service tax returns, and business loans. So, as independent advisors how do we truly serve our clients? Our service vision may not match Intuit's marketing vision.




    Read Sleeter article here.

  • 11 Nov 2016 5:27 PM | Mark Madeley (Administrator)

    Hamlet hardly had QuickBooks or operating systems in mind, but don't you think Shakespeare was a Mac guy?!

    While there are nice improvements in the Sierra update, you'll have to upgrade to QuickBooks for Mac 2016, and that will cost you about $180 to $190. The Sierra update itself is free.

    A client recently had her new MacBook stolen. In helping her recover her QuickBooks for Mac installation, we discovered her existing QuickBooks for Mac 2015 program would not work with her spanking new, replacement MacBook. Why? The new MacBook had the most recent Mac version, Sierra.

    So, what do you get with QuickBooks for Mac 2016 compared to 2015?

    For more about QB for Mac 2016, macOS Sierra, QuickBooks Online, and how to make a decision about them all, follow this link: http://coveryourassets.com/blog.php?s=quickbooks-for-mac-to-sierra-or-not-to-sierra

  • 05 Oct 2016 9:35 AM | Fred Costa
    If you think back to when you began exploring the Internet, the first thing you probably did was send and receive email. The second thing you did was navigate or surf the web on one of the browsers offered by either Microsoft or Apple. The browsers provided by the two rival companies could only be used with their respective operating system, also called an OS. Neither browser was compatible with any other OS. They came bundled with the computers offered by the companies at the time. Even Houston managed IT services companies had no choice but to use Internet Explorer for computers running MSDOS. Apple products included the Apple II and the very earliest versions of the Macintosh. They came loaded with the only other available browser, which was called Netscape. Netscape is rarely seen any longer. It was replaced by the newer browsers Firefox, Safari and Google Chrome. They provided an alternative to Internet Explorer, which had a tyrannical grip on Internet browsing before they came onto the scene.

    All browsers do the same basic task. They permit computer users to surf the web. However, surfing the web now and back in its infancy are two different things entirely. Computers were slower. They only had megabytes of memory as opposed to the gigabytes most computers are loaded with today. Internet ads were static. They were similar to a magazine ad except that they had a link to the company that placed the ad. Now, ads are interactive and frequently feature video clips that begin running the moment a user lands on the page where they are hosted. As memory increased, ads got bigger and gobbled up that extra memory.

    Today, there are four browsers that are most commonly used. They are all free to download on any comuter. As any Houston backup and disaster recovery service would attest, web browsers have their advantages and disadvantages.

    Internet Explorer

    Microsoft’s IE was the first and the most widely used browser. It was pre-loaded on Windows-based personal computers. Its main strength initially was that most developers created pages that worked well with IE because of its wide usage. However, that popularity made it the target of computer hackers who took advantage of flaws in the code to gather the personal information of the individual users through so-called viruses and malicious software called malware, which can be removed from computers by Houston network security firms.

    • Easy to use
    • Fast
    • User-friendly interface
    • Used worldwide

    • Frequently the target of hackers
    • Flaws or bugs in the system
    • Has trouble handling software like Adobe Flash and Java


    Mozilla’s Firefox browser became IE’s chief competitor after Netscape lost favor with users. Many people migrated to Firefox simply because they disliked IE.

    • Better security
    • Easy to use
    • Customizable
    • Faster

    • No thumbnail previews
    • Requires more memory
    • Slower than other browsers when dealing with pages containing many images or videos


    Safari is Apple’s current web browser that replaced its previous browser named Panther. It has strengths and limitations too.

    • Runs on Apple and Windows-based computers
    • Easy to use
    • Speedy page loading
    • Secure interface
    • Not as easy to customize as other browsers
    • Help system not as robust
    • Has issues with Google search engine
    • Does not delete cookies on exit

    Google Chrome

    The popular search engine Google has come out with its own browser named Chrome. Many people like it, and some say it is the most widely used browser currently.

    • Available in over 50 languages
    • Fast
    • Better support of Flash and PDF files
    • Works better for Google searches
    • Robust security

    • No parental controls
    • Site incompatibilities
    • Incompatible with some graphic cards

  • 15 Aug 2016 9:13 AM | Fred Costa

    Residential moving is a stressful chore that involves a considerable amount of pre-planning. Commercial moving is even more complex. Relocating a single office or the contents of an entire building filled with office furniture, worker cubicles, inventory, point-of-sale terminals and company records demands the most ardent preparation. Now, you can add another task to the endless to-do list. You will need to make certain that your new facilities are ready to accommodate your company’s IT needs. In fact, you should consider having a Houston managed IT services company upgrade your new office with an eye toward possible expansion and your future requirements. Then, as you continue growing, your office will be ready and waiting. Look at it as an opportunity to improve your firm’s ability to adapt to growth and changes in the IT landscape.

    The physical aspects of moving are daunting and time-consuming, but the logistics are even more critical. You do not want your move to impede your business for even one hour. The relocation will probably be performed over a weekend or when your business is closed. The company’s servers must be taken offline, transported and brought back online at the new location. Your Houston network security is most vulnerable while you subsequently set up your telephone lines, broadband Internet service and offsite storage.

    Successful IT relocation relies on an abundance of preparation. It is a good idea to increase your network security management as you move so that it will be able to protect you immediately. Consider the fact that some 60 percent of cyber breaches are committed by a staff member. Our own federal government has witnessed an alarming 680 percent escalation in cyber-security violations over the past six years.

    You know how large your new office is, but do you know if the cabling layout is ready for your workers? Our Houston backup and disaster recovery team can examine the blueprints to make sure your vital services will be up and running by the time your office chair is removed from the moving van, including the following list of modern mission-critical components.

    • Electrical outlets and wiring
    • Telephone systems
    • Broadband Internet cables
    • Local network cables
    • Wireless access points

    You need to protect all of your company’s records, including your customer data. Even if your company has its own IT department, an outside adviser with experience facilitating company relocations is a smart investment. Any move comes with unforeseen challenges. Sometimes, it takes a trained eye to notice and handle them. A technician who specializes in office moves can spot potential problems before they occur. Your various departments can voice their concerns and desires to the technician to guarantee that they will be accommodated.

    Here are some questions that you should consider.

    • Can your IT team support new technologies?
    • Is your data backup system reliable?
    • Do you expect to require cloud-based storage or other services?
    • Is your bandwidth adequate for your needs?
    • Can you purge or bundle any services?

    You will need to follow a prioritized technology plan that details your requirements before you replace or upgrade your company’s hardware and software. Establish a date for making all final decisions. Include some extra time for testing your system before it goes online.

    NSC Information Technology Group has an experienced team of technicians who can advise you if you are moving or expanding your company. Call us at 713-974-3889 for answers to any questions you might have regarding your new location. Let us help you design a new company infrastructure. We can make sure that the process involves as little downtime as possible. The key to a successful move is sufficient planning.

    This entry was posted in Relocation and tagged Houston Backup and Disaster Recovery, Houston Managed IT Services, Houston Network Security. Bookmark the permalink.

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