Beware of Toner Pirates!

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toner pirates

Just as real pirates often did, “toner pirates” portray themselves as something they’re not. Much like the infamous pirates of old, they are smooth-talking, persuasive and unscrupulous. Instead of swords and parrots, these pirates are armed with phone numbers and a script, calling businesses and tricking unsuspecting office personnel into thinking the call is from your office products dealer. Have you had toner show up at your door followed by a hefty invoice? You may have been a victim of this scam.

The Federal Trade Commission revealed recently that “toner pirates” are swindling companies out of millions of dollars with estimates around $200 million per year.  That’s a lot of booty! If your company has a phone you are a potential target.  The attack is often two pronged. First, a phone call is placed to determine what type of copier you have. They may ask your receptionist to verify the make and model of the machine as well as the name of the person who orders the supplies so they can “update their records”.

Equipped with that information a second call follows to relay the news that the price of your toner is about to go up or to offer special pricing, though you must take advantage of it that day.  Toner, which may be inferior in quality, may not work at all, and may damage your equipment, is quickly sent out. The invoice arrives later with prices anywhere from 2 to 10 times more than the market retail cost!

Quality Business Solutions offers our customers service agreements that include toner! QBS will never call asking you for the make, model or serial number of your machine to update our records or to offer you a special on toner. Should we need to contact you, our Administrative Department staff will always identify themselves by name and let you know they’re calling from QBS.

Protect yourself from pirates! Don’t let them plunder yer bank account and scuttle yer equipment! Make sure the employees tasked with answering your phones know the Quality Business Solutions name.  When in doubt, give us a call – we are here to help!

How to Quickly Slow your PC and Productivity

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productivity

So you’re using your PC or laptop and decide that it’s not slow enough for you. You also want to waste more time. Here are a few ways to get that machine and your workload moving like a marble through maple syrup.

  1. Install browser toolbars. This is often the first step to slowness. Google, Bing and Yahoo all provide (for your convenience of course) toolbars that give users the benefit of a search window so they can save a quarter of a second by not moving the mouse to the search window already provided by the browser.
  2. Get a coupon program on that machine! A great way to slow your machine is to visit coupon sites and install the programs they offer so you can print coupons and begin to enjoy browser ads that seems strangely specific to your Internet searches. Go ahead and give them your email for the added benefit of having your SPAM increase exponentially.
  3. Only have one email address. Let’s say you have an interest in a consumer item – any consumer item. You visit websites that feature this consumer item and you sign up to receive “valuable promotions” and/or access to “members only” sections of these websites. The email address you provided is the only one you use. Because you enjoy visiting websites that feature your item of interest, surely you won’t mind receiving hundreds more messages from companies who bought the list containing your email address. They may offer similar items, or they may tempt you with offers of personal care products, relationship enhancement pharmaceuticals, flashlights and fake news.
  4. Never clear out your browser history and always save passwords. Anytime you visit a website, content from that site is downloaded into your PC, and you never know when you might need the images and cookies from a site you visited four years ago. You also want to save any password when the browser asks you if you would like to do that. Passwords are usually stored in a single file accessible and keeping them will ensure that you don’t have to waste time entering that password again. This function is great for ensuring that you get to experience the identity theft process with your bank.
  5. Ignore your hard drive. You’ve used your machine for a couple of years now and the hard drive has dealt with the use by putting data all over its discs. So if you want a program or file, you ask for it and the hard drive then looks all over the disc looking for the pieces of that program or file. To make the hard drive slower, just keep letting the drive put stuff wherever it wants. Don’t do a defrag or a disk cleanup. No sense making the hard drive’s work any easier.
  6. Don’t call QBS for help. If you’re satisfied with a slow machine and the underlying issues that are causing the slowness, no need to call us.

However, if you do want a refreshing change of pace, call QBS and we’ll make sure your machine and your time are better used.  

Quality Account Managers Create Quality Experiences

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account managers

Everyone at Quality Business Solutions wants to help you reach your goals and make sure you have a good experience along the way. This especially applies to our Account Managers. Our Account Manager team is dedicated to ensuring your technology dollars are wisely invested. When our Account Managers make first contact with a potential customer, they start gathering helpful information. This is an involved, but necessary, process, but they are simply asking the right questions in order to help everyone involved. They need certain information about a customer’s current equipment, lease expiration dates, and anything else the customer can provide about their current copier, printer, postage meter, etc.

By getting a copy of the potential customer’s existing lease agreement, we can assess the terms and conditions of their lease. This allows us to properly identify when to contact the leasing company with a Letter of Intent, or LOI. This is done to prevent the current lease from going into renewal and costing the customer more money. Our Account Managers can send the customer a copy of the LOI for placement on their company letterhead to be faxed, emailed, and/or sent by certified mail to the leasing company.

We know our customers have so many other important things going on in their offices. We try to help them save time and money by gathering all the information we can. We want to make sure their current leases do not roll over into another year of payments for an inadequate contract.

If you’re not a Quality Business Solutions customer yet, and want a better experience with your office equipment, or any of the other services we provide, please contact us today. Our Account Managers will be happy to assist you in any way they can. QBS is “Your Total Office Source” and we’re here to help you work smarter.

Sometimes “Free” Services Come at a Price

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Ever wonder how companies like Facebook and Google make money from their “free” services? Vlad Tiganasu, Editor Informer Technologies, Inc., wrote the following article all about how these companies, and others, are making money:

How IT giants make money from seemingly “free” services

"free" services

There are different popular currencies: US dollar, UK pound or EU Euro. Indeed, whenever we meet a monetary unit that we are not familiar with, we can always use a search engine to find out exactly how much it’s worth. Even shadier, unregulated money such as the Bitcoin, is becoming more popular and known to a lot of people. However, there’s one currency that we (the regular people) are not familiar with and for which nobody seems to be doing a good job at defining the value: the user.

Do you have an email? How about a Facebook account? Do you use search engines? Did you pay for any of them? Of course you didn’t pay, they’re free! But the best question that you can ask yourself is: “Why are these free?”. Seriously, if I came over to you in the street and offered you free drinks, free food or free anything I’m sure you would be very suspicious and ask me what am I getting out of that, but for some reason the same rule doesn’t apply to the Internet. Most people sign up for all kinds of free services without ever wondering what’s the trade-off, and that is one of the main reasons why companies like Facebook, Google, Apple have become IT giants. In case you’re ready to find out, here’s the real price you pay for using these companies’ “free” services and what you can do about it.

Google

Google has been around for a long while and is offering a bunch of free services such as Google search, Gmail, G+, YouTube, Google Maps, Chrome etc. In order to make money, they allow advertisers to put ads on those services, but targeted advertising is how the real bucks are made. How does this work? The company collects a wealth of personal information about you such as name, email, phone number, services usage, device data, search queries, website interactions, etc. then sells it to advertisers who can then come up with personalized ads.

If you’re tired of generalizations, here are some examples of Google’s features: Customer Match is a recently launched program that ties your email to your profile. Basically, if you’ve given your email to a hotel to send you the reservation confirmations, that respective hotel can sign up for Customer Match, and you will end up seeing ads for it while you’re browsing YouTube (or a different Google service). Want one more? Gmail now supports native ads which are available to all of Google’s AdWords clients, so the users end-up with targeted ads directly inserted into their inboxes.

Fortunately, Google is not one of those companies that says “It’s my way or the highway”, and the users have plenty of privacy options to control the data that’s being taken. However, since many people don’t know about these configurations, they don’t use them, and the Mountain View-based company can do everything it wants. So, if you want to understand and customize exactly what personal data Google’s services can get from you, I suggest checking out Google’s privacy policy. There, you will also find links to the privacy controls you can use.

Furthermore, there is a couple of things I’m not completely sure about, so I chose not to mention them. I couldn’t find enough information about the data that Google collects from the users of Android operating systems and I’m not sure about how the company acts as an Internet Service Provider (since it’s not available in my country), so we’ll have to leave those for another time.

Facebook

Facebook’s privacy issues are one of the most discussed topics, and the main reason why I actually don’t have an account on the social network. Curious about what data does this IT giant collect from you? Well, let’s just say it knows pretty much everything there is to know: the people you care about, what you like, what websites you visit, where you are, your phone number and a great deal of other information. Don’t believe me? Here’s a part of their privacy policy: “We collect the content and other information you provide when you use our Services, including when you sign up for an account, create or share, and message or communicate with others. [..] We collect information about the people and groups you are connected to and how you interact with them, such as the people you communicate with the most or the groups you like to share with. [..] We receive information about you and your activities on and off Facebook from third-party partners, such as information from a partner when we jointly offer services or from an advertiser about your experiences or interactions with them. [..] We collect information when you visit or use third-party websites and apps that use our Services (like when they offer our Like button or Facebook Log In or use our measurement and advertising services).”

Beside being one of the best data sellers for advertisers (I’m unsure which is currently number one, Facebook or Google), the social network also benefits a lot from the fact that more than a half of its users access the service from a mobile device. This is great for the company as it means they are far less likely to use an ad-blocker, which means even more money. As far as current projects go, the social network just  launched a new one which will allow advertisers to create unified ads for Facebook and TV. Furthermore, those in charge of promoting products will soon be able to poll the users and see how effective the advertisement actually was.

Curious about what you can do to stop Facebook from selling you for cash? Unfortunately, not that much. Sure, there are some privacy settings which theoretically allow you to restrict Facebook’s knowledge about your online activities, but I’ve stopped believing in fairy tales a long time ago. A while back, I wrote a story about how Belgian researchers discovered that Facebook tracks you, whether you agree or not; you can check it out if you want more details. To top it all off, even if you delete your Facebook account, the company reserves the right to keep all the data it had collected about you for as long as is pleases, so that isn’t an effective solution either.

Want to have fun? Facebook now allows its users to download all the data the company has about them. If you want to try it out, you can do so by clicking on this link.

Apple

Apple may not be as bad as the previous two companies, but that doesn’t mean that they’re some kind of privacy champions. What bothers me and probably a lot of people about this IT giant is that even though it proudly announces that it’s making the ways in which it uses your data very clear, that’s not exactly accurate. Their privacy policy is actually much more confusing than Google’s or Facebook’s, since, instead of explicitly listing the information that the company collects, it lists the data that it does not. As far as I know, Apple collects your name, phone number, the music that you listen to, location, various preferences, etc., but it links all of them to a random ID instead of your actual name, which makes it somewhat better.

Another huge issue comes from the newly introduced add-blockers that came along with iOS 9. Don’t get me wrong, I think that being able to stop unwanted advertisements from bothering you is wonderful. However, many companies say that it’s unfair that Apple is stopping them from collecting data while the IT giant does it without any kind of problems. What can you do to stop Apple from collecting data about you? There are a few settings that you can customize, but it’s not as easy as they advertise it to be. Here is a manual with the privacy options that you have and how to use them.

Microsoft

The Redmond-based company use to have very few privacy-related complaints, until the word “free” came into play. As soon as they offered Windows 10 as a free upgrade, things started getting insane, and the company was blamed for spying and stealing a lot of their customers’ private data. In case you’re not familiar with the subject, you should read my previous article “Are Windows 10’s privacy issues real?“. However, in the time since I wrote that story, Microsoft has clarified some of the issues and “pinky promised” that it doesn’t sell your data.  (I’m still not convinced, but I could just be paranoid.)

The one thing that I really like about Microsoft is that it’s unexpectedly clear about the matter, disclosing exactly what data it takes. However, these confessions can become a bit scary, especially when you find out that it collects your typed and hand-written words, the changes you generally make to texts, the words you add to the dictionary, the content of your emails or instant messages, the voice and video calls you’re in, dictations, etc.

What can you do to stop this from happening? Well, the good news is that there are many privacy tweaks which can help you decide what Microsoft sees. You can either use an application to help you out, (as seen in “How to fix Windows 10’s privacy issues with Windows Tweaker”) or open the Settings windows in the Start Menu, go to the Privacy settings and manually select the configuration that you want.

Conclusion

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying that “all of these are bad, don’t ever use them”. (Let’s be honest, it’s almost impossible to be on the Internet and not use at least one of the services offered by these companies.) I just thought you deserved to be informed about the actual cost of “free” services and how we, the users, have become one of the most profitable currencies on the Web.

And while we’re at it, at least reading this story on our website was free… or was it?!

SEO: Searching for Status

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google search seo

These days, it is more important than ever to rank highly on Google search results. And the more quality content you have that is regularly updated, the better. That’s why when we make a website at Quality Business Solutions, we make sure to use SEO techniques to optimize your site for a high Google ranking. We also encourage you to post regularly on your blog, and if you don’t have one, then we recommend starting one. We can help you with that as well.

Some SEO factors that influence Google Rank:

  • content length
  • keyword density
  • image optimization
  • recently and frequently updated content

The length of your content is important because the more words you have, the more your content probably covers, and the better for search results. Also, this usually means that your keywords are being used more often in each post, having a high “keyword density”, which helps your Google search rank as well. Having a certain keyword appear more than any other acts as a signal that the content is relevant.

Another factor that influences SEO is image optimization. You should try to always have a title, description, and alt tags for each image on your website. And if your keyword is in that image information, then all the better.

The frequency and recency of your content matters too. If you post regularly then it shows that the site is legitimate and useful. Also, more recently edited or published pages and posts tend to rank higher, especially on time sensitive searches, where the person searching specifies a time range that they feel will get them the most relevant search results.

Here at Quality Business Solutions, our goal is to make your site the best it can be, and that includes how it ranks on Google. If you want to find out more about what we can do for your website, head over to our web design page and read on.

Drive-By Download Malware

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malware skull and crossbones

Several of our customers have contacted us with tales of virus or malware issues, usually preceded with “All I did was visit this website and I didn’t download anything!”

Much like Baltimore Ravens fans over the team’s recent string of losses, they had confusion and a bit of anger over how this fate could have befallen them.

The culprit is a sneaky piece of programming known as a “drive-by download.” Usually, the key action that resulted in the malware infiltration was the approving of a toolbar or add-on, which then let the malicious code do its stuff.

Below is a narrative from microsoft.com explaining the “drive-by download” that I’ve slightly edited to ensure it’s understandable:

“…A drive-by download site is a website that hosts one or more sets of exploit code that target specific vulnerabilities in web browsers, and browser add-ons. Malware distributors use various techniques to attempt to direct Internet users to Web sites that have been compromised or are intentionally hosting hostile code. Users with vulnerable computers can be secretly infected with malware simply by visiting such a website, even without attempting to download anything themselves. This technique usually involves posting exploit code to a legitimate website, either by gaining access to the site through intrusion or by posting malicious code to a poorly secured Web form, like a comment field on a blog. In most cases, the exploit code itself is hosted on a different website and is exposed through visiting the compromised webpage…”

The more you know…..

Responsive Revolution

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responsive web design

With more than half of all internet traffic coming from mobile devices, it’s now more important than ever to have a mobile optimized and responsive site. Google is now ranking mobile compatible sites higher than non-mobile-friendly sites. This stresses the importance of responsive web design – the creation of websites that work across various screen sizes and devices.

Until now, you may have had decent web traffic and conversion rates but that could soon change as Google updates their search system. Soon, you may no longer rank as highly as you once did on Google search results and that could hurt your web traffic and ultimately, your business. The solution? Change your website to be mobile-friendly and responsive.

Some companies use a separate site for mobile traffic, but that can lead to inconsistent data between your mobile site and full site. If you update one, you have to update both. That can become a problem depending on who is managing your website. Also, mobile sites that are separate from the full site frequently have less information presented in a different format, which could result in confusion and a lost customer.

Go to your company’s website on a smartphone and if you have to zoom in to read the text, then it’s not mobile compatible. When a potential customer comes to your site, they don’t want to zoom in and pan around just to read your content. They’ll most likely leave and find another company with a responsive site to help them, which means less revenue for you.

At Quality Business Solutions, our website designs are always responsive and mobile-friendly. If your site isn’t up to the new Google standards, or even if you just want a fresh new look, then call us today for a free consultation. We can redesign your website to help you bring in more internet traffic. We can also manage your site updates and post to social media, saving you time and headaches. You can see more of our website services here.

Like to Live Dangerously?

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Are you a gambler? You may be, and you don’t even know it. If you’re backing up valuable data to a USB-connected drive, you’re one of the many gamblers who may one day find themselves facing a devastating loss. Whether the flash drive is small enough to fit in your pocket or one of the many models that are as large or larger than a deck of cards, using them to backup data is not a safe practice. Memory chip-based drives can be lost, stolen or fail. Disk-based drives are prone to failure from electronics or mechanical failure. Both cannot hold more than a few days’ worth of corporate data backups.

Documents, email and other crucial information are the lifeblood of your business. Should your company server or PCs experience a hard drive crash, you stand to lose valuable information. In addition, your company will be subjected to downtime and lost productivity. When this happens (and it is more of a “when” than an “if”), the best recovery method is to restore the lost data quickly and completely.

The most secure and economical method for ensuring data is kept current and safe is cloud-based backup. Yes, you could use a local disk-based system or tape drive, but that will require an equipment purchase and the requisite disks or tapes, as well as software to do the backups. Cloud-based backup however, requires only the purchase of the plan and the installation of a backup agent software package on the machine to be backed up. Some backup systems, such as the one Quality Business Solutions offers, require that the agent be installed on only one machine on the network. From there, it can reach out and backup data from other servers and PCs.

Backup services offered by QBS come with monitoring and reporting, and are far less costly than most well-known consumer backup services. Also, data can be retained for up to 90 days. This means that if you backup an Excel file on say, July 15, those files will be available for restoration until October 15, even though they may be changed and backed up every day in between.

Think about how important your data is to your business. If you depend on that data to run your business, you should do anything you can to safeguard it. Give QBS a call to learn about the many ways we can help keep your business running through our backup process and our many other IT services.

The Effect of Humidity on Printing

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static electricity

In laser printing systems, paper is not just the surface the image is put onto, it is also part of the process to make a printout. Laser printing systems use static electricity to convey the toner from image components onto the paper. The paper is actually charged with static electricity to attract the toner to it.

As we all know, controlling static electricity can be unpredictable because of all the factors that affect it. All matter has different characteristics that affect the conductivity of electricity. For example, distilled water is actually a poor conductor of electricity, whereas sea water conducts electricity quite effectively. Paper can have subtle differences that affect its ability to accept a static charge. Moisture in the paper is a major factor.

A printing system has the ability to change the amount of static electricity applied to the paper, but it needs to know factors about the paper to do so. Damp paper requires more static electricity charge be applied to it to attain the proper charge for attracting the toner. Commercial laser-based printers have humidity sensors in them to help in making adjustments to the amount of static electricity it will apply to the paper. These work only if the paper has acclimated to the surrounding air. 

For instance, if you just received a shipment of paper that was stored in a damp warehouse and put that paper immediately into the printer, the machine can only assume that the moisture content of the paper is close to that of the surrounding air. The amount of charge applied to the paper would be less than what is really required to charge the damp paper to effectively attract the toner. This can result in light images.

For more details about factors that can affect paper performance in your printing system, refer to the Operators Guide for your equipment. You will find a section about paper in the appendix.