Microsoft is Making It Harder to Use Windows 7

With Microsoft ending support for Windows 7 in January 2020, users are being pushed to upgrade.

With less than a year to go until Microsoft ends support for its ten-year-old operating system Windows 7, as many as 43% of enterprises are still running the outdated platform.

Recent research has found that nearly a fifth (17%) of IT departments don’t know when the end of support deadline is (It’s Jan 14, 2020), while 6% are aware of the end of support but have yet to start planning for their migration away from Windows 7.

End of support means that Microsoft will no longer issue security updates for the 10-year-old Windows 7 after Jan. 14, 2020.  This poses a serious security risk for organizations to continue running Windows 7 unpatched.

Microsoft has already started to push users to upgrade to Windows 10 if they are using a computer with a newer processor type and an OS older than Windows 10.

October is National Cybersecurity Awareness Month

Today’s security needs are more complex than ever before because cyber criminals are getting more sophisticated than ever before.  Is protecting your organization from cyber threats important, but low on your priority list? — one of those things you’ve been putting off for when you have more time?

Make it a priority in October (National Cybersecurity Awareness Month) to understand the latest security threats and make sure your business is prepared for “that thing that could never happen to me”.

Your protection plan should include multiple layers of security, including web, email, network, and employee training, management and monitoring by a team of security experts, best-in-class products and practices to fully utilize the latest technologies.  Get in touch with us for an audit of your current state of readiness.


Take A Closer Look at Software Specifically Built
for Electrical Contractors

If you’re an electrical contractor and your current software isn’t giving you the answers you need to run your business, this is one webinar you’ll definitely want to attend!

Focus in on a software package thousands of electrical professionals use to make their jobs easier — as well as improve the vision on their bottom line!

Join us for a sneak peak of ComputerEase construction software as seen through the lens of an electrical contractor.

Improve Cash Flow

· Streamline billing with automated AIA forms
· View cash flow by job (including retention)

Increase Efficiency Both in the Field and Office

· Accurately track committed costs for big ticket items
· Easily generate Certified Payroll and Union Reports
· Bring in job budgets from estimates

Utilize Integrated Technology

· Capture time and field logs from the field
· Obtain up-to-the-minute real-time field reports
· Experience identical functionality from cloud or local
computing

Enhance Customer Service

· Improve service management & remote work orders

 

Presenters


Terry O’Rourke

President
Common Sense Solutions

Amy Farrell

Product Manager
Common Sense Solutions

 

TIME
Tuesday, October 1st
11-11:30am CDT



888-523-2568
info@cssworks.com

Chicago/St. Louis

 

Top Terrible Mistakes—Number 8

I started writing this summer about the common threads for those contractors who are highly successful, as opposed to those who are just barely making it, or in some instances, are no longer around, and have put them into a top (or bottom, depending how you look at it) 10 list.  Number 10 was Poor Project start (https://cssworks.com/terriblemistakes10).  We moved on to No 9 – Documented Processes, a.k.a. semi-organized chaos (https://cssworks.com/terriblemistake9). So, now we move on to…

Terrible Mistake #8 : Poor Project Communication
The impact of poor project communication is inaccurate or missing information, lack of timely information for decision making, and wasted resources from duplicated efforts. Invariably, there will end up being two sets of data – one used in the field, the other in the office. Inevitably, this means more time while each party tries to figure out which set of data is correct.

How to Prevent Making This Mistake
The technology does not exist to make sure that everyone communicates correctly and promptly in all cases. But if we can speed up and simplify some of the basics, it will leave more time available to deal with the exceptions. Some communication areas that can be automated and simplified include:

  • Scheduling – both job and service work orders
  • Time entry
  • Work completed – often in the form of a daily log or daily report that documents not only work completed but other key events like change orders, customer or inspection feedback, safety events, etc.
  • Documents and more importantly, document changes

There are many tools available to improve these functions. None of them is going to be the perfect solution for your unique situation, but there are some areas to consider while doing your search:

  • Ease of use – number of clicks, ease of navigation
  • Integration – does the data flow back to your office, or require re-entry?
  • Platform – laptop, tablet, smart phone. Other devices required?
  • Cost – one time purchase, monthly subscriptions, user count

We’re believers in looking at Total Cost of Ownership (TCO). Sometimes the up-front cost can be misleading, or the cost is only stated in per user/per month terms, or there are extra features that can drive up the final ultimate cost. Be on the look-out for hidden costs — we can help you with those calculations.

One of the biggest impediments to improving communication is getting the right communication tools. More and more companies are progressing to use smart phones and tablets in the field, especially as internet connectivity is almost always available. Make sure whatever tool you’re using to improve your project communication works seamlessly on them.

I often hear from the office team that the field team can’t or won’t use technology, yet I guarantee that most of them have a smart phone and find time to login to Facebook or any number of other apps. The real issue is resistance to change. As with any new initiative, management support is imperative.

3 Features That Only a CRM Can Provide

by: Ousaf_Jillani

If your business has never used a CRM, or has explored project management tools in place of a CRM, we are certain there have been plenty of missed opportunities and lack of organization along the way.  After all, construction businesses are intricate in nature, with plenty of client relationships to manage, and it is more important than ever to have a reliable system in place.

So, what can a CRM provide that other project management tools can’t?

Client History and Centralization

Have you ever been in a situation where you needed to reference client communication or history from four years ago, but you just can’t seem to find the email in your inbox?  A CRM fixes all of that.  Such systems keep all client conversations in one place and makes it easy for you to reference on the go.  A CRM ensures you are never confused about key communication with your most important clients, storing client history and keeping it centralized along the way.

Tracking Events and Tasks

As great as a pen and paper can be to keep track of your tasks, it just isn’t the same as what a CRM can provide.  Such a system will not only help you keep track of every event and task you have on your lengthy to-do list, it will also provide complete visibility into tasks associated with your colleagues.  For example, if you are managing a project for Client X and Salesperson Y is also working on the project, a CRM will allow you to work together and relate those tasks and events to the appropriate lead, contact or company.  Doing so allows you to form a unified, cohesive and integrated business unit.

Never Lose your Data

This is the big one (and our personal favorite).  If you are tracking your data through calendars, the aforementioned pen and paper or on your computer hard drive, there is a chance that your data and important information could be lost or stolen.  A CRM effectively protects your data.  Backing-up your data and protecting your infrastructure ensures your important emails and client notes will never be lost.

With the intricacies of a construction business, it is important to focus on the work and the projects instead of worrying about client history, tracking events and losing data.

Windy City Women in HVAC


Common Sense Solutions is proud to support Windy City Women in HVAC in their 8th annual charity event.  WCW HVAC is a philanthropic women’s organization dedicated to investing in the careers, education and networking of the elite women in the HVAC industry.

 

This year’s event proceeds will go to the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention.  AFSP raises awareness, funds scientific research and provides resources and aid to those affected by suicide.

 

Common Sense Solutions will be at the event on September 19 – Joe’s Bar, 940 W Weed Street, Chicago.  Join us or make a donation at www.wcw-hvac.com

 

How to Avoid Being Spied on by Google

By Brani Rogic of Common Sense Solutions

Launched in 1998, Google is the most used web-based search engine in the world.  How often have you used or heard the term “Google it” to answer a question?  There are definitely benefits of this powerful worldwide instrument for sharing and receiving knowledge between users that would otherwise be unavailable.  In fact, Google’s mission is “To organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful”.

We’re talking about massive amounts of information here!  While researching the writing of this article, I came across all the products and services that Google owns, and the list is mindboggling.  There’s a catalog here if you’re interested.  I was surprised by some of them, I bet you will be too!

With so many opportunities to be touched by Google, we should always be aware (and in control) of what Google does with these touches, and what we can do to protect our privacy.

The first and most obvious answer would be, don’t use Google.  But if you went to look at the list stated above, you would see how nearly impossible that could be.  There are other browsers – like Firefox – that have enhanced tracking protection to better protect your online presence.

If Google is your continued browser of choice, then you may as well understand what they collect and know about you.  Here is Google’s disclosure about the information they collect as you use their services, https://safety.google/privacy/data and just a sampling of what they know about you:

When you do a search on Google, get directions on Maps, or watch a video on YouTube, they collect:

  • Things you search for
  • Videos you watch
  • Ads you view or click
  • Your location
  • Websites you visit
  • Apps, browsers, and devices you use to access Google services

When you sign up for a Google Account, you provide them with personal information.  This information can include:

  • Your name, birthday, and gender
  • Your password and phone number
  • Emails you write and receive on Gmail
  • Photos and videos you save
  • Docs, Sheets, and Slides you create on Drive
  • Comments you make on YouTube
  • Contacts you add
  • Calendar events

I’m afraid of the time when one night I dream about something, and see a Google ad for it the next day!

Here are some things you can do to protect your privacy and avoid being spied on by Google:

  1. Know Your Privacy Settings. Manage these settings at https://myaccount.google.com/.  Here you can choose what data is saved to your account, set data to automatically delete from your account, or review and delete data from your account
  2. Do A Privacy Checkup. Review and adjust what data Google uses to personalize your experience, and update what information you share with friends or make public.  https://myaccount.google.com/privacycheckup
  3. Stop Your Devices From Listening.  Manage the Activity Controls in your device, and turn off ‘Voice & Audio Activity’.  This records your voice and audio on Google services to improve speech recognition, like when you say “Hey Google” to speak to your Assistant.
  4. Use Incognito Mode. Turn on Incognito Mode in Chrome, Search, YouTube and Maps.  When you turn on Incognito mode, your activity (like places you search for or the videos you watch) won’t be saved to your Google account or saved on your apps and devices.  Read more about Incognito Mode here:  https://www.computerworld.com/article/3186941/you-are-not-very-incognito-in-incognito-mode.html
  5. Use A tool To Block Tracking. Here are a few tools available:

 

In closing, be aware that the world of data collection and information tracking will only continue to grow as the Internet of Things increases.  Know what info is out there about you, and know what apps and devices track your information.  They can’t violate your privacy if they can’t collect your data.

Constructech Recognizes 2019 Vision Awards Winners

 

Carol Stream, Ill. – Aug. 23, 2019 – Thermosystems, Inc. and Common Sense Solutions Inc. accept the Vision Award in the Specialty Contractor: Plumbing, HVAC category.  Accepting the award was Terry O’Rourke, President Common Sense Solutions, Nina Campos, Controller at Thermosystems, John Dolan, President of Thermosystems, and Paul Seputis, Director of Application Services, Common Sense Solutions.

Technology can help solve complex challenges in construction, providing a significant ROI.  Recognizing tech-savvy construction companies, Constructech magazine announces the winners of the 2019 Constructech Vision Awards, which were honored at a dinner on August 22, 2019.

This represents the 20th year Constructech has honored construction companies with this award.  Companies are able to submit in a number of different categories including residential, commercial, trades, corporate owners, and more.  In addition to recognizing the construction companies, Constructech also awarded the hardware and software companies that have helped enable the construction company to receive its award.

The winners were selected by a group of industry experts.  The judges chose the winners based on their ability to solve a challenge with the use of technology, specifically honing in on the ROI of the solution.

“Each year I am in awe of the steps these construction companies take to improve their business through the use of technology,” says Peggy Smedley, editorial director, Constructech magazine, and president of Specialty Publishing Media.  “These are truly the most innovative companies in the construction industry and I am honored to hand them each a trophy.”

Heard the latest cyber crime story?

You can’t miss the latest cyber crime that’s all over the news about the hacker who gained access to 100 million Capital One credit card applications and accounts. That’s just one story.

There’s also the recent report about a Florida city paying $600,000 in Bitcoins to a hacker who took over local government computers after an employee clicked on a malicious email link three weeks ago. Riviera Beach officials voted to pay 65 Bitcoins to the hacker who seized the city’s computer systems, forcing the local police and fire departments to write down hundreds of daily 911 calls on paper.

If you gloss this over thinking, “We’re not a big bank or government agency – no one would be interested in hacking us”, you’d be wrong. There are plenty of similar stories to share where individuals and small businesses have also been victimized. Equal opportunity criminals operate on the dark web 24/7 to access to information that they sell to others or use against you themselves.

Sometimes it’s your best-intentioned employee who’s doing you in. Haven’t we all been tempted to click on one of those ‘realistic’ emails? Information can also be given out via social media, unaware that it is being culled by cyber criminals. Don’t despair, you’re not defenseless! Here are four things you can do today:

  1. Lock your computer. If you are going to be away for more than 10 minutes, lock it.
  2. Make passwords a top priority. They should be complex and changed often.
  3. Practice the hover technique. If an email looks suspicious, hover the cursor over it to be certain the sender is authentic. If questionable, do not open it!
  4. Use two-factor authentication. Strengthen login security by requiring a second piece of information – a second factor beyond your password.

Finally, make sure you have a backup! If the city mentioned above had a tested, restorable backup, they wouldn’t find themselves dealing in the Bitcoin trade today. Not sure how reliable your backup protection is? Have you practiced a backup/restore lately?

Call us at 888-523-2568 if you want to talk about backup best practices – we’re here to help!

Phishing…A Favorite Summer Activity (NOT)

Fishing (noun) an activity of catching fish, either for food or sport. Many of us enjoy fishing as a relaxing activity during the summer or while on a family vacation.

Phishing (noun) the fraudulent practice of sending emails purporting to be from reputable companies in order to induce individuals to reveal personal information, such as passwords and credit card numbers. Not a relaxing activity whenever it occurs, especially when you are the phishing catch!

You may think you are smart enough not to be lured by a phisher’s bait, but unfortunately, phishing emails are getting much more sophisticated and harder to recognize than you may think. Most phishing emails appear completely legitimate, often by imitating a company’s logo using high-quality graphics and including opt-out instructions. For this reason, it’s quite common to be fooled.
The cybersecurity company, SiteLock, has published some recent phishing lures on these scams and how to protect against them.

Common Phishing Trends and Techniques

  • Invoice Phishing: Claims the recipient has an outstanding invoice from a well-known company, bank, or vendor. The email instructs to click on a link to pay an invoice. But when they click on the link and access the site, the hackers steal their personal information and gain access to their bank accounts.
  • Virus or Compromised Account: Viruses and compromised accounts cause users to receive an email from a third-party company claiming one of their accounts has been compromised. The email instructs the user to log in to reset their pass-word or to download a form, fill in their personal information, and return it. A legitimate company would never request your personal information through email in this manner.
  • Payment and Delivery Scam: This tactic involves sending emails from what appears to be a legitimate vendor, asking for a user’s credit card information. They typically claim your payment information needs to be updated before they will de-liver your order. Be careful with these emails, especially if you haven’t purchased anything from the vendor.
  • Downloads: These scams send an email instructing recipients to click on a link. These emails often contain hyperlinks that could download a malicious file onto a user’s computer. Never click on an email link unless you are absolutely sure the sender is who they claim to be.

Following are some good email tips to be aware of from phishing.org. Be on the lookout for this bait in your email:

FROM (SENDER) LINE:

  • If you don’t recognize the sender’s email address as one you ordinarily communicate with
  • If he email is from someone outside your organization and it’s not related to your job
  • If the email was sent from someone inside the organization or from a customer, vendor or partner and is unusual or out of character
  • If the sender’s email address is from a suspicious domain (like micorsoft-support.com)
  • If you don’t know the sender personally
  • If you don’t have a current or prior business relationship with the sender
  • If it is unexpected or unusual with an embedded hyperlink or an attachment from someone you haven’t communicated with recently

TO:

  • If you were cc’d on an email sent to one or more people, but don’t personally know the other people it was sent to
  • If you received an email that was also sent to an unusual mix of people. For example, a random group of people in your organization whose last names start with the same letter.

DATE:

  • If you receive an email you would normally get during regular business hours, but it was sent an odd time (like 3AM)

SUBJECT LINE:

  • If you get an email with a subject line that is irrelevant or does not match the message content
  • If the email message is a reply to something you never sent or requested

ATTACHMENTS:

  • If the sender includes an email attachment that you are not expecting or the attachment makes no sense in relation to the email message. Or, if the sender doesn’t normally send this type of attachment.
  • If the attachment has a possibly dangerous file type. The only file type always safe to click is a .txt file.

BODY CONTENT:

  • If the sender is asking you to open a link or attachment to avoid a negative consequence or gain something of value
  • If the email is out of the ordinary, has bad grammar or spelling errors
  • If the email asks you to look at a compromising or embarrassing picture of you or someone you know
  • If anytime you have an uncomfortable gut feeling about any request to open an attachment or click a link

The last point is the most important, “If it smells like phish, it probably is”. Take the time to research or call the sender to confirm you’re not being reeled into a trap. Phishing scams remain a very common type of cybercrime, and can cause major financial losses to individuals and companies with phishing emails being much more sophisticated and harder to detect. Take time to be aware of phishing techniques and warning signs, and to educate your employees on them.