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June 26th, 2014

Security_June23_CThe increasing number of businesses turning to a virtual environment is parallel with cyber criminals looking to breach that security. While many businesses think their virtual servers are safe and secure, some are unaware of major security myths that can leave your business vulnerable to attack. With that in mind, isn’t it time you familiarized yourself with five common virtualization security misconceptions to keep your virtual environment secure?

Myth No.1: Existing endpoint security will protect our virtual environment

Most traditional endpoint security solutions are virtual-aware and provide low levels of protection. This simply isn’t enough. Depending on the virtualization platform used (VMware, Microsoft, etc.), your traditional endpoint security suite can probably recognize virtual endpoints. However, this physical software often can’t bring its full tool set of anti-malware to the virtual world, meaning it can only perform basic tasks such as on-access scanning.

Therefore what you need is a solution that has been designed to keep both virtual and physical computing environments secure. There are a wide-number of solutions out there, and the best one for your business will depend largely on the virtual environments you employ. We strongly recommend talking to IT experts like us, as we can help determine, or even offer, the strongest security based.

Myth No.2: My existing anti-malware doesn’t interfere with my virtual operations

Performance issues can create security gaps that don't exist in your physical environment. Traditional endpoint security uses an agent-based model where each physical and virtual machine has a copy of the security program’s agent on it. This agent communicates with the server while performing security tasks. This is fine for physical machines, but if you have 100 virtual machines running off of one main environment that has been infected with malware, you’ll also have 100 instances of malware running on the machines.

This high level of duplication can cause massive performance degradation and waste tons of storage capacity. Therefore, you should make an effort to ensure that all of your systems including the main ones are without malware. This not only makes every system secure, but can also speed up overall operations.

Myth No.3: Virtual environments are inherently more secure than physical environments

Sadly, this just isn’t always true. Virtualization is designed to allow software, including malware, to behave as it normally would, and malware writers will target any and all weak points in a business’s network to accomplish their goals. An attacker who compromises one virtual machine and finds a way to jump to the hypervisor - the system that enables the virtualization - then has access to every virtual machine on that host.

Therefore, malware scanners on both the user and main systems would be a good idea. If it does happen to get on a system, the chances of it spreading are drastically reduced.

Myth No.4: Using non-persistent virtual machines effectively secures a network

In theory, any machine that encounters malware is wiped away and recreated cleanly. However, we are now seeing malware that is designed to survive teardown of individual machines by spreading across the virtual network. This allows it to return when new virtual machines are created.

Additionally, being too eager to create new machines on demand can result in virtual machine sprawl, which happens when virtual machines are created but then forgotten. This leads to an unmaintained virtual endpoint operating without your knowledge. Even if the rest of your virtual machines are secure, it’s possible for one machine to eavesdrop on the traffic of another virtual machine, leading to privacy and security risks.

The best solution to this is to employ an IT manager who can track and maintain systems. Many IT partners offer a solution like this, so experts like us may be able to help ensure your systems are secure.

Myth No.5: Specialized virtual security programs are more or less the same

There are various approaches to virtualization security and your network will probably need a blend of available options. This all depends on what you’re trying to protect.

A non-Web-connected server is going to have entirely different security needs than a virtual desktop of a server that manages customer information. Implementing one without the other simply just won’t do in today’s world, where attackers are set on getting their hands on your data.

Proper security is vital in making virtualization a critical component of your business IT infrastructure. Looking to learn more about virtualization and its components? Contact us today and see how we can help.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic Security
June 25th, 2014

Productivity_June23_CFor most businesses, Internet connections have gotten a whole lot faster over the past decade. Still, some businesses today are faced with the continuous problem of a slow Internet connection, which often leads to a decrease in productivity and efficiency. If this tech problem resonates with you then don’t give up just yet as there are several things you can do to boost your Internet connection speed and as a result your business performance too.

5 ways to combat a slow Internet connection:

1. Control devices that interfere with the connection:

Wireless devices can be one of the reasons for a slow Internet connection. It’s wise to talk to us about a wireless network analyzer so that you know the sources of interference. Believe it or not, most of these sources might be coming from the company kitchen!

Good examples include the microwave, cordless phone, security alarm, and other wireless devices which use the 2.4GHz band. These can interfere with 802.11g or single-band 802.11n routers. The best solution is to reposition these household electronics to either help solve the problem completely or at least minimize the chances of interference.

2. Control applications that hog bandwidth:

Without your knowledge it’s most likely that employees are using applications that are hogging the bandwidth. It’s vital that you are aware of these applications, especially ones that have video conferencing and streaming abilities which tend to be responsible for weak bandwidth in corporate environments. Other applications such as torrent and gaming apps can also be responsible. It is best to make sure that these apps are not installed on your company computers, of if they are, make sure their use is regulated.

Believe it or not, one of the biggest bandwidth hogs is YouTube. Some companies, when they audit their network usage, have noticed that streaming services like YouTube can take up more than half of their total bandwidth. While in some positions, video streaming may be necessary, it's likely not for the majority of roles. Therefore, it would be a good idea to implement a rule about the use of YouTube during business hours e.g., it should only be used for necessary tasks.

Some would recommend blocking services like this, but if your business uses Google's other services, blocking YouTube could actually end up blocking access to other Google services. It would be a good idea to consult with us as to the best way to limit use.

3. Reposition your router:

As simple as this might sound, your router might also have to be repositioned to help increase your Internet speed. You might want to try raising your router so that broadcast range can be more effective. If this doesn’t work, which sometimes it doesn’t, try placing your router in the center of your office for a more equal signal distribution. The best solution however, is to place your router as near to computers and other receivers as possible.

4. Consider an upgrade:

If your wireless networking equipment is old then it probably needs an upgrade. Keep in mind that technology moves at an extremely fast pace and your wireless network might be outdated in just a few years.

We strongly recommend talking to us, as we can help recommend the best upgrade solution. For example, the two most common upgrades include installation of a new repeater or wireless amplifier and replacement of your current antenna. Because antenna's are so varied, we can help make sure that the antenna being installed is compatible with your router.

5. Use the latest network technologies:

As mentioned earlier, technology moves fast which is why it is essential that you become familiar with its recent advancements, particularly in the area of wireless networking. There are countless apps, software, and hardware out there that can help boost the speed and performance of your router, some of which can even be downloaded for free. Our networking experts can help ensure your business has the latest and greatest, so be sure to consult with us first.

Dealing with a slow Internet connection can be a huge pain. If not taken care of right away, it can have immense impact on your overall work output. Looking to learn more about ways to improve your Internet connection for maximized productivity? Connect with us today to see how we can help.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic Productivity
June 25th, 2014

iPhone_June23_CThe iPhone has become one of the most popular mobile devices among business users. It is widely regarded for its usability which stems from the excellent iOS operating system supporting it. In early June, Apple announced that a new version of iOS - iOS 8 - was on its way in the fall, and with it will come a number of developments and features. One interesting update of note is a drastically improved Notification Center.

About the iPhone's Notification Center

The Notification Center feature was introduced with the release of iOS 5 and is available on every Apple mobile device. The idea behind it is that it can show you an overview of alerts and updates from specific applications. On iPhones and iPads this is an area where all of the most important information can be accessed quickly.

You can access your Notifications Center by swiping down from the top of your screen. When it is open you will see three views:

  • Today - Important information about the day, including upcoming calendar events, the weather, and other relevant information.
  • All - All alerts, including emails, messages, and updates from apps like Twitter.
  • Missed - Notifications that you have missed in the past 24 hours.
If you tap on any notification or alert, the app associated with it will be opened and allow you to view the content or update in full. For example, when you get a new email, Notification Center will alert you and show who it's from and even some of the content. Tapping on the message will open the Mail app, allowing you to interact with it directly from the main app.

For many users, this is among the most useful iOS features, but many have commented that it feels unfinished. Sure it provides a way to quickly access important information but it is largely static and limited in use. Apple aims to change this with the release of iOS 8.

Notification Center's iOS 8 update

When Apple introduced iOS 8 in early June, they announced that the Notifications Center will be getting widgets that will help make the Center even more functional - providing you with greater information all in one place. Those who have used an Android device before are likely well aware of widgets. These tiny versions of apps display useful information without having to open the app itself.

For example, on Android devices you can add an email widget to your main screen that allows you to read and reply to emails directly from your home screen without having to open the full version of the app.

Apple has decided to take another path with the implementation of widgets, instead baking them into the Notifications Center. With iOS 8, you will still be able to swipe down to access your Notifications Center, only now there will be way more information. In the example Apple demonstrated, there were widgets showing the latest scores of a baseball team and eBay auctions that you could bid on directly from the screen, without having to open the eBay app.

Of course this was just a demo, but you can bet that when iOS 8 is launched, you will start to see useful apps updated with widgets that you can add to Notification Center. If for example you use a note app like Evernote, there is a good chance that you will be able to create or edit a note in the Notification Center, without having to open the app itself.

It is clear that with the impending update, Apple is striving to implement a better and easier way for you to interact with your phone. For many business users this will mean less time having to open apps and search for the information they need. It will be interesting to see what business-oriented apps developers come up with next in terms of making the iPhone an even more effective business device.

Contact us today to learn more about the iPhone and how it can help improve your business.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic iPhone
June 24th, 2014

Facebook_June23_CWith a steady increase in the number of users, Facebook has become a centralized medium for both businesses and customers to engage with one another. Now, businesses on Facebook will be equipped with more ways to enhance brand experience as the social network has just extended its video capabilities. To keep up with new developments it might be time you familiarized yourself with Facebook’s Video Views Objective feature, as well as its reach and frequency campaign model, to see how your business can benefit.

What is Video Views Objective?

Following the introduction of video metrics and Premium Video Ads, Facebook has now introduced expanded video capabilities, called Video Views Objective. This feature will enable businesses running video ads to choose video views as an objective for their campaigns. In short, this allows businesses to take advantage of two solutions to direct Facebook users to additional content. All businesses will be able to plan their campaigns using the traditional broadcast model of reach and frequency.

Video Views Objective (VVO) will be added to Facebook’s Ads Create Tool, Power Editor, and its ads application-programming interface. Ads created using VVO will automatically be optimized to be shown to targeted Facebook users who are most likely to view videos across devices. This will allow businesses to take people on a deeper journey with their brand by encouraging them to take action right after they have watched a video, and sending them a targeted brand message later on.

How does this help businesses?

As mentioned earlier, you will be able to encourage those who have viewed your videos to view additional content with two new solutions. Firstly, businesses who work with a Facebook account representative can create audiences of people who have already watched their videos. Ads can be created for those specific groups to help move them from awareness to affinity and consideration of the brand’s product or service.

A second way businesses can encourage increased engagement is by adding a call to action, which invites people to learn more and visit a specific destination, such as a page on their website, after viewing a video.

You can also gain more control over the number of people who will view your videos by utilizing reach and frequency buying. This will predictably manage audience sizes and the number of times your ads are shown to these audiences. Traditional broadcast ad campaigns are planned and bought by focusing on the number of people you can reach and how many times you can reach them. This helps align Facebook media delivery with the reach and frequency levels that deliver business results.

Facebook is a versatile tool in that it can be used to exhibit a business's core values, as well as enhance customer engagement and experience. Looking to learn more about Facebook for business? Call us today for a chat.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

June 24th, 2014

EMC Corp., a leading provider of IT storage hardware solutions, developed a new index which showed that people behave as though privacy doesn’t matter to them despite them acknowledging it’s a top priority. This study, which included 15,000 consumers in 15 countries, revealed that while privacy is a concern, few are desired to do anything about it. According to EMC, this study revealed three paradoxes: while 91% of consumers say they want all of the conveniences and benefits of digital technology, only 27% were willing to trade privacy in return; Consumers usually don’t take any action to protect their privacy, as 62% of respondents said they didn’t change their passwords regularly and 30% said they don’t use password-protection on mobile devices; consumers freely share personal data on social media platforms, even though only 51% of respondents are confident that these services can protect their data and only 39% have confidence in the ethics of those organizations.

Interestingly, these attitudes varied from country to country. Germany, for example, was the most concerned about privacy and taking steps to protect it, whereas India was the least concerned. There were few differences based on gender, but women in the US were more inclined to protect their privacy, though the US as a whole fell in the middle of the aforementioned global spectrum.

With such laidback attitudes, it’s up to companies to take action to safeguard consumer privacy.

Read Full Article

Topic Events
June 20th, 2014

Office_June18_CMicrosoft Outlook delivers more than many business people perceive it to do. More than just an email application, this program can also handle important notes, reminders, and details of business matters through Outlook Address Book. Though it is more often used to pull out the email addresses of your contacts, the address book is also a great tool to organize and sync client details to another application.

Since Outlook's Address Book is the go-to application for many distribution lists, email addresses, and other important contact details, knowing how to use it can be really useful. However, before you create a new address book, it is a good idea to keep in mind that Outlook Address Book is NOT your list of contacts but a collection of different folders containing different sets of contacts.

This does sometimes confuse, so to help you understand more easily, here are the types of address books you can create in your Outlook profile:

Global Address Book

This can only be used in conjunction with a Microsoft Exchange account. Global address lists are a collection of all the names connected to your account in Microsoft Exchange Server.

Outlook Address Book

This is used interchangeably with Contacts although they are different in context to each other. Your Outlook Address Book is a collection of your contacts with details added in the e-mail and fax number fields.

Internet Directory Services (LDAP)

The Lightweight Directory Access Protocol, or LDAP, is used to find email addresses that are not in your local directory. This can only be accessed with the use of a steady Internet connection.

Third-party address books

You can set up address books from third party service providers through their given setup program.

To create an address book for a specified list of clients you can:

  1. From the Info tab, go to File then click Account Settings.
  2. Two options will be listed in the dropdown menu – Account Settings and Social Network Accounts. Choose Account Settings and click Address Books from the pop-up window.
  3. Tick on New then Add Account.
  4. In the Add Account dialog box, more options will appear – Internet Directory Service (LDAP) and Additional Address Books. Choose Additional Address Books and click Next to continue.
  5. You will be directed to the next window with options Outlook Address Book or Mobile Address Book. Mobile address books will create a list of names with the mobile number field filled in. Choose between the two and hit Next.
  6. Your chosen type will be automatically saved to your Outlook profile and to be able to use this, you will have to restart your program first.
Outlook Address Book not only helps sync your business database to several applications but also makes the client database organization an easy task. Understanding how to work this to your advantage can really help streamline and organize your contacts.

We can help you apply better technology tools to your business, so get in touch!

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

June 20th, 2014

Last month the FCC announced its plans for net neutrality, and today the Democrats in the House and Senate have introduced a bill that would require the FCC to ensure that ISPs don’t speed up some content at the “expense of others.” This proposal, introduced in the Senate by Sen. Patrick Leahy and in the House by Congresswoman Doris Matsui, would ban the prioritization of websites like Netflix, for example, to run faster than an email hosting or less popular website. Although the Online Competition and Consumer Choice Act would help protect against the tiered Internet that the FCC is proposing, it would only apply to the connections between consumers and their individual ISPs.

Read Full Article

Topic Events
June 19th, 2014

androidtablet_June18_CMost businesses rely on tablets and their apps to help increase productivity and work output. Android tablets are one solid option with countless work apps which many people opt for. Still, without their knowledge, most tend to give permission screens no more than a cursory glance when installing apps. This can be a big mistake as checking app permissions and being aware of common permissions is vital in keeping your Android tablet safe, secure, and efficient.

Checking app permissions

Head into Settings on your Android tablet, go to Apps and then tap on any app and scroll down to the bottom of the page to see the permissions that have been granted. Note that you are not able to switch individual options on or off, so it’s all or nothing.

However, there are various third-party apps you can install to give you a better look and more control over app permissions. One of those apps is SnoopWall, which once installed will set itself as an administrator to comprehensively audit and manage the security setup on your tablet.

Common permissions 101

Modify, delete, and read storage: This gives an app permission to access the storage on your device in order to save and edit files. Most apps will require some kind of access, if only to keep temporary logs on your device. Keep in mind that any app with these permissions can also access your public folders like your photo gallery as well as your music folder.

Find and use accounts on devices: Facebook, Twitter, and Google accounts are often integral to the way you use your phone, letting you send a Tweet from anywhere and upload photos onto your Facebook account at any time. This permission simply gives an app the ability to tap straight into these accounts to make life easier for you. Bear in mind that the app can potentially access any information stored in the account in question.

Full network access: Most apps require some kind of Internet access, whether it’s for software updates, syncing, or retrieving data from online sources. Full network access is used when retrieving adverts to display, but as with most permissions, you’re relying on the app in question to use this privilege responsibly.

Phone status and identity: This permission enables apps to recognize when a call comes in and gives you the chance to answer it by pausing the current app in the background.

Prevent tablet from sleeping: When your tablet goes into sleep mode, it can interrupt certain processes such as data being written to the internal storage. This permission enables an app to keep your device awake while important system tasks are being carried out. It can also be used by video players to keep the screen on.

Read and send text messages: There are countless apps that want to replace your tablet’s SMS functionality, and this permission is used to automatically scan your incoming texts for authorization codes (used where two-step authentication is involved). This is another classic example of a permission that can be very useful or very worrying. It is vital that you make sure that the app asking for this permission has a clear use for it.

Read your contacts: While a whole range of apps ask for it, this isn’t something you want to give away without good reason. The ability to share content with your friends in some way is often the underlying purpose for this permission, but also so that the app can quickly auto-complete the names of your contacts whenever required.

Sticky broadcasts: This permission is all about the way apps communicate with each other. Android treats each app as if it were a separate user: broadcasts enable these apps to talk to one another (sometimes without your knowledge), and the stickiness controls how long they hang around in the device’s memory for. If an app wants to communicate something to other apps or to Android a long time after the event, it then uses a sticky broadcast.

There are plenty of other permissions to consider but these are the ones you’ll run into most frequently on your Android tablet. It’s important that you pay attention to app permissions in relation to new apps as well as apps you’re already using to ensure your tablet’s security.

Looking to learn more about app permissions? Get in touch today and see how we can help.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

June 18th, 2014

virtualization_June17_CVirtualizing your server can result in the gain of efficiencies and capabilities that aren’t possible within a physical platform. While many businesses are rushing to server virtualization due to its increasing popularity, a lot of companies suffer rather than seep the benefits of a virtual server, mainly due to rush of deployment. With that in mind, it’s wise that you take the time to get a comprehensive view and see if server virtualization will actually save you money as intended.

10 ways to identify if server virtualization will save you money:

  1. Expert IT personnel: Some small businesses don’t have an IT person on the payroll, or if they do, that person deals with tasks such as security or desktop management which often means they are ill-equipped to deal with the technological sophistication that virtualization demands. If you don’t have an IT expert, virtualizing might not be right for you.
  2. Technology as core competence: If your company’s core competence is technology, or if you have lots of servers which require abundant storage and skilled IT veterans, server virtualization is sure to help save your company money. Not only will you improve on storage efficiency, but you won’t have a payroll replete with lots of IT personnels.
  3. Busy servers: If your servers are taking up floor, rack or shelf space, or if they are dedicated to particular applications; your business is likely to save money through server virtualization. Moreover, if your server equipment is aging, server virtualization might help with significant server consolidation, meaning fewer servers, lower power bills and more floor space, too.
  4. Sensitive applications: Note that not all applications do well in virtual environments. Some critical or sensitive applications require a lot of processor or memory resources and you don’t want them sharing those resources with other virtual servers. Find out about your applications performance needs, if they’re not sensitive they may be ripe for a virtual server.
  5. Shared storage: Some people will tell you that virtual servers must have a virtual storage, however those themes usually come from vendors whose livelihoods are tied to virtual storage. If your business focuses on having a centralized storage that is shared between users, virtualization can be very beneficial.
  6. Speed of deployment: Some businesses need to be able to provision servers rapidly since failure to do so is a distinct competitive disadvantage. If thats the case in your business, virtualization is a must. Ordering a physical server and deploying it can take days if not weeks; unlike a virtual framework which once in place deployment can be done in no time.
  7. Server virtualization test drive: Why not try virtualization on a small scale before deciding if you should go all virtual? You can buy inexpensive tool such as VMware Workstation which costs around USD$199 for your IT staff to try out and see the potential value of server virtualization.
  8. Do research: Even if you think you know all the basics about server virtualization, be safe than sorry by doing more research before implementing anything. A good place to start is Virtualization for Dummies. It provides a thorough basic understanding of the idea as well as what it can do for your business.
  9. Ignore server virtualization hype: With so much hype around virtualization these days it would be easy for some businesses to rush into. Don’t do that! Instead, do some research and analyze your business’ components and needs before deciding to go all virtual.
  10. Get help: Server virtualization can be quite complicated, the good news is that vendors are making it much easier to deploy. If you decide to virtualize your servers, getting help from a reputable vendor can pay off in the long run. Most vendors offer solution bundles which include servers and storage pre-installed virtual servers for turnkey operation.
While server virtualization proves to be an efficient and cost-effective solution for many businesses, the most important thing here is to not rush into a virtual server. Take a little time and go through a checklist to see if your business is right for the idea because if not, you’re likely to be losing both time and money. Looking to learn more about server virtualization? Call us today for a chat.
Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

June 18th, 2014

osx_June17_CIt’s been almost a year since Apple’s tenth major operating system the OS X Maverick was released. Now with the Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC) 2014 having just taken place this month, it’s the perfect time for Apple to introduce its new operating system, the OS X Yosemite. While features on the OS X Yosemite aren’t yet complete, many changes to Apple’s operating system are very much present.

Design

Right from the start you can tell that OS X Yosemite is all about aesthetics. Apple manages to make the operating system look both vastly different yet not entirely unfamiliar. The button and icon design has been flattened so that there are no false contours, making everything look sharper.

For the first time ever, the operating system’s font has been changed from Lucida Grande to Helvetica Neue which is a little easier on the eyes. Finder window menus are now translucent, matching up with the image backgrounds on your desktop. The refreshed dock has gotten a slight makeover with newer flatter-looking icons as well as a new trash can. Yosemite also features a “dark mode”, which gives you the option to eschew translucency for dark gray toolbars.

Notifications

Notification Center has been updated with a new look that borrows its black transparent design from iOS’s pull down notification pane. Apple has divided its Notification Center into two different categories. One shows notifications as you were used to them before, the other shows a “Today” view with a combination of upcoming events, current weather, reminders and stocks. To swap between the two, Apple’s added in tabs at the top to let you minimize the information shown at a glance.

Spotlight

The new Spotlight search and file browsing in general have been greatly improved. Previews of animated GIFs now automatically animate in the preview pane. And if Spotlight is your default application and file launcher, you can hit Command + Space to pull up the search bar and pick out your query instead of hunting for the exact location of the file you’re using. When you go through this, the search pops up in a small pane directly at the center of your screen which makes more sense than the old search bar which was in the top right corner of your screen.

The new update isn’t just conveniently situated, but it could turn Spotlight into your default way of searching for information that you’d normally go to a browser for. You can now convert units, bring up full contact info, look something up on Wikipedia or even search for food nearby. Apple’s even worked Spotlight into the address bar of the revamped Safari browser to give users a one-stop shop for search across the web and local files.

Mail

OS X Yosemite’s Mail app gets a cleaner design as well as a slick new feature, Mail Drop. This allows you to bypass attachment size constraints by uploading files that are too big and sending the recipient a link.

Safari

Safari browser has been updated for continuity with the browser’s window carrying over the translucency seen in other areas of the operating system. Favorites are now hidden by default, but you can access these by clicking on the address bar.

Sharing links to social networks has been simplified with a one-click process and RSS feeds will show in the browser's sidebar.

AirDrop

AirDrop in Yosemite now works with iOS so iPhone owners can easily transfer files to the Mac and back. OS X Yosemite features the ability to recognize work being done in iOS that you might want to continue on the desktop. Once an action is detected on iOS, Yosemite will create an icon on the desktop to remind the user to complete the task. This sensing ability also extends to creating a tethered connection, as your iPhone will now appear as a connection option in the WiFi dropdown.

Make and receive calls

Once connected to your iPhone, Yosemite will prompt you with notifications to answer or ignore incoming calls, both audio and video. The OS will even allow users to click on a number within a website to dial it directly.

OS X Yosemite isn’t finished, but overall it demonstrates a more mature and subtle approach in its user interface as well as a more versatile operating system. For now, Apple is making OS X Yosemite available as beta for developers, but you can expect the full version this fall, when you will be able to download it for free. Looking to learn more about Apple and their products? Call us today for a chat.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic Apple Mac OS