Keep your cool
We know it’s not the time of year you want to be thinking about your computer security – but it’s exactly the time you should keep it in mind! Scammers, spammers, and hackers don’t take vacations – and many know that summer is the busiest time of most retailers’ year – so the warmer weather brings a surge of viruses, ransomware, skimmers, and other malware along with your rush in sales. Learn how to keep your store protected from these threats.
Keep an eye on security: There’s a lot to think about when it comes to computer security. But just like you wouldn’t leave the doors to your store unlocked when no one’s there or go without a security system, you also shouldn’t leave your computers defenseless.
- Back up, back up, back up! We know we say it a lot, and we probably sound like a broken record, but this is absolutely the most important thing you can do for your shop. Database backups are the only way we can get you back up and running in a worst-case scenario.
- Use Ascend’s Scheduled Back Up tool to automate this daily task, and keep an eye on your notifications to catch any failures fast. Having a lot of failures? Check out our knowledge base article for troubleshooting tips.
- Keep your backups off-site. At an absolute minimum, you should back up to an external drive – this way, if something happens to your computer’s hard drive, you’ll still have easy access to get restored ASAP. But what happens if there’s a fire, flood, or other damage to or theft from the store itself?
Remote folders or “cloud” services allow you to back up to a folder on your computer, which is then synced with a web server so that you always have a copy accessible from anywhere. Just make sure someone with access to the remote service is available at all times – if someone at the store can’t access the backups, we can’t get you restored!
However, nothing is 100% failure proof – check your remote folder/service often to ensure it’s still syncing files as expected. Ascend’s scheduled backup alerts can only tell whether or not the backup to the local folder was successful.
- Stay up-to-date. Windows®, Ascend, antivirus/anti-malware, web browsers, and any other program or device on your computer should always be on the current version. Viruses often take advantage of security “loopholes” in older software and operating systems to gain access to your systems. Whenever possible, use auto-update features.
- Beef up passwords. We know it’s easy to remember, but password1234 is also easy for hackers to guess. Make sure you’re using a strong password (a combination of numbers, symbols, and letters – upper AND lower case) for all accounts, don’t re-use passwords across accounts, and DO NOT store your password list unencrypted on your computers. If you need help coming up with and/or remembering passwords, there are plenty of password manager services available.
- Use a firewall. You don’t need anything fancy – the built-in Windows® Firewall does a decent job of blocking unwanted network traffic. Just make sure you’re not ignoring its warnings.
- Block pop-ups. Most modern web browsers come with a built-in pop-up blocker option, and they generally enable it by default. If you’re not sure how to check, look in your browser program’s help, or Google “pop up blocker + browser name.”
- Don’t get click-happy. If something pops up on your screen – even if it’s within a program you trust, like Ascend or Microsoft® Word – make sure you’re reading the entire message before you click anything. Don’t open or download anything suspicious, such as emails from unknown sources or random download prompts. Even if something claims your computer’s at risk, don’t accept or download without checking with an IT professional first!
- Zap viruses & malware. Make sure you have antivirus and/or anti-malware detection software running and set to scan the entire computer on a regular basis (at minimum weekly).
Almost any reputable software is fine – however, we have run into the programs McAfee and Norton blocking a little too much without allowing some of the settings necessary to run Ascend, so we don’t recommend using either of these programs.
- Separate your signals. While it’s best not to run Ascend over a wireless (wifi) network in the first place, we understand that it’s sometimes necessary. If this is the case, make sure your Ascend network is segregated from the network your customers and/or employees connect to. Most modern wireless routers allow you to set up a guest wifi network specifically for this use.
Your server isn’t the only computer that’s at risk – many viruses and intrusions can spread from just a single computer on your network, so follow these steps for each and every one of your computers!
And while we’re always more than happy to help our retailers with not-quite-Ascend-related questions, please keep in mind that we’re trained only in the ins and outs of Ascend – not in full networking or IT standards. If you need assistance implementing any of these measures, please contact a local IT professional or computer service company.
Workstations done right: Do you have new workstations for the summer? Are you a DIY-er? Follow this handy checklist for hassle-free setup at any time – no need for a call to support!
- Configure Windows® to our recommended settings. This will head off most setup problems from the start!
- Install and configure the Ascend client.
- Add and assign unique workstation names to each computer. Not only will this give you better reporting, but most peripherals require a separate workstation name so that they can set their options correctly.
- Install and configure any peripherals the workstation needs.
- Calibrate barcode scanners (no driver required).
- Epson receipt printer. (optional) Add a logo to your receipts.
- If you have a cash drawer, simply plug it into your receipt printer and make sure you check Options > Sales and Returns > General > Workstation has Cash Drawer.
- Ingenico payment terminal. (optional) Display custom images on the screen.
- Zebra label printer.
- Run through a “fake” transaction to verify everything’s working as expected before you have a line of customers in front of you!