No More Passwords?

No More Passwords?

No one likes those clunky passwords we use at work, home, and online. And most of us tend to forget a lot of them, especially with auto-save features on so many platforms. But now there’s good news for forgetful web users with a new standard that could do away with your old passwords.

The World Wide Web Consortium is the organization that creates internet standards and arbitrates major disputes. They’ve approved a new protocol called “web authentication” which could soon replace traditional passwords online with things like USB keys, smart devices, or biometrics like face I.D. or fingerprints. The Consortium says passwords that are stolen, are too weak, or left as “default” are to blame for 81% of data breaches.

Now, if a site supports the new “web authentication”, you can get in using USB or biometric confirmation, with no need to type in a password, giving us a look at what a password-free world might look like.

Many big companies are already joining up to create new password-free authentication protocols led by Silicon Valley. Google has already replaced most of its password-driven security with a set of physical security keys to access computers, and it’s paying off big, eliminating breaches throughout the company. And experts say the technology has the potential to go even farther, with a set of standards possibly spurring innovation and lowering the cost of the devices to access sites without passwords. “Web authentication” is already enabled system-wide on Chrome OS and Windows 10, and on the most commonly-used web browsers, like FireFox, Chrome, and Safari. So if you’ve been wanting to ditch your passwords, we are almost there.


NCR Counterpoint Supports Windows 10

NCR Counterpoint Supports Windows 10.

It is getting harder and harder to find and install the tried and true Windows 7 operating system. And like Windows XP before it, it will soon be obsolete and unsupported. In comes Windows 10, which I see as a kind of mash between the best of Windows 7 with a feel of Windows 8. NCR Counterpoint versions 8.5.2 and above are certified for use with Windows 10. As with all changes, there is a little learning curve to Windows 10, and like the previous version of the Windows OS, there’s usually more than one way to accomplish the same task. Windows 10 aims to be more user-friendly by giving the user more of an On/Off or Yes/No type options depending on where you are making changes. There is still the old Control Panel as before, but Windows 10 has added the “PC Settings” which gives you more of an explanation of what you are trying to change and an option to search for a specific setting unlike the regular control panel. There are many other helpful and useful features in Windows 10 which can be found on the Internet. Before upgrading or replacing any equipment to run Windows 10, be sure to check your other hardware (i.e. printers, network cards, devices) that they are compatible or that the manufacturer has updated drivers that will work.

As mentioned NCR Counterpoint is Windows 10 ready, and NCR is now offering both the XR7 and XR5 all in one terminal with Windows 10 preinstalled.

For any question about running Windows 10 in your NCR Counterpoint environment, please call the CCS Retail Systems Support Department at 800.672.4806 or email us.


Automatically Applying Windows Updates on Servers.

Automatically Applying Windows Updates on Servers.

It is important to apply updates to your Windows server. These updates help to keep your system secure and running at peak performance.

I do not recommend automatically applying these updates on your server, though. It is much better to set Windows updates to either “notify”, or “download updates and notify”. The biggest problem with automatically installing updates is having the server reboot. This may occur automatically. Even if the time for installing updates is set to sometime in the middle of the night, when you are off the system, such a reboot may occur later, when you are on. I have seen this in cases where the updates took a long time to install. Also, however, the reboot may be delayed. If for example, a user is left logged in on the console, the reboot may be delayed until after the user is logged off. Of course, that would typically occur when you are open and using your server. Also, some updates are installed when shutting down or starting up. I have seen such updates take an hour, or more, to install. Your server is unavailable during that time.

In addition to inconvenient restarting of your server, occasionally an update may require additional attention. Although it is rare, there may be recommended setting changes, or other manual steps. It is best to know about these and be prepared to address them, instead of suddenly being confronted with a server that is not working as desired.

My recommendation, therefore, is to not automatically apply updates on your servers. Instead, make it a frequent task to check the updates that are released, and determine which should be applied. Then, after checking for any possible issues with your setup, or software, to install those updates at a time when the server may be rebooted if needed. Then check your system after they are installed, and rebooted if needed, to make sure your system and software are operating properly.

While that is my recommendation for servers, it applies to a lesser degree to your workstations, also. For workstations, you should determine if you can tolerate an unanticipated reboot, with some possible downtime. If resources permit, I recommend handling your workstations the same as your servers, and reserve updates for manual processing.


Windows Domain Networking

Windows Domain Networking

I have recently run into a few customers network domain issues.  When their Internet goes down so does the customers’ ability to run some of their software.

The reason for this is they have set up a Windows Domain controller node. You would think that this should not make that much of a difference but how you set this up can make all the difference.

There are pros and cons to Windows Domain.  If you are thinking about setting up your network in this way, you should weigh both the positives and negatives before you implement.

Here an example scenario.

There are 3 stores in a Domain.  The Domain Controller is located offsite at corporate headquarters. All stores have a connection to headquarters via the Internet and VPN.

As long as there is an Internet connection networking is functional.  When the Internet goes down, at either the stores or at corporate, the networking problems start.

A Windows Domain requires managing user accounts, Windows Updates, security and permissions to be centralized.  Being centralized, you can add, update, disable many different settings from one Server instead of going to each workstation to make these changes.  In medium and large companies can be a big time saver. That’s one of the pros of having a Windows Domain.  The big con in this scenario is, if the Internet goes down, the workstations now cannot authenticate to log in or resolve hostnames resulting in cascading issues. One of the biggest issues is that the workstations no longer have a way to “find” your application server on the network, so the software will not run.

There are a few different ways to approach resolving the issues mentioned above.   When your connection to your Domain Controller (or Internet) is lost, you will still be able to do business and get your customers through the checkout line.

If you are thinking of setting up a Windows Domain, or are already set up in a Domain, contact the CCS Support Department to help with setting up a fallback resolution when your Domain Controller (or Internet) is inaccessible.