October 2019


In This Newsletter

Safeguarding Yourself and Your Organization Against Ransomware Attacks

Understanding Auto-Backups and the Windows 'Temp' Folder

Automatic Nomenclature Updating Keeps Projects Current with Evolving Catalogs

AVAproject Tip: Advanced Hardware Settings

Watch AVAproject Tip Video!

Safeguarding Yourself and Your Organization Against Ransomware Attacks

Ransomware strikes are on the rise. Organizations and their employees need to be aware of how to protect themselves against these increasingly common forms of attack.

News of ransomware attacks have been increasing dramatically in recent years. Organizations, both large and small, have fallen victim to them. Computer networks are infiltrated with malicious software that renders software and data unreadable, followed by a ransom demand promising to restore it.

Even government agencies aren't immune to the onslaught. In 2018, five separate government departments in the city of Atlanta were left without the use of their computer and network for an entire week. As recently as August, twenty three government organizations in Texas were also hit by a coordinated ransomware attack. Not wanting to encourage future attempts, neither state has indicated whether or not they paid the ransom, but clearly both incurred exceptional costs - just in terms of disruption.

On September 20th, Campbell County Health of Wyoming fell victim to a ransomware attack that resulted in the cancellation of surgeries and various other outpatient procedures. Everything from the cancer center's radiation treatments to respiratory therapy and even blood draws were placed on hold. The potential effects of computer-based attacks that can immobilize entire organizations can be utterly devastating.

It's clearly become incumbent on organizations and the employees to protect themselves against these increasingly common forms of attack. Standard network security measures such as firewalls and anti-virus have proven largely ineffective in routing the spread of infectious malware. What's required is better understanding on the part of administrators and users alike of how ransomware is propagated and how to safeguard against it.

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Understanding Auto-Backups and the Windows 'Temp' Folder

The Windows 'Temp' folder provides temporary storage for a variety of file types, including auto-generated backups. Recent updates to Windows 10 have made this folder more temporary than ever.

Most Windows users are at least nominally aware of the 'Temp' folder. Normally located on the operating system drive, it's a folder that is used to hold files on a temporary basis. Hence the name. Such files typically include software updates and other files intended for a single or very limited number of uses. Often times software updates are delivered as compressed packages of files that need to be "unpacked" prior to installation; the 'Temp' folder is the place where this interim step is performed.

Automatic or "background" backup processes in software applications may also use the 'Temp' folder to hold copies of files that are made as a precaution against unexpected shutdown or system crashes. They are placed in the 'Temp' folder because they are not expected to be needed except in situations where the original file has become damaged or deleted. When those situations do arise, the expectation is that the user will replaced the lost or damaged file with the backup from the 'Temp' folder.

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Automatic Nomenclature Updating Keeps Projects Current with Evolving Catalogs

The 'automated nomenclature update' feature in AVAproject allows estimators and project managers to keep project data consistent with changes to product catalogs.

The last fifteen years have seen an extraordinary amount of change and upheaval in the architectural openings industry. The acquisitions and consolidations of major brands are akin to tectonic shifts that have reshaped the entire commercial landscape. This inevitably resulted in a wide variety of changes to individual product lines, their market positioning and their path through distribution.

Of the many side effects of these dramatic changes is the evolution of nomenclature used to specify and ultimately order architectural products. Nowhere is this more prevalent and apparent than amongst the various hollow metal door and frame manufacturers. While there are certainly variations in the types and range of products offered from one manufacturer to another, there remains a necessary group of core or essential products. Basic frames ranging from the common three-sided to the myriad of side lite and elevation options, are typically offered in similar configurations with nearly identical material selections. The nomenclature used to describe these nearly identical frames varies far more than is generally imagined.

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AVAproject Tip: Advanced Hardware Settings

A cornerstone of the AVAproject detailing and estimating system is the extensive library of architectural product catalogs available to provide essential product and pricing information. The AVAware hardware catalogs offer more details than even the manufacturers' printed price books, on which they are based. Product codes and descriptions are supplemented with extensive details such as handing rules, keying capability and finishes in either BHMA or ANSI. Each product is categorized using AVAware's library of DHI-standards. Even the necessary Door and Frame preparations required to install the various products are attached.

Individual product codes or "nomenclature" is built according the rules set forth by product manufacturers. The individual option codes and the sequence in which they are arranged are taken directly from the manufacturer's printed price books.

Despite the care given to reproduce the manufacturers' nomenclature exactly, there are situations when estimators or specification writers may prefer to substitute their own, or perhaps supplement the standard product code with additional details. It's for this reason that AVAproject offers the ability to "override" the predefined product information when required.

This feature can be enabled for a given project, by selecting the "Allow manual override" option from the 'hardware' tab of 'Project Conventions' dialog.

Once enabled, an additional option button labelled 'advanced' is offered in the hardware product builder. This button provides access to all the additional information carried with the AVAware catalog with respect to the selected hardware product. Everything from the product code and description, to the handing rules, default finishes, product category and door and frame preparations are displayed and available to be modified.

For convenience, the catalog default value for each field is noted in parenthesis next to it. When a field value is modified to something other than the default, the text is displayed in blue to identify it as a one that has been "overridden".

The product code and corresponding description are "free-form" text boxes. Estimators and detailers may substitute any nomenclature they prefer in place of the standard catalog syntax - even obfuscate the product code entirely.

Other fields offer drop down lists from which other values may be selected. For these, the choices offered match those given on the hardware list and group screens. Once again, when a selection is made that does not match the default, the text color changes to blue.

The blue text color is carried into the hardware list or group when a hardware product with manually overridden data is displayed. Any field data that has been modified from the catalog default is clearly identified by its text color.

Should the need arise to revert back to the standard catalog nomenclature - perhaps when generating material lists for billings or purchase orders, all the manual changes throughout the project can be instantly undone simply by deactivating the "Allow Manual Override" option in the 'Project Convention' dialog.

All the manual changes are retained however, and one may switch back and forth between them and default values simply by toggling the "Allow Manual Override" option.

This flexibility allows detailers and estimators to present the product information using the nomenclature they prefer when generating reports, while retaining the standard catalog format for the purpose of ordering and inventory.

AVAproject Tips now feature accompanying overview and demonstration videos courtesy of the AVAware production team.

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