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News

BIS Consulting Exhibiting At 82nd TACA Conference

This Sunday, June 12th, the 82nd Tax Assessor-Collectors Association of Texas Annual Conference arrives at the Waco Convention Center, and runs until Thursday, June 16. For 2016 the TACA’s theme is “REACHING OUT, TO RISE UP”, designed to remind and encourage us that we should “REACH OUT” to meet and exceed the needs of our county, colleagues, and employees, and by doing so, we will “RISE UP”.

BIS Consulting is pleased to announce that our team will be attending the conference with a vendor booth. We will be on hand during the conference to answer questions about our services, as well as giving live demonstrations. Look out for our stand and be sure to drop by to say hello, to put a face to a name, and take a look at what we offer! We will be presenting on Sunday evening at 6pm in the Exhibit Hall where you can also enjoy refreshments, but don’t worry if you don’t get to see us on the Sunday as the conference agenda also includes regular morning and afternoon Exhibit Hall breaks. We look forward to seeing you there!

Game Changer Guest Speaker: Chad Prather


Chad Prather has been described as a native Georgian and born-again Texan, that has a little something to say about everything. Actually, he has a lot to say! Chad is the host of Ride TV’s “It’s My Backyard,” an equine talk show shot on location throughout the nation which hosts a relaxed and comedic interview style. He started by delivering short, two minute Youtube videos typically shot from his truck detailing his opinions on life, culture, and family; other videos include bite-sized inspirational videos.

In the summer of 2015, Chad released a viral video titled “Unapologetically Southern”. The video was prompted by an insulting message that Chad received about his southern accent, stating that he did not sound intelligent In his response, he politely reminded the sender of the message that you shouldn’t judge a book by its cover, nor a person by their accent. Chad has since been interviewed by Fox News, Country Living Magazine, MSN, Southern Living Magazine, and many others. Chad being “unapologetically southern” proved to be his game changing influence on the world and is now using this platform to entertain, enlighten, and encourage.

BIS Consulting is proud to announce that Chad will be speaking at the 2016 BIS TechCon, which is being held from Tuesday, November 29th to Friday, December 2nd at the Embassy Suites in Frisco, Texas. This year’s theme is “Be A Game Changer” and we will explore how to change our own game for the better through a number of informative classes, networking, and most importantly, FUN! For more information on the 2016 BIS TechCon, please visit the conference website at http://www.bisconsultants.com/techcon/ where you can register online or call us at 800-247-9045.

See you at BIS TechCon on November 29th. For now, you can see Chad’s game changing YouTube video below.

Using The GIS Database

A GIS, or Geographical Information System, is designed to handle spatial or geographical data. The information can be captured, stored, analyzed, processed, and manipulated to build reports for all manner of purposes. Sometimes, the data provided by the GIS is used as a framework for further reporting, such as a recent GIS Services’ poster comparing the 2015 Rowlett tornado with one that touched down in 1959.

Bre's PosterThe Rowlett tornado touched down on December 26, 2015. The GIS team was able to use the data to estimate the likely economic land cost of the tornado at $2.7 billion. The 1959 tornado was on the ground for almost fifteen miles longer than the 2015 tornado but was a lesser EF2 storm (the 2015 storm was a EF4 category); it caused less damage at an estimated $1.9 billion in today’s terms. These numbers are impressive but cannot convey the damage and loss of life caused by tornadoes.

 

Bre Callear from our GIS Team explained that she was interested in looking at the impact of the 2015 tornado because it occurred close to BIS Consulting’s office and at an unusual time of year. By looking through historical tornado data, she noticed that the 2015 and 1959 tornadoes happened in a very similar part of Texas. The team loaded the path of each tornado into the Esri ArcMap software to see that the southern parts overlapped, which led to the comparison between the economic damage caused.

Collin Poster

Collin King, also from our GIS team, has used the tornado data to produce a poster but this was instead designed to determine the safest quadrant to live in Dallas County based on four factors – the safest quadrant was based on coverage, on injuries and fatalities, on the average magnitude of the storm, and ground covered by the tornado per casualty. Collin imported data from the Storm Prediction Center and Government Land Office. Each tornado track was clipped into its respective quadrant and the numbers crunched to answer the questions. The results show that the Northwest quadrant has the least chance of a tornado hitting you based on coverage, but it has the highest ratio of injuries and deaths by land mass. The Southeast quadrant has the lowest average magnitude of storm and ground covered. The Southwest, the safest, has the lowest injury and fatality rate, and best ratio of acreage to injuries and fatalities.

In these two examples, that were presented at SCAUG 2016, the GIS team used tornado data combined with the GIS database for further analysis. However, Bre explained that the data may be combined with many other sources and tasks, but “…the difficulty is finding complete and usable data.”

If you have an idea of what the team can investigate next, let us know in the comments below.

BIS Consulting TechCon 2016 Now Open For Registration

Email Banner - Reg Open-01

The wait is over! BIS TechCon, our second annual conference geared towards appraisal and tax professionals, is now open for registration. Last year, one in five appraisal districts attended and this year we are expecting to be twice as big.

The theme for 2016 is “Be A Game Changer” and we’ll be bringing you a number of interesting and exciting game changing guests, including Unapologetically Southern, Chad Prather. We’re covering a range of topics and subjects based around motivation, reinvigoration, and disruption. Our motivational speakers will remind you that some of the best companies in the world succeeded by trying something different and changing their game. Our classes will guide you on how you can change your game and make a difference in your office and field of work.

Included in your registration is a nightly happy hour with free drinks, team building activities, networking, chances to win outrageous prizes, dinner Thursday night followed by dancing & drinks with an exclusive DJ that you won’t want to miss.

As requested by last year’s attendees, we’ve added an extra day to the conference. Mark your calendars and meet us at the Embassy Suites in Frisco, Texas November 29 – December 2, 2016!

For more info, check out our TechCon page here, email us at conference@bisconsultants.com or call us at 800-247-9045.

Surviving A Ransomware Attack

Ransomware

What is Ransomeware?

Ransomware is the term used to describe malicious code or applications designed to lock users out of their data and demand money in order to release it. An attack typically encrypts the data in one or more drive folders, making it inaccessible without the necessary encryption key, which the authors demand a bounty for. Worst, the ransomware often leaves a single accessible file or two for the purposes of spreading the infection (on a network drive) and providing instructions of how to contact the hackers to pay money to obtain your data. Some ransomware attacks prevent the computer from booting up and instead display the hacker’s demands.

Preventing Ransomware

How can we protect ourselves against ransomware? There are two sides to this – prevention and cure and as the old saying goes, “prevention is better than cure.” Preventing an attack is easier than having to deal with the aftermath and here there are some basic rules to follow. These are the same basic anti-virus rules to follow because ransomware is a type of computer virus. The first means of preventing a ransomware attack, therefore, is to ensure that your antivirus software is properly configured. This means ensuring it is quickly and continiously updated and it is set to run a full machine virus scan at least once a week, ideally when the computer is otherwise idle so as not to disrupt users.

Another part is to ensure that desktop and server operating systems are kept up to date – don’t ignore those Windows Update notifications! Keeping the operating system up to date ensures that all security patches are applied, which can help prevent system vulnerabilities from being exploited. Again, computers can be set to apply software updates when idle so as not to disrupt the user.

It’s important for businesses to ensure that the router is securely locked down, as a compromised router can potentially grant hackers access to your network. This means navigating to the router address on your network, logging in and changing the settings from here.

If you weren’t expecting it, don’t touch it!

The final part of the prevention side of ransomware protection is that of the users: here, it is important that individuals understand their responsibilities, but it is also important that we disallow certain websites and functions that could easily allow a virus to slip through. This means not downloading unexpected attachments including Word documents, Excel sheets and, especially, ZIP files. It’s possible to block most of these messages or websites from opening. Also, users should not click unexpected links in emails. If you weren’t expecting it, don’t touch it!

To summarise; prevention means keeping your antivirus and operating system updated, locking down your router and keeping control of where users browse to and what they click on. However, there is some good news: clients using the BIS IT Maintenance plan benefit from our team taking care of these issues for you! We ensure your virus scans are completed, Windows Updates are pushed to devices, and for Exchange clients, we configure the Trend Micro web and spam filters to keep malicious content away from web pages and emails. We even check your router configuration to keep it safe and secure.

Curing Ransomeware

Okay – so despite your best efforts, something snuck by and now you have a ransomware attack on your hands. First things first: BIS does not negiotiate with hackers and we don’t believe you should too! The next thing to do is to secure the problem and stop the spread of the virus. This may mean isolating a machine from the network, which if it is a network folder, might mean preventing access to this part of the drive. Look for a cleansing tool online to remove the virus from infected files before you consider recovering your data otherwise you can simply catch the same infection a second time.

Paying for your data is rewarding their malicious attack on your data. It is better to discourage their activity by recovering your data, but this does not mean attempting to decrypt the files. Instead, we recommend restoring the last known good copy of the data – it means securely wiping the infected files from the drive and restoring from the last known good backup.

Here again for BIS IT Maintenance clients, the team here will restore your workstation and server’s data and important files from our verified backups. Our systems regularily backup your computers, including the contents of the My Documents, to allow for the information to be restored should the worst happen.

More about BIS IT Maintenance…

Although 2015’s Snapchat photo leak put online security into the headlines, BIS Consultants have been keeping clients data and infrastructure safe for a lot longer. If you are worried about online security and would like to know more about the BIS IT Maintenance, you can call us on 800-247-9045 or email us at either bmartin@bisconsultants.com or bkay@bisconsultants.com.

BIS is headed to Corpus!

Our GIS staff will be attending the 26th Annual South Central Arc User Group Conference, April 18-22, 2016 in Corpus Christi, Texas. This annual technical education conference provides training, workshops, technical sessions, and user presentations in the scope of ArcGIS and other GIS products. ArcGIS is an Esri product that represents the three views of GIS: Geodatabase, Geovisualization, and Geoprocessing. This enables GIS users to utilize critical elements of GIS in differing levels in all GIS applications.

At SCAUG, the BIS GIS team will attend this conference to present their work on map posters at the Abstract Map Gallery as well as to stay up-to-date on the ever-evolving field of geographic information system. We are also a proud sponsor of the event and will be there to demonstrate our GIS services and share information about our Texas County GIS Data website, where you can download GIS mapping shapefiles with property data for counties in Texas.

Visit Texas County GIS Data

Will you be at SCAUG 2016? Click here to learn more about the conference.

SCAUG 2016, Texas County GIS Data, BIS Consulting

If You’re Not Happy It’s Your Fault

 

Brandon Kay, BIS Consultant’s joint Chief Executive Officer, recently stood up to present in front of a full audience at our first ever TechCon and announced: “If you’re not happy with BIS, it’s your fault.” The room fell silent and BIS employees nervously looked at one another. Eventually, a ripple of laughter erupted across the room. Surely, Brandon didn’t actually mean that? It was a joke, right?

It might have been a Freudian slip, but there is more than a grain of truth in the statement: if we are not happy with the level of service received from a business, it is partially our fault.

It’s an unfortunate fact of life that not everything goes as smoothly as we would like. However a potential disaster is a way to differentiate between good and exemplary customer service. Good customer service means getting it right first time but exemplary customer services means that when things don’t go as planned, they are made right quickly, efficiently and the same mistakes are not repeated. As a culture, if we receive poor service we tend to complain to everyone -our coworkers, our friends, our family, Facebook- everyone, that is, except the company. If we expect the company to make things right then we have a responsibility to tell them what went wrong.

2015 was a very successful year for BIS culminating in our first annual TechCon. Over 120 attendees from almost 50 CADs descended upon Frisco. We ran numerous training sessions covering subjects from IT to GIS and everything in between. Not everything went smoothly, but we had fun, we addressed every bump in the road with a smile and we’ve learned a lot. We’re planning to be back for another client conference December 2016 and it’ll be bigger and better than ever!

And if you are asking, yes we will let Brandon present at the next conference! If you ‘d like to come see what our CEO’s will blurt out say next, send us an email for conference info. But, more importantly, if you are a client of ours and you are not happy please tell us. If you don’t let us know where we are missing the mark then we won’t know that something needs to be fixed.  Email us at admin@bisconsultants.com  or call us at 800-247-9045  or even leave a comment here.

 

BIS Completes GIS Data Cleansing

topology

Databases are ultimately only as useful as the information they contain and the same is true of the GIS, or Geographical Information System, that BIS operates.  GIS is used to capture, store and retrieve mapping information and can be used to show many different kinds of data for clients. However, when errors creep into the collected data this can distort reports including maps generated from the information. Two examples include how mapping polygons interact with one another: they should not overlap nor leave a gaps between the shapes, as this can cause land to either be double counted or overlooked. To this end the BIS GIS team recently completed a topology data cleansing service, which is to apply topology fixes to the information in our databases.

The result? We removed over fifty thousand errors from thirty three counties in our databases. The main benefit of this process was to remove errors from reports and database queries but it also improved the aesthetics of generated maps and makes editing the information a smoother, cleaner and quicker process. At BIS Consulting we take pride in our work and we want you, as our client, to be confident when you are using your map or sharing it with others.

For more information on what our GIS department can do for you please contact Kenneth Weismuller at kweismuller@bisconsultants.com or call 1-800-247-9045 ext 120

Six New Counties Map Data Ready For Immediate Download!

Our subsidiary site, Texas County GIS Data, just recently completed work on six new counties. Hartley, Montgomery, Lamar, Freestone, Fayette and Burleson Counties are all available for immediate download today!!
Click the image to go to the site.
hartley

Freestone CAD’s Website is Live!!

 

2016-01-03 23_21_36-Freestone Central Appraisal District

Freestone CAD has been part of the BIS Family for about two years now. We are pleased to announce that they’ve recently added website design to their growing list of BIS services. Freestone CAD now has a place to conveniently direct their taxpayers to for important information. CAD announcements and alerts, all of the latest forms, ARB information, directions and contact info are just a few of the items listed on the site.  In addition there are links to the districts property search, online protest and GIS interactive map.

The CAD as well as the taxpayer will love the convenience of being able to use the website from any device. Not only will the website help with communication between the district and the taxpayer, but it will also keep the CAD in compliance with state requirements. Check out Freestone CAD’s new website HERE.

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