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Facebook is for Sharing, Not Storing

Maybe it’s time to drop on into Kerikeri Paper Plus or the Hospice Op Shop to see if you can find yourself a nice, old fashioned photo album! Why? Because Facebook is for Sharing Not Storing!!

6 Ways to Reduce Your IT Costs

Being frugal is just good business practice. Sometimes it’s difficult to see what is best to cut, and what is NOT! Here are 6 ways to reduce your IT costs without increasing risk in your business.

5 Common Computer Myths Debunked

Common urban myths would have us believe alligators live in sewers or people put razor blades in kids’ candy. Common misconceptions about computers are just as persistent. Here are several IT myths debunked for your benefit.

Essential Windows Shortcuts

By gaining efficiency at your computer, you may find you have more time for what matters. Learning how to use shortcuts can make life so much easier when you are getting things done, and want them done fast!

Why Computer Repair Is Best Left to Experts

Why Computer Repair Is Best Left to Experts Here’s why computer repair is best left to experts Many of us have one solution to try when something goes wrong with our computers: turn it off and back on again. When that doesn’t work, we panic: “How am I supposed to do anything?” People often turn to a friend or family member for help in the moment. Here is why computer repair is best left to the experts. Calling Tech Support Calling tech support (if that’s an option) can be time-consuming and frustrating. So, people turn to the nearest teenager or that cousin with all the latest technological gadgets. Think of it this way, though: Driving a car doesn’t mean you can fix one. Having a lot of cars doesn’t show the owner knows what to do when one of those vehicles breaks down. Consider the investment you’ve made in your computer. Now, ask yourself: when was the last time I backed up? Please, say recently! If not, think about the value of the content you might lose if the computer is not handled with care. When a computer expert sets out to investigate the problem, they do so with utmost caution. Before doing anything, they’ll know to make a clone of your hard drive. Then, in identifying and solving the problem, they know what is safe to try. They also know what actions to avoid. The Price of Amateur Fixes  Your family/friend tech support might turn to the internet for help. Sure, Google and YouTube will provide some answers, but context matters. Will your oh-so-helpful friend know which answers are relevant to your situation? Trying different things can be dangerous if the approach isn’t suited to the problem. Ask any computer repair expert. They’ll have stories to tell about computers “fixed” by amateurs who made the problem worse. They may even have lost data along the way. Just as you wouldn’t turn to the Web to diagnose cancer, don’t trust just anyone with the health of your computer. Computer repair may look simple, but expert decision-making determines the best solution. What about a computer repair expert? As with most jobs, computer experts draw upon specialized training and hands-on experience. They’re also up on the latest threats, technologies, and solutions. This helps them to diagnose the problem more quickly. They can go in and fix the problem right away, because they’ve seen it before read about the problem. Or perhaps they have colleagues who have done something like this before, or they’ve researched the technology to identify different options. Can your Aunt Sue or friend Frank say the same thing? Think also of your typical answer when someone asks you for help. You’re human. You want to help, even if you don’t actually know that much about the problem. So, when you ask a family member, they’re likely to say, “sure.” Even when they should be saying, “I don’t know how to fix that.” When friends admit the repair is beyond them, you’ve already wasted time letting them take a crack at it. Worse, they may actually break your computer or lose important files. You have to go to the experts now for that new part or in the hope of retrieving the data. Meanwhile, you’re not feeling so friendly towards the person who created the new problem, are you? They may also feel annoyed that you didn’t pay them for their services. Repair isn’t always simple. Don’t jeopardize your relationships, and avoid doing more damage to your computer. Bypass the friend/family tech support solution and turn to the professionals first.  Fixing a computer isn’t always simple. Get expert help to preserve as much data as you can, and avoid expensive replacements as long as possible. Have computer problems? We can help. We do computer repairs for a living! And our experts are friendly, too. Contact us if you would like a little help with your computer repair. If you would like to find out more about our Dare to Dive Fundraiser, click here.

Would your Business Survive a Cyber Attack?

Would your Business Survive a Cyber Attack? “It won’t happen to me.” Cybercrime is not the most costly of illegal activities. That dubious distinction goes to government corruption, followed by drug trafficking. Cybercrime comes in third. Yet cybercrime does take the top spot when it comes to numbers of victims. A managed services provider can help. It won’t happen to me… A lot of businesses think that “it won’t happen to me”. They feel that they are too small or don’t have anything cybercriminals would want to be the target of a cyber attack.  However, small businesses are increasingly being targeted by cybercriminals. It might be time for your business to have a cybersecurity assessment to see how vulnerable your business is. We wrote an eGuide explaining what a cybersecurity assessment is, and what signs to look out for in the event you have already had a breach. Cybercrime has hundreds of millions of victims. Two-thirds of people online have experienced personal information theft or compromise. A 2018 McAfee Security study suggested that represents more than 2 billion individuals! If any of those people works at your business, it could mean trouble for your security, too. Why? People tend to think they have too many passwords to remember. So, they use the same login information again and again. That means a criminal could leverage employee data to access business systems, too. Cybercrime is a global problem for both individuals and businesses. The bad actors, after all, can make big bucks from their crime with low risk of discovery. The global cost of cybercrime is an estimated $600 billion a year. And no one and no business is immune. More people are going online. Businesses are becoming more reliant on digital transactions. Cybercriminals are quickly adapting. They’re motivated, but are you? Securing Your Business with an MSP It’s safe to say your Information Technology team has a lot to do. Everyone at your office is working hard, but is cybersecurity getting the attention it deserves? Ultimately, there is no better way to keep your systems secure than with managed services. So why an MSP? A managed services provider (MSP) helps your business stay ahead of security threats. Finding out about risks or vulnerabilities after the fact is no good. That’s like closing the barn door after the prize stallion has already bolted. An in-house cybersecurity team providing 24/7 protection isn’t workable for most businesses. It’s cost prohibitive for most small and mid-sized businesses. Working with an MSP is a more affordable alternative. You avoid investing in the latest technology and building up an on-premises infrastructure. Instead, you pay a consistent fee for the MSP to handle technology patching, monitoring, and assessments. The MSP uses well-tested, leading-edge tech to stay on top of cybersecurity threats. This strategic partner can: set up security on your infrastructure; oversee your company’s security systems; ensure regulatory compliance; track threats 24/7; maintain strong data protection. What about our Internal IT Team? An internal IT team oversees many areas, but the MSP focuses on continuous monitoring. It keeps up to date on the global threat landscape and any industry vulnerabilities. Still not convinced that paying an MSP is worth it? The average cost of a lost or stolen record was $148 per record in 2018. You might view working with an MSP as paying for insurance. With ongoing monitoring an MSP helps your business avoid security breaches. And their devastating costs (including to productivity, compliance, revenues, and brand reputation). This extension of your security staff helps maximize resource efficiency. And their day-to-day focus is on reducing risk and minimizing damage from cyberthreats. With an MSP you add dedicated security experts to your team. Secure your technology while gaining advanced threat intelligence and customized security strategies. A managed services provider identifies vulnerabilities and secures your business environment. Stay ahead of cybersecurity threats with an MSP. Find out more today! Click here to download the e-guide. or give us a call or email.

Business Efficiency Tips – Teams

It takes a village to turn ideas into realities. If you own a business or work as a manager this session is for you.  This session is a MUST for those wanting to get the most out of their Office 365 investment. Andrew is keen to share his knowledge about how to use Microsoft Teams Chat to help you make your working day, and your teams working day, so much more efficient.  Here is what we will cover: Making Internal comms with employees & contractors more efficient How to never end up on a different page – using audio and video or text chat options Two heads are better than one-  file & screen sharing  How to brainstorm with a group discussion or individuals  How to send completed files securely For future events click here. For other tutorials click here.

Business Efficiency Tips – Bookings

Attract new clients or manage regular appointments with ease. We are keen to share our knowledge about how to use Microsoft Bookings to help you easily attract new clients or ensure that you manage regular appointments in-house or with your existing clients. Here is what we will cover in this video: Delight your customers. Your customers will love the flexibility, convenience, and control they get with Bookings Save time. Microsoft Bookings gives you a fast, easy alternative to time-consuming, frustrating phone-scheduling. Use Outlook Customer Manager to help you track and grow your database. Decrease your no-shows with automatic reminders for customers and staff.  Add professionalism without having to hire someone else! Click here for future live tutorials. If you would like to see our live tutorial on Microsoft Teams, click here.

Avoiding Growing Pains — Tech Tips for a Thriving Business

Tech Tips for a Thriving Business Here are 4 tech tips for thriving businesses.   Maybe you started your business in a basement or home office. It was just you at the beginning. Then, your service or product gained traction. The number of staff grew, and you moved into an office. It’s amazing how far you’ve come. Better still, your business continues to grow. It may be time to consider some of these tech tips to help your thriving business. #1 Upgrade to Business-Grade Cloud Services Perhaps you’ve been relying on free software from Gmail, Outlook, or Dropbox. Who can argue with free email, calendars, collaboration and file storage right? Well, it may be time to upgrade to the business versions of the software your team relies upon. Move from Gmail to Google Apps, or Outlook to Office 365. For a small monthly fee, you gain business-grade features. The basic Office 365 offers business email, video and voice conferencing, secure team messaging, shared calendars, cloud storage and document, spreadsheet and presentation creation. Plus, you gain greater security and administration controls. #2 Revise your backup strategy A consumer-grade backup setup was enough when you were only dealing with one computer. Now that you have many computers, it’s worth enhancing your backup strategy. With 3-2-1 backup, your business has a minimum of three backups. Two would be onsite (but separate from one another) and the other offsite. We recommend the cloud. Having your backups in a unified location helps efficient recovery if disaster strikes. With cloud backup, your data is encrypted for storage in the cloud. You can set parameters for how often data is backed up and confirm that it is backing up correctly. Then, if something does go wrong, you can access essential data from anywhere, anytime via the cloud. #3 Consider Cloud-based Accounting Services Traditional small business accounting software requires a large database on the desktop computer. As more people need access to the database, the problems start. With multiple people accessing the accounting software: The network can slow when people try to access it remotely Changes can’t be made while someone else is in database Data can get mismatched depending on who has the “newest” version Cloud-based accounting packages address these challenges. With online accounting software, it’s easy for your business to scale. Business owners can connect to the data from any device with an Internet connection. Plus, in the event of a disaster, productivity won’t suffer as the information is safe and secure on the cloud. #4 Outsource your IT Your expanding technology allows you and your staff to do more than ever before. Great. But it also takes extra resources to monitor, manage, and secure it all. By outsourcing IT, your business gains IT expertise. Meanwhile, your in-house IT team can focus its efforts on driving growth. Outsourcing IT also provides long-term cost savings by reducing downtime, cutting infrastructure costs, and improving security to avoid costly cyber-attacks. Keep your business growth in check with an eye out for value-adding initiatives. Want to know more about the benefits of any of these tech tips? Give us a call or follow us on Facebook.

Why is My Brand New Laptop So Slow?

Why is My Brand New Laptop So Slow? Why is it running so slow? One of these might be the reason. Your old computer is beginning to slow down. So, you invest in a shiny new laptop. But now, your new computer is running slow. Everything will be faster and easier. Only, from the first day, the new laptop is lagging. Why is it running so slow? One of these might be the reason. #1 Not enough computing power.  In many cases, the laptop doesn’t have enough RAM (Random Access Memory). RAM is the computer’s main memory. This helps your computer do more at once. Information from the operating system, application programs and data are kept here, when in use, for quicker processing.  RAM is like the computer’s short-term memory, while the hard drive is the long-term memory. Just as the human brain can’t hold everything in short-term memory, RAM can get overloaded too. When this happens on your laptop, the computer processor needs to go to the hard drive. This slows things down. Resolution: You might see 4GB, 8GB, 16GB or more of RAM available. How much you need is going to depend on what you plan on doing with the computer. For a laptop with Windows 10, we recommend at least 8GB of RAM, but 16GB is more comfortable for a better experience. Not all laptops will let you access the RAM. When you can, though, upgrading memory can be quick and affordable. #2 Mechanical hard drive.  Often a single part is letting you down. With a less expensive computer, manufacturers skimp. While it’s less common these days, some laptops will come with a mechanical hard drive. You might think of this like a record player with a needle reading the vinyl album. Since something is moving to find data, the laptop runs slower than it would with a Solid State Drive (SSD), which has no moving parts.  Resolution: In many cases, a mechanical hard drive can be easily upgraded to an SSD. However, some super slim laptops have limited upgradability. #3 Bloatware.  Retailers like to tout all the bells and whistles that come with their laptops. So, when you turn on your laptop for the first time, you may notice there’s already a lot of software preloaded. Much of it you’ll probably never use. Maybe there are toolbars you don’t need, games you’ll never use, or stock widgets that you couldn’t care less about. These examples of bloatware slow down your computer. The third-party applications are a revenue source for the manufacturer, but don’t always help you. Microsoft, for instance, sells a line of computers that come without any pre-installed third-party software. Computerworld reported those PCs “start up 104% faster, shut down 35% faster and have 28 minutes more battery life.” Resolution: When you get a new laptop, check out the pre-installed software before you add your own. Determine what the existing software will do, and uninstall anything that you won’t want. If your laptop is slow on the first startup, this may be due to system updates. For instance, a Windows 10 automatic update to bolster the security of the computer. You can’t do much about these, but look on the bright side, your laptop security is current! Improved speed is a main reason to invest in a new laptop. Don’t let a lagging laptop disrupt your productivity. We can help with a slow running laptop. Instead of wasting valuable time waiting on a slow computer, give us a call. Keep up with our events on our Facebook page.

What Happens to Your Data When You Kick the Bucket?

What Happens to Your Data When You Kick the Bucket? Death is a morbid topic most of us try to avoid. Making a will and saying we prefer cremation is the extent of our advance planning. Yet, you may want to also think about what’s going to happen to your data. Consider your digital footprint. You have photos, files, and emails on your computer and your phone. You’re also documenting your life on social media, and sharing on more than one channel. Your wearable technology (say an Apple Watch or a Fitbit) may be recording information too. If you have a virtual assistant in your home, it’s recording your search history and saving that data on the cloud. Yet many of us never think “what will happen to my data after I die?” Do you want it deleted? Are there digital assets you want to share? Perhaps there is tangible value attached to some of your digital assets. At the very least, some photos and videos that may have sentimental value for those who survive you. So, let’s explore advance planning you can do to protect your digital legacy. Personal Files on Computer or Phone Your personal devices are password protected. While necessary, this makes it more difficult for your survivors.  Now, they could physically pull the computer or phone apart if needed. But, it’s easier to have a copy of your passwords in a secure place for someone to access in the event of your death. Another option is to use a password manager. You can designate someone as your backup contact. They will be able to gain access to your passwords should you die. Digital Media Collections Often, when you click the “Buy” button, you’re not really purchasing that movie or music forever. Your contract with iTunes, for instance, was only for your lifetime. Your rights expire at your death. Cloud Accounts Consider the personal and private data you have in the cloud, such as Google or Microsoft’s Outlook. This might include calendars, emails, GPS, documents and financial information. Google’s Inactive Account Manager lets you make plans for your account. You decide: When Google should consider your account inactive  What it should do with your data afterwards Whether to share account access with someone (providing email and phone number) When or if your account should be deleted. Microsoft won’t provide your passwords after death. However, via their Next of Kin process someone could be sent a DVD of the data in your outlook.com account.Other cloud providers ask for proof of death and of legal right to access. In Dropbox’s case for instance, your survivors will need a court order. Even with all this, there’s no guarantee your personal data is completely removed from the cloud. It may exist in other datasets in system backups. Social Media Accounts Social media companies do not provide login credentials. Many require proof of identity and a death certificate to deactivate the account. Facebook and Instagram will “memorialize” your accounts. The public can’t see, but Friends or Followers can still view it and post memories. You can assign a legacy contact to look after the account or have it deleted. You don’t want someone using your social account to send out spam or inappropriate photos. For instance, a sexy spambot took over a New York Times media columnist’s Twitter after his 2015 death. Plan ahead to protect your privacy and provide access where necessary. Think of the pain and heartache you can save your survivors by managing your digital legacy now. Want help preserving your data legacy? We can help. Have you heard? We are supporting Dare-to-Dive with Alzheimers Northand.

Let’s Raise some Dough for Alzeimers Northland

Let’s Raise some Dough for Alzeimers Northland We are taking part in Dare-to-Dive! We are taking part in Dare-To-Dive! We are am very excited to announce that we will be taking part in the Alzheimer’s fund raiser “Dare to Dive” Supported by MPRE Marketing. It’s a great challenge for individuals or business to do something AMAZING for Alzheimer’s Northland. How does it work? Business/individuals sign up and pledge to raise $600 for the local charity If we get past the $600 or more (hopefully more!), Skydive Bay of Islands throw’s a nominated person out of a plane at 12,000 ft! We have nominated Phil because he is usually the only person that ALWAYS says YES to the marketing manager and is also a total sweetheart with some of our clients who live well with dementia. Why are we doing this? It’s simple. One in five of us will suffer from some form of dementia in our lifetimes. So, it seems an easy choice to support those who care for so many of our community members and their families. We would really appreciate the support. Any donation would be absolutely amazing! Click here to donate. Thank you in advance for your support! P.S. WE DARE YOU TO DIVE TOO! Click here to find out more!

Are You Sick of Ongoing IT Issues?

Are You Sick of Ongoing IT Issues? Is your IT becoming an ongoing headache. Like a persistent cough or muscle strain that won’t go away, many IT issues prove ongoing. Every time they come back you think about getting an expert’s opinion. Then, the cough fades, you can walk freely again, or your computers are back up and running. You keep on going. Until the next time. If you’re sick of ongoing issues with your IT, look to a Managed Service Provider (MSP) for help. There are many IT ailments that can negatively impact your ability to do work. Let’s consider some of the particularly common ones, and why an MSP is a right prescription. #1 Network and Internet issues. Business is done online these days. Not being able to connect to the network and slow connections are frustrating. Without the Internet, how can you do your job? You can’t even check and send emails! Let alone access team documents or enter data into cloud-based accounting software. A lagging network also slows down application and data loading time. It may only be a few moments of thumb twiddling. But add that up over several times a day and multiple by employees. You’re looking at a decrease in productivity that adds up. An MSP has the know-how to survey the IT environment for what’s causing these frustrations. When there’s a problem, they’re at the ready to resolve it and help improve reliability. #2 Repeated malware infections. This can mean a couple of things. First, you don’t have effective system and application protections in place. These attacks shouldn’t be able to make it through the door in the first place. With the right firewalls, anti-spam, and protections, you should be able to keep your system on lock down. You don’t have to do this yourself. Your internal IT team has a lot to manage and monitor. Gain expert backup with an MSP reviewing your security protocols to keep the bad guys at bay. Secondly, educate employees about the dangers of social engineering. Don’t let them keep falling for the pretexts and downloading malicious files. Also, ensure passwords are strong enough to avoid adding another point of entry.  #3 Printing problems. Many businesses are printing less today, but we’re not done with hard copies entirely. So, when a printer starts whirring, spinning endlessly, or can’t connect, efficiency halts. Know that printers sold at big box stores are consumer grade quality. Avoid printer frustrations with solid business-class printers (which your MSP can identify). #4 Application overload. Maybe some of your employees prefer Dropbox. Others rely on their free Gmail accounts. This hodgepodge of options can cause chaos. Staff have difficulty remembering the passwords to all of the accounts they need. So, they simplify, and that makes their accounts more hackable.  Upgrading to business-grade versions of important applications is easier with an MSP. They’ll help identify the software that best addresses your business needs. #5 Aging technology. You’ve had your current computers for ages. They are slower than you’d like, but you don’t have the time to look for something else. Plus, you can’t imagine having to learn something new. You’re too busy. But aging tech is more likely to fail, which could prove catastrophic if you don’t have the right systems backup. MSPs know IT. Based on your individual business needs, they can suggest a plan of attack to update the IT and keep it secure. They can also provide backup strategies to prepare for the worst and recover quickly. Basically, a managed service provider has your back when it comes to IT. Work with experts who focus on technology day in and day out. You’ll typically save money and gain time to spend innovating in your field. If you would like more info or would like to chat to us about managed service provider support contact us here. Did you know we are raising money for Alzheimers Northland? Help us out by donating here.

Loving Your External Hard Drive

Loving Your External Hard Drive Here are some tips to make your external hard drive last longer. External hard drives are relatively cheap and a great way to move around data. However, they can be somewhat fragile. Here are some tips to make your external hard drive last longer. External hard drives free up storage, offer portability, and provide a lifeline in case of computer disaster. It pays to take good care of these compact, convenient devices. Here are some helpful strategies. 1. Don’t knock the drive. Depending on the type of drive you have, impact could damage it. The hard drive’s mechanical drives work a little like a record player. Envision a spinning platter and a needle reading it. Note, you don’t have to worry about this with a Solid State Drive (SSD) as there are no moving parts. 2. Don’t pull. You can damage the drive port with a hard or sideways yank on its USB plug. Remove the device cable with a gentle pull. It’s best to unplug the drive cable when it’s not in use. Then, when you are reconnecting the external drive, inspect the connector before plugging the cable back in. Look for any damage, debris, or corrosion to help maximize the device’s lifespan.  3. Don’t skip steps. You may be in a hurry, but always take the time to remove the hard drive from your desktop before physically unplugging it. On Windows, you’ll usually right click on the drive and press Eject. For Macs, you can drag the drive icon to the recycle bin (which changes to an eject button).  Never unplug the drive while moving data to or from the hard drive unless you want to risk data corruption. 4. Don’t suffocate the drive. Ever put your hand on the hard drive after prolonged use? It’s hot. Don’t immediately store it away in a bag or tight space. Give it some time to cool off first. When it’s out, and in use, keep the drive’s vents clear of other objects so that it has some airflow. Set it on a flat, level surface. Avoid placing it on paper, towels, or other cloth items that could add to its heat levels. 5. Don’t take the drive swimming. OK, you’re probably not going to do that. Yet it’s our way of reminding you that condensation is an enemy to your hard drive. Hard drive failures can be caused by environmental factors such as temperature and air quality too. 6. Don’t expect immortality or invincibility. A hard drive isn’t going to last forever. They aren’t built for that. They can also get lost or stolen. Don’t let one external hard drive be the only place you are backing up your data.Have a backup on your computer, on the drive, and a copy in the cloud. Then, you’ll always be ready to move on to a new drive that you will love with the same care and consideration outlined above.  If you need help deciding on the best hard drive for your needs, give us a call. Or find us on Facebook.

Building a Good Relationship with your Managed Service Provider

Good relationships are essential to your business success. Connections with customers, clients, vendors, suppliers, and service providers impact your bottom line. Here’s how to develop a strong relationship with your Managed Service Provider (MSP).

Is your business Vulnerable?

Is Your Business Vulnerable? MSP’s Myths Busted. Are Managed Services Providers Worth their Weight? There are a few common myths surrounding the topic of outsourcing your IT to a Managed Service Provider. In this article, bust these myths to help you decide whether partnering with an MSP is right for you. MSP Facts: Common Managed Service Myths — Busted Managed Service Providers (MSPs) are not the stuff of legends like minotaur’s and unicorns. Yet there are many common myths around managed services. These can cloud understanding of a MSP’s true value. Consider the facts to decide whether partnering with a third-party IT vendor is right for you. Myth #1: MSPs don’t understand our business. Not every MSP will understand your business, that’s correct. But not every MSP is the same. The right MSP examines your existing infrastructure and workflows. They’ll also meet with your people to understand their needs.  Hiring a MSP adds IT experts who can make specific technology recommendations. Meanwhile, your in-house IT team can focus on driving growth. Myth #2: Outsourcing to a MSP is too costly. Take a look at your IT budget today. Internal IT costs are typically high and often unpredictable. Managed services help you stay on top of your IT costs. Your business pays a simple, manageable monthly or quarterly fee. This makes IT operating expenses easier to budget. MSPs also provide long-term cost savings by: Reducing applications downtime Cutting costs of IT infrastructure Improving IT team productivity Implementing greater security to avoid costly cyber attacks Myth #3: Only enterprise-sized businesses can use MSPs. One common misconception is that only big corporations hire outsourced managed service professionals. In fact, small- to medium-sized businesses can benefit more from working with a MSP. After all, large businesses tend to have a dedicated IT to secure data and maintain its systems. Smaller companies have more difficulty competing for IT talent.  Outsourcing gives any business access to skilled IT specialists. They are specialists in securing data, managing networks, and user access. You get top talent and best practices, without having to add employees to your roster. “Recent market studies show that, when properly executed, managed services for IT can reduce in-house IT costs by upwards of 40 percent while simultaneously facilitating a 50 to 60 percent increase in IT efficiencies.” — Cisco Myth #4: You lose control of your business. Only if you hand it over to the MSP or don’t effectively manage your partnership with your provider. You should hire an MSP with an understanding of what level of control you want to retain. Lay out the relationship in a Service Level Agreement. This document should outline expectations, roles and responsibilities, and scope of services. Before hiring a MSP, look at client testimonials. Have others found the MSP works with businesses to only do what needs done? Ask prospective MSPs how they will keep you up-to-date about the work they do. Also, identify someone on your team to actively manage that MSP relationship.  Myth #5: You only use an MSP for security backup. Sure, backup and disaster recovery, are the primary service outsourced to MSPs. But that is not the only reason businesses turn to managed services. Other common managed services include archiving, networking, application management, and support services.   The MSP does the work your IT team finds tedious and your general employees care little about (but rely upon). Outsource monitoring and maintaining backend technology and routine, recurring tasks. You gain high quality, consistent IT support. And you improve the morale of your overworked, overextended IT team along the way. Business today relies on its technology to be successful. Big or small, your business can benefit. Free up internal IT teams to focus on more value-adding initiatives. Take advantage of a MSP’s expert help and powerful new technology.  Contact us if you think perhaps your business might be at risk. Find us on Facebook.

Keep your passwords safe

Considering how many unique passwords we’re expected to remember and use on a daily basis, password exhaustion is a very real thing. Keeping your password safe can feel a little uneasy is you use the same one over and over. It’s no wonder that when yet another prompt for a password appears, users enter easily guessed combinations like ‘abcd’ or ‘password’. This can be very dangerous!

What is the Best Way to Backup?

How a 3-2-1 backup strategy can save your business from data disaster. “That will never happen to me.” We get through our lives telling ourselves the worst won’t happen to us. It’s the same with business: “We don’t need this data backup.” Yet, whatever your industry, secure, reliable backup ensures business as usual. So, what’s the best way to backup?

OK Google, How Safe Are You Really?

OK Google, How Safe Are You Really? Having a smart speaker in your home means there is always an open microphone in your house. Are you using Siri, Google, or Alexa? When you talk to a home assistant, you join a growing number of smart homes. All the more important to have safety guidelines around microphones and virtual assistants. Smart home assistants search online, start phone calls, order groceries, play music, turn lights on. All with a single spoken command. Research into how people use Google or Alexa demonstrates the core features. Listening to music ranked first. Checking weather and asking for general information rounded out the top three. Setting timers and reminders, asking for the news or jokes (perhaps to make up for the news?) are also common.   Yet, the question remains, just how safe are these virtual assistants? After all, having a smart speaker in your home means there is always an open microphone in your house. Smart home assistants search online, start phone calls, order groceries, play music, turn lights on. All with a single spoken command. Research into how people use Google or Alexa demonstrates the core features. Listening to music ranked first. Checking weather and asking for general information rounded out the top three. Setting timers and reminders, asking for the news or jokes (perhaps to make up for the news?) are also common.   Yet, the question remains, just how safe are these virtual assistants? After all, having a smart speaker in your home means there is always an open microphone in your house. Smart Speaker and Home Assistant Safety Concerns The convenience of the speaker demands that it always be on, ready and waiting for you to say “Hey Siri” or “OK Google.” Once triggered the device records the command, sends the data to servers for processing, and figures out its response. Smart speaker users can log in to view the history of queries on their accounts. This prompts some concerns that these mega-companies will use the information for financial gain. For example, those talking about an overseas holiday might start seeing related ads on their computers. Someone hacking into the home assistant to gain access to your personal information is another concern. Those who set smart speakers as a hub for many devices also create more points of vulnerability. It’s difficult to anticipate all the ways the assistant could prove too good a listener. In one case, a voice assistant recorded a private conversation and sent it to the couple’s contacts list. Steps to Stay Secure with a Smart Speaker That candid conversation share aside, few big privacy flubs or personal data breaches have been reported. Nevertheless, if taking advantage of Alexa, Siri, or Google helper, keep these strategies in mind. Clear your history. Don’t leave everything you’ve ever asked it stored on the company server. The assistant will relearn your commands quickly. Connect with caution. It’s great to be able to turn on the TV and dim the lights without leaving the comfort of your sofa. Be wary of connecting security or surveillance devices to your home assistant. Mute the microphone. Yes, it undermines your ability to call from the closet “OK, Google, what’s the weather like today?” But, turning off the mic when it’s not in use stops recording without you knowing about it. Secure your network. Home assistants do their work by connecting to the Internet using your network. Ensure they are accessing a password protected network. They should use devices (e.g. modems) changed from default password settings. Watch a quick video on this topic. With a little effort you can gain convenience without worry.  Read more here.

Remote IT Will Create Tech That Works for You

Remote IT Will Create Tech That Works for You IT that boosts your day and doesn’t slow you down. There are few things as frustrating as IT issues getting in the way of your work. Even the simplest of problems can break your flow, ruin your productivity, and waste your time.  IT should be working to boost your day instead of slowing you down. Tripping up on a computer glitch can happen at any moment.  Working to fix one can take hours.  You might try a few steps that have worked before, ask a colleague for help, or try a web search to see what turns up.  All of these take time from you or your colleagues, and often make the original problem worse. When you outsource your help desk, your IT problems become our IT problems.  We take charge of righting the ship to keep your tech on the right track. Setting Up Your Business for Success Many businesses try a break/fix model to deal with IT issues.  This means waiting for problems to happen before contacting IT to resolve them.  Break/fix adds costs and downtime to every IT issue as they happen.  To us, this makes it an unacceptable long-term solution for business. The process of scheduling a mutually suitable time to visit, diagnosing the issue, and resolving every issue on a case-by-case basis is massively time-consuming.  Both IT technicians and in-house staff waste productive hours dealing with, often trivial, problems. We think that time could be better spent building your business instead. Your Personal Help Desk When you outsource your IT help desk, you get a custom service dedicated to resolving your issues fast.  Technicians with the knowledge and experience of years in IT can work without creating new problems or making the original issue worse.  In modern IT, knowledge and experience is the key to successful solutions. Many of the issues we resolve on a day-to-day basis are problems we have seen many times before on many different systems.  IT is our business, and we know it very well. How Outsourced IT Works For You Outsourcing your IT means simply submitting a ticket to have issues taken care of.  Having your own help desk to rely on means having help available exactly when you need it.  Waiting on a local firm, or nearby technician to become available should be a thing of the past. Queueing for an ‘advisor’, waiting on hold, and spelling out your problem over and over again is no fun for anyone.  There should be better ways your time can be spent.  There are certainly many ways firms can benefit more from ours. Submitting an electronic ticket to resolve your issue is an easy, one step, process.  Detail the problem once, email the ticket, and you can return to your work.  We’ll call you back to work on a solution when the timing best works for you. Managing Problems Remotely To resolve system issues, diagnose, update, or maintain systems, we often log in remotely and take ownership of the problem personally.  We’ve found there is little advantage to wasting time asking staff to find menus, click on links, and tell us what they see. We get straight to the heart of the problem and fix it there and then. Problems that tie up one or more machines for a long time can be scheduled for out-of-hours, holiday, or weekend fixes.  Large, system-wide updates or upgrades can be done remotely when they won’t get in the way. For staff, updates appear to happen without anyone around to see them.  You would be forgiven for thinking the IT is fixing itself. Our golden rule is to make sure IT works for you, not the other way round.  If you are wasting staff hours on hold, arranging meetings just for your tech, or structuring your day around simple problem solving, your firm could be upgraded in a flash. Read more here.

What Can An MSP Do to Kickstart Your Business

What Can An MSP Do to Kickstart Your Business Business today relies on technology in a way which we have never seen before.  It makes up the core of almost every firm currently in existence.  Today going digital impacts small companies more than large ones; it can make new opportunities possible and accelerate your path to success.  The advantages of modern technology to small business is likely to be present already within your firm, but so too are the disadvantages.  Faster transactions, quicker payment, accurate inventory, and improved customer outreach serve to boost our capabilities.  While complex set-up, systems management, and ever-present security threats hold us back from our full potential. Managed Service Providers (MSPs) can eliminate the drawbacks, sharpen up your systems, and allow your business to grow to its full capacity in the modern business landscape. What An MSP Does For You ? There are a staggering number of systems a modern business is expected to keep tabs on today.  Accounting, inventory, and timekeeping; on top of customer-facing services such as maintaining a website, managing social media, and processing online orders.  It’s simply impossible for every small business to keep up. An MSP is an expert in the field, managing your IT services to give you the confidence your business is on the right track.  If the core of your business relied on maintaining a fleet of vehicles, you would hire a mechanic to keep each one in top condition. Building your firm on modern technology should employ a similar strategy. For your company, an MSP exists to keep your systems in their best shape to generate maximum mileage for your business. Tailored to Exactly What You Need The key to unlocking near unlimited growth in your own company is to find out precisely what you need to operate to capacity.   An MSP can provide consulting services to your firm to find out how your business can improve.  Simple tweaks and minor changes are often all it takes to create a more streamlined, more productive, working environment.  Almost always, the smallest changes in the right places make the most significant differences. Working with technology, rather than fighting against it, provides your firm with the competitive edge to put you in control. Technology That Helps Without Getting in The Way An MSP can both enhance and protect your business by providing backup and recovery services that will safeguard your data and services against any disaster. The nature of IT failures means they can appear to happen at any time. Whether hit by a natural disaster, criminal break-in, or IT outage; a severe failure at the wrong time can cost customers, money, and reputation.  A high quality, effective MSP works in the background to guarantee uptime, recover from adverse events, and increase security against threats. Technology That Keeps You in Business A huge number of businesses, both high-profile and small owner-operated firms, have suffered massive client losses as a result of missing deadlines, losing data, or exposing their customers to unnecessary threats.  Clients are often left with little choice but to choose a firm that takes their data and privacy seriously. One of the most significant benefits to managed services is regular, predictable support costs.  Making regular and fixed payments to keep your IT in good shape protects against major and unexpected blow-outs in the monthly budget. By monitoring systems, diagnosing issues, and maintaining technology, many of the problems that cause unexpected downtime and data loss can be avoided altogether.  Preventing problems before they happen saves you money, but more importantly maintains your business reputation too. An MSP Working For You Increasing your potential, reducing your costs, and protecting your reputation are all great reasons to incorporate a managed service provider into your business.  You can effectively add a whole new department to your business without adding unnecessary management overhead. By eliminating IT distractions that take you away from your core business, you are free to pursue activities that make your company great.  Take up an MSP and return to doing what you enjoy most, the part of the firm you are great at, the reason you got into your business in the first place. Let us do the IT we are great at, so you can build and run the business you have always wanted.  Click here to get in touch.

Repairing Your Computer Quicker for Less

Repairing Your Computer Quicker for Less Have you started to notice your computer’s niggles, flaws, and problems growing more severe and more frequent over recent months?  These issues can irritate you daily, stop you from doing critical tasks, and even put your data in danger.  It may be time to book in your computer for a brief service check or repair to get back on track. Have you started to notice your computer’s niggles, flaws, and problems growing more severe and more frequent over recent months?  These issues can irritate you daily, stop you from doing critical tasks, and even put your data in danger.  It may be time to book in your computer for a brief service check or repair to get back on track. When booking your PC in for a service, you can help your technician get straight to the root of the problem.  A few simple notes is all it takes.  Many people drop off their computers with, at best, a brief and vague description of the problem they experience. Technicians have a wide range of tools and years of experience to bring an ageing machine back to health. Even with tools and help, without a clear description of the problem, troubleshooting is far more time consuming and expensive.  The best doctors in the world couldn’t diagnose a medical condition without a clear explanation of the symptoms. With just a few simple steps, you can save time and money while ensuring you get your computer back with every problem fixed. Take Note of the Problem Every Time It Happens Some computer problems only crop up every now and again.  A machine might freeze suddenly, or shut down unexpectedly.  Intermittent issues can be frustrating and seemingly impossible to solve, but these occurrences may not be entirely random.When these events happen, you can help to resolve your issues by jotting down what you were doing and the programs running at the time they happen.  Information about what you clicked on last, or settings you recently changed can reveal unexpected links to the computer’s behavior. Detailed notes help technicians to reproduce the problem and see the crash or error for themselves.  This can lead to faster fixes, more lasting solutions, and less time spend diagnosing problems in the dark.  Simple notes scribbled down on a piece of paper or smartphone app can save you a surprising amount of money. Keep an Eye on the Environment as Well as the Computer It’s not just things within the computer we need to note down.  External factors can play a significant role in how machines operate.  Hot and humid days have been known to limit cooling on devices already suffering from heat issues. Even changing the time of day can raise different computer related issues.  There have been occasions where users have reported problems connecting to the internet around lunchtime every day.  A seemingly strange coincidence with no apparent cause, until technicians dig a little deeper. Wi-Fi, which relies on radio waves to send and receive data, uses a frequency of 2.4ghz to communicate with devices.  By coincidence, the same frequency is used in concentrated form inside of a microwave to heat food and beverages. Microwaves, particularly when poorly positioned, or faulty, can cause Wi-Fi issues that disrupt communications every time they are used. Problems that come and go, seemingly randomly, have such a strange link to the computer’s environment that they can be very difficult to diagnose. Take the Right Hardware at the Right Time Bringing your computer in for repair, whatever the issue, is as simple as picking up the box itself.  We don’t need the peripherals such as the mouse, screen, or keyboard unless those are the things causing the issue.  Bringing in a laptop is as simple as carrying it to us, along with the charger. If you have concerns about how to safely transport your computer, give us a call first and we can advise you what to bring and how best to pack it. When deciding when to come in, sooner is always better than later.  Computer issues often get worse over time.  Vents gather more and more dust, fans run slower and slower.  Heat issues in particular drastically lower the lifespan of a machine as time goes on. A machine that gets less and less stable over time puts your programs and your critical data at risk.  Updates applied over a shaky foundation can cause any number of software issues.  With data, there’s often zero warning before it’s gone. Can you afford to delay? Read more on this topic.

Webcam Blackmail

Don’t Fall Victim to Webcam Blackmail There is a scam going around where a hacker says they have recorded you on your webcam. Many users have reported recent scam messages from individuals claiming to have intercepted their username and password.  These messages often state they have been watching your screen activity and webcam while you have been unaware. Typically, attackers threaten to broadcast footage to your contacts, colleagues, or social media channels.  Demanding payment in Bitcoin, malicious hackers blackmail their victims to keep confidential information private. Where Have the Attacks Come From? In many cases where hackers have claimed to have a victims’ password, this has turned out to be true.  In the last few years alone, many large websites have suffered enormous hacks which have released confidential details on many of their users.  LinkedIn, Yahoo, and Myspace all suffered massive and devastating hacks.  Some users of these services are still feeling the consequences today. The details leaked from these sites, and others facing the same issues, are sold online for years after the initial breach.  Hackers buy username and password combinations in the hopes of reusing them to access services, steal money, or blackmail their owners. How to Respond If you have been contacted by one of these hackers, it is a scary reality that they could have access to your credentials, data, and online services. The only thing you can do in response to this type of email is to ignore it. This “we recorded you” email is a scam made much more believable because they probably do have one of your real passwords gained from a site hack. That said, accounts that share the same password should be changed immediately.  Security on additional services you use should be updated too. Self Defense On the Web When using online services, a unique password for every site is your number one defense.  A good password manager makes this practical and straightforward too. Using a different password for each site you use means that hackers can only gain access to one site at a time.  A hack in one place should never compromise your other accounts by revealing the single password you use everywhere. Often, people think that maintaining many passwords is hard work or even impossible to do.  In truth, it’s almost always easier to keep tabs with a password manager than it is to use the system you have in place today. A high quality and secure password manager such as LastPass, or 1Password, can keep track of all your logins efficiently and securely.  They often offer the chance to improve your security by generating random and strong passwords that hackers will have a tougher time cracking. Password management services offer a host of features that help you log in, remind you to refresh your security, and make your safety a number one priority. After using a manager for just a short time, you can be forgiven for wondering how you managed without it. If you think you might have been hacked already, or want to prevent it from ever happening, give us a call to at 09 401 6133 update your 33security. To read more on cyber security click here. 

Has Your Email Been Hijacked?

Has Your Email Been Hijacked? Are you receiving replies to emails you didn’t send? Your email account might have been hijacked. A common complaint by many users in recent months has been spam emails appearing to come from their own accounts.  Despite not knowing why, reports of friends, family, and contacts receiving spam email that appears to come from them has worried many people. Some have had their accounts suspended or shut down by their service providers as a result.  For many, this experience can be highly disruptive. It’s a problem that can cause many issues in both your professional and personal life. The key to defense is learning how these attacks happen, and figuring out what you can do to protect yourself and your contacts against them. Hackers Using Your Email Against You Scammers that send out spam messages are continually looking for ways to make the process faster, cheaper, and more efficient.  It’s the best way in which they can make more money every day by scamming unsuspecting victims for even more cash. One of the most efficient ways they do this is by hijacking ready-made, trusted email accounts like your own.  Hackers have several tools at their disposal to attempt to hijack your accounts. Some of the principles which make email fast and easy to use means that details, such as those in the ‘from’ field, are easy to fake.  A hacker might change the information supplied to make it appear as if the email comes from anyone. There’s not much you can do to defend your email against such an attack.  However, you can work to verify that an email, even one you expect to receive, does come from the person you believe it to.  If your email provider flags up an incoming email as ‘suspicious’, or ‘untrustworthy’, it may well be. Stolen Credentials Hackers often buy large bundles of email addresses and passwords from the dark web.  Leaked emails are often put up for sale following hacks of major companies and service providers. The value of these details comes from passwords being unlikely to have been changed, the details attached to them are trusted, and often get hackers access to additional services too. How To Detect an Email Intrusion It can take a long time before you’re aware that malicious hackers are using your details.  You might even be the last person in your contacts to know. The first sign to look out for is a large number of unexpected emails in your inbox.  These are likely to be replies to emails you never sent in the first place.  Out of office, automatic responses, people complaining about spam, and people responding to the email as if it were genuine may all come to you first. Keep a close eye on unexpected emails appearing suddenly in either your inbox or outbox.  A hacker may be spear-phishing someone that you do business with or trust.  By acting as you, using your address and details, they may be able to divert payments or confidential information to their accounts instead. Protecting Yourself Against Hackers, Attackers, And Hijackers Sometimes your computer might have been compromised to give hackers access to your services.  Malicious software may have infected your machine to steal data and infect your contacts. Take extra care to change your passwords if you believe your email has been accessed by hacker.  Use a different, more secure password for your email than you do for every other service.  Your email account is often the key to accessing many of the services you use most. Run a virus scan and maintain security updates if you think your computer could have been infected.  Have your machine and services looked at by a professional if you believe there is a risk your data is being used. If you think your email could have been hijacked, or your details used elsewhere, give us a call to clean up today.

How to Keep Tabs On Children’s App Purchases

How to Keep Tabs On Children’s App Purchases The abundance of technology, however, comes with a price. Mobile phone games are a great way to keep children occupied. However, many games encourage in-game purchases which charge the credit card associated with the phone. In this article, we talk about what in-game purchases are and how to turn them off. Children today have grown up surrounded by technology their entire lives.  Since before they are old enough to read they can pick up a tablet or smartphone and swipe at apps and games with ease.  Modern kids have an intuitive understanding and ability with technology that older generations can barely imagine.  The abundance of technology, however, comes with a price. Easy access to any marketplace can be a double-edged sword.  The convenience and ease of use is a boost to those of us needing a quick app, but accidental purchases can cause a lot of headaches.  One-click online shopping was once one of the biggest dangers our bank account faced.  Now, many of us carry multiple devices, each with their own marketplace and app stores. With modern tech, mobile applications, whether on iOS or Android devices, are easier than ever to buy and download.  So simple in fact, that a child could do it.   Designed to Appeal Children love to download mobile applications that feature their favorite characters, cartoons and TV shows.  Advertisements are aimed specifically for children in ways that will invite them to click a link and instantly download a game. These games are typically free, meaning they don’t require authentication by default before downloading.  A new game can be downloaded, installed, and ready to run seconds from clicking an ad. Developers commonly use, what is known in the business as, a ‘freemium’ model.  This means that the game is free to download and start, but inserts paid ‘upgrades’ designed to make the player part with cash. Freemium Games Upgrades to games may unlock more levels, purchase an in-game currency, or outfit a character with special attributes.  Competitive online games commonly employ a strategy that gives paying players an unfair advantage over ones who don’t pay.  This is often referred to as ‘pay-to-win’ and entices players to spend more to get on the same level. Many mobile-based games are designed purely to encourage in-app purchasing.  Some deliberately design a deceptive or tricky user-interface that makes it easy to miss-click or make purchases by accident. There are regular stories in the news featuring kids spending thousands on in-app purchases for virtual characters.  In some cases, children can use real-world money to buy items thinking they are spending in-game currency. Apps to Help Of course, it’s unfair to give all applications a lousy name.  Many deserve it, but not all apps are guilty of behaving badly. There are fitness apps, productivity apps, and educational apps that can act as useful tools to help enhance your day.  Children can get a lot from high-quality applications in the same way educational software for the computer can be a huge classroom boost. Getting the most out of your phone or tablet is about keeping your device safe against applications designed merely to take your money. Secure Your Device The best step you can take to prevent running up enormous app bills is to disable in-app purchases on your devices.  This prevents apps from being able to take funds for digital items. The process to do this is simple, takes less than 2 minutes, and can save you huge amounts. On iOS: Enter the settings screen, tap on ‘General’.  Then tap on ‘Restrictions’ and tap the ‘Enable restrictions’ option.  Make sure to turn “In-App Purchases” off. On Android: Inside the Google Play App: press the phone menu button and go to Settings.  Scroll down to “User Controls”, tap on the “Set or Change Pin” option and set a pin that only you will know. In the “User Controls” menu check the option to “Use Pin for purchases”.  Newer phones may label this pin as a password instead. Safe Apps With these options enabled, whether using an iOS or Android device, your phone or tablet is safe from app purchases in any hands. Secure your devices now by giving us a ring.

What You Need to Know to Grow!

What You Need to Know to Grow! Professional Businesses Deserve a Professional Setup Watching a business grow is as satisfying as it is rewarding.  Whether opening a new office, starting a new department, or bringing in a new employee; it’s a positive step in the right direction.  Upward growth often requires new office tech and IT changes to bring new staff fully online. At a minimum, a new computer will be needed for employees to get started quickly and hit the ground running.  New staff or an entire department may require a server, printer, or additional networking hardware to cope with extra demand. A tech smart business should give careful consideration to how it sources and sets up its hardware and software.  It can be tempting to pick a simple solution off the shelf from the nearest retailer.  Modern manufacturers often make it easy to get set up with a new device straight out the box.  Using default settings and a simple setup means a laptop or tablet can be just plugged in and it’s ready to go, right? Unfortunately, setting up technology to create safe, secure, and reliable business services requires a little more detail. Setting Up Tech For Business The hardware you have is at least as important as the hardware you buy.  It’s important to ensure new tech on the network is compatible with your existing business systems.  Adding the wrong solutions to accommodate new employees can slow down the system for everyone. Many firms talk themselves into buying the most expensive, or heavily marketed system on the market.  Buyers often feel confident that the high price tag and slick design means it’s guaranteed to work with anything you put to it.  We wish that were always the case. Without an eye for fine detail and good IT knowledge, combining certain solutions can cause a significant network slowdown or even fail to work together at all. Consistency Is Key It can seem easy, and tempting, to buy technology based on offers and deals around at the time you need it.  Some companies do this to save money short term, building their systems using a mixture of hardware from various vendors and manufacturers.  When thinking long term, this approach might not get you the great deal that you think. Mixing suppliers alone can make it difficult to track where components came from in the coming months and years.  Warranties, service agreements, and support can become hard to track down when parts fail and hardware dies. Money spent securing your business against failure is completely wasted if you can’t find the right paperwork at the right time.   Sourcing replacement parts and supported peripherals can be made more difficult when components are mixed too.   Planning ahead and purchasing identical hardware can make swapping components fast and straightforward.  When systems are consistent, both parts and knowledge can be shared throughout the entire business.  A smart decision today can eliminate costs, time, and headaches further down the road. Unexpected issues appearing at the last minute can have large consequences on workload and deadlines.  Sharing everything from chargers to memory can help to reduce and mitigate IT risks. Consistent hardware, swappable components, and even considering a supply of spares can take care of many potential headaches.  Smooth On-boarding In business, first impressions are critically important.  Whether setting up a new office or getting an employee ready to start, a professional attitude goes a long way.  Good IT that’s ready to work sets a professional tone to carry your business forward. IT that supports and enhances operations is infinitely better than IT that gets in the way.  Using consistent and well-known solutions in the right way avoids wasting time, maintains performance, and reduces costs where it matters. Our goal is to ensure your hardware meets your business needs.  A professional setup ensures your IT is consistently improved while you watch your business flourish and grow. Give us a call at 09 401 6133 for a professional setup to make sure nothing stands in the way of growing your business.

SSD: Make Your Old Computer Your New Computer

SSD: Make Your Old Computer Your New Computer A simple inexpensive upgrade to an SSD (solid state drive aka new hard drive) can breathe new life into your old computer. The solid-state drive (SSD) has swiftly become the go-to upgrade to breathe new life into an ageing computer, and for good reason too.  An SSD swiftly brings an old laptop or desktop up to date with modern machines in just a single step.   The price of solid-state memory has fallen dramatically in recent years. As costs have dropped, the popularity of the technology has increased exponentially.  At one time an SSD was a rare treat for serious PC enthusiasts, now it’s cheaper and more readily available than ever. No other single solution is as cost-effective, quick to swap, and impressively effective as swapping out an old hard drive in favour of the faster and more modern SSD.   Out with The Old The hard disk drive (HDD) is a technology that dates back as far as the 1950s.  They became the default solution all PCs would use for decades to come.  Most old laptop and desktop machines still contain their original, worn hard drives they left the factory with. The HDD was a mostly mechanical device.  Inside a solid outer casing was a series of spinning disks arranged in a delicate stack known as a platter. Each disk could read and save data using a tiny needle moving across the disk’s surface. The technology looked and worked much like a miniature record player.  Like a record player, widely in use at the time that hard drives were developed, the hard drive had some serious drawbacks in their use. The series of tiny disks and needles that made up the HDD were incredibly fragile.  Vulnerable to dust or movement, computers commonly succumbed to hard drive failures that rendered the machine and its stored data unusable. Occasionally, simply moving a laptop while reading or writing data can damage a hard drive’s spinning disk.   In with The New The primary reason to switch to a more modern SSD, on top of their impressive durability, is the incredible increase in speed.  The SSD has no moving parts at all, working more like a digital camera memory card than a vinyl record player. An SSD simply makes the process of retrieving and saving data to storage many times faster.  Eliminating the mechanical component, removing the need to move a physical disk, and not needing to physically pick up the data means a much faster and smoother operation. Computer startup, where the operating system loads all its data from storage, can take as little as one-quarter of the time of a comparable HDD.  Additionally, loading regular applications and data from an SSD takes a fraction of time of an HDD. An SSD completely breathes new life into an old machine.  Computers with an SSD replacement for the hard drive feel like using an entirely new machine for a fraction of the cost. Replacing the main mechanical component additionally eliminates wear and tear working to break down your machine.  While an HDD slows over time, degrades, and can eventually suffer mechanical failure; an SSD remains as durable as the day it was purchased.   Ideal Laptop Upgrade In a laptop setting, the SSD makes complete sense.  They require less power than older hard drives, making the most of your battery charge. In addition, not needing a large disk platter, mechanical parts, or protective outer case means they are about half the weight of a mechanical drive.  Making an old machine lightweight brings it another step closer to a modern machine. They run almost silently too.  The familiar click-clack of the hard drive inside a laptop is a thing of the past.  Many users comment on the noise their laptop used to make starting up and loading programs.  Noisy laptops are a tech throwback we’re happy to leave behind. For many who feel like their old laptop or desktop is showing its age, the prohibitive cost of purchasing a whole new machine keeps them invested in their old one.  A simple, fast SSD upgrade can make your old machine new again at a much smaller price. If swapping long startups, and slow load times sounds right for you, consider upgrading to an SSD.  You won’t look back.   Keen to see if your computer could do with an upgrade? Click here to contact us.

Don’t Get Hooked by Spear Phishing Attacks

Don’t Get Hooked by Spear Phishing Attacks   Phishing attacks have been around for a long time in IT.  They are designed to steal your credentials or trick you into installing malicious software. They have persisted in the IT world precisely because they have been so devastatingly simple and effective.  Today, a more modern and more effective version of the same attack is commonly used. Phishing attacks.   Typical phishing attacks involve an attacker sending out a malicious email to hundreds of thousands, if not millions of users.  The attacker’s email is designed to look like it comes from a bank, financial service, or even the tax office. The content aims to trick you into logging in to a fake online service. A phishing attack captures your login details so they can use them to enter the genuine service later. By sending out tens of thousands of emails at a time, attackers ensure that even if only .5% of people fall for it, there is a lot of profit to be made. They do this by draining accounts of funds.  Spear phishing is a more modern, more sophisticated, and far more dangerous form of the attack.  It’s typically targeted at businesses and their staff. A Convincing, Dangerous Attack While a traditional phishing attack throws out a broad net in the hope of capturing as many credentials as possible, spear phishing is targeted and precise.  The attack is aimed towards convincing a single business, department, or individual that a fraudulent email or website is genuine. The attacker focuses on building a relationship and establishing trust with the target.  By building trust and convincing the target that they are who they are pretending to be, the user is more likely to open attachments, follow links, or provide sensitive details. Consider how many times you have followed a link or opened an attachment just because it has come from a contact you have trusted before. A Trusted E-mail The malicious email can appear to come from a vendor you deal with regularly.  It may even look like an invoice you are expecting to receive.  Often attackers can simply substitute the vendors’ banking details for their own, hoping the target will not notice the difference. Such an attack is very difficult to detect.  It takes a keen eye, strong working knowledge, and constant awareness to keep your company protected.  Even a single small mistake by an unaware member of staff can compromise your business accounts.   Defending Your Business The key to stopping a spear phishing attack is education.  Learning attack techniques, and how to protect against them is the single biggest thing you can do to enhance business security. Whenever you deal with a vendor in a business transaction, you should always consider important questions before proceeding.  Are you expecting this email?  Is the vendor attempting to rush you into a quick decision or transaction?  Have you checked all the details are correct and as you expected?  Sometimes a simple query to the vendor can protect you against worst-case scenarios. In many cases, a phishing attack can be halted in its tracks with a strong IT security package.  Web filtering prevents malicious emails and links from entering the network, shutting attacks down before any damage can be done. Good Security Practice As with many types of IT threat, good security practices help mitigate damage.  Locking down security to ensure employees only access the systems they need helps to prevent damage spreading across the network. Enforcing unique and strong passwords prevents leaked credentials from affecting systems related to the one that has been compromised.  Getting employees set up with a password manager and good security policies can do the world of good to boost your security to the level it needs to be.   Can you spot when you’re being phished? Identifying phishing can be harder than you think. Google has made a little test to help you get used to what phishing might look like. You don’t even need to put in your correct email address to do it.  Can you tell what’s fake?    

5 New Year’s Resolutions for Your Computer

5 New Year’s Resolutions for Your Computer Here are five great things to do to get you set up for 2019. Running the Best Security Software Most computers today run at least some form of basic antivirus.  In the modern day, however, threats have evolved to be more sophisticated, more damaging, and much more common.   Ransomware, malware, phishing, and zero-day attacks all work to attack unpatched systems without strong security. Today, to keep up with increasing threats, you need a complete internet security package.   A layered system means more than just virus scanning.  A comprehensive security package includes prevention, detection, firewall and system monitoring at a minimum.   These layers work together to provide security many times stronger than a stand-alone system. Reliable, up-to-date, security keeps you safe online.  It’s a resolution you simply can’t afford to skip. Clean Up Files Cleaning up unnecessary files is the number one way to gain additional storage space on a typical device.  It’s cost-effective without any extra hardware purchases too. Almost all computers have files hanging around from old software, data or applications they no longer need.  Just like tidying the spare room or de-cluttering the kitchen, clearing files off your desktop and organizing your emails will leave your computer feeling refreshed and new again. Restart Your Computer Fully shutting down a computer and rebooting can take time.  When you are watching the clock, waiting to start a task or get work done, it can feel like an eternity.  Most of us enjoy simply opening the lid or powering on the screen to have everything ready to run. At times, a computer may not be fully restarted in weeks or even months.  Our poor habits can cause issues with running software and the operating system too. Hardware updates, security patches, and critical updates often wait for a reboot before they install.  Waiting too long can leave security flaws open and the system vulnerable to attack. Merely performing a reboot every once in a while can secure your system and help get rid of software problems.  Often updates prevent new issues from cropping up too. Use A Password Manager Hacks of large institutions and popular websites are frequently in the news today.  Almost every month a major service reveals they have been hacked, their database compromised, and their customer credentials have been stolen. For this reason, it is very unwise to use the same password to access multiple websites.  This can be a challenge for many.  It’s clearly impossible to remember a unique and secure password for every site you visit.  We recommend using a password manager that can store and recall your passwords for you. A good password manager relies on just one, very secure, remembered password to safeguard an encrypted database of all your login credentials.  The password database is often stored in the cloud for access from all your necessary devices.  A manager can typically assist in creating a strong, secure password for each of your accounts too. Using a good password manager and unique password for every site protects you against the attacks commonly in the news.  Hacks compromising major services from your providers will be powerless against directly affecting your other accounts and services. Keep Your Computer Away from Dust Dust, hair, and household debris are one of the major causes of premature death for computers.  Fans used to cool components, suck in house dust as well as the air they need.  This dust often clogs up the inside of the device and overheats internal components. If possible, keep a tower PC off the carpet, don’t run your laptop sitting on the floor, blanket, or soft furnishings.  Cleaning out your device is as good a resolution as any, and there’s never a better time than now. For a little help sticking to your digital new year resolutions and starting off on the right foot, give us a call today at 09 401 6133 or email us here.   For more blogs click here.

Build Better Meetings this Year

Build Better Meetings this Year   The new year is a great time to start some new habits. It is not uncommon for the work day to get away from you. However, with the help of some technology, you can take back control of your workday. Business meetings can be a double-edged sword.  Often they are as likely to rally staff and build momentum as they are to halt progress and kill productivity. Productive meetings are key to keeping team members on track and everyone on the same page.  A poor meeting is as harmful to the progress of a project as losing multiple members of staff.   Finding the balance is important for good business.  There are tools and techniques to make sure that your meetings are not standing in the way of your business.   Streamlined Scheduling One of the biggest hurdles to planning a meeting can be simply booking a space.  Finding an available room, with the right equipment, in a time and place which everyone can agree on can be a logistical nightmare.  Repeated emails back and forth to agree on the venue alone can consume hours out of the day. There are technical tools available to help.  Outlook’s scheduling assistant can be a great place to start.  The office package is designed to help you find a time and place convenient for everyone. The software is a key, but underused, component within Office 365. Simply adopting a scheduling assistant can cut down meeting planning from hours to minutes. With everyone fully connected and on the same page, every meeting is improved from the first minute.  The scheduling assistant can be found under New Items > Meeting in the Outlook home tab.   Bringing in Outside Help Of course, not all meetings are internal affairs.  Often, a successful meeting involves staff members from third-party organizations, clients, and consultants too. This is a prime area for technology tools to help.  Tools such as FindTime and Doodle.com both serve as scheduling assistants to arrange suitable times and locations to coordinate meetings with multiple parties. The process is simple, each party selects available or desired times to meet.  This process is done independently and based on priorities for each user.  When everyone has added their input a mutually convenient slot can be found for everyone. With modern technology there’s no reason to spend hours, or even many minutes, wrestling over when and where to meet.  Using the tools as they are designed cuts out a huge amount of overhead cost from meeting planning.   Idea Capture The most common complaint staff have about business meetings is the lack of available participation.  Many show up, yet just feel like audience members. When staff members feel their contribution or input to projects isn’t valued, it can lead to a dramatic drop in morale and much deeper issues within the firm. Tools such as GoWall.com are changing meetings for the better and giving staff members a bigger voice.  The site provides attendees with the resources they need to contribute to meetings without disrupting the flow. The idea behind GoWall is very simple and highly effective.  While concepts are communicated as part of a presentation or ongoing conversation, participants are free to contribute to an “idea wall” in real time.  This shared wall contains ideas, contributions, and notes from all participants that add to the conversation. Since ideas are shared between all participants, everyone can be inspired to contribute.  This deceptively simple idea helps all members to feel they have a chance to have their voices heard and their contributions valued.   Worthwhile Meetings Meetings can be a difficult topic in some workplaces.  Some firms have had historic failures and huge losses in productivity as a result of too many meetings running far too long.  In some environments, formal meetings have all but been banned already. Using modern technology solutions, we can put the productivity back into meetings.  Cut out the wasted time and get to the points that matter.  With these simple yet highly effective tools, we can build meetings that create productivity instead of hampering it.

Marriott Hotels Exposed 500 Million Customer Records.

Marriott Hotels Exposed 500 Million Customer Records. Make Sure Your Business Doesn’t Suffer the Same Fate   Up to 500 million travelers could be compromised as hotel chain Marriott International have announced a security breach in their guest database. Analysts recently alerted the firm to a vulnerability that has granted hackers access to the hotel chain’s systems since 2014. The firm announced their Starwood Preferred Guest (SPG) loyalty program was compromised for an extended period which left customers vulnerable. The exploit exposed critical guest information which included names, addresses, passport numbers, and dates of birth. Marriott also announced an unknown number of customers had encrypted credit card details stolen in the attack. If you have been a member of Marriott’s Preferred Guest Program or a customer of Marriott hotels in the past, you should take steps today to ensure your data security. By doing so, you can protect your finances, prevent identity theft, and defend your data from attackers looking to exploit an opportunity.   Secure Your Data Changing your Marriott password should, of course, be the first step to protecting your accounts. Even more importantly, sites, where that same password may have been reused, should be updated with new credentials too. Hackers commonly try details stolen from one site to access popular services and pages. We encourage everyone to use a password manager to store their details for safe use in the future. A good password manager enables unique, random, and strong passwords to be used with ease for every single website. While we can’t stop hacks on systems outside of our control; we can defend our other accounts from being accessed by criminals. With secure password management, attacks on your business services or related accounts from a single hack are made impossible. Performing Damage Control The damage to the Marriott International brand following news of the leak will be undoubtedly huge. At a minimum, they have lost the trust of their customers worldwide. Asking customers to leave their personal and financial details again to pay for goods and services will be no small feat. News of the hack made front page news as it broke, further damaging the firm’s reputation among potential future customers too. As a result of a simple security attack, Marriott International will be forced into damage limitation to keep customers returning to the brand. This is why business security matters to us; when done right it’s cheaper by far. The total cost of this latest attack won’t be known for years to come. The firm is vulnerable to lawsuits worldwide, in some cases liable for financial losses, and required to purchase identity monitoring and security services for affected customers. Business owners can learn from Marriott’s costly lesson. Stopping an Attack in its Tracks Marriott’s security breach was recently discovered, hitting the headlines just this week, but the firm admitted unauthorized access took place since 2014. This means the firm had a security hole for four years that they were unable to detect or patch. For a firm of any size, this should be unacceptable. As business owners, we shouldn’t accept security vulnerabilities that leave our records, finances, or services open to hackers. As customers, we shouldn’t accept our data being treated so carelessly. The recent Marriott hack underlines the need for businesses to maintain constant network monitoring, regular security updates, and a lockdown on data access. Protect Your Business and your Customers – Any business can find their systems vulnerable to attack at some point. Whether waiting for updates, a newly released zero-day hack, or malicious employee; responsible firms take steps to limit their liability. As a rule, staff accounts should be locked to only the systems the regularly need to access. Similarly, customer data should only be open on an as-needed basis when a legitimate requirement exists. These steps, alongside systems and data monitoring, prevent a small-scale attack resulting in an enormous data breach. Strong security enables customers to place and maintain their trust in a brand they can keep coming back to again and again.   Ask us for a free IT Audit today.

Time Management Using Tech

Time Management Using Tech It is not uncommon for the work day to get away from you. However, with the help of some technology, you can take back control of your workday. Most of us can admit that we have lost track of time during the workday on occasion.  Everyone wants to be more consistently effective. Sometimes time can get away from you, particularly when you’re busy.  Often you can be running late before you know it and wondering where the day has gone. Luckily, there is a wide range of technology solutions to put to work helping to put you in charge of your to-do list. Office 365 Calendar We’re often guilty of spending the entire day stuck just in Outlook.  In addition to taking up your time, there are a range of features that can help you make the most of it too.  With simple tools and tweaks, you’ll be able to manage your calendar like a pro.   Office 365 Calendar allows you to make quick changes, alter your diary, and update items on the go.  The Calendar interface allows events and items to be picked up and moved to a different time or date with ease.   Many think of calendar packages in terms of old desktop applications of years gone by.  Events, once input, were almost impossible to change, alter, or remove.  In old applications, it was easier to go without a calendar at all than attempt to use the one included.   The biggest advantage Office calendar has is the ability to access and update it from anywhere.  With 2-way sync appointments, meetings, and events can be updated anywhere and accessed everywhere.  The days of no longer being able to look at your calendar because you’re not at your PC are long gone now.   Today you can add events straight from your email with a simple click.  Participants in events can be contacted with reminders automatically.  You can even schedule your own reminders before the event too. Using your calendar to stay on top of your day has never been easier.   OneNote Office 365 additionally offers OneNote too, an indispensable tool that you shouldn’t do without. OneNote acts as a virtual notebook to keep your ideas, projects, and notes in line.  Using OneNote enables you to power-up your text with drawings and diagrams, tailor your projects with color coding, and record your thoughts with media clips all in one location.   OneNote is the ultimate record keeping tool that you simply can’t go into a meeting without.  Physical notebooks begin to seem like a relic of the past, limited by old constraints that no longer apply.   Microsoft To-Do Included with Office 365 is Microsoft’s To-Do application.  To-Do offers simple, straightforward to-do list that makes it easy to plan your day.   Whether plotting your school work, planning your projects, or keeping on top of your home life, To-Do is designed to boost productivity and make the most of your time.  The simple interface makes it easy to use and the instant reward for checking of tasks makes it well worth your while.   To-Do sorts your tasks into lists, which are combined into a single day view. The view of your day provides a clear, clutter-free list of tasks to be done. The application syncs with all your devices to give you access from anywhere.  This empowers you to quickly add, change, schedule, and tick off tasks as you go.   Keeping On Top Of The Day Losing track of time is easy to do.  It doesn’t take much before your day seems completely off-balance and impossible to retrieve.  With these tools from Office 365 and a tiny bit of planning, your days can become more productive than ever.   Back on track, you’ll no longer have to spend your free time making up for lost time.  Your spare time will be your own again and everyone will wonder how you manage to remain so productive.   Give some tech tools a try today and you’ll wonder how you ever managed without them.   Would you like a FREE  IT Audit and some suggestions on efficiency? Click here to book with Andrew.

Spying some shiny things this Christmas?

Spying some shiny things this Christmas? Got your eye on some tech presents this Christmas? Hear how we can help you make sure you buy the RIGHT technology for your needs. Christmas time is back with us again.  The latest devices and gadgets are hitting store shelves just in time to keep up with the rush.  Magazines, television, and the web are brimming with advertisements and reviews of the latest tech your money can buy. Before you rush out to buy the gadgets you’ve been waiting all year for, consider a few important questions before parting with your hard-earned cash.   Does This Technology Do What I need?  First, you must ask what problem you are trying to solve with a new piece of tech. The most important thing to consider is how adopting your new device will improve on what you had before.  In some cases, a sleek new gadget or device for fun is good too. When you’ve answered this question, you should consider whether there is another tech or competing devices out there that can perform even better.   Should I Become an Early Adopter?  Early adopters are people that anticipate the release of new tech, wait in line on release day, and pride themselves on having the latest gadgets to hit the shelves.  If you recognize yourself in this description you are likely to snap up the latest devices the day they are released.  This eager anticipation, however, is not always the way to get the best deals or the best gadgets. Companies often rely on new product hype to give sales an early boost.  Waiting for the marketing and hype to subside, even a little, can save you a lot of money. After initial sales fall, companies often mark down their prices to keep their devices attractive and sales high.  When newer, faster, sleeker devices hit the market, companies cut prices to maintain strong sales figures.   For the budget smart consumer this is an opportunity for a bargain. A device good enough to buy on launch day is well worth waiting for.   Have I checked The Reviews?  We are fortunate enough to have access to seemingly unlimited amounts of information at our fingertips.  Often weeks before a product is released, reviews are available across the web. One of the best things you can do when considering a new device, particularly a high-cost purchase, is to watch and read a wide variety of product reviews.  It pays to be cautious of reviews that are particularly glowing, or too downbeat.  Keep an eye out for middle-of-the-road reviews that fairly weigh the pros and cons of each device.   Have I Found the Best Deal?  There are many ways to keep an eye out to make sure you get the best deal on your device.  If you can, monitor prices over time to see how they rise and fall to find the best time to purchase. When purchasing online, many sites include a box to add a coupon code when you are ready to buy.  It sometimes pays to jump over to Google and search the website name and ‘coupon’ or ‘voucher’ to find out if there are any good deals on. A quick search can save you as much as 10, 15, or 20 percent on some purchases. Sometimes companies send out offers to appeal to groups they want to market to.  A companies Facebook page may get different offers or vouchers than its Twitter followers or newsletter for example. It can pay to search around for offers and vouchers to get money off before you checkout.  Five minutes work can save huge amounts of cash.   Purchase in Confidence  If you have asked yourself these questions, done all your research, and found the answers you’re looking for then you may well be ready to buy. You can do so with the confidence that you’ve done all your homework and you’re getting the best deal and gadget for your money.   Would you like to read more? Click here for our blogs.

Why Smart Business are Changing to Managed Services.

Why Smart Business are Changing to Managed Services. There are two main types of IT support available when it comes to supporting your business.  The Break/Fix model and Managed services.   What is the difference? Break-fix is the IT support you receive when you contact a technician after equipment or services have broken down. It is usually quite expensive if you are in an emergency situation. Managed services support involves monitoring your systems to detect and fix issues. This involves having your chosen IT company on site to do an audit of your equipment and systems. By doing the audit they really understand all the quirks of your set up, and to let you know where your risk areas are. With this knowledge, you can plan ahead for things like, investing in new laptops or upgrading your network. Manage your IT before it Breaks. A lot of businesses try to save money by only calling a computer technician when something breaks. Unfortunately, that is the most expensive way to manage your IT. There is additional downtime, added repair costs, and unnecessary data loss incurred as a result. Smart businesses are switching over to managed services where issues are fixed before they become a problem. Predictable Costs Using managed services turns your IT expenses from an unpredictable and irregular expense into a fixed monthly fee.  In return, your IT technicians monitor and maintain your entire IT system.  The goal of IT services is to maximise productivity.  This is done by minimizing downtime. Maximise Productivity Establishing a managed service relationship with a knowledgeable IT firm gives them the chance to study your business needs. They learn your unique systems from the inside out.  IT technicians can take ownership as a result and are incentivized to make sure your IT is always running at its best. Quicker Problem Solving Small firms rightly worry about getting technicians on time to fix their systems too.  Choosing the right IT plan for your firm is a difficult choice.  It forces you to weigh up what is important for your business. Many SME’s can’t sustain the risks of data loss, unplanned downtime, or the cost of replacing critical systems.  These issues impact smaller businesses much harder than large corporations. Response time agreements are often standard components of service packages.  This means that when IT issues do happen, timely response and an urgent fix is guaranteed in writing. Want to read more? Download the FREE ebook now.

Is Your Laptop Running Hot and Loud?

Is Your Laptop Running Hot and Loud? Is your laptop too hot to put on your lap and sounds like a jet engine? It might need to be serviced. Excess heat and blocked vents is one of the biggest laptop killers. Laptop computers commonly heat up a little in normal operation.  Electronic components, including large capacity batteries, become warm in use.  Your laptop should never become too hot to handle though. When a laptop turns hot to the touch or starts to sound like a jet engine, it’s likely beginning to overheat. Modern laptops use nearly silent fans to cool components and keep the system is comfortable and safe to use.  In some cases, the sound the computer makes is the best tool you have to diagnose its running condition.  Excessive heat causes the fans to work harder and faster to compensate.  This jet engine sound is one of the first clues you have to indicate all may not be well.   Why So Hot? Because of their compact size and portability, laptop computers are particularly prone to overheating problems.  Their tiny footprint puts electronic parts closer together, creates less room for cooling vents and adds a heat generating battery which introduces more hot air into the system. Most laptops have small fans that suck in cool air, passing it over metal fins to exchange heat from the case. The resulting hot air exhaust is expelled through vents back into the room.  This process prevents heat building up inside the machine.  The constant air cycle keeps the laptop running cool no matter the workload placed on it. This process can be interrupted by any number of factors during operation.  Alongside cool air, computer fans can also suck in dust, stray hairs, even cigarette smoke too.  Smoke, in particular, contains thick tar which coats the fins, fan blades, and internal components. Foreign debris inside the machine prevents components from working at their best.  Tar, dust, and hair slows down the internal fan and coats the heat generating components and cooling fins.  This coating prevents air exchange and keeping components warm as if they were under a blanket.    Causes of Overheating Sometimes the way a laptop is used can cause it to overheat too.  Resting a laptop on thick carpets, blankets, or soft furnishings can block vents, preventing the fans from sucking cold air in or blowing hot air out. Leaving the machine running on carpet or furnishings, particularly for extended periods of time, can cause overheating issues and introduce extra dust into the components too. The best place to rest a laptop while in use is on a hard surface such as a desk, table, or lap tray.  This allows air free access to the vents and helps prevent dust and hairs getting inside the machine.   Overheating Results As the computer starts running hotter for longer, its fan will attempt to compensate by running faster and more often.  This results in the “jet engine” noise many users report when their computer is struggling to keep up. Unfortunately, once dust, hair, or tar has already found its way into the machine it is notoriously difficult to clean out.  The only way to reset the machine to run cool and quiet is to disassemble the base and clean out its components. Much like a car engine, computer components have a designed temperature range in which they can safely and reliably operate without any issues.  Extended periods of running above the temperature they are designed for can cause damage, sudden failures, and drastically shorten the designed lifespan of the computer.   Unlikely Causes Often times seemingly random blue screen computer crashes can be traced back to components that have been overheating inside the computer.  As heat builds up, vulnerable components start to fail, sometimes temporarily, in the hotter temperatures. By the time the computer is rebooted and cooled down the issue is seemingly resolved.  Back in operation, the computer heats up once more and eventually crashes again.  These irregular crashes are highly inconvenient and can sometimes cause data loss too. However, these symptoms are minor compared to a complete write-off of the machine.  For some users, the first sign that their machine is too hot to run safely is when the motherboard is burnt out or their data storage has been irreparably lost.  

Got a Bad Case of Password Exhaustion?

Got a Bad Case of Password Exhaustion? You’re not alone! Most people use the same password everywhere – home, work, Gmail, Facebook… even for banking. Considering how many passwords we’re expected to remember and use on a daily basis, password exhaustion is a very real thing. It’s no wonder that when yet another prompt for a password appears, users enter easily guessed combinations like ‘abcd’ or ‘password’. Trouble is, even if your password is making the required effort, hackers are taking a daily stroll around the internet and collecting logins and passwords as they go, from either leaked details or sites with security flaws. Then, they’ll try their luck with that login/password set elsewhere. They know more than half the internet users in the world have only one password and email combination, so the chance of gaining access to your accounts is actually quite high. Even the big names in tech are at risk of password breaches: 360 million MySpace emails and passwords leaked. 117 million LinkedIn account details leaked. Same password used elsewhere? Cue the domino effect! One site breach follows another and another until hackers have nothing more to gain. The only way to break this chain reaction is to use a different password for each site.   How to Create Easily Remembered Passwords Have a system or template for creating your own unique passwords, that you’ll be able to remember, but is not obvious to hackers. For example: <character> <word> <something about the site> <numbers> <character> Becomes !K1ttyFB75! It might seem complicated, but the above is really just based around the words ‘kitty’ and ‘FB’ for Facebook. Change the FB to something else for other sites.   What to Do If Your Password Has Been Hacked You can check to see if any of your accounts have been compromised by entering your email into a site like haveibeenpwned.com If it alerts a breach, you need to change your passwords immediately – all of them. Use the example system above to create a new set. If you’re struggling to remember your set of passwords, consider using a secure password tracker such as LastPass. (http://www.lastpass.com). Do you need help with your IT security? Contact us for support. 

Could Your Backups Survive A Ransomware Attack?

More and more businesses and organizations are getting stung by ransomware demands. Hospitals, schools, social networks…some days it seems like ransomware is an epidemic that leaps around arbitrarily, and hackers are raking in millions. Tallied across the word…billions.Cyber security is certainly on everyone minds.   Ransomware attacks are devious in their simplicity. A user in the target business is tricked into opening a file. This is usually through a phishing email or download. The file contains malware which instantly encrypts your data and demands money in exchange for the password. No payment = no password = no data. All of the target businesses should have backups, which they could simply revert to without paying any money, but the FBI reports more than $209 million was sent to hackers in the first quarter of this year alone. Keep in mind, this was just payments within the US, and only counts those who came forward. Last year it was only $25million. Aren’t backups helping? Sometimes the backup solution fails and the data can’t be retrieved. This is particularly true in cases where the solution has been in use for years and something failed along the way. In other instances, the target business has a backup that can be restored, but it doesn’t include everything they need for full recovery. Finally, and the most common reason so many businesses are forced to pay the ransom:  the ransomware attack affects the entire system – including attached and synchronized backups. If the backup is also caught in the ransomware encryption, it becomes useless as a recovery method and the only options are to pay or lose the data forever. Each day spent trying to recover the data is a drain on valuable business resources and in many cases, results in massive revenue loss. The only defense is to block the malware before it can infect the first workstation, and then continue the protection with a comprehensive backup strategy for all workstations and servers. Give us a call to discuss how we can help secure your business against ransomware today.

3 Reasons Why All Homes and Business Should Have Office 365

3 Reasons Why All Homes and Business Should Have Office 365 Microsoft Office can be found on most home and office computers, but the different versions can cause big problems with big price tags. This article looks at how switching to Office 365 is the smart decision for all users. Microsoft Office has been THE office suite for more than a decade, whether it’s for business or students doing their homework. Other applications have come and gone, but it’s expected that most people will be doing their work in Word, Excel or PowerPoint. While you may have an older version of Office that you love, there are three good reasons you should upgrade to Office 365. It’s more accessible: Office 365 operates in the cloud, which means you can use your Word, Excel, Outlook and other office products from anywhere.  This means no more forgotten homework, files you can’t access until you get to work or lost documents. The cloud has them all ready and waiting for you, wherever you are. Save important files to a USB drive or your computer and use the cloud versions as your mobile copy, there really are no restrictions on how flexible Office 365 can be. Another benefit is that since it’s in the cloud, the barriers between Mac and PC versions have been erased. It runs on both platforms and on any device – iPhones, iPads, Android, tablets and many other smart devices. A hefty allocation of cloud storage comes with it too, in the form of OneDrive, so you can access your documents from any device. Many people have started using their OneDrive to store all of their important data, including photos, media and recipes. You can even share your files with a simple link, and you always have complete control over who sees what. It’s more affordable:  Previously, there was a large upfront cost per computer and you were stuck with that version until you dug deep and upgraded. For people with more than one computer in their home, for example 2 laptops and a desktop, this was a very expensive way to obtain software. Office 365 has no large upfront costs, no matter how many computers or devices you need to install it on. It’s actually a monthly or annual subscription for a small amount, with no contracts. Depending on your location (pricing differs across countries), you can have five Office 365 licenses for a whole year, for less than the cost of your previous version. It’s always updated: You are always rocking the latest version of Office. You aren’t stuck with the one you paid for years ago, like Office 2007, 2013 or 2016. Office 365 is always the very latest. If you’re still using an older version, you’ll be surprised by how much Office has evolved. Gone are the annoying paperclip helpers, tacky looking clipart and templates and confusing buttons. Everything is intuitive and easy to use, so you no longer need to take classes or tutorials on how to work it. Even the jargon has been stripped out in favor of human-speak so you can get your tasks done faster and finally break up with the undo button. With the latest features, your files also take on a whole new level of professionalism. Plus, any updates, upgrades or patches happen automatically, so whatever Microsoft cooks up to impress you is added to your Office immediately. In the past, when you upgraded your Office version it was quite the drama and often left your files in a mess. Switching to Office 365 is like a breath of fresh air in this regard, as it’s essentially a sign up and go situation. Older files remain intact, your hard drive doesn’t get cluttered, and you’re up and running in minutes. With Office 365, you’re essentially getting more while spending less. It’s a popular option for good reason. The fact that it’s always available, always the latest version and works anywhere is reason enough to make the switch, particularly if you have students or work-at-home users. The baked-in security features also mean you’re less at risk of cyber-attack, so you can get on with your tasks and let Microsoft deal with the dirty work. It really is a stress-free solution, saving you time and money. Are your files secure? Do you think Office 365 might help? Book a free consultation to make sure your files are secure by clicking below.

4 Ways to Avoid IT Downtime

4 Ways to Avoid IT Downtime   Downtime is costing SMBs thousands each year. This article provides 4 easy ways your business can minimize downtime and the associated costs. Technology is a wonderful addition to every business, but what happens when the IT goes down? All those things you do now that were completely unthinkable 30 years ago have become part of your day-to-day processes. It lets you compete with big business and connect with customers from far away, boost productivity and efficiency like never before, and even added multiple zeros to your bottom line. IT is a necessity. Unfortunately, this means when downtime inevitably hits, you’ve got a BIG problem. Maybe it’s from a virus attack, a bug in the system, hardware failure or something else…whatever the cause, the impact is real and measurable. Gartner (an IT research company) reports that 43% of small businesses close their doors right after a major data loss, and only a tiny 6% survive long term. The financial cost of each hour can be in the thousands, and the damage to your brand could be ruinous. Fortunately, while downtime will occasionally strike every business, there are things you can do to minimize the duration and frequency. Taking a few simple actions now may result in your business staying open while your competitor gives up. Use monitored antivirus and firewalls While most businesses have these protections, not all have embraced the idea of monitored antivirus and firewalls. Instead, the default setup has more in common with a home setup than a robust professional system. Given that SMB are a primary target for malware and cyber-attack, you should seriously consider moving to the monitored versions. Our experts set up custom protection to block all attacks, both known and emerging. All updates are taken care of, plus company-wide protections applied so users can’t accidentally infect the network. When something doesn’t look quite right, our monitors take immediate action to protect your business. Have backups you can count on A great backup can not only protect you from digital threats like viruses and ransomware, they protect against physical threats like robbery, fire or natural disasters. The last thing you want is for your business to be crippled by data loss. A robust backup system can be as simple as asking our Managed Services team to take care of it, or if you have an on-site technician, using the rule of 3: one backup on the server, one unplugged from the server, and one off-site. If anything ever goes wrong, you’ll be able to pull up the most recent backup and continue as normal. Businesses without good backups tend to be down or limping along for days, if not weeks. Plan for disaster Nobody likes to think about their business flooding or being hit with ransomware, but would your employees know what to do if something happened? Having a comprehensive Disaster Recovery Plan helps you get up and running quicker, minimizing downtime. Everyone knows what steps to take, who to tell, who should be doing what, and which systems take priority. Monitor hardware for early signs Computer hardware is like any piece of equipment – when it’s getting old or cranky, it will let you know! This could be anything from making noises, being louder or slower than normal, or even system crashes. Each symptom is your early warning system that allows you to take action before a crash that sends everything into downtime. Our hardware monitoring service runs in the background and tracks various metrics to predict time until failure. If the signs point to imminent failure, we’ll let you know and can often repair/replace the affected hardware with little or no downtime. Downtime is an unavoidable part of any tech-enabled business, but your preparation can dictate whether it goes for one minute or one week and how often it happens. According to one study, most firms experience 43 hours average downtime per year, a number much too high for comfort. While scheduled downtime can sometimes be unavoidable, your business will appreciate being able to skip the panic of surprise downtime events. Reducing your risk is the best action you can take, making downtime a truly rare occasion. Even better, our Managed Services can take care of this for you, stopping many downtime-events before they occur. Book a free business audit to make sure you are prepared.

3 Internet Habits To Keep Kids Smart and Safe

3 Internet Habits To Keep Kids Smart and Cyber Safe   How can you make the use of the internet a “cyber safe” place for your children? It’s a common concern for all parents want their kids to be protected and happy whenever they go online. Cyber safety is something that is on the forefront of keeping our kids safe. It’s relatively easy to supervise and monitor the very young ones as they stare delightedly at the Disney Jnr site, but the risks increase greatly as kids get older and more independent. You’ve probably heard the term ‘cyber safety’ before, but safe internet usage goes beyond reminding them not to talk to strangers. With the evolution of the internet and the way it’s now woven seamlessly into our lives, the focus needs to be on ingrained habits. That means ensuring your children have the cyber safety tools and predefined responses to online events so that no matter what happens, they’re not placing themselves (or your family) at risk. Setting up these habits is easy, and begins with three basic understandings: Hey kids, lets talk Cyber Safety. Most kids can’t tell the difference between a legitimate download and a scam/malicious link. It’s not their fault, the online world is full of things that will trick even the savviest adult. The difference is that kids tend not to take that extra moment to check exactly where that link is pointing, question whether it’s too good to be true, or even read what they’re agreeing to. They want to get back to what they were doing, and if something pops up, their first instinct is to click ‘yes’ – purely so it goes away. Unfortunately, that single ‘yes’ may have just opened the doors to malware and viruses that will ruin their computer. Set a family rule that they need to ask permission for all downloads (and an adult will check it first), and to never click a popup. When you’re called over to give download permission or check a popup, talk through exactly what you’re checking and why. As your child matures, get them involved in these cyber safety process so their safe habits extend outside the home. Critical thinking is a must with Cyber Safety Most youngsters think the internet is a magical place and can’t imagine their life without it. To them, the internet is on the same level as oxygen! With that acceptance though, comes unwavering trust that the internet would never lie to them, never trick them and never hurt them. While we adults know better, it’s only because we already view the internet with a certain level of distrust. The best way to keep kids safe is to teach them to approach every aspect of the internet with critical thinking. That includes teaching them to question the motives of other people online. Is that person really a kid? What do they really want? Unfortunately, all kids do need to be aware that predators use the internet to target and lure children. Ensure your children tell you immediately if a stranger makes contact. Along with this stranger danger, teach them to identify what marks something as suspicious, and what they should avoid. If they come across anything inappropriate, they should shut down the computer and come straight to you. The internet is forever, Cyber Safety is today. Kids have an overwhelming drive to contribute to the internet, they don’t think twice about recording a video, jumping in a chat room or onto social media. The world really is their playground! But what they don’t understand until they’ve been burned, is that anything they upload, write or say is on the internet forever. Even if they delete it or use a platform where content self-erases, someone can still screenshot and send it right back out. Many cyber-bullying cases are based on this exact type of blow-back. Once your kids know that everything they post is permanent, they’ll be more likely to pause and think. We can secure your computer and help keep your family safe – give us a call at 401 6133.

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