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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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