Microsoft is rolling out the next iteration of its operating system, Windows 11. Of course, new = better, right? But, when it comes to Windows 11, you may want to consider waiting. Here’s why.
Typically, software updates are something to install as a matter of course. The manufacturer, after all, is delivering the latest and greatest in its upgrade. This can be new efficiencies, improved processes, and increased security.
CNN calls the Windows 11 release “the biggest update we’ve seen to Microsoft PC software in more than half a decade.”
But when it comes to Windows 11, do some research first. You may not want to be an early adopter.
When to Upgrade
There are still people using Windows 7, even though the system is no longer supported by the manufacturer. That, we do not recommend. Without support or security updates, these systems are vulnerable to malware attacks.
Meanwhile, the release of Windows 11 indicates Windows 10 is on its way out. Yet Microsoft has said it will support Windows 10 until October 14, 2025. The company typically keeps a ten-year lifespan for its products.
So, you don't need to upgrade immediately. And for some businesses, it makes sense to wait longer to make the switch from 10 to 11. After all, it is not yet an essential upgrade.
Those on Windows 10 will see some advantages, yes. We'll talk more about that next. But, unless you’re a heavy multitasker or need a sleeker visual design on your desktop, you can wait.
By waiting, you’ll also get the advantage of others being the ones to discover the launch issues and bugs. The software has been available in beta since June. Still, as more users get access, you can expect more updates on the horizon.
To help you decide if you’re ready to upgrade, you’ll first want to see if you are eligible for the free upgrade. Also, visit Microsoft's website to see if your PC can run the software (https://www.microsoft.com/en-us/windows/windows-11-specifications).
If you have a custom-built desktop, you’ll want to run a health check to see if you have the TPM 2.0 Windows 11 requires. This is a specific security module, so you don’t want to overlook this!
Why Upgrade to Windows 11
Windows 11 is a redesigned operating system aiming at improved user navigation. Expect:
How to Upgrade
The upgrade is rolling out gradually. Those who recently purchased a new laptop before Windows 11 was pre-installed have access now.
If you are an existing Windows 10 user, you'll see the Windows 11 upgrade sometime between now and mid-2022. Most users will go to Settings > Update & Security > Windows Update and click Check for Updates. If available, you'll see a Feature update to Windows 11. Click Download and install.
Remember to backup all your important documents before starting the installation process!
Also, don’t fall for any fake versions of Windows 11. Wait to receive an official notification of a systems update. Do not click on links promising the software on social media or via email. You could end up downloading malware.
A laptop can hold your life. If you’re working from home, it’s essential to your income. For students, it’s where you keep all your notes and essays. Plus, there are the personal photos and videos. And you sometimes use it to stream your TV shows, or to video chat with friends and family. You may even make music, create art, or be writing the next bestselling novel on your laptop. So, you want to keep it in great shape. Here are five tips to protect your laptop.
#1 Don’t drop it
Or throw it, or stand on it, or expect it to withstand any serious impact. OK, that’s pretty obvious. You also don’t want to use your laptop in the bathtub or at the pool. Even a simple water spill on a laptop can damage the circuitry. If you do get your laptop wet, immediately turn it off and unplug everything attached to it.
#2 Open carefully
Laptops are getting thinner in every iteration. Some now even have foldable screens. The thinner and more flexible screen may look sleek and cool, but it’s also less rigid, which makes it more prone to damage. Especially on lower-cost laptops, the screen can flex if you open the computer up from just one side.
Yet, many of us hold a laptop in one hand and open the lid with the other. This can cause the screen to twist. Use both hands to open the laptop. Or get into the habit of opening your laptop from the center to avoid flex.
#3 Don’t bedazzle your keyboard or screen
Alright, maybe you weren’t planning on putting faux rhinestones on the screen or keyboard. Still, reconsider any decorations you have thought of adding. Even a keyboard protector (to prevent dust or spills getting into the circuitry) or camera privacy sticker could damage some of the new super-thin laptops. It’s just that there is now so little clearance between the keyboard and the screen.
If you really must have your stickers, put them on the protective sleeve that you get for your laptop.
#4 Disconnect carefully
Your laptop needs a consistent power source. If you damage the power cord connection, you’re done. So, make sure you pull the power cord out straight. Yanking it out sideways could damage the port.
Also be aware of where your power cord is connecting to the wall outlet. If you leave the cord trailing along the floor, someone could trip over it, or it could get caught on a rolling chair. This could not only damage the charging port but even pull the entire laptop onto the floor. That brings us back to #1, don’t drop the laptop!
#5 Keep it cool
No, you don’t have to store it into a refrigerator (please don’t!), but heat isn’t good for your laptop. You’ll want to keep your computer away from external sources of heat.
Again, as the laptops get thinner, they are more vulnerable to internal overheating. Ensure that the laptop’s intake ports are unblocked so that air can flow through and cool the circuitry. You might also blow dust out of the vents using canned air.
Also, avoid placing your laptop on very soft surfaces. A soft, uneven surface is more likely to block the internal fans. This leaves your device unable to regulate its temperature. You could even buy a laptop cooling stand, which provides extra fans to improve air circulation.
Average laptop lifespan will vary between two to five years. Keep your laptop on the longer side of that by taking these tips to heart.
If something does happen to your laptop, give us a call at 218-240-8802. Our IT experts are here to help you find the best laptop for you, upgrade and secure your laptop, or fix your laptop when you need it.
What to do When Your Warranty Runs Out
Most technology you buy in stores comes with a warranty of some sort. It might be included or an add-on. Still, it is unlikely to last the lifetime of the device or software, and it seems inevitable that your desktop will die immediately after the warranty runs out. Don’t worry, you still have options.
Murphy’s Law of warranty says that you will have no problems with your computer or printer while it’s covered. Then, as if waiting for the most inconvenient time to go bust, the technology fails just after your warranty ends.
After the frustration of looking up that warranty plan to see the expiration date a few weeks ago, your first response might be to take that device back to the store. You’ve noticed they have a service desk, and that’s where you made the purchase. But the technicians on-site are likely to send your laptop to the manufacturer repair. That could be far away, which negates the convenience of taking it down to your local store. You could wait weeks for your item to get to the repair center. Then, it stills needs attention and returning to your store.
Also know that many manufacturers charge a premium for outside-of-warranty repairs. Now that you’re one or two years into a relationship with the products, they hope you’ll decide upgrading is easier. They actually have a planned lifecycle for computer hardware and plan the warranty end accordingly.
Of course, if you are within days of your warranty's end, ask if the manufacturer will continue to cover the technology. Sometimes it actually will. The manufacturer may also use this opportunity to sell you an extended warranty.
Some help with manufacturer warrantyOur first piece of advice? Be proactive about technology issues. Don’t put off getting something looked at. You may discover you could have saved money by having it checked out under warranty.
Check your eligibility by visiting the manufacturer’s website and typing in the product serial number to check the warranty. Quickly find the page by searching the manufacturer’s name and “check warranty status.”
It’s a good idea to keep track of when your warranty is set to expire. That way, you’ll be more likely to request service in a timely manner. Don’t believe us? Have you ever planned to take an item back to the store only to leave it until the return window has closed?
Small business computer repair shops specialize in repairing out-of-warranty devices. They can run diagnostic tests to determine the problem. Then, they'll help you decide whether it’s worth the cost of repairs. If so, they can fix it at a competitive rate.
Plus, you get personalized service. There’s also the peace of mind that comes from knowing where your computer is at all times. You're not worrying about it shipping around the country to a manufacturer’s repair shop. The timeline reduces, too, as the IT experts are on-site at a convenient computer repair outfit.
We can help keep your computers and other technological devices up and running. Contact us today at 218-240-8802!
Video gaming is an entertainment for all ages. The main demographic is 18–34 years, but those 34–54 are another big segment – even larger than the under-18 group – although the youngest group may spend the most hours gaming, especially during a pandemic. Regardless, PC gamers of any age want the most powerful, fastest computer they can get.
It’s difficult to beat the Boss Level of that favorite game if your computer is lagging. The horror! If you’re serious about gaming, consider the ideas in this article to achieve your next personal best.
The gaming industry is moving to Triple-A titles. Think Grand Theft Auto or Call of Duty. These AAA video games are the equivalent of blockbuster movies. They take months to years for massive teams of people to develop, everything about such games is ambitious (even the price!). The graphics and animation are more immersive, the storylines offer hours of content and encourage open exploration, and the games have a grander scale and improved sound design, too.
All that requires more from your computer. Depending on the age of your computer, you may not need to replace it to power the latest, greatest games. Or you could upgrade to a more powerful video card. Adding more random access memory (RAM) might also take a computer up to the Triple-A level.
Troubleshooting the Home-Gaming PC
Whether you're trying the Triple A game or not, you may run into other problems. A screen locks up, a system crashes, or you see weird graphics or wonky textures in a game. You shoot an opponent with a direct hit, and he takes the win. Any of these problems can ruin your gaming experience.
Various issues cause these headaches for home gamers. Regrettably, they can be difficult to diagnose. The problems might be tied to:
Build Your Own Gaming PC
If you decide it’s time to get a new gaming PC, a popular option now is to custom-build your own. Our experts can do that for you! When you customize your own gaming PC, you get a computer that matches exactly what you’re trying to do.
Don’t settle for a sale computer using lower-quality parts and offering limited upgradability. Avoid buying a brand-name computer pre-loaded with bloatware. Instead, our technician can help you pick the processing and other parts to personalize your system, even down to the color of the fans or console lights.
Why You Should Never Use A Free Email Address For Your Business
The message is clear: email is king. Many clients and customers choose to communicate primarily by email and as you know, it gives a fantastic ROI in your marketing strategy…unless you’re using a free email like Hotmail, Gmail, or even your internet provider. If that’s the case, you’re losing business each and every day.
It looks unprofessional: Imagine if banks used free email accounts – you’d never feel comfortable giving them your personal details let alone any money. How people perceive your business is what makes your business. Without that professional touch, you’ll appear temporary and fly-by-night. It puts your credibility into question and sends the message that you’re not serious about doing business – or worse – that you’re prepared to cut corners.
It erases your experience: Newer, fledgling businesses often start out with a free email address. The address clearly communicates that they are new and have little experience, and are perhaps testing the waters in a new direction. They’re not even remotely proven yet and are firmly within the hobby-zone. Continuing to use the free address once your business moves into the professional arena means you’ll struggle to build momentum and any experience will be negated.
It’s forgettable or inappropriate: Your business success hinges on being memorable enough to gain referral custom and results from your advertising. Unfortunately, free email addresses are by default filled with hard to remember clutter, for example – firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com.
Neither of these roll off the tongue, is appropriate for business, or can be remembered without a high likelihood of typos and bounce back. Branded email addresses such as firstname.lastname@example.org make running a profitable, scalable business much easier.
It’s not permanent or safe: When you use a free email address you are at the mercy of the email provider. They may close down operations or cancel your account for any reason. These types of accounts are also often hacked and leaked on a global scale. When a better internet or email deal comes along, you’re still stuck using the old address because it’s printed on your business cards, car lettering and flyers.
Some will agree to keep the address open for a fee, but you’ll lose the control and flexibility you need to grow your business. With your own domain name, you own it and can move it to a new business-grade email service easily. You’ll also have complete master control over the addresses within your domain, resetting passwords and creating/closing accounts at will.
6 Uses for Your Old, Extra Computers
When you’ve upgraded to a new computer, the old one is a bit of an albatross. You paid good money for that desktop or laptop, and you want to continue to see return on investment. Plus, disposing of that technology feels wasteful. It’s not as if a computer is going to compost itself! To help, we’ve provided seven solid ideas for how to repurpose your old, extra computers.
#1 Turn it into a Kids’ PC
Make the computer available exclusively to your young ones. You can set the device up with parental controls software to:
#2 Make a PC for Seniors
Or, accommodate those at the other end of the seven stages of man. Turn the computer into one geared for older family members. Optimize screen display color contrast for those with poor vision. Make the text size bigger. Set up the use of voice commands. You might even use puffy paint on the keyboard to make common keys easier to find.
#3 Convert to Storage
Storing documents, videos, photos, and music on your computer takes up a lot of room. So, turn that extra computer into a media storage device to keep your new computer in top shape. Think of it as an external storage device with much more capacity than a thumb drive.
Backing up your documents and media to the cloud is always an option. Yet, you may have more that you want to store than you want to pay the fee for storing.
#4 Share a Printer on the Network
If you have a printer that connects via a USB cable, you can generally print from that computer only. You can turn your old computer into a print server that shares the printer over the network. This way, any computer on the same network can make use of the printer.
If the computer is in decent condition, donate it to a school, library, charity or other non-profit. Of course, before doing so, you’ll want to clean it up:
#6 Sell Parts
You could continue to see value from that extra computer by parting it out. This is a good idea especially when the computer is no longer working and can’t be held onto as a backup (just in case). In some cases, parts sell for more than complete computers.
When you’re looking for that new computer or would like to recycle or donate your old one, our IT experts can help. Contact us today at 218-240-8802.
Choosing the Right Computer Monitor
Your hardware, software, and internet connection shape your computing experience. The last essential piece of the puzzle? The monitor you use.
The first thing you need to consider is what you’ll be using the monitor for most. Gamers will have different requirements than those professionals or families viewing photos.
Once you've determined monitor usage, you'll need to consider various specifications. We’ll discuss six of them below, but these will not all carry the same weight. Again, it depends on how you use your computer.
Simply put, a higher resolution equals a better picture. Resolution describes how many pixels there are. A Full HD 1080p resolution monitor – the industry standard – has a 1,920-pixel width and 1,080-pixel height. That’s a total of 2,073,600 pixels, which gives you a more detailed image.
Typical resolutions include:
This consideration brings size and screen resolution together to find the sweet spot. Think of it this way: the 2 million pixels from 1080p will look different on a 17-inch screen than on a 42-inch one. A greater pixel density results in sharper images. Typically, a 24-inch screen is good for 1080p, but you’ll go up in resolution as your screen size expands. You’ll see a lot of tech gurus recommending you choose a monitor with at least 109 pixels per inch (PPI).
With good color accuracy you can count on the monitor to reproduce colors and shades as intended. This may not be as critical for a general user, but someone editing photographs or creating branded marketing materials cares about this one.
Refresh rate tells you how many times a monitor updates information per second, and more is better. For gamers, it’s particularly important. So, if you’re going to be riding the bus in Fortnite, your response rate should be at least 75 Hz. Some even enjoy 144 Hz for a much smoother visual. Those who aren’t gaming should be fine at 60 Hz.
Response time relates to the time it takes to change the individual pixels on the monitor. While not as important for general or professional users, this matters to gamers. A monitor with higher response time gives the gamer a more immersive experience. A slower response time could mean blurred images in fast-paced action sequences.
There are different types of LCD monitor to select from, too:
At last count, Facebook has clocked up over 2.7 billion users, which makes the platform more attractive than ever for scammers and hackers. While you may be logging in to share your latest family photos or catch up with friends, the chances of accidentally triggering a scam or malware are increasing daily. Here’s how to stay safe on Facebook and stop the spread.
Look out for freebies and surveys
Everybody loves a freebie and for the most part the competition posts on Facebook are legitimate. On the flip side though, when you see a giveaway for vouchers from a mega-store, alarm bells should ring. ‘Do this quick survey and we’ll send you a $50 Amazon Voucher!’ - it’s too good to be true. Even one click can take you on a messy journey through the underbelly of the web, picking up trackers and malware at every stop and at the end, you’re asked to share the post so your friends can get a voucher too...except nobody ever gets the reward.
Check your permissions with games and quizzes
Whenever you access a new game or quiz, you’ll need to give permissions for it to access your Facebook profile. Most people click the okay button without any thought, but if you review the permissions you’re giving, you’ll often find they’re asking for a massive amount of personal data; public profile, friend list, email address, birthday and newsfeed. Do they really need ALL this information? Sometimes the shakedown is from necessity, but sometimes the apps are preparing to launch attacks against you both on and off Facebook. For example, when you call your bank they ask certain questions like your full name, birthday and maybe which high school you went to. All that information is in your Facebook profile and now shared with your permission.
Don’t friend people you don’t know
Having lots of friends is always nice, but that friend accept could end up costing you. It might be someone pretending to know you, or a picture of a pretty girl to entice men (and vice versa). Once you friend them, they get access to everything your friends can see. In this case, it’s more than the risk of someone knowing your personal data, you’ve just given them intimate access to your life. It’s exactly how romance scams start, and there are even cases where the victim finds photos of their children circulating the internet.
If it’s weird, forget it
It doesn’t happen very often, but hackers find ways to take advantage of flaws in Facebook. A common hack that keeps popping up in various forms is to embed malware in a link. The virus then infects your machine and contacts all your friends with an enticing message, like asking whether a picture is of them. When they click to view the picture, the virus catches them and their friend list, and so on. Facebook is pretty good at staying on top of these flaws, but they need time to fix it. Just like if you got a weird email with an attachment from a friend, use that same level of scrutiny in your Facebook and don’t open messages or links that seem out of place.
Set up two-factor authentication
It might seems unnecessary right now, since you already have a password protecting your account it is extremely important to have a two-factor authentication set up. It only takes few minutes to do but It will save you a lot of time later on and might even save you your whole Facebook account.
Are You Sick of Ongoing IT Issues?
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 the 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.
Gain a competitive advantage with the support of an MSP. Check Pro+Tech today!
Got a New Device? Here’s the Essential Tech Prep You Can’t Afford to Skip
It’s tons of fun getting a new device. Whether it’s a new desktop, laptop or phone: the thrill of getting it home and opening the box is great. We know, we love tech too. It even has its own version of new car smell! Once you get it home though, there are a number of things that need to be done before it’s really usable – beyond snazzing it up with a new case or mousepad.
The sellers like to say it’s ready to use straight from the box – and it is – except not quite the way you need it to work. They’ll all turn on, look for wifi, and sure, you can type…but rather like when you buy a new fridge, simply turning it on isn’t enough – it’s still empty and you’re still hungry. A few minutes now to prep your new device will save you time, stress, and quite possibly money.
Today, we’re talking vital tech prep for new devices:
Security Updates and Fixes
From the factory to your hands, that device has been in the box for at least a month. In the world of security, that’s an eternity. During that time on the shelf, new viruses have come out and new software weaknesses have been discovered. Fortunately, new updates to combat these problems were also created, they just haven’t been downloaded to your device yet. We can make sure your essential software is up-to-date and set to stay that way. That way, you know your device is safe to go online.
Data Transfer From Old to New
Some people want to transfer everything from one device to another, others like to have a fresh start and keep the old device as a backup. We can either transfer your data entirely or just the things you use. For computers, we can even turn your old hard drive into an external drive that you can plug into your new computer and grab files as required.
Setting up Hardware
If your new device is a computer, you’ll need to hook it up to extra tech like a printer or webcam. These tasks that should be plug-and-play can sometimes send you loopy, especially when you’ve got a plug mismatch or incompatible drivers. We can help get you set up, with everything tested and working.
Setting up Email and Software
This is one people commonly forget and then struggle with. Email clients in particular, need special configuration to connect properly. Quite often, we find people are stuck only able to receive, with overflowing unsent mail that won’t go anywhere! We’ll get all your personal software and connections up and going.
Setting up the Network
While tapping in a wifi password is easy enough, it doesn’t mean your browsing is secure, or even as fast as it could possibly be. We can quickly determine which connectivity method will be best for your device and your needs, and hook you up with fast, robust security measures.
Lockdown Privacy & Permissions
Whether you have children and are looking to provide a safe online experience, files you’d prefer to keep private, or simply want to set up ‘profiles’ for each user to have their own login, we can quickly get your new device configured to meet your needs.
We love to help. Give us a call at 218-240-8802 or create a ticket from our website and we'll get your new device up and running.
A single click can be the difference between maintaining data security and suffering massive financial losses. From the moment just one employee takes the bait in a phishing email, your business is vulnerable to data breaches and extensive downtime.
Quickly spot the red flags and put phishing emails where they belong:
1. Poor spelling and grammar
While occasional typos happen to even the best of us, an email filled with errors is a clear warning sign. Most companies push their campaigns through multiple review stages where errors are blitzed and language is refined. Unlikely errors throughout the entire message indicate that the same level of care was not taken, and therefore the message is likely fraudulent.
2. An offer too good to be true
Free items or a lottery win sure sound great, but when the offer comes out of nowhere and with no catch? There’s definitely cause for concern. Take care not to get carried away and click without investigating deeper.
3. Random sender who knows too much
Phishing has advanced in recent years to include ‘spear phishing’, which is an email or offer designed especially for your business. Culprits take details from your public channels, such as a recent function or award, and then use it against you. The only clues? The sender is unknown – they weren’t at the event or involved in any way. Take a moment to see if their story checks out.
4. The URL or email address is not quite right
One of the most effective techniques used in phishing emails is to use domains which sound almost right. For example, [microsoft.info.com] or [pay-pal.com]
Hover over the link with your mouse and review where it will take you. If it doesn’t look right, or is completely different from the link text, send that email to the bin.
5. It asks for personal, financial or business details
Alarm bells should ring when a message contains a request for personal, business or financial information. If you believe there may be a genuine issue, you can initiate a check using established, trusted channels.
While education is the best way to ensure phishing emails are unsuccessful, a robust spam filter and solid anti-virus system provide peace of mind that your business has the best protection available.
5 Tech Travel Tips You Can Use
5 Tech Travel Tips You Can Use
Travelling soon? For most people, this also means making sure your tech is packed and ready for the adventure. Smartphones, ebook readers, tablets, laptops and smart watches are now so light and portable that you’d never think of leaving them behind, plus they can add a ton of value your experience.
Here are a few tips to consider before you hit the road.
1. Backup to the cloud
While you’re jet setting around, relaxing on a beach or hiking your way to freedom, your tech is always going to be exposed to a level of risk. This might range from accidentally leaving your laptop at a cafe to having it stolen from your bag, but either way the problem is the same - your data is now gone. If you’ve backed up your devices to the cloud (eg Evernote, Microsoft OneNote or Google Drive) you’ll be able to access your files easily and securely from anywhere.
Hot tip: Scan or save important documents like itineraries and passports to the cloud.
2. Pack the right cables
Begging random strangers for a loan of their cable isn’t much fun, so remember to bring the exact cables and chargers you’ll need. Most smartphones and tablets use universal plugs like Micro USB, USB C or Apple Lightning, so you can get away with only packing one cable. Many locations now offer powered USB ports but be sure to also pack the right charger as well, it’s a convenience you’ll appreciate. If you’re travelling overseas and the socket is different, remember to pack a plug converter, and depending on your destination, you might even find the voltage is different. It’s a good idea to check whether you also need a voltage converter before you try and charge.
3. Download offline data
It’s no secret that global roaming can give nasty bill shocks. The easy access data you normally use over Wi-Fi or get included in your cell plan has us all accustomed to being connected. While travelling, you might find yourself in a location where data costs a fortune or it’s not available at all. Download any files you might need, including important documents like itineraries and bookings, so that you can access them even without a connection.
4. Update and scan
Just like you’d make sure you’ve got the right vaccinations and travel gear, make sure your tech is ready to travel too. Set aside a few minutes to run updates for your operating systems and apps, as well as your anti-virus. Go one step further and run a manual anti-virus scan too. The last thing you want to deal with one your trip is a cyber attack! While you’re doing your pro-active thing, turn on password protection for all devices so that only you can unlock them.
Hot tip: Use a complex password that is hard for thieves to guess.
5. Mark your territory
Almost exactly the way it sounds, let everyone know this tech belongs to you. Write your cell number on portable devices in case you get separated so whoever finds it can give you a quick call and save the day. Don’t want to use permanent marker on your shiny tech? Grab some sticky labels you can peel off when you get home.
You can also get little Bluetooth tracking tags to stick to your gear, so that if you ever lose something you can chase it down. Similarly, you might like to consider enabling the ‘find my feature on Apple devices. Having this feature switched on also means you can disable your device remotely, an excellent security option if it’s been stolen.
Have a good and safe travel!
How to Maintain Your Computer (Without Lifting a Finger!)
For a device that’s supposed to make life easier, computers sure do involve a lot of work! There’s so much to keep track of that it’s no wonder most people push ahead and forget the routine maintenance until something breaks. Of course, the problem with being reactive is the damage is already done. Photos and files get lost forever in a crash, and information gets stolen in a hack...by then it’s far too late. It’s a bit like closing the gate after the horses have already fled. This is where proactive people come out on top. Thousands upon thousands of homes around the world are using managed services to put computer problems firmly behind them. It’s a done-for-you maintenance program we offer, and here’s why it’s the best choice.
You’re always up to date. It seems like every second day there’s some new and urgent update waiting to be installed. Whether they’re patching security flaws or adding new features, they seem endless. Sometimes, it goes beyond inconvenient, it gets overwhelming! Even if they do install automatically, they tend to do it at the worst possible moment, leaving you to wait up to 30 minutes when all you wanted to do was quickly check your email. Using our special managed services software, we can make sure your computer’s updates are all finished and done - before you sit down to use it. As part of our service, we also make sure all updates are compatible not just with your hardware, but also with your other software. After all, updates are supposed to make your experience more secure and more enjoyable!
You’ve got super anti-virus. The best anti-virus is the one that’s up-to-date and running, yet you’d be surprised how many people switch it off or never let it update. While you might be in the habit of scanning files and browsing safely, others in your home might not have the same priorities. Having managed services ensures your anti-virus is always running and dealing with any viruses it finds. As soon as a new virus becomes known, we make sure your system is actively protected against it. We also monitor for cyber-attacks and can alert you before they become a problem.
Your hardware stays healthy. While a reactive person is always suddenly stuck without a computer when hardware fails, proactive people with managed services have already had the problem fixed. Our special software monitors the health of your hardware, eg, your hard drive, looking for early warning signs of failure. If detected, we can let you know in advance. This means you’re able to get it repaired at your convenience, making sure no files are lost and no other hardware is damaged in a domino failure.
You never miss a backup. The worst part of a crash or hack isn’t the financial cost, it’s losing your files forever. Many people have their entire collection of photos stored on their computer, plus important family files, most of which can never be replaced or recreated. Whether it’s a report just created, a recipe handed down for generations or a novel you’ve been working on for longer than you’d care to admit, managed services ensures your backup is working correctly. Backed up files are ready to go when you are, and losing files to corruption, failure or theft is a thing of the past.
Support is a phone call away. Just got a new printer and it won’t play nice? Got a weird error popping up? Your laptop won’t talk to the wifi? Our remote support team can help with whatever technology issue has been bugging you and wasting your time. No nonsense advice is just a phone call away, and our team can remotely connect to diagnose and fix many problems. This means you can likely skip the cord shuffle and carting your computer into the shop, and still get your most pressing computer issues fixed.
You’re always optimized. Whether your computer is actively playing up or not, our monitoring service can keep in touch with your event logs, services and processes and look out for anything that needs correction. This means we’re effectively stopping problems before they get to you, making sure that when you sit down to use your computer, it’s doing exactly what you want.
Put computer problems behind you - get managed services today!
Why 2-Factor Authentication is Important
You hear about hacks all the time. The news covers major websites who have had data leaks containing your email and password. Computers get infected and capture your login details for bank accounts and credit cards. In the worst cases, identity theft occurs because it is an easy crime to commit with a high reward.
In 2018, the passwords you used to trust to keep the bad guys out of your accounts are not enough anymore. Cyber attackers now use methods such as phishing, pharming, and keylogging to steal your password. Some have the power to test billions of password combinations.
If you’re like the majority of people, you use the same password for several websites. That means anybody who has figured out that password has access to everything you’ve logged into with it. In a time when it is extremely easy to look up what a person named their first pet or high school mascot, security questions aren’t much help.
Consider how a jewelry store operates. They don’t simply keep their valuables locked away with one key. There are alarms ready to be triggered, motion detectors, and sometimes even bars on the windows. Your data is valuable, just like jewelry. You need more than one line of defense to protect it.
In the computer world, your second line of defense (after your username and password combination) is called “2-factor authentication.” Sometimes referred to as multiple-step or multi-factor verification, 2-factor authentication is a way to double check a person’s identity. This can be enabled every time a person logs in or just under certain circumstances. For example, signing in from a new device or different country might trigger 2-factor authentication.
Many of the services you may already use, such as Facebook, Gmail, Xero Accounting, and more, have 2-factor authentication options. If your bank has ever sent you a special code through text or email to enter before logging in, you’ve already used a type of 2-factor authentication. They can also be in the form of a smartphone app or a physical electronic dongle.
2-factor authentication is absolutely crucial for online banking, email, and online shopping such as Amazon or PayPal. It’s also a must-have for cloud storage accounts (like Dropbox or Sync), password managers, communications apps, and productivity apps. This is especially true if you frequently use the same passwords for different websites and apps.
Some may consider 2-factor authentication unnecessary for social networks, but these are actually very important to keep safe. For ease, a lot of websites and apps allow you to sign up through your Facebook or Twitter account. You need to keep these networks safe so that somebody with your password can’t suddenly get into every account you have linked.
The point of using 2-factor authentication is to make hackers’ lives harder and prevent them from getting into your accounts. If they have captured your login username and password, they still need a second device to get in, especially when the computer or phone they are using has never logged into your account before. This makes it significantly more difficult for anybody to breach your account.
Plus, if you receive a notification with a special code to enter for logging in, and you weren’t trying to log into that account, you have a good signal that somebody else was trying to get in. That means it’s time to change that password and be grateful you had 2-factor authentication.
It’s unfortunate that there is currently an abundance of skilled hackers ready to take advantage of those unprepared. Luckily, you can still stop them -even if they have your login information at hand. 2-factor authentication is one of the easiest methods to keep your accounts safe.
Is Your Laptop Running Hot and Loud?
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 a cooling pad. This allows air free access to the vents and helps prevent dust and hairs getting inside the machine.
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.
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.
If you think a cooling pad will be a good solution for you, consider getting one from our online store.
Keeping Tabs on Children's App Purchases
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.
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.
SSD: Make Your Old Computer Your New 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 favor 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.
Ready to give your machine a new lease on life? Check out our offer!
What is the Best Way to Backup?
What is the Best Way to Backup?
“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 won’t need this data backup.” Yet, whatever your industry, secure, reliable backup ensures business as usual. So, what’s the best way to backup? Here’s help.
Why You Need to Backup
Plan B: Approaches to Backup
There are several off-the-shelf backup options your business can use. Let’s consider the pros and cons of the most popular ones.
USB Thumb Drives — Also known as “flash drives,” “pen drives,” or “memory sticks,” these thumb-sized devices are compact and portable. But, they have size limitations compared to hard drives. Also, the mobility makes them easy to lose (which can actually set the disaster scenario in motion).
Additionally, a USB thumb drive is robust when not plugged in, but more vulnerable when attached. If someone inadvertently snaps the drive or employs too much force, they can put the data on that backup at risk.
The cheap ones also tend to be slow, which can make backing up sluggish.
USB Hard Drives — Portable hard drives increase the data storage available, often at a decent price. They are designed to be compact and mobile. You can prioritize durability, processing speed, storage volumes and more.
Hard drives are less likely to get damaged than a thumb drive. If knocked or jostled, the cables are flexible. Still, a hard drive can be prone to physical failure. Selecting an external solid state drive (SSD) can help since it has no moving parts. Information is stored instead in microchips.
Cloud Storage — Backing up to the cloud stores data on an external, secure server. If thieves take your computers and USB backup, you can still access your data on the cloud. Cloud storage providers build in redundancy to ensure your backup remains safe.
Most cloud storage services back up to secure centers with thousands of servers storing data. Oh, and they’ll have their own server backups too, just in case they’re the ones hit by a disaster. The providers also encrypt data during transit to further ensure compliance and security.
Migrating to a third-party cloud storage service also cuts the clutter at your premises. You can count on expert help to ensure security and compliance. Plus, you can cut operational costs by offloading in-house storage or external hard drive expenses.
OK, What’s the Best Answer?
Don’t think disaster won’t strike your business. Research has found data loss and downtime are most often caused by:
Want to secure your data for the worst? Let's chat!
Why is My Brand New Laptop So Slow?
Why is My Brand New Laptop So Slow?
Your old computer is beginning to slow down. So, you invest in a shiny new laptop. The clouds part and the sun shines down on this bright and lovely new device. 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.
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. Bring your computer in or set up an appointment on our website.
Why Do Computers Break?
Why Do Computers Break?
We know computers always break at the worst possible time, but what exactly prompts that failure? It’s easy to think it was something you did since you were using it at the time, but while your online gaming frenzy might cause a temporary crash, normal user actions are rarely the cause of a broken computer.
Accidents happen, but they don’t always mean you need to buy a new computer. As an electrical item, liquid spills are a big problem. This could be anywhere from a spill on the keyboard, going overboard with the screen cleaning spray or even a flood that reaches the computer. Laptop users need to be especially careful when choosing their work surface, as cafes and kitchen tables often have small puddles left behind. If you’re lucky and the liquid didn’t fry the circuits, ongoing corrosion is still likely, as is stickiness to gum up the internal parts. Similarly, a dropped computer isn’t going to be happy, nor is one that’s been knocked around. Even a light thump of frustration can cause loose cables, disconnections and internal damage.
Computer parts have an expected lifetime, especially moving parts like fans or mechanical hard drives. Some computers can run 24/7 for up to a decade, while others can be barely used but fail within warranty. When age is the issue there are usually early warning signs like extra noise or slowing down, but the actual ‘break’ generally happens when you go to turn the computer on, perhaps after a crash or overnight - either it makes a valiant effort before giving up, or nothing happens at all. Sometimes lasting age is the luck of the draw with how it was manufactured, and quality does play a big part in how long it can keep churning.
We like to think electricity is a constant stream that never varies, but computers are particularly sensitive to both surges (too much electricity) and brownouts (not enough electricity). You might notice the lights dimming or flickering during a brownout, or glowing just a tad too strong during a surge. These variations never last long, and they’re not something you can control unless it’s just your house (it’s worth checking with your neighbors), but they can easily break your computer. A surge protector can guard against mild increases in voltage, but brownouts and strong surges will still cause damage.
Overheating is a big contributor to premature computer death. Some computer parts run hot and need plenty of cooling to keep them working. You might not feel it from the outside, but internal components can rapidly build up heat that needs to go somewhere. When your airflow vents get blocked with dust or pet hair, the temperature continues to increase until components literally bake themselves to failure. At set temperatures, the computer will automatically switch off to try and cool down, however the more often this happens and the higher the temps, the more likely your computer is to die.
Hard Drive Failure
Your data is stored on a hard drive, and if you’ve got a mechanical hard drive (most people do), it works a bit like a record player with a spinning ‘platter’ and a needle that reads it. Small bumps, liquid, age, surges and overheating can all trigger hard drive failure. Along with making your computer unusable, hard drive failure means your data is also lost. While sudden breakage might leave you surprised, take note of any strange noises or repeated crashes and back up your data in advance.
Like a car, your computer needs to be serviced. We can check your computer both physically and its software to make sure its running right and will keep on working for you. Bring it in or give us a call : 218-240-8802
Why Do People Create Viruses?
Why Do People Create Viruses?
You’d be right in thinking it’s hard to program a computer virus that can spread across the world in a flash - we’re talking days of constant desk-jockey nerd-work. So why do they bother? Well, it generally comes down to 3 reasons: Money, showing off their skill, or to simply being a jerk. While showing off or being a jerk is pretty self-explanatory, the money side is fascinating.
Here’s how people are making money with computer viruses:
Bank account theft: Virus creators are more than happy to help themselves to your bank details, sneaking in to grab your login details or credit card info. They can either transfer your funds away or use your credit card details to go on a shopping spree. Sometimes they’ll leave the fun to another person though, and simply sell your details to the highest bidder.
Ransomware: Rather than a financial snatch and grab, sometimes a virus will encrypt your files and demand money for the unlock code. Without a true backup plan in place beforehand, you’re at their mercy. You’ll be given very helpful information on how to pay, plus a firm deadline before your files are destroyed permanently.
Ad swappers: A cheeky technique, this is when they create a virus that either puts annoying ads on websites you visit, or places affiliate codes on pages so that when you buy something legitimately – eg, from Amazon – they get a percentage as a ‘referral fee’. Their kickback doesn’t make your purchase cost more and you may not even know you’re supporting their activities.
Bitcoin mining: You might have heard of digital currencies being used for payment, but did you know you can also earn them with your computer processing power? Unfortunately, ‘renting’ out your computer’s processing power means paying more in running costs than you’d make – unless you were very clever and sneaky, and used a virus to rent out other people’s computers.
Botnets: Certain infected computers can be remotely controlled to do whatever the virus creator wants. In this case, they’ll usually set the infected bot computers to overwhelm a target web server, like an e-commerce store. Sometimes it’s done as revenge, but more often it’s blackmail. The ‘Botmaster’ says “pay me thousands of dollars or I’ll crash your site during the biggest shopping day of the year.”
Account stealing: Subscription accounts like Netflix and Hulu are often hijacked, leaving you to pay the bill for someone else’s entertainment. But sometimes, virus creators go one step further with online gaming accounts. All those digital items that you fought so hard for (special clothing, weapons etc.) can carry real world value and be stolen from your account and sold on a black market. Yes, that’s cheating!
If you're worrying about your protection online, make sure to check out our Pro+Tech Managed Services.
5 Ways Managed Services Can Grow Your Business
Managed Service Providers (MSPs) help businesses take a proactive approach to managing their technology without the expensive step of hiring an in-house team. Your MSP is essentially a collection of niche technology experts working behind the scenes to keep your data safe, generate solutions to IT problems and keep your software updated. Even larger businesses who already have an IT person will often call in an MSP when daily support becomes overwhelming or a specific certification is required.
Let’s explore 5 specific business breakthroughs an MSP can give you:
1. It’s extremely cost-effective: There’s only so much in the budget for IT and responding to events on a break/fix basis will quickly exhaust your accounts.
An MSP works by getting ahead of problems before they occur – making equipment last longer, defending against costly security breaches and keeping the business up and running. Instead of calling for a repair at a high hourly rate, you get a wide array of expert services for one predictable monthly fee.
2. You have access to multiple experts: Businesses usually end up adding extra tasks to an unqualified but enthusiastic employee’s workload, resulting in costly problems. With MSPs, you have access to many people who are experts in very specific areas, and your existing staff can focus on tasks within their job description.
3. Speedy problem resolution: Downtime and business don’t mix, so your MSP will provide a reliable expert on call (usually with 24/7 options) to troubleshoot and resolve any problems. Much of the time, you can also skip the delay of an on-site repair with rapid remote support available in just moments.
4. Fewer problems: A large part of your MSPs service is fixing problems before they happen. While fixing things as they break isn’t the worst approach to IT management, it generally means you’re also suffering productivity losses, downtime and losing money by the second.
Your MSPs primary goal is to ensure these problems are avoided completely, through system monitoring and robust security measures. They’ll also make sure every important software update and security patch is applied immediately, closing breach points and keeping your business safe.
5. Shared responsibilities: As your business grows, so will your IT systems. A good MSP is on top of what your future needs will look like and knows which products and infrastructure are suitable to help you get there. Your MSP doesn’t just monitor your system and repair as required; they share responsibility for your system. This means measuring, reporting, analyzing and optimizing, working with you to introduce new technologies and processes.
Depending on your level of contracted services, your MSP can actually become a catalyst for growth.
Sounds good, doesn’t it? With managed services, your business always has the maximum security against threats, downtime and productivity drops. But for the savvy business owner, it’s also a way you can afford to leverage cutting-edge technologies, with complete peace of mind and ongoing support.
Boost your business with managed services. Check out our Pro+Tech!
Why Managed Services Will Save You More Than Money
“Downtime costs money.”
That’s no secret, but it doesn’t quite capture the whole experience…you arrive to work in the morning, grab your coffee knowing you’ve got a hectic day ahead, and are ready to dive in.
For some reason your computer can’t access the database and neither can anyone else’s. You restart the server while fielding calls left, right and center, but are unable to answer any client queries. Your hands are completely tied…and now the server is beeping furiously…what’s going on??!
You’re not just in crisis mode, you’re on damage control as you call every tech you can think of, trying to find one who can come NOW.
Not exactly the day you had planned.
The Break/Fix Days Are Gone
Previously, businesses only addressed their IT needs when something broke. A few hours down meant little in the scope of things. In today’s fast world, businesses rely heavily on IT and downtime just isn’t an option. Even the legalities of simply restoring financial, legal or medical files after a breach raises issues.
The cost of break/fix is now too high, both financially and emotionally.
Simply put, your IT services are remotely monitored and proactively managed by a professional, external business. Your Managed Service Provider (MSP) runs regular diagnostics on equipment to identify impending failure and resolves problems before they happen.
Benefits of Managed Services
Small to medium businesses in particular benefit from managed services, because they don’t usually have an on-site technician to oversee the multiple systems in use. By subscribing to a managed service provider, businesses can have reduced labor costs, access to a knowledge base, future-pacing, better data security and reduced downtime. Businesses can also know exactly what their upcoming costs are and plan accordingly.
Some of the managed services we can provide are:
Remote support – This allows us to help you quickly without needing to be on-site.
Hardware monitoring – We monitor your servers and workstations to catch hardware failures before they happen.
Managed anti-virus – We make sure your anti-virus is up to date and take immediate action if an infection occurs.
Patch management – We make sure your computer’s operating system is up to date, closing access to known vulnerabilities as soon as possible.
Are you interested in giving a managed service a go? Check out Pro+Tech provided by us, your local Small Town Tech folks!
You’ll know if you’re a victim of ransomware. Often you’re met with a red screen telling you your business files are encrypted. You won’t be able to do anything on the computer, although the cybercriminals will provide helpful instructions for how to pay up. How nice. Here’s what to do instead if you’re the victim of a ransomware attack.
Cybersecurity Ventures predicts ransomware will impact businesses every 11 seconds in 2021. Yes, you read that right. That’s up from every 14 seconds in 2019. Another research company reported ransomware increasing 485% year-over-year in 2020.
Know that it’s widely considered a bad idea to pay the ransom, because you’re rewarding the cybercriminal. Plus, you can’t even be sure that they will provide the encryption key needed to regain the use of your files. What! You were going to trust the bad guys?
The Important First Step
The first thing you’ll want to do is make it all go away. Yet wishful thinking is not going to get the job done. Instead, you’re going to have to turn immediately to your disaster response plan, because, of course, you have one of those already. Really, don't underestimate the value of planning in advance for IT infrastructure compromise. Doing it proactively means calm, considered decisions rather than reacting in a crisis.
Step one is going to be identifying the systems involved and isolating them. Once you detect a compromise, limit the spread of infection by disconnecting the devices affected. Ideally, you take only a few computers offline or disconnect an individual network. Even in a large-scale compromise, remove all affected devices from the network to contain the malware.
As part of the isolation, don’t forget to disconnect any connected devices such as storage drives. The ransomware infection will even seek out USB thumb drives.
Power down only the affected devices if you are unable to disconnect them from the network. Why? Because turning them off means you might lose potential evidence.
Malicious actors may be monitoring your business communications. So, move offline to coordinate your response. Phone calls or text messaging will work, or personal email accounts.
Don’t attempt to restore critical systems until you have identified and isolated. After that, your business can move into triage mode. Prioritize what to restore, and recover using your data backup (again, of course, you have one of those, too). Consider how critical each system is for health and safety and revenue generation. Then, get to work restoring systems in an efficient, organized fashion.
Minimizing Ransomware Risk
Ransomware is a major threat to every business sector, and you don’t want to become the next victim. Common best practices include:
Businesses that partner with a managed services provider have someone supporting their efforts to cut ransomware risk. Plus, if the worst happens, the MSP’s IT experts are at the ready to identify and isolate. They can find the samples needed, determine the malware strain you are dealing with, and report the attack.
Your data backup should have recent copies of all information up to (or close to) the time of infection. So, once the MSP has removed all ransomware, they will wipe your systems and storage devices. They can swiftly reformat the hard disks and reinstall everything from scratch.
An MSP can help you plan ahead to contain the damage from a cyberattack. Let our IT experts install best practices, set up safe backups, and track activity on your network. Sign up for Pro+Tech today!
How Many Good Battery Habits Do You Really Have?
Batteries are rarely talked about - until they’re drained – then we’ll tell everyone as we beg desperately for a charger, hoping to get enough juice to last the day. The truth is, they’re a miracle of engineering that gets taken for granted when full and cursed when flat. If it feels like your battery is running out faster, you might be right. But it’s not because of ‘battery memory’ and needing to be cycled (that’s an older battery type called NiMh), it’s because the modern LITHIUM-ION batteries in phones and laptops just simply wear out over time. Fortunately, extending your battery life is easier than you think! Which of the following GOOD battery habits do you have?
1. Charge whenever you can: Lithium-ion batteries don’t like being charged all the way up and then drained all the way down. No wonder, it even sounds exhausting. Give them a little charge here and there, and they’ll be happy.
2. Leave your laptop plugged in all the time: You can’t over-charge the battery, it will just sit there waiting to be used. The laptop also helps out by cutting the flow of power when the battery registers as fully charged.
3. Watch for overheating: If you can, remove your laptop battery while charging, because while it won’t overcharge, it may overheat. You might also consider removing the battery if you’re using your laptop plugged in all the time. Sure, you might lose data if there’s a power outage, but overheating is a far more common occurrence and it’s been proven to degrade battery life considerably. Check your vents are clear with good airflow, and if necessary, help it out with a cooling laptop stand.
4. Leave your phone plugged in all night: Just like your laptop, your charger knows to stop when the battery is full. Those chargers do generate heat though, so make sure you have enough airflow around both charger and phone, and never sleep with it under your pillow.
5. Charge batteries before storing: If you’re blessed with backup batteries, make sure to give them a half charge before storing. They’ll naturally discharge and age over time, so this gives them a fighting chance to still be viable when you need them.
6. Keep your cool: We know to avoid water with our phones, but we’re less careful about exposing it to heat. This includes leaving it in your car all day, placing it on top of your PC, or even in a sunny spot by the window. Wireless and rapid chargers can also be an issue, as the amount of heat they generate will affect your battery.
Your battery will wear out over time, but you can push that day a few years into the future if you remember to keep it charged and keep it cool.
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