Learn what you need to do before throwing away you old computer to make sure nobody steals your stuff.
Learn what you need to do before throwing away you old computer to make sure nobody steals your stuff.
In this edition of Video TechTips we show you how to use a very easy to use (and free) tool to speed up your PC.
Did you know that …
70% of small firms that experience a major data loss go out of business within a year.
Of companies experiencing catastrophic data loss:
• 43% of companies never reopened
• 51% of companies closed within 2 years
If your backup plan consists of shuffling tapes, flash drives,or external disk drives then you should consider online (aka Cloud) backups.
Wireguided’s Online Backup Solution costs as low as $600 a year and backs up databases, mail servers, and everything else. All information is encrypted before it leaves your network. In case of a major disaster you can download your data from any Internet connected computer or have information sent to you next day on an external disk drive.
For more information please email firstname.lastname@example.org or call us at 781-679-0660
This edition of Video Tech Tips shows how to identify what is causing your PC to be slow.
One of the most overlooked parts of IT from the business owners perspective is employee Information Technology training. Either there is no in-house person with the knowledge to do the training or it is just not part of the new hire / yearly review process. This is unfortunate as just a little bit of employee IT know-how can have a big performance improvement for your business. Think of all of the times an employee (or yourself) had a computer problem and just sat there waiting for someone to fix it? Time is money so let’s list some quick topics and tips that you can use in your business.
Reboot / Do not keep your PC on for days (or weeks!)
Yes, this is a very obvious thing to do for most people but I cannot count how many times a simple reboot fixed a show stopping problem. No matter what the problem try a simple reboot. Also, have your employees turn their PCs off when they leave for the day (if they do not need to get to it remotely). By doing this you can extend the life of your hardware, lower your electric bill, and keep things running smoothly. With modern desktops and servers you can do this automatically on a schedule.
Google is Your Friend
If you or your employees have simple How-To questions then just Google it. Do you see a weird error message on the screen? Google that too. The Internet has a ton of useful information that can be accessed very easily. Just use the following queries at google.com to get some answers:
Your employees are your first line of defense. It only makes sense to give them a little training. Do your employees know how to properly dispose of private data (yours and your customers)? They should if you want to avoid being put out of business due to fines and penalties (see: 201 CMR 17). Are they trained to question people who walk in the door (even if they are wearing a suit) or not let people in behind them. Do they know NOT to click on any attachment or link in an email? What about the rules for bringing in their own (possibly virus infected) laptops into your office? Take 30 minutes of sit down time and train train train!
You may be the boss but your employees may know a heck of a lot about the day to day issues and problems that you are not informed of. Don’t just put aside complaints about speed or performance. These could be productivity killers. Does an employee complain about their PC that takes 20 minutes to boot up? Now who else has that issue? Now combine the wasted time and see how much money is going out the door while they sit and wait. Maybe some new hardware is needed or just a PC cleaning. Take the time to find out. It will make everyone happier and more productive.
Now I could go on and on. Use these quick topics / tips as a starting point and go from there. If you or your business need more information on educating employees please contact Wireguided.
The first in our new series of Video TechTips will show you how to spot a phishing email.
If you have a PC (or even a Mac), you may know someone who has been a victim of malware that pretends to be a virus scan. What make this a nasty piece of software is that it makes your system unusable until it is removed. Let’s show you what it looks like and how to remove it.
What does it look like?
The video below shows a sample website that is trying to get you to infect your system.
A keen eye will notice that the ‘virus scan’ is actually happening inside your web browser and not your PC. The site is trying to trick you into installing the software that will really infect your system. So what do you do? Well, just close your browser (if you can). If not reboot your PC or more advanced users can kill the web browser process via CTRL-ALT-DEL. Just do not click on anything or agree to download any file. If you follow the above directions, you are safe and no infection will occur.
If by accident you panicked and installed the ‘anti-virus’ software there are a few ways to remove it. The most basic way is to have your IT staff reboot the PC and then log into it as a different user that has admin privledges. Once logged in, run a Malwarebytes to remove the software. I also recommend running CCleaner to clean up temp files where more malware may lurk.
If you cannot log in as another user, boot the system into safe mode and run the software above.
NOTE: Sometimes the malware removal may remove how the system understands how to execute files. If this happens you will need to download a tool that will rebuild that connection from another PC and run it from a flash drive on the repaired system.
If you have any questions or need assistance in removal, future prevention, or employee education please contact Wireguided.
As we close out another year many businesses are in the process of preparing their budgets for 2011. This article lists a few Information Technology items you may want to consider including in your budgeting plans for next year.
Did your company grow or shrink last year? How many computers are being used? Do any employees work from a home office? Did your organization stop using a specific product? These are some general questions you should ask to determine the status of your software and support licenses. Make sure you only pay for what you are using (and ensure you’re compliant as well).
Desktops / Laptops
In this economy, many businesses are holding off on computer upgrades (‘if it ain’t broke, don’t replace it’). However, the cost of owning a PC rises dramatically after three years. Look at your inventory and count how many computers you have over four years old. Multiple that by $600 for a ballpark estimate on the cost to replace them for your budget. Identify your most productive employees and pick them for an upgrade first. Productivity increases (and happy employees) make for a more profitable business.
What is your IT budget? How much of that goes towards payroll? Depending on your situation you may be able to lower your costs for support by up to 40% by outsourcing. Wireguided would be more than happy to provide you with a evaluation of your current situation.
When is the last time you examined the back end of your infrastructure? Your servers keep everything running so it is always good to budget for upgrades (software and/or hardware). Ask your IT staff if there will be a need for more memory or disk space. Are any of your service warranty’s expiring? Are there new versions of software that can make your business run smoother? If your servers are more than five years old, it may also be time to think about upgrading them.
Is accessing your files or the internet slow? Is your wireless network upgraded for the new wireless standard (802.11n)? Speak with your IT department to see what upgrades are needed. Also, review your contracts with your Internet provider to make sure their are not any better deals out there.
Was 2010 full of spam and virus/spyware outbreaks? If so, you may want to budget for some more effective software. When was the last time you had a security audit? Is your business compliant with 201 CMR 17 (MA only)? Budgeting for audits and compliance may save you downtime and legal headaches down the road.
If your phone system is showing its age a new one might be worth considering. Recent technology will make this cost much less than just a few years ago. Hosted or local VoIP systems are now the preferred way to do this. There are many vendors out there so first evaluate your requirements and your existing IT infrastructure. Then get quotes from multiple sources.
Mobility / Remote Access
Can your employees work from home or receive email on their phone? Mobility can not only improve productivity it can also lower your long terms costs (no need to get more office space if your employees can work remotely). Now is the time to speak with your employees and your management team to see if your current solution (if any) is cutting it and to then budget for what is needed. Do not forget the cost of smart phones and their associated data plans.
Save the planet and your bottom line. Green IT can be the answer. By implementing some upgrades in 2011, your 2012 will look much better. Some examples of items to budget for are server virtualization (less physical space needed, less electrical usage), desktop power management software, environmental monitoring, and more efficient designs for data centers.
Some other items to consider for your budget are upgrades to Windows 7, migrating to hosted services (offsite backups, email, etc.), desktop upgrades (memory and software), and an emergency fund for when bad things happen.
Every business is different and the above list is not all encompassing. If your organization needs a little guidance on preparing their IT budgets for next year, please contact Wireguided.
Some of the hardest hit organizations in this economy are our K-12 schools. With state aid withering away and costs rising due to contracts and maintenance any savings that can be found would be welcome. Information technology is on of the areas where new technologies and methods can not only save money, but improve service.
Google Apps Education Edition – Cost: FREE (almost)
Google Apps for Education is a great set of tools that is free for K-12 institutions to use. All programs are web based so their is no internal infrastructure to maintain. The main applications included are (from Google’s web site):
The main catch is that if you need archiving, content filtering, and virus protection you will need to pay extra. These may be a requirement due to local and state laws so do your research. Prices vary depending on how many licenses you need. The other issue is support. Google does not offer 7×24 coverage and phone support is only for ‘server down’ issues and not common questions. If these are not of concern then price is great and the applications are good for most users and students.
Hosted Exchange Services (aka Cloud service)- Cost: ~$9-$10 per user (educational discounts may lower this cost)
If your institution needs a more thorough set of email/calendar/ contact tools then a hosted Exchange server may be what your looking for. The big difference between this and Google apps is that there is usually built in spam and content filtering. You also get free Microsoft Outlook licenses for each computer (as well as their web based interface). Like Google apps, you will pay extra for archiving. However, unlike Google’s offerings, you get 7×24 phone support, 99.999% uptime SLA, and certifications such as SAS 70 and HIPAA compliance.
As a whole it is a much more mature product that is familiar to most staff and faculty so their is little to no learning curve. However, you will need to pay a bit more for it.
Hosted Sharepoint (aka Cloud service) – Cost: $20/month+ (depending on size)
What happens when you combine a web site, file server, blog, Facebook, collaboration tools, and easy database access? You get Microsoft Sharepoint.
One of the most common issues with K-12 schools is unifying data access and communication. Each teacher may be communicating differently with their students and parents. Some may use email, others Facebook. Some may have personal blogs which they post curriculum others may not even go near the Internet. Districts and individual schools may each have their own website with their own look and feel. Not only does this present a disjointed appearance to students and families, it also hurts productivity (where is that information? What does this teacher use to provide information?) and costs money to maintain.
Sharepoint is a web based collaboration portal that allows organizations to have an easy to use, highly customizable, and centralized location for all their information. Within the Sharepoint portal each teacher, department, and school can have its own web page to post documents, calendars, and general information (think blog or Facebook). A school district can maintain a certain ‘look and feel’ across all schools and provide a single point of access for everyone. Sharepoint can act as a web based interface for databases used for grading, finances, etc. It it highly customizable and has a great amount of flexibility.
Instead of having every teacher or every school do something different, a school district can use one tool to unify communication between everyone. No matter what the grade, students and parents would know where to get information. All staff could be trained with the same manual. Teachers would be able to put course information online. On top of all this, everything is searchable from top to bottom.
Outsource your IT Department – Savings: 20-50% over current IT employee budget
Admittedly this section is a bit self serving, but here me out. One of the largest costs of any department are the employees. In many K-12 schools the IT departments are either understaffed, staffed by employees that do not have a wide range of experience (e.g., desktop support staff are also managing the servers, network, and security), or staffed by employees who do not have access to modern technologies or methodologies (or just don’t care).
When most of the time your IT staff is putting out desktop support issues, instead of improving the infrastructure, you will eventually get to the point where the costs to maintain a crumbling infrastructure starts to add up. By using an experienced managed service provider schools can drastically lower their costs while using people who have a wide range of experience and are also indifferent to internal politics.
THE BOTTOM LINE
If you are involved in a school system (or any other organization that has lowering budgets and rising costs) there are a few things you can do to save money and improve performance.
Part two of this article will include information on Open Source replacements for Microsoft Office, server virtualization, and Green IT.
If your organization would like to learn more please contact Wireguided for a no-cost review of your IT infrastructure.