November 23rd, 2015

Most people never think about their computer names. Some people affectionately name their machines like they would name a car, but very few actually bother changing the name the computer uses for identification on the network. Your MSP or IT team, however, relies entirely on this system of identification in order to keep track of all the computers they manage, and will likely put their own naming scheme in place for this purpose.

In businesses where the same computer can be used by many people, or one person may be using multiple computers, it’s important to be able to tell your IT team which computer is experiencing the issue you’re reporting. Although your IT team should be able to walk you through finding this information, knowing it in advance will save you time and will enable your MSP to solve the problem more quickly. Once you’re familiar with the process, it will only take you a few seconds to locate the name of any computer.

Here are five different ways you can find your computer’s name:

1. Press and hold the Windows key, then press the Pause/Break key.

Your computer name can be found under the “Computer name, domain, and workgroup settings” section of the window that appears. This window will look almost identical regardless of which operating system you’re running.

Find your computer name under the section titled Computer name, domain, and workgroup settings

If you use a full keyboard with your desktop computer, the Pause/Break key will be located to the right of your function keys in the top row. If you’re using a laptop, your keyboard may not include this key. In this case, you can use the following sequence to find the name of your computer:

2.  Press and hold the Windows key, then press the R key. Type the letters “cmd” into the prompt box that appears. Type the word “hostname” and press enter.

Depending on the permissions your IT team has put in place, you may not be able to open the Command Prompt window. If you run into this issue, you can try one of the following three options, depending on your operating system:

3. Windows 7: Click on the start menu, right-click on Computer, and select Properties.

This will open the same window as option number 1, allowing you to find your computer name under the section titled “Computer name, domain, and workgroup settings.” The information you’re looking for is just the computer name, not the full computer name.


4. Windows 8: Hover your mouse over the top right-hand corner of your screen. In the sidebar that appears on the right, click on the settings icon and select PC Info.

Windows 8.1 is a little different. If you’re running this version, you’ll need to right-click on the Start button and select System. If you aren’t certain which operating system you’re running, simple trial-and-error should tell you pretty quickly.

5. Windows 10: Open the Start menu and click Settings. Select System, then About.

Strangely, the newest version of Windows also requires the most steps to find your computer name. Fortunately, each click is fairly intuitive and shouldn’t be difficult to remember.

If you can’t find the name of your computer using any of these options, it’s worth sending a quick email to your IT team asking them if they know what your computer name is or if they’re able to walk you through finding it. Once you know your computer name, it’s best to memorize it or write it down somewhere so that you’ll have it on hand in case of an issue. After all, if your hard drive crashes or your operating system freezes, none of the above steps will be of much use to you.

November 12th, 2015

Every time something goes wrong with one of your employees’ computers and they have to call their IT support, they lose time and your company loses money. MSPs understand this, which is why they work proactively to prevent problems before they occur. However, computers will inevitably experience technical or hardware-related problems, so it’s important that your employees have a basic level of knowledge that will enable them to recognize problems when they occur, allow them to try a few simple troubleshooting steps that may resolve the issue more quickly than calling IT support, and take a few easy steps to prevent small issues from blowing up into big problems.

With that in mind, here are the top three things that we think all employees should know about computers:

  1. When and why you should restart your computer

Restart your computer frequently.This is more extensively covered in a previous blog post, but the conclusion is simple: you should restart your computer at least once a day in order for it to perform at its best. Restarting your computer frees up memory space and clears temporary files that have been stored on it, allowing it to run faster. It can also resolve the following issues:

  • Frozen applications or frozen operating system
  • Disconnected network drives
  • Hardware issues such as loud fan noise or an unusually hot system

Finally, restarting your computer is required in order to install Windows Updates, and may be necessary to finish installing other software or software updates.

  1. How to recognize when you have a virus

Malware comes in many forms, including spyware, ransomware, keyloggers, and other malicious code. Listing the symptoms of every existing virus would be impossible, but as a general rule, it’s a good idea to run a virus scan every time your computer behaves unusually. Ignoring a virus or failing to recognize it for too long can have disastrous consequences.

This is an example of "scareware" that is actually attempting to steal your personal information.

This is an example of “scareware” that is actually attempting to steal your personal information.

If a computer starts running slowly and a reboot doesn’t speed it up, there may malware running in the background that is slowing it down. If you start receiving strange pop-up messages on normally secure websites, or when you aren’t browsing the internet at all, it’s an almost guaranteed sign of a virus. The same can be said for any time your default browser window is set to a strange search engine or other unfamiliar page, and almost every time a toolbar has been installed either without your permission or packaged as part of an unrelated software.

However, it’s also important to recognize when you are being tricked into believing you have a virus. Malicious code on websites frequently relies on scaring people into downloading a virus disguised as antivirus software. Another common tactic is to scare you into calling the scammer, who will use that opportunity to try to steal your personal information. If you suddenly receive a message while browsing the internet warning that you have a virus and need to download antivirus software or call a phone number, chances are you don’t yet have malware on your computer. It’s best to simply close the tab or window in which you received the message, then run a virus scan from an antivirus software you trust.

  1. Why you should save your files on the network

Most businesses today use a NAS to store network drives. Depending on what permissions are set, network drives can either be accessed by some or all employees, or can be restricted to a single user. When each user is given their own network drive, they are presented with the option to either save their files on the network drive or save them on their local machine (e.g., in their My Documents folder).

It is extremely important that all employees save their files on network drives instead of on their local computers. In case of a system infection such as the Cryptolocker virus, where all files are encrypted and held for ransom, or in another situation involving data loss, it’s necessary to be able to restore all information quickly and accurately. Loss of data can also lose companies time, money, and trust from their customers.

It’s important to always back up your files. However, if regular backups are made of data stored on servers but not on local machines, or if backups run more frequently on servers than individual computers, any files that were saved on an employee’s computer may not be recoverable, or may be restored from a much older version.A NAS, or Network Attached Storage device.

This is also the case for any system or hardware malfunctions that may render a hard drive unsalvageable. Files saved on the local computer may not be recoverable if the hard drive crashes, but it only takes minutes to connect a user’s network drive to a new computer without any loss of data..

Ensuring your employees know when to restart their computers, how to recognize when they have a virus, and why they should always save their files on the network, will significantly decrease the amount of time they spend on the phone with their IT team, and will help prevent potentially disastrous situations for your company. We would highly recommend including this knowledge as a part of the training process for all new employees.

November 2nd, 2015

Have you tried turning it off and on again?As the stereotype goes, your IT team’s first question when a problem is reported is often, “have you tried restarting your computer?” or “have you tried turning it off and on again?” It’s easy to get offended when this question is asked, but the truth is that many problems can be resolved by a simple reboot. In fact, the longer you leave your computer on without restarting it or shutting it down, the more likely it is to start experiencing issues.

As a general rule, computers running old versions of Windows should be shut down every night to achieve their best performance. Computers running newer versions of Windows, as well as Mac computers, can be shut down or restarted less frequently. Note that a computer going into sleep mode is not the same as being shut down; there are still processes running in the background while it’s in sleep mode.

If you begin experiencing issues and your computer has been up and running for over a week, it’s best to try restarting it before you or your IT team attempt any further troubleshooting. It’s natural for a computer to start running more slowly if it has been left on for a long time, and restarting it will usually speed things up. This works because a reboot will free up memory space and clear temporary files that were stored by various pieces of software.

Most commonly, restarting your computer can fix issues with freezing or applications that get stuck at “not responding.” If your computer is frozen and you’re unable to click on the start menu to restart it, you can manually shut it off by pressing the power button, waiting a few seconds after it shuts down, then pressing the power button again to turn it back on. If the issue is still present after the restart, a call to your IT team may be necessary.

CTRL + ALT + DELAny time you install a Windows update, your computer will need to be restarted. This is also true for many software updates or installations, so if you notice any expected changes that have yet to take effect, a reboot may be necessary to complete them.

Restarting a computer can also resolve issues with network drives. If you can’t connect to one or all of your network drives, rebooting your computer will force it to try connecting again, which may resolve any temporary glitches which were previously preventing it from connecting.

Finally, restarting your computer can even resolve a few hardware issues. If you notice a laptop is unusually hot or its fan is particularly loud, it may just be working too hard and need a quick reboot to bring it back to a fresh state.

Restarting your computer on a regular basis, and particularly when you experience any of the above issues, will save you a lot of calls to IT support, which will in turn save you time and your business money. It will also make it easier for your IT team to pinpoint the source of the problem if they already know it couldn’t be resolved by rebooting your computer. And, perhaps most importantly, won’t it be satisfying to answer “have you tried restarting your computer?” with “yes, of course”?

February 20th, 2012

Thinking of adopting a "bring your own device", or BYOD, policy at work? Learn more about what it is, why it's becoming popular – and what you need to consider before rolling it out.

You may have noticed more and more of your employees or colleagues bringing their own computing devices to work—be it their mobile phone, tablet, or laptop. Or perhaps in your company or in other companies you may have seen, they have let people decide which device they prefer because they are used to it at home. You may not realize it, but this is all part of a large trend called the "consumerization" of IT, in which the influence of consumer technology is being increasingly felt in the workplace. With the wide availability of cheap but powerful mobile devices and online services, a growing number of people are being exposed to the latest technology at home first—adopting them at a rate faster than most businesses are able to manage. This flips on its head the old paradigm in which traditionally new technologies would be rolled out to businesses first, before they would find their way to consumers.

This trend, plus the increasing sophistication of young workers today and their frustration with the tools available to them at the office, is pushing some companies to adopt a "bring your own device" or BYOD policy at work. They are not alone. According to research by technology analyst group Gartner, end users, not the IT department, will soon be responsible for 50 percent of business IT procurement decisions—ultimately bringing and running their own systems on company networks. Meanwhile, according to management consultants Accenture, around one-third of today's younger generation of workers (a group called "millenials") not only wants to use the computer of their choice at work, but also wants control of the applications they use too.

The benefits companies cite to adopting a BYOD policy are many, among them:

  • Savings on capital expenses and training costs in using company equipment—compensating employees instead via other means such as flexible work hours, subsidized purchases, insurance, and other benefits.
  • Less management headache—effectively letting employees decide what to use releases the company from some overhead and management responsibilities.
  • Improved employee satisfaction—by giving employees the freedom to use devices and applications that they prefer.
However, before you consider letting employees bring their own personal technology to the work place, be aware that there are also disadvantages, and sometimes very real dangers in doing so. These include:
  • Non-standardization of hardware, operating systems, and applications. If your business operations require that some equipment is integrated with others, then BYOD can in the long run actually increase IT management costs and decrease efficiency.
  • Exposing your network to malware or security vulnerabilities and breaches. When your employees bring their own devices to work, you lose important control over their security. Consumer devices often don't employ comparable bullet-proof security technologies mandated by businesses.
  • Leakage of confidential or proprietary information. Employees will naturally do what they want with the data on their devices, even if it doesn't belong to them, or it's against company policies. Employees can also lose precious company data when they misplace or damage their personal devices.
  • Lower economies of scale in procurement. Essentially because everyone is buying devices on their own, you miss out on the chance to consolidate purchases and lower purchase costs for everybody.
Have you adopted a BYOD policy at work? Thinking about it? Worried about this trend? If you need to understand BYOD better so you can define a policy for your staff, contact us and see how we can help.
Published with permission from Source.

February 13th, 2012

For smaller companies and businesses who are constantly on the lookout for great free finds on the web: here are a few nifty and free online tools that might potentially help you, both in saving costs and boosting your productivity and efficiency.

It is a constant challenge for small businesses to meet ever-changing and ever-evolving IT requirements while balancing a budget and keeping costs reasonable. And with software applications being one of the major factors that contribute to IT maintenance costs, it is always welcome news to come across free tools that work well and efficiently despite the lack of a price tag.

ThinkFree Online Office One of these applications is ThinkFree Online Office, which is a cloud application that enables you to create and edit documents in common formats. It also comes with free 1GB of storage and allows you to work from anywhere, since the documents are stored online. And with its own app for Android users, ThinkFree is particularly advantageous to people who need to work on the go.

ReqMan Another free cloud-based application that can prove useful is ReqMan, an online project management tool. You can use this to manage and track your different projects using various templates the service provides. And since it's in the cloud, mobile personnel and staff who are given access to your ReqMan account can work even when they're out of the office.

Gliffy Gliffy is a free tool that you can use to create all sorts of technical illustrations – diagrams, floor plans, flowcharts, and more. The basic plan is free, but you also have the option to subscribe to their more fully featured plans for a minimal fee.

ScheduleOnce For managing schedules, calendars, and the like, ScheduleOnce allows you to keep better track of all your appointments, meetings, and deadlines through a single tool. It integrates with your calendar on Google, and then allows other people to see your open times when they can schedule a meeting with you. Think of it as a one-stop-shop for your scheduling needs.

If you want to know more about these tools and how you can best utilize them, please feel free to contact us. We’ll be happy to guide you and help you make the most out of these types of applications to improve your efficiency and bottom line.

Published with permission from Source.

January 9th, 2012

A worldwide shortage of hard drives is expected in the near future as many of the Thai-based factories continue to struggle with flooding.

In the same way the massive earthquake and tsunami damaged Japan’s electronics industry, the flood crisis in Thailand is causing concern for companies that require hard drives for production.

The majority of the world's hard drives are produced in factories located in Thailand, where the flood crisis has put a damper on many industries, hard drive producers included.

According to reports, the shortage is already driving hard drive costs up and may just be the beginning of that trend. As companies like Hewlett Packard respond to the situation, the outlook remains unclear. PC sales could be affected well into 2012 and beyond. With flooding still an issue for some producers the shortage could expand.

As of now, there is still no concrete solution in sight for the problem with the supply of hard drives in the world, and while reconstruction efforts in Thailand are ongoing, getting the hard drive industry on its feet will take a while. As for the effects on the computing world as a whole, PC prices will likely rise as pre-flood inventories are sold out and replacement stock is delayed.

Published with permission from Source.

Topic General Tech
January 6th, 2012

The use of social networks has changed the way many people communicate with each other online. In the same vein, internal social networks can also enhance communications within a given organization, but only if the right policies to govern its use are developed and implemented by the company it belongs to.

With the waves created by social networking in how companies do business nowadays, many have also utilized the same principle to develop internal social networks to enhance their in-house communications as well. However, the use of this new medium of communication also requires that companies develop new policies to cover its use.

One concern that may leave you apprehensive about creating an internal social network might be the fear that it could be abused by employees. However, reports have shown that introducing an in-house social network has produced generally positive results.

As long as company policies regarding the use of internal social networks are developed and implemented properly, employees will view such a network as an extension of the workplace, and will try to put their best foot forward. Such policies must specifically tackle the use of the internal social network, and many experts recommend revising existing company rules that govern the use of email, IT resources, and even external social networks. To be on the safe side, it's a good idea to consult with a lawyer to avoid any legal problems with the policy in the future.

Who's going to be in charge? Your managers, of course. Since the social network will be for company use, it follows that department heads should be given administrative duties and permissions which they will use for moderating communications and discussions in and pertaining do their respective sections.

While an internal social network can do wonders for your in-house communications, good policies and rules pertaining to its use will be what keep it working like a well-oiled machine.

Published with permission from Source.

January 3rd, 2012

It doesn't matter how solid your security system is –any hacker or online thief can figure out a weak password in a couple of hours through trial and error. Don't risk being a victim of a security breach and data theft. Avoid these passwords that are especially easy to crack.

If you think using 'password' as your password is no big deal, then it's time to rethink.

Security experts have recently compiled a list of the worst passwords users can choose, and 'password' is at the very top of the list. Weak passwords make your information more vulnerable simply because hackers can guess them. It may be easier to pick a password that you don't have to think about, but it's a choice that you may come to regret.

To help you avoid common password choice mistakes that users make, management application provider SplashData has compiled a list of the 25 worst passwords to use:

  1. password
  2. 123456
  3. 12345678
  4. qwerty
  5. abc123
  6. monkey
  7. 1234567
  8. letmein
  9. trustno1
  10. dragon
  11. baseball
  12. 111111
  13. iloveyou
  14. master
  15. sunshine
  16. ashley
  17. bailey
  18. passw0rd
  19. shadow
  20. 123123
  21. 654321
  22. superman
  23. qazwsx
  24. michael
  25. football
Make a smart password choice Experts advise using a combination of letters and numbers when creating your passwords, and to avoid things that anyone might be able to guess, such as birthdays and anniversary dates. Passwords with eight characters or more are safer and it's best to use different passwords for different accounts and websites. Use a password manager to help you keep track of all of your passwords if you're finding it difficult to remember them all..

No matter how sophisticated your security system is, a weak password gives hackers and online thieves an advantage. Helping all the users in your organization understand the importance of password strength will help you secure the IT systems in your organization.

If you're interested in learning more, please contact us so we can develop a comprehensive and custom security blueprint that meets your specific needs.

Reference: Worst Internet Passwords

Published with permission from Source.

December 29th, 2011

In an unprecedented move against online fraudsters and hackers, the United States Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and authorities in Estonia, aided by information from security firm Trend Micro, recently conducted a raid that brought down an enormous bot network made up of at least 4 million bots.

Four million is a big number which makes four million bots, in security terms, a staggering and frightening number as well.

It is a good thing, then, that four million is also the number of bots taken down in a recent bust by the United States Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Estonian Police, and security firm Trend Micro. Data centers in New York City, Chicago, and Estonia were raided by authorities, shutting down hundreds of servers used to create a network of bots that spanned some 100 countries.

The said bust, dubbed “Operation Ghost Click”, is one of – if not THE – largest cybercriminal bust in history, putting to sleep a sophisticated scamming operation that victimized 4 to 5 million users and was said to have generated at least $14 million in illegal revenue.

The scam mainly involved hijacking Domain Name Server (DNS) settings in infected computers, which can be used not only to introduce more malware into an IT system, but also to hijack search results and replace advertisements loaded on websites visited through an infected computer.

While this bust does bode well for all IT users everywhere in the world, it also illustrates the scope of influence and level of organization behind security threats. Since this is probably not the only scam / fraud / botnet operation in the world, it is always best to have a comprehensive security policy for your IT infrastructure to minimize the risk of compromising your company’s data and information.

For more details on the bust, check out Trend Micro’s blog post here.

Published with permission from Source.

December 19th, 2011

Employees using their own mobile devices for work may seem like a good idea at first it's less expense for you, the employer, and they can also make employees more productive. However, it also means that you are allowing potentially unsecure devices to access your company's data. The solution? An effective IT security policy that balances personal freedom to use these devices and your need to secure important business information.

As technology continues to become more affordable and accessible to consumers, it's an inevitable fact that employers will see more and more of their employees using their own personal devices such as laptops and mobile phones to access the company's IT system.

This can be a dangerous thing. Since these devices aren't company owned and regulated, you have limited access and control over how they are used. Employees could download all sorts of malware and viruses on their devices and pass the infection along to your IT system when they access it.

The solution: a comprehensive IT security policy. It's important that you find a compromise between the freedom of the employee to use the device as desired and your need to keep your IT system safe from viruses and other threats to your data's security. Steps such as having employees run mobile device management (MDM) software on their devices is one of many actions you can take to lessen the risk of security breaches. You may also want to implement applications and software that check and screen for malware, both for laptops and mobile devices. And don't forget that while Android seems to have a bigger problem with malicious software, Apple isn't exactly virus-free, either.

Employees have a right to use their personal devices as they see fit, but not at the expense of important company information stored in your IT system. Running a tight ship in terms of security is an effective way to protect your business interests and your sensitive company data. If you are interested in knowing more about developing a concrete and effective IT security policy for personal device use as well as general system access, please don't hesitate to give us a call so we can sit down with you and discuss a custom security blueprint that's just right for you.

Published with permission from Source.