Archive for July 2018

6 Clear Reasons to Switch Your Business to Cloud

Switch your Business to the Cloud

Has your business embraced the cloud yet? Yes, it’s another piece of techie jargon that you hear every now and again but it really can help businesses – big and small. As we move closer to 2019, it’s estimated that approximately 83% of business traffic will involve cloud applications – a trend driven largely by smart decision making.

When cloud applications first came out, nobody really understood what the cloud was or how it could help their business, but as the technology improved, so did the secure and flexible solutions available to you. Some of the most common cloud applications are accounting software such as Quickbooks, as well as the Microsoft Office 365 package.

Instead of being seen as alternative options, cloud applications are now clearly viewed as the next logical step. Here’s why:-

Your data is safer

While it can give you a sense of comfort to hear your storage drives whirring away, the risks are less appealing. External hard drives, Network drives and Servers all have a vulnerability – they could crash, drives become corrupted, or a breach could see your data held hostage under a ransomware attack. Of course, there’s always the standard fire/theft/flood scenario to consider too.

With cloud applications, your data is safely tucked away in ‘Fort Knox’-style data centres, complete with robust backup replacement systems in case anything goes wrong. As part of their service guarantees (usually 99.9% uptime), your cloud solution will have technicians on-site whose sole job is to make sure that when you need to use the application, it works.

We can help you choose the safest, most robust solution with the best performance.

You’re always updated

Gone are the days of trying to work out compatibility between program versions and accidentally corrupting files. Cloud applications are updated automatically on all devices, and unlike when you run an update on a local computer, the process is almost instant. This is because the update is actually running on their end, at the data centre and not on your machine, slowing it down. With this advantage, you’re always up to date with the latest features and security patches, no matter how busy you are.

You’re free to move around

One of the best ways to increase efficiency is to remove restrictions around when your employees can do their job. With your new cloud application, they won’t have to wait until they get back into the office to send an invoice, follow up with a customer or even make a record-breaking sale – they can do it wherever, whenever.

This flexibility opens up a world of possibility and can literally hand you a competitive edge. All your employees need is an internet enabled smart phone, tablet or laptop, so you’re even saving money on tech. There are tons of ideas on how your business can take advantage of this freedom.

Collaboration is easy

Since all the data is held in one place, your employees can collaborate with ease. Nobody gets locked out of files because someone else is using it and changes appear in real-time for multiple users. By having a single version of a file, ideas can flow faster, results become more valuable. It may sound like a simple benefit, but we know how frustrating it can be for staff to collaborate without the right tools to support them.

All you need is internet

Considering how fast modern internet speeds are, this is usually a non-issue. It simply needs to be stable and meet a standard speed. If you’re concerned, we can run checks to make sure it will be a smooth transition for you. Because it’s internet based, the cloud application works with your established network, whether it’s wired, wi-fi or cellular (or a hybrid).

Some businesses also choose to have mobile 4G set up in case the internet goes down, that way the connection automatically switches over and downtime is completely avoided.

Business size doesn’t matter

Cloud applications are a great option for both Small AND Big businesses. Smaller businesses only need to subscribe to single user licenses, while larger businesses enjoy the multi-user license savings. Skipping the cost of per-computer installations and choosing between per-user, per-site or per-use options.

We can help you choose the application and cost-saving model that suits your business best.

Talk to us about your cloud options and lock in the advantages! Call us on 01455 209505.

Windows 10 Updates and Avoiding Problems

Windows 10 logo

On our travels visiting customers, we find that Windows 10 Updates can cause a lot of aggravation and some severe problems. Here is some information that may help to reduce issues.

Window Updates has had a chequered history, with most people finding that whilst Updates are a ‘necessary evil’, they can also be a pain in the neck. Whether the computer decides to update itself at the wrong (usually the worst) time, breaks something when you reboot or just doesn’t reboot at all, Windows Updates can be very frustrating.

The problem is that they are needed and Windows 10 now forces you to have them.

What you can and cannot do with Updates

Windows Updates in Windows 10 can also be a pain, although updates in 10 are treated very differently from previous versions – such as the fact that you cannot switch Updates off, as in previous versions of Windows. Although in Windows 10 Pro and Enterprise versions, you can delay the updates, you cannot stop them. (Go to Settings > Update and Security > Windows Update > Advanced Options to delay Updates).

(Yes there are hacks found on the internet which may stop them for a period of time, but it is not recommended).

What you can control about Updates

Have you had a Windows Update interrupt you whilst you are working? A welcome change in later versions of Windows 10 is that there is now a setting which allows you to tell the computer when it must not interrupt with an update. (Go to Settings > Update and Security > Windows Update and set your ‘active hours’).

Why are Updates different in Windows 10?

Windows 10 is classed as ‘Windows as a service’. Amongst other things, this means that the traditional “new” version of Windows no longer happens, so don’t expect Windows 11 any time soon.

What Microsoft has done is to add and change features in Windows 10, but essentially keep it as Windows 10. This means that instead of brand new versions of Windows, Windows 10 itself will be updated to the latest version, (much like Apple updates its devices) – and it’s this feature update that is causing the most issues, particularly on older computers.

Also, individual updates are now bundled into what is called cumulative updates – in other words, it’s all or nothing.

What can be done to minimise Update problems?

Much of what you can do is common sense, but you’d be surprised at the number of people who either put things off or just do not do it.

Back up! Back up your important files – Photos, Documents, whatever – you need to protect them.

Power – if you are using a laptop, make sure that it is plugged in at the wall and that the lid is left open. Much of the time, battery power alone is not enough to provide power through an update and the battery running out will have the same effect as switching it off part way through the Update.

Never, ever interrupt the Update– when the computer screen says “do not switch off” it means it. If an Update is interrupted it can cause significant damage to Windows, as Updates deal with important system files.

Be patient – updates can take a long time (hours in many cases). For example, if you have left the computer on overnight for the update to take place, but when you go back to it there is nothing on the screen and you cannot do anything with it, don’t switch it off, call a technician for advice.

Windows Updates are here to stay and hopefully you will not be in the situation where an Update has ‘broken’ something.

If you do need help with a Windows Update issue, give us a call on 01455 209505.

What’s That Weird Noise Coming from Your Computer?

Listen out for computer noise

New computers are whisper quiet compared to older models as they generally have quieter components, but after a while computers can start making some pretty weird noises. Clicks, clunks, and about-to-take-off jet noises are the most common, but when should you be concerned?

Your computer has a number of moving parts and even some stationary parts that can make noises. If you’re listening, your computer might be telling you about its current health and how you can help it run smoother, for longer.

When you hear a clicking noise:

This could be normal if it’s more like a soft tick. Mechanical hard drives work a bit like a record player with a needle arm and platter, although in this case, the ‘needle’ arm never touches the platter, it just reads it. So you might simply be hearing it spin up and move the needle arm around.

When it starts sounding like a loud click it’s usually not good news. If your hard drive has started making alarming noises, you should bring it in as soon as possible. Just like a record player, scratches that ruin your data are possible, and if ignored for long enough, it doesn’t just skip and have trouble reading the drive, the whole thing can become unusable.

Our technicians can copy the files onto a new drive before it gets to that point, but retrieving data from a destroyed hard drive is rarely achieved without CSI-level expenses. It’s easier and much cheaper to replace the hard drive at the first sign of failure.

When you hear a clunking noise:

Unsurprisingly, this one causes certain alarm. Computers aren’t meant to go clunk! It may be a simple matter of a cable having shifted into the path of a fan and getting clipped during the spin. Remember when you pegged a card between your bicycle spokes? It might sound a little like that, skipping every now and then as it’s pushed away and drops back again.

If that’s the case, our technicians will quickly secure the cable back where it belongs.

When you hear a jet-engine noise:

Most computers and laptops have fans to keep them cool. The fans have to spin to move the air around, and the faster they’re spinning, the more noise they make. We start to worry when the jet-engine noise gets out of hand and especially when it’s not just while you’re playing a resource-intensive game or doing some video editing.

Constant jet-engine noise indicates your computer is struggling to cool itself down, perhaps because the fan vents are clogged with dust, your computer is in a poorly ventilated space, or the fan itself is worn. Each fan has ball bearings inside that wear out over time, making extra noise while it does the best it can.

Our technicians can replace individual fans and give your system a checkup to make sure nothing else has been affected.

When it’s beep time:

Most computers have a friendly beep as you switch it on but these beeps actually have multiple meanings. The single beep you normally hear indicates that it’s run a self-test and everything is fine. When your computer is unwell, you might hear more beeps than usual. This is because each beep combination is a code to technicians, letting us know what’s gone wrong.

Certain beep combinations mean the memory is loose or damaged, others that the video adapter has a problem, etc. If your computer has started beeping differently, let our technicians know so we can decode it and repair the problem for you.

Some noises your computer makes will be normal, others a sign of deeper issues. Even if your computer seems to be operating correctly, a sudden onset of weird noises could mean failure is just around the corner or at the very least, something needs investigating. Taking early action ensures problems don’t escalate, costs are kept low, and your files remain where they belong.

Got some weird noises coming from your computer? Give us a call today on 01455 209505.

Is it Time to Retire That Program? Here’s How to Tell

Is it Time to Retire That Program?

Most businesses have been using the same set of applications for some time, sometimes since the business started. This also applies to most Homes too, although with businesses the need to upgrade can be essential to business efficiency.

While you’ve been replacing computers and devices regularly to maintain your advantage, the standard installation has remained largely the same. The programs do the job and everyone knows how to use them, so why upgrade? In some cases, it’s completely fine to keep that legacy program.

However, all users of older programs should consider these aspects:

Support Available

Occasionally, and more frequently with software from smaller developers, the author has moved on from supporting the program, such as what happened with an old DOS program used by a Fleckney business. Their very old program was vital but the author of the program was no longer involved with it and it was running on an old, failing Windows XP machine. It needed to be transferred to a new computer.

Luckily we were able to get the old program running on a new PC, inside a ‘Virtual Machine’ (a computer running in software within another computer), which extended the programs life and also gave that business a bit longer to find a replacement program. The point is that it could have gone the other way and the author was not there to help.

Perhaps the author has closed the business, sold it, or changed directions completely. Either way, they’re no longer interested in helping you get the best from the program. Every time your employees come up against a problem they have nowhere to turn and productivity takes a hit as they try and come up with a workaround.

Meanwhile, you run the risk that an older program could suddenly stop working after a Windows update, begin clashing with other essential software, or even create gaping holes in your security. As you are aware, even the bigger companies like Microsoft stop supporting software after a while, as they have with earlier versions of Windows. Having support available to both assist and protect is a huge asset to your business.

Hardware Compatibility

Imagine picking up a brand-new computer and trying to insert a 5 ¼ floppy disk – that’s the 1980s retro square ones bigger than your hand – it doesn’t matter how effective that program will be, modern technology simply has no idea what to do with it. Thanks to the rapid advancement of computer hardware, you may find a simple component refresh leaves your legacy program completely incompatible or inaccessible.

The latest CPU (computer processor) that’s supposed to speed things up, suddenly brings an entire business to a standstill, purely because it’s too advanced. Many owners work around this by keeping some older systems running exclusively for that program, but as the classic hardware fails, you may find yourself struggling to find replacement parts or technicians able to install them.

Security Vulnerabilities

Broadly speaking, the longer a program has been around, the longer hackers have had to discover its weaknesses. It could be a flaw in the program itself, or in the operating system that runs it. For example, the application may only run on Windows XP, but Windows XP is one of the earlier versions that Microsoft has stopped supporting. As the older operating systems and programs aren’t being patched, cyber criminals pour more energy into finding flaws they can exploit.

It’s how hospitals across the UK found themselves infected with ransomware last year, simply because they were running programs with known weaknesses.

As it’s not always feasible to replace a program immediately, we can help you run it on a virtual machine as explained earlier. You’ll have increased security, an element of support and a strong backup system while you work to find a replacement program.

These types of solutions are very specialized and resource hungry though, so let us know if you need help.

The other option is to migrate to a new program that does what you want, and is supported, hardware compatible and secure. If you’ve been running the old program for some time, this may feel quite daunting at first. Before you rule it out, keep in mind you’ll also be gaining the benefits of faster software, more integrated processes and a highly flexible system.

Need to talk through your options? Give us a call on 01455 209505.