Archive for November 2018

Buying Tech in Time for Christmas

Buying Tech in Time for Christmas

Christmas time is back with us again.  The latest devices and gadgets are hitting store shelves just in time to keep up with the rush.  Magazines, television, and the web are brimming with advertisements and reviews of the latest tech your money can buy – all tempting you to buy the latest ‘must have’ devices.

Before you rush out to buy the gadgets you’ve been waiting for, consider a few important questions before parting with your hard-earned cash.

Does This Technology Do What I need?

First, you must ask what problem you are trying to solve with a new piece of tech. The most important thing to consider is how adopting your new device will improve on what you had before. When you’ve answered this question, you should consider whether there is other tech or competing devices out there that can perform even better – without being unduly influenced by the logo on the device.

In some cases, a sleek new gadget or device is bought just for fun, that’s good too, but bear in mind the below.

Should I Become an Early Adopter?

Early adopters are people that anticipate the release of new tech, wait in line on release day, and pride themselves on having the latest gadgets to hit the shelves.  If you recognize yourself in this description you are likely to snap up the latest devices the day they are released.  This eager anticipation, however, is not always the way to get the best deals or the best gadgets and in some cases, quite the opposite.

Companies often rely on new product hype to give sales an early boost, so waiting for the marketing and hype to subside, even a little, can save you a lot of money as release day is always the most expensive.

After initial release, companies often mark down their prices to keep their devices attractive and sales high.  For the budget smart consumer this is an opportunity for a bargain because a device good enough to buy on launch day, is well worth waiting for if you can ignore the pressure of wanting to buy it, especially if it’s the latest ‘in’ thing that people are talking about.

Don’t forget that when newer, faster, sleeker devices hit the market, companies often cut prices to the previous model to maintain strong sales figures, although it’s understandable that you may prefer to give a gift of the latest version.

Having said that, that bargain may be a good excuse to treat yourself….?!

Have I checked The Reviews?

We are fortunate enough to have access to seemingly unlimited amounts of information at our fingertips.  Often weeks before a product is released, reviews are available across the web.

One of the best things you can do when considering a new device, particularly a high-cost purchase, is to watch and read a wide variety of product reviews.  However, it pays to be cautious of reviews that are particularly glowing, or too downbeat.

Also, ‘Celebrity’ reviews may not be independent, as they usually get paid for promoting items.

Keep an eye out for middle of the road reviews that fairly weigh the pros and cons of each device, particularly from more reputable sources rather than websites that you may not have heard of before, as some sites are set up that are actually no more than advertisements.

Have I Found the Best Deal?

There are many ways to keep an eye out to make sure you get the best deal on your device.  If you can, monitor prices over time to see how they rise and fall to find the best time to purchase.

When purchasing online, many sites include a box to add a coupon code when you are ready to buy.  It sometimes pays to jump over to Google and search the website name and ‘coupon’ or ‘voucher’ to find out if there are any good deals on. A quick search can save you as much as 10, 15, or 20 per cent on some purchases.

What about ‘Black Friday’ deals? Even major companies send out emails and adverts giving Black Friday ‘offers’ that are not offers at all, as in many cases the ‘offer’ prices are exactly the same price as in the stores normally. It always pays to check, even offers from major established companies.

Sometimes companies send out offers to appeal to groups they want to market to.  A companies Facebook page may get different offers or vouchers than its Twitter followers or newsletter for example.

Extended warranties

In many cases, manufacturers provide extended warranties for their products, so if you do want an extended warranty, it is always best to check the manufacturers price against the store price, to get the best deal.

Purchase in Confidence

If you have asked yourself these questions, done all your research, and found the answers you’re looking for then you may well be ready to buy. You can do so with the confidence that you’ve done all your homework and you’re getting the best deal and gadget for your money, at that particular time.

But don’t forget, is all starts again when the Boxing Day sales start………….!

Storage Struggles? How to keep up with the Data explosion

Storage Struggles? How to keep up with the data explosion

Even though many businesses and home users have already embraced the benefits of going fully digital, the digital boom also presents brand new problems too. By moving all our files into a digital space, the amount of storage we need to maintain has grown larger and larger just to keep up.

Moving to digital has allowed us to do more than ever before. It can save both time and money iterating over work drafts and emails as well as saving a ton of space too, eliminating the need for stacks of filing cabinets in every office. For home users, many people now have over 100GB of important data (such as irreplaceable photos), on their computers and other devices.

As digital technology has improved, the resolution, clarity, and size of the digital files we create has exploded. Items such as Xrays, which used to be printed on film are now digital files transferred by computer. As a result of the increase in both the number of digital files we use and their ever-growing size, the size of the data we need to store has exploded exponentially.

There are a number of ways in which we can tackle our ever-growing storage problem.

Local Server or Network Attached Storage (NAS)

A local server is a machine physically located within your own office or building. These are typically designed to serve many files to multiple clients at one time from locally held storage.

The primary advantage that a local network server has is that all your vital data is available to all users in one central location. This means that everyone across the network can access all the resources made available. These machines can serve files at the speed of the local network, transferring large projects, files, and documents from a central position within the network with ease.

The downside of having your own server is the costs of purchase and ongoing maintenance, as well as its vulnerability, for example if the server goes wrong, is stolen or offline for some other reason, everything stops.

A NAS has many of the same network properties, typically packaged as a smaller profile, low powered computer but at a reduced cost compared to a server. A NAS is specifically designed to enable network file sharing in a more compact package and can be available in units small enough to fit in a cupboard nook but still provide staggering storage capacity, on only a small amount of power.

Both a local server and NAS device allow for large amounts of storage space to be added to the local network. These units are often expanded with more and more storage over time. As an organization grows over time, so do its data storage requirements.

Cloud Storage

Sometimes the best option for storage is to move your ever-expanding data outside of the business or home completely. Often, offloading the costs of hardware and IT management can work out to be an intelligent business decision and one that provides freedom and flexibility in your data storage needs.

The major advantage of cloud storage comes from the ability to expand and contract your data as needed without the unnecessary overhead of adding and maintaining new hardware. Plus, they usually have multiple copies, so your data is protected to a far greater extent than if you had your own server or NAS.

By moving storage to the cloud, data can be accessed from anywhere in the world provided you have the login details. The flexibility provided by cloud storage allows limitless expansion to any number of devices, locations, and offices. Being able to access data from many locations at a single time can often provide a valuables boost to productivity that can help to speed projects along.

Not only that, cloud services such as Dropbox also provide ransomware protection as they can replace infected files with clean copies where necessary.

The main drawback of cloud storage comes from factors that may be outside of the control of the user – the main one being that not all internet connections are found to be up to the task of handling large amounts of data to and from the cloud. In some cases, the infrastructure is quite simply not in place yet to support it.

IT security regulations or other concerns can also prove to be a barrier to enabling storage in the cloud too. Some regulations either prohibit the feature entirely or you simply may not want certain types of data in an offsite location.

The Right Choice for your data

Whatever your situation, whether a small NAS, local Server or Cloud setup is best to protect your important data, we can advise on your best choices.

Give us a call on 01455 209505 to allow us to use our expertise to make the right choice for your data.

Is Your Laptop Running Hot and Loud?

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 to be 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 and 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.  Electronic parts are closer together, creating 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 and 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, soft furnishings or fabrics can block vents, preventing the fans from sucking cold air in or blowing hot air out. Leaving the machine running on carpet or furnishings, particularly for extended periods of time, can cause overheating issues and introduce extra dust into the components too.

The best place to rest a laptop while in use is on a hard surface such as a desk, table, or lap tray.  This allows air free access to the vents and helps prevent dust and hairs getting inside the machine.

Overheating Results

As the computer starts running hotter for longer, its fan will attempt to compensate by running faster and more often.  This results in the “jet engine” noise many users report when their computer is struggling to keep up.

Unfortunately, once dust, hair, or tar has already found its way into the machine it is notoriously difficult to clean out.  The only way to reset the machine to run cool and quiet is to disassemble the base and clean out its components.

Much like a car engine, computer components have a designed temperature range in which they can safely and reliably operate without any issues.  Extended periods of running above the temperature they are designed for can cause damage, sudden failures, and drastically shorten the designed lifespan of the computer.

Unlikely Causes

Quite often, 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 your laptop is running hot to the touch or has started to sound loud or irregular, give us a call on 01455 209505.