Author Archive for CSH – Page 4

Top 5 Cloud Advantages for Small Businesses

Business cloud backup

Cloud technology has created a revolution for small business, changing the way you store, share and backup files. While ‘the cloud’ is often hard to understand because it’s neither in the sky or in a single location, there’s no arguing that it’s improving business storage across the board.

Storage concerns can be a thing of the past as small businesses can benefit from the flexibility, cost savings and protections of cloud solutions. We’ve done the research for you and identified 5 ways small business in particular benefits from making the move.

It’s Cheaper

Budget is always a limiting factor for businesses, many of which are further constrained by pressure from higher up. Some regard investing in cloud solutions as a large expense that can be put off indefinitely. In most cases though, making the switch to cloud storage costs a fraction of the price.

Compared to maintaining and powering servers, scaling to keep up, and repairing in emergencies, cloud storage offers extraordinary savings. With one decision, you get access to high-end infrastructure and dedicated support, plus a healthier bottom line. Cloud solutions were specifically created to meet your needs, which means you only pay for what you use.

Costs remain capped while the benefits continue to rise, a clear advantage for the budget-conscious business.

It’s Secure

A lot of people like having their data where they can see it. But that’s not always the safest option. Natural disasters can happen, break-ins are a worry, and employees are always losing laptops and phones, or have them stolen.

More often though, someone simply makes a mistake and deletes important files, or accidentally infects the system with malware. Cloud storage mitigates every single one of these risks, with storage in ultra-secure locations, protected against disasters, and committed to robust backup systems.

In recent times particularly, we’ve seen many small businesses survive ransomware attacks purely because their critical data was secure in the cloud with clean backups available.

It’s Compliant

We know medical businesses and services need to follow certain regulations when it comes to patient data. This includes security as well as data integrity, plus backups and auditing. Many cloud providers acknowledged this need early on and made sure to offer compliance guarantees. They therefore keep abreast of changing regulations, often implementing new requirements before you’ve even heard about them. With cloud storage systems, you essentially slash your compliance workload and let your provider do the worrying.

It’s Portable

One of the key benefits of cloud storage is your ability to collaborate remotely. In the past, this would have involved multiple file copies that need to be merged back together, often confusing employees as to which is the ‘right’ file. With cloud storage, your staff can work on the same file, using the same interface and real-time updates.

Even having different versions of software is no longer an issue. Employees can work on a file in the office and then securely access the same file from their smartphone, laptop or other location, without needing to buy additional software or worry about version corruption. Sharing and collaborating becomes easier, more desirable and more secure.

It’s Easy to Migrate

One of the biggest concerns we hear is that it will be too disruptive to migrate to cloud solutions all at once. That’s okay. You don’t have to do it all in one day, it can be migrated in stages.

Talk to us about your cloud options by calling us on 01455 209505.

How to Stay Safe from Scams or Malware on Facebook

Facebook scams

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.

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. Having said that, when you see a giveaway for vouchers for 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 journey through the underside 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 it is from necessity, but bear in mind that some apps can be preparing to launch attacks against you both on and off Facebook. For example, when you call your bank they ask certain security questions like your full name, birthday and maybe which school you went to. All that information is in your Facebook profile and is now shared with your permission.

Don’t friend people you don’t know

Having lots of friends is nice, but that friend 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.

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, make sure that you use that same level of scrutiny in your Facebook and don’t open messages or links that seem out of place.

Need help securing your privacy? Call us on 01455 209505.

4 Reasons to use Anti Spam Filtering in your Business

Anti Spam for your emails

Remember when spam was obvious and it was easy to identify and ignore? Those were the days! The impact on your business would have been minimal, as spam was more an annoyance than anything else.

Spam has matured into an aggressive threat, marked by sophisticated attacks and rapidly evolving techniques. It’s not just random electronic junk mail anymore and it’s putting a costly strain on your business resources, as well as global resources as spam email accounted for a whopping 85% of all email in January 2018 (source: Cisco Talos).

Unfortunately built-in spam filtering from your server or security software may not be enough to fight the spam threat effectively.

How Spam Impacts Your Business

Spam now contains malware, with hackers sending cleverly disguised emails to your business. Once clicked by an employee, it infects your computer system (virus) or steals your private data (phishing) or even both. The malware can then spread across the entire computer network and beyond, including to your clients and vendors.

The very fact that your employees must pause and examine every single link and attachment adds hours of lost productivity and occasionally, spam is so convincing that only an expert would be able to visually identify it. Employees are also more likely to miss an important email, either not seeing it arrive at the same time as a spam attack or becoming overwhelmed with the sheer number of emails.

How Anti-Spam Filtering Can Save Your Business

1. Block threats:

The spam filter’s purpose is to block the spam from ever reaching your employees’ screens. The threat is automatically identified and either held securely or immediately deleted. This is the best way to avoid activating spam malware, as it’s so easy to click through links in an email that seems authentic and important. The effects of that one spam click may be instantaneous or may lie hidden for months. Removing the email before it becomes a risk is a much better option.

You should get a spam filtering solution that provides you with your own control panel, which allows you to identify any spam that gets through as well as being able to check for any false positives (although this should be minimal with a good filtering system).

2. Filter legitimate emails:

Real mail needs to be able to stand out and avoid the trash. Anti-spam filtering has sophisticated recognition abilities which block spam only and allow real mail to land safely in mailboxes.

3. Meet data regulations:

Many businesses are subject to strict privacy and data storage regulations, some more so than others. To continue operation, they have to meet conditions including always using spam filtering to reduce the risk of data breach.

4. Protect your business reputation:

You can see how uncomfortable CEOs are when they hold press conferences to admit a breach. They must acknowledge that they failed to protect client data, or that users may be infected with a virus. Not only do they then face financial loss, their business reputation takes a nosedive. Anti-spam filtering can help to prevent these types of scenarios from happening to you.

Filtering has come a long way in recent years, with complex algorithms identifying and catching spam before it becomes a risk to your business. Real emails can now pass safely through without the classic cry of ‘check the spam folder’, and businesses can work with greater productivity and safety than ever before.

You need email, but you definitely don’t need spam or the chaos it brings to your business.

We can block spam and keep your legitimate emails flowing. Call us on 01455 209505.

New Google Chrome Browser Scam

New Chrome browser Scam

A new scam targeting the popular Google Chrome browser has been reported, which attempts to panic users into calling a number and – you guessed it – providing a card number to pay to ‘fix’ the non-existent problem.

The way they do this is to display a fake error message in the Chrome browser: –

Fake Chrome Scam Security message

As well as displaying this message, they make the browser completely unusable by making Chrome download and save high numbers of files at so fast a pace, that the browser freezes.The notification that the downloads are happening can appear so fast and then disappear, so that users may not see it and be warned by it.

Chrome Scam downloads

Pretty soon, the computer processor and RAM resources gets used up, leading to the point that the whole computer is rendered useless, which adds to the panic.

The scammers hope that by the user panicking, the phone number is called.

This scam can be introduced onto systems through a website that has been hacked or by malicious advertisements.

What to do if you get this Scam message

In Windows, press the Control + Alt + Delete keys and select Task Manager – with the Chrome browser highlighted, click ‘End Task’. Then the usual virus/malware scanning should be done.

In MacOS, select ‘Force Quit’ by pressing Command + Option + Escape, to do the same.

So if you are unlucky enough to get caught in this scam, whatever you do, do not call the number. Close the browser and run thorough scans using a good security package.

If you need help, call us on 01455 209505.

Desktop v Laptop – Which is right for You?

Want to choose between a desktop and a laptop?

Thinking of buying a new computer? Laptops have become the go-to choice for many people in the market as they’re sleek, portable and heavily advertised. But are they the best choice for your needs?

Before you buy your next computer, unless you have a specific need for a laptop, take a look at these considerations – you may discover you’ve been dreaming of a desktop all along!

How portable do you need it to be?

Hands down, laptops are easier to move around than a desktop. You can pick them up, pop them into a backpack or case and away you go. That doesn’t mean desktops are bolted to the floor, just that they’re not designed to go with you. With that portability though, comes a trade-off: thin and light means your computer performance takes a hit unless you spend a lot of money on higher-end kit.

The more powerful your laptop, the bigger and heavier it is, and you won’t enjoy lugging that weight around all day. If that’s got you leaning towards an ultra-portable, consider this: The smaller and lighter your laptop is, generally the weaker it is. Fortunately, when you do choose a desktop, cloud technology means your data is mobile, even if your main computer isn’t.

What balance of power and price do you need?

The bottom line here is that a desktop will always give you more power for less money. Their larger cases allow for bigger and better components, with more effective systems to avoid overheating. Even the most powerful laptop is going to be hotter than its desktop equivalent, and much noisier too.

If you’re using power-hungry software like games or video editing, we recommend choosing a desktop – the heat control alone is worth it as frequently overheated laptops don’t survive long.

In terms of power versus cost, desktops win in this category.

Desired screen size

As laptops are designed to be portable, screen sizes are usually around 11”- 15.6”. Larger, more powerful laptops go up to around 17” and are generally called ‘desktop replacements’ as they tend to be heavier and are less likely to be carried around – as well as being more expensive.

Desktop monitors today however, start at 17” and the average is 22”. These larger sizes give you more space to work in, options to tile your applications and multi-task, and even sit back and watch an HD (or even 4K) movie. They also allow for nice big text and images, with a better ability to choose the visual experience that suits your needs.

Admittedly you can connect many (not all) laptops to a separate Monitor, but who wants to spend the money for an additional screen when you have one in the laptop?

Your working comfort

Many people buy a laptop only to get home and find it’s a pain in the neck – literally! The traditional laptop design means you’re always looking down at the screen which can put a strain on your neck. You can try to raise the screen by placing the laptop on a stand, but then the keyboard can be out of easy reach. The smaller keyboards and touchpad designs may also leave you more prone to repetitive strain injuries.

Many people do end up connecting their laptops to external monitors, keyboards and mice, simply so they can work in comfort. Desktop computers on the other hand, allow you to create the perfect working environment for your needs and even cater for other family members. Monitors are usually height adjustable, keyboards and mice are wireless, and you’re able to place the desktop on the floor out of the way or under the monitor depending on the model you have.

If you’re on your computer for more than short bursts, your body will appreciate you choosing a desktop.

Are you looking for flexibility?

When you choose a laptop computer, it’s like ordering from a set menu. You get this brand, in this design, with these specifications. Changing out parts for repair or upgrade can be difficult and expensive as there’s not a spare inch of space. Some parts are extremely hard to get to, which can turn a simple swap into a dealbreaker.

The extra space inside a desktop gives infinite flexibility for upgrades over time and fast repairs. This means you’re able to easily pop in more powerful components for a fraction of the price and extend the life of your computer by years.

Talk to us about your next computer and we’ll find the right one for you. Call us on 01455 209505.

Is it Worth Having Your Email Server On-Premises?

Is it worth having your own in-house server?

There’s not a business around who doesn’t use email on a daily basis. Whether for sending internal memos or communicating with clients and customers, email is a core necessity of any modern business.

What many modern businesses are doing though, is dropping the in-house email server and moving to a cloud solution. Here’s why you should do the same.

Reduced network problems

Your network operates in a delicate balance, and when one piece breaks chaos soon follows. Connected systems and processes tend to fail, dropping productivity as all focus shifts away from normal activities and onto rectifying the fault. It becomes a mad scramble to get the network up again, especially the email servers.

The last thing you want is for all your client/customer emails to bounce back or not get sent at all!

While it’s good to have confidence in your on-site administrator, the assumption that any crashes will always happen during business hours has caused many regrets and out of hours panicked phone calls that could be avoided. When you move to a cloud solution, you’re able to say goodbye to onsite servers and all the accompanying drama, making your remaining infrastructure easier to maintain.

Lower hardware and maintenance costs

Maintaining your own Exchange servers is no doubt costing a tidy sum from initial purchase, hardware repairs, maintenance and license fees. Add in the cost of scaling your server to keep up with your business growth, and suddenly keeping your email in-house starts to make less financial sense.

Instead, consider what it would be like to have predictable costs for your email hosting that covers everything, including the latest technology and round the clock administration. Many solutions offer on-demand plans, so you only pay for the options you want.

You’re still in control

One of the main arguments for keeping your own Exchange server is to make sure you have complete control over your email; you’re able to limit physical access, no 3rd party has access to your critical data, and you always know where your data is.

While control may have been the deciding factor in the past, the fact is cloud solutions have evolved so much that these arguments are void. Physical security at data farms, for example, goes far beyond that of your locked server room and digital access is strictly limited to those you specify.

Greater protections

Cloud solutions provide automatic protection against many threats, including fire, power outages, burglary, viruses and flood. While your own in-house server has anti-virus running and a backup plan, it’s still incredibly vulnerable.

Backups get forgotten, virus definitions don’t get updated in time, and you’re very lucky if your own server can survive fire or flood intact. Moving your email hosting to a cloud solution removes all that risk, with inbuilt regular backups and usually with an uptime guarantee that lets your business get on with essential tasks.

Having a cloud email service takes all the hassle away from you and puts it onto the email company.

As email is a critical tool for your business, isolating your systems from risk may be one of the best decisions you make all year.

We can help you with your email server needs, call us today on 01455 209505.

3 Tech New Year Resolutions to Keep

Tech New Year Resolutions to keep

If your typical New Year’s resolutions lasted about 30 seconds, you’re not alone. Pledges to eat better, start running and learn how to juggle can be rebooted again next year easy enough. This year, we challenge you to think about your tech health with some resolutions you’ll want to keep.

1. No More Junk Mail

Whether you checked a box agreeing to get newsletters, or you have no idea how you got on that list, it’s time to say goodbye. Start by emptying your mailbox to zero unread messages – no you don’t have to read spam – you have permission to delete it unread, but after marking it as spam so it can be filtered out in future. Let’s face it, if you were going to read it, you would have done so already.

Now that you’re starting with a clean slate and a huge feeling of accomplishment, resolve this: Each day, unsubscribe from 5 lists. Keep an eagle eye out for that ‘unsubscribe’ link and click it with confidence. You don’t even need to give a reason if it redirects to a survey page. Before too long, your inbox will be a refreshing place filled only with people and businesses you look forward to hearing from.

2. Go Password Pro

With all these password leaks from LinkedIn, Myspace, and goodness knows who hasn’t come forward yet, now’s the time to get smart with your passwords. Because most people use the same passwords on every site, a single breach can be the hack that keeps on giving to the bad guys. You know how important it is to use different passwords for each site, but that’s a LOT of passwords to remember!

Instead of writing them down, we recommend using a password manager like LastPass. It remembers all your various passwords for you, so all you need to know is the super-protected master password. Master passwords are kept encrypted on your system, not theirs, and 2-factor authentication checks with you via text for all big changes.

There are other PasswordManagers out there – please see previous post.

3. Backup. No Really, Backup.

“I’ve been meaning to backup” is the cry of someone who just lost all their photos. Good intentions don’t count AT ALL in data security, because once the data is gone, it’s gone.

With new cloud backup options, there’s no reason to put this off, because backup apps are now easier and more accessible than ever before. You can also backup to local drives, but this will take a little extra remembering on your part, as you’ll want to have at least one drive that stays disconnected in case of viruses.

With cloud storage such as Dropbox, it’s so easy to back up and you don’t have to do anything that you don’t already do – just save in that Dropbox folder and it’s all done for you.

There you have it. Three New Year’s resolutions you can easily keep, and that will make a real difference to your year. Opening your email will be a pleasure, you’ll be a spectator only in any future password leaks, and your precious files will be safe against all manner of disaster.

Feels better than any diet, doesn’t it?

Stuck with any of this? Call us on 01455 209505.

Stop your Business becoming a victim of Social Engineering

Social Engineering is a danger to your business

You can have top-notch security in place in your business, but there is still one danger – ‘social engineering’. Most people have never heard of it but perhaps the more familiar term is ‘con’: the art of manipulating people to take certain actions or divulge private information.

Social engineers are a special type of hacker who skip the hassle of writing code and go straight for the weakest link in your security defences – people. A phone call, a cheap disguise or casual email may be all it takes to gain access, despite having solid tech protections in place.

Here are just a few examples of how social engineers work:-

Email

Pretending to be a co-worker or customer who ‘just quickly’ needs a certain piece of information. It could be a shipping address, login, contact or personal detail that they pretend they already know, but simply don’t have in front of them. The email may even tell you where to get the data from.

The hacker may also create a sense of urgency or indicate fear that they’ll get in trouble without this information. Your employee is naturally inclined to help and quickly sends a reply.

Phone

Posing as IT support, a government Official or customer, the hacker plausibly and quickly manipulates someone into changing a password or giving out information. These attacks are harder to identify and the hacker can be very persuasive, even using background sound effects like a crying baby or call-centre noise to trigger empathy or trust.

In person

A delivery man in uniform gets past most people without question, as does a repairman. The social engineer can then quickly move into areas of your business that may have sensitive information. Once inside, they essentially become invisible, free to install network listening software or devices, read a note with a password on it, or tamper with your business in other ways.

For example, if your Wi-Fi code is visible (and we see this all the time on ‘post-it’ notes and written signs) then the hacker can get access to your network simply by sitting in a car outside your building and connecting to your network with that password.

Then, with the right knowledge and software, they can cause all sorts of issues.

It’s impossible to predict when and where (or how) a social engineer will strike. The above attacks aren’t particularly sophisticated, but they are extremely effective. Staff naturally try to be helpful, but this can also be a weakness.

Not just in Businesses either – remember that there are regular reports of people being conned by plausible sounding phone calls out of the blue, from people pretending to be from your broadband company or Microsoft – just wanting to get connected to your computer.

So what can you do to protect your Business? First, recognize that not all of your employees have the same level of interaction with people, the front desk clerk taking calls all day would be at higher risk than the factory worker, for example.

We recommend that there should be awareness of the possibility of a security breach – you don’t need formal cyber-security training for each member of staff but the level of risk needs to be identified, focusing on the types of scenarios staff might find themselves in.

Social engineering is too dangerous to take lightly, and unfortunately far too common.

Talk to us about your cyber security options today. Call us at 01455 209505.

Is Your Home WiFi Good Enough?

Is your Home WiFi good enough?

Wi-Fi has forever changed the way we live, work and play. We can surf the internet in the home or on holiday by the pool, look up a recipe in an instant, and even connect our lights to voice control. It’s no wonder it was accepted with open arms, but is your Wi-Fi as good as it needs to be?

10 years after Wi-Fi first made its way into homes, it’s evolved into a juggernaut of speed and accessibility that we can’t do without, but think about how many wireless devices your home has – the average home has at least 10 devices connected wirelessly to the internet, many have more.

While older devices are typically happy with a slice of slow internet, your newer devices like 4kTVs and media streaming simply can’t function without fast internet. Add in a game console, tablet, a few smartphones and a laptop or two, and your Wi-Fi is suddenly stretched beyond full capacity and struggling to keep up.

Yet, most people don’t know how fast their Wi-Fi is, or if it’s working right– they only know how many bars they’ve got. Unfortunately, counting bars can be misleading.

Here’s why relying on your Wi-Fi bar count might be ruining your internet experience:-

Bars measure the wrong thing

While it’s great to know you’ve got a ‘strong’ signal, it would be even better if you could have a ‘fast and available’ internet signal. The fact is that the internet could actually be down and you’d still have full bars because it’s really only measuring how close to the Wi-Fi router you are.

That proximity measure doesn’t take into account how many devices are fighting for the same bandwidth or whether there’s any left for you.

Wi-Fi goes sideways

While next-door’s Wi-Fi can reach the back of their property, it can also go a similar distance sideways into your house. This extra ‘noise’ can disrupt and slow down your own Wi-Fi. In dense areas, your Wi-Fi is basically getting lost in a swirling field of signals, all using the same channel and frequency. It’s a digital crowd which can seriously slow your speeds.

This can be fixed by changing your Wi-Fi channel to one with less cross-talk.

Everyone uses the default settings

Most home Wi-Fi uses a 2.4ghz frequency by default. Whilst it makes a ‘Plug & Play’ router easy to set up, it does mean you’re not getting the speeds you could be. Switching to the 5ghz frequency means your Wi-Fi is separated from the neighborhood cross-talk. 5ghz is also considerably faster, which is a bonus.

Priority isn’t set

While not Wi-Fi specific, there is also a “Quality of Service” setting if your router supports it. This allows things like Netflix and Skype calls to always take priority and remain uninterrupted over less important tasks like downloads.

You’ll be able to watch movies with less of those awful buffering jumps and video chat without freezing.

Is your home network not keeping up? Give us a call at 01455 209505 and we can help to improve your internet experience.

What to do if your Hard Drive Fails

Hard drives fail eventually

If your hard drive is going bad, chances are strange things are happening and you’re a little panicked.

It’s where you put your digital memories, your household files and maybe work that you’ve been doing for months. As far as you’re concerned, that hard drive IS the computer and failure is not an option.

Perhaps it was overheated, knocked around or came from the factory with a flaw. Unfortunately, all hard drives will fail eventually. So how do you know if it’s definitely the drive and what should you do?

Start by watching for these signs: –

Computer slowing down

Because standard hard drives contain moving parts, the slower it gets, the slower your computer gets. It’s a bit like a record player, with spinning plates and a needle whipping from side to side, except the needle doesn’t actually touch the disc.

Your hard drive may eventually take longer to spin up and longer to retrieve files, which will have an impact on everything from booting up to playing games.

Blue screen of death

A classic Windows error, this is when your computer locks up to only show a blue screen with an error code, which while it does mean something specific has gone wrong, can always be translated loosely to ‘nope, not today’.

The more often your computer does this, the more severe the problem is and although it can be caused by other things as well as the hard drive, if blue screen happens it is a critical issue.

Not booting up

During the initial bootup stage, your computer is loading a program stored on the hard drive – it’s your operating system e.g. Windows or MacOS. If some of the files have a problem (because the hard drive has a problem) or they can’t be found, the computer won’t boot. Errors vary, but the outcome is the same.

Corrupted files

Sometimes a file won’t open because the computer says it is corrupted. Some essential pieces of the file are missing, and unlike a book where a missing page is only inconvenient, it’s a deal breaker for computer files.

Noises

You’re familiar with the normal noises your computer makes, but as the hard drive fails the noises can change. You might hear clicking, grinding or even a sci-fi phaser noise. Noises will get louder or speed up during heavy file access.

Whenever something is clearly wrong, the key is to stop and turn your computer off. Continued use can result in more data loss.

Even if you don’t have a backup yet, turn it off now because the large task of backing up can cause extra strain on an already delicate hard drive. It’s tempting to hurry and try to get a quick copy of your files, but in these cases, it’s not about time – it’s about the extra spinning, scratching, warping and electrical charge, all dissolving your precious data with each access.

If you have problems with your hard drive, give us a call on 01455 209505 – we’re happy to help.