Helping to Repair Your Computer Quicker for Less

Helping to Repair Your Computer Quicker for Less

Have you started to notice your computer’s niggles, flaws, and problems growing more severe and more frequent over recent months? These issues can irritate you daily, stop you from doing critical tasks and even put your data in danger. It may be time to book in your computer for a brief service check or repair to get back on track.

When booking your PC in for a service, you can help your technician get straight to the root of the problem. Technicians have a wide range of tools and years of experience to bring an ageing machine back to health, but even with tools and experience, without a clear description of the problem, troubleshooting is far more time consuming and expensive.

With just a few simple steps, you can save yourself time and money while ensuring you get your computer back as soon as possible.

Take Note of the Problem Every Time It Happens

Some computer problems only crop up every now and again. A machine might freeze suddenly, or shut down unexpectedly. Intermittent issues can be frustrating and seemingly impossible to solve, but these occurrences may not be entirely random.

When these events happen, you can help to resolve your issues by jotting down what you were doing and the programs running at the time they happen. Information about what you clicked on last, or settings you recently changed can reveal unexpected links to the computer’s behaviour.

Detailed notes help technicians to reproduce the problem and see the crash or error for themselves. This can lead to faster fixes, more lasting solutions, and less time spend diagnosing problems. Simple notes scribbled down on a piece of paper or smartphone app can save you a surprising amount of money.

Keep an Eye on the Environment as Well as the Computer

It’s not just things within the computer we need to note down. External factors can play a significant role in how machines operate. Hot and humid days have been known to limit cooling on devices already suffering from heat issues.

Even changing the time of day can raise different computer related issues. There have been occasions where users have reported problems connecting to the internet around lunchtime every day. A seemingly strange coincidence with no apparent cause, until technicians dig a little deeper. For example, Wi-Fi, which relies on radio waves to send and receive data, uses a frequency of 2.4Ghz to communicate with devices. By coincidence, the same frequency is used in concentrated form inside of a microwave to heat food and beverages.

Microwave ovens, particularly when poorly positioned or faulty, can cause Wi-Fi issues that disrupt communications every time they are used. Problems that come and go, seemingly randomly, can have such a strange link to the computer’s environment that they can be very difficult to diagnose.

Take the Right Hardware at the Right Time

Having your computer repaired, whatever the issue, is as simple as picking up the box itself. We don’t need the peripherals such as the mouse, PC screen, or keyboard unless those are the things causing the issue.

When deciding when to do something about your ailing computer, sooner is always better than later. Computer issues often get worse over time. Vents gather more and more dust, fans run slower and slower and heat issues in particular drastically lower the lifespan of a machine as time goes on.

A machine that gets less and less stable over time also puts your programs and your critical data at risk. Updates applied over a shaky foundation can cause any number of software issues. With data, there’s often zero warning before it’s gone.

Give is a call on 01455 209505 to book an appointment and help give your computer a clean bill of health.

Has Your Email Been Hijacked?

Has Your Email been Hijacked?

A common problem found by some customers in recent months has been spam emails appearing to come from their own accounts.  Despite not knowing why, there are reports of friends, family, and contacts receiving spam email that appears to come from them and this has understandably worried many people.

Some have had their accounts suspended or shut down by their service providers as a result.  For many, this experience can be highly disruptive as well as worrying. It’s a problem that can cause many issues in both your professional and personal life.

The key to defence is learning how these attacks happen, and figuring out what you can do to protect yourself and your contacts against them.

Hackers Using Your Email Against You

Scammers that send out spam messages are continually looking for ways to make the process faster, cheaper, and more efficient. It’s the best way in which they can make more money every day by scamming unsuspecting victims for even more cash.

One of the most efficient ways they do this is by hijacking ready-made, trusted email accounts like your own. Hackers have several tools at their disposal to attempt to hijack your accounts.

Unfortunately some of the things which make emailing fast and easy to use, means that details such as those in the ‘From’ field, are easy to fake. A hacker might change the ‘From’ information to make it appear as if the email comes from anyone, simply by creating an account in that name in an email program – the details of the real sender are usually hidden away in something called an email header.

Defending yourself against this kind of misuse is difficult but you can help yourself by being cautious and if you believe something to be out of place, such as a strange ‘Subject’ title or attachment, you can try to verify that an email, even one you expect to receive, does come from the person that you believe it to be from. If you have any doubt, give them a quick call to verify – if their emails have been hacked, then they will appreciate the warning.

If your email provider flags up an incoming email as ‘suspicious’, or ‘untrustworthy’, it may well be.

Stolen Credentials

Hackers often buy large bundles of email addresses and passwords from the dark web. Leaked emails are often put up for sale following hacks of major companies and service providers (for example see previous Blog post here).

The value of these details comes from the fact that most passwords are unlikely to have been changed, the details attached to them are trusted, and often get hackers access to additional services too.

It is unlikely that you will know about every single hack incident that happens to a company that you use, so change passwords regularly.

How To Detect an Email Intrusion

It can take a long time before you’re aware that malicious hackers are using your details. You might even be the last person in your contacts to know.

The first sign to look out for is a large number of unexpected emails in your Inbox. These are likely to be replies to emails you never sent in the first place. Out of office, automatic responses, people complaining about spam, and people responding to the email as if it were genuine may all come to you first.

Keep a close eye on unexpected emails appearing suddenly in your Outbox. A hacker may be ‘spear-phishing’ (pretending to be from a trusted source) to someone that you do business with or trust. By acting as you, using your address and details, they may be able to divert payments or confidential information to their accounts instead.

A typical example is a business that receives an email from another business, stating that their bank details have changed and to make payments using the new bank details. Whenever you get an email like this, then always verify with the sender.

Do bear in mind that extra emails in your Inbox or Outbox do not happen every time, so the absence of these emails does not mean that you can relax your cautious approach.

Protecting Yourself Against Hackers, Attackers, And Hijackers

Sometimes your computer might have been compromised to give hackers access to your services, or malicious software may have infected your machine to steal data and infect your contacts. So in the first instance, use a good (and preferably not just a free version) of an Internet Security program.

Take extra care to change your passwords if you believe your email has or may have been accessed by hacker. Use a different, more secure password for your email than you do for every other service, such as using a mixture of capitals, numbers and special characters. Your email account is often the key to accessing many of the services you use most, so you need to protect it as much as you can.

Run a virus scan and maintain security updates. If you think your computer could have been infected, have your machine and services looked at by a professional if you believe there is a risk that your data is being used.

Business Email Users can Authenticate their own Email

If you have your own email service, you can enable various email authentication methods such as SPF, DKIM and DMARC which are ways that your genuine emails can verify that they are genuine – helping to make it more difficult for someone to pretend that they are you. It also has the added benefit that it helps you pass through spam filtering.

Unfortunately, some email services (especially at the cheaper end of the market) don’t check for these authentications, so you do need to be a little bit choosy about which email service you use.

If you think your email could have been hijacked, or your details used elsewhere, give us a call on 01455 209505.

Don’t Fall Victim to Webcam Blackmail

Don't fall Victim to Webcam Blackmail

Many customers have reported recent scam messages from individuals claiming to have intercepted their username and password. These messages often state they have been watching your screen activity and webcam while you have been unaware.

Typically, attackers threaten to broadcast footage and your web browsing details to your contacts, colleagues, or social media channels. Demanding payment in Bitcoin payments, malicious hackers blackmail their victims to keep confidential information private.

Where Have the Attacks Come From?

In many cases where hackers have claimed to have a victims’ password, this has turned out to be true, but usually its not because you have been hacked – but rather that a company you have had dealings with has.

In the last few years alone, many large websites have suffered enormous hacks which have released confidential details on many of their users. LinkedIn, Yahoo, Myspace and TalkTalk all suffered massive and devastating hacks. Some users of these services are still feeling the consequences today.

The details leaked from these sites, and others facing the same issues, are sold online for years after the initial breach. Hackers buy username and password combinations in the hopes of reusing them to access services, steal money, or blackmail their owners.

How to Respond if You get One of these Emails

If you have been contacted by one of these hackers, it is a scary reality that they could have access to your credentials, data, and online services. That said, accounts that share the same password should be changed immediately. Security on additional services you use should be updated too.

The only thing you can do in response to this type of email is to ignore it. This “we recorded you” email is a scam made much more believable because they probably do have one of your real passwords gained from a site hack, but that does not mean that they have access to your computer or Webcam.

Self Defence On the Web

When using online services, a unique password for every site is your number one defence. A good password manager program makes this practical and straightforward too.

Using a different password for each site you use means that hackers can only gain access to one site at a time. A hack in one place should never compromise your other accounts by revealing the single password you use everywhere – unfortunately we still do come across customers that only use one password for everything.

Often, people think that maintaining many passwords is hard work or even impossible to do. In truth, it’s almost always easier to keep tabs with a password manager than it is to use the system you have in place today.

A high quality and secure password manager such as LastPass, or 1Password, can keep track of all your logins efficiently and securely. They often offer the chance to improve your security by generating random and strong passwords that hackers will have a tougher time cracking.

Password management services offer a host of features that help you log in, remind you to refresh your security, and make your safety a number one priority. After using a manager for just a short time, you can be forgiven for wondering how you managed without it.

If you think you might have been hacked already, or want to prevent it from ever happening, give us a call on 01455 209505 to help update your security.

CSH Computer Services is a local business providing PC and Laptop repair and I.T. support services to Homes and Businesses. We are based near Lutterworth, Hinckley and Broughton Astley in Leicestershire and provide a full range of services, from PC and Laptop repairs, PC and Laptop upgrades, sales of new computers and workstations plus business network support. We also provide Virus and Malware disinfection, Broadband installation and troubleshooting, data recovery, Wireless networking and troubleshooting, plus much more. We work in and around the whole Leicestershire area and can be seen daily in Lutterworth, Hinckley, Broughton Astley, Market Harborough, Nuneaton, Rugby, Leicester and surrounding areas too.

SSD – Make Your Old Computer Your New Computer

Upgrade your Computer with an SSD

The solid-state drive (SSD) has swiftly become the go-to upgrade to breathe new life into an ageing computer, and for good reason too.  An SSD swiftly brings an old laptop or desktop up to speed with modern machines in just a single step.

The price of solid-state memory has fallen dramatically in recent years. As costs have dropped, the popularity of the technology has increased exponentially.  At one time an SSD was a rare treat for serious PC enthusiasts, now it’s cheaper and more readily available than ever. No other single solution is as cost-effective, quick to swap, and impressively effective as swapping out an old hard drive in favour of the faster and more modern SSD.

What is an SSD?

The SSD has no moving parts at all, working more like a digital camera memory card. It contains memory chips which transfer data at much higher speeds than the older hard disk drive (HDD) mechanical drives.

The oldeer HDD is a technology that dates back as far as the 1950s and they became the default solution that all PCs would use for decades to come. Inside a solid outer casing was a series of spinning disks arranged in a delicate stack known as a platter. Each disk could read and save data using a tiny mechanical arm moving above the disk’s surface.

The technology looked and worked much like a miniature record player but the hard drive had some serious drawbacks in their use.

The series of tiny disks and arms that made up the HDD were incredibly fragile.  Vulnerable to dust or movement, computers commonly succumbed to hard drive failures that rendered the machine and its stored data unusable. Occasionally, simply moving a laptop while reading or writing data can damage a hard drive’s spinning disk.

How does a new SSD benefit an existing computer?

The primary reason to switch to a more modern SSD, on top of their increased durability, is the incredible increase in speed.

Computer startup, where the operating system loads all its data from storage, can take as little as one-quarter of the time of a comparable HDD.  Additionally, loading regular applications and data from an SSD takes a fraction of time of an HDD.

Also, machines that have a lower specification processor can feel much faster too – up to a point, of course.

An SSD completely breathes new life into an old machine.  Computers with an SSD replacement for the hard drive feel like using an entirely new machine for a fraction of the cost.

Replacing the main mechanical component additionally eliminates wear and tear working to break down your machine.  An HDD slows over time, degrades, and can eventually suffer mechanical failure.

Ideal Laptop Upgrade

As well as desktop computers, in a laptop setting the SSD makes even more sense.  They require less power than older hard drives, making the most of your battery charge.

In addition, not needing a large disk platter, mechanical parts, or protective outer case means they are about half the weight of a mechanical drive.  Making an old machine lightweight brings it another step closer to a modern machine.

They run almost silently too.  The familiar click-clack of the hard drive inside a laptop is a thing of the past.  Many users comment on the noise their laptop used to make starting up and loading programs.  Noisy laptops are a tech throwback we’re happy to leave behind.

For many who feel like their old laptop or desktop is showing its age, the prohibitive cost of purchasing a whole new machine keeps them invested in their old one.  A simple, fast SSD upgrade can make your old machine new again at a much smaller price.

Obviously the older the computer, the more you need to balance the cost of the upgrade with the computers prospective lifespan.

What will happen when I upgrade to an SSD?

After selecting the size (and cost) of the upgrade SSD, we collect your old machine and copy the existing hard drive data. We then transfer it to the new SSD and configure it for use. You then have a much faster machine!

If swapping long startups, and slow load times sounds right for you, consider upgrading to an SSD.  You won’t look back.

Give us a call on 01455 209505 and we can give your machine a new lease on life.

CSH Computer Services is a local business providing PC and Laptop repair and I.T. support services to Homes and Businesses. We are based near Lutterworth, Hinckley and Broughton Astley in Leicestershire and provide a full range of services, from PC and Laptop repairs, PC and Laptop upgrades, sales of new computers and workstations plus business network support. We also provide Virus and Malware disinfection, Broadband installation and troubleshooting, data recovery, Wireless networking and troubleshooting, plus much more. We work in and around the whole Leicestershire area and can be seen daily in Lutterworth, Hinckley, Broughton Astley, Market Harborough, Nuneaton, Rugby, Leicester and surrounding areas too.

Invest Well in your IT Security

Invest Well in your Business IT Security

“If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” is a common rule for many business owners.  It serves to protect your business against unnecessary costs and unneeded downtime – but it can pose an outright threat when it comes to IT security.  

Security threats to your firm move so fast that your IT should be working just as hard as your company just to keep up.  Every day, hundreds of thousands of new malware threats are released.  Falling even hours behind means any one of these attacks can threaten your business.

The single most dangerous thing IT security can do is stand still.  Keeping up with the latest advice, technology, and updates the security industry offers is vital to keep your business safe.  This makes up much of the unseen job of IT professionals.  Hackers never stop looking for new ways into your system, which means your security can’t stop looking for ways to keep them out.

Modern Systems for Modern Business

One of the most common security threats a business opens itself to is using an outdated operating system or software package.  Many firms are scared to upgrade, update, or renew their IT over fears of breaking legacy systems.  Many rely heavily on old software and are afraid to make a large change themselves.  Some businesses today still run machines on Windows XP, an operating system first released back in 2001.

Old operating systems such as Windows XP, Vista and from next year Windows 7, stop receiving security updates and patches that protect against newly released attacks.  These systems become very vulnerable, presenting a large target for knowledgeable hackers.  This happens many years after newer versions have been released, giving knowing IT firms a chance to migrate safely.

Hackers are always on the lookout for businesses that run IT equipment outside of its suggested service life.  A server, desktop computer, or peripheral is a golden opportunity for criminals to enter and threaten a business.

Hackers purchase their attacks on the dark web, safe in the knowledge that old systems won’t be patched.  These attacks can then be used to attack unguarded firms to steal or compromise vital company data.

An unpatched old machine is like a valuable security door left propped open overnight.

Smart Budgets

Budgeting for business is a difficult task.  We aim to make the most of everything we spend and reduce spending as much as we can and IT security can easily fall very far down the list of priorities.

IT can seem like an easy way to cut costs.  It’s a department that the customer doesn’t always benefit from directly, and when it’s working well, it might not be on the radar at all. Despite working largely behind the scenes, successful IT is one of the critical components of every highly successful firm.

Even businesses far removed from the IT world, typically uses payment machines, ordering systems, and inventory.  Even restaurants and retail stores rely on computers to operate.  Downtime for any critical system can be a complete disaster.  A business can be unable to trade, and costs can mount up fast.

When vital IT components are used by the customer, a sales website, or an automated booking system for example, the problem can multiply tenfold.

Keep On Top Of The Essentials

Good IT isn’t built on high peaks and deep troughs in the yearly budget.  The kind of IT that makes your business and helps it to grow is built by smart financing and careful planning.

Maintaining steady updates, keeping pace with the latest security, and building your IT as you build your business keeps you in the driving seat when it matters most.

When IT is planned and issues are solved before they appear, security becomes cheaper, easier, and many times more effective.  System upgrades can be planned out months, if not years in advance so you are never caught unawares.

Don’t let your IT be broken before you take steps to fix it.  Move ahead of the curve and give us a call on 01455 209505.

Keeping Tabs on Childrens App Purchases

How to Keep Tabs on Childrens App Purchases

Children today have grown up surrounded by technology their entire lives. Since before they are old enough to read, they can pick up a tablet or smartphone and swipe at apps and games with ease. Modern kids have an intuitive understanding and ability with technology that older generations did not. The abundance of technology, however, comes with a price.

Easy access to any marketplace can be a double-edged sword. Convenience and ease of use is a boost to those of us needing a quick app, but accidental purchases can cause a lot of headaches. One-click online shopping was once one of the biggest dangers our bank account faced. Now, many of us carry multiple devices, each with their own marketplace and app stores.

With modern tech, mobile applications, whether on iOS (Apple) or Android devices, are easier than ever to buy and download. So simple in fact, that a child could do it.

Designed to Appeal

Children love to download mobile applications that feature their favourite characters, cartoons and TV shows. Advertisements are aimed specifically for children in ways that will invite them to click a link and instantly download a game.

These games are typically free, meaning they don’t require authentication by default before downloading. A new game can be downloaded, installed, and ready to run seconds from clicking an ad.

Developers commonly use, what is known in the business as, a ‘freemium‘ model. This means that the game is free to download and start, but inserts paid ‘upgrades’ designed to make the player part with cash.

Freemium Games

Upgrades to games may unlock more levels, purchase an in-game currency, or outfit a character with special attributes, e.g. weapons or game ‘health’. Competitive online games commonly employ a strategy that gives paying players an unfair advantage over ones who don’t pay – this is often referred to as ‘pay-to-win’ and entices players to spend more to get on the same level.

Many mobile-based games are designed purely to encourage in-app purchasing. Some deliberately design a deceptive or tricky user-interface that makes it easy to miss-click or make purchases by accident.

There are regular stories in the news featuring children spending thousands on in-app purchases for virtual characters. In some cases, children can use real-world money to buy items thinking they are spending in-game currency.

Apps to Help

Of course, it’s unfair to give all applications a bad name. Many deserve it, but not all apps are guilty of behaving badly. There are fitness apps, productivity apps, and educational apps that can act as useful tools to help enhance your day. Children can get a lot from high-quality applications in the same way educational software for the computer can be a huge classroom boost.

Getting the most out of your phone or tablet is about keeping your device safe against applications designed merely to take your money.

Secure Your Device

The best step you can take to prevent running up enormous app bills is to disable in-app purchases on your devices. This prevents apps from being able to take funds for digital items. The process to do this is simple, takes less than 2 minutes, and can save you huge amounts.

On iOS: Enter the settings screen, tap on ‘General’. Then tap on ‘Restrictions’ and tap the ‘Enable restrictions’ option. Make sure to turn “In-App Purchases” off.

On Android: Inside the Google Play App: press the phone menu button and go to Settings. Scroll down to “User Controls”, tap on the “Set or Change Pin” option and set a pin that only you will know.

In the “User Controls” menu check the option to “Use Pin for purchases”. Newer phones may label this pin as a password instead.

Safe Apps

With these options enabled, whether using an iOS or Android device, your phone or tablet is safe from app purchases in any hands.

New Years Computer Resolutions

New Years Computer Resolutions

New Year resolutions can come and go, but if you would like to keep your computer running smoothly, here are a few tips that can help.

Running the Best Security Software

Most computers today run at least some form of basic antivirus.  In the modern day however, threats have evolved to be more sophisticated, more damaging, and much more common.   Ransomware, malware, phishing, and zero-day attacks all work to attack unpatched systems without strong security.

Today, to keep up with increasing threats, you need a complete internet security package.   A layered system means more than just virus scanning.  A comprehensive security package includes prevention, detection, firewall and system monitoring at a minimum.   These layers work together to provide security many times stronger than a stand-alone system.

Reliable, up-to-date, security keeps you safe online.  It’s a resolution you simply can’t afford to skip.

Clean Up Files

Cleaning up unnecessary files is the number one way to gain additional storage space on a typical device.  It’s cost-effective without any extra hardware purchases too.

Almost all computers have files hanging around from old software, data or applications they no longer need.  Just like tidying the spare room or de-cluttering the kitchen, clearing files off your desktop and organizing your emails will leave your computer feeling refreshed and new again.

Restart Your Computer

Fully shutting down a computer and rebooting can take time.  When you are watching the clock, waiting to start a task or get work done, it can feel like an eternity.  Most of us enjoy simply opening the lid or powering on the screen to have everything ready to run.

Many times, we come across a computer that has not beeen fully restarted in weeks and these habits can cause issues with running software and the operating system too. Hardware updates, security patches, and critical updates often wait for a reboot before they install and reboots or shutdowns perform essential maintenance tasks too.

Merely performing a reboot at least every once in a while can secure your system and help get rid of software problems and updates can prevent new issues from cropping up too. Our general advice is to shutdown daily, unless there is a reason not to do so.

Use A Password Manager

Hacks of large institutions and popular websites are frequently in the news today.  Almost every month a major service reveals they have been hacked, their database compromised, and their customer credentials have been stolen.

For this reason, it is very unwise to use the same password to access multiple websites.  This can be a challenge for many.  It’s clearly impossible to remember a unique and secure password for every site you visit.  We recommend using a password manager that can store and recall your passwords for you.

A good password manager relies on just one, very secure, remembered password to safeguard an encrypted database of all your login credentials.  The password database is often stored in the cloud for access from all your necessary devices.  A manager can typically assist in creating a strong, secure password for each of your accounts too.

Using a good password manager and unique password for every site protects you against the attacks commonly in the news.  Hacks compromising major services from your providers will be powerless against directly affecting your other accounts and services.

Keep Your Computer Away from Dust

Dust, hair, and household debris are one of the major causes of premature death for computers.  Fans, used to cool components, suck in house dust as well as the air they need.  This dust often clogs up the inside of the device and overheats internal components.

If possible, keep a tower PC off the carpet and don’t run your laptop sitting on the floor, blanket, or other soft furnishings.  Cleaning out your device is as good a resolution as any, and there’s never a better time than now.

For a little help sticking to your digital new year resolutions and starting off on the right foot, give us a call today on 01455 209505.

Common Malware to Watch Out For

Common Types of Malware Infection

The term “virus” is often used to describe many different types of infection a computer might have and can describe any number of potential computer programs. What these programs have in common are they are typically used to cause damage, steal data, or spread across the network but they are usually designed for a malicious or criminal intent right from the start.

Malware (‘malicious software’) is any software used for negative purposes on a personal computer  and can actually be legitimate software, but which is being deliberately misused.

Adware

Short for ‘advertising-supported software’, adware is a type of malware that delivers advertisements to your computer.  These advertisements are often intrusive, irritating, and often designed to trick you into clicking something that you don’t want. A common example of malware is pop-up ads that appear on many websites and mobile applications.

Adware often comes bundled with “free” versions of software that uses these intrusive advertising to make up costs.  Commonly it is installed without the user’s knowledge and may be made excessively difficult to remove.

Spyware

‘Spyware’ is designed to spy on the user’s activity without their knowledge or consent.  Often installed in the background, spyware can collect keyboard input, harvest data from the computer, monitor web activity and more.

Spyware typically requires installation to the computer. This is commonly done by tricking users into installing spyware themselves instead of the software or application that they thought they were getting. Victims of spyware are often be completely unaware of its presence until the data stolen is acted on in the form of fraudulent bank transactions or stolen online accounts.

Virus

A typical virus may install a keylogger to capture passwords, logins, and bank information from the keyboard.  It might steal data, interrupt programs, and cause the computer to crash but  more commonly, includes a ‘ransomware’ package – see below.

Modern virus programs commonly use your computers processing power and internet bandwidth to perform tasks remotely for hackers – the first sign of this can be when the computer sounds like it is doing a lot of work when no programs should be running.

A computer virus is often spread through installing unknown software or downloading attachments that contain more than they seem but perhaps the most common is by links in emails.

Ransomware

A particularly malicious variety of malware, known as ransomware, prevents the user from accessing their own files until a ransom is paid.  Files within the system are often encrypted with a password that won’t be revealed to the user until the full ransom is paid.

Instead of accessing the computer as normal, the user is presented with a screen which details the contact and payment information required to access their data again.

Ransomware is typically downloaded through malicious file attachments, email, or a vulnerability in the computer system. This si the type of infection that seriously affected NHS machines not too long ago.

Worm

Among the most common type of malware today is the computer ‘worm’.  Worms spread across computer networks by exploiting vulnerabilities within the operating system.  Often these programs cause harm to their host networks by consuming large amounts of network bandwidth, overloading computers, and using up all the available resources.

One of the key differences between worms and a regular virus is its ability to make copies of itself and spread independently.  A virus must rely on human activity to run a program or open a malicious attachment; worms can simply spread over the network without human intervention.

No need to be paranoid!

So with all these types of infections, it would be easy to be put off using computers altogether and we have certainly met people that do the minimum possible with theirs, due to infection worries.

The fact is that we have found that the typical number of calls for traditional computer virus infections has gone down over recent times and that more often than not, infections today are the result of scams or insufficient security protection.

If you use common sense, a good security package (preferably paid for as opposed to a free version) and are cautious with what you do online and download, then you can reduce the chances of infection – but you must remain vigilant.

If you would like us to help  keep your systems safe from malware, give us a call on 01455 209505.

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.