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.

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.

How to Tell if You Have Been Hacked

How to Tell if You Have Been Hacked

Being hacked is the single biggest fear of most computer users. Many believe that the first sign of strange behaviour or errors on their PC is a sign that hackers have taken control. But are hackers really inside your machine, stealing your information? Or should we be on the lookout for more subtle signs? What does being hacked really look like?

There is an important distinction to make between being hacked by a person and being infected with a virus or malware. Virus software and malware are automated processes designed to damage your system, steal your data, or both. There are of course ways that we can defeat these processes, but what if we are instead hacked by an individual?

Remote Connections

Our previous blog posts have warned people about not allowing strangers to remotely access their computers unless they are 100% sure that they are genuine.

Remote Support technology is a very useful tool but if you allow the wrong people to remotely connect, they can be doing things in the background that you may not be aware of. For example, whilst speaking to you they can be downloading software that they can then use to convince you that your computer has a problem – i.e. displaying fake error messages. Needless to say, they can also be gathering information from your computer too.

They can also leave software on your machine which in many cases is very difficult to spot. You should only allow people to connect when you have approached them – never from a phone call or email coming to you out of the blue, no matter how believable or what they appear to know about you.

Logins not working

One of the first steps a hacker might take would be to change the computers passwords. By doing so, not only do they ensure future access to the account, they prevent you from accessing the system to stop them. For the hacker, this is a crucial step that keeps them in control.

Being hacked is not the only reason why you may not be able to login, but it is a possible symptom that you need to bear in mind. We always need to make sure to keep on top of our own login details and how often we change them.

Security Emails or SMS’s from online services

Many services track which device and location you logged into your account from last. If your account is accessed from a new device or a different country it might trigger an automated email or SMS to ask if this new login is your own.

If you have logged in using a new computer, tablet, or phone; an email that asks “hey, is this you?” need not be cause for alarm. If you haven’t, it may be time to investigate further. This service is an important part of information security and may be a key first step to identify someone else gaining access to your account.

Bank accounts – strange transactions

Most commonly today, hackers commit crimes to steal money. The end goal for hackers is typically to profit from their crimes by taking money from people online. Obviously it pays to keep a regular eye on your financial transactions to make sure you know what money is coming and going from your account, especially when doing online banking.

Whilst you may see a large sum missing where hackers have attempted to take as much as they can in a single transaction, this is not always the case. Alternatively small, hard to notice transactions may sometimes appear. These often account for small purchases where attackers have tested the details that they have, to make sure they work. Hackers may even wait months before attempting a transaction.

Either way, the sooner you spot unusual or unrecognized transactions, the better.

Sudden loss of cellular connectivity

Mobile network interruption is a symptom that few people expect but occurs commonly when hackers attack. Many banks and online services use a security feature known as Two-factor authentication. To do this they send a short code to your phone or app when you log in. Two-factor authentication is ideal in most cases and is a great boost to security.

Determined hackers can try to work around this by calling your mobile service provider to report your phone as lost or stolen. During this call, they will request your phone number be transferred to a new sim card that they control. When your bank sends its regular two-factor authentication code to the number registered, it goes instead to the hacker who may be able to log in. From your perspective the phone service will simply stop working.

Unusual or unrecognized icons

In many cases hacking software tries to be stealthy and not be seen, but there are some that do not hide themselves so much because the hackers believe that it may not be noticed. A common one is remote connection software that can only be seen as a tiny icon in the bottom right-hand corner of a Windows computer, which automatically starts up every time you switch the computer on. It is hiding amongst all the other small icons and is frequently overlooked.

Similarly there may be an icon appearing on the Desktop which you do not recognize or remember installing, or your normal search engine changes to something else – if a virus or malware has caused this, what else is going on?

Keeping vigilant and maintaining security

These are only some of the modern techniques that hackers can try to use to gain access to your accounts. You don’t need to be paranoid but it pays to be extra vigilant and pay close attention to the signs and signals that indicate you may have been hacked.

Also, make sure that you have a good security product installed – it makes it that much harder for hackers.

If you suspect that you might have been hacked, or would like help to prevent hackers in future, give us a call on 01455 209505 and we’ll help improve your security.

Top 5 I.T. Problems for Businesses

Top 5 I.T. Problems for Businesses

Companies that suffer security breaches nearly always have at least one of these IT security problems. Do any apply to your company?

No Backups

A shocking number of businesses are not backing up their data properly. According to market research company Clutch, 60 percent of businesses who suffer a data loss shut down within six months.

Not only should every business be fully backing up their data, but their backups should be regularly tested to work too. It’s a step that businesses miss surprisingly often. Many businesses don’t find out that their backup can’t be used until it’s already too late.

Reactive and not proactive

The world is constantly changing. The IT world doubly so. Attackers are always figuring out new ways to break into businesses, hardware evolves faster than most can keep up, and old systems fail due to wear and tear far quicker than we would like. A huge number of businesses wait until these issues impact them directly before they respond.

The result is usually higher costs, longer downtime, and harder hitting impacts.

By responding to hardware warnings before it fails, fixing security holes before they’re exploited, and upgrading systems before they are out of date: IT can be done the right way. Being proactive about your IT needs means systems don’t have to break or compromised before they are fixed. The result for your business is less downtime, fewer losses, and lower IT costs.

Weak Passwords

A surprising number of people will use the password “password” to secure some of their most important accounts. Even more still will write their own password on a post-it note next to their computer or allow everyone else to know what the password is. In some cases, many will even use no password at all.

Strong passwords act, not only as a barrier to prevent unwanted entry, but as a vital accountability tool too. When system changes are made it’s often essential that the account that made changes is secured to the right person. With an insecure password or worse; none at all, tracking the individual responsible for reports or accountability becomes impossible. This can result in both auditing disasters on top of technical ones.

Insufficient Staff Training

Humans in the system are commonly the weakest point in IT security. Great IT security can be a bit like having state-of-the-art locks on a door propped open with a milk crate. If staff aren’t trained to use the lock, it’s worth nothing at all.

Many times businesses can justify spending big on security for the latest and greatest IT defences but the very same firms may exceed their budget and spend almost zero on training staff to use them. In this instance, a little goes a long way. Security training can help staff to identify a threat where it takes place, avoiding and mitigating damage, often completely.

Weak Data Controls

Some companies can take an ad-hoc, fast and loose approach to storing professional data. Often crucial parts can be spread across many devices, copied needlessly, and sometimes even left unsecured. Client data can be found regularly on employee laptops, mobile phones, and tablet devices. These are famously prone to being misplaced or stolen out in the field along with vital client and security data.

It can be easy for both employees and firms to focus on the costs of devices and hardware purchased for the business. The reality is that the data held on devices is almost always worth many times more than the device that holds it. For many firms, their approach to data hasn’t been changed since the firm was first founded. Critical data is often held on single machines that haven’t been updated precisely because they hold critical data. Such machines are clearly vulnerable, outdated, and prone to failure.

Common problems with simple solutions

Each of these common issues have simple solutions to secure against IT failure. With a professional eye and expertise in the field, every business should be defended against IT issues that risk the firm.

If you need help securing your IT to protect your business, give us a call on 01455 209505.