Archive for General advice – Page 3

How to Survive a Hard Drive Crash

How to survive a hard drive crash

People of all ages are now storing their photos, documents and other important data digitally – it’s the march of progress and even non-technical people are learning the ropes – or at the very least know that they should back up. You can buy USB sticks and even external hard drives in supermarkets, so it is easier to back up now than ever before.

As with all things, there is a “but” and it’s something that affects a minority of customers, but if you are one of the unlucky ones, it affects you in a big way. Hard drives, USB sticks and other electronic storage can (and do) go wrong, either through age, accident, virus infection or something else.

Stop for a moment and think about what you’d lose right now if your hard drive or USB backup failed.

If you’ve ever lost your data, you know the panic and rage that follows…turning the house or office upside down, hoping desperately to find that USB stick that maybe your data was copied to, once upon a time…before collapsing onto the couch as it sinks in: there’s nothing left. Or merrily saving your backups onto the external hard drive that you’ve had a long time and which has never gone wrong – until you check it and find that it has actually gone wrong for some time and that what you thought was saved, isn’t.

So having done the right thing by backing up in the first place, you will no doubt be wondering “so what can I do then”? The thing to do is to think ahead and not be a data loss victim.

Recommended backups

Backing up used to be something only tech geeks did, but like everything else, it has gone mainstream. In an ideal world backups would follow a 3-2-1 approach: 3 copies of your data, with 2 local at your home or office and 1 offsite.

Typically, this means keeping your data on your computer, one copy of precious files on a backup USB drive, and one that automatically uploads to the secure cloud as you add new files. Why? Because that way, the USB drive protects your data if your computer dies, and the cloud copy protects you if something happens to the computer and your USB drive, like fire, flood or theft. This isn’t as far-fetched as you think, as a customer found when their back up was destroyed in the Lutterworth area recently.

3 backups are too fiddly – what backups are the minimum?

It’s a rare home where someone takes the time to sit down each week and carefully run a backup. Not that it’s tricky, but unless you’re one of those cool geeks it’s pretty boring and not a high priority after a long day! Small businesses are usually better, but not always. That’s why we recommend a cloud backup solution or letting us take care of it remotely.

At a minimum, you do need a ‘Cloud’ storage account – where a copy of your important files are kept on your computer but are automatically copied to a secure server as well. Cloud storage has multiple backups so that your data is always safe and depending on the Cloud storage that you use, you can even recover the data after a ransomware attack.

You’ll be able to retrieve files at will, without having to roll back your entire drive, and know your solution has caught even the smallest file change without you needing to flag or mark it in any way – all automatically. Even better, because it’s in the cloud, you can access your secure backup from anywhere. Left a work file at home? No problem, it’s in your cloud backup. On holiday and need to check a detail or show off a photo? No problem, it’s in your cloud backup.

Small Business Backups

As well as file backups there are cloud backup solutions that allow you to not only back up individual files, but your entire computer, so in the event of a major issue you can get your computer up and running again very quickly. In fact some cloud backup solutions even provide a virtual machine that a copy of your computer runs in, so that you can continue to work even whilst the real computer is being rebuilt.

We’re able to get you set up with the perfect backup solution that meets your needs, both now and in case of emergency. If you’re ready to protect your data before you lose it, give us a call on 01455 209505.

Common Reasons for Computers to Break

Common Reasons for Computers to Break

We know computers always break at the worst possible time, but what are the most common reasons for that failure? It’s easy to think it was something you did since you were using it at the time, but even so, normal user actions are rarely the cause of a broken computer.

Physical Damage to the Computer

Accidents happen, but they don’t always mean you need to buy a new computer. As an electrical item, liquid spills are a major problem, yet happen all the time. This could be anywhere from a spill on the keyboard to going overboard with the screen cleaning spray – it doesn’t matter too much if the keyboard is cabled or Wi-Fi to a PC, but if it’s part of a laptop then that liquid can cause serious problems.

Laptop users need to be especially careful when choosing their work surface, as cafes and kitchen tables often have small puddles left behind. If you’re lucky and the liquid didn’t fry the circuits, ongoing corrosion is still likely, as is stickiness to gum up the internal parts.

Similarly, a dropped computer isn’t going to be happy, nor is one that’s been knocked around. Even a light thump of frustration can cause loose cables, disconnections and internal damage.

Age of the Computer

Computer parts have an expected lifetime, especially moving parts like fans or mechanical hard drives. Some computers can run 24/7 for up to a decade, while others can barely be used but fail within warranty.

When age is the issue there are usually early warning signs like extra noise or slowing down, but the actual ‘break’ generally happens when you go to turn the computer on, perhaps after a crash or overnight – either it makes a valiant effort before giving up, or nothing happens at all.

Sometimes it’s luck of the draw with how the computer was manufactured, and quality does play a big part in how long it can keep churning and the phrase “you get what you pay for” does apply in the I.T. world. That unusually good deal may not be the best thing for you to spend your money on.

Power Surges

We like to think electricity is a constant stream that never varies, but computers are particularly sensitive to both surges (too much electricity) and brownouts (not enough electricity). You might notice the lights dimming or flickering during a brownout, or glowing just a tad too strong during a surge. These variations never last long, and they’re not something you can control unless it’s just your house but they can easily break your computer.

A good surge protector can guard against mild increases in voltage, but quality is key as we found recently with a customer whose PC could not boot in Gilmorton. Even though the PC power cable was attached to an extension that had a ‘surge protected label’, it was in fact a low quality one and the power surge just went straight through it.

If the surge is bad enough even a good quality surge protector may not be able to take the charge, but you stand a better chance with one than without it.

Heat

Overheating is a big contributor to premature computer death. Some computer parts run hot and need plenty of cooling to keep them working. You might not feel it from the outside, but internal components can rapidly build up heat that needs to go somewhere.

When your airflow vents get blocked with dust or pet hair, the temperature continues to increase until components literally bake themselves to failure. At set temperatures, the computer will automatically switch off to try and cool down, however the more often this happens and the higher the temperatures, the more likely your computer is to die.

This is especially true for laptops and many times we see customers using their laptops on soft surfaces such as cushions or quilts, which of course simply blocks the vents and increases internal temperature. When using a laptop, wherever possible keep the vents clear and use it on a hard surface.

Hard Drive Failure

Your data is stored on a hard drive, and if you’ve got a mechanical hard drive (most people do), it works a bit like a record player with a spinning ‘platter’ and a mechanical arm that reads it (although the ‘arm’ doesn’t actually touch the surface).

Small bumps, liquid, age, surges and overheating can all trigger hard drive failure.

Along with making your computer unusable, hard drive failure means your data is also lost. Whilst it may be a sudden breakage, take note of any strange noises or repeated crashes and back up your data in advance.

Like a car, your computer needs to be serviced. We can check your computer both physically and its software, to make its running right and will keep on working for you. Give us a call on 01455 209505.

Fake Invoice Scams are on the Rise

Businesses around the world are being struck with a cyber-attack that sends victims a fake invoice that looks real enough to fool to most employees. It’s an old scam that used to see bills faxed or mailed in, but it’s made its way into the digital world and instances are on the rise.

Chances are you’ve already seen some of the less effective attempts, like an email advising your domain is expiring, except it’s not from your host and your domain is nowhere near expiration. These new attacks are more advanced, in that they look completely legitimate and are often from contractors or suppliers that you actually use.

Logos are correct, spelling and grammar are spot on, and they might even refer to actual work or invoice numbers. The sender name may also be the normal contact you’d associate with that business, or even a co-worker, as cybercriminals are able to effectively ‘spoof’ real accounts and real people. While it’s worrying that they know enough about your business to wear that disguise so well, a successful attack relies on you not knowing what to look for, or even that fakes are a possibility. With that in mind, here are two types of invoice attacks you might receive:-

The Payment Redirect

This style of fake invoice either explicitly states payment should be made to a certain account, perhaps with a friendly note about the new details, or includes a payment link direct to the new account. Your accounts payable person believes they’re doing the right thing by resolving the invoice and unwittingly sends company money offshore.

The problem usually isn’t discovered until the real invoice from the real supplier comes in or the transaction is flagged in an audit. Due to the nature of international cybercrime, it’s unlikely you’ll be able to recover the funds even if you catch it quickly.

We have come across two small business customers recently which have been affected by this scam, locally in Lutterworth and Burbage, so it does happen to businesses of all sizes.

You may well be thinking that you would not be caught out by this – but can you say that about all your employees?

The Malware Click

Rather than go for the immediate cash grab, this style of attack asks your employee to click a link to download the invoice. The email may even look like the ones normally generated by popular accounting tools like Quickbooks (or some other well known accounting package), making the click seem safe. Once your employee has clicked the link, malware is downloaded that can trigger ransomware or data breaches.

While an up-to-date anti-virus should block the attack at that stage, it’s not always guaranteed, especially with new and undiscovered malware. If it does get through, the malware quickly embeds itself deep into your systems, often silently lurking until detected or activated.

How to Stay Safe

Awareness is key to ensuring these types of attacks have no impact on your business. As always, keep your anti-virus and spam filters up to date to minimize the risk of the emails getting through in the first place. Third party spam filters on top of your security software may also help.

Then, consider implementing a simple set of procedures regarding payments.

These could include verifying account changes with a phone call (to the number you have on record, not the one in the email), double checking invoices against work orders, appointing a single administrator to restrict access to accounts, or even two-factor authorisation for payments.

Simple pre-emptive checks like hovering the mouse over any links before clicking and quickly making sure it looks right can also help. Like your own business, your contractors and suppliers are extra careful with their invoicing, so if anything looks off – even in the slightest – hold back on payment/clicking until it’s been reviewed.

Also consider placing a message on your email signature which includes the warning that you would never advise of a change your bank details by email – only by phone or personally – to help prevent other people from falling for it.

Fake invoices attacks may be increasing, but that doesn’t mean your business will become a statistic, especially now that you know what’s going on and how you can stop them.

If you need help to increase your security, talk to us today. Call us on 01455 209505.

A Free Alternative to Microsoft Office

A Free Alternative to Microsoft Office

When buying a new computer or even reinstalling Windows on an existing computer, many people do not realise that there is no way to reliably transfer a program from one computer to another. That is fine so long as you don’t need to reinstall a program, but there are no guarantees that you will never need to replace your hard drive, or have to reinstall Windows due to a virus infection or some other cause of data corruption, so you may have to reinstall software.

In the past week alone we have had to repair a local PC in Broughton Astley due to a power surge that corrupted the computer file system and also had to reinstall Windows on a local laptop in Hinckley that had a failed hard drive that needed replacing.

Also when we deliver a new computer, we often see a frown on customer’s faces when they try to remember where they put those program installation disks from years ago.

Many times you can just download new device driver software, but when it comes to something like Microsoft Office, it’s a whole new ballgame. All those documents, spreadsheets, etc. need a program to open them and if you don’t have one, you can have a real problem.

If you have found the installation disk, great. If you just have a card with an activation code, you may be able to download the Office software again, depending on the version of Office that you have. Similarly if you bought a download installation package, you may be able to download it again.

But if you do not have the original Office installation disk or installation package, what are your options? Microsoft no longer supply CDs of their software and similarly you can no longer buy individual Office programs such as Outlook or Word. Essentially you have two choices – you either buy an expensive download or rent the Office software on an annual basis.

The Free Office Alternative

There is however a free alternative to Microsoft Office, called Libre Office.

This is an alternative Office suite that is compatible with Word documents, Excel spreadsheets, Powerpoint files and more, and it is free because it is Open Source software. So you can carry on using the files that you already have, without having to buy another copy of Office.

Libre Office is not just for use in the Home, we know of small businesses that choose to use it for general office tasks too. It is reliable and is compatible to a high degree.

Unfortunately, this free software does not provide an alternative to the Outlook email program.

Be careful what you download

If you want to get the Libre Office download, you can get the software from their website at https://www.libreoffice.org/.

If not going straight to the website to get the download, be very careful where you download it from as there are websites out there that try to get you to download it from them, but it is not the genuine article and may even contain malware.

Why not try it out? You may find that you can save yourself some money!

If you need help in transferring your data or installing software, give us a call on 01455 209505.

Upgrading your Computer instead of Buying

Upgrading your computer

Computer technology is always getting updated and after a while the next “latest and greatest” piece of kit comes out. But do you need to keep buying that “latest and greatest”, after all most computers get slower the older they are?

Actually you don’t. Depending on how old your computer or laptop is, there are things that can be done to try to speed things up and help you to put off having to buy another machine.

Regular computer maintenance

The first thing is regular maintenance – such as running ‘Disk Cleanup’ and ‘Defragmenter’ which get rid of the clutter of unused files and arrange the files so that your computer doesn’t waste time looking for them. Both of these can be found in the Start > Program menu > Accessories > System Tools (Windows 7) or search for them on the taskbar of Windows 10 (Windows 10 has regular defragmenting enabled, but check when it last took place as it may be scheduled when the computer is usually off).

Adding computer memory

After this, you may get a speed boost by adding memory (called Random Access Memory or RAM), but many people get confused with this term. The hard drive is the permanent storage for Windows, your programs and files but the memory in your computer  does a lot of the hard work because when you switch on, a copy of everything is loaded into that memory, so that you can use the computer.

The more computer memory you have, the more the computer can do, a bit like having a small desk or a larger one. If you have too much ‘RAM’, your computer will not get any faster so your money can be wasted but not having enough can make your computer slow down to a crawl.

Installing memory is easy, takes next to no time (although you need to be careful and take anti-static precautions) and is relatively cheap. For example, a recent customer wanted to do a PC upgrade in Lutterworth and doubling the ‘RAM’ in their PC increased performance noticeably.

Upgrading your Hard Drive

It’s not just memory ugrades – upgrading the hard drive is also an option. Another customer wanted an SSD PC upgrade in Broughton Astley, where they had a PC with a mechanical hard drive and wanted the much faster SSD drive replacing it, as an SSD drive is an electrical one with no (slower) moving parts. The difference in boot time and responsiveness was dramatic.

Another factor in how well your computer works (particularly when booting up) is how many programs or apps are set to automatically start whenever you switch on. These days many programs assume that they should start automatically but the more that do, the slower boot time gets and your computer resources are being used up, making your computer slower over time.

Simply click the Windows icon key on your keyboard and the letter ‘R’ at the same time, type msconfig in the box, select the startup tab and check what is loading.Whilst this is technically not an upgrade, it can help speed things up a little – you just need to make sure that you only switch off those programs/apps that you don’t need, as some things in that list need to run for the computer to work properly.

Obviously when deciding whether to upgrade or buy new, you need to take into account the age of the computer as you don’t want to spend too much on an old machine, but if you spend wisely you can put off the new purchase for a bit longer.

If you would like help or advice about upgrading your computer, give us a call on 01455 209505.

Phishing – What Is It and How to Avoid It

Phishing – What Is It and How to Avoid It

There’s always some IT jargon to contend with and here is another one – ‘Phishing’ – but you do need to look out for it. ‘Phishing’ is the attempt to obtain your personal information (login details, credit cards etc.) by someone pretending to be someone trustworthy in an email or other electronic communication.

Typically, they may try to get you to a website which may look completely legitimate and identical to the genuine website, such as a bank, and there they get you to disclose information that they want for their own purposes. On the face of it you may read this and think “They wouldn’t catch me out”, but they are very good at what they do and can be very persuasive.

A single click can be the difference between maintaining data security and suffering financial losses and not just personal bank accounts – businesses are especially vulnerable. From the moment just one employee takes the bait in a phishing email, your business is vulnerable to data breaches and extensive downtime.

As well as being vigilant, here are a few tips for things to look for :-

1. Poor spelling and grammar

While occasional typing errors happen to even the best of us, an email filled with errors is a clear warning sign. Most companies push their campaigns through reviews where errors are caught and corrected. Unlikely errors throughout the entire message indicate that the same level of care was not taken, and therefore the message is possibly fraudulent.

2. An offer too good to be true?

Free items or a lottery win sound great, but when the offer comes out of nowhere and with no catch? Take care not to get carried away and do not click without investigating deeper. Remember, this can look as though this is coming from anyone that you may actually happen to deal with – your broadband provider, bank or any other source – and the criminals have just struck lucky in your case that you are an actual customer.

3. Random sender who knows too much

Phishing has advanced in recent years to include ‘spear phishing’ (more jargon!), which is an email or offer designed especially for you or your business. Culprits take details from your public channels, such as a recent function or award, social media, etc. and then use it against you.

The only clue can be that the sender is unknown – they weren’t at the event or involved with you in any way. Take a moment to see if their story checks out.

4. The Website address or email address is not quite right

One of the most effective techniques used in phishing emails is to use domains which sound almost right. For example, [microsoft.info.com] or [pay-pal.com]. This technique is also used in search engine listings where someone pretends to be a company.

Hover over the link with your mouse and review where it will take you. If it doesn’t look right, or is completely different from the link text, send that email to the bin.

5. It asks for personal, financial or business details

Alarm bells should ring when any message contains a request for personal, business or financial information. If you believe there may be a genuine issue, you can check using established, trusted channels such as calling the company using a telephone number that you know is genuine.

Take care if using a search engine to get the number – ensure that the information comes from the genuine website (see tip No.4 above).

While education is the best way to ensure phishing emails are unsuccessful, a robust spam filter and solid anti-virus system provide peace of mind – especially if you are running a business.

Give us a call on 01455 209505 to discuss how we can help secure your system against costly phishing attacks.

3 Internet Habits to Keep Children Smart and Safe

Protect Children Online

How can you make the internet a safer place for your children? It’s a common concern as all parents want their children to be protected and happy whenever they go online. It’s relatively easy to supervise and monitor the very young ones as they stare delightedly at the Disney website, but the risks increase greatly as children get older and more independent.

Safe internet usage goes beyond reminding them not to talk to strangers. With the evolution of the internet and the way it’s now woven seamlessly into our lives, the focus now needs to be on ingrained habits. That means ensuring your children have the tools and responses to online events so that no matter what happens, they’re not placing themselves (or your family) at risk.

Setting up these habits is easy, and begins with three basic understandings:-

Downloads are a no-go

Most children can’t tell the difference between a legitimate download and a scam or malicious link. It’s not their fault, the online world is full of things that will trick even the most savvy adult. The difference is that children tend not to take that extra moment to check exactly where that link is pointing, question whether it’s too good to be true, or even read what they’re agreeing to.

For example, only this morning we collected an infected computer in Lutterworth which had become infected through a teenager downloading software which unknown to them, contained malware.

They want to get back to what they were doing, and if something pops up, their first instinct is to click ‘yes’ – purely so that it goes away. Unfortunately virus and malware writers know this and target children, for example games software patches and music are prime examples. That single click ‘yes’ may have just opened the door to malware and viruses that will ruin their computer – or worse.

Set a family rule that they need to ask permission for all downloads (and an adult will check it first), and to never ever click a popup. When you’re called over to give download permission or check a popup, talk through exactly what you’re checking and why. As your child matures, get them involved in this process so their safe habits extend outside the home.

Critical thinking is essential

Most youngsters think the internet is a magical place and can’t imagine their life without it. With that acceptance though, comes unwavering trust that the internet would never lie to them, never trick them and never hurt them. While we adults know better, it’s only because we already view the internet with a certain level of distrust.

The best way to keep children safe is to teach them to view the internet with critical thinking and not be blindly trusting. That includes teaching them to question the motives of other people online. Is that person really a child? What do they really want? Simply make them think that they need to treat the internet in the same way as they should beware of strangers in the street.

Unfortunately, all children do need to be aware that predators use the internet to target and lure children. Ensure your children tell you immediately if a stranger makes contact. Along with this stranger danger, teach them to identify what marks something as suspicious, and what they should avoid. If they come across anything inappropriate, they should shut down the computer and come straight to you.

The internet is forever

Children have an overwhelming drive to contribute to the internet, they don’t think twice about recording a video, jumping in a chat room or onto social media. The world really is their playground!

But what they don’t understand (until its too late), is that anything that they upload, write or say is on the internet forever. Even if they delete it or use a platform where content self-erases, someone can still screenshot and send it right back out.

Many cyber-bullying cases are based around this exact type of scenario.

Once your children know that everything they post is permanent, they’ll hopefully be more likely to pause and think before posting – every time.

If you would like us to help you to secure your computer and help keep your family safe – give us a ring on 01455 209505.

Business Security When an Employee Leaves

Security after an employee leaves

We have seen businesses which have experienced issues after an employee has left their job – either when leaving voluntarily or otherwise – and any in many cases it is because no-one has considered the potential for disruption caused by I.T. when staff are leaving.

Your employees need access to your various business accounts so they can do their job, but what happens to those passwords when they leave? What effect can their leaving have on the security of the business? Nobody likes to think of this but nonetheless, it’s a responsibility every business owner and manager must face at some point.

Most of the time, the former employee leaves under good terms and you’ll wish them well. If you’re lucky, they’ll even manage the hand-over to their replacement so that your productivity losses are minimal. Other employees may leave your business reluctantly or in a storm of anger and suspicion.

Either way the risk to your business remains high until action is taken.

Here are 3 steps you can take to protect your business from retaliation and other password-related disasters.

Limit access to a need-to-know basis

You might be surprised how often a new employee is presented a huge amount of  business information on a platter when their actual job requires little more than a computer login. Accounts, strategy, customer details, industry secrets…all those sensitive aspects of your business that have made it a success – exposed.

A better policy is to limit access to only what the employee needs to do their job. Rather than view it as a lack of trust, your employees should appreciate the care you’ve taken to protect your business (and their job). It also helps keeps them from being overwhelmed, confused or tempted if the situation ever turns sour.

Likewise, take a few moments to delete old or temporary accounts that are no longer required, as you never know when a hacker or disgruntled employee will squeeze through the gaps, for example as we found a local business in Lutterworth had an ex-employee still accessing their work email address!

Change passwords fast

On average, it takes at least a week before passwords are changed after an employee has left, if at all. Unfortunately, this is the one type of delay your business can’t afford.

In 2017, an ex-employee from the American College of Education held their entire email system to ransom for $200,000 after an unhappy exit. Stories of others stealing client databases are also common, especially if they leave to start their own business or work for a competitor. Having a contract preventing an employee from setting up in competition with you does not prevent someone getting a copy of the customer database.

It’s not just full-time employees either, contract and part-time employees such as social media managers and customer support staff often have access to more of your business than you might imagine. Recent rulings make it easier for business owners to prosecute former employees who access their systems, however as we know, it only takes seconds to login and wreak absolute havoc.

Knowing you can force those bad eggs into a lengthy court case is poor comfort considering the extent of damage and hassle you’ll experience. The best option is to change passwords fast as this lessens the chance of revenge attacks and opportunistic access.

Use a password manager

If you have good password manager like LastPass, reducing your password risk becomes mostly automated. You’ll be able to keep your logins in a central vault that only you can see, and share based on business roles/need. There’s even an option to share passwords without letting employees see them in plain-text.

Instead of writing passwords down somewhere and manually entering them each time, they’ll be able to connect securely with a click. Plus, you can revoke the share at any time. If their role changes or they leave, you can use the dashboard to see who is having access to what and add/revoke permission at will. If you’re not sure what that employee has been up to, you can also generate reports of their history.

Having a procedure in place when an employee leaves, as well as a review of your employees access levels can prevent a lot of disruption in the future and is a worthwhile investment in your time.

We can help you set up password management and lock down your network. Call us on 01455 209505.

 

Why Do Computers Slow Down Over Time?

Why computers slow down over time

Remember how you smiled when you turned on your new computer and it loaded in a flash? Button on, ready to go, those were the days!

After a year or two though, it doesn’t seem to be quite as zippy – the thing is that you’re not imagining it. It really has slowed down, not just in comparison to newer models and your expectations…there’s a measurable drop in speed and power that has nothing to do with worn out parts.

The good news is that a little maintenance can have your computer working faster again. Let’s identify the slowdown culprits:-

Start-up applications

It’s very convenient to have Skype start automatically and your anti-virus too. In fact, many of the applications starting themselves with the computer are a great benefit to you, but some of them are getting a little too ‘helpful’.

For example, ‘iTunes helper’ loads in the background to speed things up when you connect your device – but if you can’t even remember the last time you ran iTunes on your computer, then it can go. Programs like that are holding onto a portion of your processing power and adding to your speed issues but as more and more programs get installed, more and more think that they have the right to start whenever you switch your computer on.

The average home computer automatically loads around 75 programs at start-up!

Temporary junk

Computers are kind of messy. They leave temporary files and snippets of information all over your hard drive, each action leaving a trail rather like a roaming toddler with a sticky sandwich. Every webpage, every image on that webpage, every program you run and every game you play leaves something behind.

It may be information called “cookies”, saved game files, auto-restore files or even a log so that you can hit the undo button 100 times while it remembers your actions for you. A memorable one is the backup files that your computer can store, after it has had a major update – sometimes these files can be huge.

The more junk your computer builds up, the slower it gets.

Viruses and malware

These infections sit in the background consuming resources while doing various malicious things. They may be spying on your actions, stealing your information or reaching out through your network to infect others.

Occasionally, the impact is limited to seeing your computer slow to a crawl, however the flow-on financial costs of an infection can easily be larger than you realise – for home users as well as businesses.

Make sure that you have a good antivirus program running – we recommend using paid versions as they tend to protect you more comprehensively than free versions.

Bloating

With every new version of software comes a new set of features, introductory sequences and design improvements. The problem with this is that the application becomes larger and larger with each new version, requiring more system resources to install and run – and slowing your computer down.

That is why you usually find that each new version has higher computer ‘minimum specifications’ than previous versions – but do you really need that ‘latest and greatest’ version?

Just like a car, computers need regular maintenance – we offer a Tune-Up service to bring your computer closer to its original speed and extend its life. For example, a recent computer tune up in Lutterworth left a very happy customer who thought that they would need a new computer, but we managed to put that off for a while!

Give us a call on 01455 209505 to book a computer Tune Up.

Business Email – Best Practice Tips

Business email Tips

If you Google a search term such as “emails not getting delivered” you will get a huge range of reasons why this can happen, but businesses need to try to minimise the chances of it happening, where they can.

For example, most people know that email companies have lists of addresses to automatically block, to try to prevent spam and other undesirable emails getting to customer Inboxes. What many people do not know is that email servers do not just rely on those lists – they use a whole range of tools to constantly filter out possible spam, including setting their own rules for what email is or is not to be stopped, and it is this range of tools that can cause problems.

It has been estimated that up to 10% of emails blocked by email servers can be genuine emails – yet they are still quarantined, put into the server ‘Junk’ folder or marked as Spam for a number of reasons.

This is one of the most common reasons for non-deliverability of emails.

Businesses need to use best practice to minimise the risk of the other party’s email servers treating their genuine emails as Junk and this includes reducing the reasons why email servers wrongly block legitimate emails.

Here are a few tips that may help: –

Do not attach dangerous file extensions to your emails

There are a number of attachments that when opened, can execute viruses or other malware and as such can be automatically blocked by some email services – even when attached to genuine emails. There are a number of such attachments but the most common are .doc and .docx, .exe, .vbs, .msi, .com and many more. Unfortunately, Office files that run what is called ‘Macros’ can also be potentially dangerous, such as .xlxm and .pptm, although this is getting less common.

So apart from being extremely careful if you receive any of the above attachments yourself, to avoid your email getting quarantined by attachment blocking, do not attach them to your emails wherever possible.

Also do bear in mind that if you have previously sent these attachments, those email servers may automatically continue to ‘distrust’ your email address until they are told otherwise by someone at their end recipients.

PDFs are a good way of emailing documents as they cannot execute malicious code and should not be blocked. Alternatively email a link to a cloud-based storage file which can be downloaded instead, such as Dropbox, Google Drive, etc.

Do not email large files

Programs like Outlook can take fairly large file attachments but some servers may operate different rules and when dealing with large files (particularly when over 150MB) then you should be using a cloud solution such as Dropbox. By emailing a link to a particular file so that the recipient can download it themselves, you can avoid any attachment size rules as well as keeping your own email storage under control.

Bounce back error messages are good!

If you get an error message giving a reason why an email has not been delivered, don’t panic – because it is there to help troubleshooting. For example if a persons email account is full, you having misspelled the address or their server has queued the email, this helps to diagnose why you have got a phone call saying “I haven’t received it”.

Unfortunately many servers do not send bounce back error messages at all these days, to try to evade spammers, so in many cases you will not get any error message even when their email service refuses or blocks your email for whatever reason.

Enable DKIM and SPF to authenticate your email

If anyone sends emails on your behalf, they should be included in what is called your SPF record, which tells the recipient email server that they are authorised on your behalf.

DKIM signs your emails with an encrypted key and the other half of that key is provided by your domain. When the keys match, there is a higher likelihood that the emails will accepted as they have been verified as authentic.

Check your email doesn’t have ‘spammy’ characteristics

Email services use many ways to decide whether or not an email is spam and therefore be blocked or discarded. One of these is to treat any email with a ‘spammy’ subject address as suspect. For example, try to make the subject line relevant and readable. Subject lines with just “Invoice” or letters and numbers will trigger suspicion straight away.

Avoid using terms such as “stuff”, “hello”, “help” and use appropriate capitalization. Also avoid formatting in an email where possible.

Beware of the recipient!

There are times when the recipient of an email has not checked their Junk folder, or have marked an email as spam (which can tell their email service to treat emails as spam from then on) – or they can just be mistaken. Sometimes they may even be avoiding telling the truth!

The bottom line is even though 99.99% of emails get through without incident, there are so many reasons why emails can get held up at the other end that you have to try to avoid these blocks if you can. With the global email system set up as it is, everyone is at the mercy of how good (or bad) your recipients email servers are set up.

The important thing is when you have an undelivered email issue, get your email server logs checked as well as asking the recipient to check their Junk mail folder. They also need to check their own email service – it may be held up there, just not getting to the person that you sent it to. If their email service has deleted it for whatever reason, that fact should be in their logs.