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Category: IT Processes, IT Purchasing, IT Support, Uncategorised.

Slow Computer Frustration Fix Warning…Practically your whole business – bar the furniture – is on your computer system these days. So, looking after your business means looking after that system. We’re taking a look here at how we can help you to understand how to do that because, even if you employ an IT Support Manager, you’re going to have to know what to expect from him or her! Are you or your IT Support Manager doing the following things?

KNOW YOUR IT SUPPLIERS – Meet them all to be very clear about what they do for you, how much they’re costing you, and review your reasons for signing them up. Great IT suppliers will bend over backwards to help you make life easier come budget time and will have useful ideas for you. Ask them what they’re best at, what they’re renowned for, and how they’ve helped their most successful clients.   When you have to undertake a special project, knowing who to go to for help will save you time and effort. You can often get some superb ideas from suppliers who’ve dealt with similar projects many times before.

KNOW YOUR SERVICE CONTRACTS – check the contract dates, diarise reviews, and read the summaries. Renegotiating old contracts can find you quick savings, sometimes you’ll even find obsolete services you’re still paying for, and you’ll be able to plan much better for contract renewals or tenders.

PRODUCE A FLOW CHART – This should show how all your IT systems integrate, which systems actually do work together rather than should work together. How do your IT systems fit in with the business goals? Such a flow chart should highlight efficiency improvements to start working on and enhance your ability to spot vulnerabilities and fix problems.

IDENTIFY CRITICAL AREAS – Which systems are most/least critical for business continuity? Checking they are being backed-up is the minimum you should do. Ensure you document recovery processes, times and objectives. Know where to locate your disaster recovery plan! When trouble hits (and it will) you’ll instantly know what to do.

FUTURE FINANCE – Avoid traps like over-ambitious spending and set aside a budget for the IT work inherent in important upcoming changes like office moves, restructuring and acquisitions. Such projects heavily impact IT! IT systems do wear out and become obsolete so account for this too. If you employ an IT Manager or outsource – ensure they are briefed appropriately by the person in charge of finance and consulted for their advice about any such upcoming changes.

PAST EXPENDITURE – review the projects and expenditures you have previously approved (or get your IT Manager to do so) and decide which commitments you want to alter, re-approve, cancel, delay or reprioritise.

MORE THAN ONE PERSON ON YOUR IT TEAM? – You or the IT Manager should meet with each member of your team and ask what they like and hate doing in their job. Gain an idea of their skills and weaknesses. Also ask each member if they have any great ideas, something they feel would transform the business. As a result of this you might decide to make changes to your team, but you don’t want anyone to mess up your plan by suddenly leaving. A lack of development opportunities is the number one cause of staff turnover. Listening to your team members will at least show you what development opportunities are possibilities and those free ideas could be very useful indeed.

PRODUCE AN IT OPERATIONS MANUAL – If you have more than one person looking after your IT this will show how the IT Department functions, including external parties, as well as the disaster recovery plan. Having one in place builds confidence amongst your IT team and the wider organisation.

PLAN – Create a 6-month IT plan. Outline any changes, upgrades, and improvements that you can envisage based on the company’s goals. Share this plan internally, and with your most trusted IT suppliers. The more people who are prepared for your plans, the easier you’ll find those plans to execute. Trusted external suppliers can share their own experiences from other clients, help you avoid pitfalls and help you plan the resources you’ll need to get hold of. This is especially true if you outsource your IT Support.

CONSIDER FULLY OUTSOURCING – If you don’t want to get into funding the cost of an IT Manager AND his or her sickness/holiday cover and all the other inherent staffing issues ….

If you don’t want to carry the entire burden of maintaining IT when you’re also trying to develop your business – lean on a reputable IT support company. That way you’ll have more freedom to bring in more business and work on growth.

By making sure you get the right IT support services to meet your needs, you and your business will benefit.

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Category: Uncategorised.

web spyingWith the Government trying to push through a law that will force internet service providers such as BT and Virgin to keep a 12 month record of your browsing history, The PC Support Group are here to help you to understand what this means and what you can do to protect your data and your security.

 

What data will be stored?

Every time you visit a website your internet service provider will be forced to keep a log file of the site you visited and when you visited it. Theresa May has said that this is the equivalent of a modern day itemised phone bill. The Data will be stored by your internet service provider. This also applies to mobile devices such as smart phones that browse the web via your mobile network.

 

Why might you want to protect yourself?

As we saw recently, Talk Talk have been the target of a well-publicised cyberattack which resulted in the estimated theft of 4 million users’ personal data. Risks such as this have led some people to feel concerned about data security and that the information that will be stored about them could end up in the wrong hands.

 

What can you do?

Whilst clearing your internet history or using your browser in private mode will help to prevent people who might get onto your computer from seeing which sites you’ve visited, that won’t hide your usage from your ISP. The only way to do that is by using a VPN service.

VPN means ‘Virtual Private Network’ and it’s a way to encrypt all the things that come and go over your internet connection and the other side. A VPN service means that all your internet usage comes and goes via their service, and as it’s encrypted your ISP can’t see where you’re going or what you’re doing.

However it’s important to know the facts and to tread carefully when choosing a VPN provider. For instance, if you choose a UK based service they may also fall within the scope of any new law meaning that they will also need to store your records. Some VPN services are very slow and unreliable and some can prove unsafe. Be aware that if a criminal organisation can entice you to connect via their own VPN they’ve they’ll have access to all the data you’re sending and receiving.

 

For advice and guidance on data security and best practice IT systems for small business, call The PC Support Group on 03300 886 116

 

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Category: IT News, IT Security, Uncategorised.

Heard of ransomware?  It’s important that you know about it, so read on…

worm
Ransomware is the term given to a type of virus that enters your computer(s) and encrypts all your data in such a way that you can no longer access any of it.  Until you pay a substantial fee (a ransom) to get it back.

There’s a new ransomware virus to be aware of; it’s called Power Worm but unfortunately no amount of ransom can get your data back for you.  Unfortunately, the not-so-clever hackers have made a big coding mistake this time and one variant of their virus destroys keys that could help recover the data it has scrambled – leaving you high and dry even if you are prepared to pay a ransom.

Power Worm infects Microsoft Word and Excel files in the main,  but the latest version goes after many more types of files it finds on your machine.

Malware Researcher Lawrence Abrams makes it clear that anyone hit by Power Worm should not pay the 2 bitcoin (about £500) ransom it asks for because they will not get any data back.  He said “There is unfortunately nothing that can be done for victims of this infection, If you have been affected by this ransomware, your only option is to restore from a back-up.”

The reality is that even when the hackers do have the key they are unlikely to release it even if you pay the ransom so regular reliable backups is the only realistic way to protect your data and your business from these attacks.

Did you know:

  • 34% of companies fail to test their backups, and of those that do, 77% have found back-up failures (Source: Home Office Computing Magazine)
  • 93% of companies that lost their data centre for 10 days or more due to a disaster filed for bankruptcy within one year of the disaster. (Source: National Archives & Records Administration)

It’s worth noting that even if you avoid catching a computer virus, ALL disk drives eventually fail, regardless of brand or type and so backups are arguably the most essential aspect of any IT system.

Backup solutions can vary enormously and it is important to be aware of the consequences of choosing one solution over another. While all of our services provide excellent protection, some cover just data while others cover entire systems. Some enable faster recovery of your systems in the event of a major problem, while others ensure that your systems are safe from physical risks such as fires, floods or theft. We recognise that each business has unique requirements and so we talk to customers to diagnose their potential risks and vulnerabilities, understand what’s important to them and then design a specific BusinessCARE Backup system tailored for their situation.

Call The PC Support Group before it’s too late! You can reach us now on 03300 886116.

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Category: Windows 10, IT News, Software, Uncategorised.

Windows 10 DevicesMicrosoft’s new Windows 10 offers improvements over previous versions, and some great new features. Which of these are significant for you will be determined by how you use your computer and what for. The update mostly went smoothly when it was rolled out, but a few problems have been reported by many users. These include loss of internet access, no printing options, loss of access to e-mails, web browser issues, crashes, incompatibilities etc.

Not everyone has experienced problems, but there are millions of computers out there, running many different apps and programmes, so they’re not all going to react the same way.

Many of the errors have a workaround by now, but they can take time and effort to resolve, and some issues are going to remain until third parties can catch up and deliver new drivers.

Those who ARE experiencing problems are certainly helping the rest of us – as they report such glitches, Microsoft will create “patches” (fixes) for them and push them out to computers where Windows 10 is already installed. Those who update later then, are going to get a version that has many, if not all, of the glitches sorted out.

Waiting a while to update also gives the manufacturers of software drivers the time to prepare. Software drivers are the bits of software that allow your computer to talk to devices you connect to; for example printers. You should ideally search for drivers for these devices before you upgrade to ensure Windows 10 compatible ones are available. Even devices that do have updated drivers, have been causing issues for some people. If a device stops working you will need to uninstall your existing drivers and then locate new compatible drivers.

Do backup all important files before a big upgrade like this so that if anything does go wrong, you can recover the important things.

In summary…

Becoming an early adopter is often not a good idea because even a few weeks can make a difference as Microsoft, and third party driver developers, will have been able to sort out many glitches as users report them.   After all, the free upgrade offer lasts a whole year. Why not wait until Spring?

To get on the latest, fastest operating system does seem appealing and “free” does sound good but it should not be recklessly jumped at as you need to consider if it will work with all your other bits of software. The fact that it can be installed though windows update and retain settings etc does however make it sound like a reasonably hassle free upgrade path.

We’d look to wait until it’s been out for enough time for us all to be confident that Windows 10 will be trouble free, so maybe some 3-6 months after its launch (which was at the end of July).

We would, however, encourage you to register, any time from now, on each computer for the free upgrade. That can be done by clicking on the icon in the system tray of each computer. The beauty of registering is that you’ll then be able to upgrade anytime without having to pay, whereas by not registering the free period expires after 12 months from launch.

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Category: Uncategorised.

Last month, I attended a special breakfast event on Data Security. The event included talks from data security and counter-terrorism specialists. Working in IT, I am constantly aware of the importance of keeping data secure. In addition to networking with other IT professionals, I wanted to educate and broaden my knowledge and understand of data security.

Technology has changed how organisations operate. From bricks and mortar to the digital age, technology has brought many advantages. However the disadvantage is the vulnerability of an organisation’s data, to potential misuse and cyber-attacks has increased substantially. The event gave me a useful and disturbing insight into how there is a general lack of knowledge and failure, to grasp the size and nature of cyber-attacks that can occur both internally and externally. In addition, there were some other interesting points that interested me, which included:

  • 80% of data stored by organisations is unstructured data (data not contained in databases).
  • Most security vulnerabilities are found in third-party applications.
  • Portable devices or end points (laptops, smart phones) hold 28% of organisational data.
  • Human factors need to be taken into consideration in data security.
  • CEOs’ are now being held more accountable for data losses in their organisations.
  • Cyber-attacks are regarded as a Tier-1 threat to National Security by GCHQ. This is the highest level of alert!
  • Different cyber-attacks range from espionage from other countries to commercial competitors.
  • Cyber-attacks are real and present a clear and present danger to UK plc!
  • The UK Government has a website providing advice on cyber security, which can be found herehttp://www.cpni.gov.uk/

Securing data is a complex puzzle requiring a multi-layered approach. This requires a complex solution of products, procedures, human awareness and clearly defined written policies. In addition, solutions must be specifically tailored and integrated effectively, to address the security needs of customers, whilst balancing usability. Tailoring is important, as organisations will have different security requirements, depending on different factors such as IT infrastructure setup, organisational structure, environment and geography.

Data Security is not only important to protect an organisation’s reputation and brand, but also the national infrastructure, and the threats posed by cyber-attacks must not be taken lightly!

Guest blog by IT Enthusiast and Technical Professional Ben Cross of Liverpool Direct (part of Liverpool City Council)