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Category: Data Backup, IT News, IT Security, IT Support.

World-Backup-Day-Logo

What would you do if you lost everything?

That’s the question being posed on World Backup Day 2015; a global movement to emphasise the importance of keeping a second copy of all your important files.

For our customers, every day is World Backup Day – as you would expect when your IT is in the safe hands of an award-winning official Microsoft SME Cloud Partner.

But for those who don’t have this contingency strategy in place, this is a great opportunity to evaluate:

  • Which files are crucial to the successful continuity (and let’s face it – profitability) of your service provision?
  • What are you already doing about backing them up now, and
  • What should you be doing to minimise the irreversible damage that occurs when your hard drive fails?

If your data isn’t backed up, once it’s gone it’s gone, and losing your files is way more common than you’d think. One small accident or failure could destroy all the important information your business and livelihood depends on.

In fact, research has shown that 60% of companies that lose their data will shut down within six months of the disaster whilst 93% of companies that lost their data for 10 days or more due to a disaster filed for bankruptcy within one year of the disaster. (Source: National Archives & Records Administration).

The good news is backing up is straight-forward once you’ve set up the backup process. There are a number of different methods – depending on how you want to backup your data and how safe you want to keep it. It’s just a matter of taking the first step of recognising the value of your data.

For more information download our free leaflet on backup advice or fill in the contact form to find out how we can help you manage your backups.

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Category: Cloud Computing, IT Security, IT Support.

Computer-Virus-2

93% of companies who lose data for more than 10 days file for bankruptcy less than a year later.*

This could be the sobering reality you face if you don’t take responsible, proactive steps in order to defend your livelihood against hacking and other forms of cyber-crime.

Beyond putting the right technology in the right place, let’s look at how you can mitigate against…

Phishing Emails

Promising special offers or making false claims about bank statements or tax records, phishing emails typically tempt between 60 and 90% of employees to ‘click here’, which can have catastrophic consequences for your business.

Action you can take:

  • Teach your employees to be vigilant for bogus emails and not to click anything they do not fully trust – banks do not send emails asking people to verify login details!
  • Carry out regular phishing assessments or “cyber-attack drills” by regularly exposing your staff to various realistic attacks but in a controlled environment.
  • Have in place a process to report phishing emails and who to notify in case they’re clicked purposely or by error; ideally to be carried out within 15 minutes.

Data Thieves

Encrypting your data ensures that if someone were to get their hands on your computer, they wouldn’t be able to easily access your files or get hold of your personal data.

Action you can take:

  • On certain versions of Windows encryption is a pretty simple process and on other systems there is software available to enable this.
  • Ensure all of your files including documents, photos, music, bookmarks and anything else you may need are backed up and readily available in case you become “locked-out” and are no longer able to access them on your computer.

Password Hackers

Last year ‘123456’ headed up a list of the 25 most common passwords. Choosing a password like this is the IT equivalent of putting out a welcome mat and leaving your key in the front door. Strong passwords are at least 8 characters long (longer is better!) and contain a combination of numbers, symbols and letters.

Actions you can take:

  • Don’t use the company name or even the name of the program you are using (e.g. Photoshop123).
  • Don’t keep your carefully-chosen words the same for all accounts. Think of something memorable but with different variations for each, and store them away from your PC.

Network Infiltrators

Free Wi-Fi or other kinds of wireless or shared networks in places like coffee shops, hotels, conference rooms and on public transport can be used by anyone – making them the perfect hunting ground for hackers.

Actions you can take:

  • Read the Terms and Conditions of wireless networks before logging on.
  • Think ‘safety first’ and turn on all the security protection open to you.
  • Don’t login to sensitive sites (such as your online banking) when using a public wireless network

Virus Spreaders

‘Code Red’, ‘Slammer’, ‘MyDoom’… Viruses so infamous they’re classed as the most destructive of all time. Specific viruses come and go but the key to surviving them all is the same – be vigilant. Protect yourself and your assets.

Actions you can take:

  • Keep your internet security software up-to-date and switched on at all times.
  • Apply the latest Microsoft updates to your Windows operating system as soon as possible
  • Install and apply the latest manufacturers’ updates for all your software programs.
  • Trust your gut. If an attachment, email or website doesn’t feel safe, it most likely isn’t.

The PC Support Group provides expert advice on all matters relating to cybersecurity. Contact us on 03300 886 116 to discuss your IT strategy, and how we can bring our world-class managed service provider benefits to your organisation.

*Source: National Archives & Records Administration in Washington

 

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Category: Cloud Computing, Customer Service, IT Support.

cloud

In today’s business world, you and your workforce need to be able to access your computer systems at any time in any place from any PC, laptop or mobile device.

You need the flexibility to match your IT needs to your business and the marketplace, and you certainly shouldn’t be investing in expensive server hardware or software for the privilege.

That’s why Cloud Computing makes absolute sense for any SME interested in a dependable IT solution that costs less when business is slow and only adds extra cost in line with your business growth.

Putting it simply, Cloud Computing means you can store and access the data and programs that are critical to the success of your business over the internet instead of your computer or company server. This includes your documents, emails, customer information, business applications and other assets.

If Cloud Computing with its flexibility, accessibility and affordability sounds like an IT solution you’d like to explore, here’s how you can master the Cloud for business in five easy steps:

  1. You Need Guaranteed Internet Connectivity: If you cannot connect to the internet, most Cloud Computing solutions simply won’t work. Since, in most instances, you use the Internet to connect to both your applications and documents, if you don’t have an Internet connection you can’t access anything. Also, web-based software can require a lot of bandwidth, as do large documents. If you’re suffering from a low-speed connection, it might take seemingly forever just to change from page to page in a document. If you cannot guarantee regular, sustained access to the internet, Cloud Computing is not for you. There are, however, some hybrid solutions that might be perfect for your business. Speak impartially to our experts at The PC Support Group about what your other IT options may better meet your needs.
  2. Transition to Microsoft 365: Microsoft Office 365 is a Cloud-based service hosted by Microsoft themselves. It brings together familiar Microsoft Office desktop-based applications with Cloud-based business email, shared calendars, instant messaging, video conferencing and file sharing. If you’re already familiar with Microsoft Office tools such as Outlook and Word, Microsoft Office 365 can be a smooth transition to using Cloud technology. One of the key benefits, especially if you’re a business that does not have an internal network, is the ability to share calendars; to message each other and to access the system via the web. If you already operate on an internal network you can still benefit through reduced support costs; reduced licence replacement costs; improved security and improved resilience. Learn more here.
  3. Define your IT Strategy: Cloud Computing is one of the world’s leading enablers for business. It brings overseas marketplaces closer to your doorstep; supports agile and paperless working, and makes running a virtual team a reality – saving you overheads like business premises and utility bills. Discuss how and where Cloud Computing will fit into the ‘bigger picture’ for your growth strategy with one of our experts who can explain and recommend options for all different sizes and styles of business and make sure that common pitfalls are avoided. At The PC Support Group we can provide various Cloud-based solutions and Non-Cloud solutions and so can provide you with the best independent advice
  4. Future-proof Your Business: Be careful when you’re choosing a Cloud Computing vendor that you’re not locking your business into using programs that are the exclusive property of their developers or publishers and bound by specific formats and licensing agreements. Also make sure that you can add and subtract Cloud Computing users as necessary as your business grows or contracts.
  5. Trust a Managed Service Provider: You’ve opted for Cloud Computing; you’re all set and ready to go. Now what? Too often, computing solutions are implemented and only revisited when something goes wrong. A Managed Service Provider will monitor your Cloud Computing set-up – taking pre-emptive action to mitigate against potential problems and ensuring your set-up continues to run at its optimum. Not convinced you need ongoing support? What would you have done if any of these IT disasters had befallen your company? The PC Support Group is proud to be one of the top 500 Managed Service Providers in the world.

Got a question about Cloud Computing for your business, contact us today.

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Category: Computer Maintenance, Customer Service, IT Support.

New-support-contract-photoIf any of these sound like they might apply to your IT Support Company… then it might be time to consider switching to a new provider and starting afresh with a new business relationship

  • “… we never used to have problems but since we/they got bigger….”
  • “… it take ages to get through by phone and even then it’s often an answering machine or someone that just logs the call…”
  • “…we have no way of knowing if and when they have completed a task…”
  • “…why are we always at the end of the queue?”
  • “…I have to assume our data back-ups are working, no-one ever tells us…”
  • “… they never seem to be able to just fix stuff. There’s always an excuse …”

I’m sure you can add more scenarios to that list! I think that covers the WHY.

So now the HOW…

If there is a problem – first try to resolve it amicably – especially if you are locked in to a contract. If those discussions fail, then you will probably want to seriously consider making the switch.

Check the conditions of the contract with your existing IT support company. You may find you are tied in for a set period and you may also have to give notice a number of weeks or even months before the end of that period. Make sure that if you switch you don’t get tied in again.

Before choosing a new IT support supplier, think about what did/didn’t work for you with your current one. Take a look at the list above and add your own thoughts about how your support company struggled to cope with your needs

You may be the person responsible for choosing a new IT Support Service… but it’s well worth canvassing the opinions of all the IT users in your workforce. What frustrations have they been encountering with the current support service? What do they think would make for a great relationship with a new supplier? Is there any immediate work or any improvements to the system that are needed? You can then use all this feedback in selecting a new IT support company.

Take all your thoughts and the comments from your workforce and craft them into questions to ask when interviewing alternative IT support providers.

So…. You’ve found a new IT Support Company. They’re approachable and seem proactive and professional. Their testimonials speak volumes about their customer service, and you really like the thought of switching to them because they ticked all the boxes when you interviewed them.

A smooth handover can help create the foundations of a long, happy partnership.

Take backups of all your data if possible …

If your IT support company maintains your website and network for example, some of your website files, shared documents, etc might actually be stored on computer equipment owned by them. At the very least, they are likely to have high-level access to your systems.  If your IT Support is provided by an unethical company with whom your relationship is quite poor, they may change vital settings – giving them the ability to lock you out of your own business IT! In effect, holding your data to ransom. So ask for all the access passwords and information about where things are stored before you give them the cancellation notice.

Help the new IT Company to hit the ground running…

If you don’t already keep documentation on your IT network… now is a great time to pull it all together – it can really pay off in terms of helping to minimise any level of disruption. This should include as much of the following as possible: network diagrams, usernames, passwords and log in addresses, plus software and hardware inventories. Also ensure you know where all your original software disks are. Do you have a support log? If you can let your new IT Support company have sight of this, they’ll be able to identify the main recurring issues you’ve been facing. They might even be able to suggest some better, and permanent solutions.

Will your outgoing IT support provider work with the incoming one to help smooth the handover? If they will (and ethical ones should) then this is an excellent way for the new team to understand how your systems work. Be aware that this may be hard to arrange and that you may have to pay the outgoing company for this extra help.

Be prepared – it’s almost inevitable that there will be some level of disruption – but remember that it will be very much worth it when you end up with an IT support company you can truly rely on.

And finally….

Once you have switched suppliers, change passwords so your old support company cannot access your systems.

 

5 IT Health Checks To Keep Your Systems Secure

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Category: IT News, IT Support.

You may have read the news that Sony’s PlayStation online store was recently compromised.

It’s news that further illustrates just how important it is to protect data given how vulnerable it can be – even for massive corporations like Sony.

The company immediately said the problem had lasted only two hours and there was no sign of any damage, or more worryingly, data theft.

All of the data stored on our computers and electronic devices can be vulnerable if we are not careful, but there are a number of ways we can go about protecting our IT devices and more importantly – the information stored on them. Here are five of them.

Read more »

Mid-Sized Business Support

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Category: IT Processes, IT Support, Latest.

Q. Why should IT Support be part of your business strategy?

A. Because your whole business may depend on it!

  • If you sell online through your company website or even just use email to receive orders or send quotes then downtime due to IT failure most certainly means lost sales and revenue
  • Unplanned IT support can be a quite hefty expense you hadn’t planned for!
  • Attempting to secure an IT expert to call out at short notice to fix a serious problem can be a problem in itself.
  • A serious data loss incident could put you out of business altogether
  • Slow or unreliable computers mean slow productivity and frustrated staff

Read more »

5 Warning Signs That It’s Time To Upgrade Your PC

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Category: IT Support, Latest.

You only bought it a couple of years ago, so it can’t be time to upgrade your PC just yet.

Can it?

Well, for a start, it was probably much longer ago than you think that you purchased your latest desktop, and even so, there are no cast-iron assurances that your hardware will stand the test of time year-after-year.

Unfortunately for your wallet, technology runs in cycles. What was considered “mod” and revolutionary five short years ago (you know, 2009) might just be well past its sell-by-date.

Like any diagnosis, discovering you have a problem early can help you when it comes to finding the cure and limiting the damage.

So, if you’re sensing a little sluggishness or noticing some nasty noises, it could be a warning sign that all is not well with your computer.

Here are five signs it’s time to upgrade.

Read more »

Cabling Issues

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Category: Computer Maintenance, Computer Networks, IT Support.

Is this a familiar situation with the data cabling in your offices?  Is there just one of these or are there multiple situations throughout the building, hiding under desks, in cupboards and above ceilings?

The reason for the appearances of these “Mini Switches” is usually that as a company grows or invests in new equipment they find they don’t have enough IT cabling outlets to support what they need.

Additional staff will require extra data cabling outlets for PC’s and phones and as new equipment such a telephone systems are installed, new dedicated IT cabling outlets are required but not always available.

The quick fix approach shown in the photographs is to find 1 spare data cabling outlet and add on 5/8/16 way mini switches and plug all the new requirements into that.  These can number 1 per room if the equipment installed needs a lot of new IT cabling outlets.

However, the more of these mini switches are installed, the greater the bottlenecks down the IT system.  In a lot of cases these mini switches will then link from one to another.  In some businesses we’ve seen (for example) a main switch linking to a floor serving switch to 4 mini switches in a row in each office.  Several of them also had 2 connections between switches creating a loop on the network almost shutting it down completely.

Read more »

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Category: IT Support, Microsoft Office.

With their latest Office 365 suite, Microsoft has certainly made a bold statement when it comes to the future of home and business computing, while also throwing down a challenge to competitor products.

Their innovative office suite differs greatly from previous versions of Microsoft Office – from how you use it, what you can do with it and even how you pay for it.

And though change for change’s sake isn’t always a good thing, it certainly seems like this latest software has real potential.

But before you decide to install the suite to your own machines, here’s a look at just what Office 365 can offer you and your business, as well as how we at The PC Support Group might be able to support you in this process – we call this infographic Office 365: What it means for your business.

Want to demonstrate how Office 365 can benefit a business you know? Feel free to share our infographic using the HTML code below. You can also click to enlarge the image.

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Extend iPhone Battery Life

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Category: IT News, IT Support, Mobile Computing.

Unless you’re still using that faithful old Nokia 3210 you’ve had since the turn of the millennium, you probably find yourself constantly checking the battery life of your iPhone to make sure you’re not stuck on a desolate hillside in the middle of nowhere without being able call for help or (more importantly) left out of social plans, unable to see what your friends are up to or play Candy Crush Saga.

Battery drain for smartphone users isn’t a new phenomenon but since the launch of Apple’s iOS 7.1 mobile operating system iPhone users in particular have complained about dwindling battery life.

But according to former Apple Genius Bar worker Scotty Loveless, it’s not necessarily iOS itself that is causing batteries to drain quickly – but all the Apps that are running on it.

So does this mean we need to change the way we all use our phones and access the Apps we value so dearly or simply change our phones full-stop?

Here are nine tips you can try that might just increase the battery life of your smartphone:

Read more »