File Recovery

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Category: Business, IT Security, IT Support.

Keeping computers up and running is a fundamental requirement for any business.

Companies are starting to recognise the importance of having good data backup processes but this is only part of the picture. If there is a major incident, how quickly can the backed up data be restored to provide operational systems again? Many small businesses don’t know, and most lack an effective IT Recovery Strategy.

Whether you are a sole trader or running a business with thousands of customers, system failure can result in loss of crucial data, time, money and clients.

There are 4 main points to consider:

  1. Location – where can you continue to operate if you are unable to gain access to your regular office or if it is destroyed?
  2. Data – have you backed up your data to a safe place?
  3. Equipment – how quickly can you obtain new hardware on which to run your systems?
  4. Configuration – how quickly can the systems be set up again and who will do this?

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Backup Button

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Category: IT Security, IT Support.

If there’s one important task computer users regularly ignore, it’s backing up their data. The data on your hard drive is the most critical and valuable item inside your computer (far more important than the hardware itself), and can’t be easily replaced if lost.

The files on your computer are very fragile. They can be destroyed or damaged by a software malfunction, viruses, Trojan worms, physical damage (such as dropping a laptop)
One of the biggest reasons people neglect backing up is that they don’t know where to start, what tools to use, or how to go about it. They also think it’s going to take a lot of time, cost and effort. and user error.

There are a lot of different options out there, all with their own merits. Here are just a few of the options that are open to you.

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Working Remotely

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Category: Business, Cloud Computing, IT Support, Mobile Computing.

In business you need to be there for your customers, come rain, hail or shine. Hours lost away from the office can mean missed deadlines, which can lead to lost clients. Your business needs to keep functioning and that’s exactly what remote working can deliver.

The ability to work effectively from almost any location is one of the biggest changes happening in workplaces today. Innovations in technology have been the greatest driver of this. Having access to systems, files and emails whilst away from the office brings a range of business benefits and cost savings – from increased productivity and greater staff motivation to more effective use of time.

Many companies have stayed away from remote working in the past, this is particularly true of smaller businesses that think it is expensive and difficult to implement. Ironically smaller businesses stand to gain the most from flexible working.

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Spam Emails

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Category: Business, IT Security, IT Support.

Junk emails, or Spam are emails sent to you without consent by people or businesses with which you have no relationship. Receiving Junk email can cause significant problems for your business as it can clog up your email system and often carries viruses or spyware.

The problems of junk email

You may wonder why it is so important that Junk email is managed. Here are just a few reasons:

  • If you are constantly receiving Spam email it will use up your internet bandwidth (effectively costing you money) and important messages can be delayed or blocked.
  • Spam is often sent with the intention of spreading viruses or spyware. Opening Spam emails could infect your PCs.
  • Many junk emails messages are inappropriate and contain material that could offend people in your company.
  • Even relatively harmless spam can distract staff and waste their time as they check the content and follow links to irrelevant web sites.

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Category: IT Security, IT Support.

A New Year detox is top of the “To Do” list for many of us in the first week of January – but there’s no need to limit the big clean-up to your body.

I spend much of my life giving advice about backing up, repairing and renewing IT systems. I can get especially evangelical about it at this time of year, when quieter work flows for many organisations make it easier to contemplate bad habits and think about the essential steps to a healthier IT set-up. So the first of my New Year resolutions is to protect your data properly.

It’s ironic that a typical company will have locking doors, alarms and insurance policies to secure their physical property, but very little in place to guard against the loss of the information that allows the company to operate.

Put another way, if your office building burnt down, it would cause serious disruption, but the permanent loss of data could be catastrophic. A business simply can’t operate without the matrix of information that underpins operations such as invoicing, sales, stock, HR, and contracts with customers and suppliers.

And don’t just consider the back-up – think about how quickly and easily you can get your systems operational again. Just because you have the data backed up doesn’t mean you’ll be operational again in hours – it could be days. Ask your IT provider for an estimate on the recovery time and decide if further processes or systems are needed to protect your business.

The second resolution is to minimise downtime risk. You can achieve this by maintaining and monitoring your IT systems properly. Yes, it does require resource, but the investment pays off in terms of efficiency.

And, finally, for those with old creaking servers, don’t think that simply replacing them with a new one is the solution. Take a look at the various cloud-based solutions. It could mean you can upgrade sooner than you think and have a more flexible system.

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Category: Business, Cloud Computing, IT Support.

I was recently discussing some of my concerns about Cloud computing being viewed as a blanket answer to all IT issues with a legal friend (Geoffrey Sturgess from Warner Goodman Commercial) and he had some very useful and interesting views on the matter. I’m delighted to say he put his thoughts in writing. Here’s what he had to say:

“Whatever ‘cloud computing’ is, it is definitely here, or at least the numbers of references to it in the legal press or even in ordinary conversation would suggest it is.

In fact it has been here for a number of years.

Wikepedia says:
Cloud computing refers to the use and access of multiple server-based computational resources via a digital network,(WAN, Internet connection using the World Wide Web, etc.). Cloud users may access the server resources using a computer, netbook, pad computer, smart phone, or other device. In cloud computing, applications are provided and managed by the cloud server and data is also stored remotely in the cloud configuration. Users do not download and install applications on their own device or computer; all processing and storage is maintained by the cloud server.

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Category: IT Purchasing, IT Support.

As an IT support provider we often come across internet connection problems with home based businesses and small businesses and these are down to many factors but one recurring issue is the use of “home” routers. I.E Those basic routers often given away by Internet Service Providers.

In most instances these are perfectly adequate for home use as they offer a reasonable performance at a reasonable price… usually free! But they are generally not made with the best hardware and therefore don’t always offer the best performance. It’s a bit like comparing a Mercedes S Class with a Ford Focus – they are both cars, both have engines, both have 4 wheels, both get you from A to B but the Mercedes can just do it all better and faster.

If a reliable and resilient internet connection is important to you as a business then here are our recommendations.

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Category: IT Security, IT Support.

Not a week goes by without me receiving an email from a well meaning colleague, friend or relative warning me about a paricular nasty spam email or virus.

The scenario is usually the same, they have received this from one of their friends, colleagues, etc with a note to say that they should look out for a particular email and that they shouldn’t open the attachment if they get it. I don’t think that spam email has ever subsequently arrived in my Inbox!

The problem is that these emails are themselves spam and generally designed to clog up the internet with rubbish. If each person receives such an email and sends it to just 10 friends and those 10 friends do the same, after just 10 forwards that generates 1000,000,000 (one thousand million) emails.

The advice that each of these emails offer is standard advice that should apply all the time you are using email.

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Category: IT Support, Mobile Computing.

Whilst the mobile phone companies have erected a large number of telephone masts it appears that there are never enough. At PC Support Group, Edinburgh one of our sites has a less than perfect signal resulting in the occasional lost call or worse still a conversation where it sounds like you are in a wind tunnel.

A thoughtful Idea
I recently came across an ingenious device from Vodafone called Sure Signal that makes use of your broadband connection to provide another route for calls. Being at the cutting edge of technology (and getting fed up with the poor quality being experienced with our mobile signal) I recently purchased a Sure Signal device for £50.

The Setup Process
Dispatch was within 2 days and once I had my shiny new box it was powered up and connected to the Network Switch. The next stage was to register the device and add any mobile numbers. Vodafone let themselves down here by providing instructions that do not work!

After a few phone calls (with long waiting times) it was established that the wrong instructions had been sent. 24 hours later the device was activated, a few lights flashed for an hour and it then went live. I now have a perfect 3G signal throughout the office.

Having said all that we have heard some reports of people having problems with this device and not getting great support from Vodaphone so there may be some teething problems.

Conclusion
The technology works (or at least it did for us), the price is reasonable and, aside from the minor glitch with the documentation, the actual sign-up process was fairly painless. As far as I know Vodafone are the only company to produce such a device but I would expect the other major networks to follow suit in due course. Worth the money if your mobile signal is below par. Perhaps buy on a sale or return basis just in case you have the problems some others have?

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Category: IT Support, Software.

The launch

Windows XP was launched to an excited press on 25th October 2001 and has been one of the longest standing Windows operating systems. It has undergone three major upgrades and is still present on many corporate networks and Home PC’s today.

Windows XP popularity

With every version of Windows since Windows 3.0 there have been problems and Windows XP was no exception to this. To be fair, it is an immensely complicated piece of software that must work with thousands of computers, printers, scanners and other devices. What was key to its success was the critical stability of the operating system within a couple of years and this was attractive to large companies looking to support many computers. In addition it became a standard loved by most Home Users looking to replicate what they had used within the work environment.

Windows Vista – The not so perfect product

January 2007 was the Windows Vista launch and it was greeted with a lot of negative press and in particular from the business world. It had significant incompatibility problems, was painfully slow and offered nothing to tempt a happy Windows XP user . With the recent launch of Windows 7, it appears that some larger users are finally prepared to drop XP – time will tell.

To keep or not to keep

Due to the lack of continued support, XP is not really a viable option for the long term (particularly for larger businesses). In addition, all new PC’s purchased in the near future will only be sold with a Windows 7 license.

Saying that, a lot of people still have Windows XP and are reluctant to purchase a shiny new box when their needs don’t warrant it. Unfortunately Microsoft has continued to add more and more baggage to the core system and the specification of yesteryear will no longer provide an optimum experience. The key requirement is therefore memory; and for reasonable performance, it is recommended that your PC has a minimum of 1GB of RAM and for optimum performance, 2GB.

Along with some system optimisation, this should provide your humble PC with a few more years of life yet.