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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: IT News.

Ada Lovelace 2Is Ada Lovelace our first tech visionary? In many ways, she anticipated our Digital Age (in Victorian times!) and is certainly a celebrated role model for women in technology.

In an article published in 1843, she imagined a future in which programmable machines would be essential to scientific progress, and might even be used to create art and music.

Ada, the abandoned daughter of the romantic poet, Lord Byron, was put under a strict regime of moral and mathematical training by her mother who hoped it would counter any dangerous “poetical” tendencies she might have inherited from her notorious father.

In 1833, age 17, Ada was introduced to Charles Babbage and one of his innovative calculating machines, the Difference Engine, at a party in his London drawing room. The introduction was made through their mutual friend Mary Somerville which relationship she used to visit Baggage and the machine as often as she could. At 26, married with three small children, she undertook maths correspondence course.

Ada made Babbage a bold proposal. She offered to work as his assistant – a remarkably bold move, especially given the stifling social conventions of the day. It worked!

By this time Babbage was working on a design for a new machine, which he called the Analytical Engine. Unlike the Difference Engine, which could only add, the Analytical Engine worked much more like a modern computer and could be programmed to carry out almost any sequence of logical steps.

Babbage was impressed by Lovelace’s intellect and analytic skills. He called her The Enchantress of Numbers. He wrote of her: Forget this world and all its troubles and if possible its multitudinous Charlatans—everything in short but the Enchantress of Numbers.

The only published description of the Analytical Engine was a French article which Ada translated for a British journal, and she added add a set of notes, describing more fully how the Engine worked. These Notes (which included some visionary statements about its potential and limitations) ended up twice as long as the original article.

The Notes also included tables setting out the sequence the machine would have to go through to find the solution to an algebra problem (e.g. Bernouilli’s numbers sequence). This is why some writers call Ada the “world’s first programmer” but these tables were not strictly computer programmes.

She does, however, seem to have understood the significance of Babbage’s engines better than he did. So – although not the forerunner of today’s coders and hackers, Ada was probably one of the first visionaries who imagine how future technology might change the world.

It would take another hundred years to recognise the significance of the extra ordinary foresight in her work. Her notes and letters to Babbage make it clear that Ada understood the potential of computers in a way that he, or nobody else ever did.

Ada Lovelace Day is now in its seventh year – it’s an annual celebration of women working the fields of science, technology, engineering and maths.

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Category: Windows 10, IT News.

Microsoft’s new Windows 10 launched on 29th July – how did you respond to the upgrade?

Windows 10 Devices

The company has listened to the feedback from Windows 8, and returned to us with a much more refined and well-thought out edition – a user-friendly operating system with some nifty productivity features.

Most businesses will have had a mix of Windows 7 and Windows 8 PCs and devices. If that’s you – and you’ve not yet done so – plan this year to capitalise on the free Microsoft upgrade.

There’s a year to upgrade for free so work with your IT Support team or partner to plan your upgrades, schedule them for the least active times and upgrade in phases, starting with your least critical devices.

As with all upgrades there has been (and to some extent still is) the inevitable period of bug fixes when businesses could have faced teething problems like a printer not being recognised or, more critical, a major application not working. For that reason, we advise our customers to hold back on clicking the “Reserve your upgrade” icon and instead review this around six months after the release. This allows time for the initial issues to be resolved – you don’t want your business to be Microsoft’s testing ground!

New features and capabilities coming with this upgrade are set to create better ways of working.

Terry Myserson, Microsoft’s VP of Operating Systems, said: “We designed Windows 10 to run our broadest device family ever, including Windows PCs, Windows tablets, Windows phones, Windows for the Internet of Things, Microsoft Surface Hub, Xbox One and Microsoft HoloLens—all working together to empower you to do great things.”

The hope is that Windows 10 will win hearts and minds, bringing a seamless multi-platform experience as customers swap between fixed and mobile computers and use different software and Cloud services. With a test-base of over four million people, Microsoft are hoping for an operating system that’s more user-friendly and not so reliant as Windows 8 on touchscreen functionality.

Let’s take a look at a few of the improvements…

Cortana … this is Microsoft’s personal digital assistant – a star attraction for Windows 10. Cortana is about enabling businesses to interact in a more “human” way, talking or typing simple phrases to do things like book meetings, find information and set reminders.

Edge … another major new feature – Microsoft’s new web browser. This replaces Internet Explorer and is intended to be faster, more streamlined and more personal, with the ability to write notes on web pages, which you’ll see every time you access it.

Apps … Microsoft are also hoping to win over Developers as well as end users. The new app store is the same store across all devices which means that a Developer can write an app once and put 4 different ‘skins’ on it, making the app compatible for Xbox, desktop, Windows Phone and tablet. A big incentive for Developers to have a go at creating more apps? In addition, with ‘Edge’ the new powerful web developer tools, accessed by pressing F12, look like they can compete with Chrome and Firefox in the developer tools arena. Microsoft say they are focusing more on quality of apps than quantity the concept of the app store on the desktop is really innovative. The security model of the new app store is of huge significance too.

Notifications … The new action centre brings notifications from multiple sources directly to your desktop. It supports notifications from third party applications. Notifications on Windows hadn’t really changed since the Windows XP days but the new notification area means that developers can write an app that can deliver notifications in a balanced way – they don’t need to annoy the user and they won’t get missed

Is this the start of Microsoft reclaiming its stake as a software innovator, driving customers to do things quicker, better, smarter? And will your business be taking the first steps towards that over the next 6 months?

Microsoft’s Windows 7 support ended in January and their policy is to support a product for two years after the release of its successor. Therefore, the expectation is that general support for Windows 8 will end by July 2017 but Microsoft has extended support for Windows 8.1 to 2023.

If you would like help or advice on upgrading to Windows 10 call us now on 03300 886 116

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Category: Computer Maintenance, IT Security, IT Support.

Office StressDoes any of this sound familiar?

  • You have one or more slow computers, frustrating you and your staff; affecting your productivity and therefore your profitability?
  • You want to make your computer(s) run faster?
  • You’re looking for a quick, simple, cheap or free tip?

The main issues with slow computers usually lie not with the hardware but with changes that occur to the PC’s software. The two most common causes of slowdown are:

  • Every time you or a member of staff loads a program, file, or webpage, the PC’s software registry is updated with new instructions needed to operate that item. However, when the item is removed, these instructions usually remain on the PC. The result: A significantly slower computer.
  • Spyware and viruses are software programs that are loaded on your computer without your knowledge or permission.

You probably already know that the simple rule of thumb to follow is to never download programs like screensavers, emoticons, films, etc from unknown sources. In addition, you should never open any attachments to an email unless you are 100 percent certain you know and trust the sender.

Unfortunately – this also applies to software sold online that purports to “Clean Up” your PC in seconds. You will see these on offer, making claims such as “literally only takes 5 minutes to work”, “Your computer will instantly be restored and you can schedule automatic system clean-ups to keep it running like new.”

The advertisements may also go as far as to claim: “…also protect you against viruses and attack from malicious files, ensuring it runs smoothly all of the time”.

Let’s take a look what SafeBro.com say, for example, about one such TYPICAL download …

“… a nasty rogue infection that works as a double agent. On one hand, it pretends to be a powerful system optimization and antivirus software that would fix your computer, but on other hand (in reality) it brings viruses to your computer and steals your money. Actually this virus is associated with cyber crooks who create fake programs to trick users. Once this software has been installed, it alerts you of several viruses detected on your machine (even if there is no virus in your computer). After a while, it will force you to buy the full/professional version in order to remove the viruses from your computer. That is the actual target of this nasty program. We recommend you to uninstall the software as soon as possible and do not purchase it on any condition. Please note: Manual removal may cause damages to your system if you do any mistake. Use this method only if you understand what you are about to do”.

 

If your PC is infected by this kind of application virus it may do the following…

  • Enter into your computer without your knowledge
  • Scan your computer without your request and claim it has found viruses
  • Display a lot of warnings and alerts popping up on the screen
  • Provoke you to buy its full version or activation code (which may not even work)
  • Collect Personal user information which may include sensitive financial data such as logins, usernames, accounts
  • It may bring further infections are direct the user to infectious sites
  • Make the computer run slow, uses a big part of system resources

That’s not a great picture is it?

It may cost a little more to ensure you use the right software to protect your systems and use qualified, knowledgeable engineers to resolve problems but ultimately it could save you thousands or even save your business.

At The PC Support Group, every computer we look after is subject to a remote weekly health check that includes:

  • Spyware protection and Anti-Virus check
  • Check for early warning signs of problems
  • Removal of unnecessary temporary files that can choke your system
  • Organisation of your disk drives to prevent your computers from slowing down over time

Call us on 03300 886116 if you want your business critical IT System to be in SAFE hands! We’re here to help!

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Category: IT Support.

PCSG-Engineer-web

 

 

Managing IT systems is all about thinking ahead and preventing problems BEFORE they cause major problems, but unfortunately things still occasionally go wrong and yesterday one of our clients had a major incident. Yes I admit no IT support company can prevent everything in advance! Not even our robust processes and powerful support management software.

However, it’s during these times that IT support teams are really tested; how quickly and professionally can they respond?

We tend to focus on the following areas:

  1. Risk Reduction -What do we need to do immediately to ensure that the issue doesn’t impact the business further?
  2. Business continuity – what can we do to ensure the individual or business can continue to operate as close to 100% effectiveness?
  3. Communication – ensure that all parties are kept up to date throughout the period of the issue
  4. Diagnosis – Quickly and calmly get to the root cause of the issue. All too often IT support departments take the “try this, try that” approach, particularly if they panic during a major event.
  5. Fix and test – Don’t just fix the problem; make sure it’s fixed by testing
  6. Confirmation – Is the customer happy that everything is now working perfectly again
  7. Review – What can we learn from this experience? Can we improve our knowledge, systems or processes to avoid or reduce the risk of this reoccurring, or does the customer need to change anything?

I was therefore delighted that following the incident with our customer we received the following glowing report:

“Just wanted to express my thanks for the way the team at The PC Support Group responded to our urgent problem today.

From Scott who took the initial call and very quickly realised that we had a serious problem and escalated the event, to Steve for taking charge and coordinating the effort and for Andy who was hands on working on our servers, and additionally  anyone else I was unaware of,  many thanks.

It appears our processes work!

If you want to know more please email us on info@pcsupportgroup.com or call us on 03300 886 116.

– See more at: https://www.pcsupportgroup.com/blog/it-support/when-it-systems-go-wrong/#sthash.gYWadIYI.dpuf

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Category: IT News, IT Support.

Close-up of stethoscope on laptop keyboard

We all know that computers often slow down over time, but why is this and what can you do about it?

  1. Remove unwanted software and stop programs running automatically on start-up

When your new shiny computer first arrives there is usually nothing on it except for the operating system (usually Windows) and consequently it boots up in seconds and runs faster than Usain Bolt.

What you may not realise is that a lot of software you load will automatically add at least some element to the start-up routine of the computer so as soon as you boot the computer up the software starts running. After a while there will be quite a few of these programs vying for attention on start-up and/or continuing to run background services whilst you go about your work, all slowing your computer down.

So check what these are (or get your IT support company to) and remove anything unwanted or unnecessary.

  1. Keep your disk tidy

Files and programs are written to your hard disk in the most efficient way to read them back, which usually means the information is stored together. However, over time your disk becomes full and so the data often gets written in different areas making it slow to read back. This is known as disk fragmentation. Luckily a disk defragmentation program can move these all around and put them back in an efficient structure again.

Disk fragmentation is typically not an issue on modern Windows operating systems as they perform background disk defragmentation during idle time. However, if the disk is very full, defragmentation may never actually finish so you should make sure you have plenty of free disk space and perform a manual defrag every so often (when you’re not using the computer) to ensure it has run properly.

  1. Upgrade your memory

Programs and their data are typically only partially loaded into memory, with the remainder staying in temporary (“swap”) space on the hard disk. The relevant part of the program or data then gets loaded into memory (Random Access Memory – RAM) as it’s required. Not only is this process slow but as your disk get filled up (see 2 above) it gets even slower.

The more RAM you have the less likely your computer will need to swap data from disk space so consider upgrading the size of your RAM; it could make a huge difference for very little investment.

  1. Upgrade your hard drive

Given how your computer uses its hard disk drive (see point 3 above), a slow drive means a slow computer so consider replacing your standard hard drive (that has lots of moving parts and spins like an old fashioned record) with a new Solid State Drive (SSD). SSD’s have no moving parts and so are incredibly fast and don’t wear out like traditional hard drives. They are more expensive than standard hard drives but if you save 30 minutes every day you could make the difference back in efficiency in weeks or even days!

  1. Is your anti-virus checker efficient and up to date?

Some anti-virus software can be very intensive and use quite a bit of your computing power. Unfortunately some users, in an attempt to speed up the computer, remove their antivirus and then get infected with malware. Some malware is stealthy and if you don’t have antivirus installed you may not notice it except as a general slowdown, thus having the exact opposite affect the user wanted.

Check with your IT support provider that you have efficient anti-virus software and that it is configured correctly to give you maximum protection without slowing your computer down. Never remove anti-virus software!

Finally, do remember that computers do actually wear out and become obsolete as the technology around them moves on. Any hardware that is over 3 years old is unlikely to perform at its best.

For example, as the average computer gets faster and web technology advances, browsers and sites become correspondingly more complex and therefore, on the same hardware, slower. Your computer may not be able to run the latest and most efficient versions of software due to incompatibility issues or your graphics card may not be able to handle the wonderful enhanced graphics now used by browsers and software.

If you’ve tried all of the above and your computer is still slow then perhaps it’s time to move on a buy a new one.

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Category: Cloud Computing, IT News, IT Support.

With all the recent chatter around SaaS based deployment for software systems, it’s easy to forget that many small and medium business still haven’t made the transition to the cloud. The recent report from Software Advice, the online resource for IT help desk software, showed this was the case with only 32% of SMEs having moved their service desk software to the cloud. To learn more about why these business haven’t moved to SaaS, I asked some questions of Craig Borowski, the Market Researcher who conducted this survey and wrote the report.

  • What are some of the driving reasons that are keeping this 68% of businesses off of the cloud for their help desk? This is a great question and it’s one we at Software Advice are very familiar with. In our discussions, two broad reasons come up often. The first is simply unfamiliarity with the cloud, either general unfamiliarity or else unfamiliarity with the growing selection of SaaS help desk platforms. The second reason could be described as something like a corporate cultural inertia. These are companies that are just generally resistant to change. They might have been using on-premise help desk systems for so long, the prospect of changing to a new deployment model seems too risky or too foreign.
  • What is the biggest reason people are going to the cloud? It’s tough to single out one biggest reason because they tend to vary by industry and by company size. However, quite often, the reasons boil down to companies wanting to spend more time and effort doing what they do best, their core competencies, and less time and effort doing all that’s necessary to keep an on-premise system running, up-to-date and secure.
  • Did you find a correlation with those more familiar with the cloud being more comfortable with using it? There is certainly a correlation. Companies that have no experience with cloud software are more apt to exhibit a ‘fear of the unknown’ when trying to evaluate cloud versus on-premise systems. They raise concerns about data security, about downtime, about losing control of their platform. Meanwhile, companies that have used other cloud-deployed software very rarely raise these concerns when evaluating cloud help desk software. It’s an interesting dynamic and we plan to look into it in much more detail in an upcoming survey.
  • Do you expect more businesses to shift to the cloud in the coming years? And why or why not? Absolutely. The shift to the cloud has been going on for many years, longer than many companies realize. Moving forward, we can expect that as more companies realize the benefits of cloud deployment— cost reduction, better scalability, flexibility, security etc.— others will continue to follow suit. It’s very difficult to imagine going back to the world where all software is hosted locally.
  • What would you advise a small business thinking about going to the cloud? For small businesses, cloud-based platforms can be an extremely viable choice. An easy way to illustrate this point is by simply turning the question around. Why are you looking for an on-premise system? Are your reasons valid and justifiable? With this line of questioning, it doesn’t take long for the small business to realize that one of the main benefits of cloud software is that it can free them from many of the things that on-premise deployments require.

 

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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)

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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