Six Problems with Windows and How to Prevent Them – Part 2

Recently, in part 1 of our series on “Six Problems with Windows and How to Prevent Them” I looked at how you can prevent computer nightmares such as non-booting computers, not being able to access your hard drive, and encountering blue screens of death.  Today, I continue the series by looking at the remaining nightmares presented by PCWorld and I provide tips/advice which help you turn those situations into more peaceful occurrences.

Nightmare: No One Has the PC’s Administrator Password

Preventive Steps:

  • While I don’t recommend that you start hacking a system’s password (it can get messy for the average user), I do recommend that you don’t get caught needing a password that you need from one of your employees.  All business principals should share knowledge of an admin password with their Systems Admin.  Passwords are precious, especially in corporate environments, and while knowledge of passwords should be kept to as few people as possible, if you are the owner or executive at a company insist that your Systems Admin shares his or her executive passwords with you, at least for a fail-safe scenario.

Nightmare: You Think Your PC Is Infected

Preventive Steps:

  • Keep your anti-virus program up to date and run it as needed.
  • Typically viruses infect system files and not your everyday documents so try doing a system restore or system backup to a point in time that you know you were not infected.
  • Viruses can be complex and can get intertwined in the system files so be sure to consult a professional.

Nightmare: An Important File Disappears

Preventive Steps:

  • The easiest solution was covered in yesterday’s segment – backup, backup, backup ahead of time!  See Part 1 for more information on backup techniques.  If you’ve lost the file and you don’t have a backup, check out the PCWorld article for more information.

I hope you gained fresh insight into preventive maintenance steps and ways of dealing with your computer nightmares and problems.  As always, LaptopMD is here to help you with your computer and software repair problems – there isn’t a problem that we don’t know how to take care of.

Is your Windows nightmare not listed or do you need help?  Describe it in the comments and let us help you with it.

Six Problems with Windows and How to Prevent Them – Part 1

We’ve all been there when our computer has failed and the nightmares occur in different forms as written recently in PCWorld: “Six Windows 7 Nightmares (and how to fix them)“.  This article is a good read, as it provides fixes to the problems as they occur, but it got me thinking about simple preventive maintenance best practices, related to each nightmare, that can turn computer and software nightmares into sweet dreams.

Read below for part one of a two-part series on PCWorld’s common nightmares with Windows and the best ways to prevent them or at least make dealing with the computer problems less stressful.

Nightmare: Your PC Won’t Boot

Preventive Steps:

  • Know Where Your Original Setup CDs are – organization is a primary key to mitigating problems.  It’s a lot easier and less stressful if all of your setup/installation CDs are in one place.  Don’t throw your disks away because you never know when you’ll need them but always keep them in one central location for ease of access.
  • Create a System Repair Disc and add this disc to your collection of setup/installation disks.  This is a good idea if you do not have the original startup disks and having multiple copies of an important disk won’t hurt and you’ll probably thank yourself if/when you misplace the other.

Nightmare: You Can’t Access the Hard Drive

Preventive Steps:

  • Backup your computer and essential files onto an external hard drive or online storage service.  Let me say that again – back up your files! We’ve talked about multiple services and devices to use in past articles: SugarSync and PogoPlug/Mozy.com.

Nightmare: Blue Screens of Death Attack Your PC Regularly

Preventive Steps:

  • As PCWorld writes, Blue Screens of Death (BSoD) can be prevented by keeping tabs on your drivers and making sure you are using the most up to date versions.  You can check your drivers using a piece of freeware called SlimWare – this program will notify you if/when your drivers are out of date and where to go to download the newest versions.  Be careful, though, and consult an IT engineer before updating drivers as this could inadvertently cause the problem itself!

Stay tuned for more preventive maintenance relating to Windows like losing a PC Admin’s password, being infected with a virus, and losing an important file from your computer – coming in part 2!

Tell us what your worst nightmare is with your computer right now and we will provide any answers you might need.

A Salute to Small Businesses

This week is National Small Business Week and we wanted to take a moment to salute all of our small business clients and readers – owners and employees alike.  This country would not survive without small businesses and as a small business ourselves as well as a provider of small business services we know the importance that these businesses play in the global economy.

Thank you so much for being who you are – we salute you and the determination and drive each of you has.

Beyond the Moat: Network Security Outside Your Intranet

As we talked about briefly in the last security-related post, most of the top-5 security breaches occur in the office through carelessness and inattention. Most of these issues can be resolved with a good employee computer policy, but what about those network assets that live outside of your companies local area network?

Things like your web page, any remote access software or tunnels you use, your blog, and your social media are all mostly outside of your control. Unless you have a dedicated server in-house that you run your website from, or you have a special relationship with Mark Zukerberg and he lets you personally test the security on your FB, you are pretty much stuck with whatever security features your web vendors provide you with, right?

Well, not entirely, there are still things that you can and SHOULD do to make sure that ALL of your networking assets are safe and secure. Let’s take a look at steps you can take by asset:

Web Page –

Yes, it’s true that most of the time your company will be renting space on a shared server, which means what you can and can’t control is limited. That doesn’t mean you need to throw your website to the digital wolves: there are easy, concrete steps you can take to make sure you’re safe from external attacks. The best part is since the server is managed by someone else, usually you just have to worry about these things once.

  • Newer is Better: Before signing on with any hosting provider, check to make sure that they are up to date on the bits that matter. For web security, this means they should have the latest version of PHP and SQL running. Also, browse through their support forums and check to see if anyone is having issues waiting for the hosting company to update it’s servers. If it seems like they are slow to update, this could be a sign of potential future headache.
  • Data Storage: At some point early in the web design process, you need to decide what kind of data you will need to have available on your web-facing pages. Generally, you do not want to store any sensitive information on your web-site’s server, but sometimes (like for an e-commerce site) you have no choice. If you DO have a choice, don’t put anything sensitive on your web server. Store it locally.
  • If There’s No Other Way: If you absolutely MUST store personal or sensitive information, make sure that your hosting company supports encryption for all data transmissions and build your web-site appropriately. Use SSL and HTTPS whenever any delicate details need to be transmitted, and make sure your data is locked down tight on the server.
  • Lock The Door: There are a lot of ways to access data on the web. Make sure you shut down and password protect all of them. A lot of hosts will, for example, provide an open, anonymous FTP login for your account. Turn it off. Make sure all your FTP accounts are protected by strong passwords that are not similar to your other passwords. Also make sure that any databases are password-protected and that the password is not hard-coded into any of the pages that a customer might see. If any directories contain personal or delicate information, make sure they are also locked down with individual passwords, and make sure you have all your access and CHMOD settings set appropriately.

Social Media –

With social media, we have even less control than with remote servers. Unfortunately, they have become a way of life, and it looks like they’re here to stay. Since most of the privacy setting and security features on these networks are entirely in the hands of their owners, there is little you can do about the physical security of the information on them. So, the obvious solution is: control what information you expose to these networks.  Even with Facebook’s updated privacy settings, you have to stop and ask yourself: if something happened at Facebook and a hacker got a hold of this information, would I want people I know and work with to see it? The best security policy for all social media sites is:

  1. Do not reuse your password!
  2. Do not post anything (even hidden, even if you don’t let any work contacts or clients or customers to see your wall) EVER that might come back to reflect negatively on you as a person, as a business owner, or as a trusted member of the community. The risk is simply not worth it. Basically, before you hit enter to post that update, think to yourself: “Would I be ok posting that on a sign in the front window of my business?” If you answer no, don’t do it on Facebook.

If you follow the simple steps outlined in this and the previous security article, you should have nothing to worry about. Just remember: security doesn’t begin and end at your router. It’s a process that needs to be maintained. Stay on top of it and stay alert, and you’ll have no problems.

Quick Advice: Troubleshoot a ‘Hanging’ Computer Screen

Sometimes the best solution is the most easiest and efficient when dealing with computer repair problems, such as hanging screens.

Here is a one quick way (of many) to troubleshoot a recurring ‘hanging’ computer screen problem in four easy steps:

  1. Turn the computer off
  2. Unplug all of the attached (USB) devices
  3. Turn the computer on
  4. If computer boots normally, plug all of your devices back in

Remember the KISS method.  Troubleshooting your computer repair problem sometimes involves boiling the issue down the lowest common denominator and working your way back to a fully functional computer from there.

Sometimes computer repair problems aren’t this easy to fix but some can be.  We’re here to help with the ones that aren’t so easy.

Tell Us: What is the most pesky computer problem you’ve ever had?

Technology Advice for Telecommuting and Other Business Professionals

Technology Advice for the Telecommuting Business ProfessionalContinuing our series on IT advice for business professionals, today I want to share some tips and technology solutions that will help small business owners, freelancers, and ordinary professionals be more productive when you are working offsite.  New York City is filled with freelancers, musicians, and professionals who use Starbucks and other cafe spots as a means to get away from the office and remain productive.  While these places are convenient, they often lack in the right setup and environment that you need to work efficiently.  PC World recently wrote an article about tips to be an effective business professional even while you’re at Starbucks but here are some tips from PC World and others to make your telecommuting gig work out, so you can be out of the office more and be more productive at the same time:

  • Sync your files with those at your office, so you always have what you need where you need it.  Consider using online and desktop based sharing services such as SugarSync and Pogoplug.  Both work similarly, letting you share your files from one central location online and through multiple device types, including smartphones.  However, PogoPlug offers an optional hardware component which allows you to access your external hard drive (or another USB device, like a flash drive or memory device) from the internet with just an Ethernet connection – no computer required.
  • Setup a Google Voice number that can automatically forward calls to your cell phone or to your office phone with minimal setup.   Give this number to your clients and they will always be able to reach wherever you might be.
  • Find the best location.  Yes, that latte may be appealing but get creative about where you setup shop.  Consider alternatives to Starbucks and pay attention to the various factors that provide the best ideal working environment for yourself.
  • Don’t rely on the provided WiFi. Nothing is worse than relying on an internet connection that isn’t working or is overloaded with ‘freeloaders’.  Have a backup like the mobile hotspots we looked at in November available to use or tether your computer to your laptop via your smartphone.
  • Don’t Let Your Computer Walk Away. PCWorld recommends that you buy a laptop lock for computers when your camped out at a coffee shop or cafe and you need to walk away.  These are good but also, consider LoJack Software For Laptops which will help you find your laptop if it is stolen away.
  • If you’re still stuck in the stone age and the fax machine is what is keeping you at the office, consider subscribing to electronic fax service, like E-Fax, which lets you send PDF faxes from wherever you might be.

These are just a few points of advice for business professionals and people who want to telecommute more often from their favorite Starbucks and who find themselves in the middle of technological confusion when trying to get away from the office.  Tell us what we have missed or didn’t cover and stay tuned for more business and technology advice and guidance.

 

In Living Color: How To Save Money on Printer Ink Cartridges

Printer Ink Money Saving AdviceWe would all like to save a few bucks when it comes to printing, right?  Between the cost of a printer and the ink cartridges themselves, a person or a small business almost has to take out a loan to cover all of the costs.

One of the ‘tricks’ that people use to circumvent the sometimes ‘exorbitant’ prices is choosing to buy third party ink cartridges rather than the manufacturer provided ones for your specific printer.  This is a risky process and can result in damage to the printer or cartridge, according to PC World’s Serial ‘Refiller’.

Another trick, from our own experience, is to rely more on laser printers rather than inkjet ones.  Laser printer toner goes much farther than inkjet cartridges do and is often more economical.  Since color ink for laser printers can be expensive, it helps to have an inkjet on standby for when you must absolutely print in color if you use a less expensive, blank ink only laser printer.

Tell Us: How do you save money on printers and ink costs?

Network Security: Big Trouble for Small Business

“Our business is too small to worry about security.”

“Who could possibly want any of our information?”

“I trust all my employees when they surf the web. They’re all smart people.”

“Network security is too much of a hassle!”

All various excuses we’ve heard from friends and colleagues with small businesses when asked about their network security protocols. Does this sound like something you or your boss might have said at some point? By all means, then, read on.

Continue reading

Small Business IT: Advice When Considering Outsourced IT

 

Advice for Outsourcing IT DepartmentsThroughout the month of May, LaptopMD is taking an indepth look at business IT management and showing you how you can leverage technology and related repair problems in a better manner for your company using less resources – whether it’s with us or on your own.

To kickoff our series, I want to share with you a relevant and noteworthy article I recently read in Entrepreneur Magazine titled “Kicking IT to the Curb” which outlines factors that should be taken into consideration by companies when thinking about outsourcing an IT department to a third party company.

Here is some advice to small business owners from Entrepreneur Magazine and LaptopMD:

  • Be aware of the type of Service Level Agreement (SLA) you need to have in place with the third party company.  These are essentially documents that protect both you, as a business owner, and the company involved from ambiguous expectations that result from the quality of service that is delivered.
    Understand what your needs are as a company (in metrics, delivery of services, scope and size of services, etc.) and make sure your company is protected by penalties and other protection mechanisms to maximize your company’s ‘uptime’.
  • Understand that the size of the small business will dictate the levels of needed outsourcing.  A smaller business has different needs than a larger business does and the right third party company will be able to offer a tailored approach rather than one that appears to be ‘one size fits all’.
    Focus your selection of a third party company on your needs as well as the specialties that the third party offers.
  • Recognize the variety of available services and different niche areas which can be of benefit to your small businesses.  Many small businesses, even those with a few employees, have specific areas of attention and not all third party services will give the same attention/quality of service to a specific area (like Microsoft Exchange support) as others might.  Most third party companies have their own specialties but offer ‘complimentary’ services as a means to round out their portfolio.  Recognize a company’s strengths in your research.
    Sometimes IT outsourcing can be covered by multiple companies, depending where particular providers meet your needs and your price points.
  • Above all, compare pricing and establish a baseline across third parties.  Often times a particular third party may appear to have higher (or lower) prices that seem exorbitant or unreal but many times these prices reflect that third party’s particular niche and would be a worthwhile investment based on your needs.
    Often times, the smaller outsourcing companies can work with you on a better deal than the larger places, like Staples and Best Buy, since the larger ones price based on an average rate and smaller companies tailor their pricing to your needs.

Be sure to read the full article from Entrepreneur Magazine and keep watching our blog throughout the month of May for more articles on business IT support, advice, and improvement.