Upgrade to a new Computer or get a Tune Up service?

Does your computer seem unresponsive, sluggish, and unreliable?

Do you feel you spend time waiting for things to happen on your computer?
Is your productivity slowing down as a result of a slow computer?

One of the most common questions we get in our business is “Should I repair or replace my computer?” While it is an individual decision there are several key factors that should help determine your course of action. Obviously, the price difference can be huge and the disruption painful, but what are the key determinants of your choice;

3 key determinants to upgrade your computer?

We suggest you use a 3-step process to determine the correct course of action:

  1. Computer Age; If your existing computer is over 3 years old the risk of catastrophic failure due to hard drive or part failure is much higher,and the overall expected life of a PC that is constant use is rarely over 5 years. Life expectancy is generally lower for laptops that are moved & carried around regularly. Doing maintenance on an old machine might not be the best answer, especially if you are critically dependent on it working correct & if it fails you will end up in an emergency.
  1. Computer Specifications: Check the specifications of your current computer; with the evolution of new software & applications, especially video applications such as Facebook and news services, means your current computer just may not be able to process fast enough to give you performance that is satisfactory.Most new computers now offer significantly more processor speeds & RAM than what was available a few years ago.If you are looking to run the latest versions of Windows 10, Internet browsers (like Google Chrome), Office 365 or Microsoft Office 2016 then it is difficult to get the maximum benefits without modern specifications. If your old computer has low specification components a Computer Tune Up may not resolve all your speed issues.
  1. Computer Maintenance:Assuming you have agreed the first 2 steps are not a problem; then if you are experiencing slow startups, slow application opening, application time outs or regular restarting requests this can generally mean your computer needs a Tune Up. A computer Tune Up is where we do a deep clean to remove unwanted programs and files then the operating systems cleaned of unnecessary bloat. Often just normal use on the web can accumulate,without your knowledge, thousands of small unwanted programs, cookies, and tracking code that ultimately accumulates slowing everything down. The final area of a Tune Up is defragging your hard disk, where the storage space can be reallocated and made more efficient, giving improved performance.

Just like servicing a car we suggest that even the best computer will need tuning at least every 12 months or more frequently if you’re a business user, this can be done using a maintenance plan with automated routines and processes that can be run remotely by your local Computer Troubleshooters.

Repair or Replace?

Given the 3 critical factors above and your individual circumstance you should have formulated your own view of whether you should repair or replace your computer. So what are the options?

Repair – You can simply call in an expert like Computer Troubleshooters to do a computer Tune Up to get your machine back to optimal performance. They will do a series of deep scans and maintenance processes that should remove the bloat. We also would recommend joining a maintenance plan that regularly does this process to keep you at the optimal performance level. Part of this is also reviewing your backup regime to ensure that you will not experience data catastrophe should a failure occur in the future.

Replace – Once you decide to replace your machine there are few options you can consider;

  • Upgrade – Simply replacing the hard drive on an existing computer with SSD (solid state drive) can significantly improve processing speeds and memory without the need to replace the full system. This also significantly reduces a key point of failure risk from an old system.
  • New Packaged– a new system ultimately will give you a new experience in performance, you just need to ensure the specifications will deliver on your expectations. Lower prices can often mean lower performance, you generally get what you pay for. We generally suggest a minimum of 4GB of RAM and an i5 or better CPU. Just bear in mind you may need to repurchase software that was on your existing machine.
  • New Custom – if you have a specific need or application we can help put together a custom-built system option that can take into account your specific user requirements. We can spec, order & install a system specifically for your needs. Ask us for a quote.

You can transfer all your data and settings on to your new computer so that your new machine is setup is the same as previously, this can be done relatively easily by your local Computer Troubleshooters. Just bear in mind that Windows10 is now the standard operating system for PC’s, so you may need to adapt to the new Windows environment.

At the same time we also recommend reviewing your backup regime to ensure your critical data is protected.

Optimal Computer Performance

Regardless of your situation whether it is repair or replace we can help you optimize your computer experience to help you get the best performance. You don’t have to put up with a slow computer. Give your local Computer Troubleshooters office a call and one of their technology professionals will be happy to evaluate the status of your current computer and help you choose the correct course of action.

How to enable your business IT Systems

Is your business struggling to keep up with technology change?
As a business owner are you swamped with IT issues and user requests?
Do your business’ systems seem old and stuck in the past?

IT for most business has changed significantly in the last 5 years. Traditionally Small and Medium Businesses felt they needed to own their own hardware, software and support infrastructure. To have everything located in your office seemed safe and reassuring that your business was in safe hands. Then along came smartphones, Gen Y, and cloud computing!

So how do you take your business IT systems to the new frontier?

Surprisingly the change isn’t as hard or expensive as you think, you just need to see ownership as an old-fashioned way to view IT, you need to think more about access and scale as the key to better IT systems. By leveraging off broadband and cloud technological advances you can now achieve large business outcomes on a SMB budget.

Microsoft Office 365 is now the default software architecture for Microsoft products in Small & Medium Business, it forms the core of new business IT environments with over 80 million users worldwide and growing fast, it has proven to be reliable & solid.

Office 365 Advantages

Office 365 has been built as a cloud “software as a service” product so it is relatively device agnostic, controlled centrally with security top of mind. This means the Microsoft business office 365 environment is flexible, duplicable, accessible & remotely administered. Beyond the standard Microsoft Office suite benefits we have enjoyed for years it delivers additionally on 4 major areas;

  • Bring your own device – particularly smartphones & iPhones (BYOD).
  • Multi Device with Syncing between devices on multiple operating platforms.
  • Tablets, Smartphone & PC smoothing (same software on different device types).
  • Anywhere access – Security enabled and administered remotely.

This translates into 4 key benefits for users;

  • Same Operation – Outlook 365 looks feels and operates similarly on all device types.
  • Cross Platform – Microsoft, Apple, & Android all just work the same.
  • Simple Downloads – once your Outlook 365 tenant has been professionally setup, data migrated, & deployed – downloading the software on extra devices is easy if you know your admin stuff. Software is updated regularly automatically.
  • Syncing – it just works seamlessly regardless of what device you are using, it stays updated and syncs without any drama, knowing that the Microsoft data centre is doing all this in the background makes the value equation easier to swallow.

Personally, having used the combined office software now for some time, and having downloaded my Office 365 on 4 different devices and types (PC, Smartphone, Laptop, & Android Tablet) I am impressed, particularly with Outlook 365 with corporate grade email access from anywhere across the globe, on any device, and all synced and backed up at the Microsoft data centre. This alone is enough to justify Office 365.

Business Owner Considerations

  • Capital investment – do you prefer to invest to upgrade systems or use a pay as you go subscription model?
  • Space and operating requirements – do you need to run your own infrastructure?
  • Maintenance – would hosting dramatically reduce staff or outsource costs for your IT support?
  • Scalability – will you need to add or reduce users in the future?
  • Operating control – can you trust an external IT expert to remotely manage your systems?
  • Applications – can you use hosted applications or do you need to host locally?
  • Data usage and file sizes – are your business characteristics suitable to use hosted applications?
  • Broadband speed and capacity – can your internet bandwidth handle hosted usage?
  • Statutory data retention – does your business have a requirement to hold and protect data?

End user considerations

  • Access anywhere – do your users need access from PC, tablet and phones?
  • Syncing – do your staff need synced email and data?
  • Information sharing – would accessing business information on the move be helpful to your staff?
  • Seamless networking – would eliminating the need for a VPN reduce access complexity and increase productivity?
  • Backup and central control – would automatic backup and centralized control reduce your risk of user originated data loss?

In assessing these considerations, you may need some additional help to determine if the Office 365 alternative is applicable, feel free give us a call to discuss your situation.

Are you ready to IT enable your business?

So hopefully you can see a clear path to IT enable your business using Office 365 as the core software architecture. Office 365 offers a range of advanced tools that enables your employees to be productive anywhere and at any time across a range of devices. With Office 2016 & Windows 10 now fully proven you can combine to get the very latest software across your business knowing it works and is fully compatible.

If you wish to upgrade your IT Systems it will still requires guidance to get it right, so give your local Computer Troubleshooters office a call today and one of our technology professionals will be happy to discuss how Office 365 can benefit your business.

5 Tips to Increase Internet Security in the Workplace

Approximately two-thirds of employers do not monitor their employees’ access to social media sites, according to Media Bistro. As a result, it’s not uncommon for employees to indulge in a little Facebook or Instagram from their work computers. Although many employees use the Internet responsibly at work, a poorly articulated Internet use policy can leave your business vulnerable to hacking, phishing scams and other IT security issues.

Overhaul Your Internet Use Policy

Computer and internet security When was the last time your business revised its Internet use policy and officially updated the employee handbook? If it’s been a few years, it’s worth investing the time and effort into crafting an update. Lay clear guidelines about:

  • Checking personal email
  • Appropriate use of work email
  • Accessing social media accounts
  • Visiting YouTube or other casual entertainment websites

Let your employee know what’s expected. This avoids finger-pointing and arguments after Internet security has been compromised.

Educate Employees About Phishing Risks

Many employees are reasonably savvy about Internet security. Most people nowadays know better than to click on an email link proclaiming they’ve won millions in a foreign lottery. However, today’s phishing attempts are often better disguised. One common version of a scam is a seemingly official email from your company’s IT department or a senior executive. The email contains a link asking employees to reset their passwords by entering their current password.

To keep employees up-to-date about the latest phishing scams, conduct Internet safety training at least once per year. Remind employees that personal information—Social Security numbers, sensitive client information, passwords, etc.—should never be transmitted via email.

Password Security

According to the password management company SplashData, the passwords “password,” “123456,” and “12345678” remained the top options among Americans in 2012. Enhance employees’ password security by mandating more complex passwords. Set a character limit of at least 8, require capital letters or symbols and restrict use of names or birth dates. Even more important is ensuring that employees change their passwords frequently. Every six months, set your email client or other online system to prompt employees for a password change. This limits the potential for security breaches and keeps sensitive information safe.

Never Install Unauthorized Programs

Sure, it’s a hassle to ask an IT representative to install a new program on your machine, but this policy prevents employees from accidentally downloading malicious software. It’s easy to fall prey to hackers, malware and spyware these days—the AV-Test Institute, an Internet security company, registers more than 200,000 new malicious programs each day. To stop identity thieves, routinely scan for identity threats. Communicate these immediately to employees to prevent security breaches.

Police Personal Devices as Necessary

If your company has a bring your own device policy, security is paramount. Before allowing employees to use personal devices for business, reiterate the rules about password complexity, downloading potentially dangerous apps and software and keeping sensitive information secure. If business information resides on a personal mobile device, it must be kept safe.

Office 365 Setup, Migration & Support – DIY vs. Outsource

Microsoft Office 365 continues to dominate the space for a small business suite of office applications. As a cloud hybrid licence it offers the scale benefits of corporate grade email & the Microsoft office suite, without the upfront capital requirements of a Small Business Server environment. According to Microsoft, Office 365 Setup, Migration & Support can be taken on by the technically literate person without the specialist knowledge required for a server implementation.

So can Office 365 Setup, Migration & Support actually be undertaken as a DIY project in a Small Business with limited IT knowledge & experience?

A typical Small Business IT Environment

As someone who is not a technical expert, but who is technically literate I embarked on testing this DIY theory for myself. My partner has a small rapidly growing business with four staff, and they were looking to avail themselves of all the benefits that Office 365 can offer.

The business is run from multiple offices (mostly home offices). Increasingly the business needs access to data and email services on the go from multiple devices such as laptops and iPhones. With a cloud hosted application database system, and Xero as their main financial and CRM system they have been on their way to the cloud for some time. They already use the basic Microsoft Office 365 products such as Outlook, PowerPoint, Excel, & Word on a continual basis and would like to share files between all the staff as they have clients who interact regularly with different staff and orders. Increasingly this has meant sending files to each other, and as the business is growing they have also found they need to cover for each other when staff are away or unavailable.

Their current IT environment has meant they often have trouble letting clients know when they are away or travelling, and often they have trouble identifying the latest version of files to use as the business has become more complicated. The existing laptops were due for upgrading being over 3 years old, and they were increasing worried that if they lost or damaged a laptop that all the information, files, setting and knowledge would also be lost. As the owners of the business they had their own phones but didn’t want to provide iPhones to the employees. Additionally every time they travelled (particularly overseas) or were on holiday they had issues sending emails.

Office 365 is the answer?

In the past the solution would have been to install a Microsoft Small Business Server to the local network. These servers had exchange email, shared calendar and contacts, file sharing and remote access capabilities. Small Business servers were expensive in terms of initial hardware, licensing and implementation costs, and on an ongoing basis, IT support, maintenance and power consumption also weighed heavily. Additionally, considerations needed to be made for physical space and air conditioning, wiring/cabling etc.

Nowadays Microsoft Office 365 is the answer, with all these functions, but without the large capital expenditure expenses or the need to setup locally. Of course, now you pay a monthly subscription to Microsoft to provide the back end hardware, software and infrastructure in their Australian data centre.

Office 365 Setup

Office 365 can be setup through a number of channels in Australia and New Zealand. Options include direct with Microsoft or through authorised Cloud Service Partners like Computer Troubleshooters who are typically used to provide implement and support Microsoft hosted services.

Licences – You need to learn & understand the licencing structure to determine which plan is right for each of the users. Bear in mind that you can have different users on different plans depending on their usage. So you might have one user who users all the Office products, and some who just need email.

Subscriptions –  You need to buy & provision the Office 365 licences, this is generally transacted over the web but you need to be careful if you are buying a by the month or annual plans (general the annual plans have a small discount). You may also be asked to buy an annual licence, but pay monthly.

Administration – Once your domain has been setup with Office 365 it is relatively simple to set up each user in your admin account. The admin account is the central hub of Office 365 that sits over the top of each of your user accounts & allows you to do all the configuration at a domain level. This includes password, collaboration, profile & user management that is the heart of servers.

DNS Management – You need to change your DNS settings with your domain provider. Office 365 provide you with the DNS setting changes that you need to put into your current domain providers portal to direct emails to the Office 365 host. In my case this took a couple of hours before the change was done by the provider.

Download & Profiles – Once each user is setup by the admin & the DNS change is made, the users can then setup their account of their own hardware just by downloading the software direct from the Office 365 hosting site. They can setup a new profile for Office 365 or integrate Office 365 into the existing profile, this is probably one of the most confusing areas that can take some time to resolve. This software can be downloaded by the user to a maximum of 5 of the user’s devices (PC, Macs, smartphones or tablets). Usernames and passwords associated with each user will of course be needed for the download.

Office 365 Migration

The migration of existing data, files and setting will depend on the current IT environment

  • A server to Office 365 migration requires movement of all data & user profiles to Office 365, these need to match correctly with passwords and user profiles for a smooth transition. The data migration will depend on each user’s data size, but typically the migration of a large mailbox may take a few hours. The big difficulty is that in the interim, emails may be lost or not received.
  • A pop email migration is fairly simple, as the data is on the user’s laptop, so that the data can be simply held on the same machine and the office 365 profile directed to the exiting email store.
  • Files will depend on where they are currently stored, but can be moved to OneDrive or SharePoint once the account profiles are setup.

Overall migration is really a factor of how much data is being migrated and where it is currently stored, remembering that with Office 365 you are effectively transferring the data store to a data centre so it needs to transferred via your internet to seed your account. Just be aware that you need to understand your broadband data allowance and the effect on data speeds that you may encounter during the migration.

Office 365 Support

If something goes wrong support is a major issue – understanding the role Microsoft support plays in helping with office 365 deployments should you encounter an issue you don’t understand. SLA Critical & Urgent incidents where they are responsible is fairly prompt, calls are answered within one hour and update provided very 2 and 24 hours respectively. However, issues raised as important or advisory are updated every 72 hours or as decided by Microsoft. So experiencing an issue during migration it will be difficult to get prompt Microsoft support.

Office 365 – My DIY Experience

My experience in getting Office 365 fully functional is fairly positive I managed to get all 4 users setup over 2 days & get all the niggling issues sorted over the following days. Although I later discovered that by default Office 365 was rejecting the forms from their WordPress website for over 2 weeks. The disruption to the business was minimal although getting non-technical users setup with both laptops and mobiles was difficult to the extent they all needed to visit the office to get setup. The time did include formatting 2 new laptops and setting them up. We did lose emails in cutting over for a few hours.

The end result is that I estimate I took me around 6 hours per user to get everything working 100%. When I sent this information out to the Computer Troubleshooters group they laughed. In general, they charge for about 2 hours labour and have tools that automate much of what I did manually. Some tools they use do the migration before the cutover, so that when a user sets up their profile the data and setting have been pre-provisioned, so no business interruption in encountered and they can do the migration at night over weeks so there are no data slowdowns during business hours.

Office 365 – My Recommendation

My experience suggested it takes about 6 hours per user to manually setup, migrate and then tweak Office 365 for a small group. That said I do work in IT Marketing and have used Office 365 in my business for some time so I did start with an advantage. If you are not good with IT, I would definitely get an expert to do it.

The bottom line is most business people earn more in 6 hours than they would paying an IT expert 2 hours in labour, & that is not taking into account the niggling WordPress issue that was solved by the Computer Troubleshooters guys.

So if you are thinking of setting up & migrating to Office 365, at a minimum I would get a quote from an IT expert to see if the trade-off is worthwhile. Most expert Office 365 guys will give you a quote to compare. Even if you try yourself and get stuck you have a good idea for the alternative should you need help in a hurry.

Office 365 – Office 365 Setup, Migration & Support outsourced

Computer Troubleshooters can provide professional IT services to your business to provision and administer Office 365 environments as needed. Office 365 purchased through a Cloud Service Provider like Computer Troubleshooters is at no additional cost to purchasing through Microsoft.

Let the experts at Computer Troubleshooters work with you to assess your IT needs and develop a customized plan for your business. Computer Troubleshooters can manage your IT services and you can manage your business. Give your local Computer Troubleshooters office a call and one of our computer professionals will be happy to help you.

Cryptolocker Removal

The Cryptolocker family of ransomware viruses and look-alikes (CTB Locker, Cryptowall, Torrent Locker, Locker, Locky etc.) are now well known as one of the major causes of data corruption and data loss across the world. Cryptolocker doesn’t discriminate, from the single user to the largest corporate network, it can invade and lock down all data inside the network. Once your data is encrypted you are in big trouble! Data retrieval & Cryptolocker removal is a big deal.

Recently new variants have appeared that are essentially the same Trojan, but are much more effective in preventing Cryptolocker removal & data retrieval. Cryptolocker is propagated via infected email attachments, and via a botnet; when activated, the malware encrypts certain types of files stored on local and mounted network drives using RSA public key cryptography.

The payload hides within an attachment or a link to a website. Once a user opens the attachment or the website link, the virus is activated and promptly goes about encrypting your files (both on the infected machine and on any additional network shares it can find).

Once the encryption process is complete a message, pops up on your screen delivering both the bad news and a ransom demand. Extortion of your hard earned money has begun. Because of the high level of encryption used by the virus, the only way to get your data back is either to pay the ransom or recover your files from last night’s backup. In addition, many extorted business owners have reported that the payment of the ransom does not always get their data back.

How to prevent a Cryptolocker infection?

Prevention – don’t open or click on unsolicited emails

  • Educate everyoneon the risk of opening email attachments that they shouldn’t. They may receive an email that they weren’t expecting or something may look wrong about it. These emails can also come from a spoofed account that may look legitimate or even appear to be from someone you know. The bottom line is to always be careful when opening email attachments.
  • Well known examples include emails from Banks, Police, Postal Services & Government agencies – remember if in doubt don’t open or click

How do you mitigate Cryptolocker risk?

Our Number 1 Tip – Always keep a non-networked copy of a backup of your data by rotating storage media – external hard drives or USB or use a non-synced cloud backup resource.

  • Regularly backup important data. Keep it within unconnected storage & rotate storage media.
  • Always ensure your operating system and security software is fully updated.
  • Consider purchase of a specialist anti cryptolocker tool.
  • Consider moving more of your data into cloud storage (not OneDrive or synced storage)
  • Block all .exe and .zip attachments at your email gateway.

What to do if you have Cryptolocker?

If you get a Cryptolocker pop up message on your screen it will generally say that all your files have been locked & encrypted, this means the execute file is in progress or finished the encryption. Before you consider Cryptolocker removal you must immediately do the following to minimise impact on your machine and network (it can spread to others on your network)

  • If one of your computers gets infected, then immediately disconnect it from the network & shut down the infected machine. You should also shut down all other devices on your network.
  • If you have been compromised then immediately change all of your organisation’s network and on-line passwords.
  • Disconnect all backups on your network including other non-infected devices.
  • Removal all LAN & device connections.
  • Call an expert to get professional advice on next steps

Cryptolocker Removal?

Once you have isolated your machine & network, a professional such as Computer Troubleshooters, can do an evaluation of your next steps – checking backups, assess other devices, extent of infection, & the best method of data retrieval.

Once this is done we can determine if we can do a data restoration & Cryptolocker removal – it is a complex process, and in some cases if a backup has not be done properly or the steps above have not been followed it can be a compromise solution, or worse case you may need to pay the ransom. Even if you pay the ransom the Trojan still needs to be removed otherwise it can be reactivated,

Prevention is Key

With this type of threat it is better to “think when, not if”, as the human element eliminates even the best planning. Thinking now about business continuity may save considerable time, expense, and disruption.

Computer Troubleshooters can do an assessment of your business’ computer network. We can also provide recommendations for establishing a strategic approach to cyber security and assist you with a variety of solutions to reduce the risk of a security breach.  We strongly encourage you to prepare your business for the threat of a cyber security crime, call your local Computer Troubleshooters office today for help and advice.