Monthly Archives: January 2015

Three quick tips every computer user needs to know

Keep your device locked down by using long, complex passwords, and look into ways to disable it remotely in case it gets stolen.

Keep your device locked down by using long, complex passwords, and look into ways to disable it remotely in case it gets stolen.

One of the most pressing issues computer users face is keeping their device secure. A study on cyber-security, reported in mid-2014, estimates roughly 445 billion dollars in annual loss to the global economy due to cyber-crime, and up to 160 billion dollars in losses for individuals.

Whether you’re using a computer for business or personal reasons, your device contains sensitive data such as financial information and log-in credentials. If you want to get the most benefit out of your device, and keep it under your control, the following are three quick tips every computer user needs to know:


  1. Keep your device locked down. This means using long, complex passwords with a variety of characters – and not something like your dog’s name (or worse yet, ‘abcd’ or ‘admin’). It also means using a firewall and an anti-virus/anti-malware program. You also should look into ways for disabling your device remotely, in case it gets stolen.
  2. Know what you’re introducing to your computing device. For instance, if you’re using a Wi-Fi network, is it secure? (Or is it a potentially dangerous, free non-secure public Wi-Fi hotspot?) Whenever you download a certain software, are you sure it’s from a reputable company and website? (Some hackers try to get you to download something that looks authentic, but will introduce malware onto your device.) In addition to security concerns, there are other reasons for questioning downloads; unnecessary downloads can slow down your device, and sometimes the software won’t interact well with other programs.
  3. Maintain good documentation. If you’re experiencing problems, for example, note important details such as when they started, how they affect your device, and how you’ve tried to fix the problem. You should keep track of log-in credentials, software license keys, and similar important information about your computer, operating system, and software; you’ll have a greater insight about security vulnerabilities and when to carry out upgrades.

If you have any additional questions about using your computing device optimally, please contact us. Even if you already have a lot of experience with computers, you might still have questions and concerns, and find ways of improving your computer habits.

10 quick tips about working with your Managed Service Provider (MSP)

To take full advantage of the benefits of an MSP, you need to maintain a strong relationship with them.

To take full advantage of the benefits of an MSP, you need to maintain a strong relationship with them.

By outsourcing at least some of your IT operations to a Managed Service Provider (MSP), you could potentially save money and further your business growth.

However, to take full advantage of these benefits, you need to maintain a strong working relationship with your MSP. The following are 10 quick tips about working with your Managed Service Provider (MSP):




  1. Share your business goals with them. They can help you most effectively only if they understand what direction you want your company to go in and anticipate how your IT needs might change along the way.
  2. Keep communication lines open. Regularly touch base with them about your IT configuration, whether everything’s going smoothly, and whether anything could improve or needs to change.
  3. Understand what they’re doing for you. You don’t need to know all of the technical details, but you should understand the general picture of what they’re doing for you and why it’s necessary, even if you don’t consider yourself a computer savvy person. If they’re good communicators, they can explain to you what’s going on.
  4. Establish clear collaborative boundaries from the beginning. Understand the scope of their responsibilities from the start. And if you have an IT staff already, establish a relationship of collaboration and clear boundaries, to avoid a situation where your in-house employees think the MSP is pushing them out of the picture.
  5. Hammer out a clear contract. Make sure you know how long they’ll work for you, how they’ll bill you, and what devices, programs and services they’ll take responsibility for.
  6. Quantify results. How will you measure increased productivity, savings in costs, or other benefits you might expect from your MSP? What is your MSP’s response time to various problems?
  7. Keep being a manager. Even when you outsource various services, you still need to stay on top of things and make informed decisions.
  8. Look into security. When you outsource your IT needs, in whole or part, to another company, you want to ensure as much as possible that your security won’t get compromised. What powerful security practices does your MSP have in place? What’s their security record?
  9. Ask away. You should feel comfortable asking them questions and bringing your concerns to them immediately.
  10. Treat them with trust. This doesn’t mean blindly accepting everything they do or suggest; however, if you’ve taken the trouble to choose a reliable and effective MSP, you should also feel comfortable delegating things to them and not second-guessing everything they do. By following the other tips here, such as communicating regularly and quantifying various results, you can monitor their contribution to your company without potentially obstructing their work.

Don’t hesitate to contact us for more information about the managed services we offer. When collaborating with us, you will receive IT services responsive to your company’s needs and aimed at promoting its survival and success.

A Brief History of Disaster Recovery

Data storage and disaster recovery methods have evolved incredibly quickly since the floppy disks of the '70s

Data storage and disaster recovery methods have evolved incredibly quickly since the floppy disks of the ’70s

The first attempts at data disaster recovery actually took place during the Victorian era; that’s right, the mid-1800’s, a time when it was still common to have surgery sans anesthesia. A mathematician by the name of Charles Babbage designed the Analytical Engine, a “programmable” machine often considered the first incidence of computing technology (it even had the equivalent of a whopping 16.7 kb storage capacity!). Its programs were punched onto rectangular cards, which happened to already be in use at the time for directing mechanical looms.

Of course, it was only a matter of time before one of the punch cards became damaged during handling. When it did, the need to recover the lost data programmed onto the damaged card became apparent; if the card is damaged, the program’s damaged. Hence, the first recorded attempt at disaster recovery.

Unfortunately, it was not successful.

Not a terribly wonderful start, but it was a beginning, nonetheless. Fast forward about a hundred years to 1942, and we witness the birth of ENIAC, the first electronic general-purpose computer. Personal, however, it was not, weighing in at a monstrous 30-tons and containing over 20,000 vacuum tubes; it certainly earned its nickname, the “Giant Brain”. As for as ease-of-use, it took weeks to program it, using switches and plugboards. Hard drive data recovery was essentially nonexistent.

Progressively, it became clear that the limits of computing technology were intimately connected to storage methods and their abilities. Of course, the next logical step is to see that with changing and expanded storage capabilities, (not to mention the increasing ubiquitousness of computing technology in our lives) the need for effective data recovery methods would increase as well.

In an effort to answer that clarion call, IBM introduced the first magnetic tape drive vacuum column for data storage. Not only did this result in a decrease of lost data overall, but also made disaster recovery easier when it was necessary.

On the downhill slope of the twentieth century, a series of rapid innovations saw the parallel development of computing technology with storage methods. Floppy disks in the mid-70’s, which somehow seems oddly fitting; 1980 saw the advent of the first 5.25” HDD, along with the first Compact Disc (does anyone really call them that anymore?); flash memory was invented back in 1984, and the first Apple Macintosh went on sale; CD-ROM’s in 1985; the DVD in ’95; the Blu Ray in 2003; as we head into the 21st century, SSD, USB drives; and strides in mobile technology and the internet have been fertile ground in recent times for the development of “the cloud”.

It’s been said that those who don’t learn from history are doomed to repeat it. This brief romp through the fascinating history of data storage, and its recovery when it meets with disaster, has a lesson to teach us. Today, data storage is more critical than ever. More of our lives and businesses have become reliant upon technology, which in turn, depends upon the integrity of that storage. When it fails, as it has in the past and inevitably will again, when that drive crashes or that online storage gets hacked, the vital question becomes, where do I turn to recover what’s been lost?

Contact us today for more information on how we can help you to reclaim your lost data, and the future of your business!

Worst advice we’ve ever heard about creating your own help desk?

A well managed help desk is critical to a company's success -- don't cut corners!

A well managed help desk is critical to a company’s success — don’t cut corners!

A well-managed help desk is critical for your company’s success. Regardless of whether your business is large or small, your help desk can improve efficiency and boost profits by handling various tech problems that come up in the course of your business activities.

Why does a software program keep quitting unexpectedly? What’s the password for a certain device? Why did the device crash, and where are the data back-ups? These are just a few of issues your help desk might need to address.

What’s the worst advise we’ve ever heard about creating your own help desk?

You might have gotten advice about setting up your own help desk. The people giving you this advice might understand the purpose of a help desk; however, their suggestions will likely lead to wasted money and time, both in the short-term and long-term.

Here are several examples of terrible tips for creating your own help desk:

  • Hire newbies. The idea is to cut costs by hiring people who are relatively inexperienced; furthermore, companies might not want to spend much on training them. But the costs of working with inexperienced and poorly trained employees will likely exceed any money you managed to initially save.
  • Your help desk must do everything. Why else do you have a help desk, if not to handle every problem personally? Companies might have unrealistic expectations about how much work their help desk can handle without the staff cracking under the stress. It’s critical to find ways to help employees help themselves sometimes, especially with more minor computing problems, while the help desk staff handles more complex issues.
  • Your help desk needs complete self-sufficiency. This is another unrealistic expectation – that your help desk staff must tackle every problem entirely on its own. There are times when consulting with outside experts is necessary.
  • Email and phone are enough. Setting up a help desk might seem simple; all the staff needs to do is field emails and phone calls, right? Not at all. You need to have a system in place that prioritizes and organizes help desk interactions. This way, you can keep track of patterns of problems and respond to issues that demand the greatest urgency.
  • Don’t waste time on feedback. In some companies, the help desk doesn’t bother soliciting or reviewing feedback. It’s considered a waste of time or a token gesture towards employees. However, feedback is essential. Complaints are worth listening to. Your help desk must respond to your company and its changing needs. Otherwise, it will  remain out of touch from your employees, who will also avoid making use of it.

Don’t hesitate to contact us about managing your help desk well. The most cost-effective decision you can make regarding your help desk is to outsource it or at least call on outside IT professionals to give you further support.