Why you need updates

It’s really annoying isn’t it, you are just typing that important email and a pop up says update available for xyz product, do you want to update now?

All you think is go away, can’t you see I’m busy.

Why does your PC seem to forever be wanting to do updates, and should you let it?

There are a number of systems on your computer, apart from the operating system, you will likely have Adobe Reader, Adobe Flash, Java, Internet Explorer, Mozilla Firefox, among others. As time goes by hackers are forever attempting to find security holes in these products because they are so ubiquitous. If they can find a security hole then they have a high chance of hacking your computer before you solve the problem by applying an update. Basically the longer you leave an update the more dangerous it is to you and your business.

As soon as the manufacturers are aware of a security hole or a bug in the software (a bug will make the program possibly unstable in certain circumstances) then they will write a fix for it. This will then be pushed out as soon as possible to consumers (you and me)

We regularly get computers in that have infections, but they would not have been infected if the latest security patches had been applied

So one of the best ways to ensure your security and online safety is to allow Java updates to run, allow windows updates to install, and allow Adobe updates to install. yes it is a nuisance, but not as much a nuisance as having a non working computer or having all your friends emailed with SPAM or malware of some description.

Like your car, your computer does need some regular TLC, and updates are one of the important checks every owner needs to do. Lets work together to stamp out problems and update, update update, Patch patch patch. best time to do it is just before you go home. For Windows you can change the update time, perhaps setting this for 4:30 or 5pm. Other programs can also be altered on their update timings perhaps making your life a little easier.

This is great if you only have a few computers, but if more then it can take a lot of your time. Ask us about setting up a centralised update system to roll out updates soon after they are released.

If you do have problems we are here to help, phone, call or email us on 01480 469019

You can also send us a question on Twitter    @Ask_Ken

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The biggest most expensive mistake

What is the biggest, most expensive mistake people make with their IT?

Is it eating over the keyboard? (how many of you are sheepish right now?) – NO

Is it trying to fix it themselves without taking it to a professional? This ranks high, but not number one.

Is it ignoring messages on their computer – NO, NO, NO.

Inside of a hard diskIt is this – how many of you have both backed up your data AND TESTED the backup? Yes, I know I have written about this before , but we still get customers bringing in laptops or PCs who ask us to back it up before we do any work on the system. When we get it on the bench – it’s too late. They needed to back up before the hard disk drive went to silicon heaven (thanks Red Dwarf), or before the USB drive flashed its last flash. Data recovery is EXPENSIVE. Backing up is cheap!

To give you an idea, data recovery on a hard drive can easily reach £500! But why do I need a backup I hear you say – my PC, Mac, netbook etc. has never let me down. Now let me clear up one myth straight away. Apples have much the same electronics inside as PCs, e.g. the same manufacturers make hard disk drives for Apple and Windows based devices. Hard disk drives are mechanical and are by nature fallible. That is why in servers (which cannot afford failure) there should always be at least one extra drive with a copy of the main data on ready to take over at a moment’s notice. It is called a fail safe, or fault tolerance. Most ‘real’ servers have at least 3 hard drives configured.

Simon's laptopOf course, it does not always take a device failure to cause chaos. How about a system failure? Coffee spillage in your equipment (no device likes that one), or dropping from height? We have seen a few laptops with that problem.

Lightning damage

Or perhaps a fire? Oh that’s all right, my office has fire sensors and nobody smokes – no problems here. Does your next door neighbour have the same level of protection as you and take the same care as you? What if you had a lightning strike on power cables? The picture on the right shows the damage that is not visible outside the computer. No amount of buying the most expensive equipment going would protect that!

So what can you do about it? Firstly, all your IT equipment should be protected with a surge protection mains strip. These are very inexpensive (call us if you need help finding them from your local emporium or installing). Secondly, you need a backup. Now it gets like ordering a coffee – which one of the 100 on the list do you want? Which options within those do you go for? Do you need cloud based or local backup or both? What’s the benefit of free over chargeable? You get the picture. This is where we at KTS Computers Ltd come in. We can come round and discuss your options and explain in plain English which solution is best for you.

For those that want, here are some key questions to ask a supplier of on-line backup:-

  • In what country is the data stored?
  • How secure is it?
  • How quickly can the data be accessed if needed (we have seen some reasonably cheap backup software that would take over a week to recover just 30GB of data, obviously no good if you are running a business).
  • Can it back up my server?
  • Can it backup both Apples and Windows?
  • Can it back up ‘open’ files?
  • How easy is it to download data if needed (this is where testing is required).
  • Is there someone on the end of the phone when I need them (weekends, late night)?
  • EU compliancy?
  • Is your privacy respected?
  • Is it reliable (look online for comments)
  • and the deal breaker – is it easy to use?

If you are worried about any aspect of your IT then just email it to us at sales@ktscomp.co.uk – even if you’re not a customer. We’ll do our best to send you a response by email, or phone us on 01480 469019.

Stay safe and if in doubt – send me a question on Twitter  @Ask_Ken

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Are you a candidate for hacking?

key in jigsawAt this time of year, scams, fake anti virus and the like are on the increase. But many people still do the online equivalent of leaving their front door on the latch and going off to work, then wonder when they get back why they have been burgled! They wonder why they get no sympathy and no insurance cover.

You could be doing the same with your business. We are dependent on passwords for much of our life, shopping online, banking, email, or just getting into Windows! Please check your passwords, if they match any of the top 20 listed below, CHANGE IT NOW! Before you get hacked.

With passwords like the ones below it will only take a hacker moments to steal your customer list, your bank account or even your identityNot only will you lose data, but when your customers find out, you will lose them as well. When the ICO find out, you may be fined up to £500,000! Good practice on how to create passwords is shown below.  Also below the list are ways to change the more common passwords, but feel free to comment and add more ideas yourself.

In 2010, Imperva released a list of top 20 (useless) passwords and I have repeated the list below:-

  1. 123456
  2. 12345
  3. 123456789
  4. Password
  5. iloveyou
  6. princess
  7. rockyou
  8. 1234567
  9. 12345678
  10. abc123
  11. Nicole
  12. Daniel
  13. babygirl
  14. monkey
  15. Jessica
  16. Lovely
  17. michael
  18. Ashley
  19. 654321
  20. Qwerty

Good practices:-

Don’t use same password for all your accounts, if one got hacked, hacker can gain entry to your whole online life and take your identity. Use different passwords, and yes do write them down! However, keep the document away from the computer, preferably in a safe place (talk to Neil at Safebox), and a copy elsewhere (what would you do if place caught fire)?

House in chains and padlockUse strong passwords, this means keep them at least 8 characters long (preferably more), a mixture of upper and lower case, include numbers and non alphanumeric numbers such as ‘£’, ‘&’ etc. (over 30% users have passwords of 6 characters or less, OUCH).

Change passwords regularly.

Make your password from a phrase, e.g. use first few letters (or if long phrase, first letter) from each word as per ‘KTS Is The Best Computer Company In St Ives’ means password would be KTSITBCCISI which is 11 characters. Now change some for upper / lower case and add a number and you are away with a memorable password.

To change in Windows, go to Control Panel, Users, and select user, then change password.

To change in Outlook (after connecting to web based system to alter password) just login and it will ask you for the new password. Tick the box that says remember.

Hotmail, BT, Gmail etc.. You’re not using these for your business are you? If you are you may want to re-think after reading how Google lost data in February this year. Look professional, use your own domain; that way you have control.

If you are worried about any aspect of your IT then just email it to us at sales@ktscomp.co.uk – even if you’re not a customer. We’ll do our best to send you a response by email.

Stay safe and if in doubt – send me a question on Twitter    @Ask_Ken

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Living with a smart phone!

Or should that be a dumb phone?

Along with Blackberry’s recent major outage, (which by the way did save lives) I began to wonder, do we expect too much of our technology? Will it ever really replace the older technology (computers, pen / paper etc.)?

Smart phone collectionSo the first question is, what exactly is a ‘smart’ phone? According to Wikipedia, it should combine the functions of a personal digital assistant (PDA) with a mobile phone, and today is expected to also add in features such as a camera, media player, internet browser, GPS navigation and mobile broadband.

Obviously it’s prime job should be to make calls and receive them, yet that seems to be one of the failings of many ‘smart’ phones, including Apple iPhone, HTC Desire, HD7, among others, to the extent that Dilbert  made mockery of them.

HTC HD7My particular recent experience is with a Windows 7 HTC. It has some fabulous features, but is not really a business grade tool. No SMS backup, contacts only sync with hotmail, maps not on phone but only available if data connection available and many other sections of the system are useless without a data connection. Great until you go abroad and turn off data roaming to keep money in your pocket. (over £3 per MB).

Should have got an Apple I hear you say? As one BBC reporter commented when abroad with his iPhone “So I turned off data roaming – and immediately found that what I was left with was a not very smart phone.”

So, smart phones are not so smart, perhaps they are just smart portals to a smarter internet. Using one abroad is an expensive trip. So will they ever replace computers? With a full size keyboard and bigger screen, I would rather type on my laptop than on my smart phone. So the solution might be voice to text. Hmm…… iPhone5 and Windows new Mango update have this feature. But guess what, it needs data access to work!

Do we expect too much of technology? Absolutely, and why not! The media have been Transparent Phonetelling us new horizons are just round the corner, Intel among others tell us technology is the future and will solve all mankinds problems. Technology is in fact amazing, I love playing with the toys, sorry tools of my trade. What we can do is changing the way we think, especially with respect to business. (http://communication.howstuffworks.com/technology-changed-business.htm) I can send emails and talk to people when out of office as though I am in the office.

Where I am physically is no longer important. Thanks Technology. Internet orders, automatic responses to say order processed, same to say order despatched. Thanks technology, you are more in touch with me than some human interfaces!

Mobile phone technology, brilliant. My first phone was a Motorola brick with a pull up Motorola flipaerial. I was forever leaving at my customers because it would not fit in my pocket. Now? I fit it in my top pocket and I’m forever having it fall on the floor when I bend over! Hmm, at least I know I haven’t left it behind!

So, back to smart phones. I would like my phone to be fully voice controlled without internet access, to be usable in replacing all communication features of the PC / notebook range of devices, not just half heartedly implementing some features. and to pick up the time automatically in the UK like it does in the rest of the world!  What do you want yours to do be truly earn it the nickname ‘smart’?

Kens handy phone hints:-

To save battery:

  • turn screen colours to dark
  • turn off bluetooth
  • turn off Wi~fi when not in use
  • turn on screen saver

To save money:

  • turn off data roaming when abroad.
  • keep a check on your data usage
  • set data checks (email / twitter etc. updates) to once an hour
  • review your contract periodically

Use someone elses phone!

When buying:

  • Make a list of features you NEED.
  • If travelling abroad then check what features work when data turned off.
  • Don’t be swayed by the advertising, go look at each phone in a shop and try the keyboard, try reading the screen, does the text size suit you. Could you read it in a moving car?
  • and the big question, do you really, REALLY need that smart phone?

KTS Computers Ltd don’t sell phones, but we will ensure that they work with your current IT configuration. Phone or email us now for unbiased advice 01480 469019.

You can also send us a question on Twitter    @Ask_Ken

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Re-locating without a hitch

Computers going into boxes to be moved Is it possible to move your business to new premises and get everything up and running without a hitch?

We’re told that moving house is one of the top 5 most stressful things we do but we think moving a business has the potential for even more stress.
If you lose a favourite piece of furniture or can’t find the kettle at home, it’s annoying but not a disaster. If you lost your phone and email in your business you might as well not exist. The potential loss to your business from annoyed or even just puzzled customers is huge. Getting communications back to normal as soon as possible is essential.
We’ve recently been involved in two business moves (one for the world famous percussionist Dame Evelyn Glennie) and found that as well as making sure that everything possible is done to minimise disruption to the IT service the biggest influence we had was in keeping staff informed of what was happening.

In one case the firm’s internet service provider hadn’t provided a service and as well as resolving the problem with them we reduced aggravation for the staff by letting them know exactly what was going on.

If you’ve got a move coming up, give us a call and we’ll help you to plan it so that to the outside world, its business as usual.

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Why *free* virus protection often isn’t enough

“Is this free virus protection OK Ken?”

Hypodermic Syringe

This is one of the questions I get asked all the time and my answer is – its OK if your data isn’t essential and you don’t mind being without your computers for a few days. You might also note that most ‘free’ licences are usually free for home use only, so beware if you are using a free version for business use.

The free virus protection is usually updated only once a day, leaving gaps for new viruses to infiltrate. They only offer basic protection from the most common malware (MALicious softWARE) and they’re usually run from very basic servers (that’s why they’re free) and that means if there is an influx of attacks, the servers can’t cope.

Paid for versions of virus protection don’t just remove malware once it’s downloaded, they actively monitor and guard against the whole range of malware (which includes spyware, rootkits, trojans and bots) and they’re run from robust servers that can cope with a major malware outbreak. These servers  and therefore your computers are constantly updated as new dangers are discovered.

If you are running on a free version, please ask yourself “Is the safety of your business and your peace of mind worth paying a few pounds a month?” (AVG Internet security works out at less than 10p per day, newspapers cost more than that). Or you could take the risk of losing your IT systems for a several hours if not days and losing all of your data, for good!

If you have any doubts, call me now. Better safe than sorry.

Don’t forget, its not just your own machine you need to protect. If you have a virus you could easily spread it to anyone you send an email to – that’s why its called a virus!

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Could your computer be damaging your neck?

Neck pain and shoulder pain can be caused by computers

Ellipta 3 screenWe are all getting more and more problems with our necks, eyes, arms and wrists in the form of RSI, eye strain and other long term painful injuries. Part of this is due to sitting in front of screens for longer and longer periods as more demands are placed on us especially as many businesses are still suffering from the downturn in the economy.

How can we prevent injury and absence from work?

Many companies are running with bigger monitors, but the writing is smaller and the screen being bigger is further away  This leads to the monitor not being in the most ergonomic position, potentially leading to physical problems.

The answer is to mount the screen on an arm. The monitor is now at the correct height, distance and correct relationship to keyboard. However there are different types of arm to choose from.

Are fixed arm mounts the answer?

NO. Fixed arm mounts are just that, fixed. Imagine the rear view mirror in your car to be fixed or your car seat to be fixed. It would be absolutely not acceptable.

How about a gas strut?

Great, solves the problem, but at what cost? A decent one will start at £200 without fitting.

An affordable solution

A spring assisted multi-directional flat screen monitor arm is cheaper than gas strut. Moreover it doesn’t need a new strut after 2 years, is easily adjustable for each user and so avoids repetitive strain injury.  It creates more desk space, has lateral movement to allow for information sharing and you can even combine as many screens as you want on it in the positions YOU need – no more restrictions.

No more grovelling on the floor

If your computer tower is on the floor underneath your desk you probably have to grovell around every time you need to use a USB port. The spring loaded arm we use at KTS comes with a 4 port USB hub on the arm itself and the whole thing fits neatly into the wiring aperture on most modern desks.

Your space, your way, healthily

Benefits:

  • Save desk space (up to 40%)
  • Improve ergonomics
  • Adjust with a touch
  • Suits most flat screens
  • Affordable solution

We can supply and fit a spring loaded arm with prices starting from £165 – call us now for details on 01480 469019

And what about the pain in the neck? (we don’t mean the boss!)
You may need some help getting your neck sorted or checking out the best position to work in so that you don’t cause more damage. This could be done at work saving lost time and improving productivity.  With help of our partners we can not only improve your working life, we can also ensure you and your employees are de-stressed and able to take on the challenges common to small businesses, and win.

For help with in-house stress relief and fitness call Mervyn Foster on 01480 878111 http://www.soothing-hands.co.uk/

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Beware of mobile phone scam – claim 3750 for the Accident You Had

All our phones regularly receive interesting texts offering us specific amount of money for an accident , strangely the amount is always 3750 pounds. it goes like this:

Pictiure of mobile phoneFREEMSG: Our records indicate you may be entitled to 3750 pounds for the accident you had. To claim for free reply with AID to this msg. To opt out text STOP.

The number used is always an 077 number which is premium rate, my last one was from 07786582020.

This is a scam for 2 reasons, not least of which because I have not had an accident for years and because it is from a premium rate number. If you send a response you will be hooked into constant messaging that will probably get you changing your number.

But just imagine someone has just had an accident? The automatic response might be to reply, it’s called social engineering. By flooding people with this style of message the law of averages says they will send texts to someone who is in that position. If just a small percentage reply, they can make their money, usually at the victims expense!

At KTS Computers Ltd we want you to stay safe, so what do you do if you receive one of these text? Never ever reply to any such text messages, emails, or even phone calls. Delete the message so you won’t be tempted later.

Beware as there is another scam where someone calls you from a number and cuts the call instantly. If you call back, the number is forwarded through a premium rate phone number and you will pay for listening to some rubbish on the other end.

You may want more information, in which case look at http://www.consumeractiongroup.co.uk/forum/showthread.php?222000-NEW-MOBILE-SCAM-you-may-be-entitled-to-3750

If you are worried about any aspect of your IT then just email it to us at sales@ktscomp.co.uk – even if you’re not a customer. We’ll do our best to send you a response by email.

You can also send us a question on Twitter    @Ask_Ken

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HMRC tax rebate could be a scam!

As you have probably heard in the news, many people are and will be receiving letters that may give them a tax rebate, or inform them they owe the HMRC money. As with all such public schemes, there is a criminal minority who take advantage and attempt to turn this into a money earning event – for them.

The scam is along the same lines as normal, produce an email that looks like it is from HMRC, even having the correct logos. However, there is usually a link inside the email to a phishing website, which, should you fill in your details you are opening yourself up to identity theft. You could lose the contents of your bank account. People already work hard enough for their money – don’t give it away to the criminal fraternity!

What should you do?

Firstly, HMRC don’t give out tax rebates via email. Their website states: “HMRC will never send notifications of a tax rebate by email, or ask you to disclose personal or payment information by email. If you have received an email claiming to be from HMRC that you suspect may be fraudulent, please forward it to phishing@hmrc.gsi.gov.uk.”. You can read this on http://www.hmrc.gov.uk/security/index.htm. So if you receive such an email – don’t click on any of the links, not even to ‘see what it looks like’. As soon as you click on the link, it is possible that your email address will be verified. This means that the spammers know your address is valid, so why not send you a few hundred more emails – you might like one of the other offerings instead!

At KTS Computers Ltd we want you to stay safe and secure, so if you are not sure, then please feel free to contact us for more information. If you have an IT question just email it to us at sales@ktscomp.co.uk – even if you’re not a customer. We’ll do our best to send you a response by email.

You can also send us a question on Twitter   @Ask_Ken

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Why your backup should be on-line

As business owners we want to ensure that our businesses continue to earn us money, but sadly the following facts about small businesses show this might not happen.

Losing data is a major source of anxiety for most businesses and we’d like to take that headache away by showing you how to get peace of mind with a reliable on-line back up system.

Had you considered these facts?

49% of small businesses forget to back up their data regularly or do it badly.
On-line backup is done automatically – you don’t have to rely on someone to remember to do it.

80% of businesses that suffer a major data loss or failure for more than 24 hours fold within 12 months.
If your data is backed up on line it will be put on a hard drive and couriered to you by next day at the latest.

Only 34% of companies that use tape backup check it, and of those that check, 77% notice some form of backup failure.
On-line back up doesn’t rely on a tape so there is nothing to interfere with fast efficient data recording.

Tape backup systems can cost from £400 + £175 worth of tapes + backup software which all has to be paid for up front.
On-line back up can cost from as little as £3 per month per workstation or £10 per month per server with no upfront payment.

And the moral is…

Don’t risk your business continuity – Don’t wait for a disaster to happen, pick up the phone and call us now on 01480 469019 for a complimentary – FREE – review of your back up system. Yes, that is at no charge but only until 16th August (The summer heat must be getting to us)!

If you have an IT question just email it to us at sales@ktscomp.co.uk – even if you’re not a customer. We’ll do our best to send you a response by email.

You can also send us a question on Twitter  @Ask_Ken

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