As you take time to prepare for Hurricane Irene headed our way this weekend we recommend you take a few minutes and think about your IT disaster plan. There are a few simple steps you can take before the storm hits to keep you in good shape:
For your home:
- Check your backup and make sure it’s current. Once you know it’s current make sure you have a backup offsite somewhere. That can be anywhere you deem safe… the cloud, a safe location in your home (safe from water damage), or a relative’s house outside the storm range. Just make sure your backup is up-to-date and that it’s in at least two locations.
- Charge up all your devices like cell phones, laptops, and any other gadgets you may want to use to help weather the storm. Don’t forget a battery powered radio!
- Pull out that old school telephone. Any phone that needs to be plugged in won’t do you any good in a power outage.
- Make sure all appliances are plugged into a surge strip. Many small appliances have small computer components built in and are susceptible to damage during power surges (things like new refrigerators, washing machines etc). If it’s not plugged into a decent surge strip unplug it for the duration of the storm.
- Take care of all your online research before Irene hits. If your power goes out you won’t have access to the internet since your cable modem/router will be down. Don’t rely on your cell either since the network could be bogged down and unreliable. Do your research and “googling” now.
For your business:
- Again, check your backups and make sure you have a copy offsite. If your building gets flooded your backup is useless if all your backup tapes or drives are damaged with the server.
- Consider shutting down any servers, or large equipment. If you think your power may go out for an extended period of time, or may go out and come back on unexpectedly we recommend shutting down for the duration of the storm. Basic UPS devices typically last a short period of time and aren’t designed to keep your systems up for an extended period of time.
- Check that all equipment is plugged into surge strips or power protection devices. All equipment such as PCs, fax machines, printers, and postage meters are susceptible to damage from a surge. If they are not in a strip unplug them.
- Print out a list of key contact information and bring it home with you. This list should include key employees, important customers and clients, and vendor information. If you can’t get into your systems on Monday you want to have the information handy if you need to make some calls.
Shopping for a new computer? Not ready to be bombarded with a bunch of computers that all appear very similar, but have a ton of differences? When comparing types of computers, you might want to consider how frequent you will (or won’t) be traveling with the computer and also how much storage space and memory will be sufficient.
A laptop computer is primarily mobile and meant to sit on your lap or even to keep in one place for an extended period of time without the commitment of a desktop. Laptops are meant to replace desktops in mobility, structure and size. They aren’t meant to be easy to travel with per say, but rather a convenience as a mobile device when compared to a desktop. A notebook computer is just another name for a laptop.
Netbook computers are like mini laptops, primarily meant for travel, and smaller and lighter than laptops. Netbooks have no CD or DVD drive built in, have less storage space, and have less computing power, though generally are less expensive and used for basic computing, like Internet surfing and word processing.
A tablet computer is a conveniently compact, single screen device used with the touch of your finger or a stylus pen. Tablets are generally used for basic gaming, movie watching, doodling, reading, social media, and basic e-mailing. The tablet market is stuck in the midst of a popularity battle with companies like Microsoft, Google, and Blackberry against the famous MAC tablet, the iPad.
Other Tablets vs iPad. Some say there’s no contest when comparing other tablets to the iPad as if the iPad is in a league of its own. That may be true, but why are so many people torn when shopping for a tablet? (Let’s save this comparison for its own blog entry.)
A convertible laptop is a laptop that transforms from a standard laptop into a touch screen tablet by twisting and flipping the laptop screen to hide the full keyboard underneath leaving just the use of the screen for use with your fingers or a stylus pen.
Desktop vs Laptop. Easily said, a desktop computer stays in one place and is basically the ultimate commitment, but allows a larger, more powerful system to be used since the cost associated with mobility is not a factor. While a laptop is meant for mobility when convenient, some features, like hardware upgrade options, are sacrificed.
The all-in-one desktop generally has similar components to a laptop, using the smaller versions of a hard drive, USB outlets, optical drive, and any other devices all enclosed or located within the computer monitor eliminating the need for a CPU tower. The all-in-one desktop comes with a full keyboard and is used just like a regular desktop, but it generally has less storage and memory when compared to a full desktop. The elimination of the CPU is a great space saver.
For more advice on which type of computer is right for you, ask a computer consultant today!
Depending on what computer programs are running when booting up your PC, you may be able to speed up the process by disabling some unnecessary programs.
In order to customize your computer startup options, you will need to do the following:
1. First, hold down the Windows Key button on your keyboard and press “R”. This combination will open the “Run” window. From here, you can type into the box “msconfig” without the quotes and hit enter.
2. You will now be in the “System Configuration” Window. Click on the “Startup” tab and look for any programs that you don’t need to start up when the computer first boots. Uncheck these items, click OK and reboot your PC.
3. When your PC comes back up, a window will appear saying that you’ve used System Configuration Utility to make a change to the startup. Check off the box to stop this reminder, then click OK.
If you need further advice on which computer programs and software you definitely need running during startup and which ones you do not, please ask our team of computer techs.
Company websites provide a few different ways to contact the business with service related questions or technical issues by listing a phone number to call, an address to mail or visit, and more commonly these days is a free online service to chat with a live customer service representative who will create a support ticket for you.
When visiting a company website looking for a way to report a technical issue, you may see a “free chat service” button on the service or support page or a little box that flies onto the screen with a photo of a person wearing a headset with text that reads, “Want to chat? Click here now”. Instead of sitting on your phone selecting options and waiting on hold for 5 minutes, live chat service provides the opportunity to get answers fast. Chatting with a customer service rep can be convenient to find out new information, report a technical issue or ask a question about a company service. The customer service representative can quickly create a new service ticket and schedule time for a technician to assist you with your issue.
Some benefits to using live chat for service or support issues are:
- Your question or issue is handled almost immediately
- Generally, you find out more information than before the chat started
- Whether your question is answered right away or an appointment is made for an actual phone call with a technician, most likely you will be more satisfied by the end of the conversation knowing an action plan
- A transcript of the entire chat conversation can be e-mailed to save in your records and for future reference
So next time you are visiting a company website looking for a way to submit a service request and you see a “Want to chat?” button, take advantage of the opportunity to chat with a live customer service rep for technical assistance or ask a general question; you will probably feel more satisfied than you did before the chat began.
Want to install a free customer chat program to service current and potential clients visiting your company website? Try using Comm100, a free customer service and customer communication software provider. Click here to read more and install the software, http://www.comm100.com/livechat/install.aspx
If Malware is preventing you from getting on the internet, usually it’s caused by a bogus “proxy server” that’s been setup to hijack your internet browsing activity. You could contact a computer consultant, or try fixing the issue yourself….
1. Get in via Safe Mode.
To do this, hit the F8 key when you startup your PC and the select to boot into “Safe Mode with Networking”. The “With Networking” part will be important to troubleshooting when you can get online again and to download some tools once you’re in Safe Mode.
Once Microsoft Windows loads, it will alert you that you are running Windows in Safe mode and click “OK” to continue.
2. Open Internet Explorer.
Select “Tools” then “Internet Options.” Click the “Connections” tab. On this “Connections” tab click the “LAN Settings” button.
Here is where the “Proxy server” settings are. Uncheck any checkboxes for Proxy Servers. Then hit “OK” on this Window and finally hit “OK” on the Internet Options window.
If a proxy server was at fault, you should now be able to get online for the time being. However, I’d recommend you stay in Safe Mode, and use this oppertunity to download, install, and run a legitimate Antivirus, and more importantly an “Anti-Malware” program. If you don’t have one already, I’d recommend AVG Free, and Malwarebytes Anti-Malware. A virus may have allowed the Malware to get installed, but running an Anti-Malware program like Malwarebytes is the most important at this point, because Malware is what’s popping up and preventing you from getting online.
Mailing Checks Vs. Online Bill Pay
It’s an age-old process: receive mail, open envelope, get paper cut, cry a little, get a band-aid, finish taking document out of envelope, browse over document, write check, place check in provided envelope, place stamp on envelope, slap address label on envelope… you get the point. Sounds like a lot of work. What about using the computer you’re already sitting in front of, browse to your online bank account, click “bill pay”, enter dollar amount, and click “submit”. Online bill pay is more efficient, environmentally-friendly and just plain smart. How can a small business owner on the top of their game still keep filing cabinets full of old paid bills and copies of bank deposits?
Why still mail invoices to customers? You use e-mail for everything else, so this super quick method to get an identical copy of the same document sent to clients in mere seconds sounds like the way to go.
Newspapers and Magazines
How long are you keeping customers waiting in your lobby? Hopefully not long enough to read an entire two page article in Forbes Magazine or the Boston Globe. Why not upgrade to the 21st century and invest in an economical flat-screen LCD monitor mounted on the wall and play a slideshow of your company services or stream the local news? This shows customers you are up with modern times and aren’t promoting the spread of germs by sharing table literature. The only paper on tables should be versatile, like company brochures and informational booklets that you can also bring on sales calls and hand out at tradeshows.
Who still uses a fax machine? A better way to fax is signing up for an online fax service. You upload the file you would normally print then send it over the Internet to the receiver’s fax machine. Or you could simply e-mail the same document without the use of an online fax service at all. Thinking of buying a new fax machine? Why not spend that $500 on a new scanner to scan those millions of paper documents sitting in your clunky filing cabinets and perform a little thing called digital archiving. And while you’re at it, develop a new company procedure to scan documents for storing in an organized, shared filing system on your company network.
Paper is not an investment. Technology is.
Phrases like “My kid knows computers” or “My brother is a programmer” have come up more than a few times over the years and it almost always leads up to why I am now looking at computer problems. What these phrases are usually trying to convey is that someone who knows the basics already looked at it and it’s something more advanced. Indeed, it sometimes can be a complex problem that required a qualified person to address the issue, but more often it is a simple solution that was easily overlooked. Other times it is a problem that has only been made worse by the person who was “Tech Savvy”.
In today’s world, Information Technology encompasses such a vast array of fields that training in one field by no means makes one qualified for another field. A person who programs database systems would probably not have the experience necessary to deal with a virus outbreak on the network, or design the proper infrastructure for a server hosting solution, just as an Auto Body tech would probably not be qualified to rebuild your car’s transmission or work on the drive train.
Ads on the radio or TV may talk about doing a series of night classes that train you to take exams to become a certified Computer Technician. What the ads don’t say is that many of the groups creating these exams will recommend a certain amount of experience, sometimes a couple years in the field, before studying for and taking these exams, so that the person knows how this applies in practice. As a result, numerous people may acquire these certifications, but not the experience to back them up, or understand the reasons behind material.
Indeed, lack of experience can be a dangerous factor that could make a problem worse. Without knowing the difference between a “System Restore” and a “Factory Restore”, instead of reverting to the state Windows was at two days ago, not affecting your data in any way, you could instead wind up erasing all of your programs and data. Also, a person who doesn’t understand the reasoning behind proper licensing may install illegitimate software and open up the possibility for security holes, virus infection and legal issues.
IT is a field where because technology is constantly changing, people are constantly learning. Because there is so much to learn in varying fields of IT, it is not only important for someone to be qualified in their specific field, but also to know where the extents of their experience are. Being able to provide their experienced services where they are applicable and refer others who can assist in areas beyond is part of providing proper service, and is more important than trying to appear “Tech Savvy.”
Many local businesses still rely heavily on word-of-mouth and printed material for marketing to existing and perspective clients. Now in the digital age, the most tangible and effective method of communication and interaction between businesses and consumers is for companies to own a custom-made website on the Internet. A unique, one-of-a-kind, company branded website provides a good sense of what the company will be like even before a phone call or visit to the store; sort of like making a sale before the sale.
Does your small business currently have a company website? I applaud those of you who raised your hand. As for the rest of you, what’s the hold up? Continuing to let your business spiral down the drain by not having a company website is really a terrible plan for a successful future in your industry. Your competitors are probably thriving based on great customer service, great selection of products and services, and also because they have a company website.
Here is a good analogy explaining why having a company website is vital: You know those annoying CAPTCHA things on websites where you have to enter a random practically undecipherable code to ensure the response you’re submitting is not generated by a robot? Yeah, those. Having a company website is sort of like that: your company website cannot be updated by a robot nor can a robot pay for your monthly hosting service to keep your company website online. In other words, if your company website is up and running, your business must be as well. While it can take months for Yellow Pages to update your business listing and a week for the mailman to deliver your company newsletter, a website can be updated in seconds. To put it all into perspective: the magazine issue that published your product of the month club ad in 1997 will continue to exist long after your business goes under.
At the end of the day, the only sure way for prospective customers to know your small business is still going full force is to visit your company website on the Internet; hopefully containing fresh content, highlighting new products and services, all in hopes of increasing sales and contribute to your already flourishing business.