Protecting your business from disaster seems like an obvious strategy to reduce the risk of failure.
How many businesses have a Business Continuity Plan to minimise loss in the face of disaster?
What are the 5 key risks to business?
- Natural Disaster – fire, flood, earthquake, & cyclone.
- Security Breach – burglary, employee theft, vandalism & cyber-attack.
- Equipment Failure – infrastructure failure (sprinkler systems), IT hardware failures, broadband & utility failures.
- Compliance Breach – privacy, data confidentiality, data retention, tax, & OHS.
- Operational Breakdown – data loss, product recall, & service delivery failure.
Most of these risks effects on your business are predictable so you should be able to determine the correct course of action to minimize the impact an event on your business.
Focusing on the IT side of the risk mitigation:
- Natural Disaster – Offsite replication of data & cloud based infrastructure.
- Security Breach – Unified Threat management & scheduled backup of systems & data.
- Equipment Failure – Redundancy of broadband links & standby hardware.
- Compliance Breach – Centrally controlled IT security polices, user access & data retention.
- Operational Breakdown – Standby hardware & UPS power systems.
How can this be achieved in SMB Business?
Many of these goals can be achieved by using off the shelf solutions & professional IT support. Most businesses have similar IT requirements and can achieve a large number of BCP goals by simply implementing an ecosystem approach like Microsoft Office 365.
Office 365 is a hybrid cloud solution that provides hosted email & file storage that can means some goals such as backup, redundancy, compliance & operational control can be easily maintained in the face of a disaster. Office 365 is controlled from a remote central console so other areas such security policies, user access, and data retention can be maintained remotely by an outsourced IT specialist.
Of course, some of these risks remain within your premise and need to be assessed by an experienced IT person who can make recommendations as part of your plan. These would include plans for local backups, on site essential server replication to an offsite location, local user internet protection & core business application protection & data backup.
IT Assessment Recommendations
Ideally you should get an IT professional to look at your business as part of a bigger review of your operations with other experts. However just getting an IT assessment done on your business and listings their recommended solutions for to each type of risk outlined above will at a minimum will give you sense of the solutions and the time taken to recover.
Your Business Continuity Plan
Your BCP should be also part of your business strategic plan that in IT determines the longer term structure and IT risk that is acceptable to your business. In reality getting an IT assessment with a view to accepting an off the shelf solution like Office 365 with support by IT professional may provide 60% of the IT BCP plan with the local premise solutions evaluated individually,
Talk to your local Computer Troubleshooters about doing an IT assessment to keep your business running smoothly if you’re suddenly without your technology.
Microsoft’s Office 365 is now very much at the core of many small & medium business IT systems. With its enterprise class exchange messaging service and its default office suite products like Outlook, Excel, Word, and PowerPoint all available by subscription, it is difficult for some to understand why a business would need IT support outside the standard Microsoft technical support offering.
So it is worth exploring what can be expected of Microsoft technical support and what are the additional IT services a provider like Computer Troubleshooters can offer to your business.
Standard Microsoft Office 365 Technical Support
If something goes wrong with Office 365 support is a major issue – to assist you in understanding the role Microsoft support plays in helping with Office 365 should you encounter an issue, they (Microsoft) classify Office 365 technical support into 3 types:
- Critical: Events that prevent you from accessing or using your services or data, severely impact deadlines or profitability, or affect multiple users or services. Available: 24/7, Response time: one hour
- High: Events that affect the productivity of users but have moderate business impact, can be dealt with during business hours, or affect a single user, customer, or service. Available: business hours, Response time: no commitment
- Non-critical: Events that have minimal service or productivity impact on the business, such as a single user experiencing partial disruption, but an acceptable workaround exists. Available: business hours, Response time: no commitment
Microsoft’s Office 365 support is focused around the operation of their centralised hosted applications that they control within their data centres. Understandably individual support for your business is deprioritised without a commitment to answer, many non-critical events taking up to 24 hours to resolve and with some lesser events updated as decided by Microsoft. They will not support non Microsoft issues experienced with your business IT systems such as networking, security, & end user support.
This type of support policy ensures Microsoft can guarantee at 99.9% service level guarantee at an application level however at an Individual business level the experience can be considerably different.
How does professional IT support facilitate an Office 365 environment?
We manage your entire IT systems requirements in a holistic manner, from planning to execution with the ongoing responsibility for your business processes, security and end users. We administer the Office 365 platform to ensure maximum efficiency and minimal disruption. Areas including;
- Planning – Office 365 licensing, procurement & administration.
- Setup – Each user must be defined and setup on the Office 365 platform.
- Migration – Existing data, profiles and files need to be correctly setup.
- Administration – Your Office 365 platform is administered remotely to manage/add/change users, policies, and security.
- End User Support – Ongoing support & troubleshooting both remotely & on site for local users, for multiple devices and office network management.
What advantage does professional IT support provide?
Computer Troubleshooters already offers this type of skilled IT service to many of our clients for on premise equipment and we have extended our managed services to Office 365. Here’s why:
- Cost Control: Control costs by eliminating full time staff or expensive non local IT providers to manage your IT functions. By outsourcing IT support responsibilities to a local business, you pay only for the specific tasks you need accomplished and the service level your require, at an agreed monthly cost. Administration of Office 365 can be done remotely from our offices. As a product built for the Cloud it is designed to be supported remotely, reducing support costs, and improving response times. Plus you can also limit your initial capital outlay for IT infrastructure and running expenses (such as electricity).
- Expertise: Expertise and efficiency is immediately available by outsourcing your Office 365 Administration functions to a local expert. As a specialist we have developed tools for fast and accurate setup and migration plus we remotely manage multiple businesses on Office 365 so we are deeply knowledgeable on the platform applications. As a business owner, you won’t need to worry about an employee being trained, skilled and experienced to administer Office 365.
- Local Service: Simply call your local Computer Troubleshooters who you know & with whom you have a personal relationship, with the peace of mind that a skilled professional is available to help locally & who understands your business. NO overseas call centres. NO Identity checks. NO remembering account numbers & passwords. NO explaining your systems to THEM every time.
Stay Ahead of the Competition with a Managed Office 365 IT environment
Computer Troubleshooters can provide professional IT services to your business to provision and administer Office 365 environments as needed, with no need to hire full time employees or large IT service providers. Let the experts at Computer Troubleshooters work with you to assess your IT needs and develop a customised 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.
Recently Microsoft has stepped up its messaging for the free Windows 10 update. Almost every day you will get a Microsoft pop up message inviting you install Windows 10 and suggesting a date for this to commence. So while Microsoft are keen to for you to schedule your Windows 10 download, is it going to be in your best interests to complete the update?
Since the launch of Windows 10, Microsoft has offered a free upgrade to Windows 10 for Windows 7, 8 & 8.1 users, this offer is set to close at the end of July 2016. No indication has yet been made by Microsoft of extending this offer.
First released in July 2015 the Windows 10 operating system is now on over 300 million devices worldwide and by most reports is an improvement on Windows 7 & 8 in both speed & functionality.
So if you choose to do the Windows 10 down what do you expect:
- The upgrade will take a significant amount of time usually 30 minutes to 1 hour, however this will depend on the internet connection you use.
- The upgrade will use around 3GB of data so make sure you have sufficient data allowance to download.
- It is recommended not to use a wireless broadband connection, as quite few have found themselves stuck mid download after losing a connection or racking up huge mobile data bills.
- Once installed the opening desktop screen will look completely different to the traditional Windows (pre Windows 8) desktop, dominated by icons and tiles, but don’t panic the underlying system logic remains fairly much the same.
- Within a few days most users are navigating the Windows 10 system as they always have, you just need to be patient.
- Windows 10 works seamlessly with Office 2016 and Office 365
- Just remember to take a backup before you embark on the Windows 10 update journey for your own piece of mind.
Are You Currently Using Windows 8 or 8.1?
For many users that are currently on Windows 8 or Windows 8.1, the new Windows 10 has the same look and feel but has improvements that make it faster & more featured. One of the main focuses of Windows 10 was to address the many complaints that were lodged about some of the downfalls of Windows 8. However, there are still issues that you need to consider.
If you are considering upgrading your PC or laptop from Windows 8, you will likely be thrilled with the changes and again should take advantage of the free offer. If you are a business that is considering upgrading from Windows 8, you will want to consult with a technology professional about the impact this type of change will have your business.
Are You Currently Using Windows 7?
Microsoft intends to keep Windows 7 on extended support until at least 2020, so there is no requirement that you change anything at this time. So you have a choice to stay where you are, or take on a free version of the new look operating system. If you are perfectly happy with your system today, then you can wait to move to the new operating system when you naturally upgrade your hardware.
Are You Using an Old Operating System or Software?
If you have a device that is currently using an operating system that was released before Windows 7, like Windows XP or Vista, you will have to pay for the upgrade. However, if you are still using a device with one of these older operating systems you need to consider an immediate upgrade to at least Windows 7, as your system is likely no longer secure. If you are using an older OS such as Windows XP you need to understand this is no longer supported by Microsoft and you are at considerable risk of malware & viruses.
You also need to be aware that older printers and applications may not be compatible with the newer operating systems. Therefore, if you are using older peripheral equipment or an older piece of software that you cannot live without, you will want to do some research on what your options are before you choose to upgrade.
The Windows 10 update is now a proven product, though not perfect, & those with Window 8 & 8.1 should take the free Windows 10 upgrade while it is available.
Those with Windows 7 should consider the change in look and feel before they upgrade – thankfully Microsoft has made downgrading back to Windows 7 relatively easy.
Those with older operating systems are confronted with the need to update regardless as XP & Vista become unsupported and over time more vulnerable to attack.
Computer Troubleshooters can provide Windows 10 update help or if you experience an issue with a Windows 10 download we can support you to make it work correctly. Or if you simply are wary of doing the Windows 10 update yourself we can complete the download & setup for you. Call your local Computer Troubleshooters today for Windows 10 support & advice.
Tech Support: 7 Deadly Signs You Should Never Ignore
We have all done it, we all ignore some very blatant signs that something is wrong with our computers deferring the call for tech support. We will let it go or find a workaround to push off having to deal with the problem as long as possible. Unfortunately, that often means we put it off until something really bad occurs and we are thrust into a very costly or even devastating situation.
To avoid the risk of a serious emergency for your business, watch for these signs indicating your technology may be in need of professional tech support:
- Regular pop up messages;
- This often includes critical issue like renewing your security software or installing important updates for your operating system or applications, if they not being completed you are vulnerable to security attacks.
- One or more systems are running unusually slow;
- This can be a sign of hardware starting to fail or software corruption.
- Your system regularly freezes up and forces a reboot for no apparent reason;
- You may have a hard drive on the brink of complete failure and the potential for loss of important data if not addressed immediately.
- You face the “Blue screen of Death” or a blank black screen;
- This generally happens with older systems, when disk sectors are failing they can often have difficulty loading the operating system, while it may work when you reboot it is a sign that all is not right and a future catastrophic disk failure maybe round the corner.
- An application closes without warning;
- When a business application closes without warning it could mean you don’t have the latest version of the application or that your operating system is not compatible with the version you are using.
- Your system is making noises;
- Like any electronic device, computers need to be properly maintained and regularly cleaned. Any unusual noise should be looked at right away and can be as simple as a dirty fan or as critical as a failing hard drive.
- Blinking or flashing screens;
- If you experience screen resets in the middle of using applications it may mean your video card or graphics chip is failing and is a clear warning sign that it will fail permanently in the future.
Computers and software are likely one of the most expensive and important assets in your office. Your business cannot run without them. It is critical that you make sure that they are properly maintained and that problems are addressed quickly by a professional tech support.
If any of the seven deadly situations listed above sound like your business or home, you need to call your local Computer Troubleshooter professional tech support right away. They will come to your office and work with you to assess the problems and determine the proper course of action that meet your needs and budget. Remember, even small issues can be a sign of a much bigger problem, so don’t put it off!
Microsoft Internet Explorer has been at the heart of the Windows Operating system as the default browser on most computers since the rise of the internet. With 11 versions since it made its debut on August 16, 1995 it has evolved with the internet.
Microsoft are keen to migrate everyone to the latest version of Internet Explorer 11 and have announced as at mid-January 2016 they will only push security updates and bug fixes to Internet Explorer 11 users currently running Windows 7, 8.1 and 10.
Those utilizing legacy versions of Microsoft’s Internet Explorer (8, 9, & 10) could be exposing themselves to malware and cyber-attacks that not only demolish your computer, but can lead to a slew of other hazards like identity theft.
To ensure security and an agile browsing experience, Microsoft Support highly recommends that users upgrade to Internet Explorer 11.
What’s new with Microsoft Internet Explorer 11?
If you are currently running on a legacy version of the popular web browser and are uncertain as to why you should upgrade, here’s what you can look forward to in Internet Explorer 11.
- Elite web browsing. Even if network speeds are slow, new support enables Internet Explorer 11 preview to have the fastest browsing ever. It also allows network requests to be formulated so information is received at lightning speeds.
- Streamlined navigation. Updates to how information is gathered helps search results feel instant.
- 2D and 3D capabilities. For gaming and other interactive content, Internet Explorer 11 is equipped with the latest Web Graphics Library standards. Internet Explorer 11 also maintains superior security, dependability, and performance.
- Excellent for all screens. No matter the size of the monitor or tablet you have, Internet Explorer 11 supports gyroscope input and display orientation lock. For the extra large screens, Internet Explorer 11 also has side-by-side browsing, multi-monitor support, and high pixels per inch (PPI) scaling.
- Superior compatibility. Internet Explorer 11 enhances compatibility with web standards, and real-time websites. Support has been fully integrated for popular web standards and improvements that forbid older websites from displaying incorrectly.
- Impenetrable Security. Internet Explorer 11 raised the bar on security to defend you, and your devices. Previous versions blocked 85% of malware, but IE 11 now has a 99% block rate.
What are the alternatives to Microsoft Internet Explorer?
On March 17, 2015, Microsoft announced that Microsoft Edge will replace Internet Explorer as the default browser on its Windows 10 devices and will work in tandem with Office 365 products. This effectively makes Internet Explorer 11 the last release, so maybe you might like to try something new & choose other browser providers as your default browser, here are a few alternative you might consider;
- Google Chrome is a freeware web browser developed by Google. It is estimated that Google Chrome has a 58% worldwide usage share of web browsers as a desktop browser. It is also the most popular browser for smartphones, and combined across all platforms at about 45%. It can easily be loaded onto Windows, Mac, Linux, Android, IPhone & iPad. Generally, it is believed that if your use Google as your home page that it runs better with Chrome.
- Mozilla Firefox (or simply Firefox) is a free and open-source web browser. Firefox It can easily be loaded onto Windows, Mac, Linux, Android, IPhone & iPad. It is preferred by many geeks and developers not only due to it open source coding heritage, but it is generally regarded as a low resource hungry alternative.
- Maxthon is deceptively powerful &, stuffed with lots of little features that you would never discover unless you knew they were there. There’s also an option to put the browser in split-screen mode. The browser comes with AdBlock Plus pre-installed, so you’re unlikely to ever be troubled by bothersome pop-up ads or auto playing videos. Maxthon’s trying to position itself as the “cloud browser”, with the option to share bookmarks, password and history from device to device – it has browsers for Windows, Mac, Android, iOS, Windows Phone and Linux. For those who don’t trust big corporations such as Google and Microsoft with such data, it’s another good option.
- The Tor Browser has a simple purpose: to prevent others from tracing your internet activity. It reroutes your internet traffic around a host of volunteer relays across the world, making it incredibly difficult – if not impossible – for anyone to trace the sites you visit back to your individual IP address. It is a derivative of the Mozilla Firefox open-source web browser and works on most devices and can be contained on a USB for complete anonymity. Why might you want to hide your location or identity? Of course, there are all manner of reasons, but there are some pretty strong legitimate ones too, such as whistleblowing from inside an organisation, to avoid having your browsing activity traced by an employer, or to post with complete anonymity on a forum or message board.
You should upgrade your version to Internet Explorer 11:
- How to upgrade to Windows 11. Generally, this upgrade will happen through automatic updates in Windows. However, if automatic updates are turned off, you will need to go to Control panel > Windows update > check for updates.
- How to know what version of IE you’re on. Open browser > click the Tools icon in the upper right > click on, About IE.
If you decide on a different browser:
- Simply search for the browser online then Download the software onto your device, generally once it is downloaded it will ask if you wish it to be become your default browser: Tick or click yes. The next time you access a link to the internet it will use the new browser.
- If this doesn’t happen Open your control panel & check your settings under Internet Options
.Do you need help with your internet browser?
Computer Troubleshooters can help resolve many issues in accessing the internet and fixing the settings and software on your computers. We can also provide recommendations on internet security & network setups to help you get the best performance to reduce the risk of a security breach. Call your local Computer Troubleshooters office today for help and advice or use our locator to find your nearest Computer Troubleshooters location.
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 abotnet; 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 everyone on 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
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.