Windows 10 is the latest Operating System (OS) from Microsoft; you may have noticed a Windows 10 notification on your current system. What does it all mean & what should you do?
Microsoft have has announced that eligible computers running Windows 7 or Windows 8.1 can gain a free upgrade to Windows 10 from the of 29th of July. This free upgrade offer is available to be taken over the next 12 month; those who are eligible will receive a system icon and popup on their screens.
Windows 10 notification
Once you have the notification after this date you will be able to upgrade. But the question is should you upgrade or not. Most experts are confident about the stability of this operating system than any previous version. The end user testing (through the Windows Insider program) has been unprecedented, so a significant amount of feedback has already gone into this product from technical people who are very particular! That doesn’t guarantee that your upgrade will go smoothly, but all software upgrades come with a degree of risk.
Windows 10 Recommendation
Our general recommendation is to initially hold off upgrading until there are sufficient worldwide users to stress test the OS and isolate any bugs that may have slipped through testing, after a few weeks there will be a consensus on performance. The free upgrade offer will be available until at least 29th July 2016 so there is no rush. Some of your applications may not work properly or some features may not function. QuickBooks has been identified as a potential problem, for example. Intuit does not have Windows 10 on their supported Operating Systems. Windows 10 introduces a totally new browser called Microsoft Edge/Spartan, replacing Internet Explorer. This is sure to offer challenges and compatibility issues with web based applications many of our clients depend on every day.
Why upgrade to Windows 10?
Windows 10 is regarded as a mesh of the best of Windows 7 look & the enhanced apps & multi device functionality from Windows 8.1. Here are some reasons to upgrade:
- Improved performance – including decreased boot-up time, which is markedly quicker, while better hardware acceleration and a host of other tweaks mean general navigation feels nippier, too. Power management has also been improved, so mobile device battery life tends to be a little longer
- Design – if you were hesitant to move to Windows 8.1 due its look, then Windows 10 takes a compromised view with the with the flat windows and bold colours taking over, but with the old comfort of the Control Panel and Computer Management interfaces using old icons
- Search – Windows 10 greatly enhances the features of search that was started in Windows 7, useful search functions that will quite rapidly look up matching programs and documents as you type. It also provides quick access to core features and your chosen programs. It’s simple but effective. Click on the now separate search box and it will also now include Windows Store apps and web search, with results shown in a much more organised fashioned.
- File Management the tools used for finding and managing your files are some of the most oft used and fundamental to a good operating system. A new Share ribbon which makes it much easier to move files between different apps such as Outlook, Dropbox or Skype. Now copying/moving tasks are grouped into one window for easier management. Transfer speed is also shown in real time and operations can also be paused, where they could only previously be cancelled.
- Tablet Mode & Touchscreens – Windows 10 is a vast improvement over Windows 7 when it comes to user experience and operation on touchscreen devices. Windows 10 is designed to work smoothly across a range of devices, making it much easier to switch between your desktop, hybrid laptop and tablet.
- Price – we don’t know how much a standalone copy of Windows 10 will cost, but the big news is that it is free to upgrade from either Windows 7 or 8 for the first year of Windows 10’s life. So it is tempting, if you’ve got a copy of Windows 7 you’d almost feel like you’re missing out. After all, you can still downgrade back to whatever previous version of Windows you had if you decide you don’t like Windows 10.
If you can see the benefits of upgrading then make sure you read our advice on what to do Before & After you upgrade to Windows 10 or ask your local Computer Troubleshooters for some expert advice
Cryptolocker the planet’s worst ransomware trojan has reappeared in all its ugly forms. Across the world networks and computer files have been encrypted by this trojan before a ransom demand is made to the user or administrator. Some victims who don’t have adequate backup are losing all their files, or having to pay a ransom of thousands to the criminals who propagate this electronic curse.
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. Cryptolocker itself is readily removed, however encrypted files will remain locked unless the key is provided. Worse some who have paid the ransom, have not had the key provided being left with encrypted files and a big bill. It is estimated that around 3% of affected users pay the ransom requested.
Almost a year ago the US Department of Justice announced that the FBI and Interpol had publicly issued an indictment against a Russian hacker and had gained the keys to the malware. However it appears a new version and clones such as CryptoWall and TorrentLocker are back in business,
Security software is designed to detect such threats, however it may not detect Cryptolocker at all, or only after encryption is underway or complete, particularly if a new version unknown to the protective software.
To how do you get Cryptolocker?
Email is the primary entry point for the Cryptolocker Trojan into networks and computers. Cryptolocker typically is propagated as an attachment to a seemingly innocuous e-mail message, which appears to have been sent by a legitimate company. These emails may contain company logos and representations that they are legitimate: examples in Australia and New Zealand include Australia Post, New Zealand Post, The Australian Federal Police, Microsoft, UPS parcel deliveries, and several of the major banks.
The emails tend to offer legitimate services or ask a reasonable request as simple as a payment receipt, deliver document, or in the case of the Australian Federal Police scam asking you to view a speeding fine or photo. Once the attachment is clicked, the ransomware is deployed in your systems and then encrypts files across local hard drives and mapped network drives with the public key, and logs each file encrypted to a registry key. The process only encrypts data files with certain extensions, including Microsoft Office, OpenDocument, and other documents, pictures, and AutoCAD files.
If you think you have Cryptolocker?
Once the execution file for the encryption is completed it is almost impossible to unlock files without the key. If you suspect that you have clicked on a cryptolocker email it is important to shut down as soon as possible. The malware invades all mapped drives of the network, so any connected backup or external drives can be infected, as well other machines on the network can also catch the virus, so keeping the machine off and isolated is a very important part of reducing damage.
Once your machine is encrypted it is really a matter of isolating the machine from all networks, keep it turned off and disconnected from the internet. It then becomes a matter of determining the damage & spread, & if backups are available. It is a great time to call an IT Expert, like Computer Troubleshooters, who can advise the appropriate course of action, be it restoring the machine with backup, or paying the ransom (and in both cases removing the Cryptolocker virus) .
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.
Here is a our Checklist to protect Yourself, Your Family and Your Business from Cyptolocker
In both our professional and private lives, each of us needs to assume responsibility for our online activities. These responsibilities involve a combination of equipment maintenance and software updates coupled with appropriate online behavior and a constant vigilance against criminal activities. We suggest that you start with this brief checklist:
- Maintain a Clean Machine by running the most recent operating system, security software, apps and web browser as a defense against online threats such as viruses and malware.
- Security Software – every computer should have internet security protection to help detect Cryptolocker, it may also limit the harm done by warning you before the file is executed, should you accidently click on a host email.
- Firewalls and Encryption should be in use by businesses to secure their internet connection. Educate employees about passwords and internet security guidelines.
- Scams, Spam, and Phishing are hazards you can avoid. Don’t open e-mailed attachments from strangers and never click on unknown links contained within e-mails. Enable the filters on your e-mail programs to screen for spam. Beware of messages indicating upgrades, technical updates and special offers. These tactics are no longer limited to e-mail, so be vigilant when on social networking sites.
- Have a Backup to non networked drive – either rotate external drivesor have off site scheduled backup. Beware of using sync backups such as OneDrive as they can also be encrypted.
Computer Troubleshooters Can Help Your Business with Cyber Security
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.
In the popular 2008 film “Up in the Air,” George Clooney portrays a corporate downsizing expert who spends nearly all of his time flying around the country on business. In fact, the character actually spends 320 days per year on planes and in airports. His enthusiasm for air travel is partially based on his goal of accumulating 10 million frequent flyer travel miles. Clooney’s character does eventually achieve his frequent flyer travel goal, but by that point let’s not speculate on his health, wellbeing, social life or family relationships
Why Travel When You Can Skype?
Up in the Air” did depict the differences between face-to-face meetings and the video conferencing technology that was in use at the time. Now, seven years later video technology has steadily improved and business travel has dramatically declined. Flight cancellations, over sold flights, weather delays, lost luggage, overcrowding and cramped seats have conspired to make business travel even more frustrating and exhausting. Thankfully there are now great video communication alternatives to time-consuming and expensive business travel
Microsoft Introduces Skype for Business
Currently, over 300 million people use Skype every month to communicate with their long-distance family, friends and colleagues. Last year, Microsoft announced that they were updating Lync, their business-centric chat app, by meshing it with the strengths of Skype. Microsoft’s new upgraded product known as Skype for Business is based on Skype’s design while drawing on many of Lync’s features. Skype for Business is scheduled to roll out in May 2015. Here’s what you can expect from this new Microsoft business product:
- Microsoft has expanded Lync features in Skype for Business with enterprise-grade security, compliance and IT control.
- Accessibility enables users to search for and connect with anyone in the Skype network who is either inside or outside their organization. Simply use the Skype directory and contact any user on any device.
- Microsoft Office has integrated Skype for Business as a built-in feature that delivers instant messaging, voice, video calls and online meetings.
- Getting started with Skype for Business is easy because no new hardware is required. Current Lync users can simply update to the new Skype for Business Server in their datacenters. For Office 365 users, it’s very easy to get started because service is available through the online version of Office.
Are You Ready to Try Skype for Business?
If you never used Skype except for holiday “face time” chats with long distance family members or to keep tabs on your kids in college, you might want to reconsider the benefits of video conferencing for your business. If you have been using Microsoft Lync, it’s time to upgrade to Skype for Business.
Computer Troubleshooters can help you understand how your business can benefit by cutting back on travel expenses and increase efficiency with Skype for Business. If you are interested in learning more about video conferencing; want a demo of Skype for Business; or need guidance with the deployment of a new product, Computer Troubleshooters can help you. Call Computer Troubleshooters today how we can get you started with Office 365 and at the same time get your travel under control with Skype for Business.
Microsoft Windows Small Business Server was hugely popular with businesses of up to 75 people. The most recent version (SBS 2011) offers a combination of Windows Server 2008 R2 and Exchange Server 2010 in one box at very good price. It also includes SharePoint Foundation 2010 and SQL Server 2008 R2 Express and, with the additional purchase of a Premium Add-On pack, it can support applications that rely on SQL Server 2008 R2 Standard.
However, last July, Microsoft said Small Business Server 2011 would be the last SBS version and no longer be available for purchase. Support would also cease sometime in the future.
So, where does this leave businesses that previously would have used SBS as their low-cost, all-in-one server solution?
Microsoft would like you to purchase Windows Server 2012 Essentials, the product it has positioned as a replacement for SBS. Essentials is however quite a different animal altogether.
For one thing, it provides out-of-the-box support for just 25 users (and 50 devices.) If you have more than that, you must purchase the full-blown Windows Server 2012 Standard edition.
More importantly, one key attraction of SBS has been removed: Essentials doesn’t include Exchange at all. For that functionality, you’re expected to subscribe to Microsoft Office 365, use a hosted Exchange service or buy and run your own Exchange server on a separate physical box, all at an additional cost.
Our recommended Small Business Server Solution;
- Email – Small Businesses need to move to their email to Office365, or hosted Exchange, as a hosted solution it is an enterprise grade product supporting multiple device access (including Windows, Apple & Android apps for tablets and smartphones), syncing between devices, shared calendars & contacts, distribution groups, shared mailboxes, web based access, additional options include email archiving, compliance & retention polices – similar features to SBS
- Office 365 Licensing – Full Desktop versions of Outlook, Word, Excel & PowerPoint on a subscription basis able to be deployed on up to 5 PCs or MAC’s plus 5 tablets plus 5 Smartphones per user. Plus you get access to Lync (soon to be Skype for Business) which provides video conferencing, screen sharing, and instant messaging. Also included is SharePoint, a company intranet application, that enables file sharing and document management.
- Storage – Office 365 includes 1TB per user of OneDrive for Business cloud storage. For businesses requiring local storage for large data requirements and economical transfer, on premise Windows Server 2012 Essentials is the suggested solution.
- Backup – As a hosted service all Office 365 products are managed and backed up at the data centre. However most business will still require a backup solution for local workstations and locally stored files. OneDrive for business can be configured as the cloud repository however data transfer sizes may mean that Windows Server 2012 Essentials is a better option also backing up shared files and application stored locally.
- Applications – If you have locally based shared applications (such as MYOB) we can look at hosting on Windows Server 2012 Essentials or if you are looking for a cloud based alternative look to Microsoft Azure or similar services. Network Printing may also require a local server depending on your hardware and network.
- Support – As Microsoft partners we aim to be your single point of contact for all your IT. We administer and manage your of Office 365, plus we can manage your workstations, security, and on premises networks to keep your business systems performing.
We can help with your Small Business Server Solution
If you need guidance and support on the complex decision please give us a call. We can sit down with you and explain the difference options, discuss alternatives for you business and ultimately make a recommendation. We are able to transform you business, migrate your existing data, and provide you with the support you need to make the change.
If you require guidance give your local Computer Troubleshooters office a call today and one of our technology professionals will be happy to discuss how we can help.
The Thrill is Gone – do you remember that classic blues song? It’s a heart-breaking reminder about the loss of a once exhilarating and passionate connection. It’s a bitter realization when the old spark seems gone forever. Somehow over time, all the previous excitement has simply fizzled out. Excuse us, but we are talking about your relationship with your computer!
How is Your Relationship with Your PC?
Yes, even your formerly beloved computer can slow down over time until the thrill is most definitely gone. Honestly, does your computer seem unresponsive, sluggish and outdated? Are those exciting new models starting to turn your head? Maybe you and your cranky computer just need a little professional help to rekindle that old flame.
Tips on Learning to Love Your PC Again
It’s very likely that the relationship between you and your computer is salvageable, it just needs a little extra attention. Try these steps to put some zip back in the relationship with your computer:
- Slow Startup? Does it take your computer way too long to wake up and get started with the day’s tasks? It’s possible that there are too many non-critical programs launching during the startup process. Streamline the start-up process by consulting with a technology professional who can identify unnecessary programs that are slowing down the functioning of your computer. Cutting back on these boot problems should speed things along.
- Is Your PC Bloated? PC makers often throw in a lot of free tools. Initially, it sounds good to have all of those freebies, but a lot of techies call those freebies “bloatware” for a good reason. It’s possible your PC is running slowly because of bloat. If these free programs aren’t helping you, removing them might lighten the load on your computer.
- Ready to add RAM? Does it seem like your old PC is in a perpetual state of sleep-walking? Is it nearly overwhelmed every time it has to open a spreadsheet? If yes, then maybe it’s time to spend a few bucks and add more RAM or memory. To assess your current RAM status, check System Properties to see what you have onboard. How much RAM should you add? Do you simply surf the net and check your e-mail or do you have a kid who’s a high speed gaming fanatic? Have a technology professional properly assess your needs and add the required RAM to your PC.
- Is Your PC Ready for a Second Life? Didn’t everyone’s grandmother use the phrase – “don’t throw good money after bad?” At some point, it’s probably not worth pumping more money into a really old PC. That doesn’t mean it can’t still enjoy a second life as something other than your smoking hot primary computer. Turn it into a secondary computer. Do you love “old-school” gaming, then check into those older games that can run on your older operating system. You can also donate it to a local school, daycare center or charity organization if it’s not completely ancient.
- Time to Retire and Recycle? If your old PC is not even up to enjoying a second life, maybe it’s time to pull the plug. If you are going to retire your PC, remember to be responsible to both the environment and yourself. First, be sure to eliminate all of your data from the PC. Deleting files, emptying the recycle bin or reformatting the hard drive is not enough to cover your tracks. Even the browser’s cache, cookies and e-mail contacts can contain sensitive information. Don’t jeopardize your digital security. Contact a technology professional for assistance with secure data removal. Also, be environmentally responsible and never toss an unwanted PC in a dumpster. Recycle the equipment through a reputable recycler.
Improve Your Relationship with Your Computer
Those lyrics, “If you can’t be with the one you love, love the one you’re with,” can also apply to computers. If you can’t afford a new computer at this time, it’s very likely that your current computer can be improved with some professional maintenance. Computer Troubleshooters can help you increase the efficiency of an older PC with a little TLC and maybe some added RAM. Consider a deep cleaning to remove unnecessary programs that are doing nothing but slowing down the functioning of your PC. 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.
Microsoft have confirmed that they will end support for their popular Server 2003 product range on the 14th of July 2015. It was first released on April 24, 2003. An updated version, Windows Server 2003 R2, was released on December 6, 2005. This product range also includes Small Business Server 2003.
These products were aimed towards the small to medium-sized businesses. Supporting file and printer sharing, secure Internet connectivity, centralised desktop application deployment, and in the case of Small Business Server the addition of Microsoft Exchange (email) and SQL (database).
When Microsoft ceases support for Server 2003 they will no longer issue security updates or software patches for any version of Server 2003. If you continue to use this product it will be like basing your business on a piece of equipment that is 12 years old, no longer serviced, and who the manufacturer no longer provides parts.
Ultimately businesses who continue to use Server 2003 will take on declining performance & escalating risk over time.
Upgrade or your business systems due to Security and Compliance Issues
If you are still using Server 2003 or Small Business Server 2003, you should take this situation seriously or your business will be negatively impacted with some significant consequences. You should consider the following information as you make your Server 2003 migration plan.
- Security Risks:The biggest problem is the security threat to your business. Without the security provided by an updated operating system, all of your business data and personal information is vulnerable to harmful viruses and spyware. There is a strong likelihood that malicious viruses will be developed & unleashed on Server 2003 once it is no longer supported. No business owner wants to think about a being attacked by Malware or their business not being able to function properly.
- Compliance Issues:For many businesses, continuing to operate a non supported software can result in compliance issues leading to the suspension of certifications, and/or public notification of the organisation’s inability to securely maintain its systems and customer information. Compliance problems can place your business in legal peril and seriously damage your business’ reputation.
- Upgrade Expenses:As a business owner trying to control costs, do you think an upgrade will be too expensive? Think again. The problems that are likely to arise can cost your business significantly more than the upgrade.
The good news is that Microsoft provides a number of alternatives that may suit your situation & budget.
So what are the alternatives for your business?
- Windows Server 2012 R2 – Windows Server 2012 R2 offers a lengthy list of improvements compared with Windows Server 2003, including integrated virtualization, better security, extensive scalability, new operational roles, script execution capabilities, and far more. While it is a substantial learning curve to move directly from Windows Server 2003 to Windows Server 2012 R2, customers are well advised to not make an interim upgrade to Windows Server 2008 as that product has already gone to end of mainstream support in January 2015. Licensing & hardware investment can be significant to facilitate this migration.
- Office 365 – This is a Microsoft cloud hosted version of much of the server software product plus it can be provisioned with the full range of Office software such as Email Outlook, Word, PowerPoint & Excel. By subscribing to this per user per month service you can avoid investing in new hardware, on site running costs (such as electricity, rent, air con, security) & for larger companies in house IT staff. Smooth migration from Server 2003 to office 365 requires professional user management and ongoing administration much like a server, but without the critical infrastructure management (Microsoft does this in their data center), so IT support can more easily be outsourced.
- Microsoft Azure – This is a hosted server product that Microsoft has developed for IT integrators to host server infrastructure centrally and control locally, so software & application can be deployed & managed on an individual rather than collective basis. An Office 365 & Azure hybrid (using virtualization) may be a practical alternative for industries that have developed applications that are reliant on 32 bit technology that was the core of the 2003 product and may not be compatible with the 64 bit technology
Do you have a Server Migration plan in place?
Microsoft has flagged this drop dead date for support for a serious reason, so this is not a situation you can simply ignore. It’s happening on July 14 2015, so mark your calendar. Most large organisations have been working on their migration plans for years. For small-medium sized business owners, the hour is getting late so we strongly encourage you to take action today!
Computer Troubleshooters encourages you to take this situation seriously and develop a migration plan immediately. Our experts can help you understand your migration options and work with you to develop an upgrade strategy for your business. Call your local Computer Troubleshooters office today before you run out of time.