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Making sense of Communication Solutions for Small business

Posted on: 05/24/2017 | by: arlou

In today’s connected business environment communication solutions are more critical than ever, yet deciding on what system, which technology, which provider is very difficult due to the variety and mix of solutions that are available. This article looks at assisting a business in navigating this very complex and difficult decision.

What is the starting point?

This is the easy part start with documenting what it is you require by analysing the business environment that you operate in. Sounds simple enough but it is often overlooked or not completed. This is where you will gain a clear picture of your requirement and your needs.

Some of the factors/questions that need to be looked at are: how does your business interact with customers? Do you have a dedicated team undertaking outbound activities, do you run a support centre? How big is the sales team? Is the sales team office based or mobile? How many calls will be active at any point in time? How many locations are employees located at? Do you have any compliance issues? What is the expected new numbers of employees next 12 months, 24 months? What level of integration is required across your systems and technologies? E.g. CRM System.

The above list is by no means exhaustive but it does start to provide a guideline for what is needed to consider in defining the requirement.

What are the key factors in evaluating a solution?

When evaluating a solution, the key criteria will cover Cost both initial investment and ongoing monthly recurring costs, Quality i.e. sound voice quality, including reliability of connection and speed, Ease of implementation i.e. level of training required, feature functionality, level of support provided and Adaptability being the ability to scale with expansion or contract if required.

Understanding your requirement by documenting it enables one to better identify the key criteria by which every solution can be rated and evaluated. This process enables an effective decision to be made.

Considerations

Cloud Based Phone System V Traditional Physical Phone systems

Cloud phone systems have been heralded as the future of business communications. A cloud based system is simply a service that delivers calls and PBX -style functionality over an internet connection (Voice over Internet protocol VOIP)

Traditional phone system is based around a copper landline that is serviced by a telephone company such as Telstra. Typical equipment required includes an on-premise PBX hardware that may need to be upgraded as your employee numbers grow past the capacity of the PBX hardware you have purchased.

Feature comparisons between Traditional and Cloud Based systems

Both traditional and Cloud based phone systems have extensive functionality that will meet many business needs. Some people consider that there is greater programming capability with a VOIP system and less capital investment is required with VOIP solutions.  My comment is that you need to ensure you have a solution that gives you the features you need now and in the next five years. You do not want to be changing phone solutions every 3 years. That is a very expensive exercise.

Speed of deployment/ Business Interruption

When assessing which system to purchase ensure that you have identified how much time is required to install and deploy the system as it is a key to minimizing the disruption to a business. Every minute a business is not available to conduct business the greater the impact on overall viability of the business.

Bandwidth/Internet Connection

A VOIP system requires a broadband connection and the more simultaneous users using the system means more bandwidth is required. Check to see if your Internet Service provider has a bandwidth cap in place and check the data usage regularly so you do not exceed the cap. Exceeding the cap is going to impact quality.

Final Thoughts

As a small to medium business you need to decide for your communication systems that is right for the business.  A Computer Troubleshooters Service provider can assist you at all stages of the process of implementing a phone communication system. This is from the initial selection to implementation and ongoing support.

While there are many positives in implementing a VOIP system remember no matter what solution you choose there is always positives and negatives the final decision should always be based around the objective criteria you have defined.

VOIP Phone Systems

Advantages                                                        Concerns

Sophisticated                                                       Provider response times

Easily set Up and configured                                   Extent of support

Cost                                                                    Dependence on provider

Easy to scale                                                        Educating staff in the system

Expansive Features                                              System Software upgrade disruptions

Comparable call quality to landlines                        Availability of Bandwidth

No investment in hardware PBX                             Reliability of provider network

Soft calls receiving calls via your desktop or laptop     Power outages

In conclusion, The Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACME) reported in 2014 (Australian SME’s in the Digital Economy 5-6) “that cloud services continue to gain acceptance and popularity with small and midsized businesses.”

The move to VOIP Unified Communications will continue and your local Computer Troubleshooter is there to help you make the right decision.

Increasing Business productivity: Leads to greater success?

Posted on: 04/25/2017 | by: arlou

For every business owner, no matter what size of business you are managing knows that a key to success is ensuring that your business is increasing staff productivity. Why? Because the more productive you are means that you are increasing the output of the business at a lower cost per unit of output which means an increase in profits. In simple terms getting more done with less.

What is the role of technology?

The answer to that is quite simple as technology permeates our daily working lives. Think about what life was like with no mobile phones, no email, no internet, no electronic calendars, no collaboration tools and technologies like Skype.  Technology today is so cost effective that all businesses can now afford to use these technologies to increase productivity.

Business productivity is the absolute focus of Microsoft Office 365. It is about ensuring that staff have access to: email 24/7 on any device that they use, remote access to data through the cloud and being able to work on that data via software such as Excel and Word etc.

One of the keys for every small to medium business is to ensure that technology is being managed and implemented across the business in a smooth and seamless manner so that their people are working at optimal levels to maximize the businesses productivity resulting in the best possible results.

How does technology impact on business productivity?

Overcoming the challenges of executing on a business strategy daily is where technology has the biggest impact for businesses. Using technology to create automation of tasks allows employees to communicate faster and effectively, give employees an ability to focus on the priorities that will deliver the results that the business is looking for.

When assessing business productivity tools such as MS Office 365, it is imperative that the business understands how it will help?

How?

  • Create an open and communicative environment.
  • Connect teams virtually within the company.
  • Motivate your employees using technology.
  • Monitor business productivity and employee progress on goals. Analyze performance
  • Create a flexible workforce no matter where they are they can access what they need
  • Stay secure and compliant.

How can Computer Troubleshooters help you with Office 365?

The team at Computer Troubleshooters can help you across all stages of your implementation, from assisting you to identify the plan you need, implementing the package including the setup and migration of your email to Microsoft Office 365, to the ongoing management of your solution under a monthly subscription plan. To locate your nearest Computer Troubleshooter Click here

 

What are the key benefits for Business Owners?

Some things to think about are:

  • Capital investment– do you prefer to invest to upgrade systems or use a pay as you go subscription model?
  • Space and operating requirements – do you need to run your own infrastructure?
  • Maintenance – would hosting dramatically reduce staff or outsource costs for your IT support?
  • Scalability – will you need to add or reduce users in the future?
  • Operating control – can you trust an external IT expert to remotely manage your systems?
  • Applications – can you use hosted applications or do you need to host locally?
  • Data usage and file sizes – are your business characteristics suitable to use hosted applications?
  • Broadband speed and capacity – can your internet bandwidth handle hosted usage?
  • Statutory data retention – does your business have a requirement to hold and protect data?

By implementing Office 365 will productivity increase?

Productivity does not increase simply by implementing Office 365 it is important that you educate your staff in how to use the technology effectively and to have identified a range of business processes and activities that can benefit from the technology and make certain you get the buy in of your staff to those changes. The lesson to remember is to have a plan of action for the change you are introducing to your business.

For Small to Medium Business: To Managed services or not?

Posted on: 03/28/2017 | by: arlou

Too many small to medium business owners increase the risk to their survival by being reactive rather than being proactive in managing their IT infrastructure, hardware, software, usage of cloud services, smartphones and the internet.

One must ask the question why? The answer has a variety of answers. Some of it is because that’s the way we have always done it, sometimes it’s a lack of understanding of how reliant small to medium businesses have become on IT, however the main reason is an attitude around perceived cost. Yes, they see managing IT proactively as, not delivering a return on investment but rather, a cost that reduces the bottom line.

The key considerations for small to medium business owners is to understand that being reactive is more expensive than taking a proactive prevention approach to the management of IT. Why? because every minute of downtime is costing a business, it is not only the direct cost of the technician and his time but also the time the businesses employees are being unproductive and the cost of not being able to respond to customers.  Poor response time and lack of availability of your technician combined with the unexpected cost of replacing equipment impact the viability of the reactive IT management model.

Can this be avoided?

The simple answer is yes, which raises the question of how? Again, the answer is an easy one for small to medium businesses by investigating the option of outsourcing the management of their IT under a managed services agreement to an IT service provider like Computer Troubleshooters.

The challenge for many small to medium business owners is to make sure they have a process that answers questions such as; having a defined selection criteria, clear articulation of their needs and what needs to be managed, clear understanding of the costs and what is covered and not covered by the agreement, ensuring there is clarity around the key deliverables for the small to medium business. This article aims to help you in developing that process.

What are the steps involved in selecting a provider?

Like any exercise a small to medium business owner needs to plan and have a structured process otherwise you increase the risk of making a bad decision.

Commence by understanding what you need in terms of services and the type of company that you are looking for.  As an example, do you need your applications (accounting software, Office 365) to be managed or is it just making sure that you are fully protected against cyber threats? Is it managing passwords and ensuring email is available 24/7, or does it include patch management, ensuring your data is being backed-up regularly and being notified when a back-up fails or does it include making sure the network is running at an optimum level?

Start by identifying what is critical to your business and set that as the original scope. At the end of the initial contract period review and expand the scope if you are satisfied with the service.

Develop a selection criteria that includes the concept of value for money when selecting a provider. Remember selecting the cheapest price option is not necessarily the best result for you. Talk to some of the provider’s customer to establish their capability to deliver on what they are promising.

A guiding principle should be ensuring that your provider has the right people with the right skills doing the right things using the right tools to deliver the service.

Factors to consider are: 

  • experience of the provider, customer base who they work for, industries, size of businesses
  • flexibility and capacity to adapt as your needs change
  • capacity to respond, hours of operation, do they have a NOC centre
  • their technology and the skill set of the provider and knowledge including emerging technologies such as cloud services
  • pricing, what is included and excluded from the plan, termination process of contract.

One last factor to consider is the way the provider manages the relationship and the way they interact with you and the frequency they are providing updates to you. Ensure you have a set of performance indicators by which you will judge the performance of the Managed Service Provider.

What does a managed service plan look like?

The first element to look at is how the provider charges for their services. There is a variety of models with the most common being charged per device and per server. All providers will have per hour or daily rates for services that fall outside of the defined services.

Managed service plans generally work under a monthly subscription model and the monthly fees billed directly to a credit card. One area to investigate in any plan is to understand the required termination time-period and the process for moving to another provider.  Make certain you are not beholden to the provider.

What are the services I should look for that are provided by a Managed Service provider?

Service providers package services in different ways. This means a potential customer needs to know their requirements. Examples of services are:

  • Monitoring this is where a provider is using a tool to that creates visibility of what is happening in your network. This capability allows a Managed Service Provider to be proactive in ensuring that a IT system’s uptime is maximised. Establish what is included in the monitoring package from your provider.
  • Remote remediation of incidents this again is work completed by the provider to ensure your network is operating at its greatest productivity. An example would be to automatically clear a device of all temporary internet files.
  • IT security ensuring all devices are protected and have the latest security updates and company policies are applied across all devices being managed
  • Business continuity services covering back up and business disaster recovery plans
  • Email and communications management of users, policies and ensuring you can communicate on any device at any location
  • Application management of cloud services and software such as Office 365
  • IT planning and growth ensuring your business can take advantage of the latest technology trends
  • Capacity and capability management e.g. infrastructure management

What are the deliverables for a small to medium business?

  • increased productivity as the uptime of the IT infrastructure has significantly increased
  • being more strategic in their IT investments leading to greater returns
  • a predictable monthly spend on IT that is now an operating cost rather than a capital cost
  • up to date IT infrastructure

In closing speak with your local Computer troubleshooter provider about how they can help you make the shift to managed services. www.computertroubleshooters.com.au or phone 1300 28 28 78

 

 

Counting the True Cost – Cyber Security Breach

Posted on: 02/22/2017 | by: arlou

Protecting yourself against cyber security is in the news every single day of the week. Yet every day I hear another story about a small business that has had a breach. When talking to the owners, the anger, frustration and disbelief is evident to see. The shock is expressed in the following words; this is costing me so much, it’s the inconvenience, it’s the damage to my reputation and worst of all I am losing customers and I know they will not come back.

What is the cost for small to medium business?

  • The statistics on the cost to small business are hard to establish but one can only suspect that if big business is $142 per compromised record (Ponemon Institute Research report 2016) that is something similar for small to medium business.
  • From my personal experience, I know a podiatrist whose business incurred a breach of their booking system that took three months before their business was back to normal. Even after this time they continued to lose customers. The Ponemon Institute Research Report 2016 clearly indicates that the loss of business customers is the largest financial consequence for an organisation that experiences a data breach.
  • A breach becomes more costly to resolve the longer the breach remains undetected.

Is a small to medium business subject to fines?

All businesses no matter what size are subject to privacy laws. Currently our NZ Privacy Act which went into effect in 1993 contains breach-related penalties from $2,000 to $10,000. New Zealand’s privacy commissioner is now recommending new civil penalties against companies of up to NZ $1,000,000 for a “serious” data breach to keep NZ up with sterner penalties adopted by Australia and the European Union. Ultimately there is significant accountability on businesses to keep customers’ private information secure or face potentially large fines as well as bad publicity and damage to their reputation.

Why is small to medium business a target?

This may be obvious but every cyber- criminal is looking for a soft target, in effect every small to medium business has more information (data) to target than an individual consumer and, because of resource restrictions and lack of knowledge they have a less secure environment than a larger organisation. This is not only in terms of software but also in having security policies that are effectively implemented. For example; user training, passwords, network access, usage of personal devices and external storage devices such as USB sticks.

Too often small business owners are not proactive because they do not believe they have anything worth stealing.  This is not the case as every small to medium business holds customer credit card information, customer personal details such as bank details and emails.  Every bit of information is useful to a cyber-criminal who can make money, for instance, by selling an email address.

Are the hackers and cyber criminals becoming more sophisticated?

The short answer to this question is YES. In the 12 months to June 2016 the NZ National Cyber Security Centre reported a 78% increase in cyber security incidents over the previous year. Our Australian neighbours (Australian Cyber Security Centre Threat Report 2015) identified that the number of cyber criminals with capability will increase, that the sophistication of the current cyber adversaries will increase making detection and response more difficult, ransomware will continue to be prominent and there will be an increase in electronic graffiti such as web defacements and social media hijacking. All this is occurring because every day no matter what size business you are there is a greater reliance on technology to run and conduct a business. The cyber-criminal is aware of this.

How to minimise and protect your small to medium business against cyber – attack?

Suggested guidelines for protecting your business are:

  • Complete a risk assessment so you are aware of the areas you are most vulnerable. The suggestion would be to complete this with an IT expert, or use the NZ Government sponsored Connect Smart for Business SME toolkit as a starting point.
  • Educate your staff about the various types of scams such as ransomware. Ransomware is a piece of malware that is often sent via email and when executed it kidnaps your machine via encryption that blocks the user from accessing their machine. The kidnapper then demands payment for the decryption key. Ransomware is often referenced as Cryptolocker, Cryptovirus or Cryptotrojan. Examples include NZ Police notifications, Courier and Post deliveries, Inland Revenue Office, Microsoft support etc.
  • Ensure you have policies that are enforced around passwords.
  • Use up to date security systems such as anti-virus software, ensuring firewalls are in place, proper controls around network access.
  • Ensure you are backing up your data and protecting sensitive data in accordance with the privacy laws of New Zealand.
  • If you have limited IT capability and resources, consider the proactive approach of engaging an IT service provider on a managed services contract.
  • Have a remediation and recovery plan for a cyber security breach.
  • Take insurance against a security breach.

From a technology viewpoint aim for the following:

  • End user security – workstations, laptops and mobile devices all have anti-virus malware protection, scheduled back up and regular preventative maintenance.
  • Centralised user control and back up – critical company information and local files need to be protected and still require regular back up, preferably with offsite duplication to the cloud.
  • Unified threat management and content filtering – can offer maximum external threat protection and enhanced business productivity to your internal network.
  • Disaster recovery and data restoration – business continuity can only be guaranteed with adequate backup and recovery procedures in place

The four key elements in thinking about preventing cyber security breaches are to know your environment, to secure your environment, effectively control your environment and proactively monitor your environment.

The best approach is to make sure that the challenge of cyber security is at the forefront of the business owner’s mind and that of employees.

References:

Bank Info Security

National Cyber Security Centre

The Privacy Commissioner’s Office

Australian Cybercrime Online Reporting Network

Ponemon Institute; IBM sponsored 2016 Cost of Data Breach Study Australia

How to protect your family from cyber threats?

Posted on: 01/31/2017 | by: arlou

Do you have young children who risk being exposed to pornographic or inappropriate websites?

Do you feel you should control the type of applications your children use and the amount of time they spend on the internet on websites such as social media?
Are you worried your children are using gaming, gambling, or in-app purchasing applications?

If you answered “yes” to any of these questions you are part of a growing movement of concerned family’s’ who are struggling to control their childrens’ exposure to the internet.

Why is access to internet content so hard to control?

There are 3 main reasons why internet consumption by children is hard to control:

  1. Multiple Access – The internet can now be accessed in a variety of different ways. Traditionally the home network was the only access method for most families.Now we have access by mobile data access via 3G & 4G networks, plus the increased availability of free Wi-Fi public access networks, then the additional opportunity of roaming as guests on other private Wi-Fi Networks. Internet access is now available everywhere so managing access through gatekeeping devices such as routers is increasingly ineffective.
  2. Multiple Devices – With internet access everywhere comes the proliferation of multi device access with many children now using a range of smartphones, tablets, laptops, and workstations. Internet access is now available almost anywhere on any device, so managing access of devices is increasingly difficult.
  3. Knowledge – Our children are developing skills and shared methodologies that can circumvent traditional control network mechanisms (such as routers) and device profile user management (such as Windows Parental Control).

With anywhere anytime internet access from multiple devices, is it still possible to regulate internet access to our children?

Thankfully development of cloud technologies has enabled user management to be lifted above the physical network layer and enables user profile management to be delivered across multiple access networks and devices. Effectively the cloud allows an additional layer of control above the traditional approach to user management and content control.

Here is what a cloud based portal can enable:

  1. Block porn andadult content
  2. Restrict access to social media
  3. Restrict access to YouTube and gaming content
  4. Limit access to mobile games and apps
  5. Limit app downloads and in-app purchases
  6. Disable device features including cameras
  7. Set restricted access periods and sleep times across devices
  8. Cover devices in and out of home.
  9. Managed from a single cloud based portal

Given all this is possible, how it is achievable?

As a business who has been help protect Australian families for over 20 years we have watched the evolution of different internet security software and hardware struggle to keep up with these changes. In our view, if families wish to take control of how internet is consumed they must consider using a cloud based portal to provide comprehensive protection.

To the best of our knowledge the most comprehensive and accessible product for family internet management is called Family Zone. Family Zone is a new generation cloud based product that allows for all these changes in technology from anywhere access from multiple devices.

Family Zone

Family Zone brings together the best Cyber Experts, organisations and technologies into one easy-to-use system. They developed it, tested it and now we want to share it so that everyone can enjoy the same peace of mind that their customers do. Family Zone was built on the belief that only through working together, as a community, can we build a cyber safe generation of kids.

What is unique about Family Zone?

  • Cloud based user & content management portal
  • Specific age profile restriction based management
  • Multi Network management
  • Remote device management (through VPN and MDM)
  • Individually configurable to each family member

If you are looking for the most comprehensive family content management system to protect your family we recommend you investigate Family Zone further.

2 months Free Trial Offer

We’ve have recently partnered with Family Zone to provide a full a cyber safety solution to keep the whole family safe while online; both at home and when they are out and about on their phones. While the service can be configured by parents, Computer Troubleshooters can help set up Family Zone at your house so that you’re confident when the kids are online their cyber safety is sorted.

Computer Troubleshooters on behalf of our clients have negotiated a 2 month free trial of Family Zone, plus we can offer a fixed installation of $139 should you require our help.

To find out more go to  http://www.computertroubleshooters.com.au/family-zone/

Give your local Computer Troubleshooters office a call and will be happy to discuss your particular situation and see if Family Zone is the right solution for you.

Upgrade to a new Computer or get a Tune Up service?

Posted on: 12/31/2016 | by: arlou

Does your computer seem unresponsive, sluggish, and unreliable?

Do you feel you spend time waiting for things to happen on your computer?
Is your productivity slowing down as a result of a slow computer?

One of the most common questions we get in our business is “Should I repair or replace my computer?” While it is an individual decision there are several key factors that should help determine your course of action. Obviously, the price difference can be huge and the disruption painful, but what are the key determinants of your choice;

3 key determinants to upgrade your computer?

We suggest you use a 3-step process to determine the correct course of action

  1. Computer Age; If you existing computer is over 3 years old the risk of catastrophic failure due to hard drive or part failure is much higher,and the overall expected life of a PC that is constant use is rarely over 5 years. Life expectancy is generally lower for laptops that are moved & carried around regularly. Doing maintenance on an old machine might not be the best answer, especially if you are critically dependent on it working correct & if it fails you will end up in an emergency.

 

  1. Computer Specifications: Check the specifications of your current computer; with the evolution of new software & applications, especially video applications such as Facebook and news services, means your current computer just may not be able to process fast enough to give you performance that is satisfactory.Most new computers now offer significantly more processor speeds & RAM than what was available a few years ago.If you are looking to run the latest versions of Windows 10, Internet browsers (like Google Chrome), Office 365 or Microsoft Office 2016 then it is difficult to get the maximum benefits without modern specifications. If your old computer has low specification components a Computer Tune Up may not resolve all your speed issues.

 

  1. Computer Maintenance:Assuming you have agreed the first 2 steps are not a problem; then if you are experiencing slow startups, slow application opening, application time outs or regular restarting requests this can generally mean your computer needs a Tune Up. A computer Tune Up is where we do a deep clean to remove unwanted programs and files then the operating systems cleaned of unnecessary bloat. Often just normal use on the web can accumulate,without your knowledge, thousands of small unwanted programs, cookies, and tracking code that ultimately accumulates slowing everything down. The final area of a Tune Up is defragging your hard disk, where the storage space can be reallocated and made more efficient, giving improved performance.

 

Just like servicing a car we suggest that even the best computer will need tuning at least every 12 months or more frequently if you’re a business user, this can be done using a maintenance plan with automated routines and processes that can be run remotely by your local Computer Troubleshooters.

 

Repair or Replace?

Given the 3 critical factors above and your individual circumstance you should have formulated your own view of whether you should repair or replace your computer. So what are the options?

Repair – You can simply call in an expert like Computer Troubleshooters to do a computer Tune Up to get your machine back to optimal performance. They will do a series of deep scans and maintenance processes that should remove the bloat. We also would recommend joining a maintenance plan that regularly does this process to keep you at the optimal performance level. Part of this is also reviewing your backup regime to ensure that you will not experience data catastrophe should a failure occur in the future.

Replace – Once you decide to replace your machine there are few options you can consider;

  • Upgrade – Simply replacing the hard drive on an existing computer with SSD (solid state drive) can significantly improve processing speeds and memory without the need to replace the full system. This also significantly reduces a key point of failure risk from an old system.
  • New Packaged– a new system ultimately will give you a new experience in performance, you just need to ensure the specifications will deliver on your expectations. Lower prices can often mean lower performance, you generally get what you pay for. We generally suggest a minimum of 4GB of RAM and an i5 or better CPU. Just bear in mind you may need to repurchase software that was on your existing machine.
  • New Custom – if you have a specific need or application we can help put together a custom-built system option that can take into account your specific user requirements. We can spec, order & install a system specifically for your needs. Ask us for a quote.

You can transfer all your data and settings on to your new computer so that your new machine is setup is the same as previously, this can be done relatively easily by your local Computer Troubleshooters. Just bear in mind that Windows10 is now the standard operating system for PC’s, so you may need to adapt to the new Windows environment.

At the same time we also recommend reviewing your backup regime to ensure your critical data is protected.

Optimal Computer Performance

Regardless of your situation whether it is repair or replace we can help you optimize your computer experience to help you get the best performance. You don’t have to put up with a slow computer. 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 and help you choose the correct course of action.

 

 

How to enable your business IT Systems:

Posted on: 12/01/2016 | by: arlou

Is your business struggling to keep up with technology change?

As a business owner are you swamped with IT issues and user requests?
Do your business’ systems seem old and stuck in the past?

IT for most business has changed significantly in the last 5 years. Traditionally Small and Medium Businesses felt they needed to own their own hardware, software and support infrastructure. To have everything located in your office seemed safe and reassuring that your business was in safe hands. Then along came smartphones, Gen Y, and cloud computing!

So how do you take your business IT systems to the new frontier?

Surprisingly the change isn’t as hard or expensive as you think, you just need to see ownership as an old-fashioned way to view IT, you need to think more about access and scale as the key to better IT systems. By leveraging off broadband and cloud technological advances you can now achieve large business outcomes on a SMB budget.

Microsoft Office 365 is now the default software architecture for Microsoft products in Small & Medium Business, it forms the core of new business IT environments with over 80 million users worldwide and growing fast, it has proven to be reliable & solid.

Office 365 Advantages

Office 365 has been built as a cloud “software as a service” product so it is relatively device agnostic, controlled centrally with security top of mind. This means the Microsoft business office 365 environment is flexible, duplicable, accessible & remotely administered. Beyond the standard Microsoft Office suite benefits we have enjoyed for years it delivers additionally on 4 major areas;

  • Bring your own device – particularly smartphones & iPhones (BYOD).
  • Multi Device with Syncing between devices on multiple operating platforms.
  • Tablets, Smartphone & PC smoothing (same software on different device types).
  • Anywhere access – Security enabled and administered remotely.

This translates into 4 key benefits for users;

  • Same Operation – Outlook 365 looks feels and operates similarly on all device types.
  • Cross Platform – Microsoft, Apple, & Android all just work the same.
  • Simple Downloads – once your Outlook 365 tenant has been professionally setup, data migrated, & deployed – downloading the software on extra devices is easy if you know your admin stuff. Software is updated regularly automatically.
  • Syncing – it just works seamlessly regardless of what device you are using, it stays updated and syncs without any drama, knowing that the Microsoft data centre is doing all this in the background makes the value equation easier to swallow.

Personally, having used the combined office software now for some time, and having downloaded my Office 365 on 4 different devices and types (PC, Smartphone, Laptop, & Android Tablet) I am impressed, particularly with Outlook 365 with corporate grade email access from anywhere across the globe, on any device, and all synced and backed up at the Microsoft data centre. This alone is enough to justify Office 365.

Business Owner Considerations

  • Capital investment – do you prefer to invest to upgrade systems or use a pay as you go subscription model?
  • Space and operating requirements – do you need to run your own infrastructure?
  • Maintenance – would hosting dramatically reduce staff or outsource costs for your IT support?
  • Scalability – will you need to add or reduce users in the future?
  • Operating control – can you trust an external IT expert to remotely manage your systems?
  • Applications – can you use hosted applications or do you need to host locally?
  • Data usage and file sizes – are your business characteristics suitable to use hosted applications?
  • Broadband speed and capacity – can your internet bandwidth handle hosted usage?
  • Statutory data retention – does your business have a requirement to hold and protect data?

End user considerations

  • Access anywhere – do your users need access from PC, tablet and phones?
  • Syncing – do your staff need synced email and data?
  • Information sharing – would accessing business information on the move be helpful to your staff?
  • Seamless networking – would eliminating the need for a VPN reduce access complexity and increase productivity?
  • Backup and central control – would automatic backup and centralized control reduce your risk of user originated data loss?

In assessing these considerations, you may need some additional help to determine if the Office 365 alternative is applicable, feel free give us a call to discuss your situation.

Are you ready to IT enable your business?

So hopefully you can see a clear path to IT enable your business using Office 365 as the core software architecture. Office 365 offers a range of advanced tools that enables your employees to be productive anywhere and at any time across a range of devices. With Office 2016 & Windows 10 now fully proven you can combine to get the very latest software across your business knowing it works and is fully compatible.

Checkout our Office 365 Solutions Catalogue that sets out in detail how Office 365 can IT enable your business view either online or we can give you a printed copy.

If you wish to upgrade your IT Systems it will still requires guidance to get it right, so give your local Computer Troubleshooters office a call today and one of our technology professionals will be happy to discuss how Office 365 can benefit your business.

Virus Removal

Posted on: 11/03/2016 | by: arlou

Do you suspect your laptop or computer has a virus? Is it running slow or do random windows pop up as you browse the web? Your computer may have an infection, or two. The good news is this can be fixed with a few helpful tips and programs. During this four-step process, Computer Troubleshooters guides you through the actions you can take to remove these irritating computer viruses.

4 Steps to Virus Removal – please note this information is regarding simple virus and malware removal – if you have a Ransomware virus such as Cryptolocker or a Locky variant we immediately recommend you turn off your computer and disconnect from the internet then seek professional advice from Computer Troubleshooters on Cryptolocker removal and data recovery, or risk losing all your data.

Step 1: Enter Safe Mode

To enter into Windows Safe Mode, first shut down your laptop. Turn it back on and as soon as you see anything on the screen, press the F8 key repeatedly. The Advanced Boot Options menu will appear, select Safe Mode with Networking, and then press Enter.

If you have Windows 8 or Windows 10, at the Windows login screen, select restart and hold down the Shift key. A window with options to troubleshoot your system will appear and you can choose the option to boot into Safe Mode.

If you log in and see a black screen, press CTRL, ALT, DEL to bring up the selection screen, and choose logout and then restart. Next, hold down the Shift key and select choose Safe Mode.

Step 2: Delete Temporary Files

Deleting any temporary files that you have on your laptop will speed up the virus scanning, free space and can even remove malware. Select Start > All Programs > Accessories > System Tools > Disk Cleanup > Select Delete Temporary Files

Step 3: Download and Run Malwarebytes

First, download, install, and update Malwarebytes onto your laptop. Once the program opens, keep the default scan option “Perform Quick Scan” selected and click the Scan button. Although it offers a full-scan option, Malwarebytes recommends that you perform the quick scan first. Depending on your device, the quick scan can take about 5-20 minutes and the full scan about 30-60 minutes.

If the quick scan does not find any infections, it will show you a text file containing the scan results. If you still think that your laptop has a virus, consider running a full scan. If Malwarebytes finds any infections, a dialog box informing you of the detection will appear. To see the files detected, select Scan Results. It automatically removes the infections that are known to be unsafe. If you want to remove other identified items, select those as well, and then click Remove Selected.

After removing the viruses, a list of the scan and removal results will appear. Review the results to confirm that the antivirus program successfully removed each item. Malwarebytes may prompt you to restart your laptop to complete the removal process.

Step 4: Tying Up Loose Ends

Your laptop should now be free of viruses, but your device may not be free of the effects the infection created. You may experience glitches to a particular search engine or homepages may come up that you did not choose. It is vital that you change all of your passwords and login data for anything that contains personal information like email and social media accounts.

If you are still having issues with your laptop or experiencing virus related behaviours, such as pop-ups or slow operation, get your device serviced at your local Computer Troubleshooters.

Of course, if removing the virus yourself seems dangerous & complicated or just don’t have the bandwidth to DIY, we can do it for you.

Alternatively, on our managed plans you get Anti-Virus and Malwarebytes included so they prevent the infections in the first place. Prevention is always better than cure.

We are here to advise you with the best security services and can install security measures on all of your computers and devices, provide information about online safety, place hardware to protect your private information and more! To keep your devices protected from hackers and viruses, call your local Computer Troubleshooters office today!

Call us on 1300 282878

Scams & Fraud everywhere – Beware!

Posted on: 09/30/2016 | by: arlou

Recently we have seen a spike in internet & email scams that could cost you time and money. The nature of these attacks may vary, but ultimately they all seek to make money from you in one form or another. We thought it would be worthwhile giving you, and those around you a heads up on the most preventable fraud attacks we have seen in the last few months:

  • Microsoft Support Pop- Up scam –  this latest malware looks to be using Google Chrome & Edge search browsers to enable a fake Microsoft Support Pop-Up on your screen it advises “Your Computer has been Blocked” and to Call for Support on 1800 152 454 – this connects you to a fake help centre who then do their best to convince you let them take control on your computer remotely.
  • Telstra Telephone Scam – in this scam you are randomly called by “Telstra” and told you have errors on your computer. To prove they are from Telstra they get you to login to your computer & access your CLSID, they then tell you your ID (amazingly this is the same on all computers). If you buy their story they then get you to remotely to connect with their TeamViewer connection so they can fix your machine. Once they have access they can install their own malware that starts to infect the machine, ultimately they will seek to charge you for fixing the malware they installed.
  • Invoice Reminder Scam –using electricity & gas company names and logos they just seem to be sending the latest bill to your email with an instruction to click to download, unfortunately they can link you to a purpose built website that downloads cryptolocker to your computer. cryptolocker is a form of ransomware that encrypts all your files and demands a payment in bitcoins to release, it is almost impossible to crack.
  • Prize Win Scam – generally targeting the more gullible these can arrive by SMS or email indicating you have won a prize (in a draw you never entered) and by clicking on a link and supplying details they either seek to gain personal information for fraud or to place phishing software on your computer to gain access to bank and credit card details.
  • Government Business Scam – this email scam generally takes the form of a government agency seeking to verify information examples include speeding tickets from police departments, tax office refunds, or complaints from agencies. Similar to other scams, by clicking on a link they install malware, phishing or cryptolocker to get a result.
  • Parcel Pickup Scam – Using recognized names such as Post, UPS or FedEx these emails indicate you have a package waiting for collection and by clicking on the link you can arrange delivery. Once again by clicking on a link they install malware, phishing or cryptolocker to get a result.

How to prevent becoming a Scam victim? Prevention – don’t open or click on unsolicited emails or SMS

  • 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.
  • Be Skeptical – if something looks too good to be true then it is probably is! Think before you click – check the sending email address is actually a domain that would be associated with that business. You can also preview links to see if they look legitimate with the business name.

    Your Checklist to protect Yourself, Your Family and Your Business from Scams & Threats 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 infections such as Cryptolocker, it may also limit the harm done by warning you before the file is executed, should you accidently click on a malicious email.
  • Firewalls and Encryption should be in use by businesses to secure their internet connection. Educate employees about passwords and internet security guidelines.
  • Using a hybrid cloud service – Office 365 as a hosted email & file service that will always have a copy available in the cloud that will not be infected by some of these type of malware, so if your computer is inflected the original copy is located in the cloud can be accessed by a different device
  • Have a regular backup copy – have a scheduled backup so you always have a recent copy of your files.
  • Have a Backup to non-networked drive – Cryptolocker and its lookalikes can find mapped and shared drives. For your backup either rotate external drives or have off site scheduled backup. Beware of using sync backups such as OneDrive as they can also be encrypted.

Computer Troubleshooters Can Help Your Family & 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.

Business Continuity Planning (BCP) – Surviving a Disaster

Posted on: 08/31/2016 | by: arlou

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.

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