Tech Tip: Why is the Computer Running so SLOW?

Why is the Computer Running so SLOW?

Woah, who slammed on the brakes? Your computer used to speed through startup and let you open almost everything at once, but now it’s struggling to crawl along! Everything takes so much longer or crashes without warning. Something isn’t right. If it’s gotten so bad that you’ve found yourself drooling over the idea of a new computer, even though your system isn’t that old, we’ve got some good news:  you can get your whizzy speeds back with a little TLC.

Computers generally start slowing down within 12 months, but it’s not because their parts are broken. And it’s not because they’re faulty. It’s not even because you have so many browser tabs open that you lose count. Slow computers have a number of causes, but the most common ones are easily fixed.

Background programs

Whenever your computer is turned on, it’s running programs in the background. You didn’t start them and they may not be essential to operation, but off they go anyway. You can’t even see some of them, they don’t have windows or anything to look at.  A good example is your antivirus program. You don’t need to see it all the time, but you know it’s running in the background, protecting you. Over time, more and more programs might slip into the background and casually suck up your resources, like iTunes helper, Acrobat updater, Cortana listening, Skype or Spotify.  We can speed up your system by setting these background programs to run only when you need them, or remove them completely.

Application bloat

How do you improve last year’s version of a program? Add more features! The problem with this is the applications become bloated with features you may not need (or even know about), but that keep needing more and more resources. Each time the developers review their programs, they assume you’ve bought the latest and greatest computer and can run whatever they release. This means a slow computer can sneak up after an auto-update. You may not even know the update happened, just that your computer is suddenly making you very unhappy. Eventually, your system grinds to a halt. We can remove unused applications or increase your computer power as required.

Slow hard drives

Your data is stored on a part called the hard drive. It’s usually a mechanical type that works like a record player, with a spinning platter and a ‘needle’ reading it. If your data is spread out across lots of places on the platter, the hard drive head ‘needle’ has to go backwards and forwards thousands of times just to retrieve a single file. Unsurprisingly, that takes more time to bring up your file. We can optimize your data to give the hard drive head a break, but an even better solution is to upgrade to an SSD. That’s a Solid State Drive that stores data in memory chips, like your USB drive, and has no moving parts. Without the physical need to move a hard drive needle, your computer can access data much faster.

Unfortunately, once your computer starts slowing, for whatever reason, the problem only gets worse. The background programs will continue to multiply, the bloat keeps coming, and the hard drive begs for relief.  Rather than buy a whole new system though, it’s completely possible for your current computer to go back to being lightning fast – and for a fraction of the cost.

Would you like us to give your computer a new lease on life? Give us a call at 0800 4 VETTA

Tech Tip: 4 Simple Tips to Keep Your Internet Banking Safe

4 Simple Tips to Keep Your Internet Banking Safe

Online banking has boomed in the past few years to become the new norm. Branches are out and apps are in. Half the time when you visit a branch, you’re steered towards a computer for a DIY transaction – with optional assistance.  But is internet banking really safe? You’re always told to keep your financial details private, but now also to jump on board the online banking train – talk about a push/pull scenario! The good news is you CAN bank safely online with a few simple precautions.

Always type in the website address

Many attackers will attempt to trick you into clicking a fake link to your bank website. Usually sent as a ‘phishing email’, they’ll claim there’s a problem and ask you to click through to your bank and correct it ASAP. The link points to a fake website that looks almost exactly like your real bank site and is recording your private account info. You can avoid scams like this simply by accessing your bank by manually typing in the website or using a bookmark.

Avoid public computers and networks

Jumping onto a PC at the library or mall might seem like a quick and easy way to check your account, but public computers are often targeted by scammers. In just a few moments, they can install keyloggers to record usernames, passwords and other private data, then sit back as all future user details are emailed to them. The same problem applies with free, unsecured Wi-Fi. You’re better off using an ATM or a data-enabled smartphone.

Use a strong password with 2- factor authentication

Create a unique password for your online banking, something you’ve never used anywhere else. Mix up words, numbers and symbols to create a complex password that can’t be guessed easily. Avoid giving attackers a head start with data they can find on Facebook, like kids names, pet names, birthdates, etc and really think outside the box. And of course, never write it down anywhere near your wallet, phone or computer. If remembering is likely to be an issue, you might like to consider a secure password manager app. Many banks will also help boost your security with two-factor authentication, sending random codes to your phone (or a special LCD device they provide) to verify any activity.

Check page security before entering data

Finally, take a micro-second to spot the small padlock icon before you enter any data. You’re looking for a padlock appearing as part of the browser itself, not just an image on the webpage. It will be either in the bottom corner or next to the URL. The address will also start with httpS:// instead of http://. If you don’t see these things, the page is NOT secure and you shouldn’t log in.

Need some help securing your system against scammers? We can help. Call Us at 0800 4 VETTA

Tech Tip: How to Make Your Photos Last A Lifetime (and Beyond)

How to Make Your Photos Last A Lifetime (and Beyond)

 

Digital cameras are great, and thanks to smartphones, we have one with us almost all the time. We’re taking more photos than ever before, and building a lifetime of digital data. But despite the enormous value of these photos and videos, most people don’t have a backup. It’s time to shine a light on this essential task and make it a regular habit before those precious memories are gone forever.

If you asked someone what possession they’d save from a house fire, most would say photos, and they’d make a point of grabbing a frame or album on the way out. But with digital photos, you don’t need a fire to lose everything, they could simply disappear in the blink of an eye with hardware failure or theft. There’s no warning, no smoke alarm, and without a plan already in place, no chance to recover the data. It’s time to get set up with a true backup system.

 

Is one copy enough?

You might think saving your information to an external hard drive or flash drive is enough. You’re right, it’s better than nothing, but since the data is stored in only one place, this isn’t a backup – it’s just storage. That drive could fail at any moment, perhaps from age, malfunction or plain old theft.

Often enough, that drive even becomes lost over the years, put somewhere ‘safe’ and promptly forgotten! And with the way technology is moving, accessing that data in 5 years might even bring up compatibility issues – some newer computers don’t even have CD/DVD drives, yet hundreds of thousands of homes would still have photos stored on a disc.

Two copies?

You might have your extra storage drive as backup and keep a copy on your computer. This is a better solution, and how most people store their data, but it still isn’t enough. While you’re protected against device failure, that house fire is going to take both copies up in flames. Thieves would probably grab the external drive while they’re bundling up your computer too, so again, you’d be left with zero copies. It’s close, but it’s not a true backup system.

The rule of three

We subscribe to the backup rule of three. Just reading this may sound like overkill, but tech is fragile and device failure is a constant risk. We recommend keeping one copy on the computer/device, another on an external drive, and a third copy as last resort tucked safely away in the cloud. The cloud backup can be fully automated so you don’t even need to worry about remembering to do it. If the day comes that you need your data back, it’s ready and waiting in perfect condition. Cloud technology also means your data is far away from any potential fire or flood, it’s secure and with the right provider, guaranteed against loss.

 

There’s a saying in the IT industry: “There are two kinds of people: those who backup, and those who have never lost all their data”. No matter what the cause of your data loss, it always has a deep impact, particularly when it comes to precious data. While re-creating some homework or the family budget might just be inconvenient, there’s no way to recreate photos once they’re gone. It’s a loss that hurts for a long time, but it’s also so very avoidable.

If you value your data, give us a call at 0800 4 VETTA to implement a well-rounded backup system.

Tech Tip: Everything You Need to Know About Facebook Privacy

Everything You Need to Know About Facebook Privacy

Finding the balance between Facebook privacy and Facebook fun can be challenging. It’s a double-edged sword that allows us to connect with friends no matter where they live, but it also publicly shares information that just a few years ago, we’d never dream of putting online. You can search for people based on where they went to school, town they live in, clubs they belong to, who they’re related to…but when is it too much?

Your birthday is the first piece of info collected when you sign up, and it’s great getting birthday wishes from friends and family when it appears in their newsfeed. But while Facebook is sending you balloons and funny memes, your birthday is now public knowledge. It seems harmless, but when you call your bank or other institution, what’s the first question they ask to verify your identity? Your birthday! Some password recovery systems even ask questions like ‘which high school did you go to?’ assuming this is knowledge that only you would know. Except…you’ve just publicly shared it on Facebook. Whoops!

We’ve all heard stories of people who’ve lost their jobs after less-than-wholesome pictures or statements have gone public. If you have a reputation to keep, you definitely don’t want pictures from last weekend’s private party showing up, especially if you really let your hair down. While you can’t control what others do with photos they take of you, you can control whether or not you’re tagged in them.

Fortunately, there are settings in Facebook that allow you to control who sees what information and what happens when you’re tagged. Despite what you may have heard or seen floating around in a Facebook share hoax, you do have complete control over your Facebook privacy, and it’s easy to adjust.

 

How to Check and Adjust Your Facebook Privacy Settings

  1. See what your account looks like to an outsider

From your Facebook homepage, click your name on the blue bar at the top of the page. Click the three dots next to ‘View Activity Log’ and then select ‘View as…’

  1. Run a quick privacy checkup

Click the question mark in the top right corner and choose ‘privacy checkup’.

Think about what you really need to share – do people need to know the YEAR of your birth or just your birthday? Your friends will still get the notification, and you’ll still get the balloons.

  1. Edit advanced privacy

While the checkup covers the most obvious info, you can go much deeper. Click the V-shaped dropdown to the right of the question mark. Go to settings and choose privacy.

  1. Adjust timeline and tagging

In the privacy settings, you can explicitly control who can tag you, who can see or share the tagged content, and what shows up on your newsfeed.

Tightening your Facebook privacy only takes a few minutes, but it can save you a whole lot of trouble in the future. If you need help with this, just give us a call at 0800 4 VETTA.

Tech Tip: When is Your Business Ready to Move to the Cloud?

When is Your Business Ready to Move to the Cloud?

By now you know that the cloud isn’t going away any time soon. In fact, cloud computing has become a natural step in business growth, thanks to the numerous (and continually growing) benefits. More and more applications are coming out in web-based form and staff are exceptionally comfortable with this type of change. So when is the right time to move your business computing to the cloud?

Many businesses are facing this question now that cloud computing has become a mainstream norm. After all, you’ll be able to roll out new apps in days, not weeks, and nobody ever says ‘no thanks’ to increased security and efficiency.  Like any strategic business decision though, timing is everything.  Here’s how to assess your need before you make the switch:

  1. Age of servers and workstations

If your workstations and servers are reaching their end of life and a large capital investment is coming up, you’ll be able to minimize the expense by moving to the cloud. You may even be able to skip certain upgrades completely. Your staff will still need devices to access the cloud data, but you’ll have a lot more flexibility in your choice and they won’t need to be as powerful. This can be a huge cost saving made in just moments.

  1. Need for remote and mobile access

Many businesses are growing while on the move, with a mobile workforce needing to access files from anywhere at any time. This could range from moving around the one location, between offices or even working from home. Forget frustrating connections and lost productivity, cloud computing allows staff to work securely and efficiently from any location with internet access.

  1. Current support setup

If your business currently outsources all your network management, you’re perfectly suited for the move to cloud computing. Network maintenance and monitoring becomes a non-issue, handled 24/7 as part of your cloud service. Network efficiency just keeps rising too, as your cloud provider is always improving their systems. You’ll find problems are fixed before you knew they existed, and server downtime becomes a thing of the past.

  1. Need for predictable IT costs

If it feels like IT costs can spiral out of control at times, challenging your budget and patience, cloud computing will seem like a dream come true. When you make this shift, you’re moving from a capital expense to an operational one – server and system replacements are no longer your concern. You’ll be able to budget for IT costs in advance, knowing no blowouts are hiding around the corner. Monthly costs are known and (usually) capped based on what you use, leaving your cash flow much relieved.

Today’s cloud computing is more advanced, secure and priced more competitively than ever before.  At its core, cloud computing is purely about doing things better, and it can have a massive impact on your profits, productivity and even staff satisfaction rates. If your business requires a robust, always available infrastructure with easy monthly costs, it’s time to take a serious look at your cloud computing options.

 

We offer a variety of cloud services to help your business. Give us a call at 0800 4 VETTA to discuss how we can improve your business IT.

Tech Tip: What is the Cloud? And Where is it?

What is the Cloud? And Where is it?

There has been a ton of talk about the cloud. Cloud this, cloud that. But what actually IS the cloud? It’s okay if you don’t know, most people don’t understand it and even some tech people tend to wave their hands towards the sky when trying to explain it!

Since it actually has nothing to do with the white fluffy things in the sky, let’s lay it all out:

Cloud computing is about storing and retrieving your data (personal or business) within your own piece of the internet. It’s so you can access it from anywhere, just like you do a web page, and it won’t matter if your office is closed and you’re squeezing in a little work on your phone at midnight. Everything will be saved and ready to pick up when you get back to your desk. Colleagues in different locations can even collaborate on documents in real time.

If that all sounds a bit futuristic, think about how an email service like Gmail works. None of your emails are actually being stored on your hard drive or device, they’re stored on the Gmail server and you can access them anytime you like.

Your read/send/receive changes are applied instantly, remembered for next time you log in. This is a form of cloud computing. So is Netflix, where you can stream movies and TV shows on demand. All the video is actually stored on a computer somewhere else in the world and sent to your device in tiny pieces as you watch it. Netflix remembers what you watched, where you got up to, and even if you’re hopping immediately from one device to another, it still has it all ready to go.

Where is ‘cloud’ data stored?

Good question. And it’s why the term ‘cloud’ causes so much confusion. The data absolutely must be physically stored somewhere. Companies who offer cloud storage have huge warehouses dedicated to holding servers whose sole job is to send and receive data all day. And by huge, we mean HUGE.

You could get lost walking the rows of servers, just box after box for what seems like forever. The biggest server farms or ‘cloud campuses’ are still growing, but to give you an idea: they can be upwards of a million square feet (about a hundred thousand square meters). It’s big business, literally.

In terms of location, the US and UK are popular server farm locations, but the company could also have copies of your data stored elsewhere in the world. This is so they can fulfill their redundancy guarantees – if disaster hits one location, the other still has a copy.

Having additional locations and copies also increases the speed of access. With some companies, you can choose your preferred location so that data doesn’t have to travel quite as far across the world, increasing speed even further, which of course, saves time and money. Collaboration, security, redundancy, AND savings? We’d call that a win.

 

Ready to take advantage of cloud computing? Give us a call at 0800 4 VETTA.

1

Tech Tip: 6 Brilliant Ways Managed Services Can Work For You

6 Brilliant Ways Managed Services Can Work For You

Wouldn’t it be great to know you could access the internet from every room in the house – including the outdoor entertaining areas? How about printing wirelessly from wherever you happen to be? Many homes are embracing the flexibility of having multiple devices and users, but with each new addition come increased headaches when trying to make it all work together. They know what experience they want, but actually assembling a complex network can be like trying to juggle a live, angry octopus!

Most people don’t realize just how complex their tech setup has become. Ask around and you’ll discover homes commonly have 4 mobile devices, 2 tablets, a desktop or laptop, a printer… plus a smart TV, media streamer, and a games console… ALL of which need access to the same secure internet connection, backup systems, and protection from digital threats. Yikes!

While businesses immediately default to calling in the tech experts to make sure their system works exactly the way they need it to, residential users haven’t had that option – until now. Our managed IT services can assess your unique needs and create the perfect solution for you –everything working the way you want and within budget.

Using managed residential services has the added benefit of providing one, predictable bill for every part of your technology services, including:

Advice and setup: Our experts love to talk tech and can help you make product decisions, plan and create your ideal network environment – building in all the parental controls and security your unique situation needs. They’ll even help educate your family on best practices, cyber safety, and common threats.

Remote support: Save time and energy if something goes wrong, our experts can securely log in to remotely diagnose and repair many issues – just let us know and we’ll take care of it.

Backup: You’ll never have to worry about losing all your personal files, photos, video and music if your device is broken or stolen. Our experts will make sure everything that’s important to you is backed up regularly.

Maintenance: While your devices are pretty durable, they still need regular maintenance and cleaning. This extends the life of your device greatly and has the added benefit of making it run like new again.

Security: Every device under your managed IT plan will be automatically monitored for security issues and updated regularly. Our tech experts will ensure your network is secure, protecting you and your family on autopilot.

Cloud: We’ll make sure you have access to all your files, no matter which device you’re on, giving you true digital flexibility and (a safeguard against forgetting homework!).

With new connected devices finding their way into homes each year, it’s more important than ever to ensure your network can grow easily, with security at all levels. Remember, it only takes one unprotected device to let the malware in, even something as innocent as a remote-activated lightbulb! Our managed IT services will free you from worrying about security and maintenance, while at the same time giving you the performance and flexibility your family needs.

Find out how Managed IT Services can help you by calling us at 0800 4 VETTA!

Tech Tip: How Many Good Battery Habits Do You Really Have?

How Many Good Battery Habits Do You Really Have?

 

Batteries are rarely talked about – until they’re drained – then we’ll tell everyone as we beg desperately for a charger, hoping to get enough juice to last the day. The truth is, they’re a miracle of engineering that gets taken for granted when full and cursed when flat. If it feels like your battery is running out faster, you might be right. But it’s not because of ‘battery memory’ and needing to be cycled (that’s an older battery type called NiMh), it’s because the modern LITHIUM-ION batteries in phones and laptops just simply wear out over time. Fortunately, extending your battery life is easier than you think! Which of the following GOOD battery habits do you have?

  1. Charge whenever you can: Lithium-ion batteries don’t like being charged all the way up and then drained all the way down. No wonder, it even sounds exhausting. Give them a little charge here and there, and they’ll be happy.
  2. Leave your laptop plugged in all the time: You can’t over-charge the battery, it will just sit there waiting to be used. The laptop also helps out by cutting the flow of power when the battery registers as fully charged.
  3. Watch for overheating: If you can, remove your laptop battery while charging, because while it won’t overcharge, it may overheat. You might also consider removing the battery if you’re using your laptop plugged in all the time. Sure, you might lose data if there’s a power outage, but overheating is a far more common occurrence and it’s been proven to degrade battery life considerably. Check your vents are clear with good airflow, and if necessary, help it out with a cooling laptop stand.
  4. Leave your phone plugged in all night: Just like your laptop, your charger knows to stop when the battery is full. Those chargers do generate heat though, so make sure you have enough airflow around both charger and phone, and never sleep with it under your pillow.
  5. Charge batteries before storing: If you’re blessed with backup batteries, make sure to give them a half charge before storing. They’ll naturally discharge and age over time, so this gives them a fighting chance to still be viable when you need them.
  6. Keep your cool: We know to avoid water with our phones, but we’re less careful about exposing it to heat. This includes leaving it in your car all day, placing it on top of your PC, or even in a sunny spot by the window. Wireless and rapid chargers can also be an issue, as the amount of heat they generate will affect your battery.

How did you go? Is keeping your lithium-ion battery happy easier than you thought? Your battery will wear out over time, but you can push that day a few years into the future if you remember to keep it charged and keep it cool.

 

Having battery issues? We can help! Call us at 0800 4 VETTA

Tech Tip: How To Keep Your Tech Squeaky Clean

How To Keep Your Tech Squeaky Clean

 

Our tech is something we use every day, but did you know it’s also the most disgusting? Your screen may look clean, but studies show that a mobile phone can be 18x dirtier than a public restroom – ew! It gets worse (sorry)…that keyboard you tap at while eating your morning toast? It’s probably the biggest bacterial threat in your house, with about 20 000 times more germs than a toilet seat, more if you share it with children.

It’s not just sickness we’re up against, because as dust builds up inside gadgets, they also slow down, malfunction or overheat. Your device essentially chokes on ick, as vents and filters are clogged by sucking in pet hair and floating debris. Here’s how to clean your essential tech items without damaging them:

  1. Skip the household cleaners: Most cleaning products are too harsh for our technology and can end up causing permanent damage. You want something that can kill germs and remove everyday grime, without scratching or leaving behind a scented residue. Your best bet is Isopropyl Alcohol. You’ll find it in the first aid section of supermarkets and pharmacies, or at the hardware store.
  2. Power down completely: Turn your tech off all the way, not just sleeping, and unplug from any power sources. Switch wireless keyboards, mice, etc off underneath or remove the batteries.
  3. Remove any cases or covers: Undress your device as much as you can, but leave screen protectors on (unless there’s grime underneath). If your screen protector needs replacing, have a new one ready to apply.
  4. Grab a microfiber cloth: Dampen the cloth with Isopropyl Alcohol and wipe screens and external surfaces gently. Older build-up may require extra effort.
  5. Go deep: You can use a toothbrush or cotton tip to clean between most crevices, but some areas will need a bit more ‘oomph’ to clear. You’ve probably seen people use vacuum cleaners on their keyboard, but these are often TOO powerful and may suck keys or internal parts loose. They also generate damaging static electricity. Another option is to use a tech-specific vacuum, but these are usually underpowered.

Insider tip: Use a can of compressed air to blow the dust out. You can get these from many stores and they come with a long nozzle so you can really get in and direct the pressure. You’ll be surprised what flies out, so it’s best to do this outside! We don’t recommend using compressed air on your computer’s internal fans though, as this can make them spin too fast and damage them.

How often you clean your tech is up to you and your lifestyle. But it’s a good idea to blow out computer internal dust at least twice a year and wiping your tech down 1-2 times per week will definitely reduce germs and grime.

Tech Tip: Why Your Updates Are More Important Than Ever

Why Your Updates Are More Important Than Ever

 

Stories about hackers and virus attacks seem to be making the news almost every day, and many of these news stories include tips on how you can avoid becoming a victim. One common theme among these tips is making sure your Windows operating system up to date.

Every day hackers are trying to figure out new ways to break into Microsoft Windows and once they do find a weakness, they try and find a way to spread it. This could be through a malicious email attachment or even something that spreads without your involvement.

 

Updates Explained

Whenever Microsoft discovers a potential flaw, they push out a small piece of software to all Windows computers running a supported version. If set correctly, your computer will check if there’s any updates or patches and install them automatically. In new versions, this usually happens when you’re shutting down or starting up, and doesn’t impact your experience at all. Unfortunately, some users will manually disable or delay their updates, creating a risky situation.

The update may include security patches, drivers or a simple tweak to address bugs or issues with Windows. Sometimes, they even include new features or applications to improve the stability of your operating system. They’re a good thing!

Not All Versions Get Updates

Some older operating systems are no longer supported, which means unless there are extenuating circumstances, Microsoft won’t issue any new updates. Not a single one – generally, if cyber criminals discover a flaw after support ends, they’re free to exploit it.  For example, Windows XP support ended in 2014, and Windows Vista just ended in April this year. The moment an operating system is retired it becomes a playground for cyber-criminals.

It’s not just Microsoft walking away from these old versions either. Third party software like the Google Chrome browser will still work, but they’ve also stopped supporting old versions with crucial updates and patches. It might seem like everything is working fine because your anti-virus isn’t pinging in alarm, but it just becomes a case of risk, upon risk, upon risk.

What to do with older Windows

As much as you’re comfortable with your older version of Windows, each time you boot up you’re exposing your system, important files and entire network. It only takes one weak entry point in the chain to allow malware into all connected devices. That could mean your photo storage, media center or even smart appliances. It’s not worth it – if you’re running Windows XP or Vista (or older), you need to update to a more modern operating system ASAP. Give us a call to upgrade your computer.

We can also monitor your system remotely and apply your Windows updates with our Managed Services packages, ensuring you are always up to date and protected. Give us a call at 0800 4 VETTA.

1 2 3 10