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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.

Tech Tip: How Much Could A RansomWare Attack Cost You?

How Much Could A Ransomware Attack Cost You?

Have you ever thought about how much your data is worth? Information is possibly the most valuable part of your business – there’s your client database, accounting software and inventory management, and of course, any intellectual property you may own.  When the ransomware, WannaCry, tore through the world recently, many businesses were suddenly forced to re-assess the value of their data: was it worth saving, and what would be the deeper cost of the attack?

Most ransomware attacks cost $150-$600 to get your files released, but that’s only IF the cyber-criminals honor the payment and actually give you the decryption key. Meanwhile, new client calls are still coming in and you may find yourself unable to operate with your systems down. Paying the ransom or restoring from an unaffected backup seems like a quick fix, but it doesn’t end there. There’s still the downtime involved to restore all your data – possibly days – and that’s a lot of lost productivity.  Plus, if word gets out that your data has been compromised, you may find confidence in your business plummets and your existing clients head elsewhere.  That $150 ransom may end up costing well over $150,000!

 

Prevent Ransomware Attacks on your Business

Keep your systems up to date: WannaCry took advantage of a flaw in older versions of Windows, one that was since patched by Microsoft. But to be protected, businesses had to be up to date with their patches AND be running a supported version of Windows. Delaying patches and updates puts your business at risk – we can help you update automatically.

Lock down employee computers: Very few staff will require full administrator access to your business network. The higher their level of permissions, the more damage a person can do – either accidentally with a whoopsie click, or by inadvertently installing malware. By locking down your employee computers, you have a better chance of containing a malware attack to non-vital systems. Our experts can design an access management plan that gives you best of both worlds: flexibility PLUS security.

Educate your workplace: Most employees believe they’re being cyber-safe but the reality is quite different. Many malicious links and embedded malware have become hard to spot in an instant – which is all it takes to click and regret. We can work with your staff to establish procedures around checking links for authenticity before clicking, awareness around verifying the source of attachments, and the importance of anti-virus scanning. We’ll help get the message through!

Have a solid backup plan: When ransomware hits, a connected backup = infected backup. Unfortunately, synced options such as Dropbox immediately clone the infected files, rendering them useless. The only safe backups will be the ones both physically and electronically disconnected, with systems designed to protect against attacks like this. Our experts can set you up with a backup system that makes recovery a breeze.

Be proactive: The best way to avoid the financial cost of a ransomware attack is to prevent it from happening in the first place. Remember, many businesses were able to watch WannaCry from the sidelines, completely unaffected and seizing opportunities while their competitors were down.

Our managed services can help protect your business against the next cyber-attack.

Call us today. 0800 4 VETTA.

Tech Tip: WannaCry Ransomware Explained: Is Your Business At Risk?

WannaCry Ransomware Explained: Is Your Business At Risk?

You’d be hard-pressed to miss last week’s biggest headline, the WannaCry cyber-attack sent shockwaves around the globe. Businesses of all sizes and even police departments found themselves crippled without warning.

Among the most prominent victims were many NHS hospitals in the UK, affecting up to 70,000 individual devices such as essential MRI scanners and blood-storage refrigerators. But by the time it hit the news, it was too late – either your system was protected, or it was infected. Here’s how it all went so wrong.

What is WannaCry?

The WannaCry cyber-attack was a type of malware (the collective name for computer viruses & bad juju) called ‘ransomware’. Just like the name suggests, it’s actually a demand for money. Like all ransomware attacks, WannaCry encrypts your files and holds them hostage until you pay. In this case, the price was set at $300, payable with internet currency Bitcoin, and you had 3 days to pay before it doubled. If you didn’t pay, the ransomware threatened to delete your files permanently. It’s yet unknown how much money the WannaCry hackers have earned with their latest attack, but you can be sure plenty of people have paid the ransom. Even the FBI recommends paying the ransom, especially if the ransomed files are of a sensitive nature or weren’t backed up.

How It Spread So Fast

It seems WannaCry may be a ‘computer worm’ that self-replicates and spreads, rather than a phishing attack that needs to be activated with a click. So far, no common trigger has been identified, as is normally the case with phishing links. WannaCry moved rapidly from system to system, spreading out through the entire network, including all connected backups and storage devices. At the same time, it spread out to infect other networks, who then spread it further, and so on. Given the nature of the internet, it was everywhere within hours.

Why Some Businesses Were Safe

WannaCry could ONLY infect systems that have fallen 2 months behind in their Windows updates. This is because it was created to take advantage of a specific vulnerability in Windows, one which Microsoft patched months ago. Without that patch, the ransomware could waltz right past the firewall, past the anti-virus and directly into the system (the NHS were reportedly running Windows XP – no longer supported). Those running Windows 10 or a fully patched, recent version of Windows were completely unaffected – the virus literally had no way in

It just goes to show the importance of staying up to date. We haven’t seen a second spike in WannaCry attacks yet, but that doesn’t mean there won’t be one. A quick update could protect your business from weeks of downtime and lost revenue, making attacks like this a non-issue.

With our managed services, we can make sure you stay up to date – and protected. Give us a call today at 0800 4 VETTA.


 

Tech Tip: Cyber Security: 4 Ways to Travel Safe For Business

Cyber Security: 4 Ways to Travel Safe For Business

So your desk is buried in paper, your shelves are overcrowded with stacks of documents, and you’ve carved out just enough space for your keyboard, mouse and coffee? It’s time to go paperless, not just for your own sanity, but to streamline the entire business. It’s the one move that saves time and space while gaining flexibility for your mobile workforce. When you’re ready to adopt paperless processes, consider these 4 steps:

Working from anywhere is now as simple as accessing the internet on your device. Managers, owners, and employees are all embracing the flexibility of working while traveling, making it the new global norm. But while you were in the office, you were protected by professionally designed firewalls, security infrastructure, and robust software. As soon as you step away from the building, those protections disappear, leaving your device and the data inside at great risk.

Cyber attackers love to collect any data they can obtain, often preferring to hack first, assess value later. It doesn’t help that almost all data can be sold, including your personal details, those of your clients and suppliers, as well as your proprietary business data. These days, the information stored on your device is usually worth much more than the device itself.

 

Here are 3 ways a hacker will attack:

Flaunting Opportunity: Whether your employee left their laptop at a café or a thief stole the phone from their pocket, the outcome is the same – that device is gone. Hackers will take advantage of any opportunity to gain access to a device, including taking them from hotel rooms and even asking to ‘borrow’ them for a few minutes to install spyware, before handing it back.

Spoofing a Wi-Fi Hotspot: We’ve all come to expect free Wi-Fi networks wherever we go. Hackers will take advantage of this trust to create their own free, unsecure network, just waiting for a traveler to check a quick email.

Intercepting an Unsecure Network: Hackers don’t need to own the Wi-Fi network to steal content from it. Data traveling across an unsecure network is visible and available to anyone with the right software.

It’s okay, you don’t need to lock all employees inside the building or cancel all travel plans. Taking these four precautions will increase cyber safety and help protect your business data while on the go.

  1. Make a backup before you travel: In the event your device is lost or damaged, you’ll be able to replace the device with a new one and quickly restore all the data from a backup, all with minimal downtime.
  2. Don’t use public Wi-Fi: Wait until you have access to a secure network before going online – even just to check email.
  3. Use passwords and encryption: At a minimum, make sure you have a password on your device, or even better, have full drive encryption. That way, even if your data storage is removed from the device, the contents are inaccessible.
  4. Act fast after loss: If your device is lost or stolen, immediately notify the appropriate people. This might include your IT provider so they can change passwords, your bank so they can lock down accounts, and any staff who need to be aware of the breach so they aren’t tricked into allowing further breaches.

 

Need help with mobile cyber security? Call us at 0800 4 VETTA

Tech Tip: 4 Important Reasons to Use Anti-Spam Filtering in your Business

Remember when spam was obvious, and unless you desperately needed a special blue pill, it was easy to identify and ignore? Those were the days!  The impact on your business would have been minimal, as spam was more an annoyance than anything else. Unfortunately, spam has matured into an aggressive threat, marked by sophisticated attacks and rapidly evolving techniques. It’s not just random electronic junk mail anymore and it’s putting a costly strain on your business resources.

How Spam Impacts Your Business

Spam now contains malware, with hackers sending cleverly disguised emails to your business. Once clicked by an employee, it infects your computer system (virus) or steals your private data (phishing).  The malware can then spread across the entire computer network and beyond, including to your clients and vendors. The very fact that your employees must pause and examine every single link and attachment adds hours of lost productivity. Occasionally, spam is so convincing that only an expert would be able to visually identify it. Employees are also more likely to miss an important email, either not seeing it arrive at the same time as a spam attack or becoming overwhelmed with the sheer number of emails.

How Anti-Spam Can Save Your Business

  1. Block threats: The spam filter’s purpose is to block the spam from ever reaching your employees’ screens. The threat is automatically identified and either held securely or immediately deleted. This is the best way to avoid activating spam malware, as it’s so easy to click through links in an email that seems authentic and important. The effects of that one spam click may be instantaneous or may lie hidden for months. Removing the email before it becomes a risk is a much better option.
  2. Filter legitimate emails: Real mail needs to be able to stand out and avoid the trash. Anti-spam filtering has sophisticated recognition abilities which block spam only and allow real mail to land safely in mailboxes.
  3. Meet data regulations: Many businesses are subject to strict privacy and data storage regulations, some more so than others. To continue operation, they have to meet conditions including always using spam filtering to reduce the risk of data breach.
  4. Protect your business reputation: You can see how uncomfortable CEOs are when they hold press conferences to admit a breach. They must acknowledge that they failed to protect client data, or that users may be infected with a virus. Not only do they then face financial loss, their business reputation takes a nosedive. Anti-spam filtering can ensure these types of scenarios don’t happen to you.

Filtering has come a long way in recent years, with complex algorithms identifying and catching spam before it becomes a risk to your business. Real emails can now pass safely through without the classic catchcry of ‘check the spam folder’, and businesses can work with greater productivity and safety than ever before. You need email, but you definitely don’t need spam or the chaos it brings to your business.

We can block spam and keep your legitimate emails flowing. Call us at 0800 4 VETTA today!

Tech Tip: Does Dropbox Make Sense For Your Business?

It seems so easy! Drag your files into a Dropbox folder and you’ve got yourself a file sharing system that brings your business in line with modern expectations. But then again, maybe not.

Dropbox has grown to become one of the main file sharing and cloud storage solutions of choice, with a core simplicity that’s hard to deny. But for business, that simplicity comes with a catch.  In some cases, sticking with the familiar blue box can provide good value, and of course, it never hurts when your staff already know how to use your software. In other cases, you’ll need to consider alternatives designed to meet your needs more explicitly.

When Dropbox is a Good Choice

Micro-sized: If your business is small with no more than a handful of employees (or none);

No sensitive information: This includes accounts, customer details, vendor, staff or proprietary data; plus

Nobody ever accidentally deletes anything: Dropbox is a syncing service, which means when a file is deleted, it deletes it from all machines. While the file is recoverable from the Dropbox website within 30 days, by the time you notice it’s missing, it might be too late.

If you’re thinking those attributes sound more like a fictional business, you’re not far off.    Somehow, Dropbox’s popularity in the consumer sphere has snuck into business environments, despite the risks.  Key amongst these is the fact that Dropbox is designed for syncing, NOT backup. This means while your data is sprawling across all connected devices, it’s a mirror of the source only – when you delete or change the original file, the Dropbox version immediately syncs with it.  In some cases, this can spread malware between your connected devices and put all of them at risk.

Your business also misses out on important security controls, such as user-level access control and password protected links. Rather like a free-for-all, the shared files are sitting there available to anyone with either a connected device or an unsecure weblink. You’ll also miss collaborative editing, losing out in productivity and data resilience as multiple employees overwrite each other simultaneously, with no record of who even opened the file, let alone changed it.

If Dropbox makes sense for your business, there’s no reason to change. But if it’s clearly not a good choice for you, there are multiple corporate grade syncing solutions. These are designed for business with security, encryption and collaboration controls built in. Rather than the easiest solution which may pose a risk to your business and digital security, consider implementing a scalable solution that meets all your needs.

Call us at 0800 4 VETTA to discuss syncing solutions for your business

Tech Tip: When And Why You Should Use Remote Support

If you’ve ever had a sudden computer problem, you know it can be very stressful. So much of our day-to-day life requires having access to a working computer.

Homework, budgeting, bills, even browsing dinner recipes all have a degree of urgency that mean dealing with a broken computer isn’t comfortable for long. Your computer technician offers two options: remote repair or bring it in. Which is the best choice for you?

Benefits of Remote Support

Speed: If remote repair is a possibility, your technician can connect via the Internet and have you operational in no time. You might also choose to just leave it turned on in the morning and go to work as normal, while the tech logs in to conduct the repair, ready for your return. Without this option, you’d need to juggle time in your diary to drop the system off as most in-store techs only work 9-5.

Many large-scale remote support services are even available 24/7, eliminating all unnecessary delays.

Convenience: You get to skip the unpleasant tasks of unplugging the PC, untangling the cables and carting it into the repair store. Even then, once repaired, you’d still be privileged with carrying it back home and playing a game of which-plug-goes-where.

Computers may be getting smaller, but they’re still heavy and fiddly! Laptops are designed to be moved around often and it may not be a problem to stop at the repair store, but traveling with a desktop PC requires a little more effort and a lot more inconvenience.

Negatives of Remote Support

Limited repair options: A remote connection can only repair certain software problems, not hardware problems. It’s impossible for the technician to swap out a failed part remotely, and unless you’re confident in your own repair skills, guided physical repair isn’t viable either.

Occasionally the problem will also be outside the computer, perhaps a troublesome peripheral or connection. Your technician may be able to walk you through correcting some of these minor problems yourself, but most invariably require a physical call-out or taking your computer in-store.

Connection speed: A slow or unstable connection will make a remote repair take longer and increase the difficulty of the task. The extended time impacts the cost for the call, and in extreme cases, can negate any benefits of skipping the physical inspection. Your connection needs to allow the technician to see real-time responses as if they were sitting there in person.

Accessibility: If your computer won’t start or can’t connect to the Internet at all, your technician can’t log in. This includes seeing a ‘blue screen of death’, boot failure and Windows load failure. As much as they’d like to help you, being able to log in to your system is a vital step in the remote repair process.

Remote support and repair is the ideal situation, purely for speed and convenience. As a bonus, in the event the remote repair is unsuccessful, it also means your tech now has a better idea of the problem and can speed up any on-site or in-store repairs.  Remote support is the best option for many repairs and gets your computer working again with minimal disruption and lowest cost.

Need your IT sorted? Call us at 0800 4 VETTA for rapid remote support.