(COVID-19) continues to spread and infect more and more people worldwide, we
wonder if or how businesses and people are ready or planning the possibility of
working remotely in isolation at home? This poses a lot of questions and setup
options for many in a variety of different fields. All businesses rely on office
roles, to one degree or another to help keep their business running smoothly
using cloud-based services, video conference & chat scenarios, file sharing
while allowing secure access in increasing world of cybercrime. Trying to keep
this simple yet broad and informative we have compiled a list of possible
scenarios to help or prompt what course of action to prepare your business,
staff or self to keep working in this critical period. Something that will be
easier to setup and plan now rather than after a probable isolation period for
these options do cross over to a certain degree or tie in with each other:
Remote to individual work computer or to take it home? – Think about the best option for each
user or business. Your IT support person more than likely will have to setup internal
services and privileges to enable external access for you to remote in or if
you take your computer with you. Your support people may even need to remote to
that external computer whilst setting up for that external access.
Cloud based services – Lots of fields use cloud-based subscriptions or services and can just
work remotely relatively easy. Remember safe password sharing practices to
avoid unwarranted external access. There are also user privilege levels that
can be assigned eg, Admin, Editor, Viewer etc to many of these services. Turn
on and use 2 Factor Authentication where possible. More suggestions in
Password availability and sharing – Rather than just handing users a password list,
think about password managers as there are options to share passwords to users
without disclosing the actual password. Once the user does not require access
to that system then remove them from that shared password. This will be much
quicker than changing passwords for everything in future that you more than
likely will not get around to doing.
Video calls, conference and chat options – Video suggests via camera so the majority of
users will be fine having access to a laptop or phone however if you need a
webcam, you may want to look at buying one sooner rather than later. There are
a number of chat programs that allow individual messages or to groups, so all see
the all members can converse at the same time.
File sharing – Crossing over with the above topic is sharing files with other team
members as these chat programs will do. However, remembering to update your
master/source files may need some thought especially if have multiple users
accessing and updating the same files.
Email access options – Most users and businesses will have email systems or services that allow
people to use an email client (outlook, thunderbird etc) or login via webmail for
quick access rather than needing a potential setup on a user pc. Shared
mailboxes are an option within these mail services or mail forwarding and alias
options can be setup to suit the individual or businesses scenario.
We hope all
people stay safe during this tough time and businesses can keep functioning as
best possible. Keeping in mind working via remote access and external to
companies will be at greater cybersecurity risk and scams.
Well its that time of year again. World backup day is almost upon us, and my aim is to get you motivated and ready to backup your computers, phones, pics, documents. Whatever it is and where ever it may be located. What would you do if you lost those work files or memories that are of utmost importance to you?
We all own or have access to so many devices and services and this list may prompt you to rethink how, where and why to backup as I guarantee there is something you totally forgot about.
What files to backup or sync elsewhere
Email, contacts and calendar – most services these days like Gmail, Yahoo, Outlook.com or business services using in-house Exchange services or Office365 are synced to servers. Some of these services do allow the export of email, contacts and calendars. If not, you can read, view and export them using Microsoft outlook or windows mail.
Pics and videos – Whilst most people use the My Pictures and My videos default folders in windows, we have all edited some of these pictures, scanned images or created images for websites as example and these installed programs may have different default save locations. Find where they may be hidden.
Documents – The same as above, My Documents are the common location however also remember the scanned pdf’s. Where did the installed software save it to?
Browser Bookmarks – Browsers these days sync online or with plugins or extensions sync with each competitors’ browser, eg chrome to firefox but not many of us do have browsers signed in so you can easily export the bookmarks for safe keeping.
Passwords – not the ideal document to have in Microsoft Word or Excel format but there are many encrypted password tools available with export functions. Don’t forget this important file. If you want more tips on securing your password read this story “Welcome the new year with new more secure passwords” and be safer online.
Software – Not all software that you have purchased or downloaded in the past is easy to find again and download. Or becomes unavailable as a next version is and that doesn’t run on your pc for some reason. Keep a copy for no matter what reason.
Complete system – There are a myriad of software developers out there that have system or partition backup functionality. This can save you in the event of a complete system crash like hard drive failure, virus, theft of device etc. The system image can be restored to a new computer or opened retrieving any files like any of the above list.
Websites – Do you have a personal or company website? No matter what system you use, be it WordPress, Joomla or the host level CPanel you can back this up and download, save to an alternate location. The company that set up the site might cease operation or same with the hosting company. This could save you a great deal of money in new setup and design charges.
Why to backup
Most of these are out of our control but can happen at any time when least expected.
Hardware failure (Hard drive or solid state drive)
Manual copy – If there isn’t much data or just one folder that you need backed up then just manually copying (Drag and drop, Copy and Paste) to the location of your choice as explained in the section below.
Windows Backup – Windows 7, 8 & 10 have a system image and file backup option built in. This can be setup with schedules or to a specific USB drive when it is plugged in.
Third Party software & service – Companies like EaseUS, AOMIE, Macrium Reflect, Cloudberry or Carbonite are all reputable and have Free, home, business and enterprise versions for use or purchase. All giving the option to make a partition image, system image, scheduled backups, incremental and differential backups and to pretty much any location of your choice.
There are a few backup types as listed above. A quick explanation of them should help you make sure you get the right back set for your needs.
Image – An exact copy of an entire drive or partition (defined region) enabling full system recovery with boot information possible.
Full backup – A copy of all the selected folders and files are backed up
Incremental backup – A copy of data that has changed since the last backup whether incremental or full backup.
Differential backup – A copy of data that has changed or has been added to since the last full backup.
Where to backup to
This section is nearly the most important as you need to think a lot of “what if’s” like house fire, burglary or surges during lightning storm so think offsite also. Eg if your backup drive is up to date but in the next room and you have a fire then sorry it will be gone.
DVD, USB Flash or USB Hard Drive – All of the above “how to backup” suggestions can be done to these drives. USB hard drive is a good solution for large amounts of data and cheap.
Network Attached Storage (NAS) – These are great devices for large amounts of storage and aren’t huge like the traditional server and with much more functionality and services that can be added to it. However, from the backup point of view mirrored drives are options, so if one fails you don’t lose your data. Put a new drive in the failed drives place and they sync. For offsite then automated sync to cloud services can also be done. Or plug USB drive in and take offsite after backup complete. Also think of this as your own cloud service. You can access this anywhere in the world and its on your premises.
Cloud Services – Dropbox, Microsoft Onedrive, Google Drive etc offer up to 15gb of free space. Their software will automatically sync your files or you can manually copy to these services. If you use more than one of these services then you can opt for software to manage these like Multcloud or Air Explorer. Both the software and cloud services are constantly changing with new features and data limits.
Online backup services – Carbonite, Backblaze, Acronis etc provide the software and the cloud space. They tend to charge for the space you occupy with your backup and different for personal or business services.
Along with “where to backup to”, this bit of advice would have to also be the most important. Its good that you are doing backups and “anything” is better than “nothing”. But have you checked that they work? After all, things go wrong and that is why we do backups. Double check the backup files can be accessed, that image file can be opened or will restore back and be of real value to you.
If everything works then automate it and regularly check it. If you ever need to recover and it works, I guarantee you will feel a great sense of relief.
After regularly being asked this question and as a repair option, I thought I would point out some of the reasons why your computer or laptop could be slow, freezing or randomly rebooting. Below are the common reasons (in no particular order) that you can check or attempt to fix to the technical level you feel comfortable with.
Faulty power connection – Check possible extension leads, power boards, power leads from wall power point to lead into back of computer or the power adaptor to socket in your laptop. Most desktop motherboards or laptops will have a power LED so you know if power is getting to the computer or device.
Faulty power supply in desktop, power adaptor in laptop or DC power jack in laptop – Same again check if there is an active power LED illuminated.
Dusty and overheating – A clear sign of this is the fans will be running at a high speed trying to cool the system down. On a normal cooling system the cooling fans will be quiet and may at intervals of more intensive use speed up and be noisy for short periods.
Faulty hardware. RAM, GPU (Graphics card), HDD (Hard Disk Drive), SSD (Solid State Drive) – This may not be an easy check unless you have spare parts that you can use for the time being to see if the problems go away. If you have multiple RAM Modules installed then you can try taking some out, rotating through them one at a time until you find the faulty one. For the HDD/SSD, you can try check your systems even viewer, click here if you are unsure how. https://technet.microsoft.com/en-us/library/aa996634(v=exchg.65).aspx . Look in Windows logs then System. If you see Hard Disk errors appear then you could try to do a check disk and potentially fix the problem. Two ways to try are, in windows go to This PC (Win10) or My Computer (Win7) and on the drive that shows the issue in event viewer eg C: Drive right click, then Properties, Tools Tab at top, then Error Check. The other is a command line as per this link https://technet.microsoft.com/en-us/library/ee872425.aspx . AND take backups of your system and/or files. As for the graphics card if you don’t have a spare some motherboards have built in graphics so you could revert back to that for the time being to see if you still have problems.
Insufficient RAM for amount of running programs or background services – There are potentially too many background services running or there are too many programs open and running at the one time. Both of these could be taking you over your limit. To check open your Task Manager, Performance tab and check your memory usage. One way to do this is right click on the taskbar at the bottom of screen by default and select Task Manager. Look to see if you are close or over limit when you would normally have these problems.
Damaged or incorrect drivers installed for devices – For one reason or another your hardware drivers could be corrupt or outdated for your current operating system. All manufacturers regularly update their hardware drivers for security patches, known problems or new features. It’s a good idea to regularly check
Virus, Malware etc – Depending on the severity of the infection. It could be just a quick scan and clean with your current antivirus program installed on your computer or eg Malwarebytes. It could need an offline/bootable rescue disk to do a deeper scan and clean like AVG, ESet or Kaspersky to name some you may know of.
Incorrect Bios settings – System bios settings have so many variants and names from motherboard features to manufacturer. CPU Clock speeds are one to not change unless you know what you are doing. Best solution when in your BIOS setup is find the “Load Defaults” or “Load Optimised Defaults” (or similar) to put settings back to normality in case things have changed for what ever reason.
Faulty external devices – If you have USB flash drives, Hard drives, Card Readers and other devices of this nature, they could be faulty or have a faulty USB or power cord causing your computer problems.
Old computer – After 3 years all these types of devices do need replacing or upgrading the parts that can be as much as we don’t like to accept that. For example. In that time, three plus series of CPU’s have passed and new technology has evolved. It is also the reason most companies and accountants depreciate them.
If your computer or laptop is older, then there are plenty of cheaper upgrade options to speed it up. Keep the operating system clean by removing software that you no longer use, remove printers from printers and devices in the control panel that you don’t have connected anymore. Programs like CCleaner can help to clear registry, unused files and some more difficult to uninstall programs.
If you wish to upgrade to much newer technology than you currently have then work out your needs or tasks for the new machine and set a price. What we like to suggest with rather old or failed machines is put the old hard drive into an external USB Case or the new desktop computer.
One of your new year’s resolutions should be updating ALL of your passwords and account security. With cybercrime on the rise, we all need to be more vigilant and make that extra effort to lock down and control our login details to keep accounts safe and in the rightful owner’s hands. No matter what it is. I have tried to cover all angles here for users to take on board.
Don’t use names, birth dates or other easy to find information. Just ask yourself “how much do I have visible on social media?” more than you realise.
The 8 + 4 rule. Using eight characters with one upper and lower case, a number and a special character will make a strong password. Spread the “4” out in the password.
Avoid using dictionary words. There are many tools out there that in early stage of cracking uses dictionary method so that can make it quicker to reveal your password
Multifactor authentication if possible. Eg. Sms or alternate email for additional login code.
Password managers can make life easier if you have trouble remembering all your account details. But remember, make the master password extra strong as if this is compromised will obviously give them access to everything you own. And use the more reputable known tools like LastPass, KeePass, Dashlane to name a few.
Different password for each site. Imagine you use email with password then sign up for “X” amount of online accounts with that same email account as login and same password. If one of them is compromised, then your email account is an easy target making it very easy to take over all you have ever signed up to.
Split up with your partner? I have had the pleasure of unlocking client’s computers and accounts that their Ex had locked out.
DO NOT save passwords in your web browser when it asks. Yes, they offer this for ease of use. That Is just saving the login details (username & password) in an easy to find place for the bad guys. I have had plenty of clients bring their computer in for assessment after scammers remotely connected to it. Not surprisingly I had to show them the great list of login details stored in each of the web browsers including bank details.
NEVER use the same password as any other account, especially for your online bank accounts.
Always lock your computer and phones. Set to auto lock after a short period of inactivity for those times you get interrupted.
Concerned one of your accounts has been compromised. Check if you have an account that has been compromised in a data breach. https://haveibeenpwned.com/
We all think it will never happen to me. It’ll be fine. Just remember what is in these accounts that you have and how much work it will take to get it back if you lost it or got locked out of it.
In the below couple of email images I have tried to point out ways for you to spot illegitimate emails that are only out to harm you in one way or another. Scam or phishing emails to either infect your computer or gain access to your accounts and steal login details. In the paypal image we have highlighted the From: address that is not paypal. This email clearly wants your login details. DO NOT CLICK on the link highlighted as login to your Paypal Account. Hover your mouse cursor over that link and it will show the actual link to where that will either record your login details or install something nasty on your computer. Your virus software will more than likely not save you.
Again in the second email image from Telstra the From: address is not Telstra. This one is set to have you intrigued to click around as you have the potential credit awaiting you. The extra “0” doesn’t look correct. All the links looked legitimate in this particular email however you the scammers want you to open that attached document with my red cross beside it. Clicking that will load something harmful to your system.
IF you do need to login to your accounts to confirm whatever it is that you are concerned about then safest way is to open your web browser and type in the address yourself. DO NOT CLICK THE LINK IN THE EMAIL.
However if you are already infected or have computer problems then contact us and we’ll gladly help.