What to do with IT Equipment in a Storm?

Protection from storm damageWith all the problems Queenslanders are experiencing at the moment with storms and flooding (and our thoughts and prayers go out to all those affected) I thought I’d write up some tips on how to protect your computers and related equipment during a storm.

The best things to do in a electrical storm is to turn off and unplug all your equipment but more often than not this is unpractical. So what can you do to still use your computer but lessen the chance of problems?

1)      Get a UPS (uninterruptible power supply). These provide a dual benefit of battery backup and surge protection. If you lose power the battery will allow you to save your current work and shutdown the computer without any loss of data or software corruption. Remember though as with all batteries their performance decreases over time – so check and replace the unit or the inbuilt battery regularly.

2)      Save your work often. Even with a UPS your battery may not last long.

3)      Backups. Regularly perform backups and always keep at least one copy of the data offsite. Online or cloud based backups are good but consider the amount of time it will take to download or your data (in case off loss or how you will retrieve that data if your Internet is down).

4) Have a plan so all your staff know what to do when a storm approaches and / or you have a power failure.

5) Test you plan and your backups regularly.

You can get the low end UPS’s from your local electronics store but remember as with all things you get what you pay for. Those cheap power boards with surge protection provide only limited defence in terms of surge protection. If you need a larger UPS to provide longer battery life or need to protect a server please talk to your IT provider or contact us.

Junk Mail Folder

Most email clients have a Junk Email or Spam folder.  I often get calls with people saying they haven’t received an email but when they look in their Junk Email or Spam folder it is sitting in there.

Why does this happen? Well as with most things the inbuilt spam filter is not perfect – it will either catch legit emails, let spam through or maybe even a combination of the two. One way to ensure legitimate emails from people you know come through to your inbox is to add them to a whitelist. The method for doing this depends upon the spam filter you are using but try this – right click on the legit email and there should be an option similar to “never block sender” or “add to whitelist”.

So the point of this post is this to remind you to regularly check your junk mail folder at least every other day and add legitimate senders to your whitelist. You may be surprised to find a few emails in there that you were supposed to get and never did. It will only take a few minutes and maybe, just maybe someone won’t be thinking, “wow, they never replied back”.

Time to change your passwords.

With the new year here it is a good time to remind everyone to change their passwords for all your accounts. Most people do not ever change their passwords unless forced to by the online sites. Nobody likes changing their passwords and when they do get around to it they change it to a very similar password that they just used. Is that ok? Yes, but it is much better to change it completely.

Are passwords still secure?

Well a complex password (uppercase/lowercase letters, numbers and special characters, at least 8 characters in length) is ok a longer passphrase is much better.

What is a passphrase?

passphrase is a combination of words or other text (uppercase/lowercase letters, numbers and special characters ). It is the same as a password in usage but is longer for added security.

What are good passwords / passphrases?

If you have a simple password, such as “password” or any of the ones listed on the following website  (http://gizmodo.com/5954372/the-25-most-popular-passwords-of-2012 ) you definitely need to change your password! We recommend a passphrase of at least two words containing uppercase and lowercase letters, numbers and special characters, at least 10 characters in length

Where you should change your password

Sites where you should change your password include the following:

  • Banking sites
  • Email
  • LinkedIn
  • Facebook
  • Paypal
  • YouTube
  • Twitter
  • eBay
  • Amazon
  • ISP account

Other places you should also change include:

  • Modem / router login
  • Wireless network key
  • Your computer (if it has a password)
  • Any servers or databases you have.

If you need any help with your password changes let us know or leave a comment below.

Help – My Internet Is Not Working!

No internet connectionYour Internet is not working, what can you do?

I often get calls from clients that their Internet is not working. Usually it can be solved within a few minutes and this article will show you some steps you can take to get things going again.

The first thing you need to do is work out whether it is your whole Internet connection or just your email provider, a certain website or maybe your actual computer that is having problems. So first check if you can get to a few different websites – if you can it is your email provider or the website that is the issue so contact them. Also check to see if other computers in your home or office are having the same problems – if they aren’t it is your computer that is the issue.

If the Internet is still be problematic turn off the modem / router for 20 minutes, turn it on again, wait a few minutes and see if things work. If not you will need to do an isolation test (this is for an ADSL connection).

  1. Start by unplugging anything connected to the phone line your Internet is on – including phones, EFTPOS terminals, dialup modems, Foxtel Digital boxes, fax machines and anything else which uses the same telephone line as your ADSL connection. If you have multiple telephone lines coming into your location, you can leave any equipment on non-broadband lines plugged in.
  2. Once everything is unplugged, connect your modem directly into the telephone wall sockets using a short telephone cable no longer than a metre in length. Wait a few minutes and test again.
  3. If the Internet is still not working connect a telephone to that socket and make sure that the wall socket you’re using has dial tone. If possible try another telephone socket.

If the Internet returns you can start plugging back in the equipment you previously disconnected one by one. Wait one to two minutes after each device is plugged back in to see if the Internet goes out. If it does the device you just connected is the culprit.

If a piece of equipment is interfering with your Internet, it could be because you don’t have a filter connected or the filter is faulty – install a new ADSL filter if to test this out.

If the Internet doesn’t come back during these tests try another modem if possible. If not give your ISP support a call. Don’t forget to let them know what you’ve already tried as they will probably try to step you through a similar process to the above.

Does Having an Antivirus Program Make You Safe?

I have an Antivirus Program so I am safe?

Many people think that because they have antivirus protection that they are protected against all malware.  FYI malware is short for malicious software and includes viruses, spyware, trojans etc. Well unfortunately we have seen malware on or sorts of computers which have been “protected” by all the major antivirus software vendors.

Why can’t antivirus software provide me with 100% protection?

Well software can find it hard to protect you from new malware they don’t know about, users can allow problems through, malware writers deliberately have work arounds for antivirus software and malware can target weak links within the operating system itself.
“So how do you protect your computers than?” is what people ask next. Well it is a combination of things:
  • Don’t throw away your antivirus program as they do stop a lot of the problems.
  • Try not to get the malware in the first place (see below for tips).
  • Use a limited user accounts.
  • You don’t physically visit the “dodgy” areas of your city in the middle of the night so don’t visit the dodgy areas on the Internet.
The best defense against spyware and other unwanted software is not to download it in the first place. Here are a few helpful tips that can protect you from downloading software you don’t want:
  • Only download programs from Web sites you trust (Malware can piggy back onto other free programs). If you’re not sure whether to trust a program you are considering downloading, ask a knowledgeable friend or enter the name of the program into your favorite search engine to see if anyone else has reported that it contains spyware.
  • Read all security warnings, license agreements, and privacy statements associated with any software you download. Don’t blindly click on things.
  • Never click “agree” or “OK” to close a window unless you definitely know what the software is and what the “Agree” or “ok” relates to. Instead, click the red “x” in the corner of the window or press the Alt + F4 buttons on your keyboard to close a window.
  • Be wary of “free” software (whether they be games, music or movie file-sharing programs) and be sure you clearly understand all of the software packaged with those programs.
  • If you get a pop up window that is asking you to pay for removal of malware and tells you that you have a virus…that program is the malware! If you get that window, I would do the Alt+F4 and restart your computer. That is the easiest way to avoid having to touch that window. For the more experienced users, go to task manager and stop all the Internet Explorer windows running. That will close that window too.
  • If you have had problems since you have recently installed a specific program, it’s probably due to what was downloaded. Uninstall the program and run a malware scan to see if the issue goes away.
  • Kids these days think everything is safe…”I learned how to do this at school Mom!”….from who? Their friends? The kids today are full of “I know more than you” stories and most of the time what they have installed is what is clogging your computer up with malware!
  • Remember if something is too good to be true it most likely is. A lot of scams and malware trick users into believing they will get something for nothing. Once you click on “Ok” or “Yes” the malware is let onto your system.
Remember if your computer is running slow, behaving strangely or doing other odd things then call in a professional to give you a proper diagnostics.
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DISCLAIMER: We will not be held responsible for any damage or data loss to your system. If you are in doubt over something please contact a professional.
DP Computing are a computer support company providing IT consulting and support services to SOHO’s and SMB’s throughout Adelaide, South Australia and the surrounding areas. If you need any type of computer support or IT help please contact us. The full list of services we provide are listed on our Adelaide computer services page.

Basic Data Backup

Backing up your data –  it’s easy!

It’s amazing how many people out there never backup their data. Just think about all the data you have – Word files, Excel spreadsheets  finance data, photos, music, emails, contacts and the list goes on. What would happen if you lost everything?????

Performing a simple manual backup these days is quite easy. First thing you need to do is purchase an external hard drive – these are available at most stores and depending upon the size cost from around $100 upwards.

Second thing you do, is install the hard drive. It’s usually as easy as just plugging the cord into the computers USB port, but each hard drive has a set of instructions.

Third thing, figure out where all your stuff is on your computer. Many people just keep it all in the “my documents” folder. Others have files scattered around their hard drive, but either way…you know where your stuff is right??? If not contact us to find it for you!

Now go and find your data, right click on it and make a copy. Then go to your new external hard drive in the “my computer” window and right click “paste”.

It’s really that easy. Some external hard drives even come complete with a backup program which simplifies the process even more – please consult with the instructions that came with the external drive on how to use this.

If you need more assistance or would like to make scheduled backups (where all you need to do is change the hard drive over), please feel free to call me. Don’t forget to check that your backups are working correctly by plugging in the external hard drive on another computer and making sure you can open and read the backed up data.

Remember that backing up your data is essential and you should regularly do it!
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DISCLAIMER: We will not be held responsible for any damage or data loss to your system. If you are in doubt over something or if the steps are different than what you see on your computer please contact a professional.

DP Computing are a computer support company providing IT consulting and support services to SOHO’s and SMB’s throughout Adelaide, South Australia and the surrounding areas. If you need any type of computer support or IT help please contact us. The full list of services we provide are listed on our computer services page.

The “Blue Screen of Death”

So you get have the “blue screen” or “blue screen of death”…what do you do now?

You need to first narrow down the cause by following these steps and go from there.
  • Restart the computer and see if the problems reoccurs.
  • Did you just plug in a piece of equipment? If so disconnect it and try it again.
  • Turn off the computer and unplug all the cables to the computer. Leave just the monitor connected and turn on the system.
  • Plug your mouse and keyboard in and see if the blue screen comes back. If it blue screens, it’s more than likely your mouse or USB port. If the end of your mouse has a circular end, it’s probably not the issue. If it has a 1/2? thin metal end, it’s a USB mouse and could be the issue. Try another mouse if you have one.
  • If your computer works fine again, then test your other USB peripherals (camera, webcam, printer, etc). If it bluescreens when you plug in a certain piece of equipment then the issue is related to that item.
  • If you are still having issues then it could be software, hard drive or motherboard issue and you will need to either investigate. A full operating system format and reinstall may be needed but get some professional advice first.
If you have any questions, feel free to contact DP Computing at support@dpcomputing.com.au or via www.dpcomputing.com.au.