How To Keep Your IT Equipment Clean

We use our IT equipment every day, but did you know it is one of the most disgusting pieces of equipment you own? Your phone may look clean, but studies show that a mobile phone can be 18x dirtier than a public restroom – and it gets worse. That keyboard you sit in front of while eating lunch is probably the biggest bacterial threat in your office with about 20 000 times more germs than a toilet seat (and if you share your computers with others this number will be a lot more).

Dirty equipment doesn’t only affect users as when dust builds up inside gadgets it causes them to overheat, malfunction and slow down. Your device essentially chokes on dust as vents and filters get clogged by sucking in pet hair and other floating debris.

Here are some steps on how to clean your essential tech items without damaging them:

  1. Skip the household cleaners: Most cleaning products are too harsh for technology and can end up causing permanent damage. You want something that can kill germs and remove everyday dirt and grime without scratching or leaving behind a residue. Your best bet is Isopropyl Alcohol. You’ll find it in hardware stores or even and your local chemist.
  2. Power down completely: Before doing any cleaning turn off the equipment (don’t just put it to sleep) and unplug it 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 a bit of extra effort.
  5. Go deep: You can use a cotton tip or toothbrush to clean between most crevices, but some areas will need a bit more ‘oomph’ to clear. We don’t recommend vacuum cleaners as these can generate static electricity which may kill the item you are trying to clean.  A can of compressed air is good to blow the dust out. You can get these from many stores and they come with a long nozzle so you can direct the air flow. You’ll be surprised what flies out, so it’s best to do this outside! Hold the fans with a pencil (or something similar) so that they don’t spin and potentially cause damage. Another option is to use a tech-specific vacuum, but unless you are using it a lot they can be expensive.

How often you clean your tech is up to you. But it’s a good idea to blow out the computers internals at least twice a year and wipe down the equipment a few times per month.

Is your computer making too much noise, getting too hot or would like us to clean them out? Give us a call at 08 8326 4364 or support@dpcomputing.com.au and we will take care of the cleaning for you.

How To Stay Cyber Safe When Travelling

Mobile Cyber SecurityWith cloud computing people are embracing the flexibility of working away from the office (whether at home or travelling) and working by simply accessing the relevant data or applications via the internet..

When in the office, you are protected by professionally designed firewalls, security infrastructure, and robust software. As soon as you step away from that network those protections disappear and leave your device and the data inside at greater risk.

Cyber attackers love to collect any data they can obtain – business or personal doesn’t matter to them as it can all be sold. These days the information stored on your device can be worth much more than the actual device.

Here are 3 ways a hacker may attack:

Random Opportunity: If you have left your laptop at a café or a thief has stolen the phone from your pocket, the outcome is the same – that device is gone. Hackers take any opportunity they can to gain access to a device: including taking them from hotel rooms and even asking to ‘borrow’ them for a few minutes – if they don’t steal it the device is handed back laden with spyware.

Creating a fake Wi-Fi Hotspot: We’ve all come to expect free Wi-Fi networks wherever we go. Hackers though will take advantage of this to create their own free, unsecure network just waiting for someone to connect. Once a user is connected a hacker can  grab any unsecured passwords sent across the network.

Intercepting an Unsecure Network: Hackers don’t even 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.

Don’t let these issues stop you using the Internet when out side the office. Just take the following precautions to increase your cyber safety and help protect your valuable data:

  1. Regularly make backups: 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. Be careful when using public Wi-Fi: Don’t use passwords or email when on a public network. Use a VPN or a 4G connection (ie tether your computer to your phones data connection) when you are accessing sensitive data or logging in to secure sites.
  3. Use passwords and encryption: At a minimum, make sure your device is password protected and has full drive encryption. With a password and drive encryption even if your storage drive 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 companies and people. This might include your IT provider so they can change passwords, your bank and any other financial institutions 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.

If you need further help with mobile cyber security contact us on (08) 8326 4364 or on support@dpcomputing.com.au.

How To Take Care Of Your Laptop Or Phone Battery.

Batteries are rarely talked about – until they are nearly empty and then we will beg desperately for a charger, hoping to get enough juice to last through to the end of day. Batteries are a miracle of engineering that get taken for granted when full and cursed when they are flat.

If it feels like your battery is running out faster, you might be right. It’s not because of ‘battery memory’ and needing to be cycled (that’s an older battery type called Nickel–metal hydride or NiMh), it’s because the modern Lithim-ion (Li-Ion) batteries in phones and laptops just simply wear out over time.

Using some of these tips will help extend the life of your battery:

  1. Keep your battery at room temperature. Heat is the one factor that reduces a batteries life so try and keep the battery between 20 and 25 degrees Celsius (even when not is use). Check your vents are clear with good airflow, and if necessary, help it out with a cooling laptop stand.
  2. Charge whenever you can. Lithium-ion batteries don’t like all the time being charged all the way up and drained all the way down. Give them a little charge here and there, and they’ll be happy. Also don’t fully discharge a lithium-ion battery.
  3. Think about getting a higher capacity battery. Carrying a spare battery is good but batteries deteriorate over time whether they are used or not so a higher capacity battery may be more beneficial.
  4. Remove the battery when the laptop is plugged in all the time. If you use your laptop all day plugged into the power think about removing the battery and only connecting it when you need to use the battery.
  5. Charge batteries before extended storing: For extended storage charge the battery to around 40 – 50% before storing in a cool place.
  6.  Use energy settings on your device. Think about lowering the brightness on your laptops, tablet or phone screen and use “hibernate” or “sleep” modes on laptops in order to use less battery power.

Yes your battery will wear out over time but you can help it keep its charge by following the above steps.

Internet Lingo 101 – A Cheat Sheet for Beginners

Internet Terminology 101The Internet is growing and changing so fast that even the dictionary has trouble keeping up. Here are some common terms that are helpful to know.

Browser
A browser is a software program that lets you view web pages, videos and other online content. It’s a core requirement of going online, as it converts the computer languages HTML, Javascript and XML into a readable form.

Popular browsers are Google Chrome, Safari, Firefox and Microsoft Edge – Internet Explorer has been superseded by Edge and due to security issues is no longer recommended.

Email
Electronic mail (aka email or e-mail) is a typed message sent from one person/business to another via the Internet. Email is usually delivered to the recipient quite quickly (sometimes in seconds) but can take up to a few hours or longer.

To read and write email you will need a program such as MS Outlook or access to an email service such as Gmail or Outlook.com (usually through a browser).  Most emails are in the form of letters, newsletters or catalogs and are often written with a more casual tone. Email can include text, links to the internet and images but can only include video and sound as an attachment.

Firewall
A firewall is a security measure designed to act like a bouncer to your network. It can be both a hardware or software device. When an unauthorized user attempts to gain entry, the firewall blocks their path and refuses their access.

HTTP and HTTPS
These are acronyms for the rules of how data is transmitted across the Internet. The actual mechanics are incredibly complicated, but the terms have one very important distinction – the s on the end.

HyperText Transfer Protocol (HTTP) describes how the images, text and links ion a webpage are transferred across the Internet.

HyperText Transfer Protocol Secured (HTTPS) means the page has an added layer of security to hide your personal information from hackers. Data sent through pages with this prefix are securely encrypted before transmission.

IP Address
Every device directly connected to the Internet is assigned a unique IP address to identify itself. It is used to make sure that when you request a page or document it is sent back to you. Your IP will look something like ‘202.9.64.55’ and may be referred to as fixed or dynamic IP address.

ISP
Your Internet Service Provider (ISP) is the company that allows you to connect to the Internet. You usually connect to them through a hardware device such as a modem or router. They can also offer extra services like email or web hosting.

Malware
Malware is the short form of the phrase malicious software. It is a broad term used to describe viruses and other software that performs a function that you don’t know about. Malware can trick you into paying money, take control of your computer, be used to launch attacks against other computers, steal your private details or break your computer in some way. Instead of listing each specific threat separately you’ll commonly see them lumped together under the general term ‘malware’.

Router
The traffic system for your network the connects computers and devices within your office or home and acts as a basic defensive gateway to the Internet. These hardware devices can be wired or wireless and allow you to share one Internet connection amongst all the computers and devices in your office or home.

Social Media
A term to widely describe all the websites and applications that let you share and interact with others online. To fit this term the site needs to allow user profiles, live updates and the ability to add friends and / or followers.

The most common social media websites are Facebook and Twitter.

Spam and Filtering
Spam refers to any unsolicited email message sent over the Internet. It is the electronic form of junk mail but is also a technique hackers use to trick people into clicking links which may infect their computer with malware.

Email applications are reasonably good at identifying spam and should shift dodgy messages automatically to a spam folder before you see it. Occasionally the filters get things wrong and you may find a relevant email needs to be dragged back to your inbox from the spam folder or allowed through. Filters should also allow for blacklisting and whitelisting email addresses.

URL
Each website has a unique address on the web known as a URL (Uniform Resource Locator). URLs commonly end in .com but can also end in a country specific extension like .com.au or .fr, or more recently, in new and exciting extensions such as .xyz or .me

Let me know below in the comments if you have any other words or want a description for a word or phrase you don’t understand.

 

Four Reasons To Use Anti-Spam Filtering In Your Business

Monitor screen showing spam in the mailbox

Remember the times when spam was obvious and unless you desperately needed a special blue pill they were easy to ignore and delete? The impact on your business was minimal as spam was just an annoyance rather than anything else. Unfortunately spam has now matured into an aggressive threat, marked by sophisticated attacks and rapidly evolving techniques. It is not just random electronic junk mail anymore and is putting a costly strain on your business resources.

How Spam Impacts Your Business

Hackers are now sending cleverly disguised emails to your business containing malware. Once clicked by an employee the malware can infect your computer system or steal your private data. The malware can spread across the entire computer network and beyond – including your clients and vendors. The fact that your employees must pause and examine every email adds hours of lost productivity. Some 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 an Anti-Spam Filter Can Save Your Business

Spam emailEmail clients such as Outlook can perform basic filtering but to rely just on Outlook is not recommended. The best method is to implement a corporate grade filtering solution. Depending on whether you have an on premise or cloud based server an on premise or external filtering options are available. Even if you have an on premise mail server we recommend an external filtering option. An external option stops spam ever reaching your office saving precious bandwidth and server processing time.

Ways in which a spam filter will benefit your business includes:

  1. Block threats before they reach your inbox: The spam filter’s purpose is to block the spam from ever reaching your employees mailboxes. The threat is automatically identified and either held securely or immediately deleted. This is the best way to avoid activating any malware present in spam – as it’s so easy for you or an employee to click on a link in an email that seems authentic and / or important. The effects of that one click may be instantaneous or may lie hidden for months. Removing the email before it is in a users mailbox is a much safer 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 need to meet conditions including the use of spam filtering to reduce the risk of data breach.
  4. Protect your reputation: You can see how uncomfortable CEOs are when they go public 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 but their business reputation takes a nosedive. Anti-spam filtering is a simple way to help reduce these types of scenarios.

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 more safely than ever before. You need email, but you definitely don’t need spam or the chaos it can bring to your business.

We can block spam and keep your legitimate emails flowing. Call us at 08 8326 4364 or email support@dpcomputing.com.au today!

Four Steps To A Modern Paperless Office

Paperless OfficeEver since computers were invented people have been talking about a paperless office. But if you are like me your desk is buried in paper, shelves are overcrowded with stacks of documents and there is just enough space for your keyboard, mouse and coffee? Well it is now time to go paperless, not just for your own sanity, but to streamline your entire business. It’s the one move that will save time and space while gaining flexibility for your mobile workforce.

When you’re ready to move to a paperless office, consider these 4 steps:

  1. Leverage the cloud for storage and search: Research the cloud and see how you can implement in your business. Documents can be uploaded, viewed and edited only by those with permission. There are free options like Google Drive and Dropbox right up to corporate grade solutions like Soonr (which is what we use). Some solutions provide functionality that easily enables you to find files using search functions, and no longer need to remember whether it was filed by name, subject or category – just enter what you need and let the system locate it for you. Then simply edit, share or email the file as required. No more filing cabinets or archive rooms, just clutter-free workspaces, room to breathe, and possibly even lower overheads now that you could fit into a smaller office space. Cloud based file storage also allow remote access, perfect for working on the go or telecommuting staff. Access files at any time using your secure login, on any device, from any location.
  2. Provide training across the board: Ongoing training is needed to ensure all workers are up to speed with the new system and the way you’d like things done. This is also the best time to set standards for file and folder names, new collaboration norms and security protocols. Long-term adoption requires cooperation from workers at all levels of your business and training for everyone will go a long way towards its success.
  3. Scan necessary papers: Unless you are a new business you will probably need to scan a lot of your old paperwork. Most office grade multifunction printers offer double-sided feed scanning, thus you can quickly scan papers into the system and then dispose of the paper. Alternatively, you can obtain special scanning hardware like the Fujitsu Scansnaps. If you still need a fax machine consider a fax to email service or see if your fax machine can be set to accept digital files only. File will scan to quite a small size, so running out of hard drive space shouldn’t be a concern.
  4. Prioritize backups: Once you have digitized your files you don’t want to lose them so you best have a robust backup system – including a regular off-site backup. Treat your backups as a vital insurance policy, so that your files are readily available and intact if required. Use your backups to address any issues as soon as they arise and keep your new paperless files well-managed and secure.

Ready to go paperless? We can help. Call us today at 08 83263 4364 or at support@dpcomputing.com.au.

Top 5 Reasons To Upgrade Your Network

Computer NetworkYou have worked hard and your business has grown at lightning speed. Now that you’re sure everything is on track to succeed but are not sure of how IT can provide a meaningful benefit to you business.

Here are the top 5 reasons to call in the networking professionals to check out your IT and network so that it is running and improving productivity in your business.

Speed: Transferring a large file across a network can cause lost productivity as time is lost waiting. As a small business this lost time was negligible, but as your business has grown, so has the wait time. It may only be 5 minutes a day but with roughly 260 work days in a year, that 5 minutes a day turns into 21 hours. The impact of this lost time causes breaks in workflow and concentration that can almost double the time off-task. To speed up things employees store files on their local machines which aren’t backed up leading to other issues.

Efficiency: Almost every business requires employees to share files. You may have gotten by with a simple setup and minimal or no security, but as your workforce has grown, so has the load on the network. Each computer, storage drive, printer and other networkable device adds further load onto your network – resulting in a slow transfers, errors, time off task, and even faster hardware failure. A professionally designed network will give your employees a central file storage location, with the added benefit of automated backups. No more losing hours of valuable effort or surprise file corruptions, just a scalable, secure server with smooth and efficient transfers.

Collaboration: Employees often need to work together on the same documents. Previously, this required them to take turns, waiting until someone else was finished before the file was available. With a modern network setup, collaboration becomes an organic, profitable way to work. Employees don’t even need to be in the same physical location, opening up opportunities for remote collaboration.

Confidentiality: Every business needs to keep at least some data confidential. Whether they are trade secrets or accounting data you need to have complete control over who sees what. Your IT professional will be able to establish a setup that meets your business’ unique needs. Perhaps the CEO is able to see everything, sales staff can only see sales data, and accounting can only see accounts. Access can be set based on name, department, role or go further and require passwords for certain folders.

Flexibility: Expand your connection flexibility with wireless networking for employees who are required to roam within the building, Virtual Private Networks (VPNs) for those working at home, or even cloud based file sharing for those who work offsite or in different locations. A good network setup will always support the way your business works, now and in the future.

Your ability to securely share, store and transfer files will be one of the key contributors to continued growth. The speed, efficiency and flexibility you build into your processes now will save you time, money and future frustration. It’s time to celebrate how far your business has come by looking to the future, with a robust, scalable network that supports your vision.

Give us a call at 08 8326 4364 to discuss your new network.

What is the “Internet of Things” or IoT?

You arrive at your home or business and the door unlocks because it knows who you are. The lights switch on automatically and your favorite music begins to stream gently through the room. It’s already the perfect temperature, and as you head to your fridge, you notice an alert on the screen reminding you of a meeting.

It may sound like a scene from a movie but it is actually reality today thanks to the Internet of Things (IoT). Almost anything that can be turned on or off is now able to be connected to the internet. An new industry has been created to help users create a custom experience designed around their unique needs. Electronic locks, lights, healthcare wearables and household appliances are just the beginning. IoT goes beyond devices you can use to surf the web – it’s a global revolution.

Adapters can transform even the most random appliance into a connected gadget and  add new layers of functionality. Cloud software is creating connections, resulting in not just a new experience, but a new way of interacting with the data produced. It may all seem futuristic, but IoT is less about technology and more about enhancing relationships between people to people, people to things and things to things.

Millions of people are already wearing a Fitbit to track steps and calories and others are letting their fridge order groceries! The practical applications are almost endless and include:

  • GPS trackers on pets.
  • home security via webcam.
  • patient monitoring of blood pressure/heart rate.
  • weather monitoring.
  • remote power points.

No more worrying all day if you left the iron on, just push a button on your phone and know for sure it’s turned off.

Of course, with all this comes security risks. The idea of having your toaster hacked is a bit mind-boggling but any technology connected to the internet is open to exploitation. The webcam that allows you to monitor your pets may also allow other people to glimpse inside your home – but only if it’s not secured properly. Unfortunately, it only takes one small gap for a cyber-attack to get through, and once in all connected devices may be at risk.

Having your lights taken over by a far-away prankster may seem like a small risk, but gaps may allow them into your computers, phones, tablets and other devices too. This is the part the news reports and movies skip over – the networking protections that exist in the background, shielding against attacks.

Taking the time to properly secure your IoT device is essential to making sure you get the whole, happy future-tech experience. We’re big fans of the potential of IoT and can’t wait to see what comes next!

Do you have an IoT device that needs securing or would like to learn more? Give us a call on 08 8326 4364 to help.

How to Make Computer Issues A Thing of the Past

Make computer issues a thing of the past?

Each day we repair many computers and laptops, but unfortunately this is often ‘closing the barn door after the horse has bolted’. Computers have a habit of failing at the worst possible time – like when an important project or quote is due. To combat this we have a preventative maintenance service (AKA a managed service) to remotely take care of all the computers in your office, protecting you against both threats and system failure.

Anti-virus always up-to-date
While many computers have anti-virus software installed it often is out of date or the subscription has expired. These systems are at risk every minute they spend online, as the anti-virus simply will not pick up and stop an unknown threat.

With our preventative maintenance plans we can make sure your anti-virus definitions are always up-to-date, keeping your computers and network secure against even the newest viruses.

Software patches
Hackers spend their time figuring out ways to break or crack into computer systems. Software companies like Microsoft regularly release patches to close these holes. Windows is supposed to automatically apply these patches but we often find that isn’t the case – patches didn’t download properly, were canceled or produced an error. Our services involve remotely checking that each patch has been applied successfully and troubleshoot any issues.

Early failure detection
Some parts in your computer log events when they’re about to die. Unfortunately, they’re not literal alarm bells so can’t easily be seen by end users. We can monitor these and advise repairs as required.

Tune-ups
Every computer slows down over time – hard drives become cluttered, new windows updates installed and ghosts of uninstalled programs still remain. We can remotely schedule and run a regular maintenance routine that will keep your system running in top condition and at the best possible speed.

With our proactive or managed IT services you can enjoy the benefits of having your own IT specialist team at one flat, low monthly cost. Your employees can continue to use your computers as normal with the only difference is that problems are found BEFORE they happen and your systems have the very best attention and security against threats.

Don’t be reactive contact us now on 08 8326 4364 and start being proactive with your IT systems today.

5 Ways to Make Your Laptop Last Longer

Extend the life of your laptop.Due to their portable nature laptops usually receive rough treatment but are one of the most fragile pieces of tech you’ll ever buy. Here are five easy tips to help extend the life of your laptop.

  1. Avoid sharp movements during use:
    While some new laptops have an SSD (with no moving parts) for storing data, many laptops still have a mechanical drive. The drive has a head and a constantly spinning data storage disk. The head hovers microns over the surface of the spinning disk and one knock can cause them to collide. Just like a deep scratch on a DVD the data on that section will be corrupted and lost or even worse all the data on your drive can become unreadable. We also see a lot of people putting their computer into sleep mode or not even powering them off before moving the device. Always make sure you power down or put into hibernate the laptop before moving it or packing it away.
  2. Keep it cool:
    Your laptop has a few ways of telling you when it’s too hot – the fan, auto-shut off and the heat of the case. Many component in your laptop are generating heat and the harder it’s working, the more heat it generates. The fan runs to blow that heat out the vents and keep the components cool enough to continue operating. Because there is no clear temperature indicator, your fan volume is the best guide to monitoring laptop heat. While the laptop is working hard (and getting hot), the fan will spin faster and louder – it is not uncommon for it to sound like a hair dryer. Help it out by keeping your fan vent clear of books, blankets, and other blockages. A regular internal clean out (performed by a professional) is also a must to help keep the laptop innards clear of dust.
  3. Respect the cords:
    Inside those power cords are a bunch of delicate wires begging you to be gentle with them. You would think they should be able to take a beating, get bent, twisted and run over with chair wheels, but unfortunately they are not. Keep cords clear of sharp or flat-edged items and when wrapping for transport try to remember how it came out of the box. When moving the laptop wrap the cord gently around itself or the power adapter and secure with Velcro or similar.
  4. Carry it in padded style:
    A laptop will endure many bumps and bangs as the bag is moved around, even with careful use. So look for a bag that not only fits your laptop but is also well padded. Ideally your bag will have front, back, bottom, top and side padding as well as a waterproof outer. If backpacks aren’t your style, look for padded or hard-shelled sleeves.
  5. Regularly back it up:
    Laptops provide fantastic mobility but are quite fragile. While a regular backup won’t make your laptop components last longer, it will make any issue you encounter easier to deal with as you won’t loose all your precious data. Consider a cloud based or off-site backup for additional protection, so no matter what happens with your laptop you still have all your important files.

Call us at 08 8326 4364 to give your laptop a life-extending service.