Updates are Easy…and Necessary

There’s a reason why you should update your software on a regular basis. The updates fix security issues and other bugs. It’s an easy process. Just set up an automated routine and never worry about downloading and installing them. An example from a new client shows the consequences of neglect.

When we took on our new client, we were given a laundry list of issues. There’s nothing unusual about that because nobody changes their IT support provider unless there are a lot of problems. In working through the list, we found that their operating system had not been updated for months – nor had they updated their virus software.

To us, this is unbelievable. It’s also totally avoidable. Too many small offices and consumers think the updates are not important. We consider them absolutely necessary – and for small businesses and individuals, they may be even more vital than for larger systems. The reason is that mid-size and large businesses have dedicated IT staffs to monitor and maintain their systems. Smaller system owners rely on themselves and outside support providers to do that work. When that work is not done, IT systems are exposed to all sorts of vulnerabilities.

We monitor our clients’ systems, especially at update time; to make sure everything is in order and to let them know if there are issues. System security is the big thing. With so many types of hackers looking to either steal personal information or hold your files hostage for ransom, security simply has never been so important.

Along with your operating system and program files, it’s vitally important to update your virus and malware software. It’s easy to do.

Microsoft issues updates on the second Tuesday of the month – Patch Tuesday – generally in the afternoon. If you are set up for automatic updates, your computer will automatically download them within 24 to 48 hours. Your only obligation is to restart your computer for some of the updates to take effect.

Windows 7 and 8 users can refer to this article from Microsoft to set up your automatic updates, including whether you want to install them automatically or be notified so you can install them at the time of your choice. It’s a four-step process.

The only caution we have is to be careful of anyone contacting you out of the blue to fix your computer online. Microsoft and Apple, for example, will NEVER contact you about a problem with your computer. If you get an unsolicited email or call from someone who implies he or she can fix a problem with your computer, delete the email or hang up the phone call. If you are concerned about your computer system, call us.

If you have any questions about setting up automated Microsoft updates or determining which suggested updates to install – as opposed to those you must install – call us at 973-433-6676 or email us with your questions. We can help you set up an update program for all of your software applications.

‘Free’ Windows 10 Upgrade

Microsoft plans to introduce Windows 10 during the second half of the year – and it’s offering free upgrades for Windows 7 and 8. Free? Well, sort of.

Although nothing is set in cyberstone, early indications are that Microsoft will provide a free upgrade for qualified customers for a year. After that, you may have an option to continue with whatever version you downloaded; buy a copy or sign up for a subscription.

That last possibility may be the way Microsoft will go. The company has been pushing subscription-based software for a long time – at least as far as time is measured in technology – and it seems to be successful. Office 365 is a major part of their business, and when it’s time to upgrade software, Microsoft upgrades Office 365 first.

We like Office 365, and our customers who have subscribed like it. We know email will always work, and we know that all the performance and security updates will be installed. If Windows 10 follows the Office 365 model, we believe it will be a great product, especially for homes, home offices and small businesses.

The upgrade offer will likely apply to Windows-based computers and devices, and that makes sense for Microsoft as the company tries to expand and strengthen its customer base through integration. The company believes that as customers start to learn better how the software works, they will grow to appreciate (or become dependent upon) the innovations and will pay to stay on board with the most up-to-date software available.

So, who may be left out of the free offer? Enterprise users will not qualify for the free upgrade. In not so many words, Microsoft notes that enterprise customers are already on subscription for the service and that they will see the value of maintaining Microsoft across all of their platforms.

Many anti-virus programs and other applications are already available through subscription, and we advise you to take advantage of the benefits. In almost all cases, the subscription works out to be less expensive when you factor in all the benefits of performance and security – especially as hacking becomes more prevalent.

Now would be a good time to start assessing how you can take advantage of Windows 10. Most of the systems on Windows 7 and all of the systems on Windows 8 or 8.1 should be able to migrate to the new OS. We can help you evaluate your current system and see how it can meet your ongoing needs over the next 6 to 24 months. That can help you budget for seamlessly moving forward with your technology. Call us at 973-433-6676 or email us to set up an appointment.

Phones, Autos and Bluetooth

If you’ve purchased a new iPhone or Droid phone and expect it work seamlessly in your relatively new car, you may be experiencing technical difficulties. Phone technology is miles ahead of automotive communications technology.

We have to admit it drove us “nuts” for a while, trying to get our new iPhone to sync with the Bluetooth system in our car. The hands-free voice capability did not work, and for someone – such as yours truly – who is always on the road and needs to communicate with customers having urgent needs, Bluetooth is a necessity.

We contacted a lot of different companies, and we essentially learned that you need to take a step back to move forward. The latest phones use Bluetooth 4; even the newest cars are running Bluetooth 1 or 2.

Thus, your solution is to downgrade the app on your phone to match the Bluetooth version in your car. While it’s not ideal, we understand the reason – as the situation currently exists. Even if you have the latest and greatest communications technology that was available for your car, it quickly goes out of date. And while it’s easy to get a new phone every year and get other devices pretty often, you generally don’t get a new car every year.

We can help you match your phone and other devices to your car’s Bluetooth system. Sometimes we can even walk you through the steps over the phone. Call us at 973-433-6676 or email us for help. Just have your car’s year, make and model info handy as well as the make and model of your cellphone or device. The ultimate answer will be for auto manufacturers and suppliers to figure out a better way for you to upgrade your car’s Bluetooth version, but in the meantime, we can help you now.