Two Essentials to Take Care of Business

Backing up your data files and keeping them from prying electronic eyes are essential. We have the tools and tips you need to take care of business at the office and at home. Here are some things to keep in mind.

The first tip is: Backup your data offsite. We never like to consider the “unthinkable,” but bad things do happen. A story from a recent sales call, a non-profit organization, drives home the point.

Non-profits can get a lot of software free or at a greatly discounted price. So, our client wondered why they needed to spend money to back up software on the cloud. As we were talking, the client mentioned that they had considered buying the house across the street from their office and converting it into their own space. They didn’t do it, and at some time after they made their decision, that house burned down.

We never talked about the cause of the fire. If the house was old, some failure of its electrical wiring, for example, could have played a role, and all of our client’s “free” stuff would have been gone. The cost of replacing and reinstalling all of their hardware and software – especially when you add the value of their time and the cost of lost service to their clients – would have been huge.

We’re happy this is a “could-have-happened” story, and we can’t emphasize backing up data offsite enough, but we have a tool to keep your data safe.

Our managed backup program includes automatic backup to the cloud through local data centers and daily monitoring. It is far less costly than post-disaster recovery and much more reliable than putting all of your data and pictures on an external drive that can fail or be lost in a fire or flood. It’s a proactive form of insurance.

Our second tip is: Never sacrifice protection for performance. In today’s hack-happy world, you can’t protect your data and yourself too much, but you must understand one thing: Any system can be hacked by any hacker willing to spend the time and effort to do it.

Just as you need doors and windows to enjoy the world outside of your home, you need pathways from your computer to the Internet. And, just as you have locks on your windows and doors to keep out most bad people and just as you take safe routes on trips, you need to use firewalls and passwords to lock your computer and data access, and you need antivirus software, malware protection and common sense to travel safely on the Internet.

At a recent security seminar, a presenter pointed out that people are agreeing to take on more bandwidth from providers for a free or a small fee. (You know our feelings about free stuff.) You can face problems if your firewall or Wi-Fi devices can’t handle the increased performance, and that can leave your security vulnerable.

We get questions from time to time, for example about the safety of storing data on Dropbox. Our question back to that is: Who hasn’t been hacked? Yes, Dropbox is as safe as you can make it as long as you and Dropbox take all the precautions and safeguards you can.

So, in this day and age of hyperactive hackers, how are you protecting yourself? Are you reading emails carefully before clicking on any links or attachments? Are you careful about signing up for online offers that are almost too good to be true? What kind of antivirus are you using?

We’ll address that last question. We have our partners, but no matter whose system you use, make sure they give you regular updates and act with blinding speed to fix a problem as soon as it’s discovered. Subscription services generally offer you better protection and faster fixes, and they are more likely to automatically update your virus and malware definitions.

If you accidentally click on a site or open an attachment, our recommendation is to push the power button on your computer or device IMMEDIATELY. This will stop any activity right away, and hopefully limit any damage. Then, call us without delay to find and fix any problems.

We can help you with all of your backup and antivirus needs, including installation of valid software and setting up automated functions. Call us – 973-433-6676 – or email us to discuss your needs and put a solution into action.

OS Updates from Apple

You can look for iOS 9 for your Apple devices later this month and OS X El Capitan for your Mac computers later this fall. Here’s what to look for when you see them.

iOS 9 has been in public beta testing, and the good-and-bad of that is that a lot of testers find lots of bugs. While it generates a lot of public complaining, the process gives Apple’s developers the chance to fix “real world” problems before the great masses of “real world” people start using it.

So, let’s get our technical issue out of the way. I had problems calling my wife cellphone-to-cellphone on the Verizon network. I got a weird message about circuits being busy, and other Verizon users had trouble with voice mail. When I called Verizon, they asked if I was using iOS 9. When I told them I was, they said they were working on the issue. That’s why I like public beta testing.

Now, for the features. A recent CNET review points to improvements in Siri, the Maps app, search tools and battery life. The new iOS will be available for devices as old as iPad 2 and iPhone 4S – which may correspond to the changing world of phone carrier contracts and data rates. Regardless, here some worthwhile features:

  • Siri will be able to answer questions that relate to locations and times, such as “Remind me to call Mom when I get home,” and she’ll deliver in seconds.
  • When you launch a Spotlight search by swiping right from the first home screen or swiping down, you’ll get your most common contacts, recently used apps and other info. It could tie Maps and your location to nearby places of interest.
  • Apple now has its own News app.
  • Maps now works with public transit. Touch a Transit tab at the top to see all sorts of options to get there via public transportation. You can even tap a train station or bus stop to see all of the lines that pass through that stop or what exit to take from a station.
  • The keyboard has a system-wide font change, and it shows letters in lowercase when shift is off. The display will shift to “caps” when you tap the shift key.
  • The Notes app allows you to quickly make check lists, add formatting to notes and add images. There’s a scribble pad to draw with your finger on screen, and you can select pen types and colors.
  • The new Low Power Mode could add up to 3 hours to battery life. Flip a switch in the settings, and you can reduce or disable functions like background app refresh and visual effects.

OS X El Capitan for Mac computers is also in public beta testing. Some items of interest include:

  • A split screen lets you view two apps side-by-side.
  • Wiggle your finger on the trackpad to find your cursor.
  • Spotlight pulls in search results for weather, sports, stocks and videos. You can also use natural language to find what you’re looking for.
  • Mail borrows some swipe actions from iOS 9 and ties better your calendar.
  • Maps also picks up the iOS 9 tricks, and you can sync app results between your Mac and iOS 9 iPhone.
  • Notes borrows from iOS 9, and Safari has three new features
  • The ability to hide the menu bar is now built in instead of being a separate app – giving you every last inch of your screen if you have a compact MacBook.

If you have any questions about installing the new Apple operating systems and synching devices and computers or need help getting your systems up and running, we can help. Call us – 973-433-6676 – to have us talk you through the process or email us to schedule help.

Windows 10…Rollin’, Rollin’, Rollin’

Windows 10 is continuing its rollout. If you have a qualified computer, you can upgrade to the new OS for Windows-based computers over the next 11 months or so. We’re seeing a lot of tips and tricks for Win 10 floating around the Internet, and that’s a good sign people are embracing it. Here are some remedies for some concerns.

For the most part, Windows 10 has been working fine for most installations. The biggest early problem we have seen is with application software that has been customized primarily for businesses. In all likelihood, the app software publisher should be the one to update their code to meet the needs of Windows 10. Check with them to see if they have updated their code. If enough customers let them know it’s a need, they’ll get it done to protect their business base, if nothing else. If they don’t do it, start planning for new app software because change is an ongoing process, and you’ll hit serious limitations with an outdated program.

Microsoft is pushing out updates and fixes as other issues are reported, so we don’t think it’s worth waiting for bugs to be corrected. It took less than two weeks for the company to start issuing the cumulative updates, and the new OS is designed to install them automatically.

However, if you want to turn off the automation and choose which updates to install and when to install them, you can select those options. You can also choose to update all Windows 10 computers on a network.

A number of users are concerned about Windows 10’s capability to share passwords for Wi-Fi networks. Again, you can turn off that function.

You can explore all of your options by going to the new Control Panel. Click on Settings and then click on Updates and Security. Then, click on Advanced Options. Choose “How Updates are Installed” and “How Updates are Delivered” customize them to your preferences.

Some problems with Windows 10 have involved drivers. Check with the manufacturers or Windows Updates to see if new drivers are available. They should be there, and everything works fine once you install the new drivers.

While we have seen a lot of complaints about having to pay for some features that used to be free, we’re seeing that many of them involve having to pay for games such as Solitaire. Our reaction: “Come on!”

The more important concern is whether to use Microsoft’s built-in (free) security software. We’ll just remind you that Microsoft is not in the security business. We strongly encourage you to get your security software from providers who specialize in that field.

Again, just to repeat the experience of loading Windows 10 on my son’s computer, all I did was start the process. While it was loading, I ran some errands. When I returned home, all I had to was accept the licensing agreement, and the computer was ready to go.

We know new technology has its quirks, and we know some people can be intimidated by it. We can talk you through some of the issues with a quick phone call – 973-433-6676 – or remote in to help you. We can also answer some of your questions by email. Just let us know how we can serve you.