Larilyn’s Tip of the Week

I have a confession to make.

I’m a hoarder.  

But not really the kind you’re thinking of.
 
No, I’m not talking about that kind of hoarding.  I’m talking about the fact that when it comes to things on my computer, I like to save them.  Pictures, emails, memes galore.  Every paper I’ve written for most of the classes I’ve ever taken – you never know when I’ll need that essay on the many reasons why the chicken may have actually crossed the road.  You name it, I have it saved and ready for if the need for it ever arises again.

It’s great that we make folders and sub folders and organize files and such to our hearts content, but somtimes it’s hard to remember where the file I’m looking for can be, or maybe I actually have a topic that I want to review and I want to look at multiple files dealing with that topic – but they’re spread out all over creation.
 
Fortunately, there is a great feature that helps with this.  You know how online, people can tag things with key words or phrases that help to search for them?  Did you know that you can do this on your own computer with your files?

When you are saving a file in Microsoft Word or Excel for example, there is an option under the file name for More Options.
Once you click on that, it will open up another box where you can name the file, tell it where to save – just like normal.  However, at the bottom you will see the option for Add a Tag.
You can click and type whatever tags will help you stay organized.  For example, I might tag this blog as “Tips” or “Computers”.  

The great thing about Tags is that then when you are looking for something on a certain subject, you can find all of the files you have on the same topic without having to navigate across all different folders and subfolders.

All you have to do is open your File Explorer and in the Search This PC box at the top right, type tags: and the tag your’re searching for.  So for example, tags: tips.  You can whittle down as much or as little as you like of where the tag will search – searching your whole PC or just your Documents folder or perhaps your Desktop – but whatever you search, everything that has been tagged with that particular tag will show up for you.
Isn’t technology simply the best??

Larilyn’s Tip of the Week

Do you guys have little sayings that help you remember things?  For example, 30 days hath September, April, June and November.  All the rest have 31, except for February who can’t keep it together to make it to the end of a month.

Wait.  I may have improvised the end of that one.
Or the one I’ve heard parents use to figure out the limits on presents at Christmas time?  Something they want, something they need, something to wear, something to read.
Well when it comes to security on your computer – whether it be your actual computer log in, or your email log in, or your financial institution log in, there’s a saying for the different types of security that can be used.Something you know – this can be anything from a user name and password, to a PIN number, to a secret pass phraseSomething you have – an ID of some sort or a cell phone where you can receive verification codes, or use an authenticator appSomething you are – think biometrics, eye scans, or fingerprint confirmationMost sites we use rely on option number 1.  Something you know.  If you have your user name and password, you are in.  

However, more and more we are moving to two factor (or even multi factor) authentication.

What does this mean?  Well – your user name and password is one factor of the security equation.  That is one factor authentication.  To use two factor, you use a second option of the security equation.

Many phones and even some laptops will take the something you are approach – relying on your finger print or facial recognition to let you access your device.

Many platforms, such as Google for your Gmail, allow 2 Factor as an easy option to turn on.  Once on – whenever you log in from a new device, it will want to confirm that it is you through a second level of authentication.  
The great thing about this is that you can have it send a code straight to your phone.  So no matter how hard a hacker tries to get into your email – even if they are sly enough to figure out that your password is f1ve1$b1gg3rthAnf0ur – they still won’t be able to get into your account.  As soon as they enter your correct password, it will automatically send you a code to your phone.  And they won’t have any way to guess the code before it expires.

Some sites will use an authenticator app – easily downloaded from your app store.  Then you scan a QR code so that their code will show up.  This allows you to go in and find a code for the site you are trying to log into instead of waiting for a code to be sent to you.
When it comes down to it, a lot of this can seem like a frustrating pain in the rear end.  However, it’s the world we live in.  The “bad guys” are getting smarter and smarter, and they don’t care who you are or how nice you are – they want to take advantage of you.  So it is important that you use any and all safety measures you can to ensure that you and your information are safe.

If you need help figuring out how to use two factor authentication, just reach out and we will be more than happy to help!

Larilyn’s Tip of the Week

You guys.  You may have noticed by now that when I get talking, I can go on and on.  I share information, but I get a little silly.  A little sassy.  Maybe even a little snarky.  Some may say it’s a problem.  I say it’s personality.

But sometimes it’s just rough to come up with more than a few things to say.  Especially if I don’t have inspiration strike.

And so today I come before you with just a short tip.  However, don’t be deceived by appearances.
This is a single tip.  A short tip.  But it has saved me time often.

Have you ever been trying to find something on a very specific topic, or a very obscure topic.  You go to our best friend Google and type in the search and it gives you a page of links to search through.  You click on a link and are met with a wall of words.

Where do you start?  How can you find where in that mass of vocabulary is the one sentence or section you’re even interested in?

Well – let me introduce you to my friend:  CTRL + F.  

Although, if you are a Mac user, you may be more familiar with my weird cousin CMD + F.  

If you hit CTRL + F (or CMD + F), it will pop up a little box, usually at the top right of your screen for browsers such as Chrome, but I’ve actually used this tool in many applications and sometimes it pops up elsewhere on the screen.

I digress.

In that box, type the specific word or phrase you are looking for and hit enter.  It will take you to the first mention on that page.  AND highlight it!  And even better, if that doesn’t seem to help much, you can hit the little down arrow in the same little pop up box and it will take you to the NEXT mention.  And so on and so forth.

Also, it will keep you from wasting time because if you type in your word and it doesn’t show any results, you know you can back yourself right on out of that page – these are not the words you’re looking for.

So I hope this saves some of you a little time in the future.  Until next time!

Larilyn’s Tip of the Week

A few months ago (although, at this point of the COVID-19 crisis, maybe it was actually a year ago?  Or maybe it was yesterday?  Time has no meaning), Scott came back from a conference for work where many vendors had booths that he could wander to and learn more about their products.  As is typical of such functions, they all had small gifts and branded prizes to hand out in the hopes of earning your business.

Scott brought one of these small gifts back to the office and gave it to me, and I must say – it is one of the best gifts I’ve ever received.

What could it be?  A laptop?  A gift card?  Whimsical socks??
Not for this girl.  This girl got way over excited and totally enthralled with her brand new….top of the line….branded after some vendor or another (that honestly, I couldn’t actually tell you who it’s from.  I blame the stars in my eyes when I look at the beauty.  Totally blocks out the brand name)…..drum roll please:
My heart beats a little faster just looking at that computer cleaning tool.  I miss it dearly.  I know it is safe, tucked away at the office in my side drawer, waiting for my eventual return when all goes back to normal.  It has a microfiber side that allows me to dust the monitor, and the little bristle side to get in the little nooks and crannies of my keyboard.

And yes.  I realize that I have just attained a level of nerdiness that most of you probably would like to social distance yourself from forever.  I’m okay with that.  Nerd power.
 
I know I’m unusual.  Most people don’t think about this.  However, during this time of a global pandemic, it is something we all actually need to think about!  Some of you probably want to disinfect your work space when you return to work – or even want to disinfect your personal computers.  So I wanted to give you just a few do’s and don’t’s that apply to your computer workstation so that you can clean without ruining your machine! 

*DO unplug everything from power before you do any kind of cleaning (make sure you properly turn things off first)

*Please DON’T use Windex or bleach.  First of all, your computer screen generally isn’t glass (there are a few exceptions – like a Mac or tablet).  And secondly, Windex doesn’t disinfect anything.  And bleach….that’s just overkill.

*DO use something like rubbing alcohol, but do not put it directly on the computer.  Put it on a soft cloth, preferably something micro-fiber that won’t leave dust particles behind.  Then use that moistened cloth to clean the computer, keyboard keys, or mouse.

*****Side DO:  If you are doing this to disinfect, also consider wearing gloves while wiping everything down

*****Another side DO:  You could also choose to use something like a Lysol wipe, but make sure you wring that puppy out until it’s so dry it thinks it is the surface of the Sahara Desert.  Even let it sit for a few minutes after wringing it out so that it really gets dry.

*DON’T over moisten that cloth.  Electronics don’t take well to being soaked.  A little can go a long way.  Slightly damp is all you need.  Wring it out before cleaning the computer.

*DO use compressed air to clean your keyboard.  And make sure you actually stand your keyboard on one end at an angle so that anything the air dislodges will actually fall out of the keyboard, instead of just floating around on the inside having a party.

*DON’T try to use any kind of stick, pen, probe, or anything to get under the keys of your keyboard.  That’s how keys get broken, and that’s why we can’t have nice things.  Stick to the can of air.

Keeping these tips in mind, your desk will be sparkling clean in no time!

Larilyn’s Tip of the Week

Something I’ve seen a lot of over the last few weeks is a rare sight.

The return of dinosaurs.
Okay – not real dinosaurs.  And not even the precious and cute animatronic ones found at a Disney theme park.

I’m talking about old computers.  

And when I say old computers, I don’t mean computers from 1990.  When you still had a green screen.  And command line was common.  And Oregon Trail was my jam.
 
When it comes to computers for business purposes, we generally recommend considering replacing every 3-5 years.  Anything older than that belongs with the t-rex if you ask me.

What we have seen over the last few months (thanks a lot COVID) is people suddenly using their personal computers for business purposes.  And a lot of times, these computers are old and not maintained or kept up to date.

So I have a few tips for you that might help get a little more life out of your old computer if it’s just not in your budget to put the poor thing out of its misery and buy yourself a new one.

1.)  Updates are your friend!!  And there are two different types of updates you need to make sure you are doing. Operating system (this would be Windows updates or Mac updates) updates are important.  In fact, anything older than a current version of Windows 10 (such as Windows 7 or even version of Windows 10 previous 1809) are no longer support by Microsoft.  And Apple doesn’t support anything older than Mac OS 10.15.4 / 10.14.6 / 10.13.6.
 It’s also important to do manufacturer updates.  So if you have an HP, you would want to use the HP Support Assistant to check if there are HP updates for your system.  Or if you have a Dell, there’s an app on your computer called Support Assist. 

You want to make sure both your computer and it’s operating system are up to date! 
2.)  Restart your computer regularly.  You don’t need to restart it every day, but once a week is a good guideline.  And if you are using a laptop, remember that simply closing the lid is NOT restarting.  So you still want to make sure you restart once a week.

3.)  Remove unwanted programs.  Sure, back in the early 2000’s, everyone was using AOL Messenger.  However, if you don’t use it – remove it!  Clean up that space and get rid of it!

4.)  Go through and delete unwanted pictures.  It’s great that we have digital cameras and can take fifty shots of a sunset so we get the perfect one.  However, keep the one and delete the 49!  Pictures take up a lot of space, and the older your computer, the more I bet you have on there!

5.)  Use disk clean up.  This will help get rid of some of the temporary files that bog your computer down that it just doesn’t need – hence the label “temporary”.  To do this, simply hit the Start button (the Windows logo on the bottom left of your screen).  Type “Disk Cleanup” and select the application that pops up.  It will open up a box and you can check off all of the items that you want it to clean (I go for it all!) and hit okay.  

Hopefully as you do these things, your computer will have a little more pep in its step.  But remember, even a dinosaur with pep in its step is still…..a dinosaur.
 

Larilyn’s Tip of the Week

Alright – we’re all pros at working from home now, right?

Okay Gladys, I see you over there – still working at your office.  I’m not talking to you. 

Actually, I still am talking to you because even though this might not affect you work wise, you might still want my tip for your normal life.

I digress……
Even though we’re working on week five thousand and three of self isolation (at least it feels like it), you might still be able to tweak a few things to make yourself more productive.

Today I want to talk about QOS on your home network.

What is QOS?  It stands for quality of service.  It’s how your router chooses which devices in your home get to go to the front of the wi-fi line. 

Have you ever been right in the middle of a Zoom call when the apple of your eye decides it’s time to start his online game championship and your Zoom call suddenly becomes choppy and pixelated?  Or are you trying to upload that important report at the same time that your teenager is downloading all of the Twilight movies in order to have a marathon binge watching session?

 
You can change all of this by giving your work computer or device priority in the QOS settings on your router.  That way, your device will always be at the front of the line.  Most routers support QOS settings and can be accessed through your router web portal or an app. 

And of course, we’re here to answer any questions.

Larilyn’s Tip of the Week

Impersonators aren’t a new thing, right?  They’ve been around since…..well…..at least since Elvis.
Something that is newer though is impersonation emails, because those have only been around since…..well, you know.  Since email became a widely used thing and bad guys decided to get involved.

What is an impersonation email?  Basically, it’s a phishing method where the bad guys send you an email that is crafted to look like it’s coming from someone you know or someone with authority in your organzation.  It’s all about impersonating someone that they are not.  

This makes it tricky to detect because they have gotten very good at making their emails look legit and like they are coming from the person they say it is.

But not all impersonations look alike.
So in order to help weed out imposters, most email users already have basic imposter detection in place.  It will look for things that seem a bit fishy.  For example, it might see [email protected] is emailing [email protected] – but Sarah’s domain is actually something different (like, inmotionisgreat.com) and is impersonating an inmotionnet.com email address.  So the email gets flagged because the email server can see the impersonation.

Or maybe [email protected] emails something to [email protected], and this gets flagged.  Sure, she may be forwarding something from her personal email to her work email.  Definitely a possibility.  However, it still gets flagged because it’s also possible that someone is just trying to impersonate Sarah and impersonated her personal email address instead of the domain email address.

When it comes down to it, being educated and aware is the most important thing.  So while it’s good that your email probably has some protection in place, still remember to be cautious when opening emails.  If it is from someone you don’t know, even if it looks like it’s coming from your own domain or office, don’t click links or attachments until you verify the sender.

Even if it is from someone you know but they are asking you to do something such as send a wire transfer or change account credentials and you weren’t expecting this from them – don’t do anything until you verify that it is from them.

And above all – please, please, please don’t add your own email address or domain to any allowed lists or filters.  That just makes it too easy for the bad guys.

Larilyn’s Tip of the Week

Well.  Life is upside down.  I feel like we’re all playing a huge game of Don’t Touch the Lava.  You know, the game kids play on a playground?  Don’t move, don’t fall, don’t touch anything….stay at your home base and survive!!

Just me? Hmmmm…..okay.

Anyway!

Since so many of us are now working from home, doing distance learning, and social distancing – we have seen the rise of the use of any and all apps that allow us to see people we can’t actually see in person.
One of the biggest platforms that people have been using is Zoom.  They’ve offered their services for free in a lost of cases, so a lot of schools and businesses have jumped on the Zoom bandwagon.

Now….I don’t want to completely bash Zoom.  However, what we have been seeing is that the more people use it – the more vulnerabilities are being exposed.  There are some legitimate security and privacy concerns with more and more people using it.

We would recommend that you take a look at your options when working remote.  A lot of businesses already have resources they are paying for that they aren’t fully utilizing. 

For example, do you have Office 365?  Then you have Microsoft Teams, which has a lot of video conferencing capabilities and messaging capabilities.  

Do you pay for Google Business apps?  Check out the Hangout, Meeting and Chat features.

Even if you don’t currently have these options, the companies are also offering their services – such as Google offering some of its features for free, and Microsoft offering Teams for free for six months.  It’s worth talking to us and figuring out what resources your business has available to it.

And if you DO need to use Zoom, please pay attention to the news and make sure you are doing all you can to stay safe as you use it!  Make sure you set your own password for the group (don’t use the default) and don’t send links in the chat!

What is Working Well with Work From Home?

As many of us have adjusted to working from home for a month or more now, what are you finding that is working well?

Photo by Collins Lesulie on Unsplash

I’m hearing from some clients about things that are working better than before. For example, some have found that having daily huddles via Google Meet (or similar) is actually better than standing together for the huddle. They’re planning to continue meeting that way even when we get back to whatever the new normal looks like. 

Is there anything you’ve been doing the past month that has been working really well?

As some areas are starting to talk about loosening restrictions, it’s natural to start thinking about what the end of this looks like. Are you going to flip a switch and go back to business just like it was in early March?

Take a moment and think about the things that you’d like to continue to incorporate into your new normal. Maybe thats some video conferencing tools, maybe it is some more flexible work from home arrangements or maybe it is something all-together different that you’ve seen success with.

If there is something that your business is struggling with, please reach out and let’s see if we can find a solution for you.

What Makes a Server a Server Anyway?

So, you’ve decided that your business needs a server and now you’re wondering why you can’t run it on a Raspberry Pi or that old computer no one is using in accounting.

Not sure if you need a server for your small business? Read does my small business really need a server?

Bottom line, you might be able to run the software on that computer no one is using, but there are a few features you probably want to have in your server that the typical computer doesn’t have.

First and foremost, redundancy is key when it comes to servers. Second, servers are typically built with higher end components with a longer life expectancy than consumer or even business grade desktops. Third, servers should feature out of band management allowing remote access, management and monitoring. Fourth, servers may feature hardware that can be hot swapped.

Redundancy

A number of components should be redundant in servers. Hard drives should always be redundant in servers without exception. RAID is typically utilized so that if a single drive, or possibly more depending on the configuration, was to die, the server can keep running along without any interruption until the drive is replaced. As the redundancy has been diminished, it is imperative to replace the drive as soon as reasonably possible.

Frequently servers have redundant power supplies. Power supplies are often overlooked, but they do a lot of work and are susceptible to fluctuations in power and voltage spikes if the power is not properly conditioned. Redundant power supplies should be utilized so that any one source of power doesn’t cause the server to go offline. You might have going to two separate UPS systems or two separate sources of power.

In some configurations, fans, memory and other components may be redundant. While it is more likely for equipment with moving parts to fail, it’s always possible for other components to fail.

Higher Quality Components

Most equipment is rated with a mean time between failure (MTBF) which is calculated to be the age at which point 50% of those components will fail. Hardware which has been designed for servers generally has a longer MTBF which helps keep the server running. Cheaper components frequently have lower MTBF.

Desktops made for the consumer market typically only have a one year warranty. Business class desktops generally have a three year warranty. While the warranty is not the same as MTBF, you can bet the company has done the math to make sure equipment doesn’t fail during that warranty period.

Out of Band Management

If your computer gets turned off, it probably isn’t a big deal. When you come into the office, you simply turn it on again. However, if your server isn’t running, this can be a big problem when you’re paying employees who can’t access their email, applications, databases, computers, etc.

Servers should feature a remote access feature that provides basic level access even if the server is powered off. Say, for example, the power goes out in your office for an extended period (longer than your UPS was designed to keep systems running). Hopefully your server was shut down properly, but what if you didn’t set it up to turn back on automatically when the power comes back on? You’d have to go to the office and turn it on. That might not sound like a big deal, but after a long, hard week, do you really want to drive back to the office on a Friday night?

The management features on the server frequently provide advanced reporting, monitoring and access features so potential issues can be diagnosed and fixed before they impact your business. Out of band remote access may even allow remote technicians to fix problems preventing the server from booting to the operating system.

Hot Swap

If you need to replace the hard drive in your computer, it’s almost certain that you’re going to need to turn it off, take it apart and spend some time doing it. In most servers, you simply click a button to release the failed drive and insert a new drive. The system will start rebuilding the data and other than a minor slowdown (due to increased usage), users can keep accessing their applications without knowing the drive was replaced.

The same may be true for power supplies, fans and other components. Servers are designed to keep running and supporting your employees.

Bottom Line

Servers are generally one of the most important pieces of equipment that keep employees working and productive. If your business would be impacted if the server was down, you should invest in equipment that is true server class and features redundancy for critical and most likely to fail systems, high quality components, out of band management features and the ability to hot swap parts when they fail.

Finally, it is worth noting that many manufacturers are always trying to win the race to the bottom to make the cheapest equipment possible and frequently they will skimp on some of these features. The cheapest entry-level servers will not have many of these features and should generally be avoided if your business relies on your IT infrastructure for operations.

We should also note that there are many ways IT equipment, including servers, can be setup. We can’t comment on how your server is setup and you should never assume that best practices have been followed. Finally, while redundancy is important for servers, redundancy alone will not protect your data or your business operations in all cases. All businesses should have a documented business continuity plan that is checked, tested and updated on a regular basis.

If you aren’t sure if you have the right hardware for your business, schedule a free evaluation today.