Storage Struggles? How to Keep Up with the Data Explosion

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Many businesses have already embraced the benefits of going fully digital.  It has allowed them to do more than ever before; saving both time and money.  It has saved them a ton of space too, eliminating the need for stacks of file cabinets in every office.

The digital boom presents brand new problems too.  By moving all your files into a digital space, the amount of storage you need to maintain has grown larger and larger just to keep up.

As digital technology has improved, the resolution, clarity, and size of the digital files we create has exploded.  Items such as X-rays, which used to be printed on film are now digital files transferred by computer.  As a result of the increase in both the number of digital files we use and their ever-growing size, the size of the data we need to store has exploded exponentially.

There are a number of ways in which we can tackle your ever-growing storage problem.

Local server or Network Attached Storage (NAS)

A local server is a machine physically located within your own office or building.  These are typically designed to serve many files to multiple clients at one time from locally held storage.
The primary advantage that a local network server has is that all your vital data is available to all users in one central location.  This means that employees across the network can access all the resources made available.

These machines can serve files at the speed of the local network, transferring large projects, files, and documents from a central position within the network with ease.

A NAS has many of the same network properties, typically packaged as a smaller profile, low powered computer.  A NAS is specifically designed to enable network file sharing in a more compact package.  These can be available in units small enough to fit in a cupboard nook and yet still provide staggering storage capacity on only a small amount of power.

Both a local server and NAS device allow for large amounts of storage space to be added to the local network.  These units are often expanded with more and more storage over time. As an organization grows over time, so do its data storage requirements.

Cloud Storage

Sometimes the best option for storage is to move your ever-expanding data outside of the business completely.  Often, offloading the costs of hardware and IT management can work out to be an intelligent business decision. One that provides freedom and flexibility in your data storage needs.

The major advantage of cloud storage comes from the ability to expand and contract your services as needed without the unnecessary overhead of adding and maintaining new hardware.

By moving storage to the cloud, data can be accessed from anywhere in the world.  The flexibility provided by cloud storage allows limitless expansion to any number of devices, locations, and offices. Being able to access data from many locations at a single time can often provide a valuables boost to productivity that can help to speed projects along.

Some of the drawbacks of cloud storage come from factors that may be outside of the control of the business.  Not all internet connections are found to be up to the task of handling large amounts of data to and from the cloud.  In some cases, the infrastructure is quite simply not in place yet to support it.
IT security regulations can prove to be a barrier to enabling storage in the cloud too.  Some regulations either prohibit the feature entirely or enable only certain specific types for use.

The Right Choice for your data

Both cloud and local storage can provide further benefits to enhance your business. Audit logs, central backups, and version control can all be used to secure the way your firm handles data.

Whatever your situation, whether a small NAS can boost your office productivity, a local server can provide the connectivity missing from your firm, or cloud storage can switch on new resources, I can advise on the best choices for your business.

Give me a call at (828) 290-8237 to help you make the right choice for your data.

Are Registry Cleaners a Good Idea?

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You have likely been alerted by popups while browsing the web.  These, often flashing, advertisements claim your computer has more than a thousand errors requiring urgent attention to fix.  Perhaps helpfully, these popups offer a solution to cure your computer with a click of the mouse.  Buttons marked “fix now” appear to offer a simple fix to all your computer troubles.

These advertisements are often described as Registry Cleaners, or by a few other names that attempt to convince the user they will somehow clean or improve their home PC.  Within the IT industry they are known as “scareware”.  They are software designed to convince you that your computer has problems it might not have.

Are they trustworthy?

Almost all popups and advertisements that use banners saying “Fix now for free” are not trustworthy at all.  They are little more than a scam attempting to take your credit card details, PC data or both. At best these programs might claim to scan your computer and show a convincing list of plausible sounding computer problems.  Using this, they will ask for payment to “fix” these problems to get your PC back in shape again.

At worst these advertisements can be downright malicious. Some may attempt to use fake warnings and scare tactics to trick customers into installing spyware on their own computers. When installed, spyware will attempt to steal information in the background.  Attackers may use this technique to steal usernames, passwords, emails, and credit card details.  Sometimes the first sign a user has that something is wrong is when a virus scan detects software doing something it shouldn’t be.

Do I need to clean the registry?

The Windows system and various applications installed on your PC do leave files on stored your computer.  These files can stay behind or go out of date even after the application that initially made them has been removed.  These files can use up a little space on the hard drive and generally cause minor clutter within the system.

Despite the large amount of “scareware” and fraudulent computer cleanup scans out there, legitimate applications designed to clean your system do exist.  This can be something I cover and is often done as a single small part of a complete computer tune up. Keeping up with out of date files and freeing up unused space is worthwhile and can be considered “good housekeeping”.  The vast speed boosts many online advertisements claim to unlock by simply moving files around are almost always false.
The home computer, however, is commonly upgraded and can be boosted by more conventional means. If the speed of your PC is no longer up to the task, there are ways in which you can unlock far greater gains than simple housekeeping chores.

PC Boosters

Relatively low-cost hardware components such as memory can often be added to boost the speed of even an older PC and unlock a new lease of life.  Upgrading the computers RAM can double the working memory available to the operating system. With extra memory, many programs can keep more information available to work with. This upgrade reduces loading times and increases the computers ability to run more programs at once.

Another common speed boosting upgrade involves how we store and load data from the computer. Switching from an older style mechanical hard drive to a modern Solid State Disk (SSD) can bring down the startup and loading time of any PC.

Loading data from the hard drive is very often the slowest part of a computer, the bottleneck in an otherwise very fast system.  Because an SSD does not use any mechanical components the time to access the disk is nearly instant when compared to older, mechanical hard disks.

Safe Speed Boosts

These upgrades offer boosts in speed to rival a modern system at only a fraction of the cost originally paid for the computer. Upgrading the RAM, swapping to an SSD, or doing both will provide an instant, dramatic, and safe improvement to the speed of your PC.

If your computer is running slow give me at a call at (828) 290-8237  to arrange a real and professional cleanup.

The Top 5 IT Security Problems for Businesses

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Companies that suffer security breaches nearly always have one of these IT security problems. Is your company guilty of any of them?

No Backups

A shocking number of businesses are not backing up their data properly.  According to market research company Clutch, 60 percent of businesses who suffer a data loss shut down within six months.
Not only should every business be fully backing up their data, but their backups should be regularly tested to work too.  It’s a step that businesses miss surprisingly often. Many businesses don’t find out that their backup can’t be used until it’s already too late.

Reactive and not proactive

The world is constantly changing.  The IT world doubly so.  Attackers are always figuring out new ways to break into businesses, hardware evolves faster than most can keep up, and old systems fail due to wear and tear far quicker than we would like. A huge number of businesses wait until these issues impact them directly before they respond.  The result is higher costs, longer downtime, and harder hitting impacts.

By responding to hardware warnings before it fails, fixing security holes before they’re exploited, and upgrading systems before they are out of date: IT can be done the right way. Being proactive about your IT needs means systems don’t have to break or compromised before they are fixed.  The result for your business is less downtime, fewer losses, and lower IT costs.

Weak Passwords

A surprising number of people will use the password “password” to secure some of their most important accounts.  Even more still will write their own password on a post-it note next to their computer.  In some cases, many will even use no password at all. Strong passwords act, not only as a barrier to prevent unwanted entry, but as a vital accountability tool too.  When system changes are made it’s often essential that the account that made changes is secured to the right person.

With an insecure password or worse; none at all, tracking the individual responsible for reports or accountability becomes impossible.  This can result in both auditing disasters on top of technical ones.

Insufficient Staff Training

Humans in the system are commonly the weakest point in IT security.  Great IT security can be a bit like having state-of-the-art locks on a door propped open with a milk crate.  If staff aren’t trained to use the lock, it’s worth nothing at all.

Often times businesses can justify spending big on security for the latest and greatest IT defenses.  The very same firms may exceed their budget and spend almost zero on training staff to use them. In this instance, a little goes a long way.  Security training can help staff to identify a threat where it takes place, avoiding and mitigating damage, often completely.

Weak Data Controls

Some companies can take an ad-hoc, fast and loose approach to storing professional data.  Often crucial parts can be spread across many devices, copied needlessly, and sometimes even left unsecured. Client data can be found regularly on employee laptops, mobile phones, and tablet devices.  These are famously prone to being misplaced or stolen out in the field along with vital client and security data.
It can be easy for both employees and firms to focus on the costs of devices and hardware purchased for the business.

The reality is that the data held on devices is almost always worth many times more than the device that holds it. For many firms, their approach to data hasn’t been changed since the firm was first founded.  Critical data is often held on single machines that haven’t been updated precisely because they hold critical data.  Such machines are clearly vulnerable, outdated, and prone to failure.

Common problems with simple solutions
Each of these common issues have simple solutions to secure against IT failure.  With a professional eye and expertise in the field, every business should be defended against IT issues that risk the firm.

If you need help securing your IT to protect your business, give me a call at (828) 290-8237.

Is Your Business Ready for Business-Grade Wi-Fi?

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In today’s business world, having great Wi-Fi isn’t a luxury -it’s a necessity. Businesses, with their varying needs, have personal requirements for what constitutes great Wi-Fi. For some small businesses, consumer-grade Wi-Fi may be sufficient, but many find that business-grade Wi-Fi is more appropriate. As companies grow, there becomes a tipping point where business-grade is necessary. So how do you know if your business is ready for business-grade Wi-Fi? Ask yourself the following questions to find out.

How many devices use your Wi-Fi?

It used to be that only desktop computers connected to your Wi-Fi, but that is no longer the case. With the rise of portable devices such as smartphones, tablets, and laptops, each person may be using your Wi-Fi from several devices. Consumer-grade hardware is designed for just a few people (like the amount that live in a single household) but can’t manage larger amounts of users and all of their devices. This is especially true for sustained usage. Remember that your employees aren’t the only people who expect to be able to connect to your Wi-Fi. One of the first things visitors typically do is look for a Wi-Fi network to connect their smartphones to.

What is the size and shape of your workspace?

The number of access points you will need for your Wi-Fi is dependent on the amount of physical space that needs to be covered, the shape of the area, wall material, and the number of users/devices. In smaller spaces, consumer-grade Wi-Fi is good enough. Larger, oddly shaped spaces benefit from business-grade. If your building’s walls are made of brick, cinder blocks, or cement, you likely need more access points than buildings made of other materials. Make sure you have a strong connection from all locations. It’s annoying to only be connected to Wi-Fi in certain areas of a building and find yourself in a deadzone a few steps later.

Access points for business-grade Wi-Fi tend to be more powerful and flexible. For example, some business Wi-Fi systems can transfer Wi-Fi devices from a crowded access point to one that is less busy. By doing this, everybody’s fast speed remains. If you foresee your range needing to increase, such as renting out more space, it’s easier to add more access points to business-grade Wi-Fi than consumer-grade. Businesses that anticipate scaling up soon are better off with business-grade Wi-Fi.

Do you want guests to have the same quality Wi-Fi as workers?

In households, where consumer-grade Wi-Fi is prevalent, all users share the Wi-Fi equally. In a home environment, if children are slowing down the internet with Netflix or video games, it’s not a big problem. However, a choked business Wi-Fi can cause a lot of problems. Business-grade Wi-Fi allows you network management. You can assign a designated amount of bandwidth to different users so they’re unable to clog the entire connection. You can allow visitors internet access without giving them unlimited access to the network.

How much does the internet affect your employees’ productivity?

For some companies, workers only use Wi-Fi for a few quick tasks. With these types of businesses, if the internet is slow, it won’t have a big impact on how much work your employees get done. Consumer-grade Wi-Fi might be a good choice. For other companies, there isn’t much people can accomplish if the Wi-Fi isn’t working well. The slower your employees work, the less money you make. Wi-Fi troubles can also lead to frustrated, unhappy workers. If fast internet is essential for people to complete their daily tasks, business-grade Wi-Fi is important.

Strong Wi-Fi is a necessity for all businesses. This is especially true for larger businesses that connect a lot of devices (from both employees and visitors) and have a big work area. Also for those where employee productivity depends on a strong connection. The goal is to keep your business-critical technology running smoothly. Consider carefully whether consumer-grade Wi-Fi or business-grade Wi-Fi is the best choice for your business.

Is your business’s Wi-Fi struggling? Give me a call at (828) 290-8237 to discuss a solution.

5 Ways to Extend Your Phone’s Battery

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Today’s phones can help us do more than ever before. In addition to making phone calls, we use them to send messages, post photos on our favorite apps, watch videos, play games, and endless other activities. Since our phones can accomplish so much, we’re on them often. That means we’re draining a lot of phone battery. In our busy lives, we aren’t always near an outlet and don’t always have a phone charger ready. If our phones die, we risk missing out on important notifications and being unable to easily communicate with others. So what strategies can we use to extend our battery life?

Check Apps’ Battery Usage

When it comes to battery usage, not all apps are created equal. While checking your email uses a small amount of power, any apps that use GPS drain a significant amount of your phone’s battery. This is because they are constantly talking to the GPS satellites. Check to see which of your apps are draining your battery most and limit usage.

Turn off Wi-Fi and Bluetooth

If you aren’t on your personal Wi-Fi, it’s always good to connect to the Wi-Fi wherever you are. However, this isn’t always an option. When you’re not connected to a strong Wi-Fi, it’s good to turn both Wi-Fi and Bluetooth off when you aren’t using them. They drain a large amount of data because, even when not connected to anything, they are searching for your home’s Wi-Fi and car’s Bluetooth. That’s how they autoconnect when you are back within their range. Downloading podcasts, videos, and audiobooks at home can save your battery when you’re out because you won’t have to stream these items over Wi-Fi.

Lower your Phone’s Brightness

One of the easiest ways to save battery is to reduce how bright your phone’s screen is. The brighter your screen is, the more phone life it is using up. Most phones adjust the brightness levels based on how light your surroundings are. You can override this and turn the level down to save battery. The more you dim it, the longer your battery will last.

Go on Power Saving Mode

When you put your phone in Power Saving Mode, it stops it from automatically checking to see if there are new emails, powers off your display faster, and reduces screen brightness. It also turns off certain visual effects and some other features take a lot of battery. On some phones, it also makes your apps run a little slower.

Buy a Built-in Battery Case

Some people need to use power-draining features often and have phone-heavy lifestyles. If this is you, it may still be a struggle to keep your battery lasting throughout the day. If all of the other options aren’t sufficient, you can buy a phone case with a built-in battery. This extra battery charges your phone while using it making it last longer throughout the day.

While any of these methods will help you extend your phone’s battery, it’s best to combine a few options. Our phones make our lives much easier, but they can’t do anything for us if they’re dead because we let the battery run out. Even more importantly, we want our phones usable in case of an emergency. Luckily, using these methods will help keep our batteries alive throughout the day. Just remember to charge them again at home.

Contact me now at (828) 290-8237!

How to Securely Dispose of Old Computers

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Getting new computers for your business is exciting, but what happens to the old ones? Depending on the age, some people sell them, others throw them out. That’s the easy part. The problem is the sensitive data on them. There are passwords, account numbers, license keys, customer details, medical information, tax returns, browser history…. the works! Each computer, whether laptop, tablet or desktop, contains a treasure trove of sensitive information that cyber criminals would love to get their hands on.

Unfortunately, hitting delete on your files doesn’t actually make them disappear. These mistakes have cost businesses millions of dollars over the years.

Most businesses are unaware that specialized data cleanup is necessary, others think calling someone to collect the computers will cover all the bases. A 2016 experiment proved just how dangerous the situation can be when they bought 200 used hard drives and found 67% held unwiped, unencrypted sensitive data, including sales projection spreadsheets, CRM records, and product inventories. Frighteningly, they didn’t need any special hacking skills to get this data, it was all right there and helpfully labelled. It’s also not surprising that with simple data recovery tools, people have also been able to access British NHS medical records and missile data, all waiting patiently on a discarded hard drive.

Why hitting delete doesn’t help

Data on a hard drive works like a book with an index page. Every time data is written, it pops a quick entry into the index so when you need it again, it knows where to look. The index is used for files you create as well as system files you can’t even see. Sensible, right? Except if you delete a file it’s more like changing the index to say nothing is on page 10 and you can write something else there when you’re ready. But if you manually flip to page 10, you’ll find the information is still there – the file still exists until it’s been written over – it’s the index reference that got deleted.

Wiping data before disposal

There are software tools you can get to do it yourself, as well as dedicated security firms, but your best option is to choose an IT business you know and trust. With that in mind, a methodical approach is required to ensure not a single drive is left untreated. You don’t want to leave data behind, or even clues that a motivated person could extrapolate any private information from. The approach might include using checklists to maintain security, or dedicated processes to guide each step in decommissioning. Careful records should also be kept, including who signs off on completion of the retirement, and where the computers are sent afterwards. A proper inventory and auditing process may slow the rollout of the new computers slightly, but it’s always better than having your old data come back to haunt you.

I can migrate any needed data, backup the information to your server or external drive, then wipe or destroy the hard drives for you.

Upgrading your business computers should be a happy time for you and your employees, so with a little forward planning, you’ll be able to keep everyone smiling and all your data secure.

Need help with your old hardware? Call me today at (828) 290-8237!

What’s That Weird Noise Coming from Your Computer?

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New computers are whisper quiet, seeming to run on pure magic, but after a while computers can start making some pretty weird noises. Clicks, clunks, and about-to-take-off jet noises are the most common, but when should you worry? Your computer has a number of moving parts and even some stationary parts that can make noises. If you’re listening, your computer might be telling you about its current health and how you can help it run smoother, for longer.

When you hear a clicking noise: This could be normal if it’s more like a soft tick. Mechanical hard drives work a bit like a record player with a needle and platter, so you might simply be hearing it spin up and move the needle around. When it starts sounding like a loud click it’s usually the needle hitting the platter too hard or bouncing around. If your hard drive has started making alarming noises, you should get it looked at as soon as possible. Just like a record player, scratches that ruin your data are possible, and if ignored for long enough, it doesn’t just skip and have trouble reading the drive, the whole thing can become unusable.

A technician can copy the files onto a new drive before it gets to that point, but retrieving data from a destroyed hard drive is rarely achieved without CSI-level expenses. It’s easier and much cheaper to replace the hard drive at the first sign of failure.

When you hear a clunking noise: Unsurprisingly, this one causes certain alarm. Computers aren’t meant to go clunk!  It may be a simple matter of a cable having shifted into the path of a fan and getting clipped during the spin. Remember when you pegged a card between your bicycle spokes? It might sound a little like that, skipping every now and then as it’s pushed away and drops back again. If that’s the case, a technician can quickly secure the cable back where it belongs.

When you hear a jet-engine noise: Most computers and laptops have fans to keep them cool. The fans have to spin to move the air around, and the faster they’re spinning, the more noise they make. We start to worry when the jet-engine noise gets out of hand and it’s not just while you’re playing a resource-intensive game or doing some video editing. Constant jet-engine noise indicates your computer is struggling to cool itself down, perhaps because the fan vents are clogged with dust, your computer is in a poorly ventilated space, or the fan itself is worn. Each fan has ball bearings inside that wear out over time, making extra noise while it does the best it can. I can replace individual fans quickly and give your system a checkup to make sure nothing else has been affected.

When it’s beep city: Your computer’s friendly beep as you switch it on actually has multiple meanings. It’s not just saying hello. The single beep you normally hear indicates that it’s run a self-test and everything is fine. When your computer is very unwell, you might hear more beeps than usual. This is because each beep combination is a code to technicians, letting us know what’s gone wrong.
Certain beep combinations mean the memory is loose or damaged, others that the video adapter has a problem, etc. If your computer has started beeping differently, let me know so I can decode it and repair the problem for you.

Some noises your computer makes will be normal, others a sign of deeper issues. Even if your computer seems to be operating correctly, a sudden onset of weird noises could mean failure is just around the corner. Taking early action ensures problems don’t escalate, costs are kept low, and your files remain where they belong.

Got some weird noises coming from your computer? Give me a call today at (828) 290-8237.

Is it Time to Retire That Program? Here’s How to Tell for Sure

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Your business has likely been using the same set of applications for some time. Perhaps since the day you started, a long time ago. While you’ve been replacing computers and devices regularly to maintain your competitive advantage, the standard installation has remained largely the same. The programs do the job and everyone knows how to use them, so why upgrade? In some cases, it’s completely fine to keep that legacy program.

However, there are some aspects you should consider:

Support Available
Occasionally, and more frequently with software from smaller developers, the author has moved on from supporting the program. Perhaps they’ve closed the business, sold it, or pivoted directions completely. Either way, they’re no longer interested in helping you get the best from the program. Every time your employees come up against a problem they have nowhere to turn and productivity takes a hit as they try and come up with a workaround. Meanwhile, you run the risk that it could suddenly stop working after a Windows update, begin clashing with other essential software, or even create gaping holes in your security.  As you are aware, even the bigger companies like Microsoft stop supporting software after a while, as they have with earlier versions of Windows. Having support available to both assist and protect is a huge asset to your business.

Hardware Compatibility
Imagine picking up a brand new computer and trying to insert a 5 ¼ floppy disk – that’s the 1980s retro square ones bigger than your hand – it doesn’t matter how effective that program will be, modern technology simply has no idea what to do with it. Thanks to the rapid advancement of computer hardware, you may find a simple component refresh leaves your legacy program completely incompatible. The latest CPU that’s supposed to speed things up suddenly brings your entire business to a standstill, purely because it’s too advanced. Many owners work around this by keeping some older systems running exclusively for that program, but as the classic hardware fails, you may find yourself struggling to find replacement parts or technicians able to install them.

Security Vulnerabilities
Broadly speaking, the longer a program has been around, the longer hackers have had to discover its weaknesses. It could be a flaw in the program itself, or in the operating system that runs it. For example, the application may only run on Windows XP, but Windows XP is one of the earlier versions that Microsoft has stopped supporting. As the older operating systems and programs aren’t being patched, cyber criminals pour more energy into finding flaws they can exploit. It’s open season in their minds, and a free ticket to all your connected systems.  It’s how hospitals across the UK found themselves infected with ransomware last year, simply because they were running programs with known weaknesses.

As it’s not always feasible to replace a program immediately, I can help you run it on a virtual machine. That is, running the older operating system or program from within another program. You’ll have increased security, an element of support and a strong backup system while you work to find a replacement program. These types of solutions are very specialized and resource hungry though, so let me know if you need help. The other option is to migrate to a new program that does what you want, and is supported, hardware compatible and secure. If you’ve been running the old program for some time, this may feel quite daunting at first. Before you rule it out, keep in mind you’ll also be gaining the benefits of faster software, more integrated processes and a highly flexible system.

Need to talk through your options? Give me a call at (828)290-8237.

5 Tech Travel Tips You Can Use

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Travelling soon? For most people, this also means making sure your tech is packed and ready for the adventure. Smartphones, ebook readers, tablets, laptops and smart watches are now so light and portable that you’d never think of leaving them behind, plus they can add a ton of value your experience. Here are a few tips to consider before you hit the road.

1.  Backup to the cloud
While you’re jet setting around, relaxing on a beach or hiking your way to freedom, your tech is always going to be exposed to a level of risk. This might range from accidentally leaving your laptop at a cafe to having it stolen from your bag, but either way the problem is the same – your data is now gone. If you’ve backed up your devices to the cloud (eg Evernote, Microsoft OneNote or Google Drive) you’ll be able to access your files easily and securely from anywhere.

Hot tip: Scan or save important documents like itineraries and passports to the cloud.

2. Pack the right cables
Begging random strangers for a loan of their cable isn’t much fun, so remember to bring the exact cables and chargers you’ll need. Most smartphones and tablets use universal plugs like Micro USB, USB C or Apple Lightning, so you can get away with only packing one cable. Many locations now offer powered USB ports but be sure to also pack the right charger as well, it’s a convenience you’ll appreciate. If you’re travelling overseas and the socket is different, remember to pack a plug converter, and depending on your destination, you might even find the voltage is different. It’s a good idea to check whether you also need a voltage converter before you try and charge.

3. Download offline data
It’s no secret that global roaming can give nasty bill shocks. The easy access data you normally use over Wi-Fi or get included in your cell plan has us all accustomed to being connected. While travelling, you might find yourself in a location where data costs a fortune or it’s not available at all. Download any files you might need, including important documents like itineraries and bookings, so that you can access them even without a connection.

4. Update and scan
Just like you’d make sure you’ve got the right vaccinations and travel gear, make sure your tech is ready to travel too. Set aside a few minutes to run updates for your operating systems and apps, as well as your anti-virus. Go one step further and run a manual anti-virus scan too. The last thing you want to deal with one your trip is a cyber attack!  While you’re doing your pro-active thing, turn on password protection for all devices so that only you can unlock them.

Hot tip: Use a complex password that is hard for thieves to guess.

5. Mark your territory
Almost exactly the way it sounds, let everyone know this tech belongs to you. Write your cell number on portable devices in case you get separated so whoever finds it can give you a quick call and save the day.  Don’t want to use permanent marker on your shiny tech? Grab some sticky labels you can peel off when you get home.

You can also get little Bluetooth tracking tags to stick to your gear, so that if you ever lose something you can chase it down. Similarly, you might like to consider enabling the ‘find my feature on Apple devices. Having this feature switched on also means you can disable your device remotely, an excellent security option if it’s been stolen.

Need help preparing your tech for travel? Give me a call at (828) 290-8237.

What’s Best for Your Computer: Shut Down or Sleep?

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Most homes are trying to reduce power costs by turning off lights and appliances, but do the same rules apply to computers? After all, it requires more than flicking a switch on your way out the door. Some people believe you should shut down after every use to save wear and tear, others believe you should never shut down your computer – ever. Others simply want to make sure the pages and apps they left open are still there waiting for them. So, who’s right and what are they really doing?

Back when computers were clunky behemoths that took a long time to start, you’d go nuts at the person who shut it down when it was your turn. If you have an older computer, maybe you still do.  Modern computers actually have two options for their downtime: Shut down or sleep.

When it shuts down, the system goes through and closes any open programs (often prompting you to save first), then gradually cuts power to all components. It’s a methodical process that seems quite fast to us but is actually made of 100+ intentionally ordered steps. If there’s a sudden blackout or you hold the power button until it turns off, it means the steps aren’t followed and damage is possible. The second option is to put your computer to sleep. This can be triggered by an automated timeout or a user click. Your system uses a special type of memory called RAM to hold all your running programs exactly as you left them but use minimal power. The hard drive stops spinning, the graphics card lets the screen go black, and even the system fan slows to become almost silent. When you wake it by moving the mouse or pressing a key, it ‘wakes’ again almost instantly.

Reasons to Shut Down

A switched off computer isn’t drawing power which is a tick for the environment. But shutting down is about more than saving power. It can sometimes give improved stability over a machine that’s been running for days/weeks. This is because every time you shut down, you give your computer a chance to clear out all temporary junk files it’s been carrying in memory. It also triggers various health checks on startup that may otherwise be missed, important routines like checking for updates or scanning for viruses. It’s certainly more convenient to spend an extra minute booting up than lose everything to a cyber-attack. For older computers or those under heavy strain like gaming or video editing, shutting down also provides a necessary chance for the components to cool down.

Reasons to Sleep

Speed is the big selling point here. You can literally sit down and start working where you left off without the delays of bootup, finding your program, opening your saved files, scrolling down… it’s all right there and ready. You can even tell it how long to wait before putting itself into sleep mode, just in case you get called away and forget. Windows updates still run in the background, so that’s okay, but it’s important to note that your computer might get stuck waiting for a reboot that never comes.  Those pending updates may stack up, ineffective until it either forces a reboot or becomes unstable enough that you give in to a restart.

The best method is….

Since the whole point of having a computer is that it’s ready to work when you are, I recommend shutting down at night at least once a week when it’s definitely not in use but using sleep mode during the day. Updates will get all the rebooting they need, memory is refreshed for the new day, and you’ll get the best of both worlds – speed and stability.

I can help your computer boot faster, give me a call at (828) 290-8237.