More Than A Virus, Common Malware to Watch Out For

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The term “virus” is often used to describe many different types of infection a computer might have.  Virus, when used as a blanket term, can describe any number of potential computer programs. What these programs have in common are they are typically designed to cause damage, steal data, or spread across the network.

Malware describes software designed to act maliciously on a personal computer.  The name ‘malware’ is a shorthand for ‘malicious software’ and describes exactly what it is. A computer virus is a single type of malware that can cause harm to your PC, but it is only one of many.

Adware

Short for advertising-supported software, adware is a type of malware that delivers advertisements to your computer.  These advertisements are often intrusive, irritating, and often designed to trick you into clicking something you don’t want. A common example of malware is pop-up ads that appear on many websites and mobile applications.

Adware often comes bundled with “free” versions of software that uses these intrusive advertising to make up costs.  Commonly it is installed without the user’s knowledge and made excessively difficult to remove.

Spyware

Spyware is designed to spy on the user’s activity without their knowledge or consent.  Often installed in the background, spyware can collect keyboard input, harvest data from the computer, monitor web activity and more.

Spyware typically requires installation to the computer. This is commonly done by tricking users into installing spyware themselves instead of the software or application that they thought they were getting. Victims of spyware are often be completely unaware of its presence until the data stolen is acted on in the form of fraudulent bank transactions or stolen online accounts.

Virus

In technical terms a computer virus is a form of malware that is installed inadvertently, causing damage to the user.  A typical virus may install a keylogger to capture passwords, logins, and bank information from the keyboard.  It might steal data, interrupt programs, and cause the computer to crash.

Modern virus programs commonly use your computers processing power and internet bandwidth to perform tasks remotely for hackers.  The first sign of this can be when the computer sounds like it is doing a lot of work when no programs should be running. A computer virus is often spread through installing unknown software or downloading attachments that contain more than they seem.

Ransomware

A particularly malicious variety of malware, known as ransomware, prevents the user from accessing their own files until a ransom is paid.  Files within the system are often encrypted with a password that won’t be revealed to the user until the full ransom is paid.

Instead of accessing the computer as normal, the user is presented with a screen which details the contact and payment information required to access their data again.

Ransomware is typically downloaded through malicious file attachments, email, or a vulnerability in the computer system.

Worm

Worms spread across computer networks by exploiting vulnerabilities within the operating system.  Often these programs cause harm to their host networks by consuming large amounts of network bandwidth, overloading computers, and using up all the available resources.

One of the key differences between worms and a regular virus is its ability to make copies of itself and spread independently.  A virus must rely on human activity to run a program or open a malicious attachment; worms can simply spread over the network without human intervention.

If you would like to make sure your systems stay safe from malware, give me a call at (828) 290-8237.

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.

Why Periodic Security Assessments Should Be Your New Normal

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By now you know that building up your cyber security is just as important as building up your cash flow. Both are essential to your success, but while most businesses keep an eye on the financials, they tend to think cyber security is something they can set and forget. Unfortunately, cyber criminals are constantly coming up with new methods of attack and the security you had in place yesterday may not be sufficient today.

Instead of reacting to breaches and taking on the costs of downtime, lost files and destroyed trust, a periodic security assessment can identify blind spots that place you at risk. Once you know about these problems, you’re able to proactively setup adequate protection before cybercriminals strike. It’s best to use independent IT experts who can audit your security from an outside perspective, often seeing risks that would otherwise be missed.

Regulations change – Are you affected?
Many businesses are kept to strict government regulations around the way they store, process and protect data. Their operating license depends on staying as secure as possible. All regulations require regular security assessments but they vary in scope and time frame. As regulations change, so do the security assessment requirements. You can imagine how much stricter they are now compared to just 5 years ago. I can ensure your business is meeting the relevant regulations, diving deep to be certain you’re safe.

Security patches and updates are vital
It’s so easy to fall behind on your security patches, after all, it seems like there’s a new update every week and each one takes precious time to apply. Cyber criminals are targeting businesses running late, and it’s basically easy pickings for them. If you’re unpatched where it counts, it’s like inviting them in. When we conduct your security assessment, we can take a look at your history and see if your business has a robust patch plan in place and make sure you’re up to date. If there’s an issue that’s placing you at risk now, impacted you in the past, or will in the future, we’ll find it.

Viruses are always evolving
Just like the human variety, computer viruses are nothing to welcome into your workplace. They’re constantly evolving to skip past anti-virus scans and do damage in new and interesting ways. Cyber criminals know people are more aware of the traditional infection methods like downloading an attachment or inserting an infected USB, so they’re getting more and more creative. Your security assessment doesn’t just include ticking that you have the latest anti-virus, it includes identifying where you’ve had the most breach attempts and where your biggest vulnerabilities are. This type of precise awareness has a lasting impact on reducing your risks.

Your business may have changed
As your business has grown over the years (or shorter if you’ve experienced a recent surge), your entire setup has changed. More employees, expanded remote access, additional vendors, supplementary locations…the list really is endless. With each change has come a new risk, particularly if your security has been growing around you. It might be that your password policies haven’t been updated since you began, or that you still have the old voicemail system even though phones are within easy reach of customers. This is perhaps one of the most useful areas a security assessment can help with, as you and your employees are accustomed to the business working in a certain way, whether that way leads to risk or not. Our experts will be able to see things from a different perspective, particularly as we make sure to think the same way a cyber criminal would.

What to do with your assessment results
Once we’ve finished the assessment you have a benchmark for progress. You’ll know exactly what you need to do, how I can help, and perhaps most importantly, which actions take priority. Moving ahead, future security investments will be smarter as you focus on the high-payoff areas. You’ll also know exactly what you’ve done well and where your security strengths lie. Employees will see how much you value security, which helps to create a stable culture, and you’ll be able to report your commitment to customers, confirming they’re making the right choice by staying with you.

Book your security assessment today. Call me at (828)290-8237.

Should You Pay for a Ransomware Attack?

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Getting hit with a ransomware attack is never fun, your files get encrypted by cybercriminals and you’re left having to decide: should we pay to get them back? It’s a scene that’s played out across the world with plenty of businesses saying ‘yes.’ Here’s what you should consider if you’re ever in this situation.

Do you trust them?
Besides the fact that they’re criminals holding your data hostage, how confident are you that they’ll send the decryption key? Most attackers demand you send the payment via untraceable Bitcoin, so you have no recourse if they take it and run. You’re also equally trapped if they decide they asked too little and come back with increasingly higher demands. If they do send the decryption key, be aware they still have access to your systems and can hit you again at any time until your network is disinfected. Businesses don’t exactly want their breach publicized either, so many don’t admit to paying the ransom, whether it went to plan or otherwise.

Can you manage the impact?
Best case scenario, you can wipe the affected drives and restore from a clean backup without paying the ransom. You might even decide the encrypted files aren’t that important and simply let them go, or even wipe a whole laptop or workstation. The attacker will usually give you a countdown to motivate a payment, with a threat of deletion when it hits zero. If the data isn’t that valuable, or you have confirmed backups, this urgency has no effect. There are also new types of ransomware like KillDisk which can permanently wipe your entire hard drive or even network.

How much do they want?
Cybercriminals rarely send out global attacks with set amounts, instead, they prefer to customize the ransom based on how much they think you can pay. Large corporations and hospitals are hit with very high demands, while small business demands are more modest. They may be criminals, but they’re smart people who know your financial limits. They’ll also consider how much similar businesses have paid and how quickly, then expect you to follow suit.

Are your backups good?
Many businesses are discovering too late that their backup systems aren’t robust enough to withstand this type of attack. Either they’ve become infected too, they weren’t up-to-date or they backed up the wrong data. It’s worth doing some quick checks on your backup processes as even if you have to take the system down for a day as you recover, you’re still light years ahead of those without them.

What’s your policy?
More and more often, businesses are adding ransomware to their disaster recovery plans and having predefined actions mapped out. Seemingly simple inclusions like who has final say over the payment decision can stop chaos in its tracks. Employees and management alike can then approach the situation calmly, ready to make the best decisions for the business.

Stay safe in the first place
Ransomware is showing no signs of slowing down. As more businesses keep them funded the cybercriminals are steadily launching new attacks and making it their full-time job. Most attacks come via phishing emails – those emails that trick employees into clicking a link – and they can be extremely convincing. While training helps people spot them, it’s no guarantee. Using business-class spam filters can catch many of these types of emails before they land in your employee inboxes so that triggering a ransomware attack becomes something that happens to other businesses, not yours.

Secure your data systems now, I can help! Call me at (828) 290-8237.

How to Survive A Hard Drive Crash: What You Can Do Today

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There’s been a massive digitization of the population, which despite keeping everyone entertained and connected, comes with one gaping flaw – a hard drive crash could wipe out your data in an instant. Nobody’s immune, grandparents routinely rock the latest smartphones and post on Facebook. Nearly all schoolwork is done on computers or tablets, ebook sales far outstrip their paper cousins, and photo printing is a rarity. Unless there’s a physical requirement like putting a photo into a frame, all our data is staying digital.  People’s entire lives, their memories, and work are on personal hard drives, yet a large majority of households have no backups.

If you’ve ever lost your data or had your computer stolen, you know the panic and rage that follows…turning the house upside down, hoping desperately to find that USB stick that maybe your data was copied to, once upon a time…before collapsing onto the couch as it sinks in: there’s nothing left.
While hopefully your hard drive is still in good shape, surprise failures do happen. The mechanics don’t last forever, and even brand-new drives can be blitzed by a power surge. Theft is always a risk, as is user error like deleting files accidentally, or even getting hit by a nasty virus that destroys or holds your files for ransom. That last one is tricky. Most households are using apps like Dropbox, iCloud or OneDrive as their backup, thinking if their hard drive crashes or gets stolen, they’ll just download the files from there. Unfortunately, those very handy apps are no help if you’ve been hit with ransomware. Almost instantly as the malware encrypts your local files until you pay up, those sync apps upload the infected versions – for your convenience. Older, safe versions of the files no longer exist, because these apps are designed to give a constant mirror of your drive, not a backup.

Stop for a moment and think about what you’d lose right now if your hard drive failed. What’s on there? Household management files like tax info, warranties you’ve scanned in, photos of your children or grandchildren, videos of first steps and school plays, maybe even your wedding video? While some losses are merely inconvenient, like recreating your budget or rebuilding your recipe collection, other losses are heartbreaking.

What You Can Do

Backing up at home used to be something only tech geeks did, but like everything cool, it’s gone mainstream. I recommend a 3-2-1 approach: 3 copies of your data, with 2 local at your home and 1 offsite.

Typically, this means keeping your regular hard drive where your data is now, one copy of precious files on a backup USB drive, and one that automatically uploads to the secure cloud as you add new files. That way, the USB drive protects your data if your computer dies, and the cloud copy protects you if something happens to the computer and your USB drive, like fire, flood or theft. It’s a good idea to make sure you unplug that backup USB drive afterwards and pop it into a drawer, as connected devices can easily become infected during an attack or stolen during a break-in.

Two of these methods require you to actually pay attention, which is where many households struggle. It’s a rare home where someone takes the time to sit down each week and carefully run a backup. Not that it’s tricky, but unless you’re one of those geeks it’s pretty boring and not a high priority after a long day! That’s why I recommend a cloud backup solution for many people.

You’ll be able to retrieve files at will, without having to roll back your entire drive, and know your solution has caught even the smallest file change without you needing to flag or mark it in any way. Even better, because it’s in the cloud, you can access your secure backup from anywhere. Left a work file at home? No problem, it’s in your cloud backup. On vacation and need to check a detail or show off a photo? No problem, it’s in your cloud backup. .

If you’re ready to protect your data before you lose it, give me a call at (828) 290-8237.

Fake Invoice Attacks Are on the Rise – Here’s How to Spot (and Beat) Them

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Businesses around the world are being struck with a cyber-attack that sends victims a fake invoice that looks real enough to fool to most employees. It’s an old scam that used to see bills faxed or mailed in, but it’s made its way into the digital world and instances are on the rise.

Chances are you’ve already seen some of the less effective attempts, like an email advising your domain is expiring, except it’s not from your host and your domain is nowhere near expiration. These new attacks are more advanced, in that they look completely legitimate and are often from contractors/suppliers you actually use. Logos are correct, spelling and grammar are spot on, and they might even refer to actual work or invoice numbers. The sender name may also be the normal contact you’d associate with that business, or even a co-worker, as cybercriminals are able to effectively ‘spoof’ real accounts and real people. While it’s worrying that they know enough about your business to wear that disguise so well, a successful attack relies on you not knowing what to look for, or even that fakes are a possibility. With that in mind, here are two types of invoice attacks you might receive:

The Payment Redirect

This style of fake invoice either explicitly states payment should be made to a certain account, perhaps with a friendly note about the new details, or includes a payment link direct to the new account. Your accounts payable person believes they’re doing the right thing by resolving the invoice and unwittingly sends company money offshore. The problem usually isn’t discovered until the real invoice from the real supplier comes in or the transaction is flagged in an audit. Due to the nature of international cybercrime, it’s unlikely you’ll be able to recover the funds even if you catch it quickly.

The Malware Click

Rather than go for the immediate cash grab, this style of attack asks your employee to click a link to download the invoice. The email may even look like the ones normally generated by popular accounting tools like Quickbooks, making the click seem safe. Once your employee has clicked the link, malware is downloaded that can trigger ransomware or data breaches. While an up-to-date anti-virus should block the attack at that stage, it’s not always guaranteed, especially with new and undiscovered malware. If it does get through, the malware quickly embeds itself deep into your systems, often silently lurking until detected or activated.

How to Stay Safe

Awareness is key to ensuring these types of attacks have no impact on your business. As always, keep your anti-virus and spam filters up to date to minimize the risk of the emails getting through in the first place. Then, consider implementing a simple set of procedures regarding payments. These could include verifying account changes with a phone call (to the number you have on record, not the one in the email), double checking invoices against work orders, appointing a single administrator to restrict access to accounts, or even two-factor authorization for payments.

Simple pre-emptive checks like hovering the mouse over any links before clicking and quickly making sure it looks right can also help. Like your own business, your contractors and suppliers are extra careful with their invoicing, so if anything looks off – even in the slightest – hold back on payment/clicking until it’s been reviewed. Fake invoices attacks may be increasing, but that doesn’t mean your business will become a statistic, especially now that you know what’s going on and how you can stop them.

I can help increase your security. Call me at (828) 290-8237.

3 Internet Habits To Keep Kids Smart and Safe

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How can you make the internet a safer place for your children? It’s a common concern as all parents want their kids to be protected and happy whenever they go online. It’s relatively easy to supervise and monitor the very young ones as they stare delightedly at the Disney Jr site, but the risks increase greatly as kids get older and more independent.

You’ve probably heard the term ‘cyber safety’ before, but safe internet usage goes beyond reminding them not to talk to strangers. With the evolution of the internet and the way it’s now woven seamlessly into our lives, the focus needs to be on ingrained habits. That means ensuring your children have the tools and predefined responses to online events so that no matter what happens, they’re not placing themselves (or your family) at risk.

Setting up these habits is easy, and begins with three basic understandings:

Downloads are a no-go

Most kids can’t tell the difference between a legitimate download and a scam/malicious link. It’s not their fault, the online world is full of things that will trick even the most savvy adult. The difference is that kids tend not to take that extra moment to check exactly where that link is pointing, question whether it’s too good to be true, or even read what they’re agreeing to. They want to get back to what they were doing, and if something pops up, their first instinct is to click ‘yes’ – purely so it goes away. Unfortunately, that single ‘yes’ may have just opened the doors to malware and viruses that will ruin their computer. Set a family rule that they need to ask permission for all downloads (and an adult will check it first), and to never click a popup. When you’re called over to give download permission or check a popup, talk through exactly what you’re checking and why. As your child matures, get them involved in this process so their safe habits extend outside the home.

Critical thinking is a must

Most youngsters think the internet is a magical place and can’t imagine their life without it. To them, the internet is on the same level as oxygen! With that acceptance though, comes unwavering trust that the internet would never lie to them, never trick them and never hurt them. While we adults know better, it’s only because we already view the internet with a certain level of distrust. The best way to keep kids safe is to teach them to approach every aspect of the internet with critical thinking. That includes teaching them to question the motives of other people online. Is that person really a kid? What do they really want? Unfortunately, all kids do need to be aware that predators use the internet to target and lure children. Ensure your children tell you immediately if a stranger makes contact. Along with this stranger danger, teach them to identify what marks something as suspicious, and what they should avoid. If they come across anything inappropriate, they should shut down the computer and come straight to you.

The internet is forever

Kids have an overwhelming drive to contribute to the internet, they don’t think twice about recording a video, jumping in a chat room or onto social media. The world really is their playground! But what they don’t understand until they’ve been burned, is that anything they upload, write or say is on the internet forever.  Even if they delete it or use a platform where content self-erases, someone can still screenshot and send it right back out. Many cyber-bullying cases are based around this exact type of blow-back. Once your kids know that everything they post is permanent, they’ll be more likely to pause and think.

If you need help to secure your computer and help keep your family safe – give me a call at (828) 290-8237.

Why Spam is a Small Business Nightmare

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15 years after the world united to crack down on spam emails, we’re still struggling with overloaded inboxes. All that unwanted email continues to flood the internet, much of it targeted to small businesses, and the impact goes wider than you might think. Here’s the full breakdown of how modern spam works and how it’s hurting your business.

What is spam? Generally speaking, spam is any unwanted message that lands in your email, comes via text, social media messaging, or other communication platform. It might be sent to your main business account, for example your ‘contact us’ email, or direct to your employees. Most of the time, spam is annoying but relatively innocent messages from another business inviting you to buy/do/see something. They’re newsletters, reminders, invitations, sales pitches, etc. You may know the sender and have a previous relationship with them, or they might be a complete stranger.

Why you’re getting spammed. Maybe you or your employee signed up for a newsletter or bought a $1 raffle ticket to win a car. Perhaps you got onto the mailing list accidentally after enquiring about a product, not knowing that simply getting a brochure sent through would trigger a spam-avalanche. Often there’s fine print that says they’ll not only use your details to send you their marketing, but they’ll share your details with 3rd parties so they can send you messages too. That single email address can be passed around the internet like wildfire, and before you know it, you’re buried under spam. Sometimes, and more than we’d like to think, your details are found illicitly, perhaps through a hacked website for example, like the recent LinkedIn leak. More often though, your email is simply collected by a computer ‘scraping’ the internet – scouring forums and websites for plain text or linked emails and selling them as prime spam targets. It’s easy to see how individual office employees receive an average of 120 emails daily, over half of which are spam!

More than annoying. We all know spam is annoying, but did you know it’s also resource hungry? Your employees are spending hours each week sorting their email, assessing each one for relevance and deleting the spam. Too often, legitimate emails from clients and customers get caught up and are accidentally deleted. Add in the temptation to read the more interesting spam emails and productivity drops dramatically. On the other side of the business, your email server might be dedicating storage and processing power to spam emails, occasionally to the point where inboxes get full and real mail is bouncing out. While most spam is simply an unwanted newsletter or sale notice, there’s also the risk that any links may be a cyber-attack in disguise. After all, one click is all it takes to open the door to viruses, ransomware, phishing or other security emergencies.

How to stop the spam. The 2003 Can Spam Act (a global set of anti-spam laws) requires all marketers to follow certain rules, like not adding people to mailing lists without permission, and always including an ‘unsubscribe’ link.  So firstly, make sure you’re not accidentally giving people permission to email you – check the fine print or privacy policy. Next, look for the unsubscribe link at the bottom of the email. If the spam is from a legitimate know company use this link. Unfortunately, not all of them include the link, or they hide it somewhere impossible to see. Do not click unsubscribe on an email from a company you do not know. The worst spammers take that ‘unsubscribe’ click to confirm that your email address is valid/active and then sell it on. There are various types of spam filters on the market, often bundled with your email, that can help curb the amount of spam you receive.

Talk to me about your anti-spam protections. Call me at (828) 290-8237.

5 Signs Your Computer is Crying Out for Repair

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It’s pretty obvious when your computer is already broken, but how do you know when it’s about to break? Even before it falls into a heap and refuses to turn on, or flashes big messages about how your files are now encrypted, you’ll be given multiple hints that something is wrong. Here are the common signs your computer needs repair, sooner rather than later.

1. It’s running slow.  Most people assume their computer is running slow because it’s getting older, but it could actually be a variety of reasons. A program behaving badly, a virus, overheating or even a failing hard drive can all cause a massive slow down. You might only notice it when booting up or starting a program, or the problem may have taken hold to the extent that even moving your mouse becomes torture. Sometimes the slow speed is simply due to some newer software that your hardware can’t keep up with.

2.  Your system is running hot. A very common sign with laptops, running hot can be both the sign and cause of damage. Computers have fans to blow out hot air so they can cool off their internal components. At the same time, fresh air is drawn in through vents to create an effective cooling system. Unfortunately, just about every vent in a computer can quickly become clogged with dust and pet fur, essentially choking off the circulation and leaving components to overheat. Desktop computers have more space inside to circulate air, but you’ll still need to keep their vents clear. You’ll know your computer running too hot if your system shuts down frequently (a safety cutoff), the fan is working serious overtime, or your laptop is too hot to use on your lap.

3. Blue Screens of Death are everywhere. A classic Windows error, this is quite literally a blue screen that covers your view. The system will still be running, but something has gone wrong. You’ll be shown some text and an error code, often with Windows suggesting a restart. If a restart fixes your problem, perhaps something didn’t load properly at bootup and your computer had a one time glitch. It’s rare, but it happens. If you’re getting blue screens all the time though, that’s a sign a hardware or software problem needs to be resolved. Your computer will continue to give blue screen errors more and more frequently, so it’s best to take action as soon as you know something’s wrong.

4. It’s making strange noises. Your computer has a number of moving parts. You’ll know by now which noises it normally makes, from the startup beep to the whirring fan. When your computer starts to make extra noises…that’s when things get interesting. Fans can wear down and screech or grind, hard drives can start clicking, and in emergency cases, you might even hear a zapping noise. None of those are good! Whenever you notice a strange noise, remember your computer parts are all designed to work together and one problem could quickly become many if left unchecked.

5. It crashes and freezes. If your computer is crashing randomly, restarting without you, or freezing up completely, it’s a sure sign there’s a problem. As annoying as it might be, your computer isn’t doing this to drive you crazy – it just feels that way! You might notice it’s showing other signs from this list too because crashing and freezing are what happens when something isn’t just wrong, it’s terribly wrong. The problem could be almost anything, hardware and software both, but it’s always fixable. This is simply your computer’s final way of crying out for repair, desperately trying to get your attention and a little TLC.

Is your computer doing these things? Call me at (828) 290-8237.

Top 5 Cloud Advantages for Small Business

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Cloud technology has created a revolution for small business, changing the way you store, share and backup files. While ‘the cloud’ is often hard to understand because it’s neither in the sky or in a single location, there’s no arguing that it’s driving growth across the board. Storage concerns are a thing of the past as small businesses like yours embrace the flexibility, cost savings and protections of cloud solutions. I’ve done the research for you and identified 5 ways small business in particular benefits from making the move.

It’s Cheaper

Budget is always a limiting factor for businesses, many of which are further constrained by pressure from higher up. Some regard investing in cloud solutions as a large expense that can be put off indefinitely. In most cases though, making the switch to cloud storage costs a fraction of the price. Compared to maintaining and powering servers, scaling to keep up, and repairing in emergencies, cloud storage offers extraordinary savings. With one decision, you get access to high-end infrastructure and dedicated support, plus a healthier bottom line. Cloud solutions were specifically created to meet your needs, which means you only pay for what you use. Costs remain capped while the benefits continue to rise, a clear advantage for the budget-conscious business.

It’s Secure

A lot of people like having their data where they can see it. But that’s not always the safest option. Flooding or a fire can happen, break-ins are a worry, and employees are always losing laptops and phones, or have them stolen. More often though, someone simply makes a mistake and deletes important files, or accidentally infects the system with malware. Cloud storage mitigates every single one of these risks, with storage in ultra-secure locations, protected against disasters, and committed to robust backup systems. In recent times particularly, we’ve seen many small businesses survive ransomware attacks purely because their critical data was secure in the cloud with clean backups available.

It’s Compliant

I know medical businesses and services need to follow certain regulations when it comes to patient data. This includes security as well as data integrity, plus backups and auditing. Many cloud providers acknowledged this need early on and made sure to offer compliance guarantees. They therefore keep abreast of changing regulations, often implementing new requirements before you’ve even heard about them. With cloud storage systems, you essentially slash your compliance workload and let your provider do the worrying.

It’s Portable

One of the key benefits of cloud storage is your ability to collaborate remotely. In the past, this would have involved multiple file copies that need to be merged back together, often confusing employees as to which is the ‘right’ file. With cloud storage, your staff can work on the same file, using the same interface and real-time updates. Even having different versions of software is no longer an issue. Employees can work on a file in the office and then securely access the same file from their smartphone, laptop or other location, without needing to buy additional software or worry about version corruption. Sharing and collaborating becomes easier, more desirable and more secure, which helps puts your business firmly on track to reach goals in record time.

It’s Easy to Migrate

One of the biggest concerns I hear is that it will be too disruptive to migrate to cloud solutions all at once. That’s okay. We don’t have to do it all in one day, we can migrate it in parts. For example, you can move your email to the cloud, or just remote file storage. As your various servers and systems age out or need repair, we can help you move each to the cloud, which means your downtime is minimal to non-existent. You can also actively choose a hybrid approach to keep your legacy applications, with no pressure to move them to the cloud. I can help ensure smooth integration across your entire business, making sure all your systems work seamlessly together, whether in-house or in the cloud.

Talk to me about your cloud options by calling me at (828) 290-8237.