NEPA Geeks Blog

Why Do Computers Slow Down Over Time?

Why Do Computers Slow Down Over Time?

Remember the awe you felt when you turned on your new computer and it loaded in a flash? Your computer was the envy of your friends and you weren’t afraid to bathe in that glory. Button on, ready to go, those were the days!

After a year or two though, it doesn’t seem to be quite as zippy…no, you’re not imagining it. It really has slowed down, not just in comparison to newer models and your expectations…There’s a measurable drop in speed and power that has nothing to do with worn out parts. The good news is a little maintenance can have that baby cruising at top speed again. Let’s take a leisurely walk through the system and spot the culprits:

Start-up applications: It’s super convenient to have Skype start automatically and your anti-virus too. In fact, many of the applications starting themselves with the computer are essential to your experience. But some of them are getting a little too ‘helpful’.

For example, iTunes helper loads in the background to speed things up when you connect your device – but if you can’t even remember the last time you ran iTunes on your computer, then it can go. Programs like that are holding onto a portion of your processing power and adding to your speed issues. The average home computer automatically loads around 75 programs at start-up!

Temporary junk: Computers are kind of messy. They leave temporary files and snippets of information all over your hard drive, each action leaving a trail rather like a roaming toddler with a sticky sandwich. Every webpage, every image on that webpage, every program you run and every game you play leaves something behind.

It may be the tidbits of information called “cookies”, saved game files, auto-restore files or even a log so that you can hit the undo button 100 times while it remembers your actions for you.

The more junk your computer builds up, the slower it gets.

Viruses and malware: These infections sit in the background consuming resources while doing various nightmarish things. They may be spying on your actions, stealing your information or reaching out through your network to infect others. Occasionally, the impact is limited to seeing your computer slow to a crawl, however the flow-on financial costs of an infection can easily reach into the thousands.

Bloating: With every new version of software comes a new set of features, introductory sequences and design improvements. The problem with this is the application becomes larger and larger with each new version, requiring more system resources to install and run – and slowing your computer down.

Just like a car, computers need regular maintenance – we offer a Tune-Up service to bring your computer back to its original speed and extend its life.

Give us a call at 570.235.1946 or schedule an appointment to book in a Tune Up.

Office 365: 11 Reasons To Upgrade Today

11 Reasons To Upgrade to Office 365

11 Reasons To Upgrade to Office 365

11 Reasons To Upgrade to Office 365

With Office 365, it seems common sense has finally prevailed, giving business the changes they actually want. It’s still Office, and your staff will still know exactly how to work it, but they’ll get so much more done.

1. The whole Mac/Windows drama is over

Office 365 brings with it a stack of benefits, but perhaps the most relieving is the in-built file compatibility across all platforms. No more converting (or corrupting) files back and forth, productivity black holes have essentially been eliminated.

2. It’s always ready to go

Microsoft are so confident in their cloud-based software and data storage; they’re giving a 99.9% uptime guarantee. You can even call a real life human for support.

Work online, offline or mobile – the choice is yours.

3. Security is built in

A large part of Microsoft’s uptime certainty comes from their extremely robust security protocols. Office 365 offers enterprise-grade admin controls at your end, as well as government-grade security at their end.

4. Generous data allowances

Each user gets 1TB of cloud space for file storage, which can be shared at folder or file level.

5. Work anywhere, anytime

Previously, staff needed to establish a VPN or manage security concerns which made working off-site difficult and cumbersome. Office 365 has solved that problem and working from anywhere is now easy.

6. Integrated across devices

Calendar, email and contacts are all synced and updated across multiple devices: Laptop, desktop & mobile.

7. Yours for no upfront costs

Once upon a time, updating your Office version meant paying a small fortune and half a day downtime. Office 365 changes that, with no upfront cost or installation delay.

8. Mailbox storage through the roof

Forget the days of ‘user mailbox is full’ – each user is given a whopping 50GB in a gorgeous, easy-to-use mailbox.

9. Built in malware and spam protection

Data security doesn’t stop at file storage: email is scanned for malware and spam, protecting your business from all manner of attacks before they happen.

10. Collaboration tools and virtual meeting

Cancel your 3rd party services and bring all your collaborations into the one platform.

11. Integrated Team planning

Schedule tasks, meetings and track allocations from a top-down level to know exactly how projects are progressing.

We can help with your Office 365 migration and setup – give us a call today!

How To Protect Your Children While They’re Online

How To Protect Your Children While They’re Online

How To Protect Your Children While They’re Online

How To Protect Your Children Online

Now that the school holidays have finally started, children have all the time in the world to spend with their best friend: Technology.

Waking early to sneak in a couple hours of Minecraft, Roblox, YouTube or Xbox…grabbing their ‘educational’ iPad and Facetiming a friend…sending emails and texts…it’s open season during school holidays!

Not just the younger children, but teenagers too.

To be honest, as an adult, we really have no idea what’s cool or what they’ve been introduced to at school. They’re digital natives and use it in ways we would never dream of.

All we know is that they’re going to using their devices and we won’t be able to watch them every second of the day. Plus of course, no matter how many Cyber-Safety talks they’ve had, how many times they can parrot the rules back, they’re children and they don’t always stop to think.

  • They don’t realize certain search terms might not be such a great idea
  • They trust they are messaging other children
  • And they would rather not limit themselves to 2 hours per day

Protect your Children with Parental Control Software

A Parental Control Software (PCS) package is essentially an internet filter for children. It takes all the icky, inappropriate things online and blocks your child from accessing them, seeing them or even knowing they exist.

Adults can override and disable the software easily, so their own experience is unchanged and unmonitored.

As an added bonus, Parental Control Software can also be used to put time limits on internet usage, or even log all online activity. While you may not feel the need to review the logs on a daily basis, they can be vital in identifying cyber bullying, sexting, or inappropriate relationships. Parents around the world credit these logs with saving their child’s mental health, and occasionally, their life.

The best time to install Parental Control Software is now, before your children become comfortable with unrestricted access, and before they see things they shouldn’t.

Give us a call to set your computer up with Parental Control Software today.

Should You REALLY Click That Upgrade?

Should you really click that upgrade?

Should you really click that upgrade?

Should You REALLY Click That Upgrade?

That pop up just won’t leave. It’s been hounding you to upgrade your software and clearly, it has zero intention of giving you a moment’s rest. That software wants to be upgraded and it wants it now.

With a grudging sigh, you click and let it upgrade in the background. Maybe now it will let you get some work done. Except instead of grabbing a competitive advantage by having the latest and greatest edition, you quickly discover it’s given you the exact opposite. Your essential hardware no longer works, you’ve got errors all over the place, and that application no longer runs at all.

Your urgent upgrade was more of an instant downgrade.

Before you click that nagging upgrade button, consider the following:

Is the upgrade going to work with your current systems?

If your project management software no longer talks to your scheduling software, you’ve got a problem. It’s reasonable to expect the upgrade to have gone through robust testing and bug fixes, but even the mega corporations are caught out in an instant.

Is your current solution still an option?

Developers cease support of older software versions after a certain date. In these cases, continuing to use an outdated version leaves your system vulnerable, without patches and security updates. If your software is at the end of its cycle, you’ll need to upgrade regardless. This, however, gives you the perfect opportunity to revise your selection and make some experienced decisions – upgrade or replace.

Will this upgrade benefit your business?

Some upgrades are purely cosmetic. They look great and the developers pitch them as the latest and greatest, but without additional innovation on offer, you’re better to wait.

On the other hand, if the upgrade is going to have a positive effect on productivity, efficiency or customer satisfaction, definitely put it on your to-do list. Hold off for just a few moments though, while your IT technicians research any conflicts that might arise.

Being an early adopter isn’t always the best idea. Sometimes you need to let your other software packages catch up, and compatibility issues will always be relevant. It’s more important than ever before to take your time and research the upgrade to see how others have fared – before things come crashing down.

Call us for a quick compatibility check before you click

 

Staying Safe while using Social Media

Staying Safe using Social Media

Staying Safe using Social Media

So how do you balance being social with staying safe?

People happily share their private information online, building robust libraries that can easily become a one-stop goldmine for fraudsters.

It’s not exactly the intention everyone has when they sign up, as the whole point of Facebook is to share your life with your friends. It hooks us into a global community and the experience does depend on us making certain privacy sacrifices.

So how do you balance being social with staying safe?

On Facebook alone, the average person shares 13 pieces of personal information ranging from a fairly innocent name/email combo, all the way to mothers maiden name and home address.

It doesn’t sound like a lot, but those 13 pieces have the power to unravel your life within minutes.

Even checking in at home has become the norm, helping to create a multi-dimensional online identity. The details are available to anyone who cares to look, whether they’re a friend keeping in the loop, or someone with a much darker agenda.

The problem is, you just don’t know who’s looking at your profile or why.

For example, someone could try accessing your email account by clicking the ‘Forgot password’ link. The email service follows its security rules and asks identifying questions like ‘which high school did you go to? What is your pet’s name?’ Unfortunately, the most common identifying checks and answers are probably available on Facebook.

Once your email address is compromised, hackers can use that to break into other services and go through, clicking ‘Reset Password’ on site after site, account after account – they have full access to your email, so there’s nothing stopping them from emptying your bank accounts – or worse.

7 Ways To Secure Your Facebook Without Missing Out on the Fun

  • Begin by previewing your profile as others see it
  • Review what should and should not be visible to strangers
  • Consider only sharing partial details, like birth day and month, but not the year
  • Only ever ‘Friend’ people you know and trust
  • Be wary of duplicate or ‘odd’ friend activity – hackers will often clone or hack a friend’s profile and initiate an urgent and uncharacteristic request for money
  • Update your past privacy settings too
  • Set default future sharing to ‘friends only’

Why Managed Services Will Save You More Than Money

downtime“Downtime costs money.”

That’s no secret, but it doesn’t quite capture the whole experience…you arrive to work in the morning, grab your coffee knowing you’ve got a hectic day ahead, and are ready to dive in.

For some reason the computer can’t access the database and neither can anyone else’s. You restart the server while fielding calls left, right and center, but are unable to answer any client queries. Your hands are completely tied…and now the server is beeping furiously…what’s going on??!

You’re not just in crisis mode, you’re on damage control as you call every tech you can think of, trying to find one who can come NOW.

Not exactly the day you had planned.

The Break/Fix Days Are Gone

Previously, businesses only addressed their IT needs when something broke. A few hours down meant little in the scope of things. In today’s fast world, businesses rely heavily on IT and downtime just isn’t an option. Even the legalities of simply restoring financial, legal or medical files after a breach raises issues.

How Can Managed Services Help?

The cost of break/fix is now too high, both financially and emotionally.

Simply put, your IT services are remotely monitored and proactively managed by a professional, external business. Your Managed Service Provider (MSP) runs regular diagnostics on equipment to identify impending failure and resolves problems before they happen.

Benefits of Managed services

Small to medium businesses in particular benefit from managed services, because they don’t usually have an on-site technician to oversee the multiple systems in use. By subscribing to a managed service provider, businesses can have reduced labor costs, access to a knowledge base, future-pacing, better data security and reduced downtime. Businesses can also know exactly what their upcoming costs are and plan accordingly.

Some of the managed services we can provide are:

  • Remote support – This allows us to help you quickly without needing to be on-site
  • Hardware monitoring – We monitor your servers and workstations to catch hardware failures before they happen.
  • Managed anti-virus – We make sure your anti-virus is up to date and take immediate action if an infection occurs
  • Patch management – We make sure your computer’s operating system is up to date, closing access to known vulnerabilities as soon as possible

How much down time can your business afford? Give us a call.

6 Quick Security Tips To Keep Your Business Safe

securityEvery employee shares one inescapable flaw that is putting your business at risk.

They’re human.

59% of data breaches can be traced back to something an employee did (or didn’t do), which invited a cyber-attack.

The scam goes like this:

To lock hackers out, build security awareness and respect into your company culture, so that maintaining digital security becomes as routine as making coffee.

Use complex passwords: Every employee, including management, needs to use an alphanumeric password that they haven’t used before. Password managers can assist with making sure they’re never forgotten.

Verify unknown identities: Not familiar with ‘Jenny from Accounting’ who has called to ask for sensitive information? Double check caller identity and access permissions before releasing any information. Hackers love to play on our desire to be helpful.

Encrypt by default: People regularly transfer data to a laptop or smartphone so they can work more efficiently. Unfortunately, this equipment can be easily stolen. Set operating systems to encrypt data by default, so that it becomes useless in the wrong hands.

Protect portable devices: Laptops and mobile phones should always require a password and be set to auto-lock after a short period of time. Never leave them unattended in cars, buses, restrooms etc, and take them as carry-on luggage.

Set personal usage rules: While you may have blocked productivity-vacuums such as Facebook, what are the rules regarding games, video streaming or shopping? Can they install their own software? When business computers are used for personal usage, security vigilance tends to slide, resulting in unintentional malware installation.

Educate often: Digital security threats change regularly, and people become comfortable with a certain level of danger, thinking ‘it will never happen to me’. A 5-minute discussion once a month may be the barrier that keeps hackers out.

Starter topics:

  • Links in emails – Hackers often send emails that look like they are from your bank or similar. Be sure to check the link by hovering over it with your mouse. This is known as ‘phishing’.
  • Tech scam popups – Be on the lookout for popups advising that your computer is infected and you need to call a phone number or download software.
  • Email attachments – Never open an unknown attachment, and even from people you know and trust, always scan for malware before opening.

If you need help implementing better security practices in your business, give us a call.

Quickly Become A Google Fu Master… Here’s How

There’s one thing all teens can do better than adults – and it’s not Snapchat. They’ve become experts at quickly locating information on the internet.googlefu2

That’s Google Fu, the ability to use search engines to whip up answers and research faster than a contestant on a radio quiz.

Level 1 Mastery: Tell It What You Need

Google is smart and can understand “conversational searches”. Let’s say you came across a great recipe online, but the measurements were imperial. Google has you covered.

Simply tell it what you want to convert, and what into.

[number] [unit] into [unit]

Enter “6 ounces into cups”…and hit enter. Google presents the answer, already calculated – AND it includes a handy drop down to change those measurements for your next ingredient.

  • Release dates: [movie/game] release date
  • Fast facts: [name of person] deathDurable – No moving parts to wear out
  • Stats: [city] population

Level 2 Mastery: Limiting Result Type

With one additional click, you can tell Google that you only want images. Or videos. Or News, maps, shopping, books or apps. Your initial results are presented as a combination of all types – you can see the ALL tab highlighted up the top. Just click the tab to indicate which result type you’re looking for.

Level 3 Mastery: Using Drop Downs.

One of the most popular Google Fu moves is to limit results to sites from a particular country. This is great for locating bargains or local businesses. Click SEARCH TOOLS to drop down a second menu. You’ll see the option to limit Country and even Time. 2 extra clicks and my search is now limited to my home country and items from the past 7 days only.

Level 3 Mastery: Mastery: Using Operators.

Your final level of mastery, often used as a last resort when you’re just beginning to doubt whether the internet has the answer you’re seeking.

Finally, enclosing your search terms in “quotation marks” binds the term together so Google can’t break it up. E.G. “Project Management”

Your Google Fu will soon be very strong.

How To Spot A Tech Scam Before You Get Stung

If your computer had a virus, you’d want to know about it ASAP, right?

Before your important files become corrupted, you lose your photos and your digital life is essentially destroyed. Even thinking about it is terrifying.

Tech scammers know we’d be lost without our computers, and that we don’t always know wtechscamhat’s going on behind the screen – which is why they’ve been able to swindle millions from every day people across the world.

The scam goes like this:

You receive a random phone call from someone with a heavy accent (usually Indian) saying they’re from Microsoft, or an alarming pop-up appears on the screen, saying it looks like your system has been infected with a virus.

To fix the problem, they need to you to download some support software, which they’ll give you a special link for.

A technician then uses that software to gain access to your system and make it appear your system is riddled with viruses. Flashing screens, mysterious diagnostics whizzing by, fabricated errors…they’ll do or say anything to make you panic. They’ll even go as far as claiming your system has been infected with illegal content and if not corrected, you’ll face criminal charges.

Demands for credit card information follow immediately after. Once paid, they simply stop fiddling with your system to make it seem the problem is fixed. To continue the scam, they’ll soon access your system to recreate the problem, this time offering a subscription for ongoing protection.

What To Do If You’re Targeted By A Tech Scam

1. Don’t taunt them. Just hang up. Right now you’re only a phone number in their system and they’ll move onto the next – if you give them cause to target you personally, you may find yourself in a dangerous situation.

The real Microsoft will never randomly call people like this. Ever.

2. If a pop-up appears, immediately run an anti-virus scan. Don’t click the pop-up or call the number.

What To Do If You’ve Already Been Scammed

It’s okay. It feels horrible, but you’re not alone and the situation can be corrected.

Call your financial institution and have the charges reversed and your card reissued. It’s easier than you might think and helps the authorities locate the scammers.

Then give us a call and we’ll make sure they no longer have access to your computer.