Backing Up Your Data

We have all been there at one time or another.  The hard drive crashes, your laptop or tablet is stolen, or the newest version of the project you have been working on all day has not saved the updates.  At these critical moments in life, having a backup of your data would be a lifesaver.  No one ever wants to lose the presentation slides, the contract proposal or the 50 page paper they slaved over, but if your data (files and documents) are not backed up this could happen to you or your business.  Let’s examine some strategies that will help you and your business in the event of a technology meltdown, theft or loss.

Determine what needs to be backed up– There are probably hundreds of items on your hard drive, right?  Prioritize them and determine which files will need to be backed up to keep things running smoothly.  Some may need to be backed up daily while others may only need it occasionally. For example, word processing files, spreadsheets, and similar documents that are updated constantly, you may want to update daily.  Browser favorites like email, visual media, and calendar entries may also need daily backup.  Hibernation files and browser cache, on the other hand, may not need to be updated or backed up often.

Determine the Location of backup you need – There are several types to choose from including:

  • Local backup could include backing up critical files on zip drives, external hard drives, or USB Flash drives. These backups are fast and easily accessible.  A distinct disadvantage is that the media can be expensive and susceptible to physical failure.
  • Cloud Backup – This type of backup is stored online and can be accessed from anywhere and often by multiple computers. The data is often stored in a secure online location that is accessible with a password you create. Backups can also occur in real time. Depending on the type and scope of the backup needed will determine the cost.

Determine the Type of backup you need –

  • Full Backup – The most basic and complete type of backup operation is a full backup. As the name implies, this type of backup makes a copy of all data to another set of media, which can be tape, disk or a DVD or CD. The primary advantage to performing a full backup during every operation is that a complete copy of all data is available with a single set of media.
  • Incremental Backup – An incremental backup operation will result in copying only the data that has changed since the last backup operation of any type.
  • Differential Backup – A differential backup operation is similar to an incremental the first time it is performed, in that it will copy all data changed from the previous backup. However, each time it is run afterwards, it will continue to copy all data changed since the previous full backup. (Source: Tech Target)

 

Password Protection

Seems like everywhere you go these days, you need some sort of password. There is no place that this is more true than online. In our password-driven world, these 4-20 character combinations give us access to banking, business data, credit card information, connections to friends on social media, and the ability to make online purchases. Just think of the growing list of places you use (probably on a daily basis) where you need a personal identification number: getting money from the ATM or using your debit card in a store, logging on to your computer or email, signing in to an online bank account or shopping cart and the list goes on and on. These passwords many times are the only barrier between the user and gaining ultimate access.

Unfortunately, these secret passwords are fairly easy to crack with common hacking techniques used by people trying to get to your private information. Turn on the nightly news and you will hear about the latest breach of security at large corporations and small businesses alike. The names Anthem Health Care, Target, CVS, Home Depot, Ashley Madison, and TJ Maxx are just a few that come to mind when thinking of the millions of pieces of data that were breached in 2015. And the hackers are just getting more savvy in their cyber attacks as they learn to get around encryptions and passwords. So, what can you do as a company, or even in your personal dealings to make your password more secure? Here are just a few tips to help you protect your password.

  • Use different passwords at each login- Don’t make the mistake of using the same password at every secure location. Once a hacker has cracked your code they have access to all your accounts. There are some great programs out there that can help you store and keep your password secure so you can remember each one.
  • Avoid common passwords- Please don’t make the common mistake of making the password the name of your: pet, birthday, anniversary, wife’s maiden name or anything else that can easily be researched through a quick Google search. And by all means do not use the word password, qwerty or asdfg.
  • Get tricky with your character choice – Try not to use common words that can be found in any dictionary. Use a combination of letters, numbers, signs and upper/lowercase. Special characters are always a good idea too.
  • Keep your passwords secure – Avoid leaving your password written down on your desk or heaven forbid on a sticky note attached to our computer. If you log in at a public location be sure to log out promptly when you are finished. There are plenty of viable, encrypted programs that can maintain your passwords safety. Online Password Managers like LastPass, KeePass, Roboform and IPassword keep multiple passwords accessible and secure with one strong password. Many of these can be accessed via mobile devices so you have your passwords with you wherever you go. If you leave a file on your computer named ‘passwords’ expect that file to be compromised if anyone ever hacks into your computer.

Password Protection

Seems like everywhere you go these days, you need some sort of password.  There is no place that this is more true than online.  In our password-driven world, these 4-20 character combinations give us access to banking, business data, credit card information, connections to friends on social media, and the ability to make online purchases.  Just think of the growing list of places you use (probably on a daily basis) where you need a personal identification number:  getting money from the ATM or using your debit card in a store, logging on to your computer or email, signing in to an online bank account or shopping cart, and the list goes on and on. These passwords, many times, are the only barrier between the user and gaining ultimate access.

Unfortunately, these secret passwords are fairly easy to crack with common hacking techniques used by people trying to get to your private information.  Turn on the nightly news and you will hear about the latest breach of security at large corporations and small businesses alike.  The names Anthem Health Care, Target, CVS, Home Depot, Ashley Madison, and TJ Maxx are just a few that come to mind when thinking of the millions of pieces of data that were breached in 2015.  And the hackers are just getting more savvy in their cyber attacks as they learn to get around encryptions and passwords.  So, what can you do as a company, or even in your personal dealings to make your password more secure?  Here are just a few tips to help you protect your password.

 

  • Use different passwords at each login-  Don’t make the mistake of using the same password at every secure location.  Once a hacker has cracked your code they have     access to all your accounts. There are some great programs out there that can help you store and keep your password secure so you can remember each one.
  • Avoid common passwords- Please don’t make the common mistake of making the password the name of your: pet, birthday, anniversary, wife’s maiden name or anything else that can easily be researched through a quick Google search.  And, by all means, do not use the word password, qwerty or asdfg.  
  • Get tricky with your character choice – Try not to use common words that can be found in any dictionary.  Use a combination of letters, numbers, signs and upper/lowercase.  Special characters are always a good idea too.
  • Keep your passwords secure – Avoid leaving your password written down on your desk or, heaven forbid, on a sticky note attached to our computer. If you log in at a public location be sure to log out promptly when you are finished. There are plenty of viable, encrypted programs that can maintain your passwords safety.  Online Password Managers like LastPass, KeePass, Roboform and IPassword keep multiple passwords accessible and secure with one strong password.  Many of these can be accessed via mobile devices so you have your passwords with you wherever you go. If you leave a file on your computer named “passwords”, expect that file to be compromised if anyone ever hacks into your computer.

 

Conserving Battery Life

Chip Hart

You’re sitting in a meeting or at the airport waiting to get on a flight and your laptop is dying and for whatever reason you don’t have your power adapter or there is no power outlet and you still have work to do. There are some things you can do to get more time out of your battery so you can respond to that important email. While none of these actions will actually increase the power in your battery they will reduce the amount of power the laptop is using, giving you a few more minutes before the battery dies.

battery

  • Activate your laptops Battery Saver mode
    • The Battery Saver mode will adjust your laptop’s settings and shift components into low-power states to help the remaining power last a bit longer.
  • Adjust Your Settings
    • Using your keyboard and display you can adjust the settings for both to reduce power consumption.
    • You can turn off the back lighting on the keyboard.
    • The display brightness does not need to be at 100 percent or full resolution. You could reduce the brightness to 50 percent and add a significant amount of time to the battery life. You can also change the resolution to a basic 1366×768.
    • Turning off all sounds that way the speakers will not be using any power.
  • Disable Unused Devices and Ports
    • The best way to reduce power consumption is to turn devices and icons off. Every component in your laptop needs power to function. Start by disconnecting any peripherals you are not using like a USB mouse or external drive. You will also want to turn off Wi-Fi and Bluetooth radios.
    • Remember only tum off devices that are not in use. You do not want turn off the hard drive that houses the operating systems or the processor that runs the laptop. Only disable devices you comfortable turning off.
    • To disable unused devices, open up your system’s Control Panel and find the Device Manager. In the Device Manager individual components are grouped into categories. Find the device you want to disable and right click the device and select “Disable”. Remember once normal power has been restored you will need to go back into Device Manager and “Enable” these devices.

While these tips will not give you hours of extra battery life they will give you the time you need to send that last email with that important spreadsheet attached. For more information or a walk thru on these steps call us at 866-964-8324.

battery-cartoon

All About Macs

Joshua Hewitt

So you have a Mac and you hear about all the PC users getting some sort of “virus”, “spyware” or “malware”. You do not have to worry because you have a Mac, right? Wrong! Macs are now becoming the target of viruses, spyware and malware. Back in the day, there was much less worry about any “junkware” infecting your PC. Now that Macs are becoming more popular in homes and offices, they are becoming bigger targets than previously seen. While there is no I 00% fool proof protection, here at M&H, we highly recommend to make sure that your investment in a computer is protected. The Apple system OS began setting up some built in protection since system release 10.6. 7, but as you know, computers and programs evolve by the minute! The built-in security features of OS X reduce the risk of malware attack, but they’re not absolute protection. It’s very important to have not only an antivirus solution (such as Sophos antivirus for example), but to also have a malware/spyware solution as well. So, how can you get said “malware” and/or “spyware”?

  • Software from an untrustworthy source
    • Software of any kind is distributed via BitTorrent or Usenet.
    • Software with a corporate brand, such as Adobe Flash Player, doesn’t come directly from the developer’s website.
    • Rogue websites such as Softonic and CNET Download distribute free applications that have been packaged in a superfluous “installer.”
    • The software is advertised by means of spam or intrusive web pop ups.
  • Software that is plainly illegal or does something illegal
    • Software that you would otherwise have to pay for is “cracked” or “free.”
    • An application helps you to infringe copyright, for instance by circumventing the copy protection on commercial software, or saving streamed media for reuse without permission.
  • Conditional or unsolicited offers from strangers
    • A web page tells you that you have a “virus” and offers to help you remove it. (Some reputable websites did legitimately warn visitors who were infected with the “DNSChanger” malware. That exception to this rule no longer applies.)
    • A web site offers free content such as video or music, but to use it you must install a “codec,” ” plug-in,” “player,” “downloader,” “extractor,” or “certificate” that comes from that same site, or an unknown one.
    • You win a prize in a contest you never entered.
    • Someone on a message board such as this one is eager to help you, but only if you install an application of his choosing.
    • A “FREE WI-FI!!!” network advertises itself in a public place such as an airport, but is not provided by the management.
  • Unexpected events
    • You open what looks like a document and get an alert that it’s “an application downloaded from the Internet.” Click Cancel and delete the file or message.
    • An application does something inexplicable, such as asking for permission to access your contacts, your location, or the Internet for no obvious reason.
    • Software is attached to email that you didn’t request, even if it comes (or seems to come) from someone you trust.

macs

So here is the bottom line, be careful of what sites you visit, what emails you open and what programs you run. Say if you were walking on the streets of Boston, and someone came up to you and said “Hey, I got a free watch! You want it?” I would be very cautious of that person. The same thing should go for using the internet. You want to make sure you have your information protected, and again, we advise to protect your investment. Macs are great machines, but like a car, they need to be taken care of Remember, if you ever have any questions or concerns, ask our tech experts at M&H during your next tech for a day visit or email us at support@mhconsults.com

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The Benefits and Pitfalls of Updates

Daniel Prestwood

There is a lot to be said about this topic and the importance of keeping your software up to date, but sometimes an update can wreak havoc on your productivity. Updates are rolled out by companies when they locate an error in their programming or have a solution to a security vulnerability that was discovered. It may also add functionality to current software or resolve compatibility issues between different programs. However, a new update brings the possibility of its own new range of vulnerabilities and compatibility errors. There is also the chance of introducing unintended security vulnerabilities to the table by installing 3rd party toolbars and extensions that are automatically checked for installation when updating items like Adobe. Case in point, Java updates attach an optional installation of
the Ask.com toolbar for your web browser.

java

It was recently discovered that this toolbar contains a wide variety of security vulnerabilities that can make your systems susceptible to attacks. This toolbar in particular can be also be quite a nuisance to completely remove from a workstation resulting in time and productivity loss.

Other pitfalls can occur when a Windows update is rolled out and contains errors in the programming that may cause the system to crash. When these errors occur they can be resolved by rolling back the updates and running the system on the previous versions until the errors have been identified and corrected by the software manufacturers.

While it is always recommended to keep your software and operating systems up to date, M&H would implore you to let us handle your updating needs to help avoid any unnecessary downtime or added security threats! If you have any questions about any updates please contact us at 866-9MH-TECH or support@mhconsults.com

Advantages of a VPN

Brian Gilman

As security becomes an increasing concern in today’s IT business environment, an office is faced with many options as to how to address this potential problem. Many companies would benefit from a virtual private network (VPN) connection. A VPN gives users the ability to share files over a network, access mapped network drives when away from the office, share remote printers, enhanced security and the ability to remotely connect to their work machine (RDP).

A VPN connection sets up a “tunnel” between your main office and the current office you are working out of. For example if you are home for the weekend but want to work on files that may be located in your office, a VPN lets you “tunnel” into your office network. Once connected you can access files that are mapped over a shared
drive, run programs that use files off of another computer or a server, and print remotely so that your documents are ready on Monday morning.

vpn-network

When you remotely connect into your machine through a VPN connection you get the feel as though you are sitting right in front of your machine. You can control the cursor remotely as well as the keyboard. This can be very advantageous in a case where you are that employee that is always on the go. If you leave a document open on your work computer, you can then access it remotely and finish it from your home or from your laptop if you are on vacation.

A VPN could be your next step to advancing your company’s network. It can give you peace of mind so that you are not always worried about keeping all your documents on a flash drive. If you are interested in setting up a VPN connection, please call M&H Consulting at 866-9MH-TECH or support@mhconsults.com.

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Keeping You and Your Devices Safe

In today’s fast paced world we are becoming more and more dependent on our electronic
devices. We access our data and spreadsheets on our laptops and tablets. We call and email our clients on our smart phones. The devices we use are becoming more integrated with everyday life, and as such we use them for more than just business.

Many people will stream a video, or listen to music on their devices. Imagine, however, you click on a link to watch a video, and instead your device becomes locked, with a message stating that there is child pornography on your device and you will be reported to the FBI unless you pay to have it removed. This is exactly what happened to a young girl in Tennessee. She unknowingly installed malware that took over her phone and started to wreak havoc. This type of malware is called “Ransomware”. It is a form of malware that installs on your devices, and can be from
websites, emails, etc. Some of it will threaten to delete or encrypt your data unless you pay a fee. Some will delete the data and then demand a fee to restore it. Some, like above, will install illegal things and demand that you pay or if not that you will be reported to the FBI. What’s worse is that you could pay the ransom demanded, and you’re not even guaranteed to get your data back, or device freed.

poison-computer

This type of malware is big business, and has mostly been limited to computers (laptops or desktops.) With today’s technology of more mobile devices such as tablets and smart phones we can expect that this will become the newest trending market for being targeted by the writers of the Malware. Companies such as Avast have reported in increase of blocked attacks, and they see the trend rising.

All hope is not lost however. There are steps that you can take that can help you to
avoid this type of personal attack. First you should always be wary of links. Never
click on an unknown link, especially from emails. If an associate or friend has
emailed you something that contains a link make sure that you verify that it actually
came from them before clicking on it. Attackers have ways of making emails seem to come from people you know and wouldn’t suspect. Second, you should only use approved methods of downloading applications onto your smart phone or tablet. This includes Google Play and the Apple Store. This is not always a guarantee of safe programs, but they are less likely to be harmful if coming from them. Third, make sure that you have some sort of program to block these types of attacks. This means virus/
malware protection. Make sure that you use a reputable vendor, and purchase the protection. There are many free versions out there, but when it comes to your devices and data it is better to be safe than sorry. You know the adage, you get what you pay for.

If you do become the victim of one of these ransomware attacks make sure that you first contact your local authorities, especially if the ransomware has downloaded illegal items onto your device. After that you can contact us any time at 866-9MH-TECH or email us at support@mhconsults.com and we will be glad to assist you.

Backing Up Your Data!

When it comes to our clients business, one of the most important things that they have is their data. Ensuring that this data is always available is usually priority
number one in the IT world. There are many different ways that you can backup this data and ultimately the decision is based on the individual business needs.

There are two main types of backups, local and Cloud, each with their advantages
and disadvantages. The first type, and the most common currently, is local
backups. A local backup needs the following items to work. First you must have
some sort of backup software, such as Backup Exec from Symantec. Next you must have somewhere to back this data up to. This could be an external tape drive, an external hard drive, or another computer or server. Once you have those you create a backup strategy. This would include how often you will be rotating your media, what you will
keep onsite vs taking off site, what types of backups you want to run (full or incremental).

The advantages of local backups include the following:

1) Peace of mind – Your data is generally as protected as your network. Once you disconnect the media it usually is safe from malicious attacks.
2) Speed – Generally local backups are quicker.
3) Control – You control where this data is, who can and cannot access it.

Some of the disadvantages include:

1) Cost – Generally local backups cost more than their cloud counterparts.
2) Flexibility – If you need to increase your storage space you will need to add additional tapes or hard drives.
3) Disaster Recover – If backup is kept onsite you could risk losing access to it in the case of a disaster on site.

The second type of backup is Cloud based. Cloud based backup requires a subscription
or purchased storage space with a cloud based backup provider. After that it is just a matter of setting up the backup job.

Some of the advantages of cloud based backups include:

1) Cost – Generally it costs much less to back up the same amount of data on the cloud as you would with a local backup.
2) Accessibility – Because you can access your data from the internet you can recover data on the go.
3) Flexibility – With cloud backup if you need more space usually it only take a few minutes to increase your plan.
4) Disaster recovery – In the event of a disaster on site you don’t need to worry about data not being accessible.

cloud-computing

Some of the disadvantages include:

1) Speed – Because you are backing up over the internet the speed is going to be limited to your network and bandwidth.
2) Security – While this has become less of a factor, no data that travels over the internet will be 100% safe from hackers or malware.
3) Control – If you have highly sensitive data, an inability to retain full control over storage process may be a drawback.

While there are many choices that business owners need to make about their backup they need to be aware that ultimately there is no one best backup strategy, but will depend on the needs of the business.

One final piece of advice. If your company has a server, it may be prudent to ensure that you have a second backup server in place. This may be an added expense now, but could ultimately save thousands if your single server happens to crash. If you have any questions about backup strategies or need a backup plan setup please contact us at 866-9MH-Tech or support@m hconsults.com

General Troubleshooting Tips to Keep In Mind

There are many different things that could cause a problem with your computer. No matter what’s causing the issue, troubleshooting will always be a process of trial and error-in some cases, you may need to use several different approaches before you can find a solution; other problems may be easy to fix. We recommend starting by using the following tips.

  • Write down your steps: Once you start troubleshooting, you may want to write down each step you take. This way, you’ll be able to remember exactly what you’ve done and can avoid repeating the same mistakes.
  • Take notes about error messages: If your computer gives you an error message, be sure to write down as much information as possible.
  • Always check the cables: If you’re having trouble with a specific piece of computer hardware, such as your monitor or keyboard check the cable connections.
  • Restart the computer: When all else fails, one of the best things to try is to restart the computer.

Secure Your Data Before Discarding Your Devices

One inconvenience that all users inevitably face occurs when their favorite piece of technology reaches the end of its lifespan. Most users will take the initiative and replace the device before it completely fails, but then are left with the decision of “What to do with the old one?” Laptops and desktops can be brought to a recycling center, while smartphones and tablets are usually either recycled or traded in for an upgrade. Whatever the decision, one factor should not be overlooked: What will happen to the data on your device?

hard-drive

Identity theft is one of the fastest growing areas of crime, and can negatively affect an individual for years. For businesses, the effects of compromised data can be even more serious. Data stored on computers and mobile devices can include business information such as email accounts, network passwords, and client data; as well as personal information such as phone number, address, and photos. The good news is that there are steps that you can take to ensure that your data is secure when it is time to part with your electronic device.

In laptops and desktops, all data is stored on an internal hard drive. Before discarding a PC, you should remove all of this data, and there are different options for this. There is software that can be used to erase all of the data on a drive, but this may not be completely effective. There are devices and services that will magnetically remove all data from a hard drive, but these can be very costly. The most effective method is always to simply destroy the hard drive. There are many guides and videos available online for this, and this is also a service that M&H can provide for you. Once the internal components of a hard drive have been destroyed, you can be confident that the data is no longer accessible.

phone

For smartphones and tablets, destruction is often not a desirable option because most users prefer to sell, trade in, or recycle them. While these options make sense economically, there is always a risk in turning over your device. Most smartphones and tablets have options that allow you to reset the device and wipe your data, but these may not all be 100% effective. A recent case study performed on discarded mobile devices found large amounts of data that had been unintentionally left behind by their owners. It is recommended to run the device’s data wipe function multiple times, and also to remove or manually delete the contents of SIM cards or any add on storage cards. Ultimately, the most effective way to keep your data secure is to keep or destroy the device, but if you do decide to give up your device, be sure to take proper safety precautions first.

If you have questions about what to do with your old devices, or need assistance in securing your data, contact us at any time at 866-9MH-TECH or email us at support@mhconsults.com.