Archives for November 2012

7 ways to make your PC last longer

used with permission from HP Technology at Work

A primary concern for most business owners is how to get the most bang for your buck. When you’re purchasing expensive technology, this becomes an even more valid point of consideration.

Buying computers is one of the larger investments you have to make in order to effectively run a business. To avoid surprise crashes and loss of data, it’s not recommended to hold onto a frequently used computer for more than four to five years. However, there are things you can do to help prolong its life span and enable it to perform better over time, saving you money in the long run.

Keep it clean

Dust, dirt, food and other particles tend to accumulate in the crevices of keyboards, mice and monitors. If not removed, these particles can scratch hardware components and eventually build up enough to cause overheating, shortening the life of your computer. To avoid this, make sure to dust and clean your computer and its accessories on a regular basis. Compressed air is a great way to get small particles out of keyboards and tight cracks. Read Cleaning Your Desktop PC for more detailed information on how to clean a desktop, some of which can also be applied to notebooks.

Keep it dry

PCs and liquids do not go together well. Never drink or rest water, coffee, soda or anythingliquid near a desktop or notebook. A spill could mean you’ll be buying a new one much sooner than you had planned. For a little extra insurance and protection, HP offers optional HP Accidental Damage Protection Care Packs.

Give it space

This tip applies mostly to notebooks. The nice thing about them is that they’re portable. On business trips, it can be tempting to set them down on a hotel pillow or bed while you’re casually answering emails or doing research. But soft, padded surfaces do not allow airflow into the ventilation holes underneath the notebook, which leads to overheating. To limit this risk, make sure you always rest your notebook on a cool, solid surface, allowing air to travel underneath it.

Protect it

Viruses could be the biggest threat to the health of a notebook or desktop. One of the very first things you should do when you buy a new computer is install anti-virus software. Some popular, effective applications include Microsoft Security Essentials and McAfee. Make sure you also take advantage of HP Protect Tools, a suite of security tools available on many HP PCs that lets you manage security for all of your business desktops and notebooks from one central point.

Give it more memory

Painfully slow processing is a sign that your computer may be starting to fade on you. Add extra RAM (random access memory) to relieve the strain of an overloaded machine. Once it stops relying on hard disk memory, your computer’s performance will become exponentially faster. Check out HP’s EasyBundle for an easy way to upgrade your notebook’s hard drive.

Keep it uncluttered

All of the programs that you don’t currently use on your computer are taking up valuable space. Getting rid of them will improve performance and save memory. Most PCs have a “disk cleanup” function that will delete “unseen” files and empty caches. You can also go through your files manually and remove anything you haven’t been accessing.

Choose it wisely

There are many things to consider when purchasing a computer. If you’re looking for a desktop or notebook that can stand the test of time and endure harsh environmental conditions, an HP Elite PC may be your answer. All Elite products must endure 115,000 hours of durability testing to prove they’ll be able to give you many years of reliable service.

Unfortunately, no matter how well you take care of it, the reality is that no computer can live forever. To decrease your risk of a catastrophic crash, make sure you don’t wait too long to buy a replacement. After several years, most computers start to display glitches and show signs that they could be struggling. To be on the safe side, you should plan on replacing your desktops and notebooks about every four years.

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8 tips for working securely from wireless hot spots

used with permission from Microsoft at Work

Wireless (also known as Wi-Fi) hot spots, are changing the way people work. These wireless local area networks (WLANs)provide high-speed Internet connections in public locations (and at home). You can access them with a wireless-ready mobile PC, such as a laptop, netbook, smartphone, or any other mobile device equipped with a wireless card.

Hot spots range from paid services, such as T-Mobile or Verizon Wireless, to free, public connections. Hot spots are everywhere, including coffee shops, restaurants, libraries, bookstores, airports, trains, and hotel lobbies.

Many of these places will inform you that they have a hot spot for wireless Internet use and will tell you how to access it, including providing you with a password, if necessary. You can also use a directory to find a hot spot near you.

Are Wi-Fi hot spots safe?

Public hot spots all have one thing in common—they are open networks that are vulnerable to security breaches. Because they do not encrypt data, your passwords, email messages, and other information can be visible to hackers. That means it’s up to you to be aware of wireless hot spot security and to protect the data on your PC or mobile device. In this article, we cover a few Internet security tips to make working on wireless networks in public locations more secure.

1. Disable your Wi-Fi adapter

When you’re not at home or at work, it’s a good idea to turn off your laptop or notebook’s Wi-Fi capability when you’re not using it. Otherwise your computer might connect to a malicious hot spot without your realizing it. Many laptops now have a Wi-Fi hardware button you can use to disable your Wi-Fi adapter. If yours doesn’t, you can disable your Wi-Fi adapter using your operating system.

Windows 7

  1. Click Start, click Control Panel, and then click Hardware and Sound.
  2. Under Devices and Printers, click Device Manager.
  3. In the list, click Network adapters. Right-click your wireless card, and then click Disable.
  4. Follow the same steps to enable the adapter.

Windows Vista

  1. Click Start, click Control Panel, and then click System and Maintenance.
  2. In the System and Maintenance window, click the Device Manager icon.
  3. In the list, click Network adapters. Right-click your wireless card, and then click Disable.
  4. Follow the same steps to enable the adapter.

2. Try to choose more secure connections

Use a virtual private network (VPN)

It’s not always possible to choose your connection type, but Internet security is critical. When you can, opt for wireless networks that require a network security key or have some other form of security, such as a certificate. The information sent over these networks is encrypted, and encryption can help protect your computer from unauthorized access. For example, instead of using a public hot spot with no encryption, use a virtual private network (VPN). If your business does not have its own VPN, you can download and install free VPN software. The security features of the different available networks appear along with the network name as your PC discovers them.

Protect your email with https

One way to protect your email messages in public is to select the https or other secure connection option in your email account settings (if your email provider supplies one). This option may be called always use https, more secure connection, or something similar. Even if the email provider you use has a secure network, after you log on to your account on a public network, your information is no longer encrypted unless you use a more secure connection. An https connection, for example, which includes encryption, is more secure than an http connection.

3. Make sure your firewall is activated

A firewall helps protect your PC by preventing unauthorized users from gaining access to your computer through the Internet or a network. It acts as a barrier that checks all incoming information and then either blocks the information or allows it to come through. All Windows operating systems come with a firewall, and you can make sure it’s turned on.

Note: Some antivirus software includes its own firewall. If your antivirus has a firewall and it is turned on, you do not need to turn on Windows Firewall. Having two firewalls turned on is not recommended.

Turn Windows Firewall on:

Windows 7
Windows Vista

4. Monitor your access points

Chances are that there are multiple wireless networks anywhere you’re trying to connect. These connections are all access points, because they link into the wired system that gives you Internet access. So how do you make sure you’re connecting to the right one? Simple—by configuring your PC to let you approve access pointsbefore you connect.

Configure access points

Windows 7: Windows 7 takes the guesswork out of connecting to hot spots because it automatically prompts you to approve new connections. In addition, after you approve a connection, you can assign it a profile for future use.

Windows Vista: Windows Vista takes the guesswork out of connecting to hot spots because it automatically prompts you to approve new connections. In addition, after you approve a connection, you can assign it a profile for future use.

5. Disable file and printer sharing

File and printer sharing is a feature that enables other computers on a network to access resources on your computer. When you are using your mobile PC in a hot spot, it’s best to disable file and printer sharing—when it’s enabled, it leaves your computer vulnerable to hackers. Remember, though, to turn this feature back on when you return to the office.

Disable file and printer sharing

Windows 7

  1. Click Start, and then click Control Panel.
  2. Click Network and Internet, and then click Network and Sharing Center.
  3. Under Change your network settings, click Choose homegroup and sharing options.
  4. Under Other homegroup actions, click Change advanced sharing options.
  5. File and printer sharing, select Turn off file and printer sharing, and then click Save changes.

Windows Vista

  1. Click Start, and then click Control Panel.
  2. Click Network and Internet, and then click Network and Sharing Center.
  3. Under Sharing and Discovery, click the arrow next to File sharing, click Turn off file sharing, and then click Apply.
  4. Click the arrow next to Printer sharing, click Turn off printer sharing, and then click Apply.

6. Make your folders private

When the folders on your mobile PC are private, it’s more difficult for hackers to access your files.

Make a folder private

Windows 7

Windows 7 not only makes folders private by default but also requires passwords for shared or public folders. As a result, you’re already covered! But if you want to double-check that a folder is not public, simply right-click the folder in question, and then click Share with to see whether it is private or public. If it is public, turn Public folder sharing off. Here’s how:

  1. Click the Start button Start button, and then click Control Panel. In the search box, type network, click Network and Sharing Center, and then, in the left pane, click Change advanced sharing settings.
  2. Click the chevron chevron button to expand your current network profile.
  3. Under Public folder sharing, click Turn off Public folder sharing (people logged on to this computer can still access these folders).
  4. Click Save changesAdministrator password If you’re prompted for an administrator password or confirmation, type the password or provide confirmation.

Windows Vista

Windows Vista not only makes folders private by default but also requires passwords for shared folders. As a result, you’re already covered! But if you want to double-check, simply right-click the folder in question and select Properties. On the Security tab, you can review the set permissions.

Repeat the steps above for each folder that you want to make private.

7. Encrypt your files

You can protect your files further by encrypting them, which requires a password to open or modify them. Because you must perform this procedure on one file at a time, consider password-protecting only the files that you plan to use while working in a public place.

Encrypt folders or files

Windows 7
Windows Vista

8. Consider removing sensitive data from your portable computer

If you’re working with extremely sensitive data, it might be worth taking it off your portable computer altogether. Instead, save it on a corporate network share or on a password-protected site, such as Windows Live SkyDrive, and access it only when necessary. This way, you have multiple safeguards in place.

A few simple precautions can help make working in public places more secure. By selecting the best wireless Internet connections and adjusting settings, you can enjoy more productive and safer work sessions—no matter where you are.

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Firewalls: Don’t skimp on your business’s security

by Chase Moritz, Heartland Technology Solutions

In this installment of our “Is Consumer Grade enough for your business?” series, we’ll take a look at firewalls and the differences in the protection they provide your business.

Security is quite possibly the most important concern for any business. You need to know that your critical data – both internal data and customer information – is secure. If that information is hacked or accessed by the wrong person, you may be opened up to a world of legal and financial trouble.

Security

On the most basic level, Consumer Grade firewalls or routers have no intelligent scanning of incoming data. That means that they are only looking for very specific threats as they attack your network: they aren’t scanning everything as it comes through – which is standard on even entry-level Business Grade firewalls. If viruses or malware are disguised to any degree, they will be able to penetrate a Consumer Grade router/firewall into your network and begin to cause harm.

On a more technical level, hackers can easily break through a Consumer Grade, or home, firewall to access a business network and data, as detailed in this recent Security dark Reading article. (One of our engineers was once able to hack into his church’s firewall/router – all he had to do was google its default settings! Of course, they were right there watching him do it, but someone with more malicious intent could have done the exact same thing.)

Reporting

There are features available on most Business Grade firewalls that allow for deeper insight and reporting. For instance, SonicWall offers a service called Application Intelligence & Visualization that allows monitoring and detailed information, in real time, on the apps being used on the network and which apps are using the most bandwidth. Administrators are then able to make adjustments on the fly to provide the more important apps more bandwidth, instead of those that aren’t business related (i.e. Facebook, Online Gaming, Pandora, etc.)

Service

Business Grade firewalls and security solutions come with business grade service and support. A business IT provider is not going to be much help if a Linksys router goes down, leaving your network wide open. With a Business Grade solution, though, there are certified professionals who can quickly diagnose the issue and provide a solution in a timely manner, either remotely or on-site. If you have ever had to call for help with your home router, you know how frustrating it can be to get support.

Business security is one thing that you definitely do not want to take lightly. A consumer level firewall simply does not offer the protection needed to keep your company’s online reputation clean. Everyday numerous email servers are placed on a blacklist because their user accounts are compromised by malicious code. Getting onto a blacklist means your outgoing emails will be rejected by clients and partners and it can take weeks to get off the list. Having a proper business firewall in place can make the difference between weeks of profitability or weeks of work trying to get back on track.

If you need to increase or improve your network’s security, let us know. Our technicians are well versed in developing a solid solution for organizations of any size.

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We Lost a Client Today

NMGI is a managed service provider (MSP) for private and public sector clients from Boston to Honolulu. We have many different businesses that depend on us for their infrastructure, network security, off-site data storage, remote access and business continuity requirements.

We were fired today by a client because their network was working smoothly and they thought we were no longer needed. For over three years we managed, nursed, coddled and fine-tuned this client’s total network infrastructure, making sure everything was running smoothly and ensuring maximum client uptime and operating efficiency. So it’s really strange to get fired for doing an excellent job. [Read more…]

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