Cookies on your browser

What are Cookies in your browser?
They are not programs; they don’t do anything. Cookies are text files, which can be read by users anytime on the Notebook program. Those files are stored on a computer and designed to hold a modest amount of data specific to a particular user. That data allows the websites to tailor pages according to previous cookies saved on their computer. They usually contain two pieces of information in the text files; a site name and unique user ID.

How do Cookies work?

When visiting sites, cookies are downloaded onto the PC and next time you visit that site they will be found by your PC and used again. As a result of that, it will send information from that cookie to the website, so it knows you have been there before. This then enables the website to tailor displayed pages according to that information.

Can I see my cookies?

If you’re curious about what cookies you have on your computer, you can easily view them! Most browsers will allow you to do that on their configuration screen, where also you can delete them. If your browser doesn’t offer that, there’s also a way to find cookies on your computer files. Folders containing cookies are usually stored in your browser’s folder or subfolder. You can easily look at those files simply by finding those folders.

All the good stuff about cookies…

The overall role of cookies is so you can have a better and tailored to your needs, browsing experience. From colour schemes of pages to what you put in your shopping cart. Some claim that without cookies, online shopping would be much harder.

Can’t be all good, the downsides of cookies…

Cookies have been very controversial when first introduced. Not everyone will feel good about having little files track your every move online. Therefore, the downsides are up to how an individual feels about them. Main concern users had up to date with cookies is that their name will be added to marketing and target lists for some special offers.

The government introduced a new law in May 2012 to control the use of cookies.  That law states that every site using cookies has to seek permission from users to store any information from your machine or your browsing habits, therefore websites will draw your attention to cookies, so you can make the decision.
What do you thin about cookies? Are they something that you accept or deny them? Share us your thoughts in comments!

We’ve been busy updating our products and services…

We’ve been busy updating our products and services…

The world of technology never stands still and neither do we! We have updated our portfolio of products and services to reflect recent technology changes and improvements – all things designed to make our clients lives easier, allow you to manage your business on the go and make your systems more secure.  So how can we help you get ahead of your competition?

Office 365 

As Microsoft partners, we can manage your migration from on-premise Exchange or older email technologies such as POP and IMAP to hosted Exchange via O365.  This provides a cost-effective solution to bring your company’s communication services up to date – get all your email, contacts, tasks and calendars on multiple devices, synchronised in real-time.
More about O365 >>

Microsoft Teams

As an O365 subscriber, all users have access to Microsoft Teams. When you have a place to create and make decisions as a team, there’s no limit to what you can achieve. Teams brings everything together in a shared workspace where you can chat, meet, share files, and work with business apps.
More about Teams >>

VoIP Telephone Solutions

Voice over IP telephony solutions allow greater flexibility on call handling and could also save money online rental and calls. Our VoIP solutions are all-inclusive packages including pre-configured telephones, transfer of existing numbers and setup and configuration of your solution.  If you are looking to change from your old PBX let us give you a quote and see how much you could save, as well as improving your communication with your colleagues and clients.
More about VoIP >>

Remote Backup

With increases in Ransomware attacks its more important than ever to ensure your backup and recovery solution is reliable and data can quickly be restored in the event of data loss.  Our remote backup solutions are fully managed and monitored to offer peace of mind, plus we have full access to our servers in the event that full data recovery is required.
More about remote backup >>

ESET Security

ESET offers a full range of security solutions from individual desktops to complete network protection.  Systems are centrally managed and reported either via the Cloud or your on-premise server.
More about security solutions >>

How to prevent and remove viruses and malware?

How to prevent and remove viruses and malware?

What is a computer virus?

A computer virus is a piece of code, which is capable of copying itself and typically has a detrimental effect, such as corrupting the system or destroying data. A virus operates by inserting or attaching itself to a legitimate program or document that supports macros to execute its code. In the process, a circus has the potential to cause unexpected or damaging effects, such as harming the system software by corrupting or destroying data.

 

What is a worm?

It is a computer code that spreads without user interaction. The worm looks for files, like address books or email addresses. Then it uses those addresses to send infected messages further on by mimicking the email it came from, so users think they got an email from someone they know. They very rarely are destructive to computers, but usually, cause computer and network performance and stability problems.

 

What is a Trojan horse?

A Trojan horse is a malicious software program that hides inside other problems. Trojan horses find their way into computers hidden inside a legitimate program, like for example screen saver. It then puts a code in the computer, which allows a hacker to access the computer or laptop. They don’t spread by themselves, but with the help of viruses, worms or like mentioned above the downloaded software.

 

What is spyware?

Spyware usually installs on your computer without you even knowing and is capable of changing the configuration of the computer or collect advertising data and personal information. It can redirect you to advertising sites, distasteful or compromised sites and even sending you unwanted and annoying pop-up ads. Very often changes made by the spyware are very hard to undo.

 

Now that we have some basics on what malware is and its types, how do you remove it?

Removing any malware can be a difficult task, but not impossible. The best way is to use malicious software removal tools. Some of the viruses and malware can reinstall itself after the first one was detected and removed. One way to prevent it is by keeping your computer up to date and using malicious software removal tools, which eventually will permanently remove all the unwanted programs. Microsoft also offers guidance and help to fight the malware on your device.

Prevention methods?

  1. The first and most obvious way is to install anti-virus/malware software.
  2. Keep the anti-virus program up to date.
  3. Regularly scan your device with anti-virus software.
  4. The operating system such as Windows should also be kept up to date at all times.
  5. Make sure your network (Wi-Fi) requires a password to keep it safe.
  6. Don’t use open unsecured Wi-Fis, which are very likely to infect your device as they are not protected by anyone.
  7. Always back-up your files.
  8. Use strong passwords.

 

 

Other types of malware in a nutshell:

  • Ransomware, which is designed to encrypt the data and cybercriminals then demand a ransom payment in exchange for the system’s data.
  • Rootkit gives administrator-level access to the system.
  • Adware collects data and provides you with appropriate advertisements.
  • Fileless malware lives in the memory if the computer, which makes it a lot harder to detect it as it doesn’t exist in a file on the hard drive.

Windows 7 End of Support

When Windows 7 support ends and what it means?

Microsoft has officially announced the End of Extended Support date for Windows 7. On 14th of January 2020 the company will stop updating and supporting the operating system.

Microsoft is trying to encourage all Windows 7 users to update their operating system before that date comes. To do so there will be an update released, which will send notifications reminding about upgrading to Windows 10.   Windows 7 has been on an ‘extended support’ phase since 13th of January 2015. That means that no more new features have been added with the updates though it has still been patched and updated to fix all security issues and bugs. From the 14th of January 2020 the operating system will continue to work, so all its users will still be able to use their PC’s as normal, although with much increased risk to their safety. When the End of Life date arrives, all support and updates from Microsoft will come to an end, which means PC’s with Windows 7 will be very vulnerable to new viruses and malicious attacks. It also means that if anyone encounters problems, Microsoft won’t offer any help and support.

What should you do if you still use Windows 7?

The most obvious and simple option is to upgrade your system to Windows 10. It means that you and your employees will experience least disruption. Both Operating Systems are really similar in layout and interface, so everyone should also find it easy to adjust. The updating process is fairly straightforward and allows you to keep all the files, although Microsoft still recommends to make a backup just in case.

Upgrading to Windows 10 might not be the right solution for some users as it requires buying the license, which can be quite expensive (£105+vat for the Home Edition and £180.00+vat for Windows 10 Professional for business users). Even though Microsoft have done a lot of work on making Windows 10 being able to run on older hardware, it’s still not guaranteed that your older PC or laptop won’t struggle with new update. In addition you will need to make sure any existing software and peripherals will be compatible with Windows 10.

Our recommended specification for Windows 10 would be:

  • Processor: Intel i5 or AMD A10 or better
  • RAM: 8 gigabytes (GB)
  • Hard disk space:  128 GB for the OS but we would recommend 256Mb minimum for a light user.
  • Graphics card: DirectX 9 or later with WDDM 1.0 driver.
  • Display: minimum 800 x 600 resolution

If you want to upgrade to Windows 10, but don’t have the required minimum specification you may be able to upgrade your PC, though it may be more cost effective to look at replacing it with a new unit. The team at ACS Technologies are more than happy to recommend the right machine for you, whatever your budget and requirements!

 

What to do when you decide on upgrading to Windows 10?

Any upgrade should be planned, whether you have 1 PC or laptop or are looking to upgrade the whole Company’s infrastructure. Firstly, you will need to make sure your hardware and any associated software and peripherals are compatible.  You should make sure that all of your documents are safely backed up before starting any updates. Even though transferring your files is part of the process in the upgrade, you never know when something might go wrong and you’ll lose all your data. And we don’t want that to happen, right?

Our engineers at ACS Technologies can make your switch from Windows 7 to Windows 10 easy and hassle-free.  Contact our friendly team to discuss our current hardware offers and how we can help you upgrade and stay safe and secure! As well as doing the update itself we can offer training to show you the latest features of your new operating system.

Contact us now via Email sales@acstech.co.uk or telephone 01628819500.

10 tips for laptop users

Today we have gathered 10 tips for laptop users. They should help you maximise the performance and lifespan of your machine!

 

  1. When planning to travel with your laptop, remove any CDs, DVDs. It’s best to also turn the laptop off—don’t simply put it in sleep or standby mode.
  2. Extreme temperature or temperature swings can have an effect on a laptop. If you’ve just brought your laptop indoors from a very cold day, you shouldn’t turn it on until it has had a chance to warm up and reach room temperature.
  3. A notebook’s screen is its most fragile and at-risk part, and it can be cracked and damaged easily. Clean it only with approved solutions or monitor wipes. Don’t touch the screen with pens or any pointer that can scratch the surface.
  4. You shouldn’t put a laptop close to appliances that generate a strong magnetic field, such as televisions, large speakers and even some high-tech refrigerators.
  5. Keep the lid closed as often as you can, which helps to limit the amount of dust that can settle on the keyboard, saves battery life and prevents the keyboard from an accidental coffee spill—a leading cause of laptop damage.
  6. Laptops can overheat more easily than a desktop computer can. You shouldn’t keep one on a blanket, pillow or other non-flat surface that could prevent sufficient ventilation.
  7. Be careful where you take your computer and set it down. Again, its portability can work against it. Even if it’s NOT plugged in, you shouldn’t finish your spreadsheet while relaxing in the bathtub!
  8. You should always carry it in a good-quality laptop bag that provides protection against drops and damages. You should also get into the habit of never putting anything on top of it (newspapers, mail), because if it’s on the bottom of a pile, even heavier items—books, backpacks, etc.—could also get piled on.
  9. Set up passwords for access to your laptop (for family members who might also use it). Make sure they do not use “password”, “ABCD” or other simple passwords any thief could guess, in case it’s ever stolen.
  10. Open a personal virtual private network (VPN) account and use it as often as you can in airports, hotels and hotspots in coffeehouses—in other words, anytime you’re plugged in to free Wi-Fi or strange networks. A VPN reroutes your Internet connection to secure networks, where a hacker cannot steal your data.

Hopefully, those tips will help some users to keep their machines running for as long as possible and perform at their best.

Please feel free to leave a comment with your tips or what you think!

Is ‘Cloud Computing’ Right for Your Business?

KEY BENEFITS OF CLOUD HOSTING

The business benefits of cloud computing cover efficiency, agility and innovation.

Internal Resources

Cloud solutions are engineered and maintained – patched and updated – by an outside party:  This reduces the in-house IT resource needed by a business.

Collaboration

The cloud makes data and solutions accessible to your staff from any location. Teammates can collaborate in real time on the same file. The cloud allows you to manage various tasks and projects seamlessly without working with multiple copies.

Cost savings 

Cloud hosting allows you to cut your expenses down for the hardware, maintenance and management of your computing infrastructure and eliminates a large amount of capital expense.  However, Cloud Solutions are often not cheaper when worked out over a 3 – 5 years lifetime of server hardware and software.

Introducing and Retiring Applications

Transitioning to the cloud gives you access to a vast library of applications that together can make the way you do business more intelligent.  Many Cloud applications have been designed to work together and integrate, such as Microsoft Dynamics CRM and Quickbooks online or Monday.com and Xero

Ready-made for Change

It is critical in today’s business world to leverage IT systems for growth and that need can be challenging to meet in a rapidly evolving landscape. The cloud can adapt to changes quickly, easily and with lower costs for your business.  However, you may not get a choice as to when your cloud services are upgraded so keep an eye on compatibility with in-house applications and plugins.

Security

The cloud can be of the most secure environments to store data because the data centres include levels of security and resilience that many businesses would not be able to afford.  However, check your service terms and conditions to ensure your data will be held on servers which meet legislation and GDPR requirements (ie in the UK/EU) and what the service terms are in event of data/service loss.  Most free or consumer services will offer no guarantee of data security or continuity of service.  It is also more secure to have your people access cloud-based data from their mobile device than to have the data stored on that device.

The cloud provides business continuity if you experience a fire or natural disaster.

In addition, you may want other parties to have access to your systems and data. Within a cloud-hosted environment, you can control their levels of access. This avoids risks such as using USB sticks or emailing files.

CLOUD READINESS

Moving to the cloud is not without its risks and the following are a suggested list of factors to be considered:

  • The impact on your business if network connectivity fails or is restricted
  • Managers and Staff who have the skills and enthusiasm to manage the required changes in working
  • The position of the business in terms of legacy software / systems and contracted newer systems
  • Readiness of the business to manage services rather than assets
  • The increase in network bandwidth required to transition hosting of data and applications to the cloud

SOURCES

In preparing this post the following articles were referenced:

NEXT STEPS

Moving to the cloud is a complex operation.  It may well be that for your business the best solution is a phased change requiring a plan that is reviewed regularly as your business and the ‘Cloud’ evolve.   Significant cost and time penalties can arise from making the wrong changes or merely making the right changes at the wrong time.

ACS Technologies are experienced in helping businesses to produce and implement such plans.  Please contact us for an initial discussion of your requirements.

What a ‘swollen battery’ means?

What a ‘swollen battery’ means?

   The term ‘swollen battery’ can be associated with any lithium battery used in a device, like mobile phones, laptops or digital cameras. There are many things which can cause the battery to expand and these may vary between different types of devices. Quite a common reason is using the wrong charger, one of the primary examples could be fake iPhone or MacBook chargers, which can lead to damaging parts like the Tristar chip (the part responsible for regulating the amount of power received by the device). 

   Batteries are built from many cells that have a strict limit on how much power can be put through them. Overcharging those cells in lithium causes it to build up too fast. The whole reaction that takes place creates heat (this could be a sign that your battery has an issue and may eventually become a hazard). You may see visible damage on the device, like the image above where the touch pad has stopped working because it is being forced out of position.  So, when you find yourself in the position where your device has a swollen battery, what do you do?

What actions to take after noticing your swollen battery?

   First of all, never attempt to puncture or dismantle a battery, even those that look perfectly healthy. It can be very dangerous as inside there are substances and gasses that can be harmful to your health. Any device you suspect has a swollen battery, should be taken care of with extra caution. User-removable

batteries should be carefully removed and placed somewhere safe and cool, as heat can continue the expansion of battery or make it more vulnerable to punctures. Batteries should never (swollen or not) be disposed into the general waste or recycling. They won’t be handled appropriately and usually end up somewhere very harmful to the environment. There are many facilities that are authorized to dispose of batteries. These pictures show our clients laptop that was brought in for touchpad repair as it seemed to have stopped working. On further inspection, we noticed that the whole casing was misaligned. Further inspection showed us more damage and led us to suspicion the battery was faulty. Fortunately, we noticed all of that before it caused any damage to other parts of the laptop or its user!  

   Most devices these days have batteries that are not user-removable, in which case, the best option is to take the whole device to a specialist to take care of it. Swollen batteries should never be plugged into power or used. Doing so can put yourself and others at risk, as faulty batteries can explode or catch fire if not handled properly. Now that we know what a swollen battery is and how to handle one, how can you avoid it from happening?

How to avoid a swollen battery?

   There’s no way of preventing failure in batteries (there might be a manufacturer fault or it’s just old), but there are ways to prevent the expansion of the battery from happening and maximize its life. As mentioned earlier a very common reason for battery failure is the use of incorrect or non-OEM/fake chargers. Always buy certified and original chargers. Saving a few pounds on a fake charger can become a lot more costly or even dangerous in the long term. Cheap chargers don’t have the same specifications and are made from cheaper materials. Another quite important factor is not to charge it all the time. Batteries are made to exercise their capacity and regularly go through the cycles of discharging and recharging. Leaving your devices in a hot environment for extended periods of time can also have bad effect on your battery life.

   ACS only supply genuine OEM batteries or chargers or specified compatible units with full warranty from UK sources.

Your Disaster Recovery Plan

How many people have a DR plan in place for their business?

Would you know where to start or do you think that it’s OK as the business insurance will cover everything?

Making sure your business insurance is up to date and all-encompassing should be part of your DR plan but the main focus should be on keeping your business working should you have to move premises, lose the use of your PC’s, server and laptops and/or have restricted use of your facilities and equipment.

The idea of a DR plan is to keep your business trading and making money whilst the problems are sorted out. After all, if you can’t keep selling your products and services where will the money come from to rebuild your business, or at least tide you over whilst the insurance company processes your claim?

A DR Plan should cover your whole business but we’ll focus on the IT side. Here are a few pointers to get you started:

  1. Think about the most important things you need to have access to and use on a daily basis. That could be your accounts package, your contact list, your CRM system. Do you have a backup plan if you can’t access these such as paper records or alternative systems.
  2. Make sure your PC’s and servers are backed up regularly onto tape, external hard drive or remotely. Check your backups to make sure they are completing, that you can restore and that all your data is included in your backup jobs. If you do backup to tape or hard drive, make sure that you rotate your devices and take the latest backup offsite.
  3. Have details of all important information such as Administrator user names and passwords, email account details and any backup services securely stored offsite. Keep them up to date and know where they are!
  4. Make sure your important equipment is attached to a UPS – Uninterruptable Power Supply. This will offer a short amount of battery backup, to cover short power cuts, and should shut your servers down in the proper manner in the event of a longer power outage. A UPS should also protect against power fluctuations.
  5. Have a plan on where you can work and alternative business processes you can use in the event that you cannot get in to your offices or have access to your systems.
  6. Consider your communications. Do you have all the information you need to hand to divert telephone calls to your main number to another landline or mobiles? Can you access your email via a web portal if your server is inaccessible?

If you need help to put together a DR plan or would like to look at remote backup or email continuity services, please contact us.

Choosing your Computer Repairer

Computers need repair, upgrade and periodic maintenance.  Without an ongoing contract, the time and cost of getting these actions carried out can result in significant disruption of your business and its customers.

How dependent is your company on various computers, including laptops, being fully functional and working effectively?

But what criteria should you use when selecting your support company?

Qualifications

How much experience have the company’s technicians got in computer repair and what testimonials do they have?  If relevant, do they have certification from the manufacturer of your equipment / operating system?

Repair Time

What turnaround time do you need and what day / time coverage do you need.  Example: Do you need repairs carried out in one day and do you need weekend cover?  Ensure that the repairer that you use offers what you need and pick the level of cover that you need.  Over specifying, e.g. paying for 24 hour / 365 day per year cover when you only need 9-5 Monday to Friday, will be unnecessarily expensive.

Off-Site Capability

When computers aren’t operating correctly, it can often be due to software issues which can be solved remotely.  Even if ‘repair’ isn’t possible remotely, it may be possible to identify what is wrong sufficiently for the field technician to bring essential equipment / software with them when they visit site and to be fully briefed on the solution.

How much experience and capability has your prospective support company got in this area?

On-Site Repair Support

Not all computer contracts provide on-site repairs.  Some support and fixes can be accomplished remotely but some will require the equipment and repairing technician to be co-located.    How much of a problem would it be if some repairs required your equipment to be physically sent to the repairer.

Repair Warranty

Does your prospective repairer offer a 6-12 months warranty on the repairs that they carry out?  Also check if the company offers free of charge replacement spare parts for any damage caused during repair work.

Please see our support levels and contact us if you need any assistance with computer, laptop or server repairs.

Cyber Attacks Soar to 26 million a day

Cyber Attacks Soar to 26 million a day

These were the initial words of a recent national newspaper headline and it went on to say that ‘as hackers find new ways to wreak havoc’.

This newspaper article was based on an annual report by specialist Sonicwall which can be downloaded at https://www.sonicwall.com/resources/white-papers/2018-sonicwall-cyber-threat-report-2/.

In October 2018, the UK government said “98% of UK businesses now operate online in one way or another, with even the smallest of firms benefiting hugely from the use of websites, social media, staff email addresses, online banking and the ability for customers to shop online.  However, the latest Government statistics show over four in ten (43%) of all businesses and charities experienced a cyber breach or attack in the past year.”   This is a quote from https://companieshouse.blog.gov.uk/2018/10/08/why-cyber-security-is-important-for-your-business/.

For most SME the detail of the cyber arms race – whether it be hackers or malware – are too complex to deal with for themselves.   But it should be remembered that almost half of cyber attacks target small businesses.

TYPES OF CYBER ATTACK

The types of cyber attack relevant to small business are:

  • The Denial of Service Attack – Attackers send enough information and data all at once from multiple computers to overload your system so it shuts down.
  • The Inside Attack – Some of the most crippling breaches occur when past employees decide to misuse the access to data
  • Malware – The phrase covers a large swath of worms, viruses, Trojan Horses and other pests like Ransomware
  • Password Attacks:
    • Brute Force Attack
    • Dictionary Attack
    • Key Logger Attack

ACTON TO TAKE ON CYBER PROTECTION

The FSB (Federation of Small Business) has suggested that small businesses could and should take action on:

  • Passwords – use them, make them strong, change defaults
  • Two factor authentication – use when available. It adds an additional layer of security to accounts or transactions.
  • Backups – data loss can be caused without warning and the result is typically a massive disruption to you and your business. Preferably offsite and check regularly to make sure you can restore
  • Software – Despite manufacturers’ best efforts, it isn’t possible to create perfectly secure software and so it must be patched and maintained to ensure it remains protected as new flaws and vulnerabilities are found.
  • Vigilance – People can sometimes be the weakest link in the security chain, but they can become your strongest asset if they understand the risks. Train them on cyber security and best practice.

The full FSB article can be found at https://www.fsb.org.uk/resources/top-five-cyber-security-tips-for-small-businesses.

SME ADVICE ON CYBER PROTECTION FROM THE GOVERNMENT

The UK government also publishes helpful information for small businesses.  Two good sources are:

ACS Technologies take our clients security seriously.  We manage and maintain our clients network security and backups as part of our contract services.

If you would like advice or guidance on improving data and network security within your company, contact us today.