Windows 7 End of Life

When Windows 7 support ends and what it means?

Microsoft has officially announced the End of Life 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 those 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.
  • 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!

people, housework, electronics and housekeeping concept – close up of woman hands cleaning laptop computer screen with cloth

  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 reasons, which cause the battery to expand and may vary between different types of devices. Quite common reason is using the wrong charger, one of primarily examples could be fake iPhone or MacBook chargers, which can lead to damaging parts like a Tristar chip (part responsible for regulating amount of power received by the phone). 

   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 (one of signs that might be a sign that your battery is expanding and may eventually become a hazard). Recognizing this problem can sometimes be quite easy to do as there

 are visible damages on the device, like the one attached (parts of device being forced out of their place from inside out, or like in this particular situation the touch pad has stopped working as well as 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 a battery. Even those that look perfectly healthy, it can be very dangerous as inside there are substances or 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 puncturing. 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. Attached pictures sh

ow our clients laptop that has been brought in for touchpad repair as it see

med to have stopped working. With further inspection and our client’s guidance we noticed that the whole casing was misaligned. Further inspection showed us more damage and led us to suspicion the battery has been swollen. Very fortunately we noticed all of that before it caused any damage to other parts of the laptop or it’s user!  

   Most devices these days have batteries that are not user-removable, in which case best option is to take the whole device into specialist to take care of it. Swollen batteries should never be plugged into power or used. Doing so you can put yourself and others at risk, as swollen batteries have tendency to explode if not handled properly. Now that we know what a swollen battery is and how to handle one, how can be 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 expansion of the battery from happening and maximize its life. As mentioned earlier very common reason for battery failure is unappropriated/fake charger. Always buy certified and original chargers. Saving 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 specifics and are made from (obviously) cheaper products. 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 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.

URGENT – HP Battery Recall information

URGENT – HP Battery Recall information

HP has recently announced an issue affecting the batteries in several of its models of notebook and mobile workstations.  It is important that owners of any of the following laptops check their systems even if they have checked them previously, as further models have been added to the list.

The following products were shipped with affected batteries

ProBook HP Probook 640 G2 HP ProBook 640 G3
HP ProBook 645 G2 HP ProBook 645 G3
HP ProBook 650 G2 HP ProBook 650 G3
HP ProBook 655 G2 HP ProBook 655 G3
HP ProBook 430 G4 HP ProBook 440 G4
HP ProBook 450 G4 HP ProBook 455 G4
HP ProBook 470 G4
ZBook HP ZBook 17 G3 HP ZBook 17 G4
HP ZBook Studio G3
x360 HP x360 310 G2
Pavilion HP Pavilion x360
ENVY HP ENVY m6
HP 11 HP 11 Notebook PC

The following products are compatible with, but were not shipped with, affected batteries. Customers may have purchased a battery as an accessory or received a replacement battery through services that is affected by the recall.

ProBook HP ProBook 430 G5 HP ProBook 440 G5
HP ProBook 450 G5 HP ProBook 455 G5
HP ProBook 470 G5
ZBook HP ZBook Studio G4
ENVY HP ENVY 15
Mobile Thin Client HP mt20 HP mt21
HP mt31

HP have released some software which will check if your system is affected and will put it into a Battery Safety Mode until the fault can be rectified.

We would recommend anyone with the model above follows HP’s advice and check their laptop.  The software and full details of the recall can be found here – https://batteryprogram687.ext.hp.com/en-GB/Home/ProgramSummary If anyone needs assistance in checking their system or arranging the repair, please contact us.