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Imagine if someone turned off the internet

The internet is a wonderful thing.  The amount of information and services which can be accessed is absolutely staggering.  But what would happen if it was actually turned off?

I got asked this by my wife over the weekend.  She thinks that I live by the internet and she might have a point.  I have become accustomed to “googling” when I need to find some information, using online banking or using social media to find out what my friends are upto.  I don’t need the internet but I like having it around.  The world in general though needs it.

Imagine what would happen to the wider world if it was ever switched off.  In the 21st century everything, and I do mean everything, in some shape or form is reliant on the internet.  The money in the cashpoints, power generation, emails, food, communications (maybe not the analog phone or radio though) are all wired up to the world wide web.  If it did disappear it would be disastrous and we would probably have anarchy as nothing would work.  Scary thought hey?

Ok lets get the obvious out of the way the internet will probably never get turned off.  It is a collection of servers spread throughout the world, in multiple countries, so for the internet to get turned off all the servers would each have to get switched off which is highly unlikely.

Just think what would happen though if it did.

About the Author

P1020114

Hi I’m Chris Wakefield the owner of ComTech IT Support. I provide Cisco, Windows, OS X and Linux based IT Support to small businesses throughout Scotland.

Follow @Comtech247 on Twitter

 

 

Is Blackberry still relevant?

Is Blackberry still relevant?

I have been asked these words too many times to remember and I can still see why people ask.  As of the end of 2014 Blackberry had a market share of 0.5% and this from a company who just a couple of years ago was THE brand to have.  Times have changed and today people would rather have the new iPhone or Android phone instead of spending their hard earned on a Blackberry.  So if we just look at market share then I would say they are not relevant.

What happens though if we look at the bigger picture and not just smartphone market share?

I had the pleasure last week of having a go on a new Blackberry Passport and I will be honest I liked it. The screen is good, the keyboard is good and I can see who it is aimed at – business users. Business users will tend to edit spreadsheets and word documents, write emails etc rather than browse Facebook or watch videos. Business users are where Blackberry sees their future (going back to your roots as such) and with the Passport and the new Classic they have two phones with the traditional keyboard which business users like because they can type quicker.  If I wasn’t already immersed in the Android ecosystem I would definitely consider the Passport.

Lets not forget security as this is what Blackberry is all about.  Blackberry servers are renowned for being secure and with Blackberry Enterprise 12 they have a product which works cross platform so if a company uses iPhones instead of Blackberries that is not an issue.  In the enterprise this is a real bonus. Lets not forget Blackberry Messenger too.

So yes their market share is dismal but if Blackberry target the right users (ie business) with their new and existing products and forget about taking on Android and Apple they may well surprise a lot of people in the next couple of years.

About the Author

P1020114

Hi I’m Chris Wakefield the owner of ComTech IT Support. I provide Cisco, Windows, OS X and Linux based IT Support to small businesses throughout Scotland.

Follow @Comtech247 on Twitter

 

 

 

 

What happens if Windows 10 fails?

I have been looking at the reviews of Windows 10 (preview) over the last couple of weeks and I must admit to being intrigued by Microsoft’s newest operating system.  If they can pull off the trick of having a different interface for different form factors whilst still keeping the functionality they could be onto a winner.  I can’t help but think though what happens if consumers and businesses alike do not take to Windows 10 the same as they didn’t to Windows 8?  So what might happen?

1. Windows 7 gets a stay of execution the same way XP did.  Windows 7 end of support is 2020 but if Windows 10 doesn’t catch on expect to see this extended.  I would also expect Windows 7 PC’s to remain on the market alongside the newer operating system as Microsoft would not want to risk losing market share.

2. PC makers might decide to stop making PC’s and move into different markets (eg tablets).  If consumers and businesses are not buying PC’s (and laptops) with Windows 10 why would manufacturers still make them? If they did decide to continue making them they might try alternate operating systems like Chrome OS in the same way some manufacturers are already doing.  This could seriously hurt Microsoft.

3. Windows Phone could fail to gain market share if Windows 10 fails.  If people don’t like it on PC’s, and laptops, then there could also be a perception they wouldn’t want it on the phone and turn to either Android or iOS instead.

4. People start turning to Macs? I can’t really see this happening as Macs tend to be at the higher end of the market while Windows covers the middle and middle sections.  If someone is looking for a cheap laptop they are not going to spend the extra on a Mac but rather they would buy a Windows laptop whichever operating system it is running.

5. Nothing changes. If Windows 10 fails so what? There will still be laptops and PC’s available, as long as manufacturers decide to make them, as for most people there is no real alternative to Windows (in their eyes).  They may not like the new operating system but there would be no choice but to purchase a system with it already installed.

Realistically I can’t see Windows 10 failing.  Microsoft knows that it has to get this right from the off after the failure of Windows 8.  If it doesn’t? Long live Windows 7!!

About the Author

P1020114

Hi I’m Chris Wakefield the owner of ComTech IT Support. I provide Cisco, Windows, OS X and Linux based IT Support to small businesses throughout Scotland.

Follow @Comtech247 on Twitter

 

Just how real is the threat of a cyber attack?

Cyberwar.  This term has being thrown around over the last couple of months and it does sound very scary.  The whole thought of someone taking down a countries power, banks, transport etc without having to leave their computer was once the stuff of science fiction.  If you believe all the hype this is now a reality.

Today the world is so immersed in technology that it affects every aspect of our daily lives.  Any action taken online affects actions taken offline and vice versa.  Everything we use, whether it is banking, shopping, driving etc is linked in some way to our use of computers.  If these computers go down the task they were helping to manage becomes affected.  Just think of the hassle when your emails don’t work and then multiply that by thousands when, for example, a banking error means people can’t access money at cash points.

How real is it the threat of an actual cyber attack then? If you look at what happened to Sony Pictures just before Christmas the threat is very real.  When Sony got hit workers at one point were forced to work with pen and paper. “We even fired up our fax machine,” one employee told the LA Times.  This is a multi national company brought to its knees as emails and confidential data were stolen and then released to the world.

The threat is so real to some governments that the US and UK have agreed to stage cyber war games to test each others defences.

So what is the best defence? Personally cyberwarfare should be treated along the same lines as traditional warfare.  There is always a threat of potential war somewhere in the world but governments don’t panic about it.  The same approach should be taken with cyber attacks.  You continually test your own defences and if they are found to be wanting you improve them.  Knee jerk reactions like banning encryption as David Cameron wanted a couple of weeks ago is not going to help. Teaching people to understand the implications of a cyber attack could also go a long way.

What do you think?

About the Author

P1020114

Hi I’m Chris Wakefield the owner of ComTech IT Support. I provide Cisco, Windows, OS X and Linux based IT Support to small businesses throughout Scotland.

Follow @Comtech247 on Twitter

 

 

Could encryption actually get banned?

Could encryption actually get banned? If David Cameron has his way then yes.  You see the prime minister this week has pledged to allow security services full access to all of our data in the name of national security.  His thinking goes along the lines of if the security services can read any, and all, data then terrorists can’t send encrypted messages to one another without getting spotted. This means apps like WhatsApp, which is used millions across the world, would immediately have to change the way they work.

Just a couple of problems here though.

1. For this to work there would have to be “back doors” into every piece of software so that security services can read the data.  It would only be a matter of time before hackers discover these and start using them for their own benefits.

2. More and more people and businesses are storing data online using encrypted services.  If you take away all the encryption the data (personal and business) would be exposed.  Imagine trying to bank online without encryption? Not going to happen.

3. How would you actually enforce this?  To be covered by any new UK legislation you would need service providers to actually setup their business headquarters in the UK.  The only way around this is for an EU or world agreement on encryption.  This again is not going to happen.

I do agree with David Cameron that something needs to happen to help the security services protect people but banning encryption is not the answer.

About the Author

P1020114

Hi I’m Chris Wakefield the owner of ComTech IT Support. I provide Cisco, Windows, OS X and Linux based IT Support to small businesses throughout Scotland.

Follow @Comtech247 on Twitter

Is mobile banking safe?

Is mobile banking secure? I get asked this question more times than I can remember and the answer is always the same.  It can be!!

Let me explain. My personal banking is through Barclays and I must say, for me, their online banking is superb and their mobile app (Android) is even better.  I can very easily transfer money between my accounts and even pay my bills without leaving the comfort of my living room. I can also contact Barclays through the app which basically by-passes security as it is assumed I am making the call, which I must admit is a bit scary. There is a woft of “convenience” about the whole mobile banking thing which I like, however I am fully aware of the dangers.  I have a passcode on my phone and another (different) code to access my banking app.  There are also various other passcodes to apps such as Dropbox and finally I have the ability to wipe my phone using BitDefender.  If my phone gets lost or stolen I am not really that worried about data theft.  A lot of people however are not so security conscious.

The biggest concern for me is where I use my mobile banking.  Public wifi is a non starter as you don’t know who else is on the same network and, for me, 3 or 4G is also out for the same reason.  I tend to use wifi networks I trust so that is home, friends and maybe some clients.  If you can’t trust the network you are using don’t bother using mobile banking.

So is it safe? I would say mobile banking is along the lines of crossing the road.  If you take sensible precautions (like looking both ways) and don’t use it everywhere (crossing a motorway anyone?) then you will be safe.  Yes it is convenient but treat it with respect.

About the Author

P1020114

Hi I’m Chris Wakefield the owner of ComTech IT Support. I provide Cisco, Windows, OS X and Linux based IT Support to small businesses throughout Scotland.

Follow @Comtech247 on Twitter

 

 

 

Do you know which email account you have?

Emails.  We all use them and many businesses would be completely stuck if they lost them and that is exactly what happened to a client I dealt with recently.

I had a call from a client who sounded very frantic on the phone. Their main PC for the business had just died and they were worried about recovering their data so I went across to take a look.  On arrival on site it became apparent that indeed they had backups for their data on an external drive and the most they would lose was two days.  The emails though were a different matter.

The client didn’t know the difference between POP, Imap or Exchange accounts and thought the email hosting company would be doing backups of his entire account so he didn’t have to.  The main email account was a POP3 account which had quite happily pulled all his emails off the server for the last 3 years until the hard drive died.  Since there was no backup the emails have gone.

The are some main differences between the account types which would could have helpt the client had he known.  POP3 by default will pull all the emails off the server onto the local machine.  You can configure the account to leave the emails on the server for a set period if needs be but you are better using Imap for this.  If your email account is POP3 YOU MUST BACK UP THE EMAILS ON THE SYSTEM and I generally recommend backing your emails to something like Dropbox so they are stored off site.

Imap keeps the emails on the server to which you have access. This makes Imap a good choice when you have multiple devices which need access to the full set of emails in the account.  You can also configure Imap to store a copy of all emails on the local device which means your emails are then in two places (system and hosting server) taking care of backups.

Exchange basically takes Imap a step further with all your emails, contacts and calender backed up on the server. You can also cache a local copy of all your emails too.  Exchange also allows shared calenders between workers which is a very handy feature.

Personally I would go with either Imap or Exchange everytime for your emails as the backup features are a no brainer when running a business.

As for the client they have sent their hard drive off to a data recovery firm but the prognosis is not good.

About the Author

P1020114

Hi I’m Chris Wakefield the owner of ComTech IT Support. I provide Cisco, Windows, OS X and Linux based IT Support to small businesses throughout Scotland.

Follow @Comtech247 on Twitter

 

Are we starting to come full circle?

There was a time when people purchased a local copy of software they needed and installed it on their system (usually a Windows PC).  Then came the cloud and people started to access what they needed online and hence stopped buying software to install on their system.  Now we have apps which, you have guessed it, people purchase and install on their systems and in some ways have taken us back to the “old’ days.

When the cloud came along it was hailed as a breakthrough in IT (and it really is). You no longer needed a specific operating system to access your data.  With the cloud you can access your emails, productivity software using either Google Apps or Office 365, invoicing, remote software etc. The possibilities are endless because all you need is a browser (that is why Chromebooks work so well).

Into the fray came tablets and smartphones devices, which were meant to access the cloud services on the go, and with the tablets and smartphones came apps.  Apps are essentially programs you install on a local device like we did back in the “old” days. Apps have made it so much easier to access cloud based solutions that people are slowly turning away from using a browser.

At launch Windows RT was hammered because the Windows Store didn’t contain lots of apps. What people failed to realise was that they could still access what they wanted through a browser and that is the whole point of the cloud. You don’t need a specific operating system or piece of software to access a web based service but apps are slowly changing that.  I know of people who are so entrenched in the Apple ecosystem that they couldn’t move to Android because they would lose their apps even though most apps are now cross platform.

Apps are starting to take us back to a time when your choice of operating system was significant meaning we are starting to go full circle.

About the Author

P1020114

Hi I’m Chris Wakefield the owner of ComTech IT Support. I provide Cisco, Windows, OS X and Linux based IT Support to small businesses throughout Scotland.

Follow @Comtech247 on Twitter

 

What do you mean they use computers in rural Scotland?

Rural and IT are two words that don’t really go together. One brings images of beaches, countryside and peacful tranquility while the other is broadband speeds, 3G signal and Facebook. Over the last month or so I have had the priviledge of travelling all around Scotland for work and have been to some really rural (and stunning) locations. So just how bad is the IT provison in rural locations?

I was speaking to a guy yesterday whilst doing a Cisco router install. During the conversation I mentioned I had been to Barra the previous day to which he replied “they use computers on Barra?”. “They do indeed use computers on Barra (why wouldn’t they?) and they even get broadband too” I answered. The look of disbileaf on his face was awesome!!

Broadband provision throughout most of the Highlands and Islands that I can see is pretty good. You will get slow speeds in a few places but provision in the more populated areas seems ok (I did Skype my wife from Barra and the pictrure and sound quality was pretty good). I also read an article in one of the local papers on Stornaway that gave times for fibre upgrades (2015-2016) which considering the area is actually pretty good.

There are also some areas that also have free wifi but this depends dramtically on how remote the place is. For instance all the Highlands and Islands airports have free wifi which is very handy. Some of the larger hotels do too (Castlebay Hotel on Barra is one example).

Not so good is 3G. Mobile phone signal in the Highlands and Islands ranges from ok to dreadful but it does again depend on which provider you have. My network is O2 and over the last couple of months I have had 3G in Wick and nothing at all in Barra, Dumfries and Galloway and certain parts of Orkney. Mobile working using 3G has been challenging to say the least!! I would like to think that this will improve with the rollout of 4G but personally I can’t see it coming to these parts anytime soon.

But one thing I did see time and again is yes these parts of the country are miles away from anywhere but they are not cut off. People still shop online at Amazon, do online banking and even work from home. As one local on Harris put it “just because we choose to live in the arse end of nowhere doesn’t mean we are cut off”.

Personally I would have no issues with relocating my business here (especially the Outer Hebrides) as broadband speeds are more than fast enough for video conferencing and remotely helping clients. My clients might have a different slant on that however!!

About the Author

P1020114

Hi I’m Chris Wakefield the owner of ComTech IT Support. I provide Windows, Mac and Linux based IT Support to small businesses in Stirling, Alloa and Falkirk.

Follow @Comtech247 on Twitter

Windows hasn’t left the building just yet

Anyone who regularly reads this blog will know that I have recently decided to run my business using Android while still keeping a Linux netbook for configuring routers.  I find Android very easy to use and I enjoy using Linux so this setup works for me and it works well.  I also still have a Mac (now fixed and installing Yosemite as I write this) which comes out now and again as I have some clients who use them but one omision you will have noticed is a Windows based system.  I do have Windows virtual machines setup on a Debian Linux server but I use them so rarely that it is not actually worth mentioning.  In my business Windows hardly gets a look in.

There have been numerous articles floating around the internet over the last 12 months about the aparent demise of Microsoft and that Windows will slip away into obscurity. This is not going to happen anytime soon as Windows is so entrenched in the corporate world it would take something monumental to shift it.  Yes there are some businesses like mine who decide they can get by without Windows but having Windows in a business environment (in some description) is the norm at the moment.

How much of a norm I found out last week.  A lot of my work at the moment revolves around Cisco and the installation of routers and switches. Alongside this I also install quite a few Verizon GSM modems and Viprinet VPN routers.  It was while installing a Viprinet VPN router last week I got caught out.

Install Vipinet and connect up aerials – check.

Connect up netbook to start configuration – check.

Run exe file – bugger.

Exe files as a rule don’t run under Linux (this one didnt even under Wine) and I didn’t have a Windows machine with me.  Not being able to run the exe file meant not being able to start the configuration, which meant I would have to come back to site again and since the site was in Irvine that meant another 134 mile round trip.  This was turning out to be one of those days.

So long as manufacturers use exe files to setup hardware there will still be a need for Windows. Will this change over time? Maybe but at the moment I think it is time to dig out my old Acer Aspire netbook for thoses times when I have no choice but to use Windows.

About the Author

P1020114

Hi I’m Chris Wakefield the owner of ComTech IT Support. I provide Windows, Mac and Linux based IT Support to small businesses in Stirling, Alloa and Falkirk.

Follow @Comtech247 on Twitter

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