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Just how secure is your data?

We all have data.  Some of us have pictures, videos and maybe some documents while others have databases, emails and so forth.  But there is one thing which everyone must do and that is to secure it.  How you do this is a matter of debate as some security features which work for me might not be suitable for the next business but there are a set of ‘ground rules’ which everyone can follow no matter what size business you are.


Physical Security

1. When you are the last person out of the office lock the door so no one can get in.  Sounds simple but you would be horrified by the number of people who go for lunch and don’t. Leave the door open and someone WILL get in.

2. If your business has a server your best bet is a server room however for a lot of smaller companies this is not an option.  In this case position your server OUT OF SIGHT.  If people don’t know you have one then they can’t take it.  I know of one company who positions their server in front of the windows in the front office.  All it takes is for someone to walk past, smash the glass and the server is gone.

3. Don’t allow people to wander into your office unchallenged.  When I first started out I went to see a client to do some work on their server.  I went in the main door and turned into the first office thinking it was the reception.  It wasn’t it was the room they kept their server in and it was empty.  I could easily have walked upto their server unchallenged and started playing.  I could have caused havoc!!

Software related security

1. Use passwords.  The first line of defence when someone has access to your system is your password.  Pick a password that you can remember and DO NOT write it on a postit note and then stick it on the monitor!! It should be a mixture of letters and numbers.  This point also works on tablets and smartphones.  Use passwords to lock them during startup.

2. Encryption. There are loads of options if you are looking to encrypt your files.  Three of the main ones I have come across are BitLocker, TrueCrtypt and DesLock.  All offer full disk encryption and require a password to unlock the drive (BitLocker can also use a TPM chip on the motherboard).  The only downside to using encryption is that if you lose the password (encryption key) you can’t access your data – PERIOD.

3. Wireless encryption. All of us will have used wireless at some point but how many people know how to check the level of your wireless encryption? Almost all wireless access points, by default, come with no encryption and the user is required to set it up (routers from ISP’s will).  Leave your network open and anyone can access it and your data suddenly becomes very tempting.

4. When leaving your laptop unattended lock the screen.  This way no one passing can access your laptop and have a sneak preview of all your files.

Backups

1.Take some!! If you don’t and the hard drive in your laptop or server dies (unless you have RAID) you could lose the lot.  Once you have backed up your data that is not the end of it. You still need to address where are you going to store it? I always tell clients that the backup must be stored in a different location to the computer it was taken from.  For example don’t backup your server to an external hard drive and then the hard drive ontop of the server!!

2. Consider using online backups.  The main advantage of online backups is that all your data is automatically backed up off site.  Be careful though who you go with and check out the security features they offer as part of the deal.  I tend to go with Dropbox for small businesses but some other people prefer Box. Whoever you go with check out their security policies first after all they will be looking after your data.

Data policies

Implement a data policy specifically stating what users can do with your data and more importantly what they can’t.  Get everyone to sign it and review it on a regular basis.  If everyone is ‘singing from the same hymm sheet’ with regards to data security it makes securing your data much easier.

Can you think of anything I have missed? If so please let me know!!

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

 

 

How often do you check your backups?


Recently I had a client (call him Jeff) ask me would I be able to take a look at his Windows 7 laptop which had become infected with a virus.  After inspecting the laptop it was obvious that it was in a sorry state of repair so I suggested to Jeff that the quickest way to recover the system would be to wipe the hard drive and reinstall the operating system.

“I did a backup last week to an external hard drive so go ahead and wipe it” I was told.  Great I thought as not having to recover files saves a lot of time so I happily wiped the hard drive and reinstalled Windows 7.  Jeff then went to get his external hard drive.  When he returned he plugged it in and it wasn’t recognised. I then plugged it into my netbook (Linux based) and again nothing happened.  Houston we have a problem!!

Unbeknown to Jeff since he had made his last backup the hard drive had been dropped and all of his files could no longer be accessed.  I did suggest sending it off to a lab to try and retrieve the files but when I told him it would cost hundreds he didn’t look very well!! He had made the common mistake of making backups but not checking them.

Now Jeff is a home customer and home customers in my experience hardly ever take backups (never mind checking them) but I also see this happening in the workplace.  A lot of businesses I deal with do some kinds of backups (one backs up to floppy disks!!) but hardly any of them ever check them.  When I do suggest they check them I am usually told there is no need.  Personally I would rather know there is a problem before I need to try and restore your systems from backups that may or may not be corrupt in some form.

So people yes take your backups but for your own sake check them too!!

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

 

10 things your average IT user should know


So what should your average IT user know when they are using their computer? How about how to switch it on and off safely or how to use Word and Excel? I have constructed a list below of the 10 most important things your average IT user should know.

1. Backups

People need to know what a backup is and how you should go about taking one.  I have met too many people (and companies) who are so blasé about backups it is unreal. How would you feel if you lost all your family pictures or all your company financial records? I am guessing not very good!! This tutorial will show you how to take a backup in Windows while this one will show you how to do it in Linux.

2. Antivirus Software

Next up we have viruses.  If you run a Windows system you need antivirus protection (Linux users you may now start smiling – you don’t need antivirus) .  The best way to avoid infection is to install an antivirus program and make sure that it updates regularly to get the latest virus definitions.  For a home PC I recommend Avast Free Home Edition and for Business use either Norton 2011 Small Business Pack or Avast Internet Security Suite.  Either way get some!!

3. Firewall

A firewall is a piece of software that acts as the front door to your system.  When it is activated the door is closed (and locked) but when it is off your system is wide open. Most modern operating systems come with a firewall installed by default and chances are your router should have one as well, however you do need to check periodically.

4. Internet Explorer and Google are not the internet

A lot of people think that Internet Explorer is the internet.  Same goes for Google.  If one of them is not working then “my internet is broken!!”  Internet Explorer is a web browser which is a program for accessing the internet.  There are loads of web browsers on the market.  For example you could choose Google Chrome, Mozilla Firefox, Apple Safari or Opera.  The choice is yours which one you use as they all allow you to access the internet.

As for Google, it is a search engine which allows you to find things on the internet nothing more.  There are different types of search engines available, for example Ask, Yahoo, Bing etc.  Choose whichever one suits you.

5. Passwords

This one is simple – use them!! A lot of users don’t bother or use easily cracked passwords (using password offers very little protection).  Use a combination of letters and numbers and don’t write them on a postit and place it on your monitor!!!

6. Emails

This links nicely with passwords as most people use easily cracked passwords for their email accounts.  You should also note that you should never open any attachments from anyone you don’t know as these may carry viruses.  Another thing to note is that you will never receive emails from the HMRC or your bank.  If you do these will be fraudulent and do not enter any financial details or give them your bank details!!!

7. Do not delete anything on your system unless you know what it is

I see this a lot.  People try to clean up their systems by deleting things they think they don’t need.  Upon rebooting the system nothing works.  Unless you know exactly what a file or program is for do not touch it.

8. Downloads

This is another one I see a lot of.  Unless you know the website be very careful when you are downloading software.  I recommend people stay away from bit torrent and file sharing sites as yes you will get the software but chances are it will be riddled full of viruses.

9. Wireless Settings

Write down your encryption key and put it in a secure place.  I have had people change their wireless key and then forget what it is or even better didn’t know they had one!! You also need to make sure that you have the highest form of encryption available on your router.  Use this tutorial to check yours.

10. You can make secure payments over the internet

Yes you can make secure payments over the internet but you do need to check that the website starts with https://. If it does then it means all communication between your system and the website is secure and encrypted meaning no one can get access your details.

If you think I have left any obvious ones out please let me know!!!

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

 

Blackberry Desktop Software for Linux

I have been searching for ages looking for Blackberry Desktop Software for Linux.  You see RIM decided in their wisdom not to support Linux when developing their Desktop Software and only go with Windows and Mac OS.  Thanks guys!!

Then today I came across a piece of software called Linberry.  And voila my search is over.

Linberry allows you to backup your phone or Playbook to your desktop PC so if you lose your phone you don’t lose your contacts or everything else on it.

So what else can it do?

It can also restore your phone from a previous backup.


You can also install and uninstall applications to your phone.  Just download the application to your PC and then upload it to your phone.

You can also view your entire contact list on your PC too!!

Last but not least is the option to use your phone as a modem to the internet.  This would come in very handy if you happen to be in some remote place (i.e Scottish highlands) and quickly need to access something online.

Just a quick note.  If you do decide to use your phone as a modem then be aware that your data allowance will be used up quicker than normal when using the internet on either a desktop or laptop.

Linberry is still in Beta at the moment and the developers are hoping to add more features in the near future but personally I think this is a very good start.

About the Author

Hi I am Chris Wakefield the owner of ComTech IT Support. I provide Windows and Linux based IT Support, laptop repairs and computer repairs to both business and personal clients in and around Stirling.

For a list of what I can offer you why not visit my website www.comtech247.net where you will find a list of my services, testimonials, blog and much more.

How to set backups in Windows 7

Today we will be taking a look at the one thing everyone should do with a computer – back it up!!  We will be using Windows 7 Home Premium and backing up our files to a 100Gb external hard drive.

Ok go to Start – Control Panel – Backup and Restore

Once opened we need to backup our data so click on Set up backup.

By default Windows 7 will not allow you to back up to a network share so it is CD, DVD or external hard drive.  Choose your external hard drive from the backup destination list and click next.

On the next screen Windows will ask you what you want to back up.  You can either let Windows decide or if you need to back up specific files you can do that instead.  Once you have decided click next.

On the final screen you will be asked to review your settings.  Pay special attention to the backup schedule.  By default Windows will schedule the backups to occur every Sunday at 19.00.  If this is not satisfactory then click on Change Schedule and set accordingly.  Once you are happy click on Save settings and run backup.


About the Author

Hi I am Chris Wakefield the owner of ComTech IT Support. I provide Windows and Linux based IT Support, laptop repairs and computer repairs to both business and personal clients in and around Stirling.

For a list of what I can offer you why not visit my website www.comtech247.net where you will find a list of my services, testimonials, blog and much more.

 

 

Blackberry Desktop Software

If you own a Blackberry then you need Blackberry Desktop Software. Imagine iTunes for Blackberry without the ability to download apps and you wont go far wrong.  It can run on any versions of Windows and Mac.

The best ability of Blackberry Desktop Software is the ability to sync your files, so if you lose your phone or the software becomes corrupt you can restore the phone without a second thought.  Very handy.

So what exactly can you do with Blackberry Desktop Software?


1. Backups

You get the ability to encrypt your backup file, set passwords to access the backup files, specify the location to save to and set up a scheduled backup.

2. Ability to sync and organise your files

You can choose which organizer data to sync (for example address book, calendar etc) and choose which settings to configure.

3. Sync all your music, pictures and videos

4. Restore your phone to factory settings

If the unthinkable happens then you do have the option of restoring your phone to its factory settings or even restoring from a backup.

There you have it.  I have given you a quick insight into Blackberry Desktop Software and what it can do.  If you do decide not to use it then remember what a friend said to me last week – Chris what happens if my phone will not switch back on?

About the Author

Hi I am Chris the owner of ComTech. I provide IT Support, Laptop repairs and Computer repairs to both personal and business clients in and around Stirling. For a list of what I can offer you why not visit my website www.comtech247.net where you will find my blog, testimonials, services and much more.  Start supporting a local business today so I can start supporting you.

If you found this blog useful then why not sign up to my RSS Feed for news, tutorials, views and general techie stuff!!

 

 

The urge to upgrade


We have all had this one.  Shall I go out and buy that new shiny ****** even though I don’t really need it?  This is a tough one but before you go and spend your hard earned think carefully about the following:

1. Do I really need it?  Can your existing equipment do what you are after?  Can you upgrade your existing system (e.g more RAM) so it provides the performance you are after?  Take the iPad2 as an example.  Is your original iPad really awful overnight?  Chances are the one you have can still provide the solution and performance you are after.

2. What happens to the old one you have?  In a world where people are beginning to think about the total life cycle of products what will you do with yours?  You could take it to the tip but why not instead give it to family or friends, kids, local charity shop or even make some money on ebay.  There will always be people on ebay who are not after the latest gadget.  If you don’t want to give it away why not use it for something else.  That old computer you have could be made into a firewall for your network or a NAS box for your backups.

3. Do you really have the money for it?  There is a reason that so many people are in a lot of debt.  People go out and buy things that they can’t afford – I myself am as guilty as the next person on this.  Think of the money you could save if you didn’t buy that new iPad2.  You could even take the kids on holidays too!!!!!

About the Author

Hi I am Chris the owner of ComTech. I provide IT Support and Computer repairs to both personal and business clients in and around Stirling. For a list of what I can offer you why not visit my website www.comtech247.net where you will find my blog, testimonials, services and much more.  Start supporting a local business today so I can start supporting you.

If you found this blog useful then why not sign up to my RSS Feed for news, tutorials, views and general techie stuff!!

Backup Strategies


Most people know about the need to backup your data but what is the best way to do it. Today we shall take a look at some different strategies and the advantages and disadvantages of each.

Having a Server

Using a server to backup your data has long been established as a sound way to store your backups and for good reason – it keeps all your backups in one place and is easy to manage. You set up the scheduled backup and leave it to it.  It is not all rosy though.  There is the price of the windows software (unless you set up a Linux server) and if the server crashes you could use everything.

Pros – easy to manage, backups all in one place.

Cons – price of Windows software (although can be set up on Linux), backup is on site so if the building catches fire (for example) then you lose everything.

External USB hard drives

External hard drives are a good way to back up your data especially as they can be taken off premises (or at least placed away from the main system).  They are cheap too which makes them very attractive.  One big downside though is lack of automation.  Yes you can still schedule a backup on your computer but you need to remember to plug in your hard drive at the specified time.  If you have more than one system then this can take up valuable time. If you chose not to schedule a backup but instead do it manually, you have to remember to do it everyday and how many people would be able to remember that (yours truly included).

Pros – cheap, can be taken offsite.

Cons – not automated, brings the ‘human factor’ into the backup strategy where things get forgotten, can be lost.

DVD / CD

There was a time when everyone was using these (me included) but as amounts of storage increased the shear number of DVD’s / CD’s required to backup all your data just got huge.  For example it would take 24 DVD’s to backup 100Gb of data!!

Pros – cheap, can be taken off site.

Cons – numbers involved to backup your data will just become huge, can be scratched and lost, not automated either.

Cloud Storage

The cloud is one of the buzz words floating around the IT world at the moment and one of the main points is online storage.  You upload your data to servers located somewhere else in the world.  The main advantage of this approach is that your data is stored away from your premises.  You are able to access your data at any time and you save in hardware costs.  The main disadvantages are that that you would have no control about the security that your data will receive (although these companies will have loads of security protocols that they must follow) and the monthly subscription to keep your data safe.

Pros – no extra hardware or software costs, data is kept away from your premises, automated.

Cons – possible security issues, monthly subscription charges, someone else looking after your data

NAS boxes

NAS stands for Network Attached Storage.  These are boxes which can hold two or more hard drives that are attached directly to your network.  They basically act like file servers without the expensive software costs.

Pros – relatively cheap, hard drives can be easily swapped and taken off site, backups can be automated.

Cons – additional hardware costs, if hard drives are not changed then your data is still on your premises.

So which one is best.  As usual it depends on what you are after and what your budget is.  I would recommend the following (remember this is just my professional opinion):

Business: Implement a NAS box but make sure that the hard drives are swapped either everyday (lots of data changes) or every couple of days (not a lot of changes).  Check outNovatech for deals on NAS boxes.

Home: Again you could use NAS boxes but I would be tempted with online storage coupled with external hard drives. This way your data is safely stored online but as I am paranoid about losing data I would still back up everything to an external hard drive (every couple of days or so) and store it in a different location within the house.  Check out dropbox for deals on online storage.

About the Author

Hi I am Chris the owner of ComTech. I provide IT Support and Computer repairs to both personal and business clients in and around Stirling. For a list of what I can offer you why not visit my website www.comtech247.net where you will find my blog, testimonials, services and much more.  Start supporting a local business today so I can start supporting you.

If you found this blog useful then why not sign up to my RSS Feed for news, tutorials, views and general techie stuff!!

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