ComTech: IT Support Stirling

6 lessons I learnt during 6 years in business

I am going completely left field today and not going to talk about anything tech related at all.  You see on 1st April 2016 ComTech is going to be 6 years old.  During that time I have made mistakes (same as everyone else) and learnt so much about myself and what I do that I thought I would share some snippets with you.

I am not a business development coach and this is not meant to be a guide on how to run a small business.  These are just the thoughts of a rambling Welshman who has made mistakes and learnt to run a business over the last 6 years, nothing more.

So lets go;

1.If you want to start a small business DO IT!!! I dipped my toe in the water for quite a while before I started but once I took the “leap of faith” I found I was more focused on what I was doing and how I would make my idea work.  Running ComTech alongside my “paid work” meant I was splitting my time and energy which didn’t really work for me.

2. Get your pricing right at the start.  I didn’t and had to change my pricing structure 3 times in 2 years which looks bad in the eyes of your clients.

3. Don’t spend money at the start unless it is essential.  You are not going to have lots of money coming in from the off so keep your outgoings as small as you can. If you do have to purchase business essentials (eg PC, laptop, manufacturing equipment etc) don’t skimp on the money as you will end up replacing them sooner than you think.

4. Network, network, network!!! Word of mouth is fantastic for any business and mine is no different.  I get most of my work through networking but people have to know you, and more importantly trust you, so get out there and meet people.  One word of warning though don’t try to sell to people whilst networking as they will switch off very quickly.  Get to know the person and trust me work will follow.

5. Be patient.  I am not the most patient person in the world so in the early days I wanted instant results which of course didn’t happen.  Success doesn’t happen overnight it takes time.

6. Finally peaks and troughs in your normal workload are natural.  I used to get really worked up and stressed when work went quiet and then really excited when it started again.  I would look at my account data for the month and wonder where my next job would come from.  I learnt that when work goes quiet this is the time to catch up on social media, studying and all those other things you hate doing (I’m looking at you paperwork).

Like I said at the start this is no HOW-TO but rather some insight into what I have learnt running ComTech for the last 6 years and hopefully in 6 years time I can redo this post with even more tips!!

About the Author


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

When you buy a new machine make sure you know what you are buying

It has happened. You woke up one morning and realised that the old and trusty laptop (or PC) is no longer upto the job and it needs replacing.  No problem you say I will go along to somewhere like PC World and just pick up a new one.  For a home user this approach works well but what about when the laptop or PC is used for business?

You see if you are in the market for a Windows machine (as most businesses are) you may not realise that there are different versions of Windows.  Taking Windows 8.1 as an example, there is Windows 8.1, Windows 8.1 Pro and also Windows 8.1 Enterprise. Which one you choose will depend on what you want the machine for.  If you are a small business user then you should go for Windows 8.1 Pro but if you buy from somewhere like PC World, Argos, John Lewis etc most of the machines come with Windows 8.1  and not Pro.  So what is the downside of just getting Windows 8.1 then?

The two main reasons are encryption and connecting to a server. Windows 8.1 Pro comes with BitLocker which allows you to encrypt your hard drive and keeps all your data safe if someone steals it. At present I don’t know of any way to successfully encrypt a Windows 8.1 system  (if anyone does please let me know).

The second reason is perhaps more pressing.  If you have a Windows server installed on your network you need Windows 8.1 Pro (or Windows 7 Professional) to be able to connect to it.  Home versions of all Microsoft operating systems can’t connect to a Windows server.  I have been to clients in the past who had maybe 5 or 6 Windows 7 Home Premium systems who wanted a server to backup all their data to.  Straight away a Windows server was out the window and I ended up installing a Linux one instead (personally a better choice anyway in this instance).  If you have an onsite Exchange server for your emails home versions of Windows are also a no goer. I have even seen business critical applications being run on a Windows 7 Starter netbook before which should never happen.

So before you go out and spend your companies hard earned on something which doesn’t fit your requirements do yourself a favour and check what software it is running.

About the Author


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




I can now run my business from an Android tablet but the question is do I want too?

I was happily working away on my MacBook last week invoicing some clients for recent work when it hit me – I have got to the point where I could now do all this on an Android tablet rather than a MacBook. Surprising thought when you think about it, but as surprising and intriguing as it was the next thought was why would I want too?

Let me explain. At the moment most of my daily tasks involve using Libreoffice and Chrome a lot, along with Thunderbird for my emails and Dropbox for storing files.  I also use Teamviewer to access my virtual machines which are stored on  a linux server. On the whole this setup suits me well.  I do like to use a “desktop” browser as I find I usually work faster than with a mobile one.

I currently use my 7 inch tablet for taking notes during client visits, internet, checking wireless signals etc and it performs these jobs well.  It wouldn’t take much thought to put my email accounts on it, add my social media accounts and start doing some “real” productivity work on it.  I could very easily use apps on the tablet which would cover all of my current needs and probably cover them very well.  For example there are apps like Docs to Go which provide most of the office functionality I need (good app by the way).

But there are also some slight niggles which, while not being a show stopper, would seriously limit my enjoyment.  The first is dual monitors.  I use a second monitor with my MacBook and I must admit it makes my life so much easier.  Dual monitor setups for Android are to the best of my knowledge “limited” to say the least.  If anyone would like to write and app that allows me to expand my android tablet to a second monitor I would buy it!!

The next is printing. I use HP ePrint on my phone which integrates very well with the inbuilt email client allowing me to print off my emails.  It doesn’t integrate at all with Docs to Go and other productivity suites meaning I would have to save documents to Dropbox first and then print from there. No big hassle but when you get used to just printing from anywhere on your system it takes a while to get used to a different way of working.

So yes while I can do all my business work from a tablet I won’t be switching fully across because my current setup does everything I need.  What I am more likely to try is to do certain bits from the tablet to see how we go and if successful maybe take on a bit more over time.

Do you work from an android tablet? Let me know!!

About the Author


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


Please don’t use free antivirus on a business network!!

I went out to client a couple of weeks back who had an emergency. The emergency was that their file server (old Vista box) wasn’t booting up.  It was working when everyone went home the previous night but the following morning when they came into the office the screen was blank.  As the system was the main file server for the business (4 users) this was a bit of a problem.

After doing some checks it turned out that the system had caught a virus which was removed by using a BitDefender Antivirus CD (really good by the way). Once the virus was removed the system booted back to life as normal.  Great, job done I thought until I checked what antivirus was running in the first place – Microsoft Security Essentials!!

Microsoft Security Essentials is “ok” for use on a home system but is a definite NO in a business environment.  I have nothing personal against Microsoft Security Essentials but in recent months I have seen a lot of viruses get past it and no end of problems caused (rootkit anyone?).  Out of curiosity I checked the other systems in the office.  One had Avast (free), two systems had AVG (free) and another had nothing!! All of this on a business network.

I tried to explain to the client that at the moment they were leaving their business wide open to threats by not having a paid antivirus solution in place.  The response I received was “this is the first time we have got anything”.  This was one of those times when I felt I was banging my head against a brick wall. No matter what I said this guy was not going to get convinced.

If you don’t value your business that highly go ahead and run free antivirus as it is your choice.  Be warned though that at some point you are going to get stung (possibly big time) and you could lose a lot of time, data and money recovering from and ultimately fixing the problem.  Yes free antivirus is better than nothing but there are so many better options on the market which will secure your systems.

The choice is yours.

 About the Author


Hi I’m 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 Stirling, Alloa and Falkirk.

Follow @Comtech247 on Twitter


Should Microsoft abandon the consumer market all together?

Should Microsoft abandon the consumer market all together?

Now that is a question I have thought a lot about lately.  Their mobile phones aren’t exactly flying off the shelf and their tablets are sitting there getting dust (I have tried a Surface RT and was very impressed by the way) and Windows 8 (again I like) isn’t exactly warming the hearts of consumers.

What also hasn’t helpt them is that PC’s in the home are going the way of the dodo and being replaced by tablets and smartphones.  They were late to the mobile revolution and so far they haven’t been able to catch up.

To put it blunt Microsoft is in a bit of pickle at the moment with their newest offerings to the consumer market.

Contrast that with the business environment where Microsoft is so entrenched that it would take something monumental to shift them.  Their server software is used by millions of companies worldwide along with their biggest asset, Microsoft Office.  With the change to their subscription pricing this should fill their coffers even more (consumers on the other hand HATE paying subscriptions for software).  There is also Windows Azure which has been picking up subscriptions left right and centre lately.

Now what would happen if they suddenly decided to cut their losses and concentrate solely on the business market?

In the short term they would lose out on new licences of Windows but since the consumer market is shrinking anyway maybe that wouldn’t effect them to much.  With consumers no longer a top priority Windows could then be redesigned for business users (unlike Windows 8 at the moment) which would make enterprises very happy and entrench Microsoft further. Their services strategy (eg Azure, Office 365 etc) would also have more resources at their disposal which would mean they could offer better services which in turn leads to happy customers which again leads to full coffers.

This is just my opinion but I would be interested to hear what other people think so should Microsoft abandon the consumer market all together?

About the Author


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



Why the operating system is becoming irrelevant

As always it starts with a question and this time the question was – can I run Logmein on a linux system? In this case the answer was no and I pointed the client in the direction of Teamviewer instead.

At the moment software manufacturers are writing their software for certain operating systems only (for example LogMein doesn’t work on Linux) but with more and more users now turning to the internet to get their work done, for example using Google Docs or Office 365, or using apps does it actually matter what the underlying system is?

Lets take the consumer (ie home) market first. Here the PC is on its last legs and tablets and smartphones are on the rise.  Where previously you had to have a copy of Windows to be productive this is no longer the case (Office 365 for iphone anyone?).  You can now get apps on your tablet that allow you do accomplish almost anything.  For example on my Blackberry Playbook I purchased an app called Smart Office 2 which allows me to produce and edit .doc or .xls files from my tablet.  The same can be found on Android and iOS too. Failing that you can use Office 365 or Google Docs straight through your browser and use online storage to back up your files.  There are numerous apps for remote desktop software, photo editing etc.  In fact you can get apps for almost everything.  In this environment it doesn’t matter what operating your system is running.

Now let us turn our attention to the business environment where it is not so clear cut.  At the moment you are either a Linux business, an Apple business or a Windows one.  Yes you can have a mixture of all three but on the whole a business will use one operating system across all their computers.  Here businesses tend to stick with software that runs on their platforms, which makes it easier to support, however iPads and iPhones (and Android to a lesser extent) are slowly beginning to encroach on the traditional PC’s (PC’s will still be around for a long time yet).  With the advent of BYOD (Bring your Own Device) this will only increase and the only realistic way for businesses to support all these different devices is to put all the data in the cloud.  If you are accessing data online (again taking Google Apps as an example) it doesn’t matter what system you have so long as it can access the internet.  The ‘mobile takeover’ hasn’t happened yet but it is slowly making ground.

So what do you think does it matter what operating system you use to get things done? Let me know!!

About the Author


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



Are NAS devices becoming the new standard for file servers in small businesses?

Almost every company I deal with has some form of file server whether it be a full Windows Server on a domain, a Linux server or even a Windows 7 box just sharing files across a workgroup.  There is one device though that I keep seeing and installing more and more and that is the little NAS box.

These little devices are fantastic at sharing files or being used to backup all the systems on the network.  They can also be administered from a web page and are usually much cheaper than implementing a server.  The cost of ownership is usually less too with lower energy consumption (lower spec CPU with less heat generated).

Now the question is are they better than a full server? This depends on what you mean by better.  For instance if you are just looking at the cost of maintenance and implementation then yes they probably are.

But if you are looking to add roles to your server at a later date ( eg maybe running a file serving, DNS server and DHCP server on the same box) then a file server is a much better proposition whether it be Linux or Windows based.  Chances are you are also more familiar using a Windows or Linux based file server so training costs would also be less.  There is also one major thing going for file servers that NAS boxes in general (but not all) don’t have and that is backing up to the cloud.  You can install Dropbox, Box, Google Drive or whatever you fancy on your file server that can automatically backup your files to the cloud.  If cloud backups are required then you seriously need to look at implementing a file server (again whether this is Linux or Windows based depends on your network and expertise).

In my experience small businesses are trying to squeeze more value from their IT so in this scenario the little NAS box becomes an attractive proposition.

It was only last week I had a meeting with a company ( 8 employees) who are interested in implementing a file server on their network which would also backup their files on a nightly basis.  I quoted them for a SBS  2011 system, a Linux one and also a NAS box.  It was no surprise that the NAS box was the cheapest and in this case it does everything that the client wants (they don’t require cloud backups) so they are going with it.

So what do you think are NAS devices becoming the new standard for file servers in small businesses?

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 Stirling, Falkirk and Clackmannanshire.

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


What is the most critical piece of hardware within your business?

I had a meeting with a local company yesterday and as part of that meeting was a review of the systems they already had in place. So all the desktops, servers, routers, printers, routers and switches were all documented and then I asked the client “what do you think is the most critical piece of hardware within your business?” He replied “That’s easy – it has to be my desktop as without it I lose the ability to do any work”.  I disagreed.

I pointed out that the files that he uses on a daily basis were infact not on his desktop but stored on the server and then shared across the network.  If his computer died he could go and purchase another one that day, connect it up the network and retrieve his files without a lot of effort. “Ah but what about my emails?” “They are backed up to the server every night and anyway you have access to webmail”.

So you might be thinking at this point the the server would be the most critical piece of hardware within this business but again I would disagree and I shall explain why.  The setup is as follows:

This particular business has five desktops which all connect to a Windows Server which stores all their files.  The desktops back up their emails (pst file) to the server every night and the server itself is backed up to the cloud.  This means that they have onsite and offsite backups.

So what is the most critcal piece of hardware – their Netgear router!!

If the building burns down or all their equipment is stolen they would still be able to access their data from anywhere with an internet connection.  If the router goes down they lose all capability to use emails and can no longer communicate with the outside world but probably more important is they would not be able to backup their data to an offsite location.

So I think in this case the router is the most critical piece of hardware they have.  What do you think?

About the Author


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



Is the desktop on its way out?

Now I am not talking about the PC (that is another blog) but rather the way we interact with our computers.  For years operating systems of all flavours, whether they be Apple, Linux or Windows based, have all had the same basic interface – the desktop.  This all changed when Microsoft brought out Windows 8 with its Modern UI (aka Metro) interface.  Overnight the trusty desktop went from being at the forefront of the user experience to being relegated to an addon and this coupled with the increase in tablet sales has got a lot of people talking about the possibility of the demise of the desktop.  So is the desktop on its way out? The answer is yes and no.  Let me explain.

The PC was originally designed for the workplace but overtime as they got cheaper more and more average people could afford them and so they slowly made their way into our homes. Your home PC will very rarily be used to its limits though.  Most users will download and play a bit of music, maybe watch some videos, surf the internet and might do some word processing but that is about it.  For a home user a touch screen accomplishes most, if not all, of these tasks and this is why tablets and smartphones are on the rise.  Last time I looked there is no need for a desktop on a smartphone or tablet so in the consumer market I would say the desktop is on its way out.

Now lets look at the business market where the mouse and keyboard are king.   Employees in a business environment need to be productive or their company will start to lose money.  A lot of people would miss the desktop if it disappeared simply because they have become used to it.  Without the desktop staff would have to be retrained which would cost businesses a lot of time and money.

A lot of business applications have also been written with the desktop in mind and to get rid of the desktop would mean re-writing a lot of applications and again this would cost businesses A LOT OF MONEY.  In the foreseeable future this will not happen.  Not even Microsoft would throw away billions in revenue just to get rid of the desktop.

Ah but what about the increase in BYOD into the workplace? This is a funny one.  Yes the employee could decide to buy an iPad and then use it for work but, and this is a big but, if they can’t be productive on it then management will pull the plug and get them back on either laptops or desktops.  Yes BYOD is a good thing (keeps costs down) but as yet it is still unproven in the workplace.  Only time will tell but at the moment I can’t see the desktop going anywhere in a business environment and Microsoft will struggle to get businesses to upgrade to Windows 8 as a result.

Here is a thought for you should Microsoft have brought out both a business version and consumer version of Windows 8? The business version could default to the desktop while the consumer version could default to Modern UI as it does now.  This way Microsoft could give both markets what they want.

What do you think?

About the Author


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




Why your IT should be further up the food chain

IT is everywhere these days.  From the washing machine to aeroplanes to mobile phones and if we are honest we couldn’t live without it anymore.  So why then when it comes to IT in business people regard it not as a necessity but rather as a luxury?

I have come across businesses over the years where the mentality is “it has always worked so why change it now?” when the network is not fit for purpose and literally on its last legs.  After trying to explain to the client why I would change the network I am usually met with “no money”.  Now I know all about working within a budget but I would argue for stuff like IT there are times when you just have to bite the bullet and spend money.  I say this for the following reasons:

1.  You computers are on their last legs

We have all seen this.  The machines are old and full of junk which needs cleaning out and they usually have the bare minimum of memory too.  Using these machines is affecting employee productivity.  Faster and better equipped machines will allow you to access your files, communicate by email and accomplish your daily tasks a lot faster which in turn means you get more done.  How frustrating is it to click on a file and waiting minutes for it to open?

2. No backup strategy is in place

What would happen to your business if it lost all its data? Mine would not last very long and I am sure the same would be said of yours.  So why don’t people take backups? Every business requires some form of data backup whether it be external hard drives or central storage (Server or NAS box) and if correctly implemented should run automatically without any user input.

3. The office network is not fit for purpose anymore

The 4 port switch might have been ok when you first started out but what happens when you increase your staff numbers above 4? Or when you start sharing files across a network and your cabling is not up to the job?  When you start using your network to its capacity it is time to start thinking about upgrading rather than just sit on what you have as this will (and does) affect employee productivity.

4. Mobile computing

Mobile computing has really taken off over the last couple of years and it is not hard to see why (working from anywhere employees are more productive) but is your IT up to the job? Online storage (eg Dropbox) makes sharing and accessing files a doddle.  Hosting your emails online rather than on an onsite server means you can get your emails on your smartphones, tablets or laptops while reducing your running costs (ie no server using electric, no license costs or IT repair costs).

So you see IT is a necessity to all businesses and not just an add on which makes life easier. Next time you have to wait 10 minutes for your machine to boot up just think – could this be done better?

About the Author


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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