ComTech: IT Support Stirling

Mobile working from a tablet

Mobile working is great.  The ability to work from anywhere without needing an office and all the distractions it brings is priceless.  More and more people are jumping on the bandwagon and starting to use tablets specifically for this purpose.  They offer excellent portability, battery life and in the case of Windows  10 a “proper” operating system to run all your programs on.  One big drawback though is lack of storage space as most tablets are in the 16 GB – 64 GB range which for some people is fine and others not so.

This is where cloud storage helps.  You can store all your files on Dropbox, Box, Google Drive, Onedrive etc and access them when required so long as you have wifi.  In Scotland though 3G coverage (and 4G) can be sporadic outside of the main population centres so accessing online data can be a problem.

So how do you cover all your options?

To increase your chances of actually getting online in the first place go for mobile broadband from either EE or Three (this applies to Scotland only) as these seem to have the best coverage.  I have used Vodafone and O2 in the past and really struggled to get online in large areas of Scotland.

For instant access to your files purchase an SD card for your tablet and in the case of Windows 10 install Dropbox on it which is exactly what I did for a client last week.  The new Windows 10 tablets are actually pretty good and run the full version of Windows.  My client now has all their Dropbox files synced to the SD card meaning they can access their files whether they have internet access or not. There were some teething troubles but this article should help anyone out who wants to set this up.

Sorry iOS and Android lovers (me included here) we have to make do with needing internet to access our files.  Boo hoo!!

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

Backups, backups and more backups!!


Backups – the dirty word of IT. Everyone knows that you should have some but a lot of the time they don’t get taken as “stuff gets in the way”. But take a moment to think what would happen if you actually lost all your data.

I got called out to a client last week who runs a shop in Stirling. They have an EPOS system (Electronic Point of Sales) system which runs their tills. It turns out that their main system had suffered a hard drive failure and everything on the hard drive was now gone. Luckily the staff take backups of all the data on a daily basis and I take a separate backup off site once a week. After a couple of hours the system got rebuilt and they could continue to operate as normal. If the backups were not taken the shop would probably have gone out of business overnight as all their data from the last 10 years would have been lost.

Scary hey? So what is the best way to backup your data? There is no easy way to answer this as everyone and every company is different. One thing I can say with certainty though is that however you take backups you need to keep a copy offsite. The reason I say this is in the event that anything happens to your premises (think office fire for example) and your backups are destroyed you can still recover your files from the spare backups.

For this reason I use Dropbox.  Some people would rather use Box, OneDrive or Google Drive (even OneDrive for Business) but for me Dropbox has been around the longest and is well established plus it “just works”.  I like knowing that all my files are backed up automatically and that I can gain access to them from anywhere.

For people who don’t like the idea of storing their files online you can always backup to an onsite server, use NAS boxes (don’t buy cheap ones!!) or even use external hard drives.

The choice is yours but whatever you decide remember to keep your backups safe because chances are at some point you will need them!!

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


How not to move to the cloud

The cloud is great.  You can access all of your documents from anywhere, backups are stored offsite, applications can be run from the internet etc but and it is a BIG but you need to think the whole process through before you implement a cloud solution.  If you don’t you could end up in a right pickle.  This was evident with a client I had a meeting with last week.

The client has 10 employees, 5 of which are office based while the rest work remotely throughout Scotland.  They need all employees to have access to company files and to save any changes automatically.  The owner likes to dabble in his tech and decided to implement Dropbox for Business as he currently uses this for his own personal files.  I have implemented Dropbox for Business to a number of my clients and it does work well but in this case it would not be a good solution for his business.  If you read on you will understand why this is the case.

Problem No 1

Dropbox for Business costs $795 per year for upto 5 users.  The client didn’t check the limit on the number of users and so thought 10 users would cost the same as 5.  For 10 users it cost him $1420 per year.  Not checking the fine print cost him a lot more money than he had anticipated.

Problem No 2

Everyone needs access to the same files at the same time.  Dropbox can’t handle this as everytime you change the file locally it is synced with the online servers.  If everyone has access at the same time it would be difficult to keep track of which version of the file is current.  A vpn like LogMein Hamachi only allows one person to access a file at the same time hence no current version issues.  This would have been my suggestion to the client.

Problem No 3

The owner set himself up as the admin for Dropbox for Teams thinking he would be able to see everyone else’s files.  This is not the case.  As the admin you can set passwords, quotas etc but only the team member can see their individual files unless they share them.

Problem No 4

The office has 5 MB of broadband speed which could just about cope with the constant Dropbox synchronization but the Cat 5 cables can’t!! All office computers are connected to a 10/100 switch but all the cables are Cat 5 (10 Meg).  The owner didn’t understand why the network had started to grind to a halt since he setup Dropbox.

In this instance Dropbox (or any other online backup solution) doesn’t really work on its own.  What the client should have implemented was a central server which everyone in the office had access to coupled with a vpn solution (something like LogMein Hamachi) so remote workers could access the files they needed.  Dropbox could have been installed on the server to backup the files online rather than be used for file sharing as it was before.  The switch and cables should also be upgraded to Cat 6 and 10/100/1000 allowing for more bandwidth and if possible the client should also switch broadband provider to get a faster download speed (if possible).

The client in his haste implemented a solution which was not ‘fit for purpose’ and ended up costing him and his company a lot of money (and time).  I am still waiting to see if my recommendations will be implemented.

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, Falkirk and Clackmannanshire.

Follow @Comtech247 on Twitter



To cloud or not to cloud? That is the question

To cloud or not to cloud? This is a question I am getting frequently asked by clients and there is no right or wrong answer.  As with everything else it depends on what your circumstances are and whether it is feasible for you at that time.  For example if your broadband is only 1 Mb (which still happens in parts of Scotland) then going to a fully cloud based system for everything would not be a great idea.  On the other hand if your data is confidential and can’t be stored outside of the UK (for instance) then using a cloud based backup like Dropbox would not work as their servers are based in the US.

Apart from the internet in general small businesses rely on three, maybe four things to be productive. These are emails, productivity suites (eg Microsoft Office), backups and maybe databases. You can run onsite versions of all of them or you could choose to use the cloud versions instead.  Lets take a look at the differences.


Every business not matter what their size relies on emails. As a business you basically have two options – have an email server on site and host your own emails or you pay a company somewhere to host them for you.  Unless you have a large number of users and the onsite expertise I would recommend you pay a company to host your emails as this is usually the most cost effective way.  If you really need to keep control of your emails then you need an Exchange server and someone to maintain it which is not cheap.

Productivity Suites

At the moment chances are your business will be using some form of Microsoft Office.  The advantage of the desktop version is clear – you switch on your laptop or PC and you can edit files while being offline.  You don’t need an internet connection.  But what happens if you use a tablet, Linux, Mac or even a smartphone? This is where online productivity suites come in.  For a monthly fee you can access Office 365 or Google Docs (main two at the moment) through a web browser from any device.  You files are stored on either Google Drive or Skydrive which means so long as you have an internet connection you can access them. The obvious downside is that if you don’t have access to the internet you can’t use them, however both Office 365 and Google Docs have offline modes (to varying degreees) which minimise the impact.

Personally I like to keep a local version of a productivity suite (in my case Libreoffice) on my systems.  I do like the thought of accessing your files from anywhere which is why I use Dropbox (more on that later) but I like to edit them on a large monitor (call me old fashioned) using a mouse and keyboard.  If you or your business does a lot of document editing on the move (ie tablets, smartphones) then an online productivity suite might be right up your alley.


For me this is the big one.  I strongly encourage all of my clients to backup offsite and this is where cloud backups (like Dropbox) are ideal.  You backup all your files into a single folder which automatically syncs online.  The advantages should be clear cut.  If anything happens to your business premises then your files are stored securely online and you can easily access them from any device connected to the internet.  The disadvantages are that you pay a monthly fee for the previlege of having your files online and your data might be stored on servers which are located in countries you might not approve of.

There is nothing stopping you from using onsite backups (ie backup to a server which itself is backed up onsite) if that is what you want but you need to understand the risks.  If the premises burns down or is flooded you lose everything.  In this instance I would seriously take a look at online backups.


These can be online or onsite and again this depends on your circumstances.  Online databases give you the advantage of accessing them from anywhere without needing to use VPN’s.  If you are worried about data security then invest in an onsite server and a VPN solution to access the database from anywhere.

The cloud is here to stay and does offer some tremendous advantages like accessing you files from anywhere on any device. As with everything though it also has its disadvantages, mainly that if your broadband speed isn’t very fast your experience will be less than rosy. Don’t forget that if you lose the internet you cant access your files or emails either.  Choices choices!!

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





The rise of the Cloud Backup server

It usually starts with a meeting and this time was no different.  I got asked to a new clients offices last week to discuss networking up their infrastructure.  Now we are talking 6 laptops max with one remotely working from home.  Should be nice and easy.

So we get talking and it turns out that what they really need is to share files.  Up comes the topic of online storage and very swifty I am quoting them for a new Linux based server which will have Dropbox installed.  This way they can have one copy of all their files on site and another backed up to the cloud which they can access from anywhere.  This fits their requirements perfectly so the job is a good un.

I my last post I mentioned that I was installing more and more NAS boxes onsite for business clients but if I am honest I am probably installing more cloud backup servers (ie Linux or Windows servers whose main purpose is to synchorize files with Dropbox so the client has a full copy of their files onsite, and in one central location, should anything happen to the cloud provider). Now I choose Dropbox because I have used it for the last 5 years on my own systems and like the feature set, its security and you can access your Dropbox from anything with an internet connection.  Yes I could use Box, Google Drive, Microsoft Skydrive etc but I tend to stick with software I trust and in this case that is Dropbox.

With more and more people working away from the office accessing your files on the move is becoming very important to a lot of companies. Cloud based solutions have very much come of age and I am sure I will be asked to install lots more Cloud Backup servers for clients (depending of course on the broadband speed in their main office!!).  On the flip side there are still a lot of businesses who rely on either on site backups or in a lot of cases no backups whatsoever and it is these companies that risk losing all their data if the worst happens.

So what do you think? Are cloud backup servers here to stay? Do cloud backups have a future? Let me know.

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 where you will find a list of my services, testimonials, blog and much more!!


The good and not so good of using Cloud Backups

I had some spare time last week and decided to make use of it by testing disaster recovery when using cloud storage.  I was interested to see how long it would take to download files from Dropbox if a hard drive failed and I would have to replace it and reinstall the operating system.  A lot of small businesses are beginning to use Dropbox on a single system and using it to back up all their data so it would give me more insight in what could happen to them.

My system would be a desktop with Ubuntu 12.04 installed on a 500GB hard drive which I would wipe completely (simulating hard drive failure) and replace with Debian 6.  After installation I would then install Dropbox and see how long it took to sync all the files (in this case 200 GB).  My internet speed for this test was 13 Mb/sec.

So without waiting to see if Dropbox was synced (real world disaster scenario) I wiped the hard drive and set about installing Debian 6.  It didn’t matter what the new operating system was but I had Debian to hand and decided to use that. Installation went smoothly enough and then I set about reinstalling Evolution (email client) and Dropbox.  All the Evolution emails were backed up to Dropbox so I could either wait until the whole thing synced or go onto the Dropbox website and download them.  Website it was and the download took over an hour.  Once downloaded it was easy to restore and soon enough we had emails.

During this time Dropbox was quite happily downloading files from its servers (in this case 200 GB) but it was taking ages.  At one point the estimated time was 35 days!!!  This is the one major drawback when only using online services for data storage.  If you store a lot of data online and you need to download the whole lot it can take forever.  If that data happens to be business critical which you require instant access to then you will have problems unless your broadband speed is very high.

Another problem I encountered was that of bandwidth.  If you change the upload and download settings in Dropbox to maximum then your internet performance will suffer dramatically.  I tried to access my website on another system on the network and to say the performance was sluggish is an understatement.  At times it was unworkable so I adjusted the settings again but this had the effect of increasing the time it took for the files to be completely downloaded.  It is a tradeoff between requiring internet access and requiring access to all your files.

After 8 hours I had only downloaded 60GB.  I still had 140 GB to go.

So all in all what can I take away from this test?

1. If possible don’t have Dropbox installed on a single hard drive.  Recently I have been installing Debian Linux servers which are set up as RAID 1 onto which Dropbox is installed.  If one hard drive fails then the second takes over which means there is less chance of you needing to resync all your files.

2. Only sync the files that you need.  Keep all your business critical files in one or two folders in Dropbox so if your hard drive does fail you can quickly download the required files on another system and not have to wait for a complete resync.

3. Get the best broadband speed you can afford.  The faster the broadband speed the quicker your files can be downloaded.

4. Don’t rely on cloud backups alone.  Cloud storage is great for backing up all your files but when you don’t have access to your files (eg broadband outage, hard drive failure etc) it doesn’t really work.  I would seriously have a think about not keeping all your files on your laptop or desktop but instead keep a full copy on a dedicated server with Dropbox installed and RAID (RAID 1 minimum).  This way you can continue to access the files through Dropbox but when you lose the connection you can still access all your files locally.

Cloud storage is great but don’t get caught out when  you can’t access it.

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 where you will find a list of my services, testimonials, blog and much more.



How open source software is helping to run my business

Today I will show you the virtues of opensource software and how I am using it to run my business.

So what is Opensource software?

Opensource software is software that is written by developers (either individuals or companies) and then distributed freely to anyone who wants it (i.e no license fees).  You are then able to modify the software to your hearts content so that it does exactly what you want.  The developers get paid by providing support to companies that want it.

So what software do I use?

My main server

The bulk of the processing power behind ComTech is my main server running Ubuntu Server 12.04 with 8Gb of RAM.  Ubuntu is a Linux distribution (think Windows but free) that is easy to use and has virtually no virus problems (very handy that).  It is also very versatile in that it can be fine tuned to provide any service you want without having to pay extra license fees.


I run various desktops but not in the traditional sense.  I run them as virtual machines using Oracle Virtualbox.  Virtualbox allows me to run multiple operating systems at the same time on the same machine.  For example I do the bulk of my work on a Linux Mint 13 desktop (another Linux distribution which is very easy to use) but I also have Windows 7, Windows XP and Windows Vista virtual desktops ready to be fired up when the need arises.  If I need to test a piece of software on Windows 7 I would fire up the Windows 7 virtual machine, test the software and then shut it back down again.  All of this is done on one machine which in this case is my main server.  Virtualbox is a very handy piece of software and guess what it is also free!!

Word Processing (productivity in general)

I use a piece of software called Libreoffice (think Microsoft Office but without the license fee).  It looks and feels (for the most part) like you are using Office and is fully compatible with Office so any document you create in Libreoffice can be opened up and edited in Office itself.


I have an Edimax MFN print server set up which allows my HP Deskjet F380 printer (old but still going strong) to be shared across the network to any system without the need to be attached to a computer (attaches to the router instead).  It works flawlessly with my Linux operating systems but still has issues with Windows 7 (which I haven’t ironed out yet!!).


I have an Asus Eeepc 701 SD netbook which I bought back in 2008 to use when solving IT issues at clients premises.  The specs on the netbook aren’t great however it runs Lubuntu 12.04 (another Linux distribution – see a pattern?) and has bombproof build quality (it has been dropped multiple times and is kid proof!!).  It is perfect for configuring routers, checking wireless connectivity or browsing the internet.  I am even writing this blog on it while sitting in a coffee shop in Stirling.


I don’t like Internet Explorer – fact.  I find it has too many configurable items which if configured incorrectly can really bugger up a system.  Don’t like the interface either so instead I use either Mozilla Firefox or Google Chrome.  Now Firefox is fully opensource while Chrome is classed as freeware which is slightly different.  Either way both are superior to Internet Explorer in  my experience.


I am anal when it comes to backups (it is my job so I have to).  I have an onsite backup server running FreeNAS and also employ online strorage using Dropbox.  FreeNAS is fully opensource and is an operating system specifically designed for backing up data and runs on pretty much any piece of hardware ever made.  I have it running on a Pentium 4 machine with 512 Mb of RAM and it has quite happily been supping electric in the corner for the last two years with no issues.  Dropbox on the other hand is proprietary software where you pay a monthly subscription.  While it is not opensource I have yet to find a product which comes close to it.


Every computer needs a firewall and my systems are no different.  I have chosen to go down the Linux Firewall distribution route which basically installs an operating system onto a spare computer and in effect turns it into a hardware firewall.  My firewall of choice at the moment is Smoothwall Express 3.0 which I run in a virtual machine (don’t have any spare computers lying around).  It is even configured to boot whenever the server restarts thereby not leaving my systems unprotected.  By using a Firewall distribution I can protect my entire network rather than only individual systems.

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 where you will find a list of my services, testimonials, blog and much more.

A day in the life of my Blackberry Playbook

As regular readers of this blog would know – I love my Blackberry Playbook.  Yes it has its quirks, the same as everything else, but it complements my other gadgets for getting my daily work done.  Today I will take you through a typical day and show you how it does.

General Web Browsing

Up at 7 and put the kettle on.  Then switch on Playbook to check out the BBC News website while not fully awake.  Eat cereals while generally swiping through the news.  This is the bread of butter of the Playbook experience – browsing on the Playbook is the same visually as browsing on a desktop (no mobile browser here).  It is effortless to swipe through the pages and generally a pleasure to use.

Taking notes when with clients

I used to carry a notepad and pen to jot down notes when I was with clients.  Now I take the Playbook and fire up DocsToGo and just type instead.  This allows me to store the information and then retrieve it later when back in the office and making up invoices.  Yes I could use specific note taking apps but I have never seen the need to.  Looks professional too!!

Business Networking

You are business networking with someone when they ask what exactly do you do?  After the usual spiel I then show them the website through the Playbook where they see my qualifications and testimonials (amongst other things).  Because of the 7″ size it fits in my pocket during these meetings and can be pulled out when required.

Updating my social media

Everyday I am tweeting, blogging or facebooking.  The Playbook allows me to post from anywhere (yes I could do it on a smartphone but the Playbook screen is bigger!!) so I am not restricted to the office.  I have ordered a new bluetooth keyboard (hopefully arrives soon) and coupled with the new bluetooth mouse I should now be quicker typing and therefore more productive (at the moment I am much quicker on a PC).

Accessing my blog

I have an awful memory (just ask my wife) so I write things down to remember them and this was the basis of starting my blog.  I learn something new and write down the steps in a blog which allows me to access them at a later date.  Using the Playbook I can be reading the steps from the blog in one hand while typing the commands on a clients laptop / PC using the other.  This has been an invaluable asset multiple times.  Couple this with the ability to use the internet connection form my Blackberry smartphone and I can then access my blog from anywhere using 3G.

Accessing my files

Through the Playbook I am able to access all my work files through Dropbox.  This allows me to find the customer address or telephone number that I require.  Priceless!!


Someone rings up for a quote for repairs and asks when I am available to take a look at their laptop.  One problem – my calender is on my phone.  With the Playboook I can use Blackberry Bridge which allows me to view my emails and calender, which are stored on my Blackberry smartphone, on my Playbook over bluetooth.  So I am able to check my calender on the Playbook whilst on the phone to the customer. Nice feature!!

So there you have it.  The Blackberry Playbook has become an integral part of my business and yes I could have bought an iPad but they they are bigger and more expensive.  The Playbook does just fine and for the times it can’t do the job I still have my trusty Asus Eeepc 701!!!

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 where you will find a list of my services, testimonials, blog and much more.





Today I am going to introduce you to a different way of sharing files.  That way is Dropbox.  Dropbox is a piece of software that allows you to store all your files, securely, online.  With your files stored online  you can then access them from anywhere with an internet connection.

How does Dropbox work?

Dropbox installs a folder onto your computer during initial set up.  Anything you store inside that folder is then automatically synchronised with the Dropbox online servers allowing you to access your files from anywhere.  It is that simple.  You can run Dropbox on Windows, Linux and Mac which allows easy set up of a cross platform network.  It can also provide a solution when accessing network resources from tablets too.

How much does it cost?


You get 2 Gb free.  It costs $9.99 for 100 Gb or $19.99 for 200Gb.  All these prices are per month.


For business Dropbox charges $795 for 5 users with additional users costing $125.  These prices are per year.  For this you get 1 Tb of storage space with 200 Gb added for every user.

So what are the advantages and disadvantages?


1. Folders are synchronised automatically.

2. Allows file sharing across multiple platforms.

3. Files can be accessed from anywhere with an internet connection.

4. Very easy to set up.

5. You get 2Gb free!!


1.. Bandwidth.  If you upload large numbers of files or big files then you are going to use up your ISP allowance very quickly.

2. Your data is being stored off your premises and looked after by someone else.

Personally I use Dropbox as a sharing and backup solution and in both cases I am very impressed by it.

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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