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IT and humans – not a good combination

We like to think that humans are top of the tree.  Our brains make us superior to animals (sometimes I do wonder) and allow us to accomplish some truely amazing things.  This ability can also be a liability – especially when it comes to IT.

Let me explain what I am rambling on about. We live in the digital age where technology is advancing so fast that a lot of us struggle to keep up with recent developments (myself included).  Most of us have mobile phones more powerful than the computers on the Apollo Missions or tablets which look like something out of Star Trek but not all of us know how to work them.  Into this arena come the people who have some knowledge about technology but not as much as they think.

I met such a person recently.  They were having issues with a laptop running Windows 7 which they used for their home business.  It had been getting progressively slower with frequent crashes over the last month and they had been told by a friend that this was possibly due to a virus.  So after reading up about viruses they went about installing three antivirus programs to find it (they were running nothing to start with).  After much swearing and still no virus they decided to reinstall from scratch without thinking about backups. They thought that if they did a factory reset it would only effect Windows and not their data.  Needless to say they had a shock when Windows started and all their data had been lost.

It turned out that the client had a faulty hard drive and not a virus but because they hadn’t thought through the consequences of their actions all their data was lost.  Guess who got the blame when I couldn’t retrieve it!!

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

When should you call in the professionals?


Everyone likes to dabble in a bit of DIY sometimes and computers are no different.  When the computer ‘breaks’ a lot of people will tinker with it without realising they are actually making it worse.  So when should you call in the professionals?

I had a call from a gentleman once who said that his computer wasn’t booting up and asked if I could take a look.  Once onsite I asked the usual questions; what exactly is the problem, when did it start etc to which to uttered the immortal words “everything was working fine until I took out all the fans!!” It turns out that the fans (it was a gaming PC so he had two in the case) had both become very noisy so the gentleman decided to make it quieter by taking them both out.  Consequently the system had overheated and would not boot up.  I am guessing the build up of dust within the system (vents were also blocked) didn’t help his cause either.

There was a business I used to deal with who had a server within a cupboard which they allowed me to have a look at once.  They didn’t want me to touch it as they were happy with it the way it was.  I asked them “What exactly is the server doing?” as at that time it wasn’t very obvious to which they replied “We think it is taking backups”.  I am not making this up.  A couple of months later one of the laptops died (hard drive) and the client lost all the data on it.  It turns out the server wasn’t even connected to the network!!

But one of the best ones I have come across was the business who’s IT support was a friend of a friend “who knew about computers”.  The companies network had wifi which had no encryption, a Windows 2008 server sitting in the corner of the office which he hadn’t got around to installing just yet, a mixture of Vista, XP and 7 systems (all home versions) and everyone backing up to pensticks!! It took a while, and quite a bit of money to get them up to an acceptable level which allowed them to carry out their daily tasks and secure the network.

So next time you think about ‘tinkering’ with your systems please remember one thing. Don’t touch them unless you know what you are doing as you might just be making things worse, not better!!

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

 

 

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

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

 

 

The need for IT documentation


Imagine a network with 20 computers all connected to the internet through a router.  Someone purchases a laptop and requires the encryption key for the wireless network.  You ask around and no one has it and because all the computers have a wired connection you can’t get it off them either.  You think no problem I will connect to the router and get it that way but hey what is the username and password for the router? Sound familiar?

There is one thing that the majority of people working in the IT industry hate and that is documenting their work.  The problem is that a lot of them don’t do it or do it badly and this is an issue.  The issue arises when one IT technician leaves and another comes in and has no idea how the network has been configured.  They will have to check all the configurations themselves before they do any work and this takes time.  Documenting itself does take time but it has the following benefits:

1. You know exactly how the network or system is configured so you can get straight to troubleshooting a problem.

2. Documentation gives you a baseline from which to work.  When you have a baseline in place you can easily tell when something is wrong with the system or network.

3. If you leave and someone else takes over you will make it substantially easier for them to know how the system is set up.

4. Very easy to locate passwords for such things as wireless encryption (this can also be a bad thing too).

5. Easier to manage ongoing maintenance.  You know what has already been done.

Having good documentation in place makes a strong business case as it will save you time and also money.

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.

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