ComTech: IT Support Stirling

When is the right time to upgrade my IT?

I have a problem and I am guessing a lot of you will have had the same problem at some point. You see my tech kit (ie laptops, Mac etc) is starting to get old and I think I might be getting to the point where they need upgrading to something newer and faster.  That however is not the problem – the problem is I don’t really want to spend the money right now but when IS the right time?

I am a big believer in if it ain’t broke then don’t fix it and this has served me well in the past.  I don’t believe you should just upgrade something because there is a newer, shiner, faster model on the market but I also don’t believe you should keep an old server going well past its sell by date just because it works either and on very old software (Server 2003 anyone?).

Finding the balance can be very tricky and in a lot of cases gets overshadowed by running a business and making money instead. I have lost count of the number of times I have had conservations with clients along the lines of “The kit is working at the moment so we shall leave it alone and fix it later”.  In one case their server died a month later!!

So back to the problem – when is the best time to upgrade your systems? When they aren’t doing what you need.  If it is taking longer to open files, access emails, or running outdated software like Windows Vista this is a green light for upgrading.  If your server is on its last legs or you aren’t confident your backups aren’t working properly this would also be a good time.

Remember if your systems fail you can’t do any work and as we all know time is money.

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

A couple of things to think about before switching to Mac

Mac’s are great.  Yes they are expensive but for your money you get a fantastic design, intuitive interface and a system which (in general) tends to be free of viruses.  But moving to a Mac is not as simple as buying one and switching it on.  If you are thinking of making the switch I would strongly suggest you consider the following:


Why exactly are you making the switch?

Is it because a friend told you they were better than Windows machines or is there some business reason behind it? Make sure you understand the why before you spend your hard earned.


Mac’s are much more expensive than Windows systems.

You would be surprised how many people still don’t understand the difference in price before they purchase one.  Also bear in mind that although Mac’s tend to break less than Windows machines (in general) repair costs tend to be much higher.  Most techs, myself included, don’t tend to fix Mac hardware issues just software ones.  This means the machine goes back to Apple who ramp up the repair cost.


Make sure your Windows programs actually work on Mac’s.  

This is the one thing which catches most people out.  Windows programs do not work on Mac’s.  The software you use might have have a Mac variant (eg Microsoft Office) which can be used but a lot of programs still don’t (eg ACT!).  I know of one company in Stirling who were advised by an IT guy to purchase 4 new iMac’s because “they are much better than Windows PC’s” only to discover during the installation that none of their accounting software worked. The solution was to run Windows as a virtual machine which kind of defeats the purpose of buying the Mac in the first place!!!


You can get viruses and malware on a Mac. 

Yes you read that correct.  Is it possible to get them but not that often as most viruses and malware are still written for Windows.  If your system interacts with Windows machines (eg on a work network) I would suggest running some form of antivirus as you might inadvertently be passing viruses around the network even though they can’t infect your system.


Lastly it is not Windows!! 

The interface and keyboard are different.  You will have to relearn how to access your documents, use shortcuts and even use the delete key (shift + backspace).  This does take time and patience.

So hopefully the above has given you a couple of things to think about before taking the plunge.  What I usually tell clients is that if you are Windows based then stay with Windows.  It is what you know and unless there is a business reason for changing why change?

Yes Mac’s are great but if it isn’t broke then don’t fix it!!

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





Mac’s can break too

I am finding that more and more of my clients are looking towards buying Macs for their businesses. Some like the design, others the functionality while others have been told that Mac’s are much better than Windows machines in that they never break.  It is that last bit I have issues with.

You see it is true (generally) that Mac’s last longer than Windows machines, whether it be laptops or PC’s, but they are not without problems of their own.  I have seen MacBook’s lose their wifi connection on a regular basis and need new wireless cards installed (I have had this on my own system).  Then there are the hard drives that die on relatively new systems and of course screens get damaged just like a Windows system.  When some piece of hardware does go it gets VERY expensive as most tech’s (myself included) don’t deal with Apple hardware which means you go back to Apple and they ramp up the repair price.

People expect Mac’s to be superior to Windows systems and in some respects they are.  For example there are much less options for a someone to tinker with when compared to a Windows system (unless of course you open up a terminal) which means that your average user can’t go and break anything by accident.  On a windows system this is much easier to do but on the flip side this means that Windows systems tend to be more configurable.

This expectation that Mac’s are better also transfers across to the quality of the hardware.  “Macs don’t break” is something I have heard a lot of during the last couple of years and it is simply not true.  Yes they do break but they also tend to break less.

So if you are looking to purchase a new Mac do yourself a favour and take out that lovely expensive Apple Care as chances are you might need it at some point.

Comments welcome as always.

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


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


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


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


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


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 encryption can be a double edged sword

Encryption is great. Once a laptop or PC is encrypted anyone who steals them can’t access your files by simply pulling out the hard drive and plugging it into a different system. Unless you know the password you are stumped. This is the main reason I tend to encrypt all my clients systems.

But there are some pretty big limitations when using encryption on a system which I have found over the years.  These observations are based on using Truecrypt and might be different with other products.

1. You can no longer access a system at boot.  You need to type the encryption password when the system starts and this can be a pain when you are remotely supporting a system. Unless there is someone physically on site you will not be able to gain access.

2. Forget doing a system restore on an encrypted volume on a Windows system.  I tested this one yesterday on my own systems as I need to restore a clients system to a point before the encryption was put on and this is something I have never needed to do.  I now have a nice shiny brick in the form of a laptop sitting on my desk.  I have also seen system restores that would not have affected the encryption that have still caused issues on Windows systems. You have been warned!!

3. When you come across a Windows system that will not boot you will have to decrypt the system first before you can do anything.  This can takes hours (have seen one laptop take 7 hours to decrypt a 160 GB hard drive before).

4. What happens when you don’t do backups and the hard drive fails? You can’t really call this a limitation of encryption but rather a failure on the part of the user or company to see the value of backups.  If your hard drive starts to fail and you can’t decrypt it in time you will lose all your files. I never implement encryption unless I am happy there is some form of backup strategy in place.

5. Finally what happens if you forget your encryption password? You lose access to all the files that have been encrypted, for ever.

If you weigh up the pro and cons of using encryption the advantages would usually still win. If you do implement encryption though be aware of the limitations.

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





All else being equal would you rather support Mac’s or Windows machines?

This is a question I got asked by a potential new client a couple of weeks back (I was surprised as I never get asked what I would like!!).  They were looking at introducing a couple of new iMacs into their business and were looking for opinions on whether they would be easy to support.

Personally I like the way that from an end user point of view Macs have limited options on what you can configure. Apple decides what is best and for the most part they get it right.  If you are coming from a Windows world they can seam very alien (where is my delete button!!) but once you get used to them they do “just work”.

From a support point of view Macs can be a double edged sword.  Yes they “just work” which usually means you will spend less time fixing software issues but if any hardware starts playing up you will end up sending them back to Apple.  If you don’t have Apple care then expect big bills and also don’t forget the downtime in waiting for them to be fixed.  In a Windows world hardware fails and it usually gets fixed the same day and repair costs are in a different league.

Another thing to think about is centralised management. Active Directory and Group Policy make managing a Windows network very easy. I know you can add both Linux and Mac machines to Active Directory but my understanding is that you can’t control the settings as much (please correct me if I am wrong).

So personally I would say all else being equal I would rather support Mac’s on a smaller network but when it comes to the bigger ones keep it simple and stick with what you know. In this case that would be Windows.

Then there is the topic of Android and iOS devices but that is for another day!!

About the Author


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

Follow @Comtech247 on Twitter


Springfield House, Laurelhill Business Park, Stirling, FK7 9JQ Tel No: 01786 406448

   Welcome to ComTech

ComTech_12Computers are everywhere these days and here at ComTech we know how valuable IT is to your business.

Established in Stirling adjacent to the majestic Ochil Hills since April 2010 ComTech provides IT Support to small businesses throughout Scotland. Even though we are based in Stirling we have clients in Glasgow, Perth, Edinburgh and as far afield as Inverness.  Here at ComTech we are not afraid to travel!!

Whether your servers go down, your laptop stops working or your router is no longer functioning correctly ComTech is willing, but more importantly able, to fix your problems and get your systems back up and running as quickly as possible.ComTech_Roadtrip

Our engineers are fully qualified and experienced in Cisco, Windows, Linux and OS X and have more than enough knowledge to fix any issues that you might have.

In the beginning ComTech was founded on one main principal “Provide the customer with the quality and service they expect” and that still rings true today.

Our clients range from home businesses to 25 employees or more but it doesn’t matter what size you are as every business is treated equally and will receive the same level of service.

We a very ‘social company’ so why not drop by on either Twitter or Facebook and say hi.  It is always good to meet new people!!

Here at ComTech “WE MAKE IT HAPPEN”

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Is Android finally a viable alternative as a desktop OS?

I read a post a couple of weeks ago by a fellow member of a LinkedIN group who was asking  “Can Android replace Windows on the Desktop?” (Thanks for posting Alex) to which I replied no.  I was then asked the same question by a client last week which made me reassess my answer.

To fully answer the question I decided to have a look at what hardware was available at the moment. After a quick google search I came across the new HP Slate 21 Pro and the new Lenovo N308.  The Lenovo is more home orientated while the HP is aimed straight at the business user.  Looking at these two offerings I am beginning to understand why people (and maybe small businesses) might be taking the Android on the desktop seriously.

Android is king (at the moment) of the smartphone wars.  It is very intuitive to use and you can get an app for almost anything through Google Play.  In the home people are switching from the more traditional laptop and PC to tablets and smartphones and most of these run Android.  It would not be a huge leap to start running an Android PC in the workplace as chances are the user would be already familiar with the interface.  Bring Your Own device (BYOD) is alive and well in the business world so a user wanting to work on an Android device is a real possibility.

Now it does all depend on what you do on a daily basis.  If you spend most of your time using web based applications and emails then an Android device could well be the device of choice (or even a Chromebook?), however if you spend all day using Microsoft Office to produce documents and spreadsheets then maybe Android wont do (Office wont run on Android for example).  There are alternatives like Office 365 which is web based and Kingsoft Office which can produce documents just fine but they aren’t “traditional Office” and to some people that is all that matters.

Then there is the little matter of printing.  Printing from a laptop or PC is a doddle but on an Android device it can be a bit cumbersome.  Saying that HP have a cracking app called HP ePrint which allows you to print to any HP wireless printer but not all printer manufacturers provide Android printing support (please correct me if I am wrong).

Another thing to think about is the hold that Microsoft has at the moment in the business space.  To the best of my knowledge Android and Active Directory are not the best of friends and don’t play nicely.  You can administer Active Directory from an Android device but it doesn’t work the other way.  If your IT infrastructure includes Active Directory then this might be a game stopper.

So what is the answer to the question “Is Android finally a viable alternative as a desktop OS?”

The answer is yes it is, however saying that it may not be the best OS for your current working environment.

 About the Author


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

Follow @Comtech247 on Twitter


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