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Where do you work?

Working outdoors

I was having a meeting with someone (lets call him Jeff) over coffee last week when the topic got onto where we actually do our work. Jeff is your typical office worker who has an office with 2 PC’s, 2 printers and is in the office at 9am on the dot and does not leave until 6pm at the earliest. For 90% of his time he is bound to his desk as he thinks he is more productive that way. If that works for him I am not going to knock it but then we got talking about me.

My style of working is completely different to Jeff’s. I have set up ComTech to be a mobile business (just look at the top picture) which means I am not tied to a desk all day unless I choose to be. I have an office setup with my lovely iMac and multiple monitors but I also have a mobile setup which allows me to work from anywhere when the weather is nice or I just fancy a change of scenery. “But how can you help your clients if you are half way up a hill somewhere?” was Jeff’s response to this.

My mobile setup consists of the following:

  1. EE myfi (4G) and Three myfi (3G) which covers my internet needs.
  2. Lenovo 10 inch Android tablet and Acer Chromebook for actually doing the work.
  3. Teamviewer for remote access and Pulseway for remote monitoring of my clients systems
  4. Ankar powerpack for tablet and myfi (Chromebook has 12 hours of battery life)

This setup has proved it’s worth time and again and multiple clients have been helpt when I am out and about. It is a standing joke with a lot of my clients that they ask “Where are you today then?” before they tell me what their problem is!!

I am not saying this approach works for everything and yes there are times when I have to sit at a desk to finish a piece of work or project but it gives me the flexibility to choose how and where I do my work. In almost 7 years of business I have never failed to respond to a client with the SLA of 4 hours and I am usually much quicker than this. For those times when boots are required on the ground the car is never that far away either.

Like I said earlier this approach works for me and makes my work / life balance more enjoyable but it may not work for everyone so lets start the conversation. What works for you?

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

Should broadband now be classed as a right?

Should broadband now be classed as a right? This is something I have been asked by quite a few people recently and to be honest I am still undecided. You see the problem is when I think of rights I think of shelter, food, water and that kind of stuff. People wanting to access their Facebook page and access to the internet in general doesn’t come in to it.

There is a problem here though, and it is a BIG problem, everything these days revolves around the internet in some shape or form. Everything that effects our daily life – food, money, transport etc is affected by the internet in some way so even if you aren’t online yourself you can guarantee that the things you use will have been influenced by it. Perhaps I am being narrow minded thinking people only want to use the internet for social reasons and should instead look at it as a tool to provide better opportunities for everyone.

So with more and more services going online are people without access to broadband being left behind? Probably is the answer to that but is the answer to give broadband the same status as shelter, food and water? I’m still not sure but if it does get it then enormous amounts of broadband investment is needed.

Discuss!!!!

 

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

Is it possible to have too much security on your systems?

Just going to throw this one out there today. Yes we all know that having security on our systems is a good thing but is it possible to have too much?

The reason I ask is that I came across a situation recently where a client had so much security on their systems that it impacted on the daily running of their business and actually made them less secure.

Let me explain. The client in question has a server environment with multiple group policies running and no IT support. The office manager was the onsite “help”. These group policies cover everything from which wallpaper you can have on your desktop to how long your passwords must be and how complex. The problem was there were too many of them and they were conflicting which meant that some users could do one thing whilst others couldn’t. The allowed passwords were so complex that the users had to write them down to remember them (security breach waiting to happen) and when they forgot the manager would be called on to reset them which in some cases could be multiple times per week!!

The owner was obsessed with securing their data and systems to the point they had forgotten one major rule – if you tighten your security that much users won’t be able to do anything!!!

I am all for securing data and client systems but I won’t ever secure them to the point of where my clients are unable to use them effectively. If the client can’t use them to run their business efficiently whilst still being secure then I aren’t doing my job right. There has to be a compromise.

So what do you think dear reader? Can you have to much security on your systems?

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

Having a data breach is easy than you think

Data breach. Those two words should send a shiver down any business owners spine whenever they hear them. If it happens it means someone has access to your data, passwords and who knows what else making it a very scary prospect. This is why you should always take maximum precautions to make sure it doesn’t happen to you but how easy is it to have a data breach? Actually easier than you think.

When I work from home I have an old HP 3050 Deskjet setup in the office for printing. Using HP e-print I can print from my phone, tablet and of course the laptops and MacBook. My wife’s phone is also setup too. Everything was working great until last week.

I got a text from my wife on Friday saying she had just sent a document to the printer and the app on her phone said it had printed but the printer, whilst turned on, had not printed anything. I text her back saying I would take a look when I got back home. Before I even got in the door our neighbour came around and handed me a piece of paper which Tash had printed to their printer next door!!!

It turns out our neighbours had got a new HP printer and setup HP e-print using the default settings meaning anyone could print to their printer (even if you are not on their network). Since HP e-print works using email addresses you only have to be online. When my wife searched for our printer she had mistakenly picked the wrong one and her document had printed next door. Since the document was of no real value this wasn’t a big issue but it could have been.

You see us humans are the weakest links in any security policy. We leave passwords on screens, don’t shred confidential data, tell people our passwords and generally make securing a network an absolute nightmare. The problem tends to be we need the network to be secure but don’t want the hassle involved in securing it.

Next time you think all this security stuff is too much hassle remember you can either be secure or you can have convenience but unfortunately not both.

And me? I am off for a chat with the wife.

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

 

Life doesn’t end with no internet

I had a strange experience this weekend whilst camping with the family down in Kirkcudbright. Let me explain.

Recently I have noticed on my travels around Scotland that the mobile network is gradually improving to such a point that I now get 4G in so many more places than just 12 months ago. This is great for mobile working as I can now login to my clients systems much easier and much quicker without the need to park up and “find some signal”.

At the weekend though I had nothing. No bars on the phone (EE) and no internet whatsoever. I even tried by backup (Three) who are getting progressively better in Scotland and absolutely nothing there either. Here I was on a campsite in Dumfries and Galloway with absolutely no signal and for once this didn’t bother me. It was my reaction of “whatever I’m on hols” which surprised me if I am honest. I am so used to being online 247 checking the news, Facebook, Linkedin, Twitter, emails and general browsing that I had forgotten how satisfying it was just to relax and get away from it all. With no signal on my phone I didn’t have the chance to check my online stuff which made it even more satisfying.

We are so used to being “connected” online 247 that the thought of missing something important is too much for some people to bear. Going around with our heads in our phones checking our Facebook status’ and the like detaches us from what is actually going on around us.

Turn your phone off once in a while and lift your head up and see what is around you. You may find you like 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

Another week and another ransomware attack

It has been a busy week here at ComTech HQ.  We have had another client whose network got hit with ransomware and this time it was Cryptolocker.  All the machines had McAfee installed, however Cryptolocker somehow uninstalled McAfee off three of the PC’s on the network and then ran riot. Luckily the client noticed pretty quick something was up and when they rang me I told them to switch off their network until I came across basically limiting further contamination.

This client was very lucky as they had Dropbox which allows for account rollback (just incase things like this happen) so all their files could be retrieved. It does take time to get the account rolled back so in the meantime there has been some inconvenience to the client but it could have been a lot worse.

This is the 6th such attack I have seen in the last 3 months alone (Locky and Cryptolocker being the biggest culprits) and whilst most clients have been able to recover their files unfortunately a large minority haven’t.

Your best defence is always not to get infected in the first place but that is better said than done.  Failing that backups are your next line of defence against this type of threat but more specifically offsite backups. Your offsite backups can be as simple as an external hard drive that is kept away from the office but better still are cloud based backups like Dropbox, OneDrive, Google Drive etc.  These allow you to fully automate your backups which gives you the piece of mind your files are safe online if anything happens.

So next time you think I don’t have time to take backups ask yourself one question “How long would my business survive if all my files got encrypted?”

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

Technology and the work life balance

Anyone who follows me on Facebook will know too well that I hate staying indoors.  Every weekend I am skiing (or in my case snowboarding) with the kids, rock climbing, walking up the mountains or throwing myself down a hill on the mountain bike.  Recently this has now started creeping into the working week too.  Let me explain.

I can solve most of my clients day to day issues from my phone using either Teamviewer or Pulseway. These two pieces of software form the basis of my remote working and without them it would not be possible.  For more complicated issues requiring a bigger screen I have a laptop in my car along with mobile wifi which I am never more than 45 mins from.  This setup allows me to do the things I enjoy (when I am quiet) whilst still providing support to my clients.  I have lost count of the number of times I have been “in the wilds” and fixed a clients issue within 10 mins from my phone.

It is not only me that is aiming for a better work life balance though.  I have clients that only work afternoons whilst some only do mornings.  I know of people whose “offices” are coffee shops with free wifi and others who work from home.  Gone are the days where everyone has to be in an office 9 – 5 and the reason – technology.

Most homes have broadband speeds that eclipse a lot of offices.  A lot of applications are now accessed through a website whilst emails can be accessed from anywhere.  Need a meeting – theres an app for that too!!

So next time you are stuck in an office on a warm day remember one thing, there is a better way!!

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

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

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

Viruses and hacking – horrible things

Computer viruses are nasty things at the best of times but I have felt a bit under siege recently. In the last two weeks alone I have had to deal with:

1. The Locky ransomware which encrypted a Windows 10 PC, network shares on a Linux server along with the Dropbox backups. It also started to encrypt another Dropbox account which had a shared folder with the master account.

2. A trojan which allowed an attacker to get on to a system and change email settings and give themselves remote control of the system without any client intervention whatsoever.  They even intercepted the clients telephone call to hotmail (number searched for on Google) when the client realised something was wrong.

3. Another potential Locky ransomware attack which luckily was spotted by the antivirus.

4. A trojan which attacked Google Chrome and locked the system.  All the client could see was an error message saying their ip address was now blocked due to suspicious activity and they should ring the number below to get it sorted.

As you can see it has been a bit busy!!

The best defence against these types of attack is of course not to get hit in the first place.  Don’t open suspicious emails (and attachments) or even emails from people you don’t know.  Make sure your antivirus is working and fully updated and as always be aware of which websites you are viewing.

One last thing – backups.  In the case of the first Locky Ransomware attack the client had backups on Dropbox which allowed them to roll back the account and recover their files.  Without this they would have lost everything.  Backups are essential in the fight against viruses and hackers so make sure you have some!!!

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

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

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

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