Beware When Googling for Software!

I have witnessed this happening to people first hand. A lot of times my clients come to me with a machine that was functioning fine that day, but a seemingly innocuous search for some popular software had them click a link and that was it…the machine was infected with malware.

Here is a common example: You would like to try Firefox as a browser. So you decide to Google for it. The first link that shows up in the search results says “Firefox 100% free, Click Here!”. Unfortunately you do and the download you were expecting was not the one you got.

Now the malware on your machine can be no more that nuisance or it can be downright nasty. Either way, you would rather not have it on your machine. Checking for malware is well cited in my guide to keeping your computer running well.

My advice is if you know the name of the software you are trying to look for, look for the companies website in the link:

In this example, a search result for Firefox brought a few results. Notice the top results are not legitimate. That is why you really need to read carefully before you click. You just may save yourself several hours of headache afterwards.

If you would like any tips please Contact Me or follow me on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn or Google+

Dan

Why you Should get Professional IT Support Even Though you Don’t Have an IT Staff

Have a professional do the heavy lifting....

A lot of organizations are not large enough to have an IT staff member let alone an IT department. Even though this is the case for a lot companies, it still doesn’t mean you should be without professional IT support. If you are a small technical firm whose product is software or web design etc., maybe you could get along without a professional IT partner. However, if you are a small to medium size accounting firm or manufacturing concern, you should at least have an IT pro doing the heavy lifting, like maintenance on servers or major changes to the network or security. I came across a great article on Linked In that explains exactly this issue. You might save in the short term but it may come to haunt years down the road.

If you have a personal, small or medium sized business and you would like your infrastructure assessed by an IT professional, let me know. I can give you some pointers and if some work needs to be done, I am here to help.

Reach Out to Me

Why you Don’t Facebook about your Job

Don't Facebook about your Job.

It may seem like common sense but using Facebook to flame your boss or work colleagues to your “Friends” could come back to haunt you. You may have been having a bad day and need to blow off a little steam but unfortunately this is not a good way to do it. Here are some reasons why:

1.  It is unprofessional – This may be a stop on a long career in the field you have chosen but acting unprofessional on Facebook may not help  you.

2. You don’t know who your Facebook friends have as friends – Have you ever looked at all of your friends on Facebook to see who they know? Probably not, it would take forever. So when you post something, you really aren’t sure who is going to see it. Even if you separate non-work related friends on Facebook and work- related friends on LinkedIn you are still not 100% sure.

3. It’s just not nice – Have you ever hear your Mom say “If you have nothing nice to say about someone, say nothing at all”. Enough said.

I tell a lot of people in this digital age the most important commodity is your privacy. You can Google pretty much anybody. There are companies whose job it is to search the Internet and make sure their clients online representation is in check. If you do not want something to come back to haunt you, don’t post it. It is probably your safest bet.

If you are upset about work in some way, it is probably better to step away from the keyboard until you have calmed down a bit and let cooler heads prevail. You will never regret that….

Going Abroad? How about Unlocking your iPhone?

Unlocked iPhone

I had to help with this the other day and I thought I would share. Apparently if your are going abroad to places like Europe it is cheaper to buy a SIMM card and use it in your unlocked phone then to purchase an overseas phone and data package from your North American carrier.

In this case I had to unlock two Rogers iPhones. It is a fairly straight forward process but a bit lengthy. I will share the process and you can decide if it is something you want to do.

Step #1 – Backup your iPhone

Plug your iPhone into your computer (This assumes you already have iTunes installed and use it at least every once and awhile). iTunes may ask you to update itself which you might as well do since you will need to do eventually. Now if you have the phone set to automatically sync, it should backup during the sync. If you are not sure, click the iPhone button at the top right of your main iTunes screen. You will then see this screen:

screenshot

The latest backup will show on this screen. You can manually backup by clicking the “Backup Now” Button. I will let you decide where the backup should be stored (On your computer or iCloud) and whether or not to encrypt the backup.

Step #2 – Call Your Carrier and Have the Phone Unlocked

Once you have the phone backed up, call your carrier and tell them you want the phone unlocked. They will go through the process of verifying your identity. They will ask you what your iPhone number is and your IMEI. It is a 15 digit code and you can get it by going to Settings / General / About on your phone. They need to send this info to the Apple server for unlocking. Now the fun begins……

Step #3 – Restore your iPhone

Now you have to restore your iPhone to default settings. With your iPhone still plugged in to iTunes, Click “Restore iPhone” and it will ask you if you are sure since it will be wiping everything from the phone. You have already backed the phone up so you have nothing to worry about, right? It will take some time to restore the phone and if the iPhone is due for an iOS update it won’t wipe the phone until the update has been done. Depending on how busy the Apple server is and the speed of your internet connection, this process can take anywhere form 20 minutes to several hours, so get comfortable…..

Step #4 – Restore from Backup

Once you have restored your iPhone to default settings, iTunes will notify you that this has been done and that the phone is unlocked, hooray! We are almost there. Since the iPhone is reset, iTunes will ask you if you want to set up the iPhone as new (don’t do this) or restore from Back up. Choose the most recent backup from the dropdown list and then click restore. It will take a bit (iTunes will tell you how long it will take). It really depends on how large your backup was. When it is done, voila, you have an unlocked iPhone with all your apps, pictures and media put back on it. Now you can go abroad and use whatever carrier you want at a better price then a roaming package from your home carrier.

Note: While you are away, you might want to store your home carriers SIMM card in a safe place. Also, you might want to bring your SIMM card tool while you are at it as well!

As always I am here to help so reach out to me!

CASL: What Canadian businesses need to know….

 

As I was booking a trip camping with my family this year, I received an email from the camp site concerning CASL. If you don’t know what that is, it is Canada’s anti-spam legislation. If you are a business or organization, there are three things you need to be made aware of concerning the legislation:

 

  1. Consent – You need to have either expressed or implied consent to send commercial messages to an electronic address.
  2. Identification – Your message needs to have the business or organization clearly identified in the communication.
  3. Unsubscribe – There must be a way in the message for the user to unsubscribe for future communications.

 

In my email newsletters, I always give you the opportunity to unsubscribe in keeping with the the legislation.

If you would like to know more about CASL legislation, please click here

For the latest updates on all things IT for the SMB and more, please visit http://www.sideshow-solutions.com

Dan

Schools Out! How to keep a handle on the kids (With Technology)

Keeping the Kids Activities Organized Over the Summer

Yay, Schools out! At least this is what the kids are saying. Parents, Guardians and Caregivers may not be sharing the same sediment. It is usually at this time of year that it becomes a logistical nightmare juggling your work schedule with the kid’s summer schedule. You can make the 2 months a little less hectic with a little planning. There are free online tools you probably have at your disposal but are not using….

Using shared Calendaring

You probably have a Google Mail, Hotmail (Outlook, Live, MSN Mail, etc.) or Yahoo Mail account. You can set them up on your smart phone and you can create a shared calendar that you can use with others to keep up to date with who does what when it comes to the kids’ activities

Links to help you out

Creating and Sharing Calendars

http://www.techrepublic.com/blog/google-in-the-enterprise/quick-tip-create-and-share-a-google-calendar/

http://smallbusiness.chron.com/share-hotmail-calendars-62376.html

http://help.yahoo.com/qe/uk/tutorials/cal/cal_share1.html

Adding a Mail Account to Your Smart Phone

Since there are many Smart phones available (iPhone, Android, Blackberry), Google “How to set up (insert what web based mail you use here) for (Insert Smart Phone you use here)”. Several tutorials on how to do this will show up.

I hope you all have a great summer that is very relaxing with the kids!

 

Dan

What Small Business Owners Need to Know About Their Website

What small business owners need to know about their website

In conversation with a lot of small business owners, I have heard this preconception….

You are a small business owner who has a website. Let’s call it mysmallbusiness.com. You are thinking about moving to a different provider for whatever reason. Or maybe you had an employee handle getting the website set up for you and now they have gone and you want to continue updating your website so you look for a new domain name…..does this sound familiar?

Well you do not have to get a new domain name and start from scratch to continue your web presence.  By in large, that domain name should belong to you. Whether it was registered by an employee or your hosting provider, (Wix and GoDaddy, I am looking at you) it is your domain.

In either case, you should have the login information to at least find out what you options are for maintaining your site or getting information on how to move it.

Scenario #1 – You’re hosting provider and domain registrar are the same

In this case the company who registered mysmallbusiness.com and gave you space to host the website are one in the same. You probably have only one login.

Scenario #2 – You’re hosting provider and domain registrar are two different companies

You probably have two logins.

Each scenario requires you to login and find out what needs to be done in order to modify /transfer your web presence. If you need to make updates to your website and you fall under scenario one, you probably have a web-based web page editor at your disposal to make updates. If you fall under scenario two you may or may not have these tools at your disposal. In this case you may need to use a webpage editor installed on your computer and possibly an FTP program for file transfer.

If you would like to transfer your website to another provider that will require some coordination between hosting providers / domain registrars and might put your website offline for a while (Best to do this on a weekend…..) Can you say “DNS Propagation”) :)

Of course there is also the issue of email (and that is if you are using the same provider for this). I won’t go into detail about the here……..

As always if you need any help, please contact me . Please check out my website at www.sideshow-solutions.com. I am also on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Google+, Follow me.

Thanks,

Dan

Building a Better Password (aka I Would Rather be Watching the World Cup!)

How strong are your passwords?

 

This is a great info-graphic I found online that shows you the common pitfalls when you create a password for many of the online services you use today. My advice is to keep the password complicated.

Password Length

For example, make sure the password is at least to 6 -8 characters in length.

Password Complexity

Be sure to add some complexity to your password. A good way to do this is to capitalize some of the letters, use some numbers, symbols and punctuation.

Password Relevance

If you are known to like certain hobbies or activities, don’t incorporate them into your password. Make sure whatever you use cannot be socially engineered against you.

Examples

dog – Poor

dog13 – Better but too short

Dog13! – Getting there

#D@gGy!3* – This is a stronger password

Now if your are known to be a dog person (you blog about dogs, are seen on Facebook with all of your dogs, You pin dog treat recipes on Pinterest), you might want to change that part of your password to something else…maybe cat? :)

The Info-graphic:

How Strong is Your Password?

As always, if you need any pointers, please reach out to me! Go Italy! (sorry :p)

 

A Guide to Keeping Your Computer Running Well

 

I have heard this time and time again… “My computer used to run so fast when I bought it but now it runs so slow. It is only X years old?”……… If you live in the Haldimand / Hamilton Area, I can help you with this, contact me.

If you are online a lot, your computer may slow down for a few reasons. In my 15 plus years’ experience of working on computers and servers, I found that there are 7 things that contribute to the performance of a computer. “Undoing” these things from time to time can help your computer run optimally for years. The only thing you really have to worry about is hardware failure (That is why you perform backups  :))

Viruses

I am finding this to become less and less of a problem but it still needs to be considered. Viruses need to be downloaded and run for them to be effective and people are getting better and not doing this. However, those who try to distribute viruses find crafty ways to get you to click. For example you receive an official looking email that may be from your bank asking you to verify some account info. How about the UPS email that wants you to download an attachment of an invoice you are apparently waiting for? Maybe Revenue Canada needs you to download an attachment to verify some income tax info? The problem is we are inundated with email and we also do business we all of these parties from time to time. That makes for a deadly combination, especially when you really need your computer to work. Computer performance issues aside, it is also not good for your identity info since that what they are trying to get anyway (I will talk more about this in a future post). So if you are not sure if your computer is affected, doing a periodic virus scan is a good idea.

I myself use what comes with Windows but for the less technical you should get a subscription from an antivirus company you trust. There are several companies to choose from. I have listed a few here (Look under “About your Antivirus”). Most offer scheduled scanning and allow you to choose between quarantining and removing the offending program. Keeping the virus definition up to date is very important.

Malware

Malware something that accumulates over time through extensive web surfing. You really don’t where it’s coming from but every time you look up information on the web about something a pop up might bother you to click it and not let you go back to your web browser until you click it. There>….. you just got some malware. A neat little trick I tell people to do is to hit Ctrl-Alt-Del and bring up Windows task manager. Under the process tab you will see several “iexplore.exe” or “firefox32.exe” or “Chrome.exe”, depending on what browser you use etc…. End task them all or at least the offending pop up window. When you restart your browser and it complains that it was not shut down properly DO NOT restore the last browsing session. At least some of the Malware has been averted.

Like virus scanning, periodic Malware scanning helps remove any offending programs that could be slowing your computer down.  The best program hands down is Malwarebytes . It comes in a free version or a premium version. If you have multiple users on a single computer (and they happen to be kids) I would recommend purchasing the premium version. You can schedule scans and it also does real-time scans. In a pinch, the free version is good but you need to run the scan manually.

Web Browser Toolbars

So you need Flash and Java to have full functionality on some web pages, great! The problem is if all you do is click Next, Next, Next, Finish to get the program to install you may have installed some toolbars that you didn’t know about. This is just a couple of examples here. There are a lot of programs that do this so I don’t want you to think I am picking on Flash and Java. They are just very popular programs. Each toolbar that loads when you start your web browser increases the time in which it takes for your browser to properly start. I have had an instance where a client complained that it took three minutes for Internet Explorer to become functional, the culprit? A printer toolbar that once was uninstalled, the browser went back to less than a second to load! The message here is to watch what you are installing and if it is a web tool bar you are not really going to use, uncheck the box or decline the install before hitting “Next”.  Your frustration level with your computer will thank you!

Accumulated Programs

Over time you will probably install a lot of programs on your computer. Those programs may load bits of software that loads when your computer starts. In Windows XP you would know this because the task tray beside the system clock would show a lot of icons. Sometimes they would go right across the lower part of the screen! With Windows Vista and above those icons are now hidden and only show when the notification area is expanded. If you don’t need to use a program anymore, uninstall it. Just go to your control panel under “Programs and Features” and click uninstall. The less that loads at start up, the faster your computer will be ready to go!

Disk Clean Up

Keeping the drive clean of any unwanted files is a great idea. If you have had system crashes they build up system error memory dumps that you don’t actually see but take up space on your hard drive. Performing a disk cleanup will help.  Go into the C Drive’s properties and click on “Disk Cleanup”:

Check what files you want removed (I recommend at least error reporting files and temporary internet files) Click “OK” and it will do its thing!

Fragmentation

Disk Fragmentation occurs over time when the computer’s hard disk reads and writes data. As you delete data from the disk “Free blocks” for writing new data become available. The problem is, if the file the computer wants to write will not fit on a free block of data on the hard disk it has to store it on two or more blocks of free space. This can be on very different spots of the disk. You see the data as one file but the computer may see it has several spots on the hard disk to retrieve that data for you (I won’t go into the technical details). The good news is if you have Window Vista or higher disk defragmentation occurs automatically (unless somehow you turned its schedule off). It doesn’t hurt to do it manually every once and awhile. You can at least analyze the disk to see if it needs it too.

You can access the disk defragmenter by going to the properties of your Boot Drive (C Drive):

 

Clicking “Analyze” will tell if you disk needs to be defragmented or not.

Disk Corruption

If your computer has crashed from time to time, the disk will probably have some corruption on it. By performing a scan disk, the corruption can be repaired for you:

 

When you click “Check”, Windows will tell you if a scan disk needs to be performed. If it does, it may ask you to reboot your computer to complete it.

 

By taking care of these seven items regularly, your computer will run practically as fast as the day you bought it. If you find doing this at all troublesome and you live in the Haldimand / Hamilton Area, don’t worry, I can do it for you!  Just contact me