Firewalls

FIREWALLS

A firewall is like a moat surrounding your computer network and protecting it from enemy attacks.  Picture a sentry standing on the draw bridge inspecting everything that tries to pass through to determine if it is safe. Friendly visitors are allowed to pass.  Unfriendly visitors are thrown to the alligators.

You can decide who or what gets past and what doesn’t through a process called filtering. That allows you to control what websites your employees can access outside of your network,. That alone can save you thousands of dollars a year in lost productivity from employees surfing the Internet instead of working.  It also protects your system from risks associated with accessing infected websites.

Firewalls come in two basic types: hardware and software.

Hardware firewalls are designed to protect all the computers within your network. They block all traffic between the Internet and your network except for the specific types of emails or web traffic that you decide to allow through.

Another advantage to hardware firewalls is that they can hide the addresses of the computers in your network so they are invisible to anyone outside the firewall.  Contact your Internet Service Provider and ask about having a firewall installed on your router or DSL/cable modem.

Software firewalls are designed to protect only individual computers, but they are a good backup to your network’s hardware firewall.  Software firewalls are built into specific operating systems such as the Windows Firewall in Windows XP Professional.

 

 

Everyday Issues

 EVERYDAY ISSUES: PERFORMANCE, ERROR MESSAGES AND PRODUCTIVITY                                                08/22/12

Anyone, who uses a computer with any frequency, has encountered problems with sluggish performance, puzzling and sometimes scary error messages and productivity.

Performance issues that cause computers to take too long to boot up, open applications and save files to your hard drive usually are caused by one of three things.

First, your computer has accumulated a glut of unnecessary files including temporary files that are stored on your hard drive and deleted files that are sitting in your Recycle Bin. These files can be eliminated using the Windows disk cleanup, which is fairly quick and easy to perform.  Visit our Tech Tips for step-by-step instructions on performing a Windows disk cleanup.

The second potential cause of performance issues is insufficient memory. Many older computers were equipped with limited memory.  Now that the cost of computer chips has dropped dramatically, newer computer models have significantly more memory.  If you want to replace your computer’s memory chips or add to an existing machine, contact a knowledgeable computer technician.

Spyware or virus infections are the third  most common causes of computer performance issues.  While the leading antivirus software programs including Norton-Symantec, McAfee and Trend Micro provide very good virus protection, their spyware protection typically is insufficient to protect today’s computers. Spyware collects information about individuals such as user logins and credit card information without their knowledge. Install separate spyware products such as Malwarebytes or SUPER-AntiSpyware to be safe. Both are free and available on the Internet to residential users.

Another everyday concern for computer users is error messages that pop up when a problem has occurred.  These range from the relatively harmless “file not found” to the heart-stopping announcement that “a system failure has occurred.” Most error messages occur when programs are attempting to run but the file structure or a portion of it is missing. Spyware and viruses can damage file structures.  Errors also can occur after installation of software updates when the vendor doesn’t properly remove earlier versions of the same file.

Regardless of the cause, error message corrections should be performed by a knowledgeable computer technician, who knows how to fix the problem without losing critical data or corrupting files. 

Productivity issues can be equipment related or manmade. 

  • Older computer equipment can be a financial drain on your business and adversely affect your employees’ productivity because of downtime due to repairs. It’s recommended that businesses replace their computer equipment every three years to maintain a reasonable level of productivity.
  • Installing the latest updates from software vendors is another way to improve productivity.
  • Training your employees to use keyboard shortcuts instead of relying on the mouse can increase productivity 15 to 20 percent, which translates into one, eight-hour day a week.  Here’s a link to a table of keyboard shortcuts http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Table_of_keyboard_shortcuts.  Start by learning a handful at a time. Some of the more common keystrokes are used for editing and copying and saving screenshots.

If you have any questions or concerns, contact System Resolutions….

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Data Backups

 DATA BACKUPS: ONSITE VS. OFFSITE                        08/22/12

Human error, hardware malfunctions, viruses, theft and disasters such as flooding and fire all can result in the loss of valuable data stored on your network. 

A formal backup and recovery system will guarantee the safety of your data and insure that it can be easily retrieved if a problem occurs.

Data storage and recovery options are endless but they essentially boil down to onsite or offsite or both. Choose the method that suits the needs of your business and your clients. 

Onsite:

Onsite data storage typically consists of devices such as flash drives, external hard drives, network drives, DVDs and CDs. Since portable storage devices can easily be lost or stolen, make sure your data is encrypted and backed up on more than one device. Your onsite storage devices should be kept in a safe, secure place to avoid theft and damage from fire and flood.

The main advantage of onsite storage is you can retrieve your data easier and faster than you can with offsite storage.

Offsite:

Offsite data storage and backup involves storing data at a remote location by physically transferring the removable data storage devices mentioned above or by electronically accessing an online or cloud-based backup service.

Online backup services such as Carbonite allow you to back up your files to a secure web-based site.  Typically, the service will collect, compress, encrypt and transfer the data to a server on a regular basis. Encryption ensures the data is secure by making decryption available only to the data owner. 

Cloud computing allows you to choose from a menu of software, hardware and networking services that are housed in an Internet “cloud.” Unlike traditional web hosting, cloud service is sold on demand allowing users to lease whatever resources they choose. Cloud computing for data storage and recovery can be an attractive alternative for companies with limited IT resources and infrastructure.

Some  experts suggest that small and medium-sized business keep three copies of critical files and data and that they backup and store their critical data both onsite and offsite. 

Once you have a backup system or method in place, you should back up your data daily. Beyond that, you should check the review logs and reports daily to make sure your data was property backed up.

While backing up your business critical data to a secure device and/or service and making sure that the data is properly backed up and stored on a regular basis, may take a lot of time, effort and money, it’s much better than having to re-start your business from scratch.

Have you had any experiences with onsite or offsite data storage and recovery you would like to share?

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