Monthly Archives

January 2017

Killer Dust - The single most common reason computers fail

Killer Dust - The single most common reason computers failWhat do you think is the most common reason to have to replace a computer? Believe it or not, the single biggest thing that kills computers is dust.

Dust and fluff gets inside the machine and blocks its fans and heat sinks causing them to run inefficiently or even fail, due to overheating. Heat damages the delicate computer chips and can literally melt the insides of the machine.

What Can I Do About Dust?

The first – and most obvious thing – is to keep your computer away from dust. If it is a laptop then shut it away in a protective case when it is not in use, rather than leaving it out. Try to keep the computer in a relatively dust-free environment. This is particularly important in some commercial scenarios where machinery can create dust that will damage them.

You should keep your computer clean. Vacuum the air intakes regularly to stop dust build ups. Avoid blowing into the fans, as this just forces the dust further inside and can clog the mechanism. Always make sure your computer has plenty of room around it for ventilation, too.

What If It Is Clogged Up?

Don’t panic: it’s not all over. All desktop and most laptop computers can be easily dismantled in order to access the fans and heat sinks. This means that the offending detritus can be removed by a professional. If necessary, fans and heat sinks can be replaced at low cost.

If the system has begun to overheat then there may be more problems: components or even the entire motherboard may need to be replaced. If this is the case then it may well be time to think about upgrading the entire machine.

Digitalquill: IT Support Experts

Don’t panic if your PC is behaving erratically. Although prevention is the best cure, all electronic components will break down eventually. The good news is that we can diagnose and fix your IT problems quickly and get you back up and running. For more information call us on 01482 424402 or email office@www.digitalquill.co.uk.

Shame on your Donald Trump

Shame on your Donald TrumpWhile this site is a non-political, B2B, and technical, it also provides a platform where a voice can be heard. It would be to my shame if I did not use it at this point. The events of this weekend in the United States must be spoken out against.

In the UK we have recently commemorated Holocaust memorial Day (27th January) and this brought to mind a poem written in the 1950’s by Pastor Martin Niemöller. There are many variations to the exact text of this poem but the sentiment is the same.

First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out—

Because I was not a Socialist. 

Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out—

Because I was not a Trade Unionist.

Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—

Because I was not a Jew.

Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.

Pastor Martin Niemöller

It is time to speak out

While the closing of the boarders, detention of innocent travellers to the US based upon their religion and down right racist executive orders coming out of the White house at the moment should never be compared to the Holocaust, they should be compared to the political climate in 1933 Germany where a democratically elected chancellor came to power and started what we now see as the most darkest days of human history.

Then they came for the Muslims and I did speak out

To my friends, employees, colleagues and the millions of Muslims across the globe whom I have not had the privilege of getting to know, I stand with you. We bleed the same blood, we breath the same air, we are the same.

These ludicrous actions by Donald Trump must STOP. Speak out now stop these actions escalating to a level even more desperate than they currently are.

Matt Houldsworth
Owner Digitalquill

10 Top Tips to avoid Ransomware 

10 Top Tips to avoid Ransomware  Yet again a major institution is in the news after being hit with a ransomware attack. This time it is the UK’s largest NHS trust that has fallen victim to hackers. The Telegraph reports that the four hospitals making up Barts Health Trust were hit by a malicious piece of software last week.

Thousands of files were locked by the ransomware which affected the trust’s Windows XP systems. We have already covered the risks of NHS trusts still using Windows XP, and explained why you need to upgrade if you are still using it. We can now add a further top ten tips to keep your business safe from ransomware attacks.

1. Virus Protection

You need up to date virus protection on workstations and servers. Ideally, you should use a cloud-based, monitored solution such as AVG – and not rely on free software for business use. A good virus protection solution is absolutely essential and should be the first thing installed on your computers. Don’t skip any updates and make sure it is allowed to complete its regular scans.

2. Resilient Backup

You need to do complete, separated backups at least once per day. Don’t just rely on incremental backups as if the backup as been infected you actually don’t have any backup at all. Separated full daily backups are rotated on a 3 or 4 week cycle. This means you do full backups for each day of the week, with three sets. This gives you 21 full backups at any given time (which may be on DAT tape, cloud backup or another backup system) and allows you to go back 21 days, which should be sufficient to reach a point where your files are no longer affected

3. Mail Server Setup

Your mail servers should be set up to filter .exe, .bat, .com and .vbs mime types (file types). If they don’t this is a significant risk as these files can carry malicious software and there is the risk of a member of your staff clicking on them, which infects your system from within. Take away the temptation and vastly reduce your risks by clocking them altogether.

4. Show hidden ‘known file extensions’

This can be setup by your IT experts. Instead of hiding the end of a file which shows the file type, you can force the system to show it. Some cryptolocker viruses have been found to fool you into thinking you are opening a pdf or image file when you are really opening an exe. For example the filename image.jpg.exe would ordinarily have the .exe part hidden by the system settings and appear as the harmless-looking image.jpg.

5. Keep On Top Of Updates

It can be a rustration, we know, but all those updates are downloading for a reason. Make sure all your software is up to date and patched: this includes operating systems and applications such as Microsoft office. If your system asks for a restart, let it do so in ordert to keep the system secure. The same applies to server environments. The restarts and installations may be configured to happen at times of low usage or overnight.

6. Use Official Software

Never use Cracked or Pirated software. As well as the obvious issues of copyright infringement, cracked programmes often have hidden malware included in them. This may not be a cryptolocker directly but it may be something that can be used as a trojan horse to gain access to your systems and implement a ransomware attack. Such attacks can happen months or even years after the system becomes infected, by which time it is too late for you to recover.

7. System Setup

Disable running of files from AppData and LocalAppData folders. This can be easily done from within windows and prevents one of the most common sources of malware infection.

8. Think Before Clicking Links

Do not open links sent via SMS messages to mobile devices. These will almost certainly lead you to a malicious site if you do not know the sender, and criminals can now hack the SMS system to impersonate real senders. We are seeing an increase in the number of attacks being launched through mobile devices, which can be an insecure backdoor right into your mail server and therefore your corporate network.

9. Use User Accounts Wisely

Do not use your windows PC with Administrator privileges, limit your user accounts privileges and set up user accounts for each separate user. It is quick and simple to set up a user account with no privileges to install software, and this is your first line of protection against malware. You should only access the system as an administrator in order to amend system settings or install software. Admin access should be restricted to those who need it, perhaps only your IT department, and should not be used as the default user account under any circumstances.

10. Implement Traffic filtering on your firewall

Your firewall is a line of defence against attackers from outside your network but can also be used to prevent internal users from misbehaving. By implementing traffic filtering you can dictate exactly what kind of data should be coming in and out of your network and allow you an early heads up if something is not as it should be. It can also prevent malware from ‘phoning home’ which can keep you safe while you have the infection removed.

If you suspect that you have a virus of any kind, immediately disconnect your machine from your network, remove the ethernet cable and disable wifi. If you are attacked, make sure you find where the breach happened: there is no point in just restoring a backup only to have it immediately infected again.

Digitalquill: Ransomware removal experts

Digitalquill are experts in removing and preventing malware and ransomware. For more information, call us on 01482 424402 or email office@www.digitalquill.co.uk.

Crypto Locker Virus

Crypto Locker VirusOne of our clients recently called us after being threatened by a crypto virus. It turned out to be a hoax, but we were astonished at the client’s relative lack of concern about the potential infection, believing that we would be able to sort everything out. Whilst that may well be the case, you cannot be too careful and it is right to be concerned about crypto viruses as there is no real cure, only prevention.

If your system is hit by a crypto virus, it will immediately and irrevocably be locked from use. Your files will be encrypted and inaccessible and you will likely see a pop up demanding a ransom fee to release the files. If you do not pay then the files on your system are most likely gone forever, and if you do then the best-case scenario is that you risk your financial details being compromised. There is no guarantee that paying the ransom will actually result in your files being released. Even then the virus will still be on your system, ready to gold your business to ransom again and again and again.

Keep Safe From Crypto Viruses

We have published advice on how to keep yourself safe from viruses and ransomware, and the two most important points are to have a quality virus killer running and up-to-date at all times, and to exercise extreme caution when clicking links and opening files from emails. If in doubt, DO NOT CLICK!

The other critical thing to have in place is a backup regime. You will need to restore from a backup that predates the infection of your systems. We recommend keeping at least 21 days’ worth of whole system backups and not relying on incremental backups.

What To Do After Virus Infection

If you are threatened by a crypto virus, don’t panic, but DO take it seriously. Unplug the computer from the network by the cable, switch off wifi and call an expert immediately before any further damage is done. Otherwise the infection can spread to all of your computers in a matter of seconds and destroy all of your company documents. How many companies could survive that?

Digitalquill IT Experts

Digitalquill can help with all of your IT needs, from advising you on system security, supplying antivirus software right through to developing a backup regime and hosting cloud backups. Don’t put your business at risk: call us today on 01482 424402 or email support@www.digitalquill.co.uk.

secure corporate standard routers

secure corporate standard routersOne of our ten tips for 2017 is to ensure your systems are secure You should use corporate standard routers and firewalls to protect your business network. We often find businesses using poor quality consumer grade equipment which is insecure. If you process card transactions you need to be PCI-DSS compliant, which is unlikely if you have not installed specialist equipment or had your Firewalls specifically configured.

For example: If you take credit cards payments and offer wireless connectivity to customers – for example in a cafe or hotel – then you must take additional IT security measures. Public Wi-Fi access and business systems and card terminals must be split up, but you do not need two networks, or two internet connections. It is possible for us to configure a firewall that will keep the different areas completely separate from one another. We can also add Quality of Service (QoS) rules to prevent your business internet connection from being throttled by customers’ usage by saving an amount of bandwidth exclusively for your business use. This is particularly important for Hull businesses due to the generally slow nature of our internet connections.

As well as physical security you must also ensure you have policies – for example you should have a documented plan for the rotation of passwords and schedule regular updates of software and operating systems. If you read our post on Strategic I.T. Planning, we outline our Virtual IT Director service which can help in this arena.

Information security is easy to control, and simply requires the right mix of governance, policies and software and hardware to prevent, discourage or trace any security problems that might occur. Your data needs to be stored securely, restricted to those who need access to it, and protected from prying eyes inside and outside of your organisation. Digitalquill’s IT security experts will soon find any gaps in your policies or systems that could be exploited – and plug them for you quickly.

Our Document Management system, for example, controls who can see documents. It tracks who those documents have been sent to and who has viewed them. All documents are stored in a encrypted format. These documents are all automatically backed up. This not only gives you the confidence that your company documents are not going to be accessed by any third party, but also that they are secure from a disaster such as disk failures on your Office PCs or theft of a laptop.

The business community must wake up to the security threats that exist; be that from spyware or ransomware; hacking; or even natural disasters suchas flood and fire. All of these could potentially threaten your business continuity. Once the event has happened, it might be impossible to recover your data and systems. Prevention is the best medicine, through devloping and acting on a strong plan for your security in your Strategic IT Planning.

Digitalquill – Information Security Experts

Digitalquill are specialists in systems security. We can assess your risk level, recommend both practical and technical solutions to minimise or mitigate risks and we can help you to keep your data safe and secure. For more information call us on 01482 424402 or email office@www.digitalquill.co.uk.

stop using free services for business

stop using free services for businessIt is not safe for your business to rely on services that are free, such as Yahoo, Gmail and Dropbox. Such services are not intended for business use and they are a security risk. There have been a number of hacks recently where data has been compromised from free services. It is much safer to have a proper mail or cloud storage service installed that is bespoke to your own business needs.

You might think that you are saving money by using free services for your business. After all, email, cloud storage and antivirus software can be expensive when you have to buy licences for the entire organisation. Think again: there are many good reasons why free services are not suitable for business use.

They are not really free

It is often said that if you are not paying for a product, then you are the product and this has never been more true than when it comes to the software industry. Google, Microsoft et al are not charities, and they use their free tools for a number of reasons. One is to draw you into their ecosystem and to make you reliant on their software so they have a captive audience. Some business models rely on drawing you in for free and then charging “power users” a subscription fee. Or – more worryingly – your data could be being monitored and sold on. The only way to be sure is to take control yourself and know what you are paying for.

They are not suitable for business use

There are two ways in which free services are unsuitable for business use. The first is to do with the terms and conditions of the software. Most free services are not permitted for use in profit-making enterprises, and business users often subsidise the free offering for consumers. This could result in legal action being taken against you for misusing the software, or a lack of technical support when things go wrong. AVG free virus guard for example cannot be used for business even if you are a small business.

The second way is security: Free services are unlikely to meet the security standards expected of businesses, and in return you will not have the security of guaranteed up-time nor the benefit of compensation if the service fails or ceases trading.

They can be targets for hackers

Last year, Yahoo, Dropbox and many other free services were hacked. The stolen passwords were shared on the internet. The Dropbox hack in particular highlights the risks – in this case the site was hacked using a user-name and password stolen from elsewhere. Imagine if your staff use the same passwords on your free mail service as your servers. You could be handing burglars the keys to your house just to save a few pounds!

Digitalquill can replicate most of these free services in a cost-effective and secure way for your Hull or East Riding business. For more information call us on 01482 424402 or email office@www.digitalquill.co.uk.

Strategic IT Plan with our Virtual IT Director Service

Strategic IT Plan with our Virtual IT Director ServiceYour business may not be based in the technology sector, but you still use technology every day of the week. Everything from your printer to your mobile phone is based on ever-more complex technology. If you do not have a strategic IT plan then your business is at risk being left behind as technology moves on. If you leave it too late, then catching up can be disruptive and expensive. It is cost effective to have a strategic IT plan professionally developed to unlock the technological potential you are missing or simply to make sure you are making the most of what you have.

In smaller companies, the owner has to be a Jack of all Trades – but all the best business people know where their limitations lie and bring in subject matter experts when they need them. You most likely already outsource graphic design work, printing or courier services without a second thought – but what about keeping the computer hardware and software that your business depends on up to date and running smoothly?

For those of us without the budget, or need, for a full-time member of staff purely to oversee your IT provision, computer systems, technical support etc., it can be tempting to leave them by the wayside, or to wait until it is too late and spend a big chunk of your hard-earned profits on expensive consultants and new equipment.

This is where Digitalquill’s Virtual IT Director service comes in. We will work with you, as part of the team, to develop your digital strategy. We will get to know your business systems and processes so we can recommend to your board of directors the areas in which your IT can be improved – to build the success of your business.

We do exactly what an IT director does: we ensure business continuity plans are created and tested; check your systems are secure; and make a plan for your business in terms of its technological progress to allow you to maintain a competitive advantage.

We can identify quick wins to improve technical performance and help you develop a rolling plan that keeps your hardware and software up to date. This lets you spread the cost of upgrades and future proof your business as technology continues to improve without unexpected costs.

For more information call us on 01482 424402 or email office@www.digitalquill.co.uk.

Dual Monitors Increase Productivity

Dual Monitors Increase ProductivityThree’s the magic number for gaming PC maker Razer, as they introduced the CES tech show in Las Vegas to their latest innovation: A laptop with three fold-out 4k screens!

The concept laptop has been wowing audiences as the extra two 17in screens fold out automatically, and when folded up the laptop is just 1.5 inches thick. Although intended for the gaming market, it is impossible to underestimate just how much your productivity can be boosted by working across multiple screens.

Add a second monitor for a low-cost productivity boost

Almost all modern laptops have an HDMI or similar display port, and this can be used to connect a second monitor. Your display can be mirrored to the second screen or, more usefully, you can use it to extend your desktop.

This gives you additional working space, and allows you to compare documents or spreadsheets side by side, or to keep your email program open on one screen whilst working on a second. You will find double screen setups in use everywhere from the creative industries to emergency services control rooms.

Quality monitors can be purchased for as little as £70, and can be installed with a single cable to your laptop. Desktop computers may need an additional, inexpensive piece of hardware to add a second display port.

Digitalquill: IT Productivity Experts

Why not try working across two screens to see for yourself how much more productive life is when you do not need to constantly switch between windows in your workspace. Digitalquill are experienced in improving productivity through IT solutions, and this is one of the quickest and cheapest boosts for any company.

Digitalquill can supply all of the IT equipment you need and help you make the alterations to your system settings to increase your productivity with multiple screens. For more information call us on 01482 424402 or email office@www.digitalquill.co.uk.

2017

2017The New Year is here, and there is no better time than to stop and take stock. All businesses need IT, whether they realise it or not, and we have identified ten opportunities you should be capitalising on in 2017 to keep ahead of the pack.

1 – Have a Strategic IT & Technical plan

If you do not have an IT plan then you risk being left behind as technology moves on. Catching up can be disruptive and expensive. It is cost effective to have a strategic IT plan professionally developed to unlock the technological potential you are missing

2 – Ensure your systems are secure

You should use corporate standard routers and firewalls to protect business systems. We often find businesses use consumer grade equipment which is insecure. If you process card transactions you need to be PCI-DSS compliant, which is unlikely if you have not installed specialist equipment. Keep safe from hackers by having it upgraded.

3 – Stop using free services

It is not safe for your business to be reliant on services that are free, such as Yahoo, Gmail and Dropbox. Such services are not guaranteed for business use and they are a security risk. There have been a number of hacks recently where data has been compromised from free services. It is much safer to have a proper mail or cloud storage service installed that is bespoke to your own business needs.

4 – Use a fully managed cloud antivirus service

Free antivirus such as Windows Defender is free for a reason – if you want a premium service you need to pay. A fully managed cloud antivirus service is always up to date, always monitored and keeps your business safe from malware, ransomware and viruses.

5 – Have a Rolling IT Upgrade Plan

Ensure workstations are up-to-date and running smoothly with planned rolling upgrades. Slow computers cost you time and money. Upgrading them all at once disrupts your business and costs a lot of money. Spread the cost with a rolling upgrade plan, to keep your business running smoothly.

6 – Utilise CRM systems to gather business data

Information is the lifeblood of modern business and if you are not capturing the right data then you are at a disadvantage. Once it has been collected it needs to be used, and that is where a Customer Relationship Management (CRM) system comes in, to operationalise the data and make it work to boost business.

7 – Utilise cloud based document management systems

Document Management Systems  allow you access and control over your company documents at all times. Instead of languishing on individual workers’ hard drives or disorganised file shares, the files can be held centrally and worked on by others. Collaborative working and version control becomes simple, and you can cut down on the amount of paper you use.

8 – Invest in your web presence

Your website is more than just a yellow pages entry: if you develop a website and update it regularly with new content then customers will return time and time again. F you do not have a website then you really need one in the modern environment, even if it is a simple one, and if yours has not been updated since 2015 then there is no better time than to give it a refresh. Constant updates are vital, so consider investing in managed blogging or social media services to complement it.

9 – Embrace social media

Social media is not just for teenagers. It is now a vital way to interact with your customers. You can even benefit from this if you are B2B, as social networks like LinkedIn span across personal and business relationships. There is not better way of focussing marketing spend to a specific demographic than social marketing.

10 – Utilise Business Intelligence and Analytics

Consider where you can use business intelligence systems and analytics to gain better knowledge and insight into your business, customers and market in which you operate. Knowledge is key to unlocking opportunities and converting leads, and modern data mining techniques can open up markets you would never have considered.

Digitalquill – Hull and East Yorkshire’s IT Specialists

Digitalquill are experts in IT provision and IT support. For more information on these IT improvements or any others, call us on 01482 424402 or email office@www.digitalquill.co.uk.

Hull City of Culture

Hull City of CultureThe Digitalquill Head Office is located in East Yorkshire in the town of Hessle, near Hull and we are very proud that our nearest big city has been chosen as the UK City of Culture for 2017.

Many of our clients are from outside of the UK, and may not be aware of the City of Culture, which is a designation granted to a UK City for a year, and is intended to build on the economic success of Liverpool which was the European Capital of Culture in 2008.

The city of Hull will host events every day of the year, ranging from music to theatre, light shows to firework displays. The City will also host the Turner Prize and exhibit art on loan from the British Museum. The City of Culture Website has the full itinerary – it is definitely worth visiting Hull this year.

Hull was once one of the biggest fishing ports in Europe, and was originally built up from money from the whaling industry. Culturally, the city has been home to dozens of notable people including the poet Philip Larkin, film director Anthony Minghella, pop band The Housemartins and playwright John Godber.

The year kicked off with a huge fireworks display on the Humber Estuary which was even bigger than London’s New Year fireworks, and a light display in the City Centre is projecting scenes from the City’s past onto the historic City Hall, Ferens Art Gallery and Maritime Museum throughout the first week.

Digitalquill support Hull 2017 UK City of Culture

We sincerely hope that this year will attract people to the city, and also boost investment in Hull across the whole economy and not just the arts and culture sector.

For more information, call us on 01482 424402 or email office@www.digitalquill.co.uk.