Picture this: you start your computer and wait. And wait. And wait some more. When your desktop finally shows its face, things don’t get any better. Your Internet is sluggish, your programs are taking forever to load, and your cursor is dragging 20 seconds behind your mouse. You might have tried to open too many programs at once. Or…

You might be infected.

Sometimes a malware infection is plain as day. Other times it’s a silent killer. If you want to know whether or not your machine is sick, you first need to understand the symptoms. So let’s take a look at the telltale signs.

Blatant signs of infection

You’ve got ransomware

This one’s the most obvious. Ransomware authors want to make it perfectly clear that you have a malware infection—that’s how they make their money. If you’ve got ransomware, you’ll get a pop-up that tells you your files have been encrypted and there’s a deadline to pay a ransom in order to get them back.

Browser redirects

You click on a link after doing a Google search on “my computer’s acting strange.” Link opens to a different page. You head back to your search results and try a different link. Same thing happens. Over and over you’re redirected to a different site from the one you’re trying to reach. That, my friend, is a malware infection.

Different home page

Say you set your home page to be your favorite sports news site. But for some reason, Yahoo.com keeps coming up. You also notice some new toolbars (rows of selectable icons) below your browser window that you can’t get rid of. You could either have a major case of the forgets, or, more likely, you’ve got an infection.

Bombarded with pop-ups

We’re talking: can’t escape. Close one, another one opens. Or you’re not even online, and you’re getting pop-up messages on your system. Some sites admittedly have terrible ad experiences that feel like something nefarious is going on (but really isn’t). Most of the time, if your screen is loaded with pop-ups, you’re looking at an adware or spyware infection.

Less obvious signs of infection

Computer running slow

Lots of things can contribute to a slow computer. You could be running too many programs at once, you may be running out of hard drive space, or there’s not enough free memory. If none of those are true for you and your computer is still slow, it’s possible you’re infected.

New, unfamiliar icons on desktop

Maybe your nephew Timmy jumped on without your knowledge and downloaded a photo editing program so he could swap his face with his dog’s face and share it on social media. Or perhaps you downloaded a legitimate piece of software and a Potentially Unwanted Program (PUP) hitched a ride. If it’s the latter, your computer could be weighed down by PUPs, which Malwarebytes and many other security companies consider malware.

Constant crashing

There are a couple reasons why your applications or system might crash, including potential incompatibility between programs or software and hardware that needs updating. However, some forms of malware, such as rootkits, dig deep into the Windows kernel and latch on, creating instability.

Web browser freezes or is unresponsive

Slow Internet could be just that—check your wifi signal or your download speeds with your Internet provider to be sure. But if everything checks out and your browser grinds to a halt, it could be a sign of infection.

Lots of bounced email

We’ve all mistakenly typed in the wrong email address and hit “send.” But if you’re getting a suspiciously high number of bounces, or emails that return to your inbox undelivered, something else is going on.

First, your email address could have been hacked and is now being used to spam the crap out of your contacts list. Or malware could be the culprit. How? An infected computer sends out emails using the addresses it found in your computer. If the “To” address doesn’t work, the message bounces back to the “From” address, which is often yours.

Mobile infections

Battery life drains quickly

Oh yes, your cell phone is not immune to malware. If you notice your battery life draining quickly, it could be that you’ve got some hefty programs open, such as games or music streaming services. It could also be that your battery is on its last leg. Unfortunately, the third possibility is mobile malware.

Unusually large bill

This one’s pretty clear-cut. Pay close attention to your cell phone bill. Are you being charged for messages you didn’t send? Is your data plan getting busted? Are you getting texts from your provider saying you owe money for something you didn’t purchase? Mobile malware is to blame.

You can protect against mobile threats using anti-malware software designed specifically for smartphones and tablets. For example, Malwarebytes Anti-Malware Mobile safeguards Android devices from malware, infected applications, and unauthorized surveillance.

Stealth infections

No sign at all

Is your computer running like a smooth criminal? No issues whatsoever? You still might be infected. Many forms of malware, including botnets and others designed to steal your data, are nearly impossible to detect unless you run a scan.

In fact, whether it’s plainly obviously or there’s no real sign of malware, you should be regularly scanning your computer with security programs like Malwarebytes Anti-Malware.

Should your files be attacked and encrypted by any type of malware, then the first thing you should do is to contact us. We can work with you to help find a solution that will not end up in you having to pay the ransom to recover your files.

If you are looking to learn more about malware and how to boost your security and protect your data and systems, then let GCInfotech be your first line of tech defense.

Published with consideration from Malwarebytes Labs. SOURCE

Dodge toolbars, browser add-ons and other undesirables when installing free software

We’re sure you’ve experienced it – You download a piece of free software, then open your browser to discover a strange toolbar has been added, your default search provider has been changed, or your homepage has been hijacked. You’ve picked up a PUP, or potentially unwanted program…

These programs are often packed up in software installers – usually for freeware, but sometimes also in paid software. They usually affect your web browser, attempting to direct traffic through routes that will profit their creators. They can also harvest data on your browsing and shopping habits, which is then sold to advertisers.

Avoid installing PUPs

Although undesirable, such programs aren’t viruses and may not be picked up by your regular security software. The best defense against them is care and attention.

Always read each step of the installer carefully and uncheck any necessary boxes (PUPs are almost always opt-out rather than opt-in). If you’re offered a choice between Recommended and Custom installations, always opt for Custom – it’s usually hiding some unwanted browser add-ons. There are a number of applications out there that can help here by unchecking all tickboxes in software installers, and warning you if you are about to install a PUP.

Sometimes, when you install free software, PUPs are part of the deal and you can’t opt out. When faced with the program’s terms of use it’s tempting to just click ‘Next’, but it’s worth taking the time to read them in case the program is going to bring some unwanted friends to the party. In that situation, the best course of action is to simply close the installer and look for another program that won’t impose such programs on you.

It might be worth seeking out a portable version of the software you want to use; by definition, portable programs don’t have to be installed (they are usually supplied in a ZIP archive), so won’t include an installer with bundled add-ons.

If you really want to err on the side of caution, you can install free software in a sandbox to prevent PUPs and malware meddling with your system files. You can do this using a virtual machine, which runs an operating system in a window on your desktop, effectively emulating a second PC.

Remove PUPs

You’ve done your best to avoid it, but your browser has been hijacked by a rogue toolbar and your homepage has been changed. If your antivirus software doesn’t pick up the culprit, and you can’t remove it through the browser’s plug-ins menu, try Malwarebytes Anti-Malware.

It can run safely alongside your antivirus, and can be set to detect PUPs (and PUMs – potentially unwanted modifications), and treat them as malware by flagging them for deletion.

Are you concerned your business’s security isn’t up to par? Need the guidance of a seasoned IT provider who specializes in security? Talk to us today.

Published with consideration from TechRadar. SOURCE

Servers are the heart of most modern SMBs. They host intranetwork data, customer data, and facilitate product delivery. Like any piece of equipment in your workflow, servers need to be carefully cared for in order to keep you up and running. With the strain that most businesses put on their servers, one of the most important maintenance variables is temperature management. Understanding why keeping your servers cool is vitally important and could save you from an expensive crash, troubling data loss or reduced hardware reliability.

How does temperature affect my servers?

Extreme temperature in server hardware can result in different forms of damage. Most SMBs see total failure as the most concerning outcome. A server that completely crashes for any reason results in costly data loss and service interruptions, but the unbiased advisory organization Uptime Institute warns about overheating that doesn’t result in total failure. Every 18 degrees higher than 70 degrees Fahrenheit, hardware reliability decreases by 50%. This decrease in reliability can be just as, if not more, expensive for your hardware budget in the long run.

Cooling methods can’t just be implemented and forgotten, they must be closely monitored to ensure the health of your server hardware–short and long term. Options for temperature management range from simple low-budget solutions to expensive outsourced alternatives; determining your server management budget will greatly depend on what types of methods you intend to implement at your SMB.

Cooling methods

Which system you use to cool your server largely depends on how much power your hardware is using. The higher the watt, the harder it’s working. It will be easier to determine the scope of your temperature management needs when you have a thorough understanding of your power consumption.

PCWorld advises that simple conduction management is adequate for any equipment operating at less than 400 watts. This means simple solutions like positioning your server away from walls, low ceilings, cable clusters and anything else that can block hot air from dissipating naturally.

For watts between 400 and 2,000, strategic ventilation becomes a necessity. Adding passive ventilation is viable up to 700 watts, but fan assisted ventilation will be required above that up to 2,000 watts. With the increased power consumption, temperatures will rise and air movement needs to be more closely managed. At this stage simple vent and oscillating fans will suffice.

Anything higher than 2,000 watts needs to utilize dedicated cooling solutions. This means air-cooled units to actively reduce server room temperature. Depending on the size and arrangement of the space, a simple self-contained unit may be enough to reduce rising temperatures back into acceptable ranges. However, if you’re not sure, you should schedule a consultation with a vendor to consider more drastic cooling and monitoring methods.

Keeping your servers running at ideal temperatures means smoother data operations, lower hardware budgets and one less thing to worry about at your SMB. As your business continues to grow and develop, keep close tabs on increasing server loads–it could save you from devastating data loss. If you’d like more detailed advice about server management, or have any other questions about your hardware setup, contact us today.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org SOURCE

Taking work home, or practically anywhere else, has never been easier. With personal mobile devices, your employees can access company files wherever they are. Bringing your own device (BYOD) has become a popular strategy for many businesses to conduct work more efficiently and flexibly. But this strategy is not without its problems. BYOD, if not implemented correctly, can make your system susceptible to a number of risks. So what security risks do you have to account for? Here are 4 Security risks to consider with BYOD.

Data leakage

The biggest reason why businesses are weary of implementing a BYOD strategy is because it can potentially leave the company’s system vulnerable to data breaches. Personal devices are not part of your business’s IT infrastructure, which means that these devices are not protected by company firewalls and systems. There is also a chance that an employee will take work with them, where they are not using the same encrypted servers that your company is using, leaving your system vulnerable to inherent security risks.

Lost devices

Another risk your company has to deal with, is the possibility of your employees losing their personal devices. When devices with sensitive business information are lost, there is a chance that this could end up falling into the wrong hands. Additionally, if an employee forgets to use a four digit PIN code to lock their smartphone or tablet, anyone can gain unauthorized access to valuable company data stored on that particular device. Therefore, your company should consider countermeasures for lost devices like completely wiping the device of information as soon as an employee reports a missing or stolen phone.

Hackers can infiltrate your system

Personal devices tend to lack adequate data encryption to keep people from snooping. This along with the fact that your employees might not have updated their devices can allow hackers to infiltrate your IT infrastructure.

Connecting to open Wifi spots makes your company more susceptible to hackers. Open wireless points in public places can put device owners at risk because there is a chance that hackers may have created that hotspot to trick people into connecting. Once the device owner has connected, attackers can simply surveil web activity and gain access to your company’s accounts.

Vulnerable to malware

Viruses are also a big problem when implementing BYOD strategies into your business. Using personal devices means your employees can access whatever sites or download any mobile apps that your business would normally restrict to protect your system.

Jailbreaking or rooting a device also puts your systems at risk because it removes limitations imposed by the manufacturer to keep the mobile software updated and protected against external threats. It’s best to understand that as your employees have the freedom to choose whatever device they want to work with, the process of keeping track of vulnerabilities and updates is considerably harder. So if you’re thinking about implementing BYOD strategies to your business, prepare your IT department for an array of potential malware attacks on different devices.

So you might be thinking that it would probably be best to just avoid implementing a BYOD strategy in the first place. However, BYOD will help your business grow and adapt to the modern workplace, and should not be dismissed as a legitimate IT solution. It’s just important to educate your company about these risks so that problems won’t occur for your business down the line.

Published with consideration from TechAdvisory SOURCE

iPhones, iPads, iPods and Macs have always been pretty common in certain types of small businesses. But these days, they’re becoming popular in almost all types, due to the growing number of capabilities they offer. While it is a smart investment in the long run, switching to them means setting up a bunch of hardware that brings with it new challenges. In this article you will learn how to manage Apple devices easily and efficiently.
When adding any new technology to your business, it’s important to find ways to make doing so cost effective. Making the right decisions up front can prevent you from spending more money and time correcting bad decisions. Here’s a look at what you need to know to set up and economically manage your Apple devices.

Plan Your Setup

A major feature that is good to make use of from the very start is Apple’s Device Enrollment Program (DEP). When a device is signed up with DEP, setup processes are automated, saving a ton of time when enrolling many devices. A few of these automatic processes include:

  • Install apps that are purchased using a central Volume Purchasing Program (VPP) account from Apple to all devices
  • Bypass Activation Lock (so if you have any turnover, you don’t have to do a bunch of work to assign the device to someone else)
  • Add Wi-Fi networks (for example, if you have a different network for each location and want to set them all up at the same time
  • Add your email accounts to devices so you don’t have to do so manually
  • Force good security practices so all your customer data isn’t exposed
  • Keep an inventory of all your devices for insurance and tax purposes

Having done a lot of large Apple integrations myself, I happen to be pretty partial to automatically setting up and enrolling devices into an MDM service like Bushel (www.bushel.com), which is designed specifically for SMBs. Setting up devices this way can save you a ton of time, but it’s important to keep in mind that you can only use DEP if you purchase devices that are DEP-enabled.

Before you buy these DEP-enabled Apple devices, there needs to be some strategic thought. You will want to make a list of all the tasks that your users need to perform and then figure out how people are going to complete those tasks. For example, are your employees going to fill out time cards? If so, are you going to use a more traditional route, or are you going to digitize the process with an app?

Buying Apple Devices

After thinking about your needs, you should begin by setting up one device with all of these needs to make sure that it works for your business. When you have one device set up the way that you want and you want to replicate it to your other iPhones, iPads or Macs, you have a few different options. There’s a free tool from Apple called Apple Configurator that can be used to duplicate the setup of an iPhone or iPad to other devices. An MDM solution basically finishes the setup for you by putting the apps, mail accounts and other user-centric settings on the new devices. Pretty cool.

Maintaining Apple Devices

Once devices are set up and in people’s hands, there are a few final things to consider:

  • What do you do if a device gets lost? You can remove all of the data on a device remotely in a family/home environment with a tool such as Apple’s free Find My iPhone. An MDM solution does a better job at this for businesses, as only the administrator can lock or wipe devices.
  • What happens when an employee leaves? If the device has an AppleID on it, resetting it can be tricky. An MDM solution can bypass the Activation Lock without problem; otherwise you’ll need the original receipt of the device and a trip to the local Apple Store.
  • What happens if the device breaks? You’ll want a backup of the device. iPhones and iPads can be backed up to an iCloud account for free (or a small fee if you have a lot of data). Macs can either backup to a hard drive using Time Machine or a third party service, such as CrashPlan.

There’s a lot more to think about, but these initial steps should get you started off on the right foot. The best piece of advice is to plan out your deployment of devices before acting on it. This will give you time to explore your options and prevent a lot of stress for you and your employees alike, all while preserving your underlying business processes. Remember that this experience doesn’t need to be an unpleasant one and GCInfotech can assist you with each step of the way.

Want more tips and news about technology for small businesses? Looking for a dependable IT provider? Get in touch with us today.

Published with consideration from SmallBizDaily.com. SOURCE

investing2As a small or medium sized business owner, you likely have your hands full. Between managing your staff, looking for growth opportunities and keeping clients happy, you probably have little time to dedicate to new technology purchases. Being so busy, it can be easy to make a mistake when choosing an IT solution. That’s why we’ve compiled a list of common IT investment missteps that every business owner needs to avoid.

Investing in the newest technology instead of the best fit

It’s the job of every marketer to make you believe the newest technology on the market will resolve all your problems. And while the latest cloud or virtualization offering is likely to make things better for many individuals and organizations, it isn’t going to work for everyone.

Don’t let the flash and hype of a new product deceive you. Take the time to think about the results you’re trying to achieve with technology. Make a list of them, and when you’re done match those criteria with the product that fits. A GCInfotech professional will be happy to serve as your consultant to ensure you make the best choice.

Believing everything will magically work together

As technology evolves, it is inevitably becoming simpler to use. Consumers want user friendly products and solutions that are easy to implement, and nowadays that’s what they’re getting – at least most of the time. Because of this belief that all products are going to be plug-and-play, many business owners hold the misguided assumption that any new technology they implement is automatically going to synchronize with their other IT. It is simply not true.

Though many technologies are compatible with one another, your business is taking a big risk – that could result in massive downtime and wasted money – if you implement a new tool that doesn’t integrate well into your current system and workflow. Be smart, do some research or consult with a GCInfotech professional before making a purchase.

Assuming your team doesn’t need support and training

Now that you’ve found the perfect fit technology and you’re sure it will integrate into your current IT setup, you go ahead and purchase it. You let out a sigh of relief as you kick back and let your sparkly new IT solution power your company to new levels of success and profits in a SMB “happily ever after” fantasy. Sound too good to be true? That’s probably because it usually is.

Don’t forget that not all of your employees are going to instinctively know how to use the new technology. Consult with GCInfotech to review their support and training offerings for your particular technology solution.

Forgetting to create a budget

More and more IT solutions are packaged with pay-as-you-go monthly pricing. While this is a great way to help you avoid large upfront capital investment, if you implement too many different technologies too fast – and without thinking about the recurring costs – you could quickly run out of money before having properly created a complete technology platform.

Think about what you’re comfortable spending on IT before you open your wallet. Do some research, and either draft a budget on your own or acquire the assistance of a GCInfotech consultant to help you along.

Failing to get staff input

It’s wise to consult with the employees who will be using the new technology you implement, on a daily basis. It’s even wiser to do it before you purchase it.

The truth is that not all of your employees may be on board with the new product. They may actually even know some downsides to it you weren’t aware of. Regardless, it’s smart to consult with them beforehand, or you may find yourself in a constant fight getting them to adopt it.

Get a Single Source for all your Needs

Starting with your investment in new technology, and continuing through desktop services, cloud computing technologyremote IT solutions, remote disaster recovery, outsourcing disaster recovery and managed infrastructure services, GCInfotech is the one source you can count on for all of your support requirements. Because we can work on all aspects of your information technology, we can develop an end-to-end perspective to meet all your business computing needs-and thereby offer you better, integrated services than single-solution providers.

GCInfotech can help you take full advantage of your investment in a new technology solution, whether you’re just beginning the process of adopting it, or facing the challenges of upgrading, maintaining, and optimizing a system that’s already in place. Find out how with a complimentary consultation from GCInfotech.

Please contact us for more information or call 888-323-3066 to speak to our IT experts right away.

 

 

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org.  SOURCE

 

You just got back from lunch and are settling down into your office chair. You open up your planner to check your schedule, and then wake your PC from sleep. Time to check emails. But wait, something’s wrong. You’re…waiting. Your computer is moving as slow as a brontosaurus and the problem appears to go deeper than internet speed. What happened? When a PC slowdown strikes, there can be a number of culprits. Here are a few ideas to alleviate the problem, so you can get back to business in no time.

slowPCRestart

The most obvious but often overlooked fix is to simply restart your PC. Many people get into the habit of leaving their PC on 24/7 and, instead of turning it off, just leave it in sleep mode when they’re not using it. However, restarting it is like vacuuming a carpet or mopping a floor. If you let either of them sit for a while, a lot of temporary gunk builds up. A simple restart can help clean your computer up but, unlike with household chores, you won’t get dirty in the process.

Uninstall new stuff

Did you recently install new hardware or software? If you did, this could be causing your slowdown and, if you don’t need it, it’s worth uninstalling it. Here’s how:

  1. Go to your Control Panel’s Programs and Features section.
  2. If you think a driver is slowing you down, open Device Manager and double click the new driver.
  3. A dialog box will open. Click the Driver tab followed by the Roll Back Driver button.
  4. If that button is grayed out, it means the problem isn’t with that driver. If not, you can continue with uninstalling.

Using the Device Manager, you can also uninstall new hardware.

Free up hard drive space

A lack of hard drive space can slow your PC down as well. To run your system smoothly, it’s recommended you have 15% hard drive space free. Having this extra space gives room for temporary files and swapping.

If you don’t have the space, you may need to purchase a new hard drive or transfer some of your files and programs over to an external one.

Search for the bloated program that’s eating your memory

Another potential problem could be a dysfunctional program that is using up too much of your PC’s memory. To see if this is the source of your problem, go to Windows Task Manager and click the Processes tab. Then look in the CPU or memory column. Either of these will show you if there’s one program that’s eating all your memory.

To solve this problem, click on the program in Windows Task Manager; and then hit End Process. Keep in mind that this is only a temporary fix. You’ll have to uninstall this program and replace it with something that will run more efficiently.

Scan for viruses

Both viruses and malware can also slow down your computer. To check if you’ve been infected, run a system scan. If you do have malicious software on your PC, and your antivirus software hasn’t effectively detected or removed it, contact a local IT Services Provider who will be able to clean your computer and free it of potentially harmful malware. They can also advise you to a reputable solution to avoid future issues.

Want more tips on how to resolve PC slowness and other computer issues? Worried you may have been infected by a virus? Get in touch with us today for help and advice.

Your old PC may be costing you more than you think

In today‘s era of notebooks, tablets, and smartphones, mobility is a high priority-making small businesses more dynamic and responsive in an on-the-go world.

That reality, however, should not detract from the important role desktop PCs still play in today‘s business environment, delivering more power, more robust upgrade options, and more functionality compared to their portable counterparts.

While large enterprises typically refresh their desktop PCs once every three years, small businesses tend to hold on to their PCs for five to seven years [1]. Older hardware, however, often slows operations and sparks hidden costs. In fact, PCs more than four-and-a-half years old are estimated to cost 50 percent more to support and take 50 percent longer to perform many tasks [2].

So while retaining those still-functioning workhorse PCs purchased during the early-2000s might seem a prudent move, their continued use could be costing you more than you think. Here’s how:

slow-pc-solutionsRevealed Hidden Cost #1: Slow performance

As a PC ages, it slows and struggles to keep pace with current technology and business needs. Applications take longer to load, heat buildup causes Windows, the mouse, or keyboard to be unresponsive. Compatibility issues between older PCs and new software and printers all drain time, frustrate the user, and undermine productivity.

Modern desktops respond to today‘s multitasking, collaborative, and fast-paced business environment with productivity-driving features that allow workers to create rather than wait. New features include: touchscreens, fast-charging USB ports, and solid-state drives that reduce wait times when opening files or switching applications.

Revealed Hidden Cost #2: More maintenance

On average, 42 productive work hours are lost each year while an older computer is being repaired-two times that of a newer model. Annual maintenance costs for an older PC, meanwhile, sit at $561, about the cost of a new, mid-range desktop [3].

New desktops deliver a greater value in the present and the future. Their longer lifespan, platform stability, and increased durability stretch your budget further, and reduce the burden on your IT department.

Revealed Hidden Cost #3: Lower efficiency

Today‘s desktop PCs reflect the modern age with space- and energy-saving features unmatched by their older, bulkier peers, some of which have limited ports or require adapters to accommodate modern needs.

New form factors, such as All-in-Ones and mini desktops, embrace sleek, streamlined construction, reduce wire clutter with integrated components, and adapt to the task at hand. In addition to more efficient use of space, modern desktops also require less energy, as the power needed to perform a task requiring a fixed number of computations continues to fall in half every 18 months [4].

Revealed Hidden Cost #4: Security vulnerabilities

Hackers continue to view small businesses as easy targets, even more so following Microsoft’s end-of-support for Windows XP in 2014. According to Microsoft, existing XP users are “five times more vulnerable to security risks and viruses,” which makes moving to a new PC that can support a current operating system like Windows 8.1 the safest play [5].

Some new PC designs include built-in hardware and software security to help protect your devices, identity, and data. Most new PCs come with bundled tools that offer security from the start, with enhanced protection against virus attacks and other security threats, and is designed to help prevent data loss, and reduce downtime.

Doing the math

While those existing desktops had their time and place, the older hardware may now be hampering your team’s performance. Running a quick cost-benefit analysis addressing issues such as maintenance and lost productivity against the cost of new desktops might prove eye opening and inspire action.

With modern business-oriented desktop PCs, your small business can reap the benefits of technology’s rapid innovation with improved productivity, reduced costs, heightened efficiencies, and stronger security to keep the business running at an optimal level.

If you are looking to learn more about the replacement options that are available today, then let GCInfotech be your first call.

[1] Intel, How much is it costing your business to run old PCs?, 2013
[2] The Legislative Budget Board, Review of Replacement Schedules for Information Technology EquipmentJanuary 2013
[3] Techaisle.com, The Ageing PC Effect–Exposing Financial Impact for Small Businesses
[4] MIT Technology Review, The Computing Trend that Will Change Everything, 2012
[5] Microsoft, Windows XP support has ended

Published with permission from HP.com. SOURCE

We’ve been programmed to think the newest or latest version of something is a “must have” but in the case of Windows 8, there is a lot to consider.

Former Microsoft Windows Division President Steven Sinofsky described Windows 8 as “a generational change” the likes of which hasn’t been made since Windows 95. And indeed, the majority of the information found on the Web concerning Windows 8 is how brilliant it is on mobile devices. However, the praise ends there and the critics raise their heads when the conversation turns to Windows 8 on desktops and laptops. 

Pros and Cons

As with anything, there is good and bad.  It’s a completely capable OS and should not be totally dismissed but it’s worth weighing some of the pros and cons.

Pros:

  • Runs on desktops, laptops, tablets, and mobile phones
  • Faster start up. Also performs quicker when run through several benchmark performance tests than either Windows 7 (or Apple’s Mountain Lion).
  • Battery life has significantly improved on laptops and tablets.
  • Features like File History, Storage Space and improved Internet Explorer (although all of these are available in previous versions of Windows).
  • New feature SecureBoot, which has the potential to reduce viruses and other malware for some users.
  • Access to apps and upgrades available through the new Windows Store

Cons:

  • Mobile-centric design which wastes screen “real estate” on desktops/laptops.
  • Involves a steep learning curve.
  • No systems tray; the Start button/menu has disappeared, as well as the Programs menu (although Microsoft has some changes planned in Windows 8.1 due out shortly).
  • Interface is clumsy and wildly unpopular.

The online IT magazine TechRepulic conducted a poll of its membership of IT professionals in October 2012 in which 72.9% of respondents (over 1200 respondents in total) stated their organizations have no plans to deploy Windows 8 in the near future, 23.8% reporting that they will skip the OS altogether. 61.2% of the respondents who do plan to deploy Windows 8 indicated tablet/mobile integration was a major factor in doing so.

So how do you know what to do?

When all the tech blogs are crammed with people’s opinions, rather than straight facts, it’s sometimes hard to know if you should take the plunge or not.  We are of the opinion that if your organization is looking to make a big move towards mobile or touchscreen devices, then Windows 8 may be a good way to go.  Undeniably, Windows 8 shines most on a touchscreen system.

If it’s business as usual in your office then there is no good reason to upgrade at this point given the level of disruption and subsequent training it would entail.  However, take note that change is coming and Windows 8 is a glimpse into the future.

What if you need a new computer?

Currently there are still new computers on the market that use the Windows 7 operating systems, particularly through resellers such as CDW.com. Additionally, you can still buy the Windows 7 software to upgrade from Windows XP and some Windows 8 licenses can be downgraded to Windows 7.  But we suspect time is running out, so make a decision quickly.

Manufacturers of computers will soon be forcing you to pick Windows 8 if you want an OS.  When this happens, there are a few options available so don’t feel trapped. For instance, Dell offers computers with no OS without the cost of a Windows OS license.  Some Windows 7 keys are transferable to a new computer, assuming you remove the key/OS from the old computer.  You will have to install the OS yourself and call Microsoft to transfer the key, but it’s a perfectly reasonable way to continue using Windows 7 and save some money (be aware – this will depend on who manufactured both the old and the new machines).

Whether you decide to upgrade or stick with what you have, GCInfotech can walk you through the process and ensure your business has the least amount of disruption.

 

GCInfotech is your total business IT solutions resource for your Mobile Workforce

How important is smart device security?

Convenience is at the forefront of our lives. For businesses, this means a rapidly evolving security landscape that’s leaving many companies, and their IT departments, overwhelmed and scrambling. Smartphones and tablets and other embedded devices like printers and scanners utilize ingenious technology and provide significant benefit to how we do business, but they call into question the very serious issue of usability versus security.

Recent polls of management level employees suggest that upwards of 50% of them don’t know how their organizations identify compromised devices on their network. Additionally, polls of IT professionals show that data security threats at the office frequently go unmanaged due to insufficient resources or in some cases a lack of awareness that a situation even exists. Device manufacturers tend to focus on usability and place little emphasis on built-in software protections, contributing to data and network vulnerabilities. The challenge for device engineers is compressing large and slow software into a tiny space, which makes creating operating systems and software to run on these devices extremely difficult. Decisions invariably must be made regarding what features to include– if richness of features is forsaken for security measures, then how useful is the device in the first place?

Many of us may not even realize which office devices can pose a significant security threat. Here’s a list of culprits and the backend attacks they are susceptible to:

  • Printers – Remote reconfiguration or access to previously printed documents
  • Timeclocks – Access to employee information and payroll
  • Photocopiers – Retrieve documents over the web
  • Scanners – Remote operation or access to hard drive of previously scanned documents
  • Telephone Systems – Eavesdropping
  • Webcams – Hijack and enable without the owner’s knowledge

Best practice begins with two essential steps– first, a comprehensive IT policy that integrates and safeguards all office equipment, including those often forgotten about embedded devices; and second, an employee education program that’s clear, concise and tailored to your company. GCInfotech can assist you with a security evaluation of your office equipment as well as help you devise an employee education plan that’s appropriate for today’s security landscape.