Did you say RBSK IT Road Show?

27 01 2016

Yes, that is what we have taken to calling our group of individuals in the IT Department here at RBSK Partners, PC. Ok, so it is really just a fun name we have given ourselves.  Our IT Department is actually made up of four individuals.  Three IT Consultants: Andy Koetter, Barry Bailey & Brian McReynolds; and our IT Administrative Assistant: (Me) Jennifer Gunter.

The members of our IT Department have been making appearances all month. We began our “Road Show” by speaking at the Optimist Club Breakfast on January 7th.  Our next engagement was at the Rotary Club Luncheon Meeting on January 18th.  Our most recent appearance was on the WTRE Chamber Chat January 25th.

We are having a great time meeting new people and getting the chance to inform everyone that we at RBSK Partners do more than the typical Accounting firm. You might be surprised to know that we offer computer services as well.  Our IT Department can help with all your computer needs.

During our Road Show we have had a few questions that have been asked frequently. People want to know how long your computer should last.  Obviously not all PC’s are the same.  As a general rule of thumb, a PC used in the business world should be replaced after 4 or 5 years.  Yes, they may still be running at that time, but probably not at their top speed or as well as they once did.  The fact of the matter is that technology changes and the needs of the software running on your PC requires more resources than they used to.

RBSK IT Road Show 2Another question we were asked on our Road Show was what we thought of Windows 10. With the release of Windows 10, we see good things.  The main thing you want to think about when considering upgrading to Windows 10 is to be sure the software you use for your business is compatible.  Software companies are not always on the cutting edge as you would think.  If the software you use is compatible, you are probably safe to move up.  Microsoft brought back a lot of the look and feel of Windows 7 that we like and some of the new features offered by Windows 8 that went over well.  As with any Windows upgrade there is a bit of a learning curve.  Overall, we like it.  We would caution you to be sure to take a look at the privacy settings while upgrading to Windows 10.  With the introduction of Cortana, Windows is asking for more approval to monitor how you use your PC to better assist you.  You do have the option to restrict that monitoring.  We recommend restricting that information.

We were also asked about backups and the cloud. There was a movie preview not long ago where the couple are discussing “The Cloud”.   One of them says “Nobody understands the cloud.  It’s a mystery.”  Well, that about sums it up for most of us.  We all know it is important to back up our data.  But do we want it in the illusive cloud?  The answer to that is “Yes”!  Backing up to the cloud is actually a good thing.  If you are running a business, the safest way to be sure your business can stay up and running in the case of a disaster is to backup to the cloud.  Backing up to the cloud means you are saving your data to another location.  So if your building blows away, you can still access your data.  Your building may be gone, but not your business.  You can breathe a little easier knowing that your data is not just out there in La La Land.  The backup software companies actually go to great lengths to keep your data safe by encrypting it so that no one can just happen across it.  Only you have the ability to access your data.

The last thing on everyone’s minds was about us individually. Who we are?  What is our background?  How long have we been in the technology field?  Well I mentioned at the beginning we are calling ourselves the RBSK IT Road Show.  If you have more questions, we can bring our Road Show to you.  We would love to hear from you!

SM Jennifer

Submitted by: Jennifer Gunter

What is Ransomware?

22 12 2015

Ransomware is one of the more dangerous types of malware. It can be downloaded from a compromised website or received as an email with a link or attachment. Once executed it can lock the computer or encrypt the files (documents, spreadsheets, PDF’s & pictures) on your computer and pop-up a message saying to recover your files you need to pay a ransom through some type of online payment method.

If your files have been encrypted, you are in trouble. Usually it is not possible to unlock the files because the decryption key is stored on the cybercriminal’s server. You could pay the ransom. I DO NOT recommend doing this. It does not guarantee that the criminal will unlock your files. The other option is to restore from a backup. This is one reason you should be backing up your important files regularly.

The first step in preventing ransomware from hitting you is to be cautious browsing online. Don’t open unexpected email attachments and be cautious when clicking on a suspicious web page or link. Installing a free browser extension like Web of Trust (www.mywot.com) will help you determine which websites you can trust when doing internet searches.

Add an extra layer of protection by keeping your computer Operating System up-to-date with the latest Security patches using Microsoft Updates and have anti-virus software installed and up-to-date to help protect from the latest viruses and malware.

Backup important files regularly either with an online service or to a local backup device. When using local backup devices, keep at least three backup copies of your data, each on a different media (hard drive, flash drive, etc.) and the third at an offsite location.

Andy 2013

Submitted by Andy Koetter, RBSK IT Consultant

What am I going to do with all this unwanted computer equipment?

16 11 2015

If you think you can use it, use it.  If you can’t, get rid of it.

If your equipment room is anything like ours (Jake’s room) you will have a room stuffed with old PC’s, keyboards, mice, and a selection of monster monitors.

Clearing out this mess will give you back valuable space, may benefit others, and could even net you some extra cash.  Just remember: If you think you can use it, use it. If you can’t, throw it out.

Look at what you have first

For example, old keyboards and mice that are not used anymore. If they work, use them. If they don’t, it’s not worth repairing them.  You can always get a keyboard or mouse for a little of nothing. So when they fail, get rid of them.

My experience is that most spaces are crammed with things that have been taken out of service and out of sight. You know the saying Out of site; Out of mind. Separate all the usable from the unusable and arrange to dispose of the junk.

Get a dumpster and throw it all away

Tossing all the unusable junk can be beneficial. Just be careful about how you dispose of it. There are strict rules about the way you dispose of old monitors, as they contain some poisonous heavy metals. When you see how much specialist disposal companies charge to take them away, you might want to consider giving the equipment a new lease on life by passing it on to a new owner.

Donate it to a charity of your choice

Plenty of people would like to have a PC but don’t have the funds to buy one. Your local church, school or not-for-profit may need one to help with their computing needs. Again, they may not need anything powerful, and your equipment might just be faster than what they currently have.  And it’s tax deductible.

Use it in the training room

When you’re training, it only needs to work for the most part. Performance may not be a big issue.  All you want it to do is work. Outdated stock can have a rebirth in the training room. Machines can be re-imaged and used for this purpose.  The good thing is, if you wreck it completely, there’s no big loss.

Give it to an employee

Some workers do better at home. Especially when there is a deadline around the corner and being in the office is distracting. But even though it might be good to avoid traveling to the office, it might be hard to justify the expense of a second PC for those workers. Sometimes, the systems that one department finds inadequate for intensive applications may be just fine for another. Pass it on to them.

Break it down for spares parts

You never know when a spare part might just get you out of a bind. Reusing parts is good for the environment and for the pocketbook.  It might just enable a quick fix instead of having a system out of action for as long as it takes to get a new one. Having spare parts ready to use on the shelf is a good idea.  Just remember not to keep too many.

Break it down and sell the parts

Selling or giving a PC away is sometimes not the answer. Data privacy is a big issue these days.  With the availability of data recovery tools, some companies aren’t high on letting whole units go. You can still recover some of your investment by taking some components and selling them on eBay.

You’ll need to check your company’s policy on disposing of old hard disks though.

Make the most of the metal

Those old PC’s and laptops need to go somewhere.  If you have enough of them, your local scrap metal dealer may be interested.

While you’re thinking about recycling, there are companies that will buy scrap and recover the precious metals from them. The money received from this source can be used to pay for other staff equipment.

Here at RBSK Partners, we encourage recycling.  We are happy to assist by taking your old equipment and properly recycle it for you.  Give us a call for pricing or with any other recycling questions you may have.

SM Barry2

By Barry Bailey

Password Security

2 10 2015

You may hear from time to time that someone’s email has been “hacked” and is sending out spam. The term “hacked” sounds scary, and it can be, but typically when someone’s email has been “hacked”, it is nothing more than an automated system that guessed your password. A simple password change will resolve the issue. Most of the time an attacker has gathered a list of email addresses that are loaded into a computer or server and then the automated system runs a dictionary attack on those accounts. A “dictionary attack” is a technique used to try and guess the password of an account by trying multiple combinations of passwords containing words that you may find in a dictionary. When your password is a single, common word, and maybe a number or two thrown on the end, the system will figure that out. Now they have your email credentials. Attackers then utilize this account information to send spam to your contacts and others on your behalf. This allows them the opportunity to sometimes bypass spam filters and also hide their tracks. So, by definition, yes you have been hacked, but not in the sense most people think of when they hear the phrase, “you’ve been hacked.”

This leads me to password security. According to gizmodo.com, the top 3 password in 2014 were 123456, password, and 12345. If any of these are your personal email passwords, I can guarantee you that your email credentials will be compromised at some point, if they haven’t been already. When creating a password, never use your name, a family member’s name, all numbers, or any word that personally identifies with you that may be easily guessed. Even when you think you are being tricky by making an “a” and “@” symbol or making an “O” a “zero”, sophisticated password cracking tools will figure those out. These are easily guessed by a dictionary attack, or maybe someone that knows you and may have more malicious intent than sending some spam from your email account.

It is best to use what is called a passphrase, rather than a password. A passphrase is a string of words that make up a phrase. Passphrases are much more difficult to guess and are often easy to remember. To most, Ilovecatpictures is easier to remember than C@t$2015, and is more secure. According to howsecureismypassword.net, it would take a desktop pc 22 billion years to crack the Ilovecatpictures passphrase, and just 3 days to crack C@t$2015! While these numbers might be a bit exaggerated, you get the picture. I used this site for educational purposes. It is not recommended to enter your real password; I mean passphrase, into the website to check its strength.

Another great way to create and manage secure passwords is to use a Password Manager such as LastPass or RoboForm. These tools, which are password protected themselves, will allow you to create secure passwords for all of your online accounts and they will remember them for you. They also include a feature that will auto generate a super secure password that you could never remember, but you don’t have to!

Oh, and one last thing, don’t tell anyone your passwords or write it on a sticky note near your computer!

Brian McReynolds

Submitted by Brian McReynolds, IT Consultant, RBSK Partners 

Is Your Data Safe?

24 07 2015

RBSK has received several calls recently from businesses affected by the Crypto Wall Virus. This type of virus is known as Ransomware which encrypts your data and renders it unreadable. Therefore, it is crucial that you have a data backup and recovery system in place.

There are many steps businesses take to protect themselves from threats and disasters. One very important step is to invest in data backup and recovery services. Protecting your business in the event that anything should happen should be at the top of every business owner’s “To Do” list.

Data backup and recovery ensures that your business is protected. A backup is a representative copy of data at a specific time. The phrase “backup and recovery” usually refers to the transfer of copied files from one location to another, along with the various operations performed on those files.

A good backup strategy is essential for data security. Backup is the last defense against data loss, providing a way to restore original data. There are many advantages to making sure your business is protected from potential threats and disasters.

These benefits include:

  • Protecting you in the event of hardware failure, accidental deletions or disaster;
  • Protecting you against unauthorized changes made by an intruder;
  • Peace of Mind knowing that your business is protected;
  • Protection/Preservation of Clients’ Contact information and files;
  • Easy recovery of data in the unfortunate loss of the business location

With the recent attacks it is important that you have taken the proper steps to protect your data. For more information on protecting your data or to review your current backup solution, please contact the IT Staff of RBSK Partners PC at 812-663-7567.

Jennifer 2013

5 Tips to keep your electronics cool this summer

4 06 2015

Summer is almost here.  As the days get warmer, make sure to keep your computer and other electronic gadgets nice and cool.  Extreme heat can potentially damage your expensive toys. So keep these five tips in mind as you go through the summer months: 

1. Allow for Airflow
Give your equipment a little breathing room. Make sure there is ample space around your devices – about 2-3 inches, and make sure the vents are clear and that there are no loose items that could obstruct airflow around your electronic devices.

Most printers, computers, routers and other electronic devices have vents located on the back or on the side.  This configuration allows cool air to be pulled in to the device from the front or from the sides and for the hot air to be forced out through the back or to the sides.    If the equipment is stored in an enclosed area, hot air tends to cycle through it making it hotter and hotter the longer it is running.

2. Position Electronics Away from Heat
Never place your computer by a window under direct sunlight.  Move the computer to a cooler and cleaner area.  It is best to position it along the path of airflow from a fan or air conditioner.  You will be amazed how this can help cool down your equipment.  Hot air rises, so store things on the basement or ground level if needed.

3. Don’t Stack Them
Electronic devices get hot enough on their own. Stacking them on top of each other produces and conducts even higher temperatures. Keep your devices spread out and use shelves whenever possible.

4. Keep It Clean
The fans inside your computer and other equipment are there to keep it cool. Dirt in the form of dust, human or pet hair, etc. may slow down the fan and eventually cause it to stop.  Use a can of compressed air to blow the dust away from all of your gadgets. Remember to keep all of the vents clean and unobstructed.

5. In Case of Emergency, Shut Down
If one of your gadgets begins to overheat and malfunction during the hot summer months, shut it down and disconnect its power supply. Let it sit and cool down until the casing is no longer hot to the touch, and then try to use it again. Make sure it’s not stacked with any other devices, and keep the area clear to allow for proper airflow.

Submitted by Jennifer Gunter

Jennifer 2013

Why do I need Antivirus?

13 06 2013

Why is AntiVirus Software Important?

Now a days, an unprotected computer isn’t just vulnerable, it’s probably already infected. New malware (viruses, trojans, worms, spyware, ect.) are created every day. New ways to bypass  security measures by disguising malware are specifically designed to catch you and your PC off guard.

Viruses themselves have evolved over the years. Viruses just used to be annoying pranks, but now they have evolved into serious threats capable of destroying your computer and stealing your information and identity.

The benefits of installing security solutions on your PC are a no brainer, but before, the cost in system slowdown used to make installing security an unwanted commodity. Now, modern antivirus software hasn’t just improved the level of protection, but they have also significantly improved efficiency and overall speed. You can now have conclusive protection without giving up your computers resources. With all the advances in technology, antivirus software is more effective than ever, and no longer requires constant maintenance from you.  Current antivirus programs deliver constant protection and can actually speed up your computer, rather than slow it down like before.

The newest generation of antivirus software brought advanced detection into the mix. For the most part, the 2011 composition of antivirus products  incorporate further developed proactive protection with better behavior checking and even file reputation analysis. Several of the software companies have also incorporated “in the cloud” security and other advanced technologies to increase safety and convenience. From gamer modes, to battery saving settings, to integrated web link scanners; antivirus applications are more versatile and have upped the ante for features and functionality.