4 signs that its time for a new computer

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4 signs that its time for a new computer

Following our last blog, sometimes we just need to accept the fact that we need to buy a new computer (however much we don’t want to!) We use computers so much at work that it can massively affect our productivity if our computer isn’t performing at its best.

Below are some pointers for when its time to invest in a new computer. If you’re not sure or want a second, honest opinion – get in touch with us.

1. Overall Slow Performance

 

 

 

 

Probably the most obvious reason – things are running slow and applications are taking forever to start up. You come into the office, turn on your computer and make a cup of tea before you can actually sit down and do anything. Sound familiar? This is a sign that there is either something really wrong or your PC is on its last legs. Think about how much time you and your users spend waiting for your computer to startup or load an application and weigh the cost of buying a new PC with the downtime and lost productivity.

2. Your fans are noisy

 

 

 

 

There are a couple of reasons this might be happening. It could simply be dirty and needs a good clean. However, this symptom can also be a sign of imminent failure! Your computer is struggling to keep up with everything it is being asked to do. Computers get hot – the more work that they do, the hotter they get. If they are being overstretched, that fan will be working hard and the working parts of your PC may not be getting cooled properly. At any moment that fan could fail, resulting in total meltdown. (This sounds more dramatic than I first intended nevertheless you need to be aware of the consequences.)

3. Struggling to multitask

 

 

 

 

Modern computers should allow you to run several applications at a time and you should be able to flick between them seamlessly. Are you playing the game where you juggle what applications you can have open?

Word + Outlook = Good
Excel Spreadsheet + Word + PhotoShop = No chance!

When you start seeing a noticeable delay when switching between applications, you should be taking steps to improve the performance of your computer.

4. Software Requirements

 

 

 

 

With an ever-present security threat hanging over our heads, people are becoming much more aware of the need to keep critical software up to date. The problem then comes when the new version of software won’t work on your old hardware with an old operating system. Read more about how to plan for this by introducing a rolling replacement schedule at https://bit.ly/2PnGZFg.

Contact us today for reliable, honest advice if any of your computers are showing these symptoms on 01228 590900 or email info@castle-computers.com


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Surprise! Replacing a broken computer

 

 

 

 

Quite often we find that the cost of replacing a broken PC falls into the ‘surprise’ budget category for SME’s. Hardware failures are never welcome, but unfortunately, they do happen. It can be hard work managing cash flow at the best of times, no matter made worse by suddenly having to find the money to replace an essential piece of kit.

What you need to accept
Like most things, technology has a lifecycle and eventually, your computer will become obsolete. Modern desktop computers are designed to last for around 4 to 5 years. Laptops are only designed to last 3 years. Often, as computers age we don’t notice the slow decline in speed or capability.

It makes sense to maintain the equipment you already have, but often with technology, buying new is the way to go. Would you try to get the battery fixed on your 5-year-old phone or would you get a new one?

Ageing hardware can reduce productivity and older hardware is unlikely to support newer operating systems. This means you won’t be able to run the most up-to-date versions of software you use on a day-to-day basis.

Things to consider
– Are any of your computers unreliable/quirky? Ask your users to clearly list the issues they have.
– How do people use their computers? Would something faster, or a bigger monitor make them happier and more productive?
– Could any of your slower computers, around the 3-year mark benefit from a memory upgrade (RAM) or new faster SSD (Hard Disk) to improve speed and give them a longer life cycle?
– Are you planning any software upgrades? Does your existing hardware meet the minimum specifications?

The Solution: A Replacement Schedule
Planning out a rolling replacement schedule can save you time and money. It can reduce critical hardware failures and allow you to have tighter control over your budget.

There are a few different approaches that companies can take when planning their replacement schedule. For example, the most popular is Time-Driven i.e. PC’s will be replaced on the 4th birthday. If not, you could choose a Performance-Driven approach i.e. replace a PC when performance drops below a predetermined level. This option is still a bit reactive and requires ongoing performance monitoring but is still better than waiting until the system breaks!

A pro-active attitude to hardware replacement can save you time and money. A rolling schedule means you can control when and how many PC’s are replaced and allows you to budget reducing the downtime you experience from unexpected surprises.

Reminder
Windows 7 support ends on January 14th 2020, so if you’re still using it on your machine, you need to start thinking about moving to Windows 10. This will probably mean moving to a new device which uses Windows 10.

Although this comes at a cost, it is so important as technical assistance and security updates will no longer be available for Windows 7. This means you and your data will not be safe and if something goes wrong, there would be no technical support from Microsoft. Thankfully we can offer you various options depending on your budget and which features are important to you. Contact us to discuss your computer needs.

If you need help with planning a replacement schedule or you think it’s time for a new machine – get in touch with us for honest advice and quality products. Contact us on 01228 590900 or email info@castle-computers.com.


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6 ways to improve your business security

Protecting your business security is so important. We live in an online world which can be positive but can also bring many dangers to businesses.
We’ve pulled together a checklist of 6 ways to improve your business security. You might need help with one or two or the whole lot. Whatever the case, don’t delay it anymore – we can help!

1. Two-Step Verification

If you have an Office 365 account, it’s highly recommended to set up two-step verification/multi-factor authentication. It adds an extra layer of security to your Office 365 account. You sign in with your password as well as a verification code that is sent to you by text message. This will protect your account by making it a lot more difficult for someone else to sign in. Contact us for help on setting this up!

2. Anti-Virus Software

Nowadays, where there are more security threats than ever before – having any old Anti-Virus is just not good enough. You need the best protection out there for your business. You might have anti-virus installed – but is it working? Thankfully, we know a few things about anti-virus and can check if it’s working and if you do need to install some – recommend the best software out there.

3. Backup

Your server or PC contains pretty much all the important data that you need – correct? How very important it is then to have that information backing up in case something goes wrong. Something as simple as a computer crash, hard drive failure or a virus infection can mean you lose vital data. Thankfully there are plenty of affordable and reliable backup solutions that we can offer and set up for you. Contact us to discuss the best backup option for your business.

4. Limiting Access

Although I’m sure your colleagues and staff are very lovely – there are some things that I’m sure you’d prefer they didn’t access at work. Whether it be Facebook for Abbie in accounts or a dodgy website you don’t want anyone on – we can help you control this. Also to protect certain data – you may only want chosen people to access certain folders in your company’s shared folder. We can help you set this up so that staff can only access what they need to at work.

5. Proper Passwords

Ahhhh passwords! Seemingly the simplest way of protecting your secure information but somehow the one that so many fail on. Passwords should be strong, complex & memorable to only you. That means including numbers, punctuations, capital letters etc. They shouldn’t be obvious words like the same as your username, the word ‘password’ or your husband’s name (hackers have facebook too!) You should change your password at times too (eg every couple of months). We can set you and your staffs computer up to make you reset your password after a specific time.

6. Patch Management

Updates/patches need to be done when a manufacturer finds a security issue that needs fixing. If you don’t carry out these updates, you’re leaving yourself wide open for security breaches. However, keeping on top of these updates is not easy. There are a lot of updates to cope with especially on a whole office worth of devices. This is where Patch Managment Software comes in. It deals with all the patches/updates for you from one device which can be someone at your office or here at Castle Computers. Contact us for more information on this effective and helpful software.

How many can you tick off?
It’s fantastic if you’re able to able to knock some of these off your security checklist. However to be fully secure, we recommend you have something in place for all 6 points. We can help you to get there so you know you’ve done all you can to protect your business.
Contact us today on 01228 590900 or email info@castle-computers.com


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Nobody’s Perfect – Patience is a virtue

 

 

 

 

 

I am a very patient person… until I’m not! Sometimes no matter how hard I try, that rage-filled monster emerges and a sense of urgency overwhelms me. I press the power button even though Windows told me not to.

You can hear a collective sigh around the world when people restart their computers and get THAT message. “Windows is installing updates, do not switch off your computer.” I know it’s frustrating. I struggle with the exact same issues and there is nothing worse than when you are raring to go and you see THAT message on your computer screen. Be warned though, pressing the power button is your last resort.

I don’t want to blind you with science here as I try to make these blogs as jargon-free as possible. However, I want to try and help you understand why powering off in the middle of the update cycle is so very bad for your computer. To do this I feel it is my duty to explain what is actually happening when Windows is configuring those pesky updates.

Very simply, when Microsoft releases a new update it is usually to add features to your Windows, fix a security hole or fix an issue that has been found with the software. As an example (a very simplified one), Microsoft has decided that they want to fix a problem with Microsoft Word. They have the new files ready to send out to everyone which will fix the problem and so decide to issue a Windows Update.

As you use Word all the time (because you are very busy and important!), Microsoft can’t swap the old files with the new ones while you are logged on and using your computer. Instead, your computer just downloads the update. The update is then ready to install the next time you restart your PC.

As soon as you restart your computer, the update senses it’s opportunity and starts to replace the files on your computer with the new ones contained in the update you downloaded earlier, i.e it’s “configuring and installing updates”.

Imagine it’s halfway through doing this and you turn off the computer. It’s a bit like stopping your washing machine half way through! Sometimes Windows will realise that a catastrophe has occurred and will try to undo the changes it was making by putting everything back to where it was before. Sometimes this works, sometimes it doesn’t. Your computer now has some old files and some new files and there is a high likelihood that Word won’t work anymore. Even if it does load, there may be bits missing. Remember, you still have the downloaded update sitting there ready to install the next time you restart the PC.

Powering off while doing updates can cause all kinds of damage to your computer including file corruption. You could actually cause physical damage to your hard disk. Not waiting for them to finish may actually cost you more time in the long run!

If you have any queries regarding Windows updates – don’t hesitate to contact us on 01228 590900.


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Nobody’s Perfect: The first step – admit there is a problem and get organised!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Stress – it affects us all in one way or another. When dealing with umpteen computer things going wrong or trying to keep organised, it only adds to the irritation of everyday office life.

They always say if you want something done, give it to a busy person. Well, one fateful day this summer – I was that busy person. I was keeping those plates spinning and whilst signing for a parcel with one hand, I answered the phone with the other. My hay fever was playing up at the time so as soon as I had a hand free, I reached into my top drawer to grab my nasal spray. I waited for a suitable gap in the conversation, unscrewed the top and gave a good squirt. Something felt wrong… it didn’t feel normal.

The utter horror when I realised I had squirted the stamp pad ink refill bottle up my nose. I now had to remain professional on the phone with black ink streaming down my face, down the back of my throat and all over the desk. Needless to say, I didn’t get any sympathy from my co-workers, though my eyes were blinded by tears I could still hear them laughing!

Juggling umpteen jobs and trying to keep track of everyone can be a nightmare. I’ve pulled together some of my top tips and tools to use to keep things in the office running smoothly. It also pays to keep your desk drawers organised!

– Use Rules in Microsoft Outlook to help deal with the constant flow of emails. I have set up folders for some contacts and automatically move their emails into them. It just means I can see the wood for the trees and know when there is something I need to respond to immediately.

-Use AutoText in Outlook for paragraphs of text that I have to use often. It saves me so much time typing, proofreading and spell checking every time.

-Have a good filing system for storing your documents etc. That way you know exactly where to find that quote or letter, saving all that time browsing or searching through your computer. Make sure everyone knows the filing system and adheres to it. It might take you a day to get organised and get everything where it should be, but I promise you – it will save you time in the long run.

-Use Tasks in Outlook or the built-in Windows 10 Sticky Notes to keep track of your to-do list. You can’t throw these away by accident and it’s very satisfying marking them as complete at the end of the day.

-Use Microsoft Teams. Depending on your Office 365 subscription you might find you have the ultimate (or at least pretty good) team management software already available to you. You can create plans, store documents and more for a project or a group of people. Collaboration in real time is the key here. For an overview of its capabilities look here or give me a call and I can give you a quick demo. https://docs.microsoft.com/en-us/microsoftteams/teams-overview

Get in touch if you would like assistance setting up these helpful tools to organise your work – info@castle-computers.com, 01228 590900


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Nobody’s Perfect: A True Story – Crime, Punishment and Justice for all!

 

 

 

 

 

Regular readers of these blogs will know that Friday night is wine night. There we were sitting on the couch – happy, relaxed and enjoying a movie. To our horror(!), the doorbell rang. We pondered if we should pretend to be out. From experience, we know that nothing good ever comes from a knock on the door at that time of night. However, as our offspring often forget keys or lose them while pouring themselves out of a taxi, we decided we had better answer the door. (Plus all the lights were on so I doubt we would have got away with it!)

We were right to be horrified. Our very good neighbour was informing us that my car (the other love of my life) had been attacked and was now sitting injured in the back lane of our street. I was dismayed and almost didn’t want to look. Steeling myself for the worst we discovered “Mad Max” had indeed been injured, keyed down the entire passenger side and boot!

Luckily enough the perpetrator was caught red-handed by another good neighbour. I can’t begin to tell you how violated and angry I felt. After being dragged down to the police station, the criminal has since come to my door to apologise and to pay for the damage. (To the Police’s credit they did refuse to tazer her despite angry pleas from myself!)

Knowing this had happened, I wanted to try and ensure it didn’t happen again or if it did, that we weren’t relying on good luck to catch those responsible. Luckily enough I know someone in the computer business! We now have CCTV pointing directly at my car. We had it up and running in 30 minutes with battery powered cameras (rechargeable) connecting to our house Wi-Fi. The cameras even have audio and I can’t begin to tell you how much better it makes me feel.

The cameras we have installed can send us an email or a notification straight to our phone when the motion sensor is activated. We can then see exactly what’s going on even if we are away from home.

We now have a sign up, warning neighbours that our property is protected by CCTV. The system we have installed is brilliant for covering an area such as a parking bay or back garden. The quality is excellent and yes, you can identify people from it. It’s not as expensive as you might think and was up and running in 30 minutes!

We offer several types of CCTV solutions suitable for small home installations to whole works yards or business coverage (internal and external). Give us a call today to discuss your requirements on 01228 590900.


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Patch Management – why your business needs it

What is it?
Let’s take this step by step. A patch is a piece of computer code or some files that patch up a problem by updating, fixing or improving it. Windows Updates are often referred to as patches. You will get a Windows Update because Microsoft has found a security issue that needs fixing. In other words, they have found a hole and need to patch it! The update/patch copies new files to your computer or adds some new coding and voila the issue is dealt with and your computer is no longer at risk. Patch Management is the process of managing these patches/updates on your network.

 

 

 

 

 

Why do I need Patch Management?
As you can imagine, because of the number of security threats – there is a lot of updates to cope with. Microsoft is not the only manufacturer to release updates. All good software houses will release updates for their products.

As soon as a patch/update is released, the security hole becomes public knowledge. Public knowledge means very bad, but very clever attackers can rush to exploit it. You should apply updates as soon as you can to mitigate this opportunity for cyber criminals. You should also be aware that to be fully GDPR compliant, you need to do your best to protect your data. One way to help with this is to put in place a good Patch Management policy/procedure.

A good way to picture it: if you’re a visual person like myself, imagine yourself maintaining a car. Without regular services, changing your tyres etc… you can still drive your car. If you keep avoiding the mechanic, eventually the car will break down or cause an accident. It’s the same with Patch Management – you can go on without doing all your updates for a while and you’ll still be able to use your computer. However, without regular updates/maintenance, your device will become unprotected and potentially dangerous.

 

 

 

 

 

Patch Management Software
Because of how many malicious attacks that software companies face on a regular basis – there is lots of patches to deal with on one device, no matter a full office worth. Thankfully, there are some wonderful people out there that recognised this and developed software to deal with all of the patches/updates for you. Meaning that you can get on with all the other important things on your to-do list.

We recommend Panda Patch Management which has the ability to manage your network from one device, which can be a chosen person at your office or we can manage it for you here at Castle Computers.

Contact us on 01228 590900 or email info@castle-computers.com for more information on this software. We’re happy to answer any questions you have!


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Is your website secure enough for Google Chrome?

 

 

 

 

 

Google Chrome has over 2 billion installs and 61.4% share of the worldwide internet browser market on desktop. It’s the most popular browser out there. I use it, you probably use it and apparently most the world does, so it’s very important to make sure your website looks right on it.

When people access your website, you want them to be greeted by a welcoming home page and a trustworthy site that they feel secure buying from. You don’t want anything putting them off from using your services.

Google Chrome 68 was released some months ago with lots of great features. One of its features is that Google Chrome now marks ‘non-secure’ pages with a security warning to visitors. Now I’m sure you do your best to make sure your website is secure. However, if you don’t secure your site with HTTPS security encryption then in Chromes new standards – it’s not secure.

What to do
It’s pretty simple to find out whether your website is ‘secure’ or not. Go to google chrome and type in your website. At the top of the page, on the left of the website URL – there will be one of the following symbols.
Padlock – meaning it is safe and secure (woo congrats!!)
Circle with an ‘i’ – meaning it’s not secure or there is more information
Triangle with an explanation mark – meaning it’s not secure or dangerous

Your site hopefully has a padlock but if not, it’s something to look into. It’s not worth losing potential customers because your page isn’t ‘secure’.

 

 

 

HTTP… what?
So what’s the difference between http and https? Well, the ‘s’ stands for, yes you guessed it… secure. Some other positives of having your website secured with HTTPS is:

– It means information being transferred from your device to the website you’re on is encrypted and therefore far more difficult to intercept
– It can be faster
– It can prevent malware being injected into the code on your website
– It can help SEO by improving your sites ranking on search engine results as Google will promote those using HTTPS

What’s next…
If you have any queries, we’ll do our best to help but unfortunately, we aren’t web developers. If your site is ‘not secure’, your best bet would be to contact your web developers (the people that made your website!) and they’ll give you a hand.


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Raise the bar for your business security


Protecting your network in a business is vital. Organisations of all sizes and in all sectors are constantly being targeted. Anti-Virus needs to proactively detect and prevent security attacks.

The answer? Panda Adaptive Defense 360 (Panda AD360) – the only solution to guarantee the security of all running applications.
Limitless visibility, absolute control.

Seeing what the others can’t
Nasty malware is getting far more sneaky and sophisticated with over 200,000 new viruses every day. This means traditional Anti-Virus just doesn’t do the job anymore. Whilst traditional Anti-Virus only takes action if it thinks a process is malicious; Panda AD360 monitors, records and classifies 100% of running applications.
It processes absolutely everything.

 

The technical bit
Panda Adaptive Defense 360 is the first and only product to combine Endpoint Protection Platform (EPP) and Endpoint Detection & Response (EDR) capabilities. This means it can protect against zero-day and targeted attacks that take advantage of the window of opportunity for malware.

The EDR capabilities relies on a security model based on three principles:
• Continuous monitoring of applications on a company’s computers and servers.
• Automatic classification using machine learning on Panda’s big data platform in the cloud.
• Panda’s technical experts analyse those applications that haven’t been classified automatically to be certain of the behaviour of everything that is run on the company’s systems.

Features and Benefits

Detection & Response

  • Protection of intellectual assets against targeted attacks
  • Forensic report
  • Protection of vulnerable systems
  • Continuous monitoring and analysis of running applications
  • Data access and transmission monitoring for applications

Protection

  • Antivirus antimalware
  • Device control
  • Web & Mail (Exchange) filtering
  • Personal firewall

Productivity and Management

  • Light, easy-to-deploy solution
  • Daily and on-demand reports
  • Simple, centralized administration from a Web console
  • Total transparency for the user
  • Better service, simpler management

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The best protection for the best price
Of course, you want the most indestructible security system for the best value. At the competitive pricing of £35 per pc, per year to be completely covered by the first and only solution to combine EPP and EDR capabilities – its a pretty good deal.

Panda Adaptive Defense 360: Find the answers, solve the problem
Contact us today for more info and to start fully protecting your business now.
Email: info@castle-computers.com
Phone: 01228 590900


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Is your Anti-Virus actually working?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We’ve all done it.
Bought a shiny new computer and paid for the Anti-Virus software that comes along with it. Then the lovely IT person has set it all up for us, we log on to our computer and never really think about it again. We’re covered.

…. NO! There is no point having Anti-Virus installed if you don’t check it is working and up to date.

Why do I need Anti-Virus?
Anti-Virus is to a computer what an immune system is to a body. It identifies viruses and nasty software and then protects the device from being infected. It can live without it for a short time but only until someone or something infects it. And then, you’re in trouble.

You need something that is going to defend you at all times. You should invest in good Anti-Virus software. Without protection you are making yourself a flashing target for something or someone to gain access to your computer and data. By data we don’t just mean your word documents. We mean anything you type into a web browser – your bank details, personal information, even your Netflix password!

Why can’t I just use any old Anti-Virus?
Not all Anti-Virus software is created equal. You might be tempted by free software. This could work fine on the surface, however you may find it slows your computer down so much that you get fed up of using it! Anti-Virus Software that works well for the home computer may not be the best solution for work, and vice-versa.

Here at Castle Computers, we have experience with lots of Anti-Virus software. We know exactly what we’re looking for when we choose one for us and what to recommend to our customers. With over 200,000 new viruses appearing every day (yes you heard me – 200,000 every day) networks are more vulnerable than ever. Your Anti-Virus needs to be smarter than ever.

It may be installed, but is it working?
Traditional or Standard Anti-Virus requires 3 things to work correctly. Firstly an internet connection. Secondly definition updates, and finally a valid subscription or licence. Without the above, your Anti-Virus will not be able to update itself and as such you will be unprotected against any newly identified threats.

We recommend you pay some attention to the little Anti-Virus icon which usually resides somewhere near the clock on your PC. Is it working? Is it up to date? Do you know how to check if you are protected? We are here to help, if you don’t know or aren’t sure – give us a ring, we can help you figure it out.

Next Generation Solution – Panda Adaptive Defense 36
Panda AD360 works differently to standard Anti-Virus with minimum impact on the performance of your PC. We recommend Panda AD360 for business use. It provides a service that accurately classifies every application in an organisation and only allows legitimate programs to run. It does not rely on definition updates to protect you.

Sound like something worth taking a look at?
There’s a lot more great features of Panda AD360 that we’d be happy to talk you through. Give us a call on 01228 590900 or email info@castle-computers.com.