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What are your IT needs?

What are your IT needs?

At home we often wish we had the full office set up. But there is no space or budget for it.

At the office, we have all the things but there never seems to be the right thing.

What is missing? What is it that you fumble with that could be and should be easier to do?

Why haven’t you called someone to fix that problem yet?

What are the reasons that you haven’t found the solutions to these situations?

Are you aware of some of the compact office equipment available today? Often there are machines that do multiple things and take up less space.

There are also items available that can make it less expensive to find solutions for your office so that you don’t have to have 5 steps to complete a project, you can do multiple things in 1 or 2 steps.

Making your work flow quicker relieves stress in a project and increases your productivity.

Wouldn’t it be nice to get things done quicker and with less stress?

Why haven’t you looked for the solutions? What are your barriers? What are you doing about it? What are the problems that you need answers for?

Howste Technical Services

470.236.1999

Is your computer celebrating Halloween without you?

Storm Worm — OSX/RSPlug Trojan — Netsky and Sasser — The Blaster Worm — The Melissa Virus — ILOVEYOU — The Anna Kournikova Worm — CIH — The Concept Virus — The Morris Worm

Are we talking about something I should see my doctor about?
Well, we are talking about the worst viruses of all time, and your computer is at risk.

Why does that matter to me, I’m a smart person, I have antivirus software?
Well for starters, they haven’t all been cured. In fact, some of these are laying dormant on machines across the world. Some of these have been upgraded. And some of these have been modified to work on your phones.

Surely not my phone though, I have an apple it’s harder to attack.
Yes, Apple is more resistant than Android or Windows phone. So, these codes get embedded into the apps.

Into the apps? But I only install apps from reputable companies.
Yep, and just a like a file from an email, an app can have it embedded into it, or it can be part of the download from the app store/apple iTunes.

Wait, iTunes/App Stores run virus programs, they check for this stuff, they should know what they are doing.
Yes, they check for it, after its been reported to them, they go back and retroactively check it out.

Why don’t they look at it first, before it leaves the app store/iTunes?
They have too many apps uploaded regularly and they leave it to the vendors to monitor their work.

Well a vendor wouldn’t intentionally add a virus, that would be counter productive.
You’re right! But app stores/iTunes get hacked, just like the rest of us. Are you sure that you want to make them responsible for your safety?

What can I do about it?
Make sure that your antivirus is set up to run on any downloads, including App store/Itunes purchases. That it is checked before it is installed.

Every time?
Yes, and with Halloween right around the corner… it’s time to be extra careful. Halloween is known as being a hallmark time for new and unusual viruses and malware to hit the market. Halloween pranks aren’t just in your back yard anymore!

If your computer is acting up, call us, call a professional… take it serious. Shut it off, and call someone to look at it. Make sure your backups are complete now.

If your co worker is acting up… well thats a different professional, we can’t help with that.

Happy Halloween

Howste Technical Services

470.236.1999

Backup and Recovery, not so basic…

Entrepreneurs typically have to be all things in businesses. They act as owner, financier, bookkeeper, janitor, delivery person, product expert, and of course computer support. So, with that in mind I wanted to cover the Why, What, and How of backup and recovery split into basic and advanced topics.
 
Why?
Basic
This may seem a bit odd to ask, but it’s a fair question. Why do we need to back up our data? Simply put, your data is the life blood of your business (see the What section for examples).
• So much of our world is connected systems and most have become reliant on that connection to conduct business. So, when your systems or computers are not available most businesses cannot “do” business which can impact revenue and customer satisfaction (key for return clients and referral business).
• In our modern business climate even small businesses are expected to be available when the client needs you. If you are experiencing computer issues you cannot be responsive to your clients.
 
Advanced
Without backups it will take a considerable amount of time to get your systems into a state as close to the original point of failure as possible. Taking this type of time out of a schedule that probably doesn’t have much leeway can severely impact your ability to conduct business. There is an important concept within any backup and recovery strategy called lost opportunity cost (borrowed from the economic realm). If there is a computer outage/data loss what is the cost in revenue or reputation of not doing something or not having access to your business information? And, more importantly, what would that physically cost you? This potential loss is a key component in determining what the potential ROI (Return on Investment) would be in spending money on any backup and recovery technologies.
 
Manual Backup Process
Most businesses need to consider a manual backup process – A backup to the backup, so to speak. I recently had a new client that had a storm take out her computer, the only one, and it didn’t have a backup. So, while I attempted to recover her data, which was eventually successful, she continued to do business with a manual paper system. Without realizing it she was modeling an important concept: when you go down we recommend you have a way to conduct business while the recovery is in process. The more you can conduct while down the less impact to your revenue and customer satisfaction.
 
What?
Basic
Deciding what to backup and keep versus what to ignore is a key decision point for any backup and recovery strategy. There are many schools of thought on this. Some feel that a broad “back up everything” approach is safest and some feel a more surgical approach is appropriate. Let’s cover some of the basics. For your average single person owner backing everything up is a good strategy as it removes any doubt about what is backed up, but it will typically take much more space. It can grow out of control if not done properly and most users will need to keep tabs on it to ensure it stays cleaned up. We recommend keeping a weekly and/or monthly mirror of your operating system and supporting data (important data) and nightly backups of your critical and mission critical data. The key here is ensuring there is more than one copy of your data, and for this cataloguing is key (see below). Storage has become very inexpensive and your average small business can simply purchase a large drive and store a regular complete “everything” backup nightly and be comfortable that everything is covered.
 
*NOTE: Sometimes wholesale “everything” backups can actually back up the actual issue/corruption/virus/etc… and, if enough time passes, there is no ability to recover.
 
Advanced
Identification of data types can be useful in deciding what to backup if space is an issue or the type of data needs different handling (sensitive personal data, financial data, etc…). So here are typical data types:
• Mission Critical Data: this includes financial data, client’s information, active project/product data, etc… and any data that changes on an hourly or daily basis.
• Critical Data: Marketing data, client contracts, product data, inactive client data and any data that is more static and may only change monthly or quarterly
• Important Data: Supporting documents, PDFs, images, fixes and patches, downloads, Operating Systems, Applications, Keys, etc… and any data that may only change annually or maybe never change.
• PII (personally identifying Information): SSN, Credit Cards, medical data, etc…
So, for a more surgical approach to backups where you need to treat data differently we have a number of options. You can store these different types of data on different media and then backing up separately. This is very useful when encryption is necessary for specific types of data backups. Also, data can be on a single location and utilizing a backup tool (see How below) to separate based on location or data type.
 
*NOTE: Encryption sounds great and secure, so, lets encrypt everything! Right? But, there are some potential pitfalls. If you lose the key or credentials then you no longer have access to your data. And, encryption often takes more time to backup and recover due to the extra layers of security.
 
How?
Basic
There are a number of tools available within the operating system you are using and numerous tools on the market that all work for various requirements. There are three types I want to highlight (there are more):
• The easiest and quickest are operating system based recovery tools that will create images of your current system (all of it) and allow you to recover to a point in time. These backups are simple and easy and typically have a catalogue of backups over time that you can choose from. They do take up more space and can be finicky for a stable recovery and corrupt images can be an issue.
• Third party image tools will take images of your computer or server (similar to the embedded version mentioned above) and allow you to completely recover from a disaster. These are typically more stable and there are a number that allow you access to the individual files should you just need a file off an old backup image.
• File backup tools/synchronizer tools will simply backup files or directories that you can go back to and recover specific files or directories.
There are a number of free versions of all of these types of tools and most of the time simplest is best. For most small businesses the built in tools are sufficient to allow you to recover in case of issue, but should you need more advanced tools we can recommend a number of cloud or local backup tools.
 
Advanced
As a business you need to decide at what level of recovery you will need to be if there is a disaster that impacts your computers/servers. Do you want to just restore data, recover the systems, or maintain availability? Each option requires a different, and sometimes layering, set of technologies that perform the backup and recovery.
• If you just want to restore the data and/or files only a basic synchronizing tool is all that’s needed. These tools simply copy the files into a backup location (drive or directory) and usually will copy everything once and only copy the changed files as time advances.
• If you want to recover the entire filesystem or complete system recovery a different toolset is required. These tools typically take images of the filesystem or a complete system (multiple filesystems) and allow for a complete system recovery. These tools are typically called imaging tools, but there are file level versions as well. Very useful when you’ve lost your entire system and have a backup computer.
• Maintaining availability is a very advanced topic. This option requires an active duplicate system that constantly has the active data copied or replicated to it, and should your primary system crash or have some issues the duplicate system can them become the primary system with no data or time loss.
 
Other Important Stuff
Testing
Recovery testing is probably one of the least focused activities and IS one of the most important activities for any backup and recovery plan. Why? Because it takes up time and effort to mock up what your recovery looks like and then test, knowing that if it works you will have spent the time on no actual recovery, just the test. But, it’s most critical as your backup is useless if you don’t know if it actually works. It is recommended that any backup system (any mentioned above) is recovery tested at least twice a year. Just make sure it works! You really don’t want to be at recovery time, when everything was lost, and find out it wasn’t backing up correctly.
 
Offsite Backups
Always have at least one backup at an offsite location, even if it’s your home office. It makes no sense to have all of you data, primary and backup, at the same location and have that location have some form of disaster, natural or otherwise. This can be a combination of onsite and offsite backups and can include cloud backup locations as well. Be careful you don’t have so many backups that the recovery order gets confused, there is a balance to the number of backups and locations of each.
 
Extra
In any backup and recovery strategy two important points always need to be decided. How much data can you lose and how long can you be down with least amount of impact. We call these two the Recovery Point Objective (RPO) and Recovery Time Objective (RTO):
• RPO – How much data loss you can stomach losing (i.e. 4 hours, 24 hours, 3 days)
• RTO – How long it takes to get back up and running
These two decision points determine much of the What and How you will need to implement from above. If you can deal with being down for a week you might not need as costly a backup and recovery tool or automated process but, if you cannot have less than 4 hours of downtime suddenly the costs skyrocket and the process needs to be automatic.
 
Any Questions or Need assistance please do not hesitate to contact us @ 470-236-1999 or info@howste.ninja

Severe weather impact on email

We have grown so accustomed to instant access to things like texts and emails. It’s easy to think that you have a computer problem if your emails take 5 minutes to arrive.

Please keep in mind right now that there are severe weather issues. We have 2 states under water. This means that routers and switches will be down all over the US. Normally we are prepared that if the state of Texas went down, emails would be rerouted and we would barely notice a blip. However, Texas and Florida are down. This can mean that your emails are pinging all over the place trying to find a path in a maze that is uncertain. Be a little more patient that usual… if your email takes more than 30 seconds to arrive, it’s OK, it may have to be redirected through Australia…. but it will get there.

If your emails are taking more than an hour, please call us and we will see what options we have to speed up the process.

Howste Technical Services

Because Sometimes It Takes A Ninja

470.236.1999

What to do with your computer and peripheral equipment during severe weather…

First and foremost, before the storm, ensure you back up your data to external storage (DVD/Hard Drive/Cloud Drive), and keep your local backup in a safe place. If you have any personally sensitive data or company confidential data ensure you follow your organization’s guidelines on storing critical or confidential data. Most companies provide backup services or systems and you won’t have to do it yourself, but check with your local IT support just in case.

Secondly, when the storm is imminent ensure you unplug your computer and/or peripherals, including monitors and printers to protect your devices from power surges during and after a storm. Unplug your network and modem cables as well. The use of a good surge protector (typically rated for lightning strikes) can offer a bit of protection during storms. However, unplugging is the safer choice. Note: not all surge protectors are rated for a heavy lighting strike and many are not guaranteed. Please ensure you read the warranty and support documentation before purchasing or using surge protection devices to ensure you are covered in case the device is overwhelmed (read “unplugging” above).

Tertiary, power fluctuations can sometimes cause more damage than a hard loss of power. The use of an uninterruptible power supply (UPS) is recommended if you must use computer and/or peripherals during the storm. The UPS provides steady power for a period of time (read the UPS specifics for time and power requirements) and protects equipment from power fluctuations.

It is recommended that you charge your mobile devices (anything with a battery) before, not during, the storm.

And, as always, safety is key so don’t touch power cords, cables, or equipment during a storm.

If you are in a flooding area ensure you keep power cords and/or equipment (what will fit) in water tight sealable containers (storage bags, trash bags, water tight storage, etc…) to ensure no water damage.

Any questions about how to best protect you and your IT infrastructure contact us at Howste Technical Services at 470-236-1999…

Thanks and Stay Safe!

What to do before calling Web Professional…

Often time’s people think that a website is fairly simple; you just make some pretty pictures and put them on the web. Yes! Yes, you can.

But a good web site is a little harder…

Most times people don’t really know what is involved with designing a web site, and that’s fine, that’s my job. But when they don’t know what information they need in order for me to do my job… well then we have a problem.

So, here I am, telling you what you need. I have a list of the most common pieces of information that I need. This is not a comprehensive list, rather a beginning one. It would be best if you could at least sit down and gather all of this information before calling your web professional. If you don’t have all these things, don’t create them. Often time’s the hardest battles are trying to redo the work someone else did because they were in a hurry or didn’t know what they were doing. When something is done incorrectly, it takes 2 to 3 times longer to fix it.

  1. Domain Name
    1. If you don’t have one, we can create one.
    2. If you have one, we need a few things:
      1. Username and Password
      2. Where it’s registered
    3. When it expires
  1. Website
    1. If you don’t have one, we can create one.
    2. If you have one, we need a few things:
      1. Where it’s hosted
      2. Username and Password
      3. When it expires
      4. What platform or language it’s created in.
  1. Social Media for Business
    1. If you don’t have them, we can create them.
    2. If you have them, we need a few things:
      1. Which ones you are listed on
      2. Usernames and Passwords
      3. Admin that use the accounts
      4. Business name used for the page
  1. Reputation Management
    1. If you don’t have them, we can create them.
    2. If you have them, we need a few things:
      1. Which ones you are listed on (Angie’s list, Yelp, Etc.)
      2. Usernames and Passwords
      3. Admin that use the accounts
      4. Business name used for the page
  1. Google and Google My Business
    1. If you don’t have them, we can create them.
    2. If you have them, we need a few things:
      1. Which ones you are listed on (Analytics, Business page, Etc.)
      2. Usernames and Passwords
      3. Admin that use the accounts
      4. Business name used for the page

Seem a bit overwhelming? Yes, it can be. But in really, since you have followed all my past advice, and kept all the passwords in a safe, secure place… it’s not that big of a deal. And in most of these cases,  you are going to log in, change the password to something ridiculous, like “HowsteNinjasAreEpic” and then send that password to us. We will use it, and when we are done you change it back to “WhateverBoringPasswordYouHadBeforeWas” and  then we don’t have to keep your passwords on file.

So, what are you waiting for? Gather your passwords, you have phone calls to make!

Howste Technical Services

470.236.1999

What are the top 5 most common social media marketing mistakes?

What are the top 5 most common social media marketing mistakes?

  1. Inconsistency in content – posting about things that are personal instead of business related. Or posting only vague things that don’t really show an opinion either way.
  2. Inconsistency in timing – if you have a good blog with good information, people start to look forward to seeing it. When it comes out on every Tuesday, they get excited. If it comes out on Tuesday this week and three weeks later on Thursday, then they have lost their enthusiasm to read it.
  3. Inconsistency in reaching out – you want people to “like” “reply” “comment” and “share” what you are posting. So make sure that you are talking to your target market and engage them. Why write a post that says “I like dogs” when you can write a post that reads “What kind of dogs do you like?”. Think about what your readers want to read. This will help engage them.
  4. Inconsistency in engaging – If you want people to engage with you, you have to engage with them. Reply to other people’s stuff. Get out there, show that you have an educated opinion and a wealth of information so that when people are looking at what you are saying, they can see that you know what you are talking about.
  5. Inconsistency in grammar – It is really easy to just start talking. But you have to know who your audience is. Are you talking to a teenager or their parent? Are you talking to a new pet owner or an experienced one? Keep consistent with your target market and they will stay with you. You tend to lose people when you change who you are talking to.

Troubleshoot or Call the Professional?

Well, the answer isn’t simple but it’s not hard either.

Let’s break down the equation…

  • Basic support is about $75 an hour… lets say with some discounts we can get it down to $50 an hour… that sounds like a lot of money.
  • If it takes you (the average person who knows some things about computers) 3 hours to fix it, it should take your IT person 1 hour to fix it.
  • You are a hard working person and have to put a lot of time into your job.
  • You get paid $24.10 per hour (https://www.bls.gov/news.release/ecec.nr0.htm)

So let’s do some math.

  1. A 3 hour fix for a regular person is equal to a 1 hour fix for a professional.
  2. At $24.10 per hour (lets round that up to $25 per hour for simplicity sake), you would be paying yourself $75 dollars to work for 3 hours.
  3. If you are working on resolving an IT issue, you are not working in your business at the same time. Therefore you are losing $75 that you could be making in your business.
  4. $75 paying yourself to fix your problem and $75 that you didn’t get to make at work is $150.
  5. So, at $50 dollars an hour, you could pay your IT guy to come fix your computer. Or you can take the $150 loss and lose 3 hours of time to save yourself some money.

Yes, $50 an hour sounds like a lot, but when you are really breaking it down. It’s not as much as wasting the time that you need in order to get things done. Don’t leave your clients hanging. You have work to do… call an IT guy. Get the job done right, have it documented and keep track of your technology. In the long run, it’s worth it.

We are making the assumption in this model that you would end up fixing the computer and not making it worse. There is always the possibility that you could spend 3 hours on the device. The device will end up worse than when you started. The IT guy will end up spending an extra several hours fixing the original problem and then fixing whatever you did to the machine. Therefore costing you double or even triple to fix the machine.

* The actual numbers may vary. Finding an IT guy that knows their stuff and only charges $75 an hour, is worth holding on to. Don’t let them go…. Odds are you aren’t average, so $25 an hour is just a government estimate, plug your own numbers in, and work the equation, then call us.

Windows 10 Fall Creators Update Ya or Na?

Welcome to the new world of Windows… where the updates are mandatory and the definition of stable is questionable…

Here we have the latest stable update of windows 10. It’s being pushed out to all the windows 10 computers.

How stable is it, you ask?
Funny you should ask me that… today, while I (the computer professional) am rebuilding my computer because the update removed many of my core programs. Yes, that means you (the non computer professional) can be affected as well.

Questions? Consultations are at no cost to you.

call us 470.236.1999 email us info@howste.ninja or contact us here 

“Blog” Don’t Let the Words Intimidate You.

I’m not a writer…. I’m a doer….

Hey, I get it, writing is hard. Taking time out of your day to write is hard. Taking time to stare blankly at a computer screen with nothing to say is hard….

Have you considered that you really do have something to say? Start with the last question your client asked you…. “How do I light the pilot light?” or “What do I look for when buying a car?” or “How often do I have feed the goats?” all good questions, and all questions that could be answered with a small blog post. So the next time someone asks you a question… take a minute and write it out on your blog…. give them the simple answer, and let them know that you are available for more in depth answers if they call you…. A simple blog post can make a big difference and keep your rankings boosted…. You are the only one that can relate to your clients…. so relate to them. You will be surprised at the difference that it makes.

Ask Me More, We are not only your friendly local neighborhood nerds, we are also your experts on small business IT, Web Marketing, and using your technology to further your business.