31 Mar

Is Intel’s Optane SSD right for you?

Hardware buyers often have a list of specifications they need to consider. They have to assess graphics cards, RAM, processing power, and even the sound system. As if choosing a new computer wasn’t hard enough, Intel released a hard drive optimized for fast performance and storage. But before you make any final decisions, here is a quick rundown and evaluation of Intel’s release.

 

Optane SSD

 

Intel’s new standalone drive maximizes storage performance and can also serve as extra RAM for your servers. The Optane SSD DV P4800X has 375 GB of space, a data read latency of 10 microseconds, and data transfer rates (or throughput) of 2GB per second. With these specs, Intel claims users will experience faster boot times, quicker application load times, and 30% faster system performance.

All of this makes the Optane SSD perfect for hosting machine learning and analytics. Also, if your company is involved in high-performance computing, Intel’s new RAM/storage drive should be high on your company’s wish list.

Optane SSD, however, may not be the best for everyone. First of all, the latest storage drive is meant for servers. Another downside is that the 375-GB SSD is a hefty $1,520 — almost as much as deploying your own in-house server would cost! In this case, you would probably get more value out of a conventional SSD.

 

SSD

 

Consumer-level SSDs still provide fast software boot times, but will probably offer less storage space and throughput rates than the Optane SSD. This really isn’t much of a sacrifice, considering that plenty of users can afford and work with 128 GB of ‘normal’ SSD storage. In fact, a 128-GB SSD can go for as low as $50.

 

HDD

 

Your other choice would be the standard hard disk drive (HDD). Though these storage devices are far more common and much less expensive than the previous two, HDDs are slow to boot, noisy, and susceptible to hardware damage and data loss. The only thing going for the traditional hard drive is its storage capacity. For $50 dollars, users can buy a 1-TB hard disk drive.

Although HDD may not be ideal in terms of speed, it’s a good choice for any business on a tight budget. Most people actually pair SSD with their standard HDD to get the best of both worlds. Operating systems and critical applications can be stored in SSD for faster boot times, while regular files can be stored in HDD.

 

Even with this crash course on hard drives and SSDs, you will still probably need a storage professional to help you pick the best device for your business. For all your storage drive queries, installment requirements, and IT maintenance needs, contact our IT consultants at 1-866-BIT-WISE or sales@eitnetworks.net.

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11 Nov

Laptop vs Desktop: Which to Choose for Your Business

Running a small business takes an intelligent, resourceful person. From day one you must make important decisions in all areas of business, from the marketing strategy chosen for a product to the brand of printer you will use to print out flyers. One of the biggest decisions you will make in the early stages of a business involves your SMB’s computer hardware, particularly whether to invest in a desktop computer or a laptop. Read on to find out how to make this decision for your company.

 

Portability

 

Modern desktop computers aren’t nearly as immobile as they used to be. In many cases the screen is thin and light, and all-in-one desktops are easy to unplug, move and plug in on the road. But there are still places the desktop cannot go. Laptops allow you to go anywhere, even places without electricity. But this ability to take your work anywhere can be counterproductive by creating more stress on employees who think they must work all the time.

 

Memory/Speed

 

Desktop computers often have more memory than laptops, and they’re faster due to better processors. This is now changing as a result of advancing technology, but until the cost of high-powered laptops becomes affordable to the general public, the desktop computer is going to provide businesses with more speed. If your employees’ work is limited to word processing and emailing, laptops should be enough. However, anything more will probably require a desktop machine.

 

Security

 

An SMB’s computer hardware needs to be secure to ensure that private company information doesn’t end up in the wrong hands. On a desktop computer, the hardware is easier to defend against malware and adware. It’s also more physically secure because the desktop is often kept in one location and not easy to snatch. If you do choose the laptop route, make sure to have strict policies on how to protect machines that leave the office.

 

Price

 

Traditionally, the laptop has been cheaper and available to more people. This is true particularly for smaller notebook-style laptops. But desktop computers are becoming more affordable as more people have access to them through local channels. With a capable IT service provider, cost probably won’t be a deciding factor between the two options.

 

Quality

 

Although laptop computers provide the convenience of portability, over time they’re prone to problems with the battery and charging cord. They are also easily damaged. By contrast, desktops are generally more sturdy. But when they do experience a problem, it often leads to expensive repairs.

 

Final Recommendation

 

The desktop versus laptop debate is an old one, with supporters on both sides touting the advantages of their choice to all who will listen. A growing company really needs a combination of both types of computers. However, a desktop computer will be generally more reliable for the fledgling company owner to start with. Laptops should be added as budget permits to provide that extra portability and convenience.

 

If you have questions regarding the best choice for your company, give us a call at 1-866-BIT-WISE, or email sales@eitnetworks.net. We’ll be happy to provide you the assistance you need to improve your business.

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16 Nov

Computer Buying Guide

Buying a computer is an important decision, whether doing so for yourself or for a loved one this holiday season. Rushing out and getting the first thing you see may have huge ramifications later on. You want something that is just right and will last for years to come. You want something that seems like it was designed with you in mind. With that said, here are some considerations to make when you are in the market for a new computer.

 

Desktop or Laptop?

 

This depends on your working style and environment. The rule is quite simple: if you rarely work out of the office, get a desktop PC. If you need to work at home, on the go, or at client meetings, then go for a laptop. It’s worth noting that desktops are generally cheaper than laptops at similar specifications, have a longer usage life, and make for easier changing or upgrading of components. Laptops, on the other hand, are very portable due to their compact size, they consume less energy, and they offer a more flexible user experience.

 

Processor

 

If you want a computer that loads programs in a flash, completes tasks almost instantly, and runs smoothly at all times, then we recommend you invest in the strongest processors available. The performance of a processor is determined by its number of cores and speed, so the bigger the number, the better. Processors with two to four cores will often suffice for most users. However, if your tasks involve rendering high-definition images, animations, graphics, and analysis, then for optimum results it makes sense to get a processor with more than four cores.

 

RAM

 

Random Access Memory (RAM) allows your computer to perform multiple tasks at once without a hitch. Just like processors, the amount of RAM your computer has will determine how fast it will run when you work on several programs simultaneously. Nowadays, standard computers come with 1-2GB of RAM. However, we advise you to get at least 4GB, or even 8GB, of RAM so that you can navigate smoothly between tasks such as email browsing, Internet surfing, and working on word processing documents and spreadsheets.

 

Hard Drive

 

The bigger the hard drive, the more space you have to store files. If you plan on using your computer with no peripherals, you’ll want to choose a computer that offers the biggest hard drive. But remember that you can always purchase an external hard drive to transfer or store files if your current hard drive is running out of space. Another thing to consider in a hard drive is its spin speed. Modern computers usually have 5400rpm or 7200rpm drives, the latter being more efficient. The faster your hard drive disk is spinning, the quicker data can be transferred to and from it.

 

Operating Systems

 

Picking an operating system is a big decision when it comes to choosing a new computer. You’ll probably want to stick with an operating system you’re already familiar with, since it can take some time to adapt yourself to a new OS. Here are some of the popular options available on the market:
•Windows
•Mac
•Linux
•Ubuntu

Most people will just go for either Windows or Mac OS, because the complexity of Linux and Ubuntu mean they are not popular among everyday users.

 

Custom Build

 

If you are in the market for a work PC, you will probably look for a standard, vanilla, run-of-the-mill PC from Dell or HP. These devices function well for daily business activities. However, if you want something with a little more pizazz and power for entertainment purposes, consider ordering a custom-built PC or building one yourself. There are many considerations to be made, but if you want something on which to play games or run any type of power-hungry 3-D program, buy or build a computer with a powerful video card in it. This rules out Apple products, of course, as their devices come “as-is,” but the amount of customization for a PC is staggering. The benefit of a custom PC is that you can set a budget and adjust your purchase accordingly. Having a PC that is tailor-made for you is a great feeling, and if you build it yourself, you will earn a sense of accomplishment.

 

Want more hardware tips and tricks? Get in touch with our technology experts today at 1-866-BIT-WISE or sales@eitnetworks.net.

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29 Jun

Get Windows 10 Today!

July 29 is the day Windows users have been waiting for. This summer sees the release of the much-anticipated Windows 10 operating system, which Microsoft is keen to ensure outperforms the let-down that was Windows 8. The computing giant has been back to the drawing board and emerged with plenty of impressive new features to wow you and your team – here’s what you need to know before getting started.

 

You can get it for free

 

They say the best things in life are free, and that might just be the case with Windows 10. Microsoft has kept its word about making its newest operating system free to access – at least if you’re currently running an authentic version of Windows 7 or 8.1, its two most recent releases. You’ll enjoy a free lifetime upgrade to Windows 10 provided you make the move within the next year and, better still, it’s an automatic upgrade directly from your existing Windows 7 or 8.1 interface. If you’re running an older version of Windows, you’ll need to make a fresh install and you’ll also need to pay – the various available versions of Windows 10 are expected to retail starting at $119.

 

It’s being launched in phases

 

Although the official release date is July 29, in reality Microsoft is expected to undertake a phased launch. This means that you might not end up using the brand new Windows 10 on July 29 itself – instead, Microsoft is likely to make the new operating system available to desktop and laptop users first, and only later to mobile and other devices. What’s more, the firm already has its next move in the pipeline. Upgrade and update plans for Windows 10 are anticipated to be on the way in two phases, in June and October 2016. But we are expecting these changes, codenamed Redstone, to come in the form of more minor tweaks to the Windows 10 infrastructure rather than a full overhaul.

 

It’s the last you’ll see of Windows

 

Microsoft has made no secret of the fact that it sees Windows 10 as the operating system’s final release. But that’s not quite as ultimate as it sounds – this is not really the end of Windows. Instead, what we’re seeing is the transition of Windows from a product to a service. Microsoft envisions a future where, instead of major new versions of Windows emerging every few years, there are regular improvements and updates – far beyond the Windows Updates that we know at the moment.

 

It’s likely that version numbers will come to play far less of a role in system updates in the future – in much the same way as mobile apps operate, we’ll instead settle into enjoying a frequently updated service that incorporates the latest features Microsoft has developed. And while some have expressed fears that this could lead to home and business users being tied into a subscription model in order to stay up to date, Microsoft appears committed to ensuring that ongoing upgrades are free.

 

 

Ready to make the leap to Windows 10? Want to find out how best to make the transition with minimal disruption to your business? Give us a call at 1-866-BIT-WISE and let us walk you through it.

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03 Apr

What to do With a Suddenly Sluggish System

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 sloth in syrup, 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.

Restart

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 and get it running quickly again.

Uninstall new devices or software

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

Note: If you do need the software or hardware, and you are certain it is causing the issue, check with the company that made the product to see if they have a fix.

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 are hogging 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 malware

Malware can seriously slow down your computer. To check if you’ve been infected, run a system scan. Besides using your regular antivirus program, it is a good idea to use antimalware as well. Currently, Malwarebytes is the best solution to finding and destroying malware. If you do have malicious software on your PC, and neither your antivirus or antimalware software can remove it, contact a local IT Services Provider to assist you in cleaning your computer and freeing it of potentially harmful malware. They can also advise you to a reputable solution to avoid future issues.

Want more tips on how to repair a PC that is suddenly sluggish? Worried you may have been infected by malware? Get in touch with us today at 1-866-BIT-WISE or sales@eitnetworks.net for help and advice.

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12 Dec

Facebook Goes to Work

At work, the Internet is both a great tool that enables more efficient work and a massive distraction to many, especially those who are active on social media. Check with any employee and you can probably guarantee that they have accessed Facebook while at work. While this can irk some employers, Facebook is tackling this issue head on and is developing a new social network just for businesses, potentially called Facebook at Work.

What is Facebook at Work?

In late November, Facebook announced that they are developing a new social network which may be called Facebook at Work. As you can guess by the clue in the title, this is going to be a business-oriented venture that will bring the popular social network, or elements of it, to the workplace.

For many businesses, this popular social network is not really a part of every business operation. Sure, marketing and sales may use this platform, and others, as a way to reach out and connect with customers, but few organizations are known to use Facebook internally as a communication and social network for employees.

Those who do use the network in the office often use their personal accounts and have noted that they would like an easy way to separate work from personal life, while still remaining on the network. Many businesses would also prefer that employees didn’t bring their personal lives and Facebook accounts to the office because this can lead to breaches in privacy and even important data being compromised, especially if a personal account is hacked.

The best way to think of this new platform is that it is Facebook strictly for work. While it is still in the development stages, some interesting details have emerged. There is no official name for the network, thus far, but sources at Facebook have noted that the codename for the product is Facebook@Work.

What Facebook@Work will look like

From what we can tell, the network will look and work much the same as the existing version of Facebook. Users will be able to create profiles, join groups, post on each other’s News Feeds, and even send messages using the popular Facebook Messenger. Where it will differ is that it will have collaborative tools that allow users to share and work on the same documents.

This network will be completely separate from the personal Facebook site, with users having a different password and username. Information between a personal and work account will not be shared either. This should make the network more secure, or at least minimize the use of personal accounts for work-related tasks.

What we don’t know

We do know that Facebook@Work, or Facebook at Work, is currently being developed by a London-based branch of Facebook who seem to be also acting as the main testers. However, we are unsure at this time if the network is being developed strictly as an internal network, which will be used only within a company, or if it will be more like LinkedIn, where it will allow you to connect with similar professionals.

Interestingly enough, Facebook has been using its own network and various groups as a major part of their own internal communication tools amongst departments. For example, when an employee joins a new department they are added to a secure group and group chat where updates are posted, questions are asked, and work is supposedly assigned and agreed upon. It could be that the company is developing something along these lines for external release too.

We don’t know exactly when this network will be introduced, but you can be sure that it will be debuted sometime in 2015, possibly with a rollout in the next year. If your business uses social platforms, or is looking to integrate social media in the near future, this business-oriented social media platform could be worth keeping your eyes on.

Stay tuned as we will be covering this further in the future. Meanwhile, if you have any questions about how best to utilize Facebook in the office please contact us today at 1-866-BIT-WISE or sales@eitnetworks.net.

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28 Nov

Freeware, Freeware Everywhere!

The Internet is loaded with free software, which is a good thing. Who doesn’t like free stuff? Some of this software is as good as or better than similar commercial products. For instance, GIMP is a free image editor/paint program that offers more features than some payware. It is amazing that people will produce such superb software and simply share it with society. If you are on a tight budget, you can look to freeware to keep your wallet happy. Of course, there is a dark side. With adware or spyware, you may get more than you bargained for. Here are some tips on keeping your computer or laptop safe while benefiting from the generosity of gracious software developers.

Do Your Research

Let’s say you need a free audio editor. You could simply type in “free audio editor” into your browser’s search bar, click on the first page that comes up, and download that particular audio editor. Don’t do that. Chances are it will be a perfectly fine website with secure downloads, but how do you know if it is a good product or not? What if it comes bundled with any unwanted junk? Will it turn your computer into a digital billboard for, say, NOS energy drinks? This is where research comes into play. Search for “best free audio editor” instead and look at multiple articles. If you see one particular program that consistently shows up at the top of the list, it may be the one for you. Just be sure to look at its strengths and weaknesses before downloading it.

Download the Right Product from the Right Website

Using the example of an audio editor once again, let’s assume you’ve found a good one called AudioEditorExtreme+ (fictional). Who makes this wonderful program you want? Well, you found out through the research process that it is produced by a company called AEEInc (again, fictional). The problem is that there is another freeware download called AudioEditExtreme+ made by VirusesRUs. You don’t want that one. It is a bad program. Yes, I know this is a ridiculous example, but it is here to serve the point that you should take great care in downloading the right program. The best method is to go directly to the official company website to retrieve it. If you do go to a site such as CNET.com, just be sure that the freeware you download is the right one and not one with a similar name!

Read the EULA, Whydontcha?

End User License Agreements are boring. Who reads them, anyway? Well, when installing freeware, it is a good idea to at least take a glance at it. If there is anything at all in there that makes you uncomfortable, it may be best to go back and find another program. For instance, if the EULA states that during the installation process a port will be opened that allows data to be continually streamed from your PC to the software developer’s server, you may want to pass! This is another extreme example, but you would be surprised at the data collection methods some companies utilize. There is a virtual plethora of freeware out there, so if you do not like the EULA for one, move on to another.

Be as Cautious as a Cat

Have you ever seen a cat hunt? It takes its time. It moves slowly and carefully as it nears its prey. It does not just run in willy-nilly, but creeps in close and gets the jump on a potentially faster animal. When it comes to the installation process, be like a cat. Take your time and read everything. Do not merely click “Next” or “Yes” without seeing what you are agreeing to. Even highly-rated, legitimate freeware may come bundled with garbage you do not want, including (but not limited to) browser toolbars, antivirus software, weather apps, registry scanners, or search engines. All of these can slow down your computer or laptop or just flat-out annoy you. Even worse, some can open up a “backdoor” into your system that hackers can exploit. Therefore, during the installation process, uncheck all of these extra programs. If even just one of these bundled items is mandatory, cancel the installation altogether and download a different program. Remember, this is YOUR system we are talking about, and YOU are in charge. Do not become prey on your own property!

Run an Anti-Malware Scan Afterwards

This may seem like overkill to you. After all, if you followed all the steps so far, why worry about malware? Well, you shouldn’t worry about it, per se, but remember that you are dealing with freeware, which is notorious for containing unwanted stuff. Even after following all of these steps, you never know what bad stuff may be hidden among the good stuff. An anti-malware scan is a great way to give you peace of mind about the new files on your hard drive. Besides, running frequent scans is ALWAYS a good practice, and what better time is there to run one than after accessing various websites and downloading programs? Chances are extremely high that you will never say to yourself, “Self, I wish I hadn’t run that anti-malware scan.”

There is a lot of great freeware available these days. Again, it is wonderful that certain individuals have dedicated a portion of their lives in making products to share with their fellow man. However, you should understand the risk inherent in freeware. Stick to the ideas in this article and you’ll have much better success in keeping your system clean. On a side note, if you have REALLY enjoyed a free program or service for an extended period of time, perhaps a donation is in order. If you realize they kept you from having to buy an expensive program, think about donating a little something to show them you appreciate their generosity!

EIT Networks offers IT consultation, network security, and 24/7 managed IT services. To find out more about how EIT Networks can assist your business, contact us at 1-866-BIT-WISE or sales@eitnetworks.net

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14 Nov

CryptoWall: A Serious Security Threat

Last year saw a number of highly publicized security threats that many companies struggled to deal with. One of those was a nasty bit of malware called Cryptolocker, which held your files for ransom. While this has now largely been dealt with, news is surfacing of a second version – called CryptoWall – that has begun to infect users.

What is Crypto malware?

Crypto malware is a type of trojan horse that when installed onto computers or devices, holds the data and system hostage. This is done by locking valuable or important files with a strong encryption. You then receive a pop-up informing you that you have a set amount of time to pay for a key which will unlock the encryption. If you don’t pay before the deadline, your files are deleted.

When this malware surfaced last year, many users were understandably concerned and took strong precautions to ensure they did not get infected. Despite these efforts, it was not dealt with until this year, when security experts introduced a number of online portals that can un-encrypt files affected by Cryptolocker, essentially neutralizing the threat. Case closed? Not exactly. A recently updated version is threatening users once again.

Cryptolocker 2.0, aka. CryptoWall

Because of efforts by security firms to neutralize the Cryptolocker threat, the various developers of the malware have come back with an improved version, CryptoWall, and it is a threat of which everyone should be aware.

With CryptoWall, the transmission and infection methods remain the same as they did with the first version: It is most commonly found in zipped folders and PDF files sent over email. Most emails with the malware are disguised as invoices, bills, complaints, and other business messages that users are likely to open.

The developers did make some “improvements” to the malware that make it more difficult to deal with for most users. These changes include:

•Unique IDs are used for payment. These are addresses used to verify that the payment is unique and from one person only. If the address is used by another user, payment will now be rejected. This is different from the first version where one person who paid could share the unlock code with other infected users.

•CryptoWall can securely delete files: In the older version of this threat, files were deleted if the ransom was not paid, but they could still be recovered with some effort. In the new version the encryption has increased security which ensures the file is deleted. This leaves you with either the option of paying the ransom or retrieving the file from a backup.

•Payment servers cannot be blocked. With CryptoLocker, when authorities and security experts found the addresses of the servers that accepted payments they were able to add these to blacklists, thus ensuring no traffic would come from, or go to, these servers again. Essentially, this made it impossible for the malware to actually work. Now, it has been found that the developers are using their own servers and gateways which essentially makes them exponentially more difficult to find and ban.

How do I prevent my systems and devices from being infected?

Unlike other viruses and malware, CryptoWall does not go after passwords or account names, so the usual changing of your passwords won’t really help. The best ways to prevent this from getting onto your systems is:

•Do not open any suspicious attachments – Look at each and every email attachment that comes into your inbox. If you spot anything that looks odd, such as say a spelling mistake in the name, or a long string of characters together, then it is best to avoid opening it.

•Do not open emails from unknown sources – Be extra careful about emails from unknown sources, especially ones that say they provide business oriented information e.g., bank statements from banks you don’t have an account with or bills from a utilities company you do not use. Chances are high that they contain some form of malware. Even if the email appears to be from a company with whom you have dealings, it is best to simply access the account in question to check your messages or to call the company directly to check the validity of the email.

Should your files be attacked and encrypted by this malware, the first thing you should do is to contact us (EIT Networks). We can work with you to help find a solution that may keep you from having to pay the ransom to recover your files. CryptoWall may be incredibly difficult to deal with, but do not try to fight it alone.

If you are looking to learn more about CryptoWall malware and how to boost your security to protect your data and systems, contact us at 1-866-BIT-WISE or sales@eitnetworks.net. We could be your first line of defense against this dangerous threat.

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