Buying A Computer For School

Mom, Dad, I need you to buy me a computer for school. What?! What happened to textbooks? Schools are requiring computers to complete classwork, homework, and research. We are often asked what computer is best for this purpose, so we decided to write about it.

When deciding to buy a new computer for school, or for any purpose really, the question you should ask is, what am I going to use it for? Some common answers are:

  1. browsing the internet
  2. email
  3. specific applications

For points 1 and 2, the specifications are not demanding. You can get by with a stock computer from any local computer sales store. However, we’d still recommend that the processor be an Intel Core i5 or i7. The RAM (or memory) used for browsing the internet will depend on how many browser tabs or windows you have open at one time. The more tabs or windows you anticipate opening the more RAM you should have in your computer. We’d recommend at least 8GB.

A computer used for specific applications will need to meet the requirements of the vendor who made the application. All vendors will list minimum and recommended system requirements. You should review those requirements for each and any application you plan on using before buying the new computer. Just as with browser tabs and windows, the more applications you run at one time the more RAM you should have in the computer.

The last component that should be considered when buying a new computer is the hard drive type and size. You have two choices for type: traditional spinning drives (often referred to as SATA) or Solid State Drive (often referred to as SSD). We’d almost always recommend SSD drives because the performance is much better versus traditional spinning drives. The size of the hard drive all depends on how much data you plan to save on your computer. If you’re using the computer to browse the internet and/or use email, then the size of your hard drive doesn’t need to be large. However, if you are saving images or video (which are the largest file size consumers) then you should get a larger hard drive.

Happy shopping!

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Is there a computer performance impact of environments with different temperatures?

We are in the “heat” of the summertime. Computers can run hot. What does that mean for computer performance? For most of us, we just accept the fact that the more we use our computers the slower it will run. However, if a computer gets too hot, then it will slow down and can sometimes lock up or reboot.

Is there something we can do about it? Some non-technical things that can be done to make sure your computer is not over heating:

  • Make sure the computer exhaust fan is not blocked by any objects
  • Keep the computer out of direct sunlight
  • Use a laptop fan
  • Ensure the room temperature is not over 72 degrees
  • Keep the inside of your computer free from dust build up

CBTech Support deploys technical measures to collect trends which identifies if the computer is running at an optimal temperature. These includes:

  • Monitors which alert when components are above a threshold
  • Event log reviews to determine when/if the computer processor is throttled
  • Periodically measure room temperature
  • Regularly review computer performance metrics

Enjoy the rest of your summer while maximizing the performance of your computer!

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Working from the beach

It’s summer. You’re at the beach. You need to finish up some details to close a last-minute deal. You need to access that critical file because you’re the only one that can handle it. You’re out of luck, right? Not so fast! There are many ways to remotely, and securely, access business resources outside the office.

The first rule of thumb is to ask your technology services provider what methods are available to you. They should be able to help you implement something that fits your needs, budget, and security concerns, if they haven’t already.

The next rule of thumb is that the ways to get to what you need are as varied as the types of resources you want to get to. It all depends on what you need to get to: files like documents or spreadsheets, or applications like QuickBooks. And each business is going to have different requirements, regulations, and budgets, et cetera, that will determine what method or methods can be used. This brings the first rule of thumb back in to play: your technology services provider will know what methods fit your situation best.

To learn more about a simple way to get secure access to your files from anywhere, collaborate with your team, and even share documents securely with people outside your organization, download our free whitepaper: 8 Ways to Boost Employee Productivity (http://bit.ly/2sI3rPz).

Enjoy your summer!

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Backups – Help, our summer intern just deleted our files!

Marc, our summer intern, just deleted that super important presentation file that he spent a week putting together for the super important person, Dan, for a super important client meeting. What now!?

Backups can help mitigate an issue like this. However, just setting up backups without a plan doesn’t necessarily ensure the files will be there when you need them. You should create a Backup Strategy to ensure you are fully protected. Here are some things to consider when creating your Backup Strategy:

  • Define where critical files are located. Not only on which servers/computers, but also in what drives and folders.
  • Define where you save your backups. A local storage device can increase the speed of backing up and/or restoring data. A cloud location can help in the event the physical location is unavailable.
  • Define how often to run a backup. When determining how often to run backups, you’ll need to consider the performance impact, whether you want to be able to recover a file that was created and deleted during the day, and how much storage is required to save all the backups.

Having a backup strategy in place is only half the battle. Performing periodic test file restores can assure you that the files can be restored when needed. In addition, performing a full system restore, at least annually, can identify the amount of time it will take and the impact to your operation in the event there is a disaster. Evaluating the backup strategy from time to time helps ensure that any new files are included in future backups, and that the strategy meets your current business needs.

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Low disk space – Performance factors

Did you know that the amount of free disk space on your hard drive can impact the operation of your computer? Over time, your hard drive will consume more and more disk space and eventually get to the point where it impacts your computer’s performance. Typically, this isn’t an issue unless you’re storing a lot of photos and videos. However, with new computers now coming with smaller, faster drives, this could start to become an issue again. Here are a few things that happen when you don’t have enough free disk space:

  • Windows Updates cannot download new updates – Your computer cannot download new updates which plug security holes and can repair/resolve known performance bugs.
  • Programs often need to create cache files, so they may crash or experience other errors if there isn’t enough disk space to create these files.
  • A hard drive must have at least 15 percent free space for the Disk Defragmenter to work properly. Disk Defragmenter is a maintenance task that runs every week to re-sort the files on your computer. This maximizes the speed of hard drive when it is reading and writing files.
  • Printing – low disk space will causing slow printing because the printing service uses disk space to spool jobs and if there isn’t enough space to spool the job, the computer will have to wait until one job is finished before sending the next job.

How do I know if I have low disk space? If you have windows 10, simply check your notification area (notification bubble icon). If you have windows 7, follow these steps:

  1. Open Windows Explorer (click the folder icon at the bottom of the screen or hold down the windows logo button and press “E”)
  2. Right-click on the drive icon labeled C: and select Properties
  3. This will show you the hard drive capacity and used space from which you can calculate the percentage of free disk space.

The amount of free disk space you have will vary, depending on what the computer is used for and what software is installed; but as a baseline the free disk space should be no less than 15% of the total capacity.

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How to avoid tax-time scams

It’s everyone’s favorite time of year again: Tax Time! And along with all the fun gathering of documents, numbers, and other records, comes the usual spike in malicious email and phone calls. Each year, the IRS keeps a list of the top 12 tax scams that it calls the “Dirty Dozen”. Here is 2018’s list: http://bit.ly/2syA1nY.

Being a technology company, we’re going to focus on the technology-based scams, specifically email and phone. The usual email/phone advice applies: if you don’t recognize the sender/caller and they initiated the conversation, delete it/hang up. Now on to some of the scams that made the 2018 Dirty Dozen!

Phishing Schemes:

Phishing is nothing new (especially if you’ve been following/reading our blog). However, there was a new twist in 2018 that saw scammers using information stolen from tax professionals to file fraudulent tax returns and direct deposit refunds in to the real taxpayer’s bank account. The scammers then pose as a collection agency or IRS agent to trick the taxpayer in to sending them the money, thinking they are returning the fraudulent refund. You can read more on the IRS’s website here: http://bit.ly/2Fy3W8r.

Fake Charities:

No one wants to say to no to someone in need, and tax time offers the added advantage of being able to help someone in need and get a little help in return. Of course, scammers like to take advantage of our benevolent nature, so the IRS put together a website where you can check to make sure a charity is legitimate and qualified: https://www.irs.gov/charities-non-profits/tax-exempt-organization-search. If you receive an email or call from a charity soliciting a donation, feel free to look it up before taking any action. You can read more about this specific scam on the IRS’s website: http://bit.ly/2W2yHHo.

Remember, the IRS will never (taken from their website: http://bit.ly/2AQf8cF)

  • Call to demand immediate payment using a specific payment method such as a prepaid debit card, gift card or wire transfer. Generally, the IRS will first mail a bill to any taxpayer who owes taxes.
  • Threaten to immediately bring in local police or other law-enforcement groups to have the taxpayer arrested for not paying.
  • Demand that taxes be paid without giving taxpayers the opportunity to question or appeal the amount owed.
  • Ask for credit or debit card numbers over the phone.
  • Call you about an unexpected refund.

Insert Excel Data in a Word Document

Sometimes you may want to display an Excel data table in a Word document. Did you know you can create/format the table in Excel and then insert it into Word? Here’s how:

  1. On the Insert tab, in the Text group, click Object.
  2. In the Object dialog box, on the Create from file tab, choose Browse, and locate the file you want to insert in the Word document.
  3. Choose one of the following: To add the file as a linked object, select the Link to file check box, and then click OK.

Now that you have the table in Word, how do you make it fit on one page you ask? Follow these steps:

  1. Click somewhere inside the table so that the Table Tools tab appears at the top of the window.
  2. Click the Layout tab under Table Tools.
  3. Click the AutoFit button in the Cell Size section of the ribbon at the top of the window, then click the AutoFit Contents

Now what if you want to have any changes made to the table be updated in the Word document? Here’s what you’ll need to do:

  1. Open the Word document where the spreadsheet will display.
  2. Open the Excel worksheet that contains the data you want to link to the Word document.
  3. In Excel, select and copy the range of cells you want to include. If you plan to insert more columns or rows into the worksheet, select the entire worksheet.
  4. In the Word document, position the cursor where you want to insert the linked table.
  5. On the Edit menu, select Link & Use Destination Styles or Link & Keep Source Formatting. Destination Styles uses the default Word table formatting, which usually results in a better-looking table. Keep Source Formatting uses the formatting from the Excel workbook.

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Basic Security Tips for Home

Our company focus is on business computers but we often get asked about home computers. It’s just as important to protect your home computers as it is to protect your business computers. Here are a few tips to help secure your home computers.

  • Don’t use the same passwords for multiple websites or logins. This way any password that may get stolen cannot be used to hack other services. It also means changing a stolen password one time at the affected service instead of having to do it for every service.
  • Always install all available Microsoft (or Apple, if you have a MAC) updates. This ensures that any known security holes in Windows or OS X are fixed on your computer.
  • Make sure your wireless network is secured with a strong passphrase. Here are some tips for how to setup and manage your wireless router: http://bit.ly/2RwxLwt
  • Use a security suite to protect your computer – here is a good comparison of several different products: http://bit.ly/2RZWKbb

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Be wary of that email!

Let’s face it: we spend far too much time each day dealing with email, especially in a business. It is then no surprise that the most prolific attack vector against a person or company is via email. So why don’t we have ways to stop this completely?

The simple answer is: human nature. Remember the old saying “curiosity killed the cat”? We’re curious by nature, so it’s understandable that we want to open that email with the subject line “Re: Invoice 3584” to see what they’re talking about. It’s also understandable that we would want to open that attachment claiming to be the invoice to see if it’s one of ours. There are tools available that try to weed out those emails before they ever reach us, but no tool is perfect. And the stricter a tool is at trying to weed out those emails, the more likely it is to block legitimate email as well. So that brings us to trying to change human nature.

How can we change human nature though? We can attempt it through education. We have all heard the common rules of thumb:

  • don’t open an email from someone you don’t know
  • don’t open attachments
  • don’t click on links
  • don’t answer requests for money

If we’ve all heard these, why is email still the most popular way to get hacked? The attackers are getting smarter. They’re skilled at making emails seem trustworthy, and they’re now finding ways to compromise the email accounts of people we trust so that they can send us emails that we wouldn’t think twice about answering. Tools can still help in trying to identify and block these, but education is still necessary to help us recognize these new, trickier emails.

To get started, visit our website here to download the Top Phishing Messages Q3 2018 infographic and the 5 Tips Awareness Sheet. Then read this story about two executives who fell victim to a type of email attack called CEO fraud. Finally, contact us here to learn how a combination of tools and user security awareness training can help combat the email-borne threat.