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How to Solve your Work from Home Internet Problems

Your internet has always been fine with no problems but suddenly you are working from home and problems are starting to occur, it’s slowing down when your boss needs a large file sending or you keep dropping out on an important video call with your colleagues. You need help.

It’s your service providers fault
Yes it could be your budget internet service provider (ISP) not providing you with enough bandwidth but you get what you pay for, that’s why they were cheaper. Bandwidth impacts the data transfer rate making a difference to downloads and connectivity. The cheaper ISP’s might sell their capabilities betting that not everyone will be online at the same time but now everyone is working from home including you.

Switching to a higher quality ISP could help solve your connectivity problems but its worth checking what they can offer before you switch.

Most people living in towns now have full fibre optic connections meaning they can access data more quickly, however some people, especially in more rural areas have old style copper cables for their connections which use electrical pulses to carry data meaning slower data rates. Also the further the signals have to travel the lower your signal strength will become.

If old style copper cables or distance is an issue you could swap to point-to point Wi-Fi, 4G or 5G. For Wi-Fi you would install a disk or antenna on your house pointing to a nearby wireless provider or with 4G or 5G you would be using a mobile phone tower.

It’s your end not the Service Provider’s
It’s possible that the internet problem is from your home or your neighbourhood. With the whole family at home it’s entirely likely that your partner is on social media, your kids are on an online classroom tutorial (or more likely social media as well) and you are trying to send that large file all at the same time plus all your neighbours are all at home as well on their Wi-Fi resulting in congestion in your area.

You could switch to a 5 GHz connection which will improve your speed and you will not be in as much competition as many home Wi-Fi setups are 2.4 GHz frequency.

So What is the Best Solution?
This will vary depending on your location and the ISP options available and there’s no one size fits all solution but there’s no need to worry, give us a call on 01543 889 444 and we’ll will help you find the solution that’s right for you.


What’s slowing your bandwidth?

Every time you send or receive data online you need bandwidth and if you are using many devices especially in an office, your bandwidth may not be able to cope, slowing down your processes and efficiency.

What is bandwidth and what’s putting pressure on it?

Bandwidth is the amount of information that can be sent or received per second. This is measured in Kbps (thousands of bits per second) or more usually Mbps (millions of bits per second). So higher bandwidth means faster speed, however, its only one factor that affects response time, bandwidth is actually about capacity rather than speed.

Eight bits of information is one byte and a byte is the amount of memory it takes to store one character such as a single letter.

The same as you can’t drive fast on a one lane road in heavy traffic you can’t navigate the information highway if there is online congestion. If you are in the office early or late you may not have any problems but as more people arrive at work and start using communicating online then your online speed will decrease.

What is using bandwidth?

There is greater demand on bandwidth every day. You may be using cloud services for greater mobility and peace of mind but sharing your data in real time requires bandwidth usage to synchronise your data. If you happen to be backing your data up at the same time as a video call with a client, your connection could suffer and you could keep dropping in and out of the conversation – not the best advertising for your company.

Using an online meeting tool whether audio or visual can also slow things down for others.

Even email needs bandwidth to send and receive data, the bigger the files the more the bandwidth activity. Uploading a few PDFs between 20-40mb in size can choke a network with limited capacity.

Your employees can also slow your bandwidth capacity with their own devices. Smartphone’s will often start backing up to the cloud when they detect your Wi-Fi network, again choking your bandwidth.

Bandwidth usage solutions

Often there is no option for increasing your bandwidth because the infrastructure where you are located will not support it and you are already getting the most capacity your provider can offer.

There are ways however to better manage bandwidth:

  • Switch to a business grade router or a Unified Threat Management (UTM) appliance. These allow you to identify and manage bandwidth better and they can also add security such as firewalls and filtering to your connection.
  • Block some devices entirely such as employees phones backing up to the cloud.
  • Schedule some activities for a more convenient time such as system backups to happen at night when fewer people are online.
  • Set up Quality of Service (QoS) to rank the activities your business values more such as video conferencing taking preference ahead of file downloads.

If you want to know more about your bandwidth and implementing solutions then give us a call on 01543 889 444.


Firewalls – What Are They and What Do They Do

Firewalls in buildings stop fires from spreading from one part of a building to the next so what do they have to do with computers?

Your network does what it says, it connects different people from different departments so they can communicate and work effectively. A hacker is motivated to get into your system and will try everything to bypass your security and get into your network perimeter. A firewall sits between that internal network and the Internet outside reducing and preventing unwanted traffic from getting through, allowing your staff to safely carry on working.

firewallThe Packet Filtering Firewall Approach

Your firewall can be a combination of both hardware and software. A packet filter firewall monitors and controls network traffic by filtering data entering the network according to predetermined rules. The firewall is set up to examine small amounts of data called packets to see if they contain threats by checking these against criteria such as allowed IP addresses and packet type. If the data is suspect the firewall stops those packets, if not the data will continue onto its destination.

Firewalls also stops certain software from sending and receiving data to and from the Internet, this reduces the number of entry points for viruses and illegitimate traffic and also monitors outgoing traffic. If an infected computer in your network has become a “bot” due to a malware attack it could be sending out malicious information allowing its owners to attack other systems from your computers.

Firewalls can also help prevent denial-of-service (DDoS) attacks where thousands of computers are used to send an overwhelming amount of traffic to a network causing it to crash. One DDoS attack in 2016 seriously disrupted Amazon, Visa, PayPal, Netflix, Airbnb and more.

Other Types of Firewalls.

Stateful inspection is helping to make firewalls even smarter. These check where the packet came from, where it is going and what application requested it, making the examination more rigorous before the packet is allowed to pass. This approach offers a smart fast way to inspect for unauthorised traffic.

If you need any help on deciding the right type of firewall or want to be sure your firewall is going to withstand an attack give us a call today on 01543 889 444


Wi-Fi dead spots are a thing of the past

Let’s face it, we all rely on Wi-Fi. It provides our wireless high-speed network connection to the rest of the world. As we rely on it more and more, we often find there are area’s in our home or office where the Wi-Fi simply isn’t reliable.

This is where Mesh Wi-Fi comes into play. Traditional Wi-Fi relies on a single router or access point located in a central location to provide the best coverage. If you were having issues, you might invest in a booster, but these were often slow or unreliable. But now, with a mesh network, you can provide reliable and fast Wi-Fi to those hard to reach places.

 

Wifi issues

 

How Mesh Wi-Fi works

Instead of having a single router or access point, a mesh Wi-Fi network relies upon several smaller, connected devices placed around your office or home, known as satellites. These satellites capture and rebroadcast the signals giving you better connectivity. Benefits include:

 

  • Better speeds and reliability
  • Better coverage, allows you to provide Wi-Fi in those hard to reach places
  • Easy to use. A typical Wi-Fi mesh system is automated and often comes with a mobile app for easy management

 

Setup

As with traditional Wi-Fi, you will have to do an initial setup to secure the Wi-Fi mesh. This may include:

 

  • Changing the default login credentials
  • Setting up the satellites to automatically check and install security patches and firmware
  • Changing the default network name and password to something unique

 

Are there any negatives?

Well yes, one. The Cost. Multiple devices mean more expense. But consider this: How often do you suffer from connectivity issues? Are there any dead zones where traditional Wi-Fi simply does not reach?

Suffering from connectivity issues? Give us a call on 01543 889 444 and we can help you decide on the best solution for you.

 


Is your Wi-Fi Good enough?

Wi-Fi has been a game changer. We can browse the Internet from anywhere in the home or office, lookup recipes while in the kitchen, even connect our light bulbs to it so we can control them via our voice. But is your Wi-Fi as good as it can be?

 

Wifi issues

It’s been around 15 years since Wi-Fi was first introduced into our homes and businesses, and since then it’s evolved into something that we can’t live without; laptops, desktops, phones, TVs, smart devices, printers, gaming consoles all connect to it.

However, as soon as you start adding devices that require a lot of bandwidth such as 4K TVs or gaming consoles, things can slow down quickly, and your Wi-Fi can grind to a halt. Yet most people measure their Wi-Fi speeds by how many bars they’ve got, and so when things slow down, they blame the ISP.

Why measuring bars doesn’t determine how quick your Wi-Fi is?

The bars simply show signal strength, not the speed of your Wi-Fi or Internet. While it’s great having a strong signal, it doesn’t tell you how fast and reliable the signal is. It also doesn’t consider how many other devices are fighting for the same bandwidth.

Interference

Other Wi-Fi networks can affect the speed and reliability of your Wi-Fi. All these Wi-Fi networks are competing on the same channels and frequency. As I type this in the office, I’ve got 15 wireless networks that I could connect to. All of them fighting and causing interference with one another.

If you live or work in an area with a lot of Wi-Fi networks, simply changing the channel to one with less cross-talk can seriously boost the speed of your Wi-Fi.

Default settings

All routers provided by your ISP are simply plug and play, in other words, you don’t have to configure them. Yet most use the 2.4Ghz frequency and use channel 1 or 6. By switching to the 5Ghz frequency (if your router and devices support it), you can reduce interference and as an added bonus, the 5Ghz range is considerably quicker.

If your Wi-Fi is not up to scratch, give us a call on 01543 889 444 and we can help improve the speed of your Wi-Fi.


Protect Your Firm Against Zero-Day Attacks

Protecting your business against the latest IT threats should always be a top priority. Updating antivirus and patching your operating system is a great way to start. What happens, however, when a threat appears at your door before security firms have had a chance to catch it?

A security threat that exploits a previously undiscovered vulnerability in the computer is known as a zero-day threat. The name “zero-day” is designed to imply how long since the vulnerability was discovered. The term also indicates that system developers have had zero days to fix it.

A newly discovered attack might be packaged into a computer virus or worm. This will allow it to spread far and wide while inflicting the maximum amount of damage possible. When spread successfully, a new exploit has the potential to reach hundreds of thousands of computers before an operating system or anti-virus update can even be issued.

There are a number of ways we can protect your business or lessen the damage from a zero-day attack.

IT security - Cannock

Preventative security

The number one way to mitigate the damage from any attack to your system is to prevent it from happening in the first place. Maintaining a good firewall and up-to-date antivirus is the best step you can take to ensure the security of your system.

A firewall, monitoring traffic in and out of your network, reduces unauthorised entry over the network. Even without knowing the exact nature of the attack, suspicious activity travelling in and out of the system can be stopped.

The same is true of modern Antivirus. Even when it can not identify the specific zero-day threat from its virus database; it can often identify malicious intent from learned behaviour in the system.

A Locked Down Network

Should a zero-day threat make it into your network, our next goal should be to limit its effects. By restricting user access to only essential files and systems we can limit the damage done to the smallest number of systems. Good security policy dictates that each account should only have full access to the systems needed to complete the user’s job. For example, users from the accounts department shouldn’t have access to sales department databases.

In this way, the damage of a single compromised account is limited to only the network area it operates in. Such limited impact should be easy to control and can be reversed with regular backups.

Good Data backup

Whether your entire network has been exploited or only a small area has been affected; good data backups are your protection against major lasting damage. Having a good backup means having the procedures in place to both create regular backup copies and make sure they can be restored at a later date.

Reliable and well-tested backups are worth their weight in gold. Knowing your data is safe and your system can be recovered is peace of mind against even the most highly destructive zero-day attacks.

Intrusion Protection

While the precise methods of a zero-day exploit can’t be known in advance, a network intrusion protection system (NIPS) can monitor the firms’ network for unusual activity.

The advantage of NIPS over a traditional antivirus only system is it does not rely on checking software against a known database of threats. This means it does not need updates or patches to learn about the latest attacks. NIPS works by monitoring the day-to-day patterns of network activity across the network.

When traffic or events far out of the ordinary are detected action can be taken to alert system administrators and lock down the firewall. Devices such as USB drives and mobile devices can all introduce threats to the network. They can often make it past the firewall because they are physically introduced to the system.

NIPS protects against threats introduced to the network from both external and internal sources.

Full Cover Protection

Used in combination these techniques can prevent, protect, and mitigate against the kinds of threats that even the top security firms haven’t patched yet. We think it’s important to keep your firm secure whatever it might come up against in the future.

If you could use help protect your business against online threats, give us a call today at 01543 889444 or fill in the form below

    Note: We do not share your data with any third parties


    Storage Struggles? How to Keep Up with the Data Explosion

    Many businesses have already embraced the benefits of going fully digital. It has allowed us to do more than ever before; saving us both time and money iterating over work drafts and emails. It has saved us a ton of space too, eliminating the need for stacks of file cabinets in every office.

    The digital boom presents us with brand new problems too. By moving all our files into a digital space, the amount of storage we need to maintain has grown larger and larger just to keep up.

    As digital technology has improved, the resolution, clarity, and size of the digital files we create has exploded. Items such as Xrays, which used to be printed on film are now digital files transferred by computer. As a result of the increase in both the number of digital files we use and their ever-growing size, the size of the data we need to store has exploded exponentially.

    There are a number of ways in which we can tackle our ever-growing storage problem.

    Storage solutions Cannock Staffordshire

    Local server or Network Attached Storage (NAS)

    A local server is a machine physically located within your own office or building. These are typically designed to serve many files to multiple clients at one time from locally held storage.

    The primary advantage that a local network server has is that all your vital data is available to all users in one central location. This means that employees across the network can access all the resources made available.

    These machines can serve files at the speed of the local network, transferring large projects, files, and documents from a central position within the network with ease.

    A NAS has many of the same network properties, typically packaged as a smaller profile, low powered computer. A NAS is specifically designed to enable network file sharing in a more compact package. These can be available in units small enough to fit in a cupboard nook and yet still provide staggering storage capacity on only a small amount of power.

    Both a local server and NAS device allow for large amounts of storage space to be added to the local network. These units are often expanded with more and more storage over time. As an organization grows over time, so do its data storage requirements.

    Cloud Storage

    Sometimes the best option for storage is to move your ever-expanding data outside of the business completely. Often, offloading the costs of hardware and IT management can work out to be an intelligent business decision. One that provides freedom and flexibility in your data storage needs.

    The major advantage of cloud storage comes from the ability to expand and contract your services as needed without the unnecessary overhead of adding and maintaining new hardware.

    By moving storage to the cloud, data can be accessed from anywhere in the world. The flexibility provided by cloud storage allows limitless expansion to any number of devices, locations, and offices. Being able to access data from many locations at a single time can often provide a valuables boost to productivity that can help to speed projects along.

    Some of the drawbacks of cloud storage come from factors that may be outside of the control of the business. Not all internet connections are found to be up to the task of handling large amounts of data to and from the cloud. In some cases, the infrastructure is quite simply not in place yet to support it.

    IT security regulations can prove to be a barrier to enabling storage in the cloud too. Some regulations either prohibit the feature entirely or enable only certain specific types for use.

    The Right Choice for your data

    Both cloud and local storage can provide further benefits to enhance your business. Audit logs, central backups, and version control can all be used to secure the way your firm handles data.

    Whatever your situation, whether a small NAS can boost your office productivity, a local server can provide the connectivity missing from your firm, or cloud storage can switch on new resources, we can advise on the best choices for your business.

    Give us a call at 01543 889 444 to allow us to use our expertise to make the right chose for your data.


    Is Your Business Ready for Business-Grade Wi-Fi?

    In today’s business world, having great Wi-Fi isn’t a luxury -it’s a necessity. Businesses, with their varying needs, have personal requirements for what constitutes great Wi-Fi. For some small businesses, consumer-grade Wi-Fi may be sufficient, but many find that business-grade Wi-Fi is more appropriate. As companies grow, there becomes a tipping point where business-grade is necessary. So how do you know if your business is ready for business-grade Wi-Fi? Ask yourself the following questions to find out.

    How many devices use your Wi-Fi?

    It used to be that only desktop computers connected to your Wi-Fi, but that is no longer the case. With the rise of portable devices such as smartphones, tablets, and laptops, each person may be using your Wi-Fi from several devices. Consumer-grade hardware is designed for just a few people (like the amount that live in a single household) but can’t manage larger amounts of users and all of their devices. This is especially true for sustained usage. Remember that your employees aren’t the only people who expect to be able to connect to your Wi-Fi. One of the first things visitors typically do is look for a Wi-Fi network to connect their smartphones to.

    What is the size and shape of your workspace?

    The number of access points you will need for your Wi-Fi is dependent on the amount of physical space that needs to be covered, the shape of the area, wall material, and the number of users/devices. In smaller spaces, consumer-grade Wi-Fi is good enough. Larger, oddly shaped spaces benefit from business-grade. If your building’s walls are made of brick, cinder blocks, or cement, you likely need more access points than buildings made of other materials. Make sure you have a strong connection from all locations. It’s annoying to only be connected to Wi-Fi in certain areas of a building and find yourself in a deadzone a few steps later.

    Access points for business-grade Wi-Fi tend to be more powerful and flexible. For example, some business Wi-Fi systems can transfer Wi-Fi devices from a crowded access point to one that is less busy. By doing this, everybody’s fast speed remains. If you foresee your range needing to increase, such as renting out more space, it’s easier to add more access points to business-grade Wi-Fi than consumer-grade. Businesses that anticipate scaling up soon are better off with business-grade Wi-Fi.

    Do you want guests to have the same quality Wi-Fi as workers?

    In households, where consumer-grade Wi-Fi is prevalent, all users share the Wi-Fi equally. In a home environment, if children are slowing down the internet with Netflix or video games, it’s not a big problem. However, a choked business Wi-Fi can cause a lot of problems. Business-grade Wi-Fi allows you network management. You can assign a designated amount of bandwidth to different users so they’re unable to clog the entire connection. You can allow visitors internet access without giving them unlimited access to the network.

    How much does the internet affect your employees’ productivity?

    For some companies, workers only use Wi-Fi for a few quick tasks. With these types of businesses, if the internet is slow, it won’t have a big impact on how much work your employees get done. Consumer-grade Wi-Fi might be a good choice. For other companies, there isn’t much people can accomplish if the Wi-Fi isn’t working well. The slower your employees work, the less money you make. Wi-Fi troubles can also lead to frustrated, unhappy workers. If fast internet is essential for people to complete their daily tasks, business-grade Wi-Fi is important.

    Strong Wi-Fi is a necessity for all businesses. This is especially true for larger businesses that connect a lot of devices (from both employees and visitors) and have a big work area. Also for those where employee productivity depends on a strong connection. The goal is to keep your business-critical technology running smoothly. Consider carefully whether consumer-grade Wi-Fi or business-grade Wi-Fi is the best choice for your business. When you ask yourself the questions above, the answer should become clear.

    Is your business’s Wi-Fi struggling? Give us a call at 01543 889 444 to discuss a solution.


    Is A Slow Network Getting in The Way of Your Business?

    Very few things in life are as intensely frustrating as slow network speeds. Whether accessing a shared database, sharing files between computers, or sending a file to print; waiting for transfers can seem to take an eternity. Worse still, these business breaks can keep both clients and staff waiting and get in the way of the productive business day.

    Every time you save or retrieve files from another computer or network storage device, file transfers have to be made over the network. Depending on your IT setup files can pour over the network with the ferocity of a fire hose, or trickle between machines as if dripping through a drinking straw. Poor network speeds are often a critical bottleneck that slows down the entire IT system. If a slow, frustrating, and unreliable network sounds like your office setup then there are many available solutions we can use to help.

    Often, offices maintain networking hardware that is as old as the premises they are in or the businesses themselves. Components can be left in place long after their suggested expiration date. If it isn’t broken, don’t fix it commonly rules as long as some working connection, however slow, still remains.

    Yet, outdated hardware in key areas can often slow the entire system down. Even when the rest of the network is capable of ultra-high speeds, a single bad component can bring the entire network to a crawl. Sometimes if it isn’t broke, it still might not be working to its full potential. Even peripheral devices throughout the network can cause traffic to slow. A badly installed device may become lost from the network or send out an overwhelming number of messages that spoils network traffic. Defense against errors and vulnerabilities is more simple than many think. Often just one or two small upgrades is all that is needed to unlock the full speed potential of the network.

    For some businesses adding a dedicated server is an ideal solution that can balance the IT workload. Access to centrally shared resources often benefits the entire organization by eliminating redundancy. A network server is built with efficiency and reliability in mind to keep your business running at full capacity. By pooling resources for everyone to use, work is evenly shared and centrally available to prevent bottlenecks in the system. Reduced network loads, improved efficiency, and faster transfer speeds mean that higher productivity becomes the new normal.

    Moving resources outside of the office can work for many businesses too. Where high speed, low-cost internet services are available, moving your work into the cloud can be a highly cost-effective solution. Software packages such as Quickbooks offer finance and accounting packages for operating in the cloud. Similar Suites such as Microsoft Office offers services for creating and sharing documents with cloud resources. Both packages eliminate the need for many of the network operations that we use every day.

    For many applications such as Quickbooks huge databases sometimes gigabytes in size are required. It is these types of applications where the advantage of the cloud becomes clear. To use this locally, huge database transfers keep the application up-to-date daily.

    These transfers across a local network are time-consuming and clog up vital resources for the firm. Yet, the same application in the cloud requires only a simple web page for each user. Instantly, looking up finances and editing documents becomes as simple as checking your email. With services moved to the cloud purchase cost and maintenance of expensive network hardware are reduced too.

    A complete network solution that works to make the most out of all the available resources is unique to every business. Only a tailored solution to address your network needs will increase your productivity.

    If your IT is starting to get in the way of your business and your network is running too slow, give us call at 01543 889 444 and we’ll see what we can do.