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A new computer is a significant investment for any business, large or small. Many companies end up using older systems for longer than they would like because they want to get their money’s worth out of the purchase.

Do you find yourself banging on your keyboard in frustration? Have you tried every tip and trick you found online, only to still struggle with a slow PC?

There are some great upgrades you can do that won’t cost as much as a new computer, and they’ll make your PC feel like new again.

Computer speed upUPGRADE TO A SOLID-STATE DRIVE (SSD)

The price of solid-state drives has decreased significantly in recent years, making them a budget-friendly upgrade that can help speed up an older computer.

HDDs have moving parts, while SSDs do not. SSDs use flash memory, which allows for quicker response time. This results in faster boot times and smoother performance when opening files and applications.

Some of the advantages of upgrading your computer’s hard drive to SSD include:

  • SSD read/write speeds up to 2500 MB/second compared to HDD at up to 200 MB/second
  • SSD access time of 0.1ms as compared to HDD at 5.5-8.0ms
  • SSDs use between 2-5 watts of energy compared to HDD at 6-15 watts

INCREASE THE RAM (MEMORY)

One low-cost upgrade that can lead to significant performance gains is a memory upgrade. If your PC only had 4GB of RAM when you bought it, you’re likely to have trouble opening too many tabs in your browser or using any graphics-heavy program.

Adding more RAM to your computer can make a big difference in its speed and performance. If your PC has available memory slots, upgrading to 8GB or 12GB of RAM can make it feel like you have an entirely new computer.

GET A PROFESSIONAL COMPUTER TUNE-UP

Online PC cleaners might not provide the same level of tune-up as a professional IT provider. We will deep clean your system by eliminating all the duplicate files, repairing internal errors, and checking the Windows Registry for any issues. This will help to speed up your system and keep it running smoothly.

We can also check for failing parts and provide guidance on your most impactful upgrade options.

GET HELP IMPROVING YOUR COMPUTER’S PERFORMANCE TODAY!

Don’t struggle with an older PC! We can help you with cost-effective upgrade options that will fit your system and budget perfectly. Call us on 01543 889 444

Microsoft 365 Bookings – Manage Your Appointments Online

Are you always answering the phone taking new bookings and appointments, chasing and answering emails for your business and find you don’t have time to actually carry out those jobs, that’s where Microsoft 365 Bookings comes into its own and is the App you need.

Bookings is an add-on to your Microsoft 365 Business plan. It allows you to manage appointments online with a custom web page which you can integrate with Facebook.

If you are getting bogged down by:

  • still doing paper bookings
  • double booking or getting times wrong
  • regularly having to interrupt your work to make new appointments
  • your client contact list is a mess

Then you seriously need to consider Bookings.

How Does Bookings Work?

Bookings is easy to use and will take the stress and time out of managing your appointments. It will:

  • Create a custom branded public facing calendar (or calendars if needed)
  • Customers can find and book appointments by accessing your site 24/7
  • Bookings will send a confirmation email and calendar invitation
  • Customers can reschedule or cancel if they need, again 24/7
  • Bookings will track all confirmations, reminders and changes for you

By adding custom fields you can also request and manage deposits, manage internal and external calendars or set up different staff details.

Added Benefits of Bookings

There are many additional benefits and features as Bookings is an extension of Microsoft 365 and include:

  • Bookings easily syncs with Outlook calendars helping to avoid double bookings
  • Bookings can help you avoid last minute cancellations as you are able to control how much advance notice is required to cancel
  • Appointments booked as online meetings create a link to enable virtual meetings via Skype or Microsoft Teams
  • The Facebook integration allows you to accept bookings from your page via a “book now” button and Facebook will fill in their contact information automatically making it easier for customers
  • There is also a mobile App for Android and iPhone so you can manage your appointments on the go
  • Bookings can also build your company’s database. The appointments manager gathers data such as names, phone numbers and postal and email addresses all in one place.

Bookings is one of many online scheduling tools available however its integration with other Microsoft tools gives it a big advantage and it’s affordable.

Don’t waste time managing your appointments the old way every week, get online with Bookings 365 today.

Don’t want to take the time to upgrade and integrate Bookings then call SJH Computing & Technical Services on 01543 889 444 and out IT experts can do it for you.


Returning to Work: Make sure you are IT Safe

Your business has had the go ahead to return to work onsite, but you are unsure of the precautions you need to carry out. Guidelines have been produced regarding social distancing and keeping your workforce safe but what about IT safety?

If you have had remote working during quarantine you could allow workers to stay at home if they are at risk or oppose the idea of returning too soon.

For those coming back, you could use a phased return to ensure social distancing making people feel more secure. You could use a hybrid approach, allowing people to work in the office three days a week and two days at home, allowing a staggered return and letting them regain their confidence to return to full workplace.

Do you have the correct technology?

You may think you have the technology to support your staff both working onsite and remotely but is it capable of supporting your business long term. Will your technology support you for the long haul or as some are saying the new way of working?

To achieve a flexible hybrid model of working you could go with cloud solutions or you could expand on site IT. Do you need the additional infrastructure to handle remote employees using VPNs? Both onsite and remote staff might need to securely access systems at the same time. Cloud collaboration software will allow both onsite and remote staff to use resources at the same time.

When you bring people back to the office you may need to space your workstations further apart to ensure social distancing meaning you may have to move computer hardware as well, or if you previously used shared computers, you will have to add more desktops or laptops.

Further IT precautions

Cyber-criminals are always on the lookout to make a quick killing; you only have to look at the proliferation of scams that have occurred during lockdown. Many businesses had to move quickly to remote working sometimes allowing staff to access the business from personal devices which could leave them open to cyber attacks.

Now is the time to explore any vulnerabilities in your IT systems. Double check permissions ensuring say someone from procurement cannot access payroll and vice-versa. Also confirm that all your staff have adequate virus protection on their devices and security patches are up to date.

You will naturally be concentrating your efforts on social distancing, deep cleaning, etc to ensure your staff are safe to return to work but don’t forget your IT needs. If you need any help ensuring your IT is safe and ready give us a call on 01543 889444.

 


Have you tried turning it off and on?

This solution is one of the most banded about solutions in IT, turn your device off and back on and see what happens and surprisingly it often works. So why do you need an IT expert to solve all your problems?

IT Support

Take a Microsoft blue screen for instance, if you see this, Windows cannot continue working and restarting your computer may be all you need, but – if it doesn’t then it’s time to call your IT guys.

Sometimes applications will freeze or your system locks up and all you can do is stare at the screen. If it’s an application you can try a “Force Quit” (CTL + ALT + Delete in Windows). If that doesn’t work you may have to force a shutdown. On a PC just hold the power button down for as long as needed for the computer to shut off. If this fails to rectify the problem then it’s time to call us.

When you have issues with the internet or network connectivity powering off your computer may again be the solution. By doing this you reset its connections to the router, server or even ISP allowing the necessary information to get back online to be communicated back and forth. If that doesn’t work try powering off the router or modem, the same explanation applies only this time you’re resetting the connection from the other end.

A couple of cautions

Before you power off, assuming it’s not a complete freeze, save any documents and close any open windows as unexpected shutdowns may cause data corruption in any open files. You should also remember to regularly save your documents as you are working making multiple, incremental copies as you go. For example File v1.doc., File v2.doc etc by using the “Save As” function.

If you do have to turn something off and on again as a quick fix don’t immediately power back on, give the device a “cooling off” time of 5 -10 seconds allowing it the necessary time to reset.

You should avoid turning your computer off and on again many times in a day as doing so repeatedly can stress the device, especially older computers. If you’re having to do this many times a day because of freeze-ups then there is an underlying issue with your device that needs to be fixed.

If you are having issues with any devices call us on 01543 889 444


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.


Tips for Working from Home

Working from home can prove difficult and challenging but with many people worldwide now being forced to do this because of COVID-19 the following tips can help you stay focused when working remotely.

 

Create your office space

Set up your temporary home office, away from distractions if you can, a spare room is perfect but if not somewhere you can close the door. Try to create your office at work as best as you can, so it feels as though you are going into your office at work and remove anything personal such as photos.

Creating your “office at home” can help with the mental association that you are going to work. Also dress as if you were going to work, if you wear a tie at work then wear a tie at home, don’t wear your round the house casuals, get your mind into work mode.

Keep to a routine

Keeping to a work schedule can help. If you go to the office at a certain time, start at your workstation at the same time, keep break times as consistent to work break times as you can, this helps the brain to think it’s business as usual even if you are working in the lounge on a coffee table.

If you eat at your desk at work do the same at home, it’s easy to sit in front of a TV at home and get distracted and you have lost valuable time before you know it.

If you checked your e-mails first then do this first. If you have a weekly conference call every Tuesday at 10 o’clock then try and keep to that as well using video or voice conferencing to stay in touch and safe. Keep your routine as close as possible to work.

Important – avoid distractions

News and social media are traps for those working from home, especially during this COVID-19 outbreak as you want to know what’s going on and the latest news, no one is watching you and it’s easy to think “I’ll just check”… before you know it another 30 minutes has been lost on something completely irrelevant to work.

Working from home with children can be difficult, especially if you are on your own and need to supervise their online learning. As you have your own work space then giving them their own work space can keep them motivated and away from you. Set out rules on breaks and when you can spend time together, try and explain that you are working as well.

Keep deadlines

The longer you have to do something the slower you will work, its human nature so setting yourself realistic deadlines as you would at work will keep you motivated.

Share your deadlines with other colleagues using an online task management tool. This can kelp with accountability.

Be patient

Your perhaps doing something completely new so don’t expect everything to go to plan straight away, give yourself time to bed things in and get used to your new routine (but not too long). You will be dealing with many changes. You could try setting a timer and work until the bell chimes.

You could try doing 30 minutes of good work on that thing you’re avoiding, it may only be 30 minutes but at least you will be further ahead on it and you may find you are close to finishing it and get the job done.

Have the right tech

Working from home can be a little daunting and requires a lot of self discipline as well as challenging, and you don’t want to make it harder by having unreliable internet and Wi-Fi connections. If you are having problems then give us a call on 01543 889 444.


Computer Myths Debunked

There are many common misconceptions about computers, from a slow computer has a virus to my laptop battery needs to be dead before I recharge. Here’s some common myths about computers.

 

My computer is slow, so it must have a virus

A virus can be to blame, in fact, this used to be the case 90% of the time. However, in recent years, the number 1 reason for a slow computer is down to the speed of the hard drive. Computer and laptop manufacturers still build machines with mechanical hard drives.

Mechanical hard drives are like a record player, a series of spinning disks arranged in a delicate stack known as a platter. Each disk reads and saves data using a tiny head moving across the disk’s surface. Over time these, mechanical hard drives naturally slow down, leaving your computer feel sluggish. Replacing a mechanical hard drive with a solid-state drive can give you a serious boost in performance and make your computer or laptop feel like new again.

 

Macs don’t get viruses

This simply isn’t true. The Mac operating system is vulnerable to infections, especially as more and more people switch from Windows to Mac.

We usually do a quick scan on all Macs just to make sure they are clean and virus free, yet almost every Mac we see has got some sort of infection. In fact, we shared a photo on Facebook last year after a customer told us “Mac’s don’t get viruses”. This machine had over 100 different infections, which we cleaned up and returned with an antivirus solution in place.

 

My laptop battery needs to be dead before I charge it up again

This was true in the past. Laptop batteries were made from Nickel-cadmium and they suffered from something called the memory effect. If you discharged and recharged the battery at the same point, they would remember that and so they didn’t perform as well.

However, modern day batteries are made with Lithium-ion and so they don’t suffer from the memory effect.

Need help with your computer or laptop? Call us today on 01543 889 444 to see how we can help you.


Tech Tips for Businesses

As your business continues to grow, it’s important that your IT and technology solutions grow with it. Consumer grade equipment and solutions simply don’t cut the fast-paced world of business, and so it maybe time to consider these tips to help your business grow even more.

 

Upgrade to a Business Grade Cloud solution

Maybe you are relying on free software and solutions, such as Gmail or Dropbox, and why not, it’s free right? But what does this tell your customers when you are using a free email address such as Gmail or Outlook.com? For a small monthly fee, you gain business grade features and not only that, it will make your business look more professional.

Office 365 offers business emails, video and voice calls, secure team messaging, 50GB cloud storage and the desktop versions of Word, Excel and PowerPoint you use every day. Plus, you gain greater security and administration of your data.

 

Backup solutions

Consumer grade backup may be ok if you only use one computer, but what if you’ve got multiple computers, are you backing them all up, and where to?

With a 3-2-1 backup solution, your business has a minimum of three backups. Two onsite and another offsite, such as in the cloud. Having a local backup allows you to recover files quickly with very little downtime. However, should the worst happen, such as a fire or flood, your offsite backup will save the day.

It’s important to know that you need to backup your email, calendar and cloud-based files. Providers such as Microsoft, Google or Dropbox are not responsible for your data. If you are hit by ransomware, these files may be gone forever.

 

Managed Antivirus

While most businesses have these protections, not all have embraced the idea of monitored antivirus and firewalls. Instead, the default setup has more in common with a home setup than a robust professional system. Given that SMBs are a primary target for malware and cyber-attack, you should seriously consider moving to the monitored versions.

All updates are taken care of, plus company-wide protections applied so users can’t accidentally infect the network. When something doesn’t look quite right, our monitors take immediate action to protect your business.

Want to learn more about these benefits and how we can help your business thrive? Call us on 01543 889 444


Windows Keyboard Shortcuts to help you save time

A lot of people don’t realise you can use the keyboard on your computer to perform certain tasks. These keyboard shortcuts can save you a lot of time and make you more efficient.

 

Ctrl + C to Copy

If you need to copy some text, an image or even a URL. You can use the keyboard to do this for you. Instead of highlighting the text or image you want to copy, then right clicking, and scrolling down to copy. You can simply highlight whatever you are trying to copy and pressing and holding Ctrl and C on your keyboard.

 

Ctrl + V to Paste

So, you’ve copied the text or image you want, now you can use the keyboard to paste it. Simply press and hold Ctrl + V to paste it where ever you want to place it.

 

Ctrl + Z to Undo

Let’s say you are typing a letter and you want to undo the last action you performed. Instead of moving the mouse to the Undo button, simply press Ctrl + Z to reverse your last action. To redo something, press Ctrl + Y.

 

Alt and Tab to switch screen

If you’ve got several Windows open, you can quickly switch between them by pressing Alt and Tab (Tab is usually above the Caps Lock key). This will save you having to move your mouse down to the taskbar and selecting the correct Window.

 

Ctrl + F to Find

If you want to search for a certain word on a website or Word document. You can press Ctrl + F which will open a pop-up box where you can type the word you are looking for. In fact, you can see how many times your search text appears.

Want to know how we can help streamline your processes in your home and office? Give us a call on 01543 889 444.


OK Google, How Safe Are You Really?

Are you prompting Siri, Google, or Alexa? When you talk a home assistant, you join a growing number of smart homes.

Smart home assistants search online, start phone calls, order groceries, play music, turn lights on. All with a single spoken command.

Research into how people use Google or Alexa demonstrates the core features. Listening to music ranked first. Checking weather and asking for general information rounded out the top three. Setting timers and reminders, asking for the news or jokes (perhaps to make up for the news?) are also common.

Yet, the question remains, just how safe are these virtual assistants? After all, having a smart speaker in your home means there is always an open microphone in your house.

 

Smart Speaker and Home Assistant Safety Concerns

The convenience of the speaker demands that it always be on, ready and waiting for you to say “Hey Siri” or “OK Google.” Once triggered the device records the command, sends the data to servers for processing, and figures out its response.

Smart speaker users can log in to view the history of queries on their accounts. This prompts some concerns that these mega-companies will use the information for financial gain. For example, those talking about an overseas holiday might start seeing related ads on their computers.

Someone hacking into the home assistant to gain access to your personal information is another concern. Those who set smart speakers as a hub for many devices also create more points of vulnerability.

It’s difficult to anticipate all the ways the assistant could prove too good a listener. In one case, a voice assistant recorded a private conversation and sent it to the couple’s contacts list.

Steps to Stay Secure with a Smart Speaker

That candid conversation share aside, few big privacy flubs or personal data breaches have been reported. Nevertheless, if taking advantage of Alexa, Siri, or Google helper, keep these strategies in mind.

1. Clear your history. Don’t leave everything you’ve ever asked it stored on the company server. The assistant will relearn your commands quickly.

2. Connect with caution. It’s great to be able to turn on the TV and dim the lights without leaving the comfort of your sofa. Be wary of connecting security or surveillance devices to your home assistant.

3. Mute the microphone. Yes, it undermines your ability to call from the closet “OK, Google, what’s the weather like today?” But, turning off the mic when it’s not in use stops recording without you knowing about it.

4. Secure your network. Home assistants do their work by connecting to the Internet using your network. Ensure they are accessing a password protected network. They should use devices (e.g. modems) changed from default password settings.

With a little effort you can gain convenience without worry.

Want more questions answered about setting up a smart speaker to be safe and reliable? We’re here to help. Give us a call at 01543 889 444.