Support for Small Businesses
We provide assistance and advice to small businesses and home users. This includes advice on purchasing (what to buy and where to buy), setting up small networks so that you can share printers and internet connections, anti-virus precautions, software purchases and what to avoid, and general care and maintenance of your computer.
Should you break your computer, it's quite possibly software related, and we can assist in sorting out these problems. Be warned however, that sometimes the best solution is to scrap the lot (software-wise) and start again, by re-installing your system from scratch.
A nasty virus and the associated cleanup procedure can leave collateral damage that makes your computer very unreliable. Sometimes it is necessary to take a final back-up of your data, and then wipe the hard disk and re-install everything. This is not a quick process, and needs to be done with care if you are not to lose data. Alternatively, you can take the computer back to the shop, where for £50 or so, they will "re-stream" your computer for you. This will put your software back to the state it was in when you bought it. You then need to install your data, software and software updates from the software disks that you own and your regular data backup disks. Fine for a "commodity" PC, but not so clever if you have any real data!
Once you have "caught" a virus, it's too late. The damage is done. Very often even more damage is done by inexpert use of anti-virus tools, or worse still, users deleting everything in sight as part of a scatter-gun approach.
A Computer is the most complex machine that you will ever own. It's a machine with literally millions of moving parts, the parts are moving hundreds of millions of times every second, they are too small to see (which makes it difficult to tell if they're working properly!) and they are very sensitive to static electricity, electrical interference and magnetism.
When a problem occurs, if you're lucky, it disables the computer and it "crashes". If you're unlucky, it carries on working, but gives you the wrong answers!
Often whole sections of a computer get damaged and stop working properly. The engine may still be running, but steering and front suspension has all dropped off. Typical examples of this style of fault are when a device driver (a piece of software that makes a device work) gets damaged, and your scanner or printer stops working. Sometimes you can just lift the suspension and bolt it back on, other times you have to remove it completely before you can put it back properly.
Forget the advice that "you can't hurt a computer" - it's utter rubbish! Computers are delicate precision instruments, and it's very easy to break them! So, some simple rules...
...and that's just for starters! But perhaps it'll help avoid some of the common ways of breaking your PC.
It's a dangerous world on the internet, and thanks to some magnificently bad decisions by Microsoft, your computer is probably at risk. EVERY internet user should use a good Anti-Virus (AV) tool, and should keep it regularly updated. This should provide a lot of protection, although it WILL NOT protect you from all threats.
If you don't want to buy an AV program, then you can download a free version of AVG from www.grisoft.com. This is an excellent product, and the one drawback is that it's a 6Mb download - say 25 minutes on a good 56K dial up connection - and keeping it up to date involves a further, regular, large download.
If you're prepared to buy an Anti-Virus program, then reputable Anti-Virus companies include Norton, McAfee, Kapersky, www.hbedv.com and Sophos.
However, anti-virus software is just the start. You also need to use common sense (often not so common!). Too many viruses are spread because someone clicked on a strange e-mail attachment with a "wonder what this is..." wafting through the brain.
Some simple suggestions follow...
When you establish an Internet connection the technology under the bonnet opens up a two-way communication line. If your PC is insecure, then it is possible for anyone on the internet to connect to your computer, read your files, alter your files, or write information to your disk - all without your knowledge.
A firewall is something that sits between you and the internet and monitors and controls what goes in and out of your computer. Sometimes a black box, and sometimes a piece of software, firewalls require care and feeding to work properly. Windows XP comes with a very basic one, and a good (free) (real) one is Zonealarm, available from www.zonelabs.com. Real firewalls are not for the faint-hearted, and need to be configured to allow all those programs to connect to the internet - your browser, e-mail client, and anti-virus updates for a start.
When you see how often your computer is scanned from the internet, you can quickly become paranoid! (But then again, just 'cos you're paranoid it doesn't mean they're not out to get you!)
Other Internet Threats
In addition to viruses, there are a whole range of other threats that exist on the Internet, that can be downloaded onto your PC and run without your knowledge. This class of problem includes :-
Many of these nasties install as "Broswer Helper Objects" (BHO's) via Internet Explorer, and somehow get completely ignored by even the best anti-virus programs. They can install things on your computer without your knowledge, and run them when they want. And if they can do that, they are a real threat!
Shields Up is a computer scanning service available from www.grc.com that probes your computer from the internet and tells you what it finds. If you run any sort of a network, you should definately check to see how much of the "works" your PC is showing to passers-by on the net. If you're badly configured, any shared disks and printers, plus the name of your PC and workgroup may be displayed (and thus vulnerable), and your PC may allow people on the Internet to connect to your computer.
The GRC site is a mine of information about Windows security vulnerabilities, and it has some very useful tools for dealing with a few of the worst vulnerabilities. Do you regularly get "instant messenger" style popups on your computer? If so, then you really need to look at GRC's "three musketeers"!
King of the bloatware, Windows suffers greatly from poor security, and you really need to ensure that your PC is kept up to date with Windows Update (normally one of the options off the Start menu). This connects to the internet, downloads a small program (if you let it), takes a survey of your PC, and gives you a list of updates that are available. These fall into three categories -
The Critical Updates are just that - Critical! Look at the descriptions and see just how many security holes have been found in your system! These updates should be downloaded and installed, and you need to check back on a regular basis, as new vulnerabilities are regularly discovered and fixed.
The Windows selection contain all sorts, but mainly seem to consist of every obscure language under the sun. There are one or two useful things in here occasionally!
The Drivers section may have updated drivers for some of your kit, which may make your PC work a bit better if you have problems.
Explore the Windows Update site, read the warnings, but seriously consider keeping your PC updated.
Recording CD's and Backups
You can never have too many backups. Recordable CD's are cheap, as are the devices to write to ("burn") them. If your hard disk dies, you may need to use the backups to recover your data.
Sadly, the life of burned CD's is proving to be a big disappointment! Verified CD's stored carefully are sometimes unreadable after as little as two years, and often unreadable by four years. You may be lucky, but is it worth the risk? (Note that most "production" CD's are created using a different process, and do not suffer the same problems - or at least, not to the same extent!)
As a backup medium, CD's may be fine. If your system dies, unless you want to do a lot of typing, you'll recover using a fresh backup that may only be a matter of days old.
However, as an archive medium, they may not be so clever! Copy the contents of your digital photo album to CD to create space on your hard disk, and after a few years the images may be lost forever. Or perhaps it's a previous years accounts. Or correspondence.
And keep the backups somewhere safe. It's no good if your business computer is stolen along with the backups. Or damaged in the same fire. Spread the risk by keeping the backups in separate premises. (And if you have sensitive information on the disks, make sure it's somewhere secure!).
We aim to provide accurate, realistic advice to help you get the most out of your computer investment!
As experts in using and managing data and systems, we can advise you how how your computer can be used to assist you in the day to day running of your house or business. We can assist you with choosing software and systems, arranging data so that it can be used to provide you with information, and provide training so that you understand what you are doing!
you to turn data that you already have, into information that you
can use to help justify your decisions.