It’s a jungle out there – Computer security tips

Computer Security is for everyone!

In the information technology world, computer security is important for everyone. Hackers don’t just attack the big companies and governments anymore.

Image courtesy of hywards at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

So what can you do to keep your computer and network safe? Though there is no 100% guarantees, here is a few things that will help.

Anti-virus

The first and foremost thing that no computer should ever be without is an antivirus program. It may be the most important computer security you have. There are many free options, but Wolfe Computer Solutions does not recommend using free anti virus programs. We offer a managed anti-virus plan, or we have standard Emsisoft licenses available.

Back-Ups

Back ups are vital to your computers life.  If you keep any file of any value on your computer, back ups are beyond essential.  Do you have family videos, family pictures, financial files, your resume, your school work, your……. I think you get the point.  If you lost these how hard would it be to replace them?  Pictures and videos are frequently irreplaceable.  You need to have a physical back up (like a portable hard drive) or a cloud backup (like Carbonite) or both.

Browser

The much maligned Internet Explorer is a source of a large number of computer security issues.  Wolfe Computer Solutions suggests using Chrome from Google, or Firefox. Then be very wary about all extensions used in them.  We go so far as suggesting not using extensions at all.

Updates

Keeping the latest security updates on your Computer system.  This includes Operating system updates (Window Updates) as well as updates for all of the programs you use.  Flash, Acrobat, Office and more need to be updated as hackers can find ways in through un-patched holes in these programs.  Wolfe Computer Solutions is in the process of adding update management (or as we call it in the computer industry patch management ) to our Business Managed Service plans, as well as to our Home User computer care plans.

DNS

Using the DNS (Domain Name Service) from your internet service provider works to turn that dot com into an internet address, but there are other much more secure ways to do it.  Wolfe Computer Solutions suggests using OpenDNS for this service.  It takes a bit to set up, but once you have it working, it will block phishing sites as well you can set up some basic filtering to block gambling, pornography, and more.

E-Mail

This is one area where personal caution comes in very helpful.  If you are not expecting an invoice or attachment from someone DO NOT open it.  Remember that legitimate companies are not going to ask you to email your password.  Check the links you click and make sure that you are really going where the email says you are.

So a little focus on computer security goes a long way.  If you have questions about your set up, or would just like to talk to a professional, give Wolfe Computer Solutions a call!

307-222-9270

or

The Final Countdown!

We are just about two months away from the end of a first.

Microsoft allowed for the first time to have a free upgrade to Windows 10. It is only free if you accept it in the first year. That means come July 29th, the option for a free upgrade if you have Windows 7, 8 or 8.1 will go away. It also means that, eventually, the nagging pop-up trying to convince you to upgrade will go away as well.

What does that mean for you?

In short, if you haven’t upgraded, and are thinking about it the time to decide is NOW. Microsoft will pull the plug on the free upgrade in just a few short weeks. If you wait till July 30th, you will not be able to take advantage of it.

Should I do it?

There is lots of debate about should you upgrade, and Wolfe Computer Solutions has moved to the side of yes. Why? Read on!

We have been using it since it’s inception as a testing product, and the pros are outweighing the cons. If you would like to see some of the things that we like about Windows 10, check out this earlier blog post.

As well, our studied opinion is that Windows 10 is an important platform, and one that all computer users should and will be using for the next 7-10 years. Also, as Microsoft goes, we all know that support for Windows 7 and Windows 8 will eventually discontinued and this is a great way to extend the life of your hardware.

Now what?

So if you have decided to take the plunge and move to Windows 10. What do you do?

There are 3 options:

  • Download it and do it yourself.
  • Let a “techie” friend help you.
  • Call the experts at Wolfe Computer Solutions.

However, in our experience, it is important that the upgrade be installed on a newly formatted or new new hard drive after first properly backing up important data files, programs and settings. This should be done by a professional.

As the Windows 10 Free Upgrade offer is rapidly coming to a close, we are offering a full update service (backup, Windows 10 install and data/programs/setting restoration) with a 48-hour turnaround.

Wolfe Computer Solutions is your professional in Cheyenne.

Make your appointment today:

 

307-222-9270
or

The True Cost of Free!

There are lots of “free” anti-virus software packages available these days. It’s a great deal!
Right?!?
Why would this not be a great deal?

After some research into these Anti-virus programs, Wolfe Computer Solutions will no longer install them on our custome

r’s computers. As we all know there is no such thing as a free lunch and we cannot, in good conscience, put these risks on your system.
Let’s explore why a lot of free anti-virus software programs are not the best solution:

PUP’s:

This does not mean the cute, little animals you can adopt from Black Dog Animal Rescue . PUP is short for Potentially Unwanted Programs.  Things like browser tool-bars, registry optimizers (which don’t work), driver updaters, and many more. These have several problems:

  • They slow down your system
  • They track you (to sell to you)
  • They nag you to buy a product
  • They cause pop-ups (oh so many pop-ups)
  • They ask you for money

Of the top eight free anti-virus products, seven of them come bundled with PUPs. The PUP vendors pay the software distributors up to $2.00 per installation, to bundle them with the “free” anti-virus. Then they make even more money by re-directing you to their paid, erm, I mean “Safe” search sites.

Nags:

Another annoyance with free anti-virus products is that they will nag you. More than your mother did about cleaning your room when you were a teenager. After a while, it feels like they ask you to upgrade to the paid subscription every ten minutes. Then some of them continue to nag you even if you do buy their product…

They want you to buy optimizing add-ins, “Internet Security suites”, and all other kinds of products you don’t need and probably don’t want.

Privacy:

A quick read through the privacy policy of many free anti-virus programs lists many things the software collects:

  • Websites you visit
  • Infection information
  • Email information
  • Copies of ” Potentially Infected” files
  • Hardware information
  • Who knows what else.

Now, what alternative solution do we suggest? We only install Emsisoft Anti-malware. They have committed to never including PUPs and take your privacy seriously. We can install or sell a one year plan, or if you prefer a more hands off option we offer Managed Anti-Virus and computer care plans for home users.
Managed Anti-virus is also an optional add on for our Small Business Service Plans.

Call us at 307-222-9270 for more information

or

Use the form below to email us:

Windows 10 – Great “new” Features

Seems hard to believe that Windows 10 has been out for a month plus already! And with the wide adoption, the bugs are getting worked out at a rapid pace. So you are probably thinking: “What’s all the hype I am hearing about Windows 10?” and “Should I upgrade to Windows 10?” I am getting close to the point where I am going to recommend to my clients to start considering it. Though not perfect, in many ways Windows 10 is living up to the billing as the best Windows ever.

So I am going to highlight Three features “new” to Windows 10 that make it worth considering:

Windows 10 Start menu with live tiles

1. A start menu. Yes I know this is not “new”, but you may notice that the word new has been in quotes, because in some ways it is new. The metro start screen in Windows 8 was probably the most hated change to Windows. Microsoft however listened to the customers and put it back! Of course it is different than what we had in Windows 7 and before. It is a nice combination of the things in Windows 8’s Metro screen that were useful and what we loved about our start menus. We have live tiles with updated news, sports scores, and more and an all apps button and easy access to the programs we have installed on our computers!

2.Microsoft Edge. With Windows 10 we have a new default browser. Microsoft Edge is a lean and agile browser that is designed to compete with Google Chrome, Mozilla Firefox and the quick browsers out there. Internet Explorer is still there for compatibility reasons, but you have to find it. Edge can not use the old plugins that worked in IE, but instead is moving to an extension format for plugins. Active X is going the way of the dodo bird. And the general reception of Edge has been very good.

Cortana – Your AI Digital Assistant in Windows 10

3.Cortana. Cortana is perhaps one of the most interesting features ever added to Windows. Cortana is your personal digital assistant. She responds to voice commands and can look up things. She has some funny quips if you ask her the right questions. Her name comes from the AI computer in the Halo game series. Though she was available in Windows 8, she is much more robust in Windows 10. The thing that really differentiates her from Siri, is that she will eventually be available for Android and iOS. It really is beginning to feel like Star Trek where we could talk to our computers and get direct and intelligent answers.

There you have it. Three of the most interesting new features in Windows 10 so far. I am sure we will see more soon. If you would like to investigate moving your computer or your businesses computers to Windows 10, and would like to have a computer professional right here in Cheyenne make sure it goes smoothly, give Wolfe Computer Solutions a call at

307-222-9270

or use the form to email us:

Why Managed Service?

AtWolfe Computer Solutions we believe that no business is too small to utilize the services of an I.T. Managed Service Provider (MSP). A Managed Service provider can handle all of your Information Technology needs so your business can focus on growing and not on I.T. issues.

There are several very important advantages to hiring an MSP to assist your business:

  • Regular scheduled maintenance visits. Depending on your size and needs, Wolfe Computer Solutions will make regular visits to your site, either weekly (for larger small businesses), every other week (medium sized small businesses), or once a month (for very small businesses). These visits will include checking updates, virus scanning, backups and overall system health. Just like oil changes for your car, these are vital to ensure you are running at tip top shape!
  • Emergency on call visits. Included in all Managed Service plans is emergency services. Catastrophic events unfortunately happen, and Wolfe Computer Solutions is there for you when they do! Whether it is hardware failure, a nasty virus infection, or simply someone accidentally deleted that project you have spent the last month getting ready, we are here to help. This service is at no additional charge! (Except in the case of extreme after hours service i.e. between 8 P.M. and 5 A.M., or the need to purchase replacement hardware.)
  • Predictability.Every business wants, no needs, to be able to predict and control their costs. One of the major advantages you see with a Managed Service plan from Wolfe Computer Solutions is the predictability of a regular rate. If everything goes to plan and there is no issues, we are doing our job and you are happy, but if you have a catastrophe and we spend 15+ hours at your location recovering and restoring 5 or 10 computers, you are not going to have to come up with an extra $1000 dollars or more to cover it. It is all paid for in your plan
  • Vendor Management. Do you hate calling technical support for the company that built your laptop and talking to someone who seems to barely speak English? Would you love to have someone do that for you? Then you will love this benefit! Wolfe Computer Solutions will be your go between so you don’t have to talk to the outsourced technical support script reader on another continent. We do it for you!
  • Speed! In case of catastrophe we at Wolfe Computer Solutions want you up and running as soon as possible! Therefore, during regular business hours, our goal is to take your call the first time. If we cannot take it when you call, we strive to call you back within an hour of receiving your message. (We do live in Wyoming and know how cell phone coverage can be here!) Once we have talked to you, and determine that an on-site visit is needed, the goal is to be walking in to your office within 4 business hours.
  • Peace of mind! This may be the most important benefit. With a Managed Service plan from Wolfe Computer Solutions, you don’t have to worry about your technology. We keep everything running in tip top shape, so you can focus on growing your business.

Now that you see the importance and value of having a Managed Service Provider as a partner to your business, give Wolfe Computer Solutions a call and we will design a custom plan for your business. In order to do this, we will come to your office and do a FREE site survey and on-site consultation.

No business is too small! Have a Technology Professional on your side!

Call today: 307-222-9270

Windows 10 – Should you upgrade?

We are FAST approaching the date when Microsoft is releasing Windows 10 to the public. It comes out July 29th (THAT is TOMORROW!) as a free upgrade if you have Windows 7 Service Pack 1 or Windows 8.1. Yes you have read that right, it is FREE. In fact you have probably seen the notification icon on your screen asking you to register for the upgrade.

This begs the question: It’s free, should I take this free upgrade?

Windows 10

This is not a simple question with a simple answer. There are many things to consider in deciding if you want to take this offer from Microsoft.

  1. Do I have vital business files that I need to make sure work on this new version of Windows?
  2. Have my Programs been tested on Windows 10?
  3. Have I tested the change on my systems?
  4. Am I using old hardware that will not work on Windows 10?

And the list goes on and on.

There is a lot to love about Windows 10. Many users of Windows 8 and 8.1 miss the start menu, but Windows 10 brings it back. Cortana the new digital assistant (Similar to Siri) has tons of potential. The interface is very clean and easy to navigate. In my opinion, Windows 10 is one of the best operating systems Microsoft has released.

Preview of Windows 10 Menu

However it is not perfect. They are still working on the domain features in Windows 10. The last test of the Domain connector on Server 2012 did not work for me. If you are not joined to a domain updates are forced. You cannot manually set them to install. (I think this might be changed at least to some extent in the future.) There is bound to be many undiscovered bugs.

So then, what is my answer to the question “Should you upgrade to Windows 10?”

Yes………… BUT!

But wait.

If you are a home user who likes being on the cutting edge of all things technology, don’t mind some things not working at first for you. If you can afford downtime and some issues, then GO. Download the update tomorrow and have lots of fun! (I for sure will.)

If your business relies on your computers, a more measured and planed approach is better. Wait at least a month for the major bugs to be patched. Then pick a lesser vital machine at your business and test it. Let everyone mess with it a bit and get used to it. Then slowly one at a time move each machine to Windows 10 and let your technology partner help them through their issues.

Call or Email Wolfe Computer Solutions today for a FREE onsite consultation to evealuate everything technology for your business. We will create a custom plan to make sure you are ready for Windows 10 and help you through everything tech!

307-222-9270

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Server – Point, Set, Match

Like a great tennis player, a properly installed and configured server can control your business computer “game”!

Servers perform many tasks for your business:

  1. File Server – This provides a centralized storage location for all important business files. This makes collaboration and sharing a breeze in your company. Properly configured, a server hard drive can look like a regular drive to everyone in your workplace.
  2. Back up – I mentioned using a server for back ups last time. This is the most efficient on site back up tool you can buy. Many servers are set to back up every computer on your network nightly or at least once a week. Then if anything goes wrong, in a matter of minutes you can restore a few days old back up and be fully functional again.
  3. Domain controller – This sounds scary and technical to most people. So here is a simple break down: it gives complete control of what can and cannot be done on ALL of your computers. You or your administrator can determine if people can install apps, programs or updates. You can set how long all your computers set before the screen locks. Or you can leave these decisions up to the end users. This is not the same as an internet domain however.

So, in short, a server, like a tennis player can “serve up an ace” giving your business the competitive edge to move ahead in the “game”!

Call us today to schedule a FREE onsite consultation to determine if you can benefit from a server.

(Originally posted as “Server can control the game” onCheyenne Chamber of Commerceblog – May 19, 2015)

 

 

Call Wolfe Computer Solutions today at

307-222-9270

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Computer Backup – Data Insurance

Computer backup of Data is a lot like car insurance. It may cost a little up front, but if you need it and did not get it in advance, the results can be disastrous, leading to financial ruin!

There is three main ways to back up your vital data:

  1. Removable media – This is the oldest type of back up, dating back to computer floppy disks. It can include disks (DVD, CD, Blu-ray, etc.), USB hard drives, or thumb drives. Advantages include lower cost, and it is fairly easy to do. Unfortunately it is also slow, and labor intensive.
  2. Local network based – This is usually a local server. The advantages of this are it is automatic, fast, and fault tolerant. It is however expensive to set up and needs some maintenance.
  3. Cloud backup – This is internet based backup. The primary advantage is tolerance to local disasters like fire or earthquake. Disadvantages are speed is dependent on your internet connection, and there is frequently an annual or monthly fee involved.
Computer Backup Saves the day!

There are inherent advantages and disadvantages to all forms of computer backup. Wolfe Computer Solutions suggests a hybrid approach using local and cloud backups to have maximum insurance providing the peace of mind and security your business needs. Like insurance if you don’t plan ahead it can’t help you!

We include a computer backup plan as part of our small business managed services agreements. Call today to schedule your FREE onsite consultation!

No business is too small to have an IT pro on their side!

Call Wolfe Computer Solutions today at

307-222-9270

or

Email us with the form below:

(originally posted by Wolfe Computer Solutions on the Greater Cheyenne Chamber of Commerce blog as a guest post on May 12, 2015)

Ransomware – Internet Plague!

Over the last few weeks I have had several clients infected by Cryptowall 3.0, a very destructive virus making the internet rounds right now. This type of virus is known as ransomware. It infects your computer and encrypts all of your documents, pictures, QuickBooks files, etc. Then it offers to decrypt them for a “modest” fee. (Usually $500 or more.) They come in through email attachments, or rogue websites.

The encryption used by these is RSA-2048 private key. This means that the key or “password” to decode this is over 600 digits long. That is impossible to break with any modern computer. So, if you get ransomware your files will become unrecoverable.

There is only two known ways to get your files back from ransomware.

image

1 – You can hope that the virus writer is ethical and will decrypt them if you pay. Reports of people who paid having success at this are very mixed at best. A survey of web sites pertaining to this show less than half of reported payments were successful in regaining their files.

2 – Be prepared. Having a solid backup plan in place before an infection will totally mitigate all damage. One of my clients got Cryptowall and it took less than two hours to restore a backup that put the infected laptop back to where it was the day before the infection hit.

Wolfe Computer Solutions specializes in helping small businesses manage their technology. Call today and schedule a FREE onsite consultation for your business.

No business is too small to have an IT pro on their side!

Call Wolfe Computer Solutions at:

307-222-9270

or

Email us using this form:

(originally posted by Wolfe Computer Solutions on the Greater Cheyenne Chamber of Commerce blog as a guest post on May 4, 2015)