Should I buy Windows 7 for my business?

October 28, 2009

Money is tight and the recession continues for small and midsized business. Unless there is a good business reason, do not spend money on this product because it is the latest and greatest – you must have a business reason to do so.

When you need new computers, then Windows 7 is a MUST!

I have been using Windows 7 since it was in Beta and never had it freeze up, crash, or give me any problem. Do not run out and purchase it just to be up to date – you do not need that to accomplish your goals. When you need a new PC, Windows 7 is a great operating system and you must get your new stuff with Windows 7. Microsoft has a terrific product. Be sure you do not upgrade from Vista as any upgrade has issues and leftovers from the previous version. A fresh install of Windows 7 is the way to go, BUT only if you must for some business reason. It is always best to keep what you have and then when you need new computers, purchase them with Windows 7. You will be glad you did!!!

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Is Pandemic Part of Your Business Continuity Planning?

April 29, 2009

Question:  I am concerned about the news of the swine flu pandemic.  Please tell me some things I should do to be as prepared as possible if it affects my business.

Do not dispair even if you have not yet begun to plan.  Something is always better than nothing.  Here are a few thoughts to get you started.  The chamber has planned a business owner’s business continuity planning breakfast meeting on December 4, 2009, to help.  If you need more help before that, please contact your tech committee by email at drdata4u@gmail.com

Is Pandemic Part of Your Business Continuity Planning?

 

The floods, earthquakes and tornadoes of 2008 motivated many companies to revisit or begin Business Continuity Planning. The recent news of a potential Swine Flu Pandemic is just one more reminder of the importance of having a working plan in place.  A vital piece of continuity planning is workforce planning specifically for a pandemic. This should include establishing remote access, web conferencing, and identifying backup sites incase sites go down.

 

In case of a pandemic, companies need to ensure that key personnel can work remotely with secure computer and internet access. Critical systems must be accessible with contingencies in place for access if key personnel get sick and their responsibilities need to be taken over.

 

In recent years businesses have focused on Business Continuity with specific Pandemic initiatives and virtualization server technology aimed at helping firms keep computer systems and network infrastructures up and running in the event of an outbreak or disaster.

 

Web conferencing will help your team stay productive and allow them to conduct business without having to travel during times of potential outbreak. Remote access to files and documents is critical to making web conferencing effective.

 

Locating and equipping a remote operations site during a crisis is next to impossible.  Companies such as Agility, specialize in continuity solutions that provide power, technology, space and connectivity in the event of a disaster.

 

This is a good opportunity for you to emphasize to your employees the normal flu season messages–hand hygiene, stay home if you don’t feel well, etc. The Business Computer Focused Blog located at www.ManageMyTechnology.net  recently featured a 12 part series on web-worker tools. Most of the tools are free, all are on the Internet and all provide excellent collaboration features plus management insight into the work.

 

Key business continuity planning items are below for your informaiton.  For more information on Business Continuity and Web-Worker Program Planning, you may see the Chamber’s question and answer web site at www.MBQ4Biz.com or contact the technology committee with questions at DrData4U@gmail.com.

 

Swine Flu Update

 

The recent cases of swine flu in Mexico and the US are concerning, because they have occurred in individuals who have not had contact with livestock, indicating human-to-human transmission.

 

The current year flu vaccine is not expected to provide protection.  And millions of Tamiflu treatment courses have been strategically positioned throughout the US.

 

Deaths have occurred in affected individuals in Mexico, but not in the U.S.

 

DHS analysis at this time is that disruptions to U.S. critical infrastructure will be low, with impacts on healthcare most likely as symptomatic individuals and worried well individuals seek medical attention.

 

Should the outbreak intensify, there may be additional effects resulting from increased absenteeism.

 

Basic precautions, such as hand washing and avoiding contact with symptomatic individuals are recommended.

 

 

Key Points of Business Continuity Planning

 

•     Establish one person as your Continuity Director and let your members know who that person is

•          Prioritize critical functions

•          Identify functions that could be suspended for up to two months

•          Identify positions needed to carry out critical functions

•          Build depth through cross training

•          Plan for alternative work schedules and implement a web-worker program

•          Continuity planning for your computer systems and workforce

•          Maintain a healthy work environment

•          Update sick leave and FMLA policies

•          Encourage/require ill employees stay home

 


How Can I Reduce the Cost of Computers?

April 18, 2009

Business owners and managers often try to reduce what is spent on computers and end up spending far more than necessary.  There are three classes of business owners and managers:

  1. Do-It-Your-Self (DIY)  The DIY actually listens to the marketing and sales hype from manufacturers telling us that computers are simple and we can do it our self with their product.  HELLO!!  They are in business to sell you their product and build their business.  Here’s the truth:  Computers are complex and the only way to keep your business computers running well and make sure your computers work reliably and securely is with support from an experienced and qualified business computer management company.  You don’t install and manage your own phone system or troubleshoot the emission system on your car.  Computers are just as complex or more so and need specialized care and management.
  2. The “Genius” on-call when we need him/her.  Many organizations have a student or relative who helps out as needed.  Do you wait for your car to break down on the freeway and then call a backyard mechanic to come help you?  Why would you put your business at risk with the same model?  Why would anyone risk their business and data to a high school or college student with little or no experience in business and computers?
  3. The Successful Organization.  These are successful because they outsource their computer management to a knowledgeable firm not an individual with the resources to manage your computers in order to maintain all your focus on your core mission and business. No one can be an expert in computers, security, data backup, data restore, messaging, networking, etc. and the line of business you are there to pursue.   There are only 24 hours in every day– It is up to you how you will spend them to move your business ahead.  You can spend 4 hours getting your email back on line or invest that time in the success of your business plan.  We can not get the time we spent back and there are no re-do opportunities at the end of the day.

How much is the right amount to spend?  Studies show between 12% and 15% of gross revenues represents the computer budget of a successful organization.  Want to save on this?  You need a “Managed Service Provider” who will monitor, manage, maintain, and administer all your computers 24×7.  In this way your outsource provides you with the expertise you need at a fixed and affordable price with a team of experts always available when you need them and the expertise shared across thousands of organizations thereby keeping the costs down.

Think of it this way, if you hired your own personal doctor, the cost would be unaffordable.  By going to the doctor’s practice and being one of many patients, you have great medical care- – and affordable.  Computer Managed Services Outsource is the same model.  With computer management outsourced, you receive all the healthy business benefits, and you do not even need to go to the doctor’s office-the computer management services are delivered to you remotely and in person!  If you are not outsourcing your computer managed service, your organization is not competitive or achieving the mission as well as it could.


The One Thing Your Business MUST Do — Data Backup!

April 14, 2009

Question:  Our new office manager says that we need to back up our data, but we have never had a problem we could not handle and we do not backup our data.  We do copy important data onto another external USB drive from time to time.  Isn’t that good enough?  Are there any other guidelines we should consider?

 

The short answer is “No” that is not enough

and

“YES” there are specific guidelines that constitute best practices to keep your business from becoming a statistic!

 

Here are some details on why you are not doing enough and five recommended guidelines you need to consider.

 

 A recent study discovered that, of companies experiencing a “major loss” of computer records, 43 percent never reopened, 51 percent closed within two years of the loss, and a mere 6 percent survived over the long-term. For businesses with 1 to 500 employees, in particular, these statistics suggest the necessity of crafting a Business Continuity Planning (BCP) strategy grounded in a robust data backup and recovery solution. 

 

Unlike large enterprise organizations, many companies cannot afford optimal in-house strategies and business continuity and data backup solutions.  These companies are consequently at an elevated risk of being put out of business due to any major loss of data. Loss of data could mean emails lost, accounting data lost, patient or client files lost, company records lost, client legal records or orders lost and so on.

 There are Five Major Guidelines for data backup that you need to consider for an effective data protection and business continuity program.   

  1. What is your recovery point objective (RPO) – how much data loss are you willing to risk?  One hour, one day, one week, etc.
  2. What is your recovery time objective (RTO) – How long after a data loss or interruption to your business can you wait until full operations are restored?
  3. Is your critical data stored on a local device that is reliable and less than three years old?  Is it an external USB drive?
  4. Is your data stored in at one or more additional locations greater than 500 miles from your center of operations?
  5. Do you perform selective data restoration at least every month to make certain you can recover lost data and practice your business continuity plan at least once per year?

If you answered ”no” to any of the above,  do not do another thing unless you know your data is safe, recoverable, and your business can resume operations rapidly, no matter what may happen. 

Without adequate data protection your business is at risk.  You don’t operate your business without appropriate accounting practices and insurance, why would you put all of your work and achievements at risk by failing to know that tomorrow will be business as usual regardless of what happens today?

The next five issues of MBQ will explore details of each of the five major guidelines.


What Should I Do About Computer Security for My Company?

April 8, 2009

According to the news today, I heard the Pentagon spent more than $100 million in the last six months fixing problems caused by hacker attacks. I read some other reports saying that they found software in the electricity grid the Russians and Chinese can activate to disrupt our supply of electricity.

HERE’S MY QUESTION:  If highly sophisticated and well funded enterprises like the Pentagon and the national electrical suppliers are this vulnerable, what chance do we have for our company computer security?

ANSWER:

First we need to dispel the myth that your organization is too small to be of interest to hackers. I have seen it repeatedly that when a computer is connected to the Internet for the first time, within minutes there are thousands of attacks on it.  This is to say that you must take action to protect yourself.  Depending upon your budget, you will be able to scale your protection to meet your organization’s needs.

Here are a few simple and inexpensive steps every organization must take now:

First be sure you have some security.  Anything is better than nothing!  At the very least, turn on the Windows firewall.  It came with Windows and it provides some small degree of protection.  Use it!

Be aware that the best security is a layered security.  If you have a connection to the Internet, a Firewall is recommended.  Next, add Anti-virus and Anti-Spy-Ware software.  If your network is slow, that is almost a sure sign that you have spy-ware.  

Next, if you can afford it, invest in a Spam Filter.  If you can not afford this, at least set up Outlook in a way that dumps questionable email into the Junk folder. 

Next, discipline yourself and your employees to NOT go to web sites or open emails and attachments that were not expected.  NEVER open attachments to emails unless you expected to receive it.  When in doubt phone the sender to confirm they actually sent the email and the attachment.  

Above all……never open emails or attachments sent from yourself …. unless, of course, you actually sent it.   It constantly amazes me that organizations will spend a large portion of their revenue on staff , facilities and computers, but fail to take even these basic steps to protect the enterprise. 

And perhaps most important,  be certain all data is backed up AND the backups are tested every week!  It is a disaster to need the data backup to restore data only to find out that the backup is corrupted or has not been working for weeks or months.  If you are still using tape backup, dump it and implement disk to disk backup with off-site storage.  Ideally you should be able to restore your organization to a date and time in the past of your choosing.  What good is it to you to restore your data with the spy-ware or virus that caused the problem in the first place?

These simple and basic steps will go a very long way to limiting your risk and providing security that will assure your security.  There is much more to do to fully protect your computers, but at least start with these.  What are you waiting for?


New Law Prohibits Texting while Driving…Why?

April 6, 2009

Question: The new Virginia law prohibits texting while driving Why?

 

Answer:

If you had to choose to share the road with drunk drivers, drivers intoxicated from smoking marijuana, or drivers talking on cell phones or texting, which of these would you choose to feel safest on the highway?

 

The answer from the research is surprising.

 

A 2004 University of Utah study found that when drivers were talking on either a hand-held or hands-free cell phones, their braking reactions were delayed and they were involved in more traffic accidents than when they were on the phone.  Drunk drivers with a blood alcohol level of .08 however, exhibited a more aggressive driving style, drove more slowly, and were overall safer.  When controlling for driving conditions and time on task, drivers who were talking on cell phones were more impaired and dangerous than legally drunk drivers.

 

A British study released in September 2008 found that drivers who send a text message on a mobile phone are more dangerous than being drunk or under the influence of drugs.  A study of young drivers between 17 and 24 found their chances of being involved in a crash increased significantly if they were writing, reading or even ignoring text messages while behind the wheel.  Texting had the biggest impact on their ability to keep a vehicle in a lane, with their steering skills judged to be 91 per cent worse compared to 35 per cent if they had smoked cannabis.  Their reaction times also slowed by 35 per cent, a much steeper decline than drivers who had reached the legal drunk driving limit or smoked cannabis.

 

Email, text messages, cell phone calls, ring tones, buzzers announcing new messages, and more are persistent distractions in our daily life.  It has been said that we are suffering from culturally induced Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD).  Do yourself a favor, find the off button on a regular basis, and especially while driving!


What do we do with old computers?

April 5, 2009

Question: What should I do with my old computers now that we have purchased new ones for the office?

As you prepare to use the new computers, plan carefully what you will do with the old ones.   Above all, do not set it out at the curb for the trash unless you want to live to regret it!

A failure to do so can result in your corporate information or personal identities being stolen.  Do not take the chance.  Instead follow these steps to be protected and to protect the environment. 

Computers contain toxic ingredients.  There are environmentally friendly options to discard or recycle your PC.  Before you are good to the environment, be good to yourself and secure all the data that was on the old PC! 


BE SURE TO PROTECT YOURSELF WHILE PROTECTING THE ENVIRONMENT!

 

If you just delete files, you have not done enough.  Deleted files can easily be recovered and the data used any way the finder desires.

It is essential to keep the hard drive, destroy the hard drive with a tool or a shredder, or erase the data using a special program for your computer.

For Windows, if you are not destroying the hard drive, use a commercial program called Windows Washer. You can also try a free software called Eraser from Heidi Computers. A Google search will reveal sources for both. 

Once you have deleted personally identifiable files and data from the hard drive, you can dispose of your old computer.

First, tell your circle of contacts.  Ask your technology provider, friends, co-workers. Someone you know may want your old computer. If not, a school or charity might be able to use it. Charities can refurbish your machine and give it to someone in need.

Schools and charities do not accept just any old thing. Most organizations have standards for equipment they will accept.  Do not be surprised if your old computer will not meet those standards.  The primary test for acceptability is that your old PC must be able to run current releases of standard software.

If your computer is 3 years old or less, it will most likely be acceptable and provide a lot of benefit to your chosen organization.


Hewlett-Packard offers a trade-in rebate program.  HP will even provide a written quote for your old computer online. (www.hp.com/united-states/tradein).

HP Recycling (www.hp.com/hpinfo/globalcitizenship/environment/recycle) will accept all brands of computers, ink cartridges, and cell phones, as well batteries for recycling.  If you buy a new HP computer, there may even be a cash credit for your new purchase.

UsedComputer.com (www.usedcomputer.comis a site dedicated to recycling or selling your old computers. 

Apple has a free recycling program that is available when you buy of a new computer. The brand you recycle does not matter as long as you purchase a new Apple computer.  Details are found on the Internet at www.apple.com/environment/recycling/program/index.html

 

CONGRATULATIONS!  If you have followed these steps, you have protected your data, your identity, the environment, AND provided a computer to a worthy cause.  Give yourself a gold star and make it a great day!