Developments and advancements in the technology come thick and fast these days, and one of our core tasks is staying on top of what new products and services are coming along.
With all this headlong rush, it can be fascinating to take a break and instead to look back at where we’ve come from. Finding this great infographic on the Tech King blog made us smile – we’re not convinced it’s a ‘comprehensive’ history of computing, given that Charles Babbage was working on his ‘Difference Engine’, the first recognised computing machine’, in the 1820s – but as it starts with the founding of Hewlett Packard, one of our partners, we thought we’d share it with you.
We’ve come a long way – and the journey continues.
A couple of people we know have recently received phone calls out of the blue from someone claiming to be working for Microsoft Tech Support.
The callers say that ‘problems on your computer’ have been reported to them and they are calling up to help you fix them.
No they’re not. It’s a scam.
The callers go on to ask for access details – passwords and usernames etc – which will allow them to access your computer remotely, stealing valuable data or planting malware (malicious software) on your hard drive.
The Microsoft official website advises that “Microsoft does not make unsolicited phone calls to help you fix your computer”, and also points out that:
This is generally true of all software providers – any calls or emails you receive
Malware is a broad term that describes all software written with a malicious or criminal intent, including viruses and trojans. The purpose of malware programmes can vary enormously. There are those that cause pop-up windows to appear in the hope you’ll click on them, basically unwanted advertising, and these are just annoying or mischievous. Some will allow the cybercriminals who plant it access to your email programme so that they can send out messages using your address.
Others have much darker intent: the worst type will either deliberately destroy or damage your data, or simply monitor your activity and potentially steal important passwords and access details as you key them in.
This can all sound a bit scary, particularly as we become more and more used to conducting so much of our business and personal lives online.
The first line of defence is to make yourself, and your employees, highly aware of the tricks they could be subjected to. When you know what measures cybercriminals are resorting to, you are much less likely to be caught off guard and fall for their scams.
Making it clear that they are not, under any circumstances, to give usernames, passwords or any other access details to anyone other than your authorised IT representatives should help eliminate the risk that they would trustingly fall for a phone scam.
Pointing out that they should never open attachments on emails from sources they don’t know and trust is another basic that is easily forgotten.
With the best will in the world, it is really difficult to be hyper-vigilant all the time.
If you suspect that you might have been attacked with malware, viruses or trojans, and you want to check it out, use the free online scanner at ESET.
This powerful little programme works through your web-browser to check for and clean up malware that has found its way onto your computer. It uses the same ThreatSense® technology as their anti-virus software and it’s always completely up-to-date.
Of course, to work the software will need to access your system in exactly the same way as the scammers were trying to do – and that’s when you need to know that you’re dealing with a tried and trusted source.
We at GTI are only too happy to recommend ESET’s solutions as we know from experience how effective they are. They are a genuine and trusted supplier to us, and we know they have your best interests at heart.
In industry tests they regularly top the ratings for reliability – we use ESET security software ourselves, and we advise our clients to as well. Why? Well, the proof is in the pudding as they say – we spend quite a lot of our time cleaning up clients’ systems after virus and other malware attacks. But we’ve never had a call from any of our clients using ESET’s NOD32 security software.
We think that speaks volumes!
Mobile phone technology has begun to streak ahead – 3G Windows phones, BlackBerrys and other highly sophisticated handsets have turned the humble mobile into a veritable handheld computer!
There are lots of new software applications and functions that mean your mobile phone can now be a valuable business tool – an extension of your office. Of course that throws a bit of technological complication into the mix as well, these phones and business applications need supporting with something rather better than a standard contract if you want to make the most of them.
The simplest packages start by linking your email on your phone to the email on your computer. If they are not synchronised by your server then emails you send from your phone don’t appear in your base inbox – you run the risk that you’ll delete the email from your phone by mistake (which is just so easy to do) and possibly lose valuable communications – how much did you tell the client it would cost??
You can copy yourself into the email, but that messes with your ‘from’ and ‘to’ searches. How much more efficient would it be to simply have the email appear in your ‘sent’ folder in the correct format?
For sales people and managers on the road, a direct and simple link to the business CRM (Customer Relationship Management) software allows them to update customer details, results of meetings etc immediately, making the information available to anyone that needs it while you’re on your way back to the office.
Chasing orders, progressing jobs, tracking deliveries – all functions that the new breed of intelligent phone can perform.
And of course, you can always simply use it to phone home and say you’ll be back early because of all the time you saved today!
It’s one of the ‘hot topics’ surrounding broadband services – are you receiving the speed and performance you’ve paid for?
A lot of the time the advertised connection speed isn’t achieved – understandably so when you know how broadband works. It is, after all, a maximum performance speed, not a guarantee that that’s what you’re going to get.
Most broadband is channelled through copper or fibre optic connections that are grouped together along a street, with branches off to individual houses or businesses. Everyone in that area is sharing the same ‘pipe’ onto the internet; this is known as ‘contention’, and it has a huge effect on how quick your connection is.
Internet ‘traffic’ is exactly like vehicle traffic – if the roads are clear, you speed along; if everyone is out in their car you slow down, and sometimes grind to a halt altogether. It doesn’t matter that you’ve got a sports car with a top speed of 120mph – when there’s traffic on the road with you, you’re not going to be able to achieve that top speed, or anything like it.
So it is with broadband – if you’re the only person in the area who’s on line you’ll get close to the maximum performance you’ve paid for. If all your neighbours are online too – it’s rush hour in your virtual street and things are going to be slower.
A sluggish connection when you’re surfing at home is frustrating enough. When you’re at work and trying to perform time-critical functions via the internet, an under-performing broadband connection can cause a huge lack of productivity and can even stand in the way of your business.
These days pretty much every business needs their internet connection to be reliable – but for some it is crucial that their broadband is both fast and stable.
Where the investment is called for, you can have your own ‘road’ installed! Uncontended, single-user lines are available – of course it costs a good deal more than a standard connection, but if your business is reliant on speedy web access, it can be an invaluable investment.
There are a number of ways to improve the speed and reliability of your broadband without going to major expense. For instance, installing two separate lines from different sources, and then ‘bonding’ them together through an intelligent router that measures the performance of the lines, and balances the data stream to achieve the fastest speed possible.
That also improves your ‘resilience’, as if one of the connections fails for some reason, you still have the other line available to you.
Finding the best solution to suit your needs and your budget is something GTI is very good at – we understand the many different types of system available, what they can do and what they cost.
Of course, getting the right system in place is essential, but monitoring the performance, and identifying potential problems is the ongoing part of the job. GTI can help you with that too – we currently remotely managed 157 broadband connections for our clients, and we often identify and remedy connection problems before the client has even noticed them themselves.
We do this by means of software that constantly ‘pings’ the different connections, and then displays a continually-updating graph showing the response time.
A fast response shows the line is operating swiftly, a slower response means it’s busy, no response at all immediately alerts us to a problem – and we can get right on it to ensure your performance is as smooth as possible. Sometimes a problem takes a little longer to sort out, but it’s always reassuring to our clients when they call us up to report an issue, and we’re able to tell them that we’re already in touch with the provider and working on a solution.
Don’t you love it when you get a ‘can-do’ problem solver on the case? That’s what we strive to be!
We’re very privileged to have an excellent partnership with Fujitsu, and we’re pleased indeed that they are taking the issue of rising energy costs and the impact of excessive energy use very seriously.
Their innovative production of Zero Watt computers and monitors is an example of how hard they are working to help reduce the consumption of power by idle technology, as we showed in our last post.
However. not everybody has the funding to replace their equipment with new Zero Watt kit!
Recently Fujitsu sent us a great bulletin, containing 4 tips for saving energy with older equipment. As they said in the introduction:
“As energy prices continue to rise relentlessly around the world, other cost pressures on companies also refuse to go away. Many organizations, however, still tend to underestimate the energy related expenses caused by their hardware, particularly when it comes to the thousands of office workplaces furnished with PCs.
The less energy-efficient these devices are, the higher the costs, and they can really add up. The industry is working on technology that help companies to reduce their costs, and Fujitsu is playing a leading role. But saving energy is about much more than discussing costs. It is about helping to protect the environment. With little effort, everybody can contribute to the green attitude.”
Here are their 4 tips:
1. Switch off your PC and monitor.
Sounds so blindingly obvious, doesn’t it? Yet so many offices look like the Christmas decorations in the high street when the lights are switched off at night… sparkling little green and red LEDs show just how many devices are still drawing a trickle of power, even when in sleep mode.
To completely stop your equipment from drawing current while you’re not even there, switch them off at the plug or power bar. Standby switches can still draw a little current, and as we said in the last post, that may not seem like much until you multiply up the hours the machines stand idle, by days, weeks and months.
Simple, yet effective – switch it off, and include your printers too! At the very least, shut it all down at the weekend.
2. Adjust your power management settings.
Not everyone knows that you can set your equipment to use less power during the working day. The obvious one is setting the computer to go into hibernation after a shorter period of time when you’re not using it. Obviously this needs to fit in with your work routine, but keep an eye on your use – is your monitor still blazing away brightly when you come back from an hour’s lunch break?
Reducing the brightness on your screen can reduce the power it uses, and most PCs will have power management or energy saving settings that you can adjust to suit your needs.
Have a look at your system settings and make some small adjustments to reduce the power your computer uses when it’s on.
Some recommended settings for lowest energy consumption are as follows:
• For you screen: set it to sleep after 10 minutes not used for a desktop PC, or 5 minutes for a laptop.
• For your hard drive: set it to sleep after 15 minutes not used, or 10 minutes for a laptop.
• Set your computer to go to standby after 20 mins not used, or 15 mins for a laptop.
• Set your PC to hibernate after an hour not used, or 30 mins for a laptop.
3. Don’t buy a much more powerful machine than you need!
A common phenomenon is the use of desktop PCs that are far more powerful than necessary to perform typical office applications. It’s like driving a Ferrari to the supermarket five minutes down the road – crazy fuel consumption for a simple task! The more powerful the processor in a computer – the more power-hungry it is.
Many applications in the office environment would benefit more from additional memory than high-performance processors. In such cases, older machines with more “frugal” processors could be upgraded and remain in service. Due to their compact housing, notebooks and laptops use diffferent technology. They generate less heat thereby using less energy. For that reason you could consider a notebook to use it as a desktop replacement where possible.
4. If you are buying a new PC – check the label!
If you are going to buy a new PC then think Green and check the labelling to see what standards it conforms to. The European Commission offers detailed information about the ENERGY STAR eco-label as well as the power consumption of modern office computers at www.eu-energystar.org.
The website features an energy calculator for PCs, monitors and imaging equipment for companies and consumers. It enables you to make a detailed comparison of power consumption and overall costs, allowing for factors such as purchase price, depreciation periods, and everyday usage scenarios, including specifying power requirements and if an uninterruptible power supply is used. Even the air conditioning system’s effects on electricity requirements are taken into account.
So, in summary, switch it off at night, streamline performance when it’s switched on, don’t buy a monster computer for simple tasks, and be sure to buy green when you are buying – in which case have a chat with us and we’ll point you at some great machines.
Energy conservation and cost are high on the agenda of almost all businesses. We all know we need to save cash – and the environment at the same time – but how many of us are guilty of leaving our computers and monitors on standby while we’re away from them?
Indeed, some computers and peripherals that are switched off can still draw a tiny trickle of current if they are connected to the mains.
Screens and PCs that remain on standby use between 1-5 watts per hour depending on make and model. That doesn’t seem like much for one machine, but when you consider that it’s likely to be on standby for close to two thirds of the day, and then you multiply that by the number of PCs in use across the country, and across the globe – suddenly the tiny trickle to your darkened monitor looks like part of a veritable torrent of power being totally wasted.
Feel guilty no longer! At last, real solutions to the problem of ‘stand-by’ power usage are being offered.
Habits, including leaving your PCs on overnight, can be very difficult to change – so it’s great to see some innovations being made that deal with the issue at the root. Fujitsu are blazing the trail when it comes to monitors and PCs that use zero power when in hibernation and off mode.
Fujitsu were the first company to produce a zero-watt PC at CeBIT 2009 in Hanover. The ESPRIMO range “does not consume any power in off-mode or hibernating while still remaining administrable”.
Couple them with the excellent quality ECO displays and you have a truly ‘green’ setup in your office. The ECO monitors also consume zero power when switched off or in standby mode, and have the additional environmental benefit of auto brightness controls and an ECO button that can adjust your monitor to reduce power consumption by up to 50% during working hours.
It does all this without compromising your working capability, and retaining excellent colour reproduction. They also offer numerous connector options and an ultra-wide viewing angle through IPS panel (In Plane Switching).
Saving the planet while saving money? Sounds good to us.
If you are interested in the Fujitsu ECO display range, or the ESPRIMO Zero-Watt PCs, please do give GTI Computers a call for more information.
Windows 7 has arrived and so far the feedback we’re getting is all good!
Our clients are pleased with the speed and performance, and the new features are going down a storm.
Our latest advertising says about Windows 7, that ‘some technologies can change your world’. What do we mean about Windows 7 and your computing world?
Everything about Windows 7 has been designed to make using your computer a much faster, and more intuitive, experience, at a price point that makes sense for you.
There are three levels of Windows 7 upgrade available. The first is the Home Premium, which features all the standard new improvements and increased performance.
• Utilities like Pin and Jump Lists will give you quicker access to all your files and programs but letting you put them where you will find them easily.
• You can resize and rearrange your open windows more easily, so you can compare and work in two windows at once.
• The improved Windows Search will let you find what you’re looking for in just seconds.
• Sharing files and printers between PCs has been streamlined.
• Connecting to wireless networks is now possible in as little as three clicks.
• The ‘sleep’ and ‘resume’ functions have been speeded up, making your PC or laptop much more responsive when you need to stop and start work.
• If you have a touch-sensitive screen, then the touch and tap functions in Windows 7 can be easier and more intuitive to use than the traditional point and click of a mouse.
• Devices, such as cameras, phones and printers are much simpler to hook up and use.
• Whether for business or pleasure purposes, the improved Windows Media Centre and movie creation facilities are fantastic.
Each one of the above features will make working on your PC or laptop a faster, more efficient and profitable experience – and that can be key to changing your business world!
For the serious business user, Windows 7 Professional features the ability to run in Windows XP mode, so that you don’t have to upgrade all your software. It also features enhanced security and backup/restore features.
Windows 7 Ultimate has advanced antitheft software, called BitLocker, which protects your PC or laptop, and any portable storage devices you use. If your data is confidential or sensitive, this might be the ideal package for you. Ultimate also allows you to work in any one of 35 languages.
Subtle changes to the tools you use can make big differences to your results – Windows 7 is a major leap forward in making your computing a faster, easier and more profitable part of your business and your life.
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