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Top Tips for Travelling with Electronics

Laptops, tablets, cameras, phones, GoPros and charging cords seem to be on the list of essential packing items when travelling these days. To make your travel as easy as possible, here are some top tips for travelling with electronics.

1. When packing, ensure that your electronic devices are easily accessible. When going through airport security, you will be required to remove all devices from your luggage to go through the scanner. If you’re devices are easily accessible, you will be able to quickly unpack and repack your bag, saving time and making this process much easier for yourself and everyone else in the line.

2. Make things easier by only bringing common electronic devices such as phones, cameras, tablets, laptops and gaming devices. Whilst it is certainly legal and fine to bring other, more unusual, electronic devices it may be a good idea to allow extra time. You may need to explain what it is and go through some questions with airport security. Remember they are there to ensure everyone’s safety and they will pull up anything that looks even slightly suspicious. Don’t stress, so long as you can explain what it is and show that it is not harmful, you should be fine to take it with you.

3. It is best to avoid free public wifi. It can be a long wait at the airport before you can board so you may like to fill in the time by checking emails or browsing social media. Most airports have wifi but some will charge fees so it can be very tempting to choose the free wifi option, however this is not a good idea! If it is not recommended by the airport, it is best to avoid it your for online safety. It is common that these networks are manned by hackers who are trying to access your login information for your emails, banking or anything else you do whilst using that network. To protect yourself, only connect the official airport wifi, use your mobile’s data or just wait until you arrive at your destination.

4. Activate Airplane Mode for the flight. The flight attendant may ask you to turn off your phone as there is a small risk of your device interfering with the airplane’s communication during take off and landing. Airplane mode will allow you to still use your device for some things and it also saves your device’s battery.

Travel Holiday Vacation Traveling Laptop Technology Concept

SPAM – What is it and why does it occur?

Spam is simply slang for unsolicited commercial email (UCE). The term ‘Spam’ actually arose from a Monty Python sketch where Spam is included in every dish at a restaurant, much like email spam is included in almost every email inbox or junk folder. Spam can come in a variety of forms but it is often linked with fraudulent business schemes, chain letters and offensive messages.

It is important to remember that not all bulk emailing is spam, a large amount is actually permission based. This means that you willingly gave your email address to the company i.e. you signed up for the newsletter or you made a purchase online and entered your email address. The main difference between permission based bulk emailing and spam is that permission based will normally send information that you are interested i.e. a sale at your favourite clothing store or similar.

Spam is rarely sent by a company themselves, rather it is sent by a ‘spammer’. A ‘spammer’ is a company that is actually in the business of sending UCEs. The company may havean agreement with the ‘spammer’ or the spammer may be using the company’s name as a disguise. These companies and ‘spammers’ use spam as they see it as very cost effective – it is much cheaper to send out thousands of emails then post thousands of letters.

Spammers can acquire your email address by purchasing it or by using software that take names and email addresses from websites, newsgroups etc. Unfortunately there is not a way that you can permanently get rid of spam, however you can do a few things to reduce the amount you receive. Using a spam blocker can certianly reduce the amount of spam you receive, however some spam will still reach your inbox. If you make your spam blocker to sensitive, it will start to block emails that you actually do want to receive. It is a good idea to occasionally check your spam folder in case there are any important emails in there. It is also advised that you do not open or reply to spam emails, or try to click the unsubscribe link. For spam emails, these actions will just advise the spammer that your email account is still active and it is likely that this will result in more spam.

If you are concerned about the amount of spam you are receiving, please do not hesitate to contact us.

Organise your Family with these top tech tips

We are all busy and with a family life definitely gets chaotic at times. Technology is a great way to get more organised within both your personal and family life. Here are some top tips on how to organise your family with technology.

1. Colour code your Google Calendar
Google Calendar allows you to schedule and colour code events. This allows you to see what you have on for that day from a quick glance. Get the kids to choose a colour and assign one colour to each child or each activity.

2. Share your calendar
Most Google, Outlook and other email providers allow you to share your calendar. Share your calendar with your spouse, baby sitter, teenagers and whoever else may need to know your schedule. You can even set the option for them to just view the calendar or have the ability to add events to your calendar for you.

3. Get the kids involved with ‘Choremonster’
Children love playing games and apps on tablets and phones, but what about an App that actually encourages them to do the household chores? Apps such as Choremonster do just this. You can set up a simple rewards point system based on house hold chores. Your children can then check in to see how many reward points they have and what chores still need to be done.

4. Keep track with ‘Find my Friends’
It can become quite hard to keep track of where your family is. Apps such as ‘Find my Friends’ allows you to keep track of friends and family who invite you to see your location. This way you can know that your family is safe or you can see if they are just running late to meet you or if they have completely forgotten.

5. Create a group list
Most smart phones allow you to create a group list in both your phone and email contacts. This makes messaging your family much easier as you can simply send to the group rather than having to select each person individually.

family, generation, technology and people concept - smiling family with tablet pc computers at home

Protect Your Data From Cryptolocker Ransomwar

Cryptolocker ransomware is unfortunately becoming more common and we are beginning to encounter it much more often. In fact, a US hospital has recently had to a pay a ransom of $17,000 to access its data again after it was infected with ransomware.

What is Cryptolocker Ransomware?

Ransomware is essentially online extortion that occurs when your computer is infected with a virus that encrypts your data. Once the data is encrypted, you are sent a ‘note’ stating that you must pay the ‘ransom’ fee to decrypt your data.

Many ransomware emails are just a con trying to catch you off guard which do not actually encrypt your files. However the more refined versions including Cryptolocker do encrypt your data and can do this in such a way that will be impossible to break without paying the fee.

How does your computer get infect by ransomware?

An email is the usual method of delivery for ransomware viruses. This email is usually targeted at the business departments that will open them i.e. an email sent to accounts with ‘invoice’ or similar in the subject.

Most of the time, it will look suspicious so we know not to open it however the offenders are getting more creative to encourage us to click. As mentioned, once your computer is infected you will see a screen that will have something similar to: “to decrypt your files, you must pay a ransom few of $x. If this is not received by (a certain date), this fee will double.” It can even have a countdown to when payment is due.

No Backup = no choice

Unfortunately, if you are a victim of ransomware and you do not have a back-up of your data, then you may have no choice but to pay the ransom fee.

Will your data be restored?

The offenders will usually restore your data back to its original format once you have paid the ransom, as they realise that people would stop paying if they found out it did not do anything. However it is important to remember that there is no guarantee that the offender will release your data and unfortunately you cannot fight this.

It could happen again

If you are a victim of Cryptolocker ransomware and pay the fee to access your data, this doesn’t mean that your system is safe from further attacks. It is common that the malicious software will also create gaps in your security, allowing future attacks to gain access again.

The only way to be certain that your system is safe is to remove your system completely and re-install, however you will need a reliable back up to do this.

How to avoid ransomware

The good news is that you can avoid ransomware with the top tips below:

– Make sure your operation system and software is up to date.
– Ensure your antivirus software is up to date and the settings are adjusted to inspect incoming emails.
– Consider using another malware scanner or security software to protect your system from threats before they can even enter your network.
– Make sure your staff are aware of this and encourage them to advise you when any suspicious emails are received. The most common example to look out for is an email was an ‘invoice’ attached.
– If possible, block exe and zip files from entering your network.
– If you are attacked by Cryptolocker Ransomware, immediately unplug the computer from the network and figure out what has been infected.

A Back-up is Vital

A reliable, secure back-up of your system is the best way to avoid the dangers of a ransomware attack. Remember that an external hard drive or simply saving recent files to Dropbox will not save all of your data.

A Cloud Back-Up will reset your system back to how it was prior to the attack, removing the risk of secondary ‘backdoor’ attacks and it can also restore any encrypted data. Don’t learn the hard, and expensive, way how important a back-up is.

Cloud back-ups are simple, affordable and vital in today’s world of online crime. Protect your data from Cryptolocker Ransomware before it is too late.

Top Tips To Make Your Laptop Last Longer

Laptops are being used more commonly than desktops as they allow you to work from anywhere… until they stop working! Here are some top tips to make your laptop last longer!

1. Keep it protected

Purchase a case for your laptop to protect it from any bumps and scratches. Bumps and scratches can affect the hardware in your laptop which in turn will affect how your laptop runs, so it is best to protect your laptop before this can happen! There is a large variety of laptop cases available, ranging from a slim line sleeve to a heavy duty case – any of these will help to protect your laptop!

2. Keep it clean

This will not only make your laptop look nicer, but it will keep dust and grime out of hinges and plugs. This will reduce the wear of your laptop, making it last longer. Simply wiping your laptop down and cleaning out the nooks and crannies will make a massive difference.

3. Keep it cool

If your laptop is exposed to extreme heat continually, there is a good chance it will not last very long! Heat has a horrible impact on electronic devices, causing screen damage and shortened battery life. The heat will also cause the metal and wires to expand, then contract when it cools down. If this is happening often, it is likely that you will experience many more problems. Keep your devices cool by keeping it out of direct sunlight (whenever possible) and keeping it out of the hot car.

4. Keep it for other uses

There will come a point in time when your laptop will reach the end of it’s life as you know it. The speed and performance of the laptop may slow down, meaning you can’t do your work on it, but this doesn’t mean it can’t be used for anything else. Simply transform it into a games laptop for the kids or a DVD player for holidays. Using the laptop for one simple function will increase its life and allow you to get the most out of it.

Happy student working on laptop in library

Tips for Identifying a Virus

1. Hardware Troubles – It’s Alive!

If sudden sounds of the CD-ROM tray opening completely out if its own will give you the heebie jeebies, I don’t blame you! If your hardware – computer, printer, etc. – started acting up on its own, without you requesting any action by means of keyboard or mouse, you are likely having a virus in your computer system. When you work on the computer, especially if you are performing some actions by using programs, your hard drive is expected to be making some noises.

2. No Response – Is Anyone Home?

We’ve all been there: working away, and then BAM – nothing happens! You can’t move your mouse, the keyboard does zilch, you go into panic mode “ouch, did I save that document I was writing for the past 2 hours?”…. Lockup alone may not necessarily mean you have a virus – it could also be a symptom of a desperate need for a cleanup , but if it presents itself in array of other symptoms, be on a lookout for a virus.

3. Slow Performance – Are We There yet?

If you notice that certain actions take much longer than usual, you should be concerned. As in the previous paragraphs – you must account for specifics of certain files and programs when making a judgment of the slow performance: one PDF document may take much longer time to open simply because it is of a much larger size, and it will not be indicative of the computer virus.

4. Slow Startup – Easy doesn’t.

Another important symptom of a computer virus is a slow startup. Do not confuse it with wishful thinking.. Does it seem to be much slower than usual? Does it seem to just sit there, and not even a blink or a squeak happens?

5. Crashing – Crash and Burn, Baby!

When your computer crashes spontaneously, be careful. After computer restarts, you may notice it does not seem to run normally. If it self-restarts frequently, every few minutes – beware of a virus. This symptom alone may indicate that your system is infected.

If you suspect your computer has a virus and you’re not sure what to do, or you need some help protecting your computer from a potential virus or threat, contact the team of experience IT experts at Imagine Now IT and they can help you out!

Cloud Computing

What is Cloud Computing?

Did you know that cloud computing has been around for a long time? The idea of cloud computing dates back to the 1960’s but many believe its first use in modern context occurred in 2006 when Google CEO Eric Schmidt introduced the term to an industry conference.

The term cloud computing can often be hard to understand but in laymens terms it means storing and accessing data and programs over the internet instead of using your computer’s hard drive.

Many of us have utilised it in one form or another in our everyday lives for example like internet banking!

Cloud computing offers various benefits for all businesses, such as:

  1. Working Remotely:Cloud computing allows employees to be more flexible in their work practices. For example, you have the ability to access data from home, on holiday, or via the commute to and from work (providing you have an internet connection). If you need access to your data while you are off-site, you can connect to your virtual office, quickly and easily.
  2. Cost Reduction: Moving to cloud computing may reduce the cost of managing and maintaining your IT systems. Rather than purchasing expensive systems and equipment for your business, you can reduce your costs by using the resources of your cloud computing service provider. You may be able to reduce your operating costs because:
  • the cost of system upgrades, new hardware and software can be managed for you
  • you no longer need to pay wages for expert staff
  • your energy consumption costs may be reduced
  • there are fewer time delays

       3. A Shift of Care and Responsibility: All of your IT challenges are taken care of by your provider via a dedicated server infrastructure, your cloud based line of business program.
This may include expert monitoring and ongoing support and maintenance to ensure you are kept at a constant working level.

cloud computing concept. hands holding computer laptop smart phone tablet and touch pad

Cost Effective IT Solutions for Start-ups

Starting a business can be an expensive exercise and many people will try to save costs where they can but it is important not to cut corners on your IT. See below for some cost effective IT solutions for start-ups.

Effective IT systems can save you money in the long term as they will help your business to run efficiently and allow you to focus on what you do best.

  • Plan your IT set up. This will allow you to see what it is you really need and when you need it so you don’t face a large amount of costs at once.
  • Seek the advice of an IT company. An IT expert will be able to advise you of different options available to you and the best options for your business.
  • Consider IT outsourcing. This is much cheaper than hiring a full-time IT employee and you can make payments periodically. It also allows you to focus on other aspects of your business as you have an expert looking after your IT.
  • Look into cloud computing. Cloud computing can save you a lot of money in the long run as it requires minimal hardware, has automatic upgrades and makes backing up your files very easy.

If you need help with your start-up IT or have any other IT issues, contact us today to experience IT support with a personal touch.

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Chrome Vs Internet Explorer

It’s the debate that doesn’t end… Chrome Vs Internet Explorer. Which do you use? Most people just use the browser that they have always used but what is the real difference?

  • Chrome is only just faster to boot up. Chrome has built a reputation for speed but Internet Explorer is not far behind, taking just 0.002 seconds longer to open.
  • Internet Explorer uses slightly less memory.
  • Chrome allows you to isolate problems caused by specific programs. This is the main reason Chrome uses slightly more memory to run than Internet Explorer.
  • Internet Explorer processes Javascript more than twice as fast as Chrome.
  • However, Chrome processes HTML5 more efficiently.
  • Chrome is known to be more aesthetically pleasing. Viewers like the simple, uncluttered design. Internet Explorer seems to be less polished with a boxy, angular design.
  • Internet Explorer doesn’t have much support for plug-ins, add-ons and web apps.
  • Chrome has an array of third-party extensions & applications.
  • Chrome is available on more platforms allowing iOS and Andriod users to sync their data across devices. Unfortunately Internet Explorer is only compatible with Windows phones.
  • Chrome is one of the best browsers available for security purposes however it’s privacy is not as strong.

In modern day, as we use multiple devices and don’t have the time to wait for things, it seems as though Chrome may be the better browser for most people. However, as with most things, they both have positives and negatives.