Three Ways To Reduce IT Costs

January 16th, 2014

Scissors cutting 'Costs'

Regardless of the size of your business, there’s never enough money in the budget for IT needs. It’s important to save where you can in order to invest in vital elements like security. At The Accidental Successful CIO, Dr. Jim Anderson published some ways you can reduce software costs.

  • Asset Management

The worst way to waste money is to spend it on something you don’t use. Unfortunately, many companies are doing this everyday. There are likely a number of applications vital to your business and the more software you need, the easier it is to lose track of them. A recent study revealed that almost a third of all companies have software that is either unused or underdeployed. This is money down the drain. By creating a more effective asset management plan, you can save money by getting the most out of software you’ve already paid for and avoiding applications you don’t need.

  • Software Vendors

It’s important to choose your vendors carefully. You aren’t just buying their software, you’re buying their service. If you can’t rely on them to pick up the phone when there’s a problem or to deliver on their initial promises, it’s not worth the money. Good vendors will be able to offer you a solution that fits your needs exactly with no excess costs. Ill fitting solutions end with you paying more each month than you need to. Make sure you hold your vendors accountable and get what you’re paying for.

  • Look For Alternatives

At the end of the day, you’re running a business, which demands you save money where you can. Being overly loyal to one application or vendor could be costing you money. There are very few products that have no direct competition and while it isn’t always the right choice to use the cheapest option, you should at least explore which is right for you. You can even talk about your needs with your current vendors. If they know you’re looking for cheaper alternatives, they may be willing to give you a better deal to keep you as a customer, or they may be able to offer you an alternative to software you’re getting elsewhere.

These three tips can save your company big money in the long run. If you’d prefer to take all of the issues and concerns of IT management out of your hands, call Geek Rescue at 918-369-4335. We have all the knowledge and service required to be your on-call IT department.

Rumors About Microsoft’s Next OS, Windows 9

January 16th, 2014


Windows 8 was officially released for general availability in October of 2012. Now that users have had more than a year to familiarize themselves with the operating system, it’s safe to announce that Windows 8 is officially a disappointment. Common complaints are the lack of a Start menu and that Windows 8 seems built more for mobile users than desktop users. Based on rumors about Windows 9, Microsoft is listening to users’ complaints and making the necessary changes for their next operating system offering. Michael Endler of Information Week published some of the well-known rumors about Windows 9 and what you can expect from Microsoft’s next OS.

  • New Features

Windows 8.1 reintroduced the Start button, which was missing from Windows 8, but Windows 9 will bring back the feature that users clamored for, the Start menu. This immediately makes Windows 9 more attractive to desktop users and makes it more compatible for use with a keyboard and mouse. In addition, Modern apps, which are found as tiles on the start screen of Windows 8, will be able to run in floating windows like legacy apps in Windows 9. Also, expect the sharing and streaming of data to become even easier. Windows 8 introduced SkyDrive. Windows 9 will use a unified code base for all Windows platforms to make sharing across devices and service simpler.

  •  Official Announcements

We’re currently in the rumor stage for Windows 9, but Microsoft will host a BUILD conference in April for developers. An official announcement is expected on Windows 9 at that conference with a release for the operating system expected one year later. Windows 7 released in 2009, Windows 8 came out in 2012 and the three year cycle of Microsoft OS releases is expected to continue.

  • Failure Of Windows 8

By bringing back the Start menu and launching their new OS as Windows 9 instead of as a new version of Windows 8, Microsoft seems to be admitting that their Windows 8 endeavor was a misstep. The upgrade to 8.1 is available for free to Windows 8 users, but few have bothered to upgrade. This might seem to suggest that many users prefer Windows 8, but Windows 7, which is now more than four years old, has been adopted at an impressive rate for an older operating system. It seems many Windows 8 users would prefer to completely abandon that operating system for one they trust than to invest more time in an upgrade. Could this mean longer support life for Windows 7? That remains to be seen, but Microsoft recently announced the end of support for Windows XP despite the fact that many users still use it as their primary OS.

Windows 9 is still more than a year away from being released to the public, but due to the perceived limitations of Windows 8, there’s already a demand for it. More news and reports about the upcoming operating system will no doubt be leaking out slowly over the next few months.

Regardless of what operating system you use, Geek Rescue is the place to fix any problems that you run into. For hardware, software, virus or bug fixes, call Geek Rescue at 918-369-4335.

Planning And Avoiding Disaster During IT Upgrades

January 15th, 2014

Upgrade clock

Making scheduled upgrades is mandatory for the success of a company’s IT infrastructure. Existing applications may have become outdated, or it’s just time for an update to close security vulnerabilities. It’s easy for what seems like a routine update to go horribly wrong, however. Recently, Dropbox tried to perform an update and ended up with a prolonged outage. David King of IT Manager Daily has some tips for you to follow before your next upgrade to make sure everything goes as smoothly as possible.

  • Notifications

For some of the upgrades you perform, a period of downtime is unavoidable. In these cases, such as changes to your servers, be sure to warn users ahead of time. Tell them how long the outage is expected to last and what services will be unavailable. Other times, upgrades may not be expected to cause any downtime, but an outage is always a possibility. In those cases, it’s usually a good idea to plan for the worst. It’s better to alert users that certain applications may be down at a certain time than leave an employee without access to a vital application at the worst possible time.

  • Time

A popular time for upgrades is Friday at midnight because it’s unlikely that an outage would affect anyone at that time. When every employee only works from their desk at the office, that’s an acceptable assumption. However, with mobile access, there’s never a time when you can be sure that an outage won’t affect someone. Conducting upgrades outside of normal business hours is still the best practice, but regardless of what time you decide to perform maintenance, advance warning is needed.

  • Recovery

Before conducting any upgrades or making other changes to your network, it’s a good idea to back-up data and make sure you have a disaster recovery plan in place. Failing to do so could result in downtime lasting longer than it needs to. Testing even more than you think is necessary is also a good way to avoid unwanted surprises. You need to be prepared for how your network will react to these changes so you can plan for possible problems and be prepared even for the unforeseen ones. Also, understand that even with a good plan in place, recovering might take some time. Don’t expect to be able to restore data and service immediately.

Managing your IT infrastructure can be difficult and costly. For help with yours, call Geek Rescue at 918-369-4335.

Malware Hidden In .Zip Email Attachments Makes Sudden Rise

January 15th, 2014

Envelope with trojan virus concept

Spam emails are always annoying, but they can be malicious and harmful also. Some emails have attachments that infect your computer with malware. Recently, security company Symantec noticed an extreme spike in the number of malicious .zip files being sent out, as Eric Park reports on the Symantec blog.

Sending malicious attachments is a common practice for hackers, but sending .zip files hasn’t been popular for some time. A .zip file is used to compress a much larger file, which makes it small enough to send over email. For criminal purposes, it also obscures the true nature of an attachment. Instead of a user clearly seeing that what should be a Word document is actually an executable file, all files end in .zip and must be downloaded and opened in order to find out what the file actually is. Downloading and opening these files, however, infects your computer with malware.

In the past few months, there had never been more than about 25-thousand instances of malicious .zip attachments being sent on a single day. But, from January 7 to the 10th, between 150-thousand and 200-thousand malicious .zip files were attached to spam emails. In addition to the sudden rise in number, the names of the .zip files being sent changed every day.

On the 7th, an email claiming to be from a legitimate bank like Wells Fargo was sent with a .zip attachment named ‘BankDocs’ followed by some numbers. By the next day, the tactics had changed to an invoice for an overdue payment to an unnamed company. The attached .zip file was named ‘Invoice’ followed by numbers. On the 9th, the .zip file was called ‘Early2013TaxReturnReport’ supposedly from the IRS and then an invoice from a specific company marked on the 10th.

Each of these messages were different, but all contained the same Trojan malware that is capable of stealing data from an infected computer. Since the message changed everyday, it’s difficult to warn users of exactly what to watch for. Instead, don’t download any attachments unless you know exactly what it is and are expecting a file to be sent to you.

Since January 10,  the messages with malicious .zip have gone back to their usual volume of a few thousand per day, but security experts warn that another large-scale attack could start again at any time.

If your computer has been infected with malware, come by Geek Rescue or call us at 918-369-4335.


Your Computer Has Malware, Now What?

January 14th, 2014

Man at laptop shrugging

Even with security measures in place, the most cautious internet user can suffer a malware infection. Not all malware infections are created equal, but it’s advised that you find and eliminate malicious files as fast as possible, regardless of what threat they actually pose. Some malware, like the well publicized CryptoLocker, encrypts your files, which effectively locks you out of your own computer. Lincoln Specter of PC Advisor has some tips for how to overcome an invasive malware infection.

  • Restore Back-Up

Ideally, you’ve been regularly backing-up your important files. If that’s the case, get rid of infected files and restore the copies you’ve saved. Regular back-ups make recovering from an attack easy, but many of us don’t back-up our computers as much as we should.

  • Research Malware

It’s important to know exactly what your computer is infected with and how it will affect your system. Some malware opens pop-ups, or hijacks your browser, but doesn’t infect or encrypt other files on your hard drive. Those types of malware are important to remove, but can usually be solved with a good antivirus program. Malware that falls under the umbrella of ransomware is trickier. Files are either hidden or encrypted and a ransom is demanded to restore them. It’s important to research what type of malware you’re infected with so you know what the next step should be.

  • Restore Files

If you’re infected with a less complex form of ransomware, you may be able to restore your files without paying a ransom. First, reboot your machine in Safe mode. For Windows 7 users, this means pressing F8 repeatedly before Windows loads. In Safe mode, go to Windows Explorer, select ‘Organize’ and ‘Folder’ then ‘Search Options’. Click on the ‘View’ tab and enable the “show hidden folders, files and drives’ option. Now, go see if the files that you were missing are available. If you find them, you can right click, then select ‘Properties’ and unselect ‘Hidden’. Now your files should be available when you reboot into normal mode, but be sure you go through and completely remove any malicious files still on your machine.

Unfortunately, if this method doesn’t work it probably means you have a more complex form of ransomware that has encrypted your files. While some encryption can be broken, criminals are using more and more complex methods to ensure that the only way to get your files restored is to pay them.

If you find yourself with any type of malware infection, call Geek Rescue at 918-369-4335 for help.

Geek Rescue Merges With JD Young

January 14th, 2014

JD young

Geek Rescue is excited to announce their merger with document technologies company JD Young. While both companies will continue to operate under their own names and provide the same great service they have for decades, the merger allows them to offer more services to customers and become a one-stop shop for business solutions.

JD Young is a trusted name in the Tulsa business landscape and has been since being started by Joe Young in 1948. Now it’s run by Joe’s grandchildren, Doug Stuart and Bob Stuart Jr.

Prior to merging, the two companies often found themselves with overlapping clients. From those experiences, they were able to learn each other’s business processes and styles. That familiarity paved the way for this collaboration.

Bob Stuart Jr. cited a first-hand experience with Geek Rescue that suggested “this was a company we wanted to associate ourselves with.”

“We brought in two companies with our own internal network that couldn’t fix the challenge, and what people couldn’t fix within three or four days they were able to fix quickly,” Stuart said.

In addition to their similar way of thinking, each company brings services that are vital to businesses. JD Young specializes in print services, while Geek Rescue is capable of handling any IT support needs. The merger also includes Geek Rescue’s sister company, Brookside Studios, which manages media development, and JD Young’s cross-media marketing firm, One 2 One Marketing.

The ability to combine resources and streamline processes allows both companies to offer a full-range of services to make better solutions for customers.

Geek Rescue co-owner, Damon DoRemus, says this merger creates a comprehensive company unlike any other in the area.

“There’s not a true solutions provider that can provide all the services and products this combination creates,” DoRemus said.

To find out more about JD Young, visit their website.

Comparing Three High-End Laptops

January 13th, 2014

3 girls on laptops

Regardless of what task you’re trying to accomplish, your success is dependent to some degree on the tool you’re using. When it comes to computers, faster processors and more RAM typically suggest a machine is more suited to more complex tasks, like those you might be faced with at work everyday. At CIO, John Brandon tested three top of the line laptops to find which one is the most valuable for professionals. Here are the results.

  • Sony Vaio Flip 15

The very construction of this laptop stands out because it’s also a tablet. Flip the screen and fold it over the keyboard to transform laptop to tablet. This is built like a laptop, however, so it runs off of a 1.8 GHz processor instead of slower mobile processors found in top of the line tablets. The screen boasts 2800 x 1620 screen with high resolution for crisp images. It comes with Bluetooth 4.0 connections, quick syncing capabilities with near-field communication and can wirelessly connect to an HDTV. Even with 1 TB of hard drive space and 12 GB of RAM, the Flip 15 only weights about 5 pounds and includes a battery that lasts up to 5 hours. The display and extra features top this list, but performance, while fast, is the slowest of the three laptops tested. Still, you get a fast laptop that’s capable of tasks many laptops aren’t for a price tag of $1799.

  • HP ZBook 15

This entry from Hewlett Packard is built for demanding tasks like data analytics or photo and video editing. The graphics card is top notch, there’s a BluRay optical drive capable of fast, exhaustive back-ups and it out-performed the other two laptops on this list. The processor runs at 2.7 GHz but can go to Turbo Mode and get kicked up to 3.7 GHz. It also features Bluetooth 4.0 ports and lasts about 5 hours on one charge. But there’s no NFC for quickly syncing with other devices and no HDTV connecting capabilities. At nearly $3-thousand, it’s by far the most expensive laptop tested, but the ZBook 15 backs up the price tag with elite performance. The lack of additional capabilities makes it less useful for the masses, however.

  • Acer Aspire V3

A 2.2 GHz processor, 12 GB of RAM and a high end graphics card put this Acer laptop in the same ballpark as the other two on this list, but it comes at a relatively cheap price of $1099. It weighs in at over 7-pounds making it the heaviest laptop tested and its battery only lasts about 4-hours on one charge. Still, it came close in performance with the ZBook 15 and features a huge 17.3-inch widescreen display. Again, Bluetooth 4.0 is here, but little else. For the price, that seems understandable.

These certainly aren’t the only top-end laptops worth the money, but it’s interesting to pit them against each other to see what you’re really paying for. If you’d rather upgrade your existing laptop, or need repairs, call Geek Rescue at 918-369-4335.

Chrome App Diagnoses Internet Issues For You

January 13th, 2014

Woman looking at 'connection failed' warning

There are few experiences more frustrating than when you can’t connect to the internet or your connection is unbearably slow. Almost everything we do, whether for work or in our free time, requires an internet connection, which makes not having one painful. There are a few tools available to help you diagnose internet connectivity problems, but, as Alan Henry of LifeHacker reports, few are as simple and easy to use as the Connectivity Diagnostics app for Google’s Chrome web browser.

As frustrating as a lack of internet can be, perhaps even worse is not knowing what’s causing your outage. That’s why diagnostic apps like this one are so handy. Whether the issue is with your computer, router, network, or service provider, the Connectivity Diagnostics app finds it so you can fix it.

Unlike other similar applications, the Connectivity Diagnostics app doesn’t require any additional software installed to run. It works through Chrome and is completely free. To find the cause of your internet problems, it can check for an active connection, attempts to contact your DNS server, checks for firewalls blocking your connection or pay-portals, tests for DNS resolution delays and tests for network delays. Each test returns additional information on whether it was successful or not to help you pinpoint the problem.

This isn’t an enterprise level application, but it’s perfect for individual users. Because it’s simple to use, you don’t even need to be tech-savvy to diagnose your connectivity issues.

If your computer is having problems you can’t solve, call Geek Rescue at 918-369-4335.

Protect Yourself From Phishing Attacks With These Tips

January 10th, 2014

Phishing with email symbol

Phishing attacks come through most of our emails on a daily basis. Thankfully, spam filters and other security measures keep us from having to regularly deal with them, but because criminals are always making these attacks more intelligent, some attacks do find their way to our inbox. Some are difficult to ignore since they capitalize on the latest news to make their message more believable. For example, the latest high-profile attacks on Target, Adobe and Snapchat are now being used by hackers as an excuse for why users need to divulge their information. As David King of IT Manager Daily writes, there are ways to protect yourself from these phishing scams. Here are the most important tactics to know.

  • Question Everything

Because each message is being crafted to fool users into thinking it’s legitimate, you can’t afford to trust any message you receive. Even messages from companies you have an account with that contain official looking logos can be spam or phishing scams. Checking the email address of the sender is effective for many messages. Often, a message claiming to be from a legitimate company is sent from an email address not associated with that business. But, criminals have started to overcome that hurdle also. Even emails that come from someone in your contacts list could be malicious. So, before downloading anything or responding with important information, ask yourself why the sender of the message would be taking these actions. If it seems at all suspicious, call the sender directly and ask about the email. Or, visit the company’s website and find a more direct way to send them information. Usually, it’s safe to assume that any legitimate business won’t ask for your financial information over email.

  • Attachments

Malicious files sent as attachments are a common way to convince users to download malware. Many users will even be suspicious of an email, but download the attachment in an attempt to gain more context as to what the message is about. Downloading and opening these files infects your computer. Don’t let your curiosity get the best of you. If a message seems suspicious, don’t visit any links included in it or download any files attached. Even if the message seems legitimate, don’t download a file unless you know exactly what it is. A good rule of thumb is if you aren’t expecting a file to be emailed to you, don’t download one.

  • Updates

Unfortunately, even the most intelligent users fall prey to phishing scams and malware infections. Even if you never download attachments, visit suspect websites or open suspicious emails, malware can still find its way onto your system. It’s better to plan for this event and never need the security provisions than to be caught without it. Be sure you have a trusted antivirus program in place and keep it regularly updated so it can recognize the latest threats. Update all of your applications and your operating system also to close potential security vulnerabilities.

Phishing scams allow hackers to infect your computer and steal important information. Follow these tips to keep yourself, and you identity safe.

If your computer is infected with malware or you’d like to improve the security on your network, call Geek Rescue at 918-369-4335.

Beware Malicious Offers To Update Your Browser

January 10th, 2014

Virus alert in browser

When was the last time you updated your web browser? Periodically, you’re prompted to update to the latest version in various ways, but not all of those prompts are legitimate. As Zeljka Zorz writes at Help Net Security, agreeing to update your browser from the wrong source leads to malware infections.

It’s a common scam that’s been around for years, but internet users in the UK have seen a recent surge in malicious offers to update their browsers. These offers occur in the form of pop-ups that look official enough. They claim to be “critical updates” and many even trap you in an unending loop that prevents you from closing the tab.

If you agree to download the update, what you’ll actually get is some form of malware. In the recent occurrences seen in the UK, a trojan used to steal information was downloaded instead of a browser update.

These scams are seen most on sites where you stream media. It seems users are more likely to believe that an update is needed when they think they won’t be able to stream the video they wanted to watch. But, even if you think your browser is in need of an update, it’s never a good idea to download from an untrusted source. Instead of clicking through on the pop-up, go directly to the browser developer’s site and check for recent updates.

This scam isn’t limited to web browsers either. Warnings that your operating system, or plug-ins to your browser are out of date are also used to convince you to download a malicious file. In every case, don’t download anything unless you’re on the developer’s site. It is a good idea to regularly check to see if applications you use are out of date. Doing so helps close security flaws and eliminates bugs and compatibility issues. But, you have to be careful when downloading and make sure it’s from a trusted source.

If your computer has been infected by malware, bring it to Geek Rescue or call us at 918-369-4335.