5 types of clutter that slow down Windows

By EDITOR 

If you’ve noticed that your Windows 10 operating system has been running slow, yet no virus has been found and everything seems to be running okay otherwise, your PC might have too much clutter. Clutter can impede its performance and eat away its memory. To help your computer perform at its peak once again, you need to know five types of clutter and how to remove them.

5 types of clutter you need to know

  1. Pre-installed software: This unwanted OEM software, referred to as “bloatware,” poses security risks and takes up tons of CPU, RAM, and disk space. To get rid of it, Refresh Windows.
  2. Windows Updates: All too often, Microsoft launches updates that fail to download correctly, leaving you with corrupted and unusable files. Some of them will be deleted by Windows, while some will hang around forever. To remove them, Reset Windows.
  3. Registry Bloat: Every action performed in Windows gets recorded in your computer’s registry, including files and applications you’ve deleted. And gradually, Windows becomes bogged down by thousands of redundant entries. The solution? Reset Windows.
  4. Error files: Whenever software in your system encounters errors in processing or crashes altogether, Windows will keep a log file of it. And, as with Registry Bloat, these log files accumulate. To remove all these space-eating files, Reset Windows.
  5. User Bloat: This means a large number of your own files, especially if it’s unorganized. Solution: Refresh Windows.

How to declutter Windows

To rid your computer of all this clutter, you have two choices: Reset or Refresh. When you Reset, a brand new copy of Windows 10 is installed and “resets” your system to its original state. When you Refresh, your PC reinstalls Windows 10 free of any bloatware.

Both tools will delete Windows 10 apps and your customized settings, and will give you choices of keeping your old files or deleting them.

To get started, go to Start > Setting > Update and Recovery > Recovery

If you want to Reset Windows, choose Reset This PC > Get Started and then follow the on-screen instructions.

If you want to Refresh Windows, you need to know whether your Windows update version is Windows 10 1607 or Windows 10 1703 since the processes are a bit different.

  • For Windows 10 1607, choose More Recovery Options > Learn How to Start Afresh With a Clean Copy of Windows 10, at which point you’ll see a new screen in your browser. Click Download Tool Now at the bottom of the page, and when the download is finished, follow the on-screen instructions.
  • For Windows 10 1703, click Settings > Update & Recovery > Recovery > More recovery options > Start Afresh to launch Windows Defender. Then click Get Started to start the Refresh process. Alternatively, you can press the Windows key + R, enter systemreset -cleanpc and click Enter. When you see the Fresh Start menu, click next to start the process.

There are innumerable ways to make your computer perform faster and more efficiently, and our Windows experts are equipped with all the tricks of the trade. Give us a call today.

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Google Drive app is shutting down

By EDITOR 

Yes, you read it right, Google Drive app is officially shutting down. But what does this mean for users worldwide? Is your business data still safe on Google Drive? Here’s everything you need to know.

Google made an official announcement on its blog that support for Google Drive app will end come December 11th, 2017, and the app will shut down completely on March 12th, 2018. In fact, you’ll start seeing notifications from the app’s user interface come October.

But you don’t need to search for an alternative solution just yet; the Google Drive service isn’t going anywhere. Despite the desktop app’s departure, you can still access Google Drive’s applications from your web browser and your mobile devices. Even better, Google has rolled out two more ways to access Drive applications and files on your desktop and keep them in sync on all your devices.

Backup and Sync

This consumer app replaces the standalone Google Drive and Google Photos Uploader apps. The way it works and the functionality it offers is pretty much the same as Drive, except all your Drive content will be stored on your computer hard drive rather than in the cloud.

You’ll be able to access files in My Drive, sync selected folders in My Drive, use native applications like MS Word and Photoshop, and sync other folders such as Documents or Desktop.

You won’t, however, be able to access files in Team Drives, stream files on demand, or sync individual files in My Drive. For those, you’ll have to go with the second option called Drive File Stream.

Computer operating systems requirements for Backup and Sync:

  • Windows 7 and up
  • Mac Lion 10.7 and up
  • Linux via drive.google.com

Drive File Stream

Drive File Stream is designed to save businesses and enterprises space on their local drive by providing on demand, cloud access to all Google Drive files from their computer. Features include access to files in My Drive and Team Drives, folders sync in My Drive, individual file sync in My Drive, and use of native applications like MS Word and Photoshop.

You can also make files available for offline access, and since cached files are synced back to the cloud when you’re online, you’ll always have the latest file versions on all your devices.

Computer operating systems requirements for Drive File Stream:

  • Windows 7 and up, no support for Windows Server editions
  • Mac El Capitan 10.11 and up

Drive File Stream allows you to do more with Google Drive, but if you’re sure you’re not going to be using all of its listed features, Backup and Sync is a simpler solution. Stay tuned for more news and updates about Google and its solutions. If you have any questions, just give us a call.

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Equifax’s Leak: lessons learned

By EDITOR 

No business owner wants their customers’ data leaked, but no matter how well your prevention plan is, the unexpected can happen. And when it does, what will determine the fate of your business is how well you respond to it. So before you start planning an incident response, read the following story and recite this: Don’t walk in the footsteps of Equifax.

What happened to Equifax?

Equifax, the huge American credit agency announced in September 2017 that its database was hacked, resulting in a leak of tons of consumers’ private data, including personally identifiable information of around 143 million US citizens. It included names, social security numbers, addresses, birthdates, and credit card and driver’s license numbers.

Equifax responded by setting up a new site, www.equifaxsecurity2017.com, to help its customers determine whether they had been affected and to provide more information about the incident.

Soon after, Equifax’s official Twitter account tweeted a link that directed customers to www.securityequifax2017.com, which is actually a fake site.

Fortunately for Equifax’s customers, the fake phishing site was set up by a software engineer who wanted to use it for educational purposes and to expose flaws in Equifax’s incident response practice. So, no further harm was done to the already-damaged customers, and Equifax is left with even more embarrassment.

So what did Equifax do wrong?

One of the huge mistakes Equifax made in responding to its data breach was setting up a new website to give updated information to its consumers outside of its main domain, equifax.com.

Why? You first need to know that since the invention of phishing scams, phishers have been creating fake versions of big companies’ websites. That’s why so many major corporations buy domains that are the common misspellings of their real domains.

You should also know that phishers can’t create a web page on the company’s main domain, so if Equifax’s new site was hosted there, it’d be easy for customers to tell whether the new page was legitimate and not be fooled by a fake domain name.

What’s obvious from this embarrassing misstep is that Equifax had never planned for a data leak. And this is an unforgivable oversight by a company that handles the information of over 800 million consumers and more than 88 million businesses worldwide.

Don’t repeat Equifax’s mistake

Whether your business is a small startup or as big as Equifax, it needs to prepare for a data breach. Besides having a comprehensive network defense plan, you also need to have the right incident response plan in place.

So what you should do after you’ve discovered the leak is, first of all, be upfront with your customers and notify them as soon as possible.

You also need to establish a message that includes the following information:

  • How the leak occurred
  • How the leak could affect your customers
  • How you will prevent future attacks
  • What your company will do to support affected customers

You should also create a web page to keep your customers up to date. But remember, the new web page should be under your company’s primary domain name.

As we’ve seen from Equifax, an incident response plan that’s robust is a must. Feel free to talk to our experts about how you can come up with an acute one — so you won’t have to repeat Equifax’s apologetic statement, since it doesn’t help the company redeemged reputation at all.

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Useful business features in Windows 10

The Windows Fall Creators Update released in April introduced many useful and interesting features, including a decluttered Start menu, more control over Windows updates, and an enhanced Microsoft Edge browser. Five months later, Microsoft follows up on all those enhancements with a new set of features. Here’s everything business users should get excited about.

Files on-demand in OneDrive

‘OneDrive Files On-Demand’ solves syncing problems often encountered by those who don’t want all their files synced to all their devices. This feature will give users the option to choose the folders that will be downloaded to the device they’re using, which helps save storage space and bandwidth, and gives users more flexibility.

Greater protection from ransomware

Microsoft beefs up Windows 10 security by introducing ‘Controlled folder access,’ a welcome feature in an era of rampant ransomware outbreaks such as WannaCry and Petya. This security enhancement enables users to assign a ‘switch’ to applications. When the switch is turned on, users are alerted any time unauthorized applications attempt to access or modify files in protected Desktop, My Documents, My Music, My Pictures, and My Videos folders.

Enterprise-level threat prevention

The Fall Creators update will also feature ‘Windows Defender Exploit Guard,’ a threat prevention system that, in Microsoft’s own words, ‘helps make vulnerabilities dramatically more difficult to exploit.’ The platform is primarily intended to recognize and safeguard against brand new malware that has not been cataloged or analyzed by security professionals.

Microsoft will also introduce ‘Windows Defender Application Guard,’ a program that protects Windows 10 users by isolating and containing threats and malware within the Edge browser. For now, it will be available only to Windows 10 Enterprise Edition and Hyper-V users.

Both ‘guards’ will complement firewalls and antivirus software to provide comprehensive protection to data, programs, devices, and networks.

Easier to reach contacts

Windows 10 subscribers will also benefit from the ‘My People’ feature, which will enhance collaboration. This new feature will let users pin contacts from their contact list to the Start Bar for quick access to email, instant messaging, or video calling. To activate, launch the People program and click on the icon found in the taskbar’s notifications area. Contacts can be pinned only if they have the Windows 10 App open in their system.

Other essential enhancements

The Fall Creators Update will also introduce small yet essential enhancements that will prove highly advantageous to businesses, one of which is a bandwidth limiting capability. Using this feature, network administrators can limit the amount of bandwidth allocated for Windows updates, allowing them to manage the updates for all devices across an entire network.

To do this:

  • Go to Deliver Optimization > Advanced options
  • Tick any of the three sliders
  • Adjust download and upload settings: limiting bandwidth for downloading updates; uploading updates to other PCS on the internet; and adjusting monthly upload limit

A battery-saving function will also be introduced to the new Windows 10 via ‘Power Throttling,’ which determines the activities that the system should prioritize based on a user’s activity. For example, if a user has multiple apps open but is actively using only a photo-editing tool, the system will allot greater power resources to the most actively used app and minimal resources to inactive ones.

Are you maximizing your Windows-powered computers’ features and capabilities? Get in touch with our experts to explore what Microsoft products can do for your business.

 

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How to use OneNote like a pro

Can you list all the apps in the Microsoft Office suite? Did you forget OneNote? It’s often overlooked, but Microsoft’s note-taking app is incredibly useful for everything from brainstorming sessions to learning courses. Let’s go over what it takes to get started with OneNote.

OneNote is a digital notebook

Despite the visual similarities, the thing that sets OneNote apart from Word is the way it stores and displays saved information. In OneNote, one window displays all your Notebooks, which can contain several pages and separate documents.

To create a Notebook, click File and then New. From there, you’ll be given the option to create a new Notebook, which can be saved locally to OneDrive or to SharePoint.

A Notebook will help you organize several types of information in one space, so let’s imagine we’ve named a SharePoint Notebook “New Product Ideas” and clicked Create New.

Next, you’ll be looking at a blank screen with “New Product Ideas” in the upper left-hand corner. To get the most out of OneNote, we need to start organizing our Notebook.

Separate your Notebook into Sections

Every Notebook is organized into Sections, similar to what dividers do in a physical notebook. For example, our New Product Ideas Notebook might be divided into Sections based on things like design, price and materials.

Sections are shown as color-coded tabs along the top of the screen, next to the name of your Notebook. You simply click the ‘+’ button to create a new section.

Start filling your Sections with useful Pages

Up until this point, OneNote seems like little more than a Word document with improved organization. But Pages in OneNote are built so that different types of media can be dropped into your pages with the click of a button.

So let’s say you’ve bookmarked a number of websites with reference images you want to add to your Design Section. Open up Design and select Add New Page on the right-hand side of the screen. Right-click it and name the page, and in our example this could be Ideas from online.

One way to insert the images from your bookmarked webpages is to save them to your computer and then drag each icon onto your OneNote Page where the image will automatically appear.

However, with Microsoft’s OneNote Web Clipper this can be done much more easily. After installing the browser extension, open it and select what you want to save from the web page with your cursor. The Web Clipper will ask which OneNote Page you want to save the selection to and it will automatically be added.

Start experimenting!

Now that you understand how to organize your information, you can experiment with linking Pages from different notebooks, adding category tags to Pages, and inserting online videos into your notes.

If you’re worried about a Notebook becoming overly complicated, don’t worry. Above the Pages pane is a search bar that you can use to find keywords from Notebook titles, Section titles and Pages content.

You could spend an entire year learning the ins and outs of every Microsoft Office application, but a faster way would be to let us help you cut through the clutter with practical recommendations and assistance. Call us today!

 

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How to keep your mobile devices safe

By EDITOR 

Increased productivity and constant collaboration are two of the main reasons why businesses have integrated a mobile policy into their business. This means an increased use of mobile devices such as smartphones and tablets in daily operations. But as the number of mobile users continues to grow, so does the number of cyber crime. Reduce your IT staff’s headaches by following these steps in protecting your mobile devices.

Ensure mobile OS is up-to-date

Apple and Android’s operating system updates improve overall user experience, but their most important function is to fix security vulnerabilities. You can reduce your business’s exposure to threats by installing updates for ALL devices as soon as they become available. Some people wait for a few weeks or months to update their device’s OS. This gives hackers ample time to exploit vulnerabilities on devices that run on outdated operating systems.

Install business applications only

Downloading apps seems harmless, but lenient mobile devices policies on what should and shouldn’t be downloaded on company devices could lead to staff downloading and installing non-business-related apps from third-party stores, most of which are notorious for malicious advertising codes and other threats.

Be careful with public Wi-Fi networks

Emergency situations might compel you to use password-free Wi-Fi networks in hotels, airport, cafes, or any public place. Connecting to an open network could expose your confidential information and sensitive company data to hackers connected to the same network.

You can avoid this by providing a practical internet data plan, preferably one that includes roaming services, for remote workers. And if you really have to connect to an open Wi-Fi, don’t use the connection for transferring sensitive data.

Enable phone tracking tools

Losing a company-issued mobile device is a scenario many would rather not contemplate, but it happens. Devices can be misplaced or stolen, and enabling a useful app such as ‘Find my iPhone’ for iOS devices, ‘GPS Phone Tracker’ for Android, or any other device-tracking app in Apple’s App or Android’s Google Play stores helps users locate lost phones, or otherwise delete data in stolen devices. Downloading and setting up the app takes just a few minutes, and it will give you peace of mind knowing that even if your phone is lost or stolen, its contents will not be compromised.

Screen SMS carefully

SMS messaging may not be as effective as email phishing, but SMS phishing can also be used to trick users into clicking malicious links. Hackers send messages purporting to be from someone you know or a legitimate source that asks you to urgently send confidential data. You can either delete these messages, block unknown senders, or alert your IT department in case you encounter a possible scammer.

Mobile devices are becoming more critical to operations. And with more devices open to attack, businesses must bolster their cybersecurity efforts. Hackers will exploit every possible vulnerability, and that includes those in unsecured smartphones and tablets. Get in touch with us if you need comprehensive security solutions for your business.

 

 

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Stop using Google’s SMS sign-in

By EDITOR 

To ensure optimal security, two-step authentication is used. This requires a password as well as a unique six-digit code that is typically sent via SMS. The National Institute of Standards and Technology has voiced its concerns about this method and Google quickly responded by having users try an alternative method.

Security was the main concern. According to Google, “This is being done because SMS text-message verifications are one-time codes that are more susceptible to phishing attempts.” Hackers can dupe network operators into redirecting the message to their phone. Even worse, there are numerous Android apps that can be used to capture SMS codes sent from banks to customers.

To defend against these threats, Google introduced 2-Step Verification in user accounts. If a user tries to log in to an account, Google will send a phone alert prompting that person to confirm his or her identity. Prompts-based 2-Step Verification (2-SV) sign-in is safer because the entire process occurs over an encrypted connection. In February 2017, Google improved the existing 2-SV prompts with additional information on the device, location and time of attempted sign-ins.

Google hasn’t confirmed ending support for SMS authentication but has already sent invitations urging 2-SV-SMS to switch to the prompts-based version. Users will be given the option of whether they want to retain the prompt-based sign-in. However, users who refuse to switch will receive follow-up notifications after six months.

Android users will enjoy a seamless transition because they will receive prompts without having to download an additional app. However, iOS users who rely on SMS for 2-Step Verification are required to install the Google Search app on their phone.

For any questions, get in touch with us. We’ll help you stay on top of the latest IT management and technology news.

 

 

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Grow your business with new Office 365 apps

By EDITOR 

Microsoft never fails to announce exciting new features for their products. In an effort to improve support for small- and medium-sized businesses, they introduced a series of new apps and enhancements for Office 365 during the Inspire conference in July. Some of the most notable upgrades include:

Microsoft Connections
Email marketing campaigns are a great way to build relationships with contacts and increase sales, but they’re often difficult to manage. With Microsoft Connections, you can easily launch a campaign in minutes using pre-designed templates for newsletters, referrals, and promotions.

As you acquire more contacts, Connections allows you to segment your mailing list so you can target different customers. For instance, you can send product promotions to clients who have stayed with your business for more than six months.

After firing off your emails, performance charts track important metrics like open rates, clickthrough rates, new sign-ups, and canceled subscriptions that can be used to improve future campaigns.

Microsoft Listings
Microsoft Listings helps you seamlessly manage your online presence. Whenever you update your business profile, Listings automatically publishes those changes across your Facebook, Google, Bing, and Yelp accounts, allowing you to keep important information like business hours up to date.

What’s more, Listings includes a web dashboard where you can monitor page-views, reviews, and likes, helping you assess your company’s online reputation.

Microsoft Invoicing
Another useful addition is Microsoft Invoicing, a tool that helps you generate price estimates and invoices. When combined with enterprise resource planning (ERP) software, you can program workflows that automatically redirect invoices, pending payments, and estimates to the right accountant. This application works for credit, debit, and PayPal transactions.

Office 365 Business Center
The Office 365 Business Center brings Connections, Listings, and Invoicing all under one roof. This means information listed on one application is automatically registered onto another, saving you from inputting data multiple times.

The main hub also features a unified dashboard where you can track an email campaign’s performance, Facebook impressions, and any outstanding invoices, giving you full visibility into your accounting and marketing processes.

According to Microsoft, these powerful features will be generally available for Office 365 Business Premium subscribers in the coming months. But if you want to get early access, consider joining the Office 365 Insider program.

Office 365 will likely have even more surprises for SMBs this year, so make sure to keep in touch with us to get the latest rundown on feature releases and Microsoft news.

 

 

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Android users beware: Ransomware is coming

By EDITOR 

You are probably familiar with desktop-based ransomware like Petya, WannaCry, CryptoWall, and CryptoLocker. But mobile ransomware is an emerging trend you don’t want to learn about only after it strikes. Take a minute to read our summary of mobile ransomware and some easy prevention tips.

How does ransomware make it onto your Android device?

Like its desktop equivalent, mobile ransomware needs to be installed on your device before it can do damage. For Android devices, this means mobile apps that hide their true intent. There are two ways to install programs on your mobile device: downloading them from app stores like Google Play and Amazon Appstore, or downloading them directly from websites and email links.

Surprisingly, both come with risks. Unverified sources often advertise free apps that hide malware, and the best of these can occasionally avoid detection and be allowed into monitored app stores.

What does mobile ransomware look like?

Similar to ransomware on personal computers, mobile ransomware holds data stored on your device hostage and demands ransom. For example, in the case of a ransomware that came with the “OK” app, a popular Russian social network platform that was infected earlier this year, a user is prompted to change device settings. There is no option to close the prompt and tapping Accept locks everything down and leaves you with nothing but a ransom note.

How to protect yourself from mobile ransomware

First and foremost, avoid downloading apps directly from websites or third-party app stores. Additionally, make sure you turn on Google’s security system — Verify Apps — which scans all the apps about to be installed on your device for potential threats. You can do so by opening your Android’s settings, choosing Security, tapping on Verify Apps, and activating ‘Scan device for security threats’.

Second, install antivirus software on your device and keep it up to date.

Third, back up important files from your device to either a USB disk, a computer, or any cloud-based services. This way, you won’t lose your valuable data if you are forced to factory-reset your device.

Last, if ransomware made its way into your device, don’t pay. According to IT security company ESET, mobile ransomware very rarely includes programming to reverse the damage it has done.

Losing any type of data is an enormous inconvenience, but businesses need to be especially careful about careless employees. Data loss could result in lawsuits or regulatory fines, so it’s important that you know how to safeguard your Android against ransomware.

For more in-depth advice on how to protect yourself and your business from this threat, get in touch with our experts today.

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Microsoft’s protection plan for Windows 10

By EDITOR 

Microsoft has created new security features for Windows 10 users. This update is a response to the global outbreak of ransomware attacks such as WannaCry and Petya. While this patch shouldn’t be a substitute for antivirus software and data backups, Microsoft does think its new features can help people defend against current and future threats. Find out how.

Controlled folders
With Microsoft’s new Controlled folders access feature, you can list certain documents and folders as “protected.” Only whitelisted apps can access and edit these folders, while any attempted changes by malicious apps are simply blocked by Windows Defender.

In theory, this should slow down a ransomware’s ability to encrypt critical information. Some reports suggest that other threats like malicious file macros and viruses can be prevented by this feature.

So far, only Windows Insider users have access to controlled folders. But if you’ve already signed up, you can access the feature by going to Windows Defender Security Center and then enabling Controlled folder access. From here, you can choose which folders will be protected and what apps are allowed to access them. To save you time, common Microsoft applications are trusted automatically, but you can remove them from your whitelist whenever you want.

Application Guard
Apart from folder protection, Microsoft also made security enhancements for web browsers. The Windows Defender Application Guard is designed to prevent intrusions, using Microsoft’s Hyper-V virtual machine technology to detect and isolate compromised applications from the rest of your system. So if someone accidentally downloads a virus from their web browser, Application Guard will contain the threat before it infiltrates the rest of your company’s devices, apps, data, and network.

Device Guard
In a similar vein, the Device Guard feature, which is also found in the Windows Defender Security Center, minimizes computer exposure to malware by using advanced threat detection policies to make sure only approved code is running throughout the system. This is meant to add an extra layer of defense in between your firewall and antivirus software.

As mentioned, Windows Insider users can get early access to these security features, but if you want to make sure that these security features are as strong as they can be, we suggest you wait for their public release around September for the Fall Creators update.

Want to stay on top of the latest technologies that can help you beat ransomware, viruses, and other nasty cyberattacks? Contact us today for any security updates and advice.

 

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