Local CT profiled

September 18th, 2009 in Latest News | No Comments

Computer Troubleshooters Manitowoc (Wisconsin, USA) and owners Russell and Yavonda Joplin were profiled by the local Herald Times Reporter newspaper this week. You can find the online version here.

CT featured in Retailing magazine

September 18th, 2009 in Latest News | No Comments

This month’s “Integrated Solutions for Retailers” magazine features an article entitled “Small Retailers: To Bundle, or Not To Bundle?” which includes industry experts from HP, Intuit, and Computer Troubleshooters. New Jersey Computer Troubleshooters owner Andy Oeftering is the featured CT, offering his advice on POS solutions for small retailers.

The online version of the article may be found here.

Computer Troubleshooters + Autotask Deal

September 18th, 2009 in Latest News | No Comments

Computer Troubleshooters and Autotask have announced an industry-leading partnership which gives all CT franchise owners “free” use of the Autotask Go! product or discounted access to the Autotask Pro product as part of their franchise membership.  Details of the announcement made headlines in several industry publications like Business Solutions (click for link) ,MSPMentor, and more.

Social Networking – How to get started

September 17th, 2009 in Blog | 2 Comments

Social media allows users to interact with each other and discuss shared interests. Popular social media sites include: Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, LinkedIn, MySpace, Wikipedia, Digg, Delicious, Friend Feed, Flickr, Ning, Skype, Stumbleupon and many more. However, the three most popular sites include Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn which is what we will discuss this month.

If you are not currently on these sites, try one for a week. You may be surprised with who you find: competitors, vendors, news sources, your dry cleaner, even your elementary teacher. You will certainly notice the number of businesses that not only have accounts but also are advertising on the sites. Here are some tips to help you establishing yourself online:

Experience Social Media – If you are not already established, visit these sites and choose a user name for you or your business. Start connecting with friends, family, and neighbors. Also start connecting with clients, vendors, news outlets, and leaders in your industry.

Find your Audience – You know all of that money you spend trying to reach your audience with television, radio, newspaper, and even search engines? Your audience is already using social media – you just have to find them. Use the search function on the site and type in your ideal buyer keywords. You will find groups dedicated to your industry, hobby, neighborhood, and even your pet.

Create a Social Media Plan – Identify the goals of your social media strategy. Do you want to increase your customer base? Offer advice? Increase sales? Increase website traffic? Find your high school sweetheart? Whatever your goals, write them down and create a plan of action to achieve them. Plan how you will measure the success of the strategy.

Measure Your Results – One of the key benefits of social media is how easy it is to measure. Measure the number of followers each week using a simple spreadsheet. You can also measure how many times your company is mentioned, linked, or your content is redistributed.

Once you’re there, look for Computer Troubleshooters on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn. We look forward to interacting with you online.
Facebook – ‘No Computer Problems’ and ‘Technology Solved’
Twitter – @NoCompProblems and @TechSolved
LinkedIn – Computer Troubleshooters Company

Email Marketing made easy

September 17th, 2009 in Blog | No Comments

Most business owners would agree that it’s easier to provide more solutions to an existing client than it is to find new customers. Repeat business comes from providing quality and value, but also from keeping in touch with your clients, reminding them of your services and promoting things you think they can benefit from. Email marketing is an easy and effective way to remain at the top of a customer’s mind for that next transaction, as long as your email marketing messages are appropriate and effective. Although it may seem difficult for a small business to manage an ongoing email marketing campaign, there are many simple and effective tools designed to make this easy and affordable. This month we highlight what to look for in an email marketing tool.

List management – If you already have permission to use your customer’s email addresses and you’ve been storing these in a database, spreadsheet or email program, you’ll want to be able to import this information easily. Also look for easy sign-up methods that integrate with your website but also allow you to manually add extra subscribers. List groups are a great feature too, allowing you to segregate your subscriber list so you can deliver content targeted to that particular segment of your customer base.

Templates – You want to deliver emails that look professional, but don’t require a professional developer to create HTML code changes every time you want to send something. Look for a tool with a broad range of templates that are easy to modify and re-use.

Measurable results – By reviewing statistical information about your email campaigns, you’ll be able to fine-tune your messages and identify what is working and what isn’t. Look for the ability to report on things like how many of your emails were opened and how many people clicked on links to find out more information.

Approved bulk mailer – Internet providers and anti-spam services identify sources of large volumes of emails and can ‘blacklist’ them to prevent a spam onslaught. Look for an email marketing tool provider who is known as an ‘approved bulk mailer’ and is accepted by many ISPs and anti-spam services.

Anti-spam law compliant – As many countries develop regulations to try and limit unsolicited email, make sure your email marketing tool is compliant with any local laws. These may include having to list a physical address in your emails and having to process unsubscribe requests within 10 days. Other anti-spam features are also desirable, such as ‘opt-in’ confirmation emails and a one-click unsubscribe process.

Talk to your local Computer Troubleshooter about the right email marketing tool, so your business can easily take advantage of the sales potential in your own current client base.

Anti-virus Sofware – what's the best ?

September 17th, 2009 in Blog | No Comments

We often get asked “what’s the best anti-virus software?” however that’s like asking a group of people what the best car is. Raise the subject of anti-virus software with a group of computer experts and you will get many different opinions. Here are some things to consider when selecting security software for your computer:

Retail box or download – Many good software products are not sold in retail chain stores but are available for secure purchase and download from the internet. This sometimes makes it harder to ask questions about the product, but remember that the retail sales person has a vested interest in recommending the product that they stock. Just because a large chain store stocks the software doesn’t mean it’s the best software for your needs.

Impact on PC performance
– This can be a tough area to gauge just by looking at the software description. Check out the ‘Minimum System Requirements’ to see which software needs more resources (e.g. memory). Also, consider installing a time-limited trial version of the software (if available) to test it for yourself before parting with your money.

Updates & upgrades – All anti-virus software should entitle you to download the latest information (updates) about any new viruses for free, for the duration of your license subscription. Some software products also entitle you to upgrade for free if a newer version of the software is released, whilst others make you pay an upgrade fee.

Price – Software licensing comes in many different configurations, so make sure you are comparing the same kind of software license when you are comparing prices. Factors that influence the price include how long your subscription is for (allowing you to download those free anti-virus information updates), how many PCs can use the one license and whether the software is being installed in a student/academic environment, home, business or not-for-profit entity.

Management – If you run a business with more than one PC, a ‘network edition’ may be right for you. This allows the updates to be downloaded by one of your computers and distributed to the rest of them, instead of each PC downloading the update. It also provides an overall view of whether the software is working on each PC and if any infections have been found. These features reduce the time (and cost) it takes to manage your anti-virus software across multiple computers.

Additional features – Many anti-virus software vendors now also produce ‘security suites’, which include firewalls and protection against spyware, malware and spam. It may be more cost effective and resource effective to run one product to handle all of these security aspects.

Trusted recommendation – There are many independent testing laboratories and software review websites that publish the results of their anti-virus software comparisons.

Your local Computer Troubleshooter also deals with a significant number of computers every year and will have developed a preference for the software they believe does the best job with the least amount of problems. Find out what software your CTer recommends – chances are they know it well and use it in their own business.

Talk to your local Computer Troubleshooter about the best anti-virus solution for your specific requirements.

What is a virtual Server?

September 17th, 2009 in Blog | No Comments

Did you know that you can have all of the business benefits of a server, without physically owning a server? These benefits include a common storage location for shared information, email and calendaring features and remote access, to name a few. However servers are often thought of as an expensive initial purchase, requiring ongoing maintenance and future upgrades. If your business is seasonal you may find that your technology needs also peak and drop with demand, yet you have to allow for those peak demand times.

In most cases, a server is not running at its full capacity 100% of the time. Technology companies are taking advantage of this fact by letting businesses share servers. This is now made possible by a couple of key factors: ‘virtualisation’ of software (which enables multiple software systems to run on one physical box) and high-speed internet access. ‘Farms’ of high performing servers can be created that you can access when you need them … and only pay for that access when you need it.

Servers are located in specialised ‘data centres’ which are designed to house multiple computer systems. The location of the centre is irrelevant, as you access it via your high speed internet connection. The term ‘cloud computing’ has been coined, referring to the fact that in a computer network diagram, the internet is represented as a cloud shape. This kind of ‘on demand’ access has also given rise to terms like ‘Software as a Service’. This refers to your ability to pay for accessing software during the time period that you need it, for the number of staff you need it for at that time – instead of needing to purchase a license outright.

This centralised storage and processing capability is great if you have multiple locations that need to easily share information (e.g. use the same database), without you needing to build your own server infrastructure. If you grow your operations, you’re not faced with having to add additional server hardware. Your ‘server’ also benefits from the data centre’s other features such as power redundancy, backup and recovery strategy and systems monitoring and management. Often this underlying management is included as part of your access fee.

The downside to not having your server at your location is that your internet connection becomes critical, as it’s your only access link to your information. Consider channelling some of your cost savings towards paying for a business-grade and some redundancy (such as a second internet line or backup cellular internet access).

Talk to your local Computer Troubleshooter to see if your business would benefit from having its server in the cloud.

Why you need a Firewall

September 17th, 2009 in Blog | No Comments

Did you know that when your computer is connected to the internet, it has over 131,000 ‘ports’ that a hacker could connect to? These ports are like doors in a building and if they aren’t protected properly, then someone could sneak in without you noticing. If the hacker is not installing a virus, they can still do some serious damage without alerting your security software, including transmitting your personal information. So how do you watch all of these doorways to your information? You need a firewall!

In construction terms, a firewall is a fire-resistant wall that subdivides a building to stop the spread of fire from one area to another. In computer terms, we need to stop communications between your computer and others on the internet. A total block of all internet communication would be useless though, so you need a way of selecting which type of communications you want to receive. For this, computer firewalls have rules and filters much like construction firewalls have access doors.

Where do I put this firewall?
Firewalls can be on a hardware box (a separate unit or part of your internet modem or router) or can be software installed on your computer. Most popular security software packages also include a firewall. A hardware firewall is great for providing a barrier before your computer is even reached and will also mean that your computer doesn’t have to spend its precious resources on running the firewall software. It also reduces the risk of the firewall itself being compromised, as some viruses can try and disable security software features that are running on your computer. The downside is that a hardware-based firewall can be more expensive and not as easy to configure and maintain if you are unsure of how to use them.
If Microsoft gives me a firewall, do I need another one?
The Windows Firewall (on Windows XP Service Pack 2 and Vista) only examines inbound communications coming into your computer from the internet. If your computer becomes infected (e.g. if you install some free software that turns out to have a hidden nasty) then your outbound communication to other computers on the internet won’t be examined or filtered. This can turn your computer into a source of infection, impacting your security and internet connection. It’s also not recommended that you run more than one software firewall as this uses more processing power and can cause conflicts, so if your security software includes a firewall, turn off the Windows Firewall.
If I have a secure wireless connection do l need a firewall?
A wireless connection is another way to get onto the internet and wireless security controls who can use that connection. This is similar to allowing who can plug into your phone line. Once you are connected, your 131,000+ ports are still open to hackers, so you still need a firewall. A firewall may be included on your wireless router but it pays to check.
Why does it keep on giving me messages?
If you are doing something specific (like installing new software or troubleshooting a connection problem) you may need to temporarily disable your firewall. Software firewalls may alert you that a connection has been attempted and blocked and may ask if you wish to allow that kind of connection in the future. In general, if you are doing something new which would probably involve a connection to the internet, you can allow the connection – either ‘this time only’ or for all future connection attempts. If in doubt, block it, as you can always allow it later if you find that it is needed.

Firewalls provide an enhanced level of security that has now become the minimum standard to protect your computer. They do require a certain level of knowledge or a great computer support person, so talk to your local Computer Troubleshooter to ensure that you are protected.

New Year – New Computer Problems

September 17th, 2009 in Blog | No Comments

This month we continue our advice on technology’s little hassles, with a few more areas that can be easily and inexpensively solved.

Starting from scratch? If you have a document, spreadsheet or presentation to create, see if the topic is used by other businesses too. An online search or a visit to the Microsoft website may uncover a template that you can apply to your situation. Common examples include budget templates, sales presentations and employment forms.

How paperless is your office? Consider these alternatives to printing and posting:

·    A fax card can be inexpensively installed into your computer, connecting to your phone line and allowing you to send documents directly to a fax machine without printing them first. Another option is online fax services, which allow you to upload your faxes to a website to be sent. For documents that need a signature, consider scanning a copy of your signature, which can then be added like a picture to your document before faxing.

·    Email is also a great alternative to regular postal mail. Your financial software may even allow you to email invoices directly from it. It you are concerned about document details being changed, you can find free software to ‘print’ your documents electronically into an unchangeable Adobe Acrobat PDF format. This is widely used by airlines for sending flight details and receipts via email.

Morning slowness? If you have time to finish your coffee whilst your computer starts, there could be some easy tweaks which will improve its performance. Review the items in your ‘Startup’ group of programs and look at the icons in your ‘system tray’ by your computer’s clock, to see if you really do need everything to start up at once. Also, check and see if your anti-virus software is set to perform a scan each morning, perhaps changing the schedule to during your lunch break instead. If computer slowness is a constant problem, then a software tune-up or additional memory could improve the performance for less than the cost of a new computer.

Lost your internet connection? Intermittent internet connection faults are very frustrating and can be caused by any number of things between your internet provider and your computer. Keep a log of any drop-outs and call your internet provider to check if there is a fault on your cable or phone line (especially for ADSL). Ensure that all of your telephones and faxes have ADSL filters. And, if you also have wireless access to your internet that is provided by another ‘box’, follow this method to get things up and running again after a drop out: 1) Power off your internet modem and your wireless router. 2) Power on your internet modem. 3) Wait for the ADSL light to be solid (approx. 40 seconds). 4) Power on your wireless router.

Talk to your local Computer Troubleshooter about any other little problems – they may be easy and inexpensive to solve!


September 17th, 2009 in Blog | No Comments

School-aged children quickly learn to make friends, display preferences and establish their own social circles. This interaction used to take place in person, via notes or letters, or via the home telephone. Affordable technology has now provided our children with new methods of communicating, including ‘online’ via various methods on the internet and also through personal cellphone text messages.

Unfortunately, those communication channels can also be used as a channel for harassment or bullying, bringing this childhood threat out from the school playground and into our homes.

Cyber-bullying can range from unwanted negative remarks to threats and disclosure of personal information and can include:

· repeatedly making fun of another person on internet websites;

· repeatedly picking on another person through emails, text messages or instant messages;

· using internet forums and postings messages online intended to harm, damage, humiliate or isolate another person that they don’t like

· posting unflattering photos of someone on a website to embarrass them.

Tips for children:

· Just like in real life, there is a difference between what is right and what is wrong on the internet.   If something doesn’t feel right, tell someone that you trust.

· Never give out your real information on the internet (especially your name, school etc) or tell anyone your passwords.

· Create a free email address (like Gmail or Hotmail) and use that for internet websites. If someone uses it to harass you, it’s easy to just delete that address.

· On sites like Facebook and MySpace, keep your profile private.

· Refuse to support cyberbullying – don’t pass on hurtful messages and tell your friends to stop. Treat people with respect, like you want to be treated.

Tips for parents:

· For younger children, keep the computer in a common area where you can watch them.

· Talk to your children about what they are doing online. Learn about the technology that they are using like instant messaging and social websites.

· Tell your children that bullying is not right and it’s not their fault. Encourage them to tell you about anything that is bothering them and reassure them that they won’t be in trouble with you.

More resources:

Cyber-bullying is a popular topic, with many groups, governments and schools providing information through various websites. Here are a few examples:

www.stopcyberbullying.org www.cyberbullying.org www.cyberbully411.org http://www.microsoft.com/protect/family/activities/social.mspx

Talk to your local Computer Troubleshooter about how you can protect your family online.