Info Advantage Blog

Info Advantage was formed in 1992 for the purpose of specializing in Information Technology consulting, which encompasses business solution development, software development, and platform support from IBM’s midrange to a growing number of Intel based solutions.

6 PC Troubleshooting Guidelines that Every User Should Know

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When was the last time that you ran into a problem that was easily solvable, simply by restarting your computer or unplugging a device from the wall, then plugging it back in? Often times, simple troubleshooting tactics can be enough to resolve a problem, but more often than not, there are issues that can’t be easily resolved. It’s these ones that hold businesses back, and we’re here to help.

Next time you run into a PC problem that you just can’t wrap your head around, try out these six troubleshooting tips.

 

  • Keep things simple: You’d be surprised by how often some of the most common problems with technology can be resolved by simply restarting it. Reset the hardware or application, check to see if the machine is plugged in properly, shut the machine down, or reboot it. After all, there’s no real reason to go through in-depth troubleshooting practices if the problem can be easily resolved with a restart.
  • If others tried it, try it anyway: Sometimes you’ll be passed a problem that’s been tested by other people within your organization. Thinking it will help you narrow down the problem, they’ll list off what they have or haven’t done. While this might be helpful, you should trust your own judgement - perhaps they didn’t perform a process correctly, or maybe they say that they’ve tried it, but really haven’t. Don’t leave any stone unturned.
  • PEBKAC (user error): This issue, “problem exists between keyboard and chair,” is a common reason why you might be unable to diagnose what the real problem is. ZDNet estimates that about 80 percent of problems are due to user errors, which means that the one at fault might not be technology at all. In these cases, it’s important to accept that you might be wrong and work towards whatever the solution might be.
  • Replicate the issue: In order to best understand a problem, sometimes it’s helpful to try to remake the issue. After all, if you know how a problem starts, you might be able to best learn how to fix it. Ask your end-users how the symptoms showed up, and what they were doing when disaster struck.
  • Fix vs replace: Your IT budget needs to be considered when you’re choosing to either implement new technology, or to fix recurring issues with your old solutions. You need to understand where the fine line between fixing or replacing lies. It makes no sense to purchase new technology if there’s still life left in your current solutions. On the other hand, hardware refreshes can be considered when you’re looking for ways to improve operations and get rid of old technology that’s no longer functional or needed.
  • Seek professional assistance: If you can’t resolve a problem on your own, you need to realize that it’s often more advantageous to seek out professional help, rather than waste valuable time and resources by doing it yourself. Remember, there’s no shame in asking for help when it’s needed. Businesses often do this with their IT, as it can get quite technical and challenging for those who aren’t specifically trained on its best practices. Instead, outsourcing it eliminates this responsibility so that you can focus on your business.

Info Advantage can be your outsourced IT experts. To learn more, reach out to us at (585) 254-8710.

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Details on Massive Hardware Flaws in Intel Processors Released, Fix May Cause Major Computer Slowdowns

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Details for a security vulnerability thought to affect almost every Intel processor made in the last decade have recently been released, and the outlook is not good. While there are updates on the way to fix the flaws, experts believe that a patch may slow down computers by up to 30%.

According to The Register, where the information was first publically released, the Intel vulnerability allows hackers to access areas of the computer that shouldn’t be reachable. The flaws, known as Meltdown and Spectre, directly affects the kernel memory of the Intel chip.

Meltdown breaks the isolation between applications and the OS, allowing hackers to access the memory of programs and the OS itself. Spectre breaks the isolation between different applications down, allowing a hacker to trick error-free programs to leaking information.

These flaws allow apps to detect and read the operating system codes, look into other app’s memory banks, or even leak personal information such as passwords, login information, files, and more.

The patch will make the affected kernel completely invisible, but this comes at a price. According to The Register, making the kernel invisible would add a new process that will increase its overhead, slowing down the computer.

Since the problem is with the hardware itself, nothing short of an OS-level fix will be required for the affected operation systems, including Windows, Linus, and Mac. So far Windows has released an emergency patch for Windows 10, with patches for Windows 7 and Windows 8 to come next week. However, there seem to be some issues caused by some anti-virus softwares that can result in bluescreen errors.

Apple says they have also addressed the majority of their flaws with their last OS update, and they are currently testing new tweaks for their next update. Linux developers have also created a set of patches.

In addition to operating systems, many cloud services companies will need to release updates in order to keep themselves protected against the vulnerability. Microsoft Azure, Amazon AWS, and Google Cloud Platform have all reported that they are working on implementing new updates to bulk up security against Meltdown and Spectre. However, they have all stated that the impact of proposed update and have found that they have very little affect on performance in their benchmark tests.

If you want to know more about how these vulnerabilities may affect you and your business, call us at (585) 254-8710 to learn more about how you can strengthen your technology security.

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Google Releases New Business Extensions for Gmail Users

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Google has just released a handful of new extensions for their Gmail client aimed to help aid professionals that use Gmail for their day-to-day business. Here’s a brief look into the new extensions, and what they can do to help rev up your productivity.

Asana – Allows you to turn important emails into tasks and assign specific responsibilities and track them directly through Gmail. With Asana you can create tasks, assign team members to the task, set due dates, and include attachments. Any updates will be synced automatically without having to leave the mailbox.

Dialpad – A business communication tool that allows you to call or text directly from Gmail. You can use these features on a variety of devices, and even switch a call from desktop to mobile if you’re on the go. You can also view history, or save contacts directly from a Gmail message.

DocuSign (Coming Soon) - Allows you to sign and execute any business documents, such as contracts or agreements.

Hire – A recruitment tool that allows you to distribute job opportunities, find the right candidates, and manage the interview process from the Gmail client. It integrates with many of the other Google solutions, including Google Search, Calendar, Docs, Sheets, and Hangouts.

QuickBooks Invoicing – Enables you to send Quickbook invoices directly into a GMail message, allowing your clients to pay online with credit cards or bank transfers.

ProsperWorks – A CRM tool focused on design, usability, and automation that lets users use Gmail as the core of their workflow. The Add-on allows users to view contact and activities directly on your email, and works on a variety of different platforms.

RingCentral – This extension chooses contextual information within a user’s Gmail threads. It also allows you to see the online/offline status of contacts, review call history, make calls, and send SMS messages.

Smartsheet – Helps users keep track of important emails and add attachments to new or existing rows in Smartsheet.

Streak – Another CRM tool that lets you run the entire sales process through your email. It is flexible enough to aid with sales, recruiting, customer support, project management and even fundraising.

Trello – A list-making tool that can turn emails into to-do’s automatically. This can be used for tracking sales leads, managing customer feedback, event planning, and more.

Wrike – A project management extension that allows you to write, view, and edit tasks. You can also write and receive Wrike comments directly from you Gmail account.

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Three Tips to Help Keep Your Data Safe on the Internet

Three Tips to Help Keep Your Data Safe on the Internet

The public internet is vast, with over one billion websites already established, and more and more created every day. While being connected to the internet has its undeniable benefits, there is also a constant threat that puts our sensitive information at risk: hackers. These cyber criminals will do anything they can to try and steal your personal information, and once they have it, it can be difficult to recover. Luckily, there are a few simple methods every internet user can utilize to keep themselves safe from a hack attack.

Enable Two-Factor Authentication Where Available

Many popular sites such as Facebook, Twitter, and Ebay are now embracing an extra layer of login security with their two-factor authentication methods. This process is activated when you try to login to your account using a device that isn’t recognized by the site. In order to confirm your identity, the user will get sent an authentication code through a verified contact point such as email or text message. This ensures that no un-recognized source can access your information unless they also had access to your second form of contact.

Secure a Site Using HTTPs

These days we don’t often type out the full website address we are looking for, as most browsers will automatically fill in the correct address or send you to a search engine to point you in the right direction. However, there is a hidden benefit to typing out an address, and it can be as easy as adding a single letter. When adding a ‘s’ to the end of http (hypertext transfer protocol,) the browser will encrypt any and all information sent between the server and the user. While many modern browsers add the ‘s’ to a site’s address on their own, you can ensure that you’ll always have a secure connection by downloading apps or programs that will automatically make the switch for you.

Keep Browsers and Devices Updated

Typically, updates are direct responses to issues or vulnerabilities that have been discovered on your program or device. Therefore, it is critically important that you always run trusted updates as quickly as possible. Outdated versions of browsers or mobile operating systems are often an easy entry-point for hackers, allowing them to exploit the known security holes. If you’re not sure whether or not you’re completely updated, many browsers and operating systems have a service that will automatically update as soon as new versions are released.

Worried about the safety of your sensitive data being sent over the public internet? Contact Info Advantage today at (585) 254-8710 to speak to a security professional about how you can strengthen your network security!

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4 Rules Every Remote-Worker Should Follow

4 Rules Every Remote-Worker Should Follow

With today’s great technology solutions, working remotely is no longer just a dream. Many businesses have either a partial or a complete remote staff, and it’s all held together by modern technology solutions. However, even with the latest tech, the remote worker still has to invest in their own success. If you work remotely, here are four ways that you can maximize your productivity and keep yourself from getting in the way of your best work.

Have a Dedicated Office
You might have your own cubicle or office space at your workplace, but when you work remotely, you often have to get creative. You could turn a booth at a restaurant into a workspace, or your living room sofa into your office. However, this is often counterproductive and distracting. Instead of hoping to get work done away from your desk, you should arrange to have a dedicated home office with lots of space and privacy. This should be the place where you go to get good, solid work done; where all of your files and technology solutions are located. Also, it helps to avoid working in busy public places whenever possible, like coffee shops and restaurants.

Set Specific Rules for Your Family and Visitors
If you’re going to work remotely, this will often mean setting up a home office where you can go to get your best work done. If you have a family that’s always at home, it can be distracting. You need to set clear boundaries so that they know when it’s a good time to drop by your office. Furthermore, it’s a good idea to limit what you should be doing during the workday. It’s one thing to take a short break to handle some minor chores, but another entirely to get distracted by multiple large tasks. Working remotely is a privilege, and as such, you need to stay productive in order to retain this flexibility.

Keep Working Until the End of Your Shift
When you work remotely, you might have the impression that taking an early-out might not be a big issue. However, this can be a slippery slope; one day you’ll start taking more and more time off of the end of the day, and before you know it, your work performance will suffer and you won’t have anyone to blame but yourself. Plus, if you continuously abuse this privilege, you might ruin the opportunity to work remotely for the rest of your coworkers.

Use the Right Technology Solutions
Remote workers are only as effective as the tools that they use to get work done. This is why businesses often have to implement proper technology solutions, like virtual private networks and Voice over Internet Protocol communications, to ensure maximum protection for their investments and productivity for their employees. If your organization could use a tech revamp to accommodate remote workers, Info Advantage can help.

For more information about how to keep your remote workers productive, contact us at (585) 254-8710.

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