Tuesday, November 27, 2007

QuickTips on Preventative Maintenance

Banish the Blue Screen of Death with Preventative Maintenance

Yes, this is the "eat your vegetables" lecture where we explain why it's important to act on computer-related problems before they spiral out of control. Has your computer been running slowly lately? Are you getting strange error messages when you try certain operations? Don't wait for the dreaded Blue Screen of Death (BSoD) to start thinking about patches, updates, and other routine maintenance tasks.

If you're waiting until something's broken until you fix it, you're already too late. Technology-related downtime means lost productivity, lost revenue opportunities, and increased IT expenses. And while we at CMIT Solutions love coming to the rescue in any computer emergency, the fact is that most "emergencies" don't have to happen. A little time and investment up front can save big expenses later on.

But it's a pain to sit down and make sure every computer on your network is patched and updated and current on licenses, right? You've got a busy life and a lot of more pressing concerns than installing the latest Internet Explorer update.

That's why you should look into a service that can perform monitoring and maintenance, nipping many of the most common network problems in the bud. A good, basic preventative maintenance program will include the following:

  • 24/7 monitoring
  • Remote remediation
  • Automatic software patches and updates
  • Virus and spyware detection and removal

Services like CMIT Marathon charge a low monthly rate that pales in comparison to what you'd otherwise spend on emergency IT calls. You can offload the burden of troubleshooting, securing, and maintaining your company's network and concentrate on the important things - like actually running your business.

For more information on CMIT Marathon, click here.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

QuickTips on Productivity Tools

Clip Utilities Make It Fast and Easy to do Multiple Copy-and-Pastes

Have you ever lost an important phone number, address, or piece of data because you copied it and then forgot to paste it before copying something else? Do you find yourself filling out the same Web forms over and over again, copying and pasting the same few data fields? Then you need a utility that can store multiple copied items.


If you use Copy, Cut, or Paste commands in Windows, you're using the Windows Clipboard. It's a handy utility, but it has a few shortcomings. It only stores one item at a time, so each new copy replaces the last. It forgets things you copied in between sessions -- shutting off your computer effectively wipes your Clipboard clean. And you can't easily preview data in the Clipboard; you have to do a Paste to see what's on there.


Fortunately, a number of free and paid clip utilities can store and edit the text, images, or URLS you frequently copy and paste. Think of them as your usual clipboard on steroids. They keep a record of the last several items you’ve copied so that you can just paste them at the click of a button. Take a look at one of Download.com’s most popular clip utilities, 

the M8 Free Multi Clipboard.

This utility gives you a preview of the clip you’re about to paste. Just click where you want it to go, and voila. It works for up to 25 clips of graphics, text, URLs, you name it. And it lets you paste JPEGs straight into an Outlook email instead of forcing you to attach them.

Paid utilities offer even more functionality. Rose City Software’s Clip Cache Pro allows you to edit and format clips on the fly. For example, it can strip the indentations out of forwarded emails to render them readable again.

The big benefit of these utilities is that, instead of spending your life hitting Ctrl-C, Ctrl-V, and instead of hunting for that one URL you copied down a few hours ago, you’ll have all those snippets at your fingertips. Go to Download.com for more free utilities and check out Lifehacker.com for personal productivity tips.

FW: QuickTips on Foiling Spam at Work from Evan Stein

Don't Let Spam Wreck Your Business

Even small businesses have to be on the Web these days, and chances are you rely pretty heavily on mobile devices - cell phones, PDAs, or laptops - to get your work done.  That means spammers have more ways than ever to reach you.  Here are a few spam and spam-related annoyances you should be aware of, and how to fix them:

Regular old spam.  Spammers have two main ways to get your address: they either auto-generate random addresses, hoping they'll reach a real inbox, or they harvest addresses from Web sites.  There's nothing you can do about auto generators, but you can make it harder for spammers to figure out what your email address is.  Wherever you list your contact information on your corporate Web site, make sure to render your email address in a form that people can make sense of but that will stump automated crawlers looking for typical email configurations.  For example, instead of displaying your email address as "info@company.com", type it out in words as "info at company dot com".  Better yet, just include a web form for people to fill out if they want more information.  The people who want to reach your company will fill out the form, and the unsavory types (and robots) will give up and move on to the next potential victim.

Image spam. Spammers have long since gotten wise to the fact that filters catch many of their keywords and intentional misspellings.  So now, instead of text emails, spammers send out emails that look like text when in fact they're HTML code that displays the image of text.  As a result, it slips by all of your company's keyword filters ...but you can still read the message and be annoyed by it.  Fortunately, most email programs now allow you to turn off automatic HTML rendering, which prevents you from downloading the image in the first place.

Bluetooth spam.  If you use a Bluetooth-enabled phone, you're at risk for two kinds of hassle - one of which is merely an annoyance and one of which is illegal.  "Bluejacking" allows someone with a Bluetooth-enabled device to push an unsolicited message to anyone else on a Bluetooth device within range.  You might be on the receiving end of some goofy guerilla marketing campaigns and your phone bill might go up if you get a barrage of unexpected text messages, but you're unlikely to suffer permanent harm.  "Bluesnarfing," on the other hand, can actually be dangerous to your privacy.  This is when another Bluetooth user actually accesses and steals the information on your phone such as your contacts and any other personal data you have stored on it.  Right now it's not a huge problem, because the thief has to maintain uninterrupted contact with your device at close range (about 10 meters) for 2-3 minutes.  That sets the bar pretty high for all but the most committed data hounds.  Still, if you're worried about it, you can disable Bluetooth when you aren't using it (which saves battery life anyhow) or make yourself "undiscoverable" (meaning you're undetectable to other Bluetooth devices).

Can You Stop Spam for Good?

Unfortunately, spam is - like cold calls and carpal tunnel syndrome - just a part of doing business in the modern age.  But you can take measures to ensure you aren't wasting valuable work hours deleting piles of emails you never asked for.

First, fly low on the radar: make sure your Web site publishes your email address in a form that's only readable to humans, and disable your mobile device's Bluetooth when you aren't using it.  Second, sign yourself up for a reliable spam filtering service that will catch the unsolicited email you receive and route it to a junk mail box so that you don't have to look at it.  CMIT Solutions' Spam Filtering Service with Total Control offers easy, reliable spam protection for a low monthly cost. 


Practical Cybersecurity Advice

Practical Cybersecurity Advice for Small Businesses

Just because your business is small, it doesn't mean you are immune to Internet threats. The number of attacks on small businesses is growing, leaving many business operations in a state of disarray.

If your small business is like many, it is extremely dependent upon technology and electronically stored data. Many of the steps you need to take to secure your information infrastructure won't cost your business money, or even much time.

The following are practical considerations and security precautions you should take to maintain the security of your information assets.

  • Use Strong Passwords — Passwords are the most common method of authenticating users to provide entry into a computer system. Cracking passwords is a way hackers can gain unauthorized access to your computer network. For that reason, you need a strong password that is hard to guess.  A strong password is at least eight characters and includes a combination of lowercase and uppercase letters, digits, and symbols. Sometimes trying to integrate that combination can create some not-so-easy-to-remember passwords. Here's a tip that might help create a more memorable password: Try replacing S's with dollar signs ($) and O's with zeros (0). Require users to employ a different password for each service or system they are accessing, and make sure everyone changes passwords every 45-60 days. And finally, do not write down passwords and leave them lying out in the open.
  • Be a Smart Email User — Email is fraught with potential security risks—in fact, most security threats are spread by email. Even if you have an antivirus solution in place, occasionally an infected message will manage to get through. To avoid infection, you should never use the preview pane function in your email program, never open attachments in emails from unknown senders, and even if you recognize the sender, you should still scrutinize the attachments before opening. If the attachment ends in an unusual extension—do not open it. Spam is also a prevalent problem and for that reason, you should never open junk mail. Do not reply to unsolicited emails, even if you are trying to unsubscribe—this only lets the spammers know that you have successfully received their message so they will continue to send more spam. Also, be on the lookout for phishing scams—emails that look like legitimate messages from places—such as banks that try to get you to divulge your personal information. Do not perpetuate spam by forwarding virus warnings and chain letters you receive-via email.
  • Be Alert When Browsing the Web — Be careful and alert when you are on the Internet—otherwise you could expose your business to unnecessary threats. Enable the security settings on your Web browser—you can usually find these settings in the Preferences menu. Do not enable file sharing, which can open the door to viruses and intrusion. You should also be very cautious when giving out personal information online. Even though a Web site claims to be secure, if you don't see a small padlock or key icon in the toolbar, and the page's URL does not begin with https: rather than http:, do not provide any sensitive information. That's because the page is not secure, and the information you provide will not be encrypted and thus vulnerable to interception. And whatever you do, do not click on any pop-up advertisements.
  • Use Antivirus Software — Antivirus software is still the best way to stay protected against today's viruses, worms, and Trojan horses. Antivirus software should be installed on all servers, desktops, and laptops—including devices used to make remote connections to your network. Remember, simply having the antivirus installed is not enough—for maximum protection from the latest threats, you should check for new virus definitions daily, and also perform weekly system scans.
  • Use a Firewall — Think about all of the important and sensitive information that lives in your small business network. Did you know that whenever you connect a computer to the Internet, a pipeline directly into your network opens up? Without a firewall, you are putting that information at risk. A firewall is essentially a protective wall around your network that keeps the information inside the network private and secure by constantly monitoring all data flowing in and out, looking for irregularities or signs of trouble. Be sure to use a network firewall, and also install a personal firewall on each computer. If you or your employees are accessing your network remotely, make sure the remote devices are equipped with a firewall because they will not be protected by the network firewall. Firewalls are available as software or hardware, and although they perform almost the same function, every small business should have both kinds. Excerpts from Symantec Small Business Library.


QuickTips on Date/Time in MS Office

Current Date and Time

Use these keyboard shortcuts to easily insert the current date and time into your Microsoft Office documents.

Microsoft Word

  • Alt + Shift + D will insert the current date into your document.
  • Alt + Shift + T will insert the current time into your document.

Microsoft PowerPoint

  • Use either of the above key combinations for MS Word to bring up the Date and Time window where you can choose what format to insert the current date and time onto your PowerPoint slide.


Microsoft Excel

  • Ctrl + ; (semicolon) will insert the current date into your worksheet.
  • Ctrl + Shift + : (colon) will insert the current time into your worksheet.

And speaking of date and time... Remember Daylight Saving Time (DST) will end on November 4, 2007.  

It is important to make sure that your computer systems are appropriately updated to reflect the changes in Daylight Saving Time this year.  Pay particular attention to appointments you have scheduled on your computer between October 28 to November 4.


Microsoft Outlook Email Tips

Here are a few quick tips from CMIT to customize your use of Microsoft Outlook. These tricks will help you manage that email inbox when there are so many messages coming and going in a normal business day.

Do you ever wish you could set yourself a reminder to reply to an email? Here's how:
  1. Right-click the message you want to set the reminder for.
  2. Point to Follow Up.
  3. Click Add Reminder.
  4. In the Due By list, click the date when you have to complete the reply.
  5. In the second list, click a time.
  6. In the Flag Color list, click the flag color you want.
  7. Click OK.

Is there any way to add your own words to a follow-up flag on a new message? Yes, there is! Follow these simple steps.

  1. Click the Message Flag button.
  2. Type the text you want in the Flag to box.

Send your message to multiple people without revealing other recipients' identities. This one is important for following good email etiquette.

  1. Use the Bcc line in the message.
  2. Bcc stands for Blind Carbon Copy.
  3. If you add someone's name to the Bcc line, a copy of the message is sent to that person, but his or her name is not visible to other recipients.

Bcc is not showing up in the New Message window. How do you add it?

  1. If you have Microsoft Office Outlook 2007: In the new message, on the Message Options tab, in the Fields group, click Show Bcc.
  2. If you have Microsoft Outlook 2002 or 2003 and Microsoft Word is your email editor: Click the arrow to the right of the Options button, then click Bcc.
  3. If you have Microsoft Outlook 2002 or 2003 and Outlook is your email editor: On the View menu, click Bcc Field.