Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Facebook's Recent Malware Flare-up

Koobface Rears Its Ugly Head ... Again

As one of the most popular social networking sites on the Internet, Facebook has attracted its fair share of attention from hackers and malware programmers. Hackers are pretty practical people, after all, so they target high-traffic sites where they'll have the biggest opportunity to do the most damage. That's why it's particularly important to be on your guard whenever you see strange-looking comments or links on your Facebook page -- chances are pretty good that you should avoid them or risk infection.


The latest worm to hit Facebook is called "Koobface," and it's the resurgence of a worm that originally made headlines in July. This piece of malware spreads itself through messages sent to friends of infected users. These messages direct the reader to look at a video, and when the user clicks the link to the video, they're told they need to update their version of Flash. If they click the link to download the update, they don't get a new version of Flash -- they install a worm that looks at your search queries and directs you to bogus sites.


Since Koobface surfaced about a week ago, Facebook has been working diligently to correct the problem: "We're working quickly to update our security systems to minimize any further impact, including resetting passwords on infected accounts, removing the spam messages and coordinating with third parties to remove redirects to malicious content elsewhere on the Web," a spokesman said in an email.


Facebook keeps a security blog that's worth reading -- it contains updates on new threats and valuable security advice. If you've been infected by the Koobface worm, they recommend doing an antivirus scan and resetting your Facebook password.  As ever, the most important thing you can do to combat malware is resist clicking on suspicious-looking links in the future.


Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Doing Mass Mailings in a Snap


Master the Mail Merge and Save Time This Holiday Season

It's a well-known fact that December is by far the busiest month for the US Postal Services -- and chances are it's your business's biggest month for mailings, too. Whether it's seasonal greetings, end-of-the-year reports, or just the usual old invoices, your mailings can really get big this time of year. If you're tired of addressing envelopes by hand or going through your own labor-intensive workarounds in order to avoid the intimidating Mail Merge feature in Microsoft Word, now is the time to figure it out once and for all. Once you've mastered it (and it's a lot easier now, thanks to the Mail Merge wizard in Word), you'll save untold amounts of time, and you'll have the opportunity to review, update, and organize your business contacts at the same time.


The ins and outs of Mail Merge are far too extensive to cover in a single QuickTip, so instead we'll give you a basic overview and pointers on where to find more information.


Plainly put, a mail merge pulls data from a source such as Outlook, Access, or even an Excel spreadsheet, and it plugs that data into a defined format such as mailing labels or form letters with personalized salutations. So the trick is mainly in assigning the proper fields and making sure that you've got your end destination (usually in Word) looking for the right information in the right place.


If you use Outlook as your data source, you can create contact categories and then sort by those categories. Individual contacts can belong to several categories at once, so if you want a customer to get your monthly print newsletter plus your holiday card, you can create categories called "Newsletter" and "Holiday Card" and then assign both to that customer. Here's how to create a new category in Outlook 2003.


Here's the full Microsoft tutorial detailing how to do a mail merge. It takes 40-50 minutes to complete the tutorial, but that could still be a lot less time than you could spend trying to figure it out yourself!


Here's another good Microsoft resource that walks you through a mail merge in Word 2003 and 2002.


Wednesday, December 3, 2008

How Help Desk Services Can Reduce User Support Issues and Keep Your IT Staff Happy

What Can A Help Desk Do For Your Company?

What is a help desk?


A help desk is a staff of customer support engineers who are available to answer end-user questions and remotely resolve common IT problems. A help desk acts as a natural complement to existing IT staff by taking frequent user issues off their plate so that they can concentrate fully on more pressing problems.


In other words, a help desk reduces the burden of everyday user problems on your in-house staff, provides end-user support to employees, logs the calls for you, and escalates the issues they can’t resolve alone. Your technical staff can focus on projects and tasks that deliver more value to the business. 


How does a help desk work?


A good help desk works on both an inbound and an outbound basis. In other words, they aren’t just taking service calls – they’re actively reaching out to you to resolve issues.


PC users may frequently interrupt an in-house tech with issues the help desk could address. In this situation, the in-house tech can contact the help desk and ask them to reach out to the user. The help desk creates a ticket in their service desk management software and calls the user. That way it’s fully tracked and logged, but you don’t have to devote valuable time to resolving it.


What frequent user problems can a help desk address?

The CMIT Help Desk assists with tasks such as:

  • New email user setup
  • Network connection problems
  • Printer connection and setting problems
  • Software and new hardware configuration
  • Active Directory setup on servers

What’s the number one reason I might need a help desk?


Because a smart business manages its time – and its personnel – well. A help desk lets you make better use of your time while keeping your users supported, efficient, and productive.


Friday, November 21, 2008

Keyboard Shortcuts

Your Keyboard Can Do More Than You Think It Can

Every now and again we like to revisit the perennial topic of keyboard shortcuts, because even expert users can benefit from a refresher every now and again. If you’ve ever seen your office computer guru switching between windows and performing complex editing tasks using just the keyboard, you know how useful just a few of these tricks can be. We’ve put in our favorite shortcuts below – but go to Microsoft Support for the full list. You’ll be amazed at how much you can do without ever touching your mouse. (And if you ever have a mouse driver problem, you’ll still be able to work while you’re remedying the issue.)


All Caps                                 CTRL+SHIFT+A

Change Case                           SHIFT+F3

Change Window                     ALT+TAB

Close Window                        CTRL+W

Copy                                       CTRL+C

Create New Document           CTRL+N

Cut                                          CTRL+X

Date Field                               ALT+SHIFT+D

Doc Maximize                         CTRL+F10

Find                                         CTRL+F

Hanging Indent                       CTRL+T

Hyperlink                                CTRL+K

Next Misspelling                     ALT+F7

Open Saved Document           CTRL+O

Paste                                        CTRL+V

Save                                        CTRL+S or SHIFT+F12 or ALT+SHIFT+F2

Save As                                   F12

Select All                                CTRL+A

Spellcheck                               F7

Thesaurus                                SHIFT+F7

Time Field                               ALT+SHIFT+T

Keyboard shortcuts will spare your wrists from excessive mousing strain – and they will save you time, as well. Save your mouse for navigating the Web or working with specialized software. For general Office tasks like Word and Excel, you can almost always do what you’re doing faster if you know the right shortcuts!


Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Technology Tricks You Can Borrow from the Presidential Candidates

It's Election Day!


This has been the most technology-driven presidential campaign in history. Both candidates have extremely sophisticated campaign web sites with significant e-commerce and social networking components. The campaigns have used text messages for important announcements and taken advantage of YouTube and online media to distribute political ads. They're also using advanced data-mining to target specific demographics for messaging and get-out-the-vote efforts.


Politicians, in other words, have borrowed more than a few technology tricks out of the modern marketer's playbook. Web and mobile technologies have become vital means of promotion, communications, and networking.


You can use these same techniques to help your business. For example:


1.      Make sure your Web page is readable on a cellphone-based Web browser.

2.      Establish a Facebook page for your business and update it periodically with events and announcements.

3.      Create instructional videos to demonstrate expertise in your field and post them on YouTube. If your video is particularly interesting, entertaining, or helps people solve an important problem, your video could go viral!

4.      Hold online seminars to educate existing and potential customers.

5.      Take a look at your marketing list and segment it by area, industry, and size. Look for patterns and adjust your list accordingly.


Technology can be one of your best tools when it comes to persuasion. Don't just take it from us -- take it from Barack Obama and John McCain!



Monday, November 3, 2008

WARNING: Virus Alert

Caution: New Virus Claiming to Be Your Antivirus Program

XP Antivirus 2008, XP Antivirus 2009, and XPAntiVirus are rogue antivirus programs that, when run, display false results as a tactic to scare you into purchasing the software. Older versions of XP Antivirus would create 9 entries in your Windows Registry that impersonate infections on your machine.


In reality, though, these registry entries were harmless and had absolutely no effect on your computer. Instead, these entries were set so that XP AntiVirus can find them when scanning your computer and report them as infections. The newer of versions of the program , such as XP Antivirus 2008 and XP Antivirus 2009, instead just display false results when scanning your computer that state infections were found. In order to remove these fake infections, though, you would first need to purchase the software as the trial does not allow you to remove them.


Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Avoiding Halloween Email Tricks

This Halloween, Keep Spooky Emails At Bay

It seems like virtually every holiday now comes with an outbreak of computer viruses as people click on "holiday greetings" from strangers. Don't get tricked this Halloween when you're expecting a treat! Be on the lookout for suspicious messages and brush up on a few perennial good email habits:

  1. If you don't recognize the name of the sender or if the subject line is garbled or misspelled, don't open it.
  1. Set your email so that it doesn't automatically display HTML. You can approve the emails whose images you want to see -- for example, newsletters from trusted sources like CMIT! -- while filtering out images you'd rather not see.
  1. Do not send confidential personal information over email. This includes credit card numbers, bank account numbers, and Social Security numbers. 
  1. Don't forward along chain mails. They're a nuisance at best, and at worst can serve as a mechanism for spreading viruses. If you're added to somebody's address book through a chain email, a virus from their computer that spreads by sending a message to all their contacts could end up in your inbox.
  1. Regularly run a virus/spyware scan and download the updates -- after all, your anti-virus/anti-spyware protection is only as good as its last update! File scans do tend to slow down your computer, so you should schedule them for when you know you'll be away for a while. Of course, if you computer is being protected by CMIT's Marathon services, we've got you covered and you don't have to worry about scheduling scans or updating - it's all done automatically.


Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Quick Excel Shortcut That Makes It Easy to Re-Order Lists

Rearrange Items in Excel By Dragging and Dropping

Excel is one of the most powerful programs in the Microsoft Office suite -- and for many users, it's also one of the most intimidating. Let's face it, a lot of the capabilities that really help you make Excel into a lean, mean, productivity machine, like macros and formulas, just aren't intuitive. However, Excel still offers a lot of quick, drag-and-drop features that make simple operations a lot easier.


For example, let's say you have a short list of office supply items:

If you want to rearrange the list and insert Stamps between Adhesive and Paper, you might highlight the row, copy it, click on row 3, and select Insert Copied Cells. But there's an even faster way to do it that doesn't involve drop-down menus.


Just highlight the cells you want to move, grab the top of the selection border, and hold down the Shift key.

You can then drop them into place and all the cells below will automatically move down.

If you don't hold down the Shift key, Excel will ask you if you want to replace the contents of the selected cells. And if you hold down the Ctrl key, Excel will automatically perform a copy of the selected cells.


Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Social Networking for Your Business

Use MySpace and Facebook to Promote Your Business -- Responsibly

If you’re a small, locally owned business without a lot of formal tech staff, you may be just as likely to have a page on MySpace or Facebook as you are to have a Web page. A MySpace profile is easy to set up and maintain, and these profiles tend to get ranked fairly well by Google if there isn’t a lot of other information about you on the Web. But wading into the murky waters of social networking when you’re a business can carry certain risks. That’s why it’s good to stick to a few core principles:

  1. Professionalism. Make sure your employees know what’s acceptable and what’s not acceptable to post – in terms of both content and images. If you run a small brew pub and want local businesses to know you’re available for hosting corporate events, don’t post pictures of your bartender cavorting goofily with patrons.
  1. It’s all connected. Be extra careful about who you “Friend” through these services. The last thing you need is for your reputable business to be affiliated online, however tenuously, with someone unsavory. Make sure employees know only to connect to other businesses or to people whose profiles are professional and in good taste.
  1. Protect your confidential information. Obviously you’ll want to publish general contact information so that potential clients can reach your business. But other information – like a staff directory that shows a clear chain of command and individual phone numbers – should stay firmly offline in order to discourage your competition, headhunters, and others from learning too much about your company.

4.    Stay protected from spyware and viruses. On more than one occasion an outbreak of malware has plagued popular social networking sites. If you’re going to use one of these sites to promote your business, you should take extra precautions to make sure your and your employees’ computers have up-to-date virus definitions and security patches. That way when you’re updating your page or networking on behalf of your business, you’ll still be safe.  



Thursday, October 2, 2008

Preventing a Hacker from Resetting YOUR Email Password

How to Prevent Password Resets

Several weeks ago we all read the headlines about a hacker accessing one of the vice presidential candidate's personal Yahoo! email account. It turned out the hacker didn’t even need to use fancy coding maneuvers or computer wizardry. Instead, he used one of the oldest tricks in the privacy-invasion book: he changed the password to their account.


Many online services that require a login and registration include some means of retrieving your password in case you ever lose or forget it. First you have to offer up some identifying information. Once the service has concluded that you are who you say you are, it will either remind you of your password or provide you with a new one. Either way, it can be pretty easy for an impostor to get access to your account.


In the case of the vice presidential candidate's account, the hacker was asked to answer a simple question that was easily found through basic Internet research.


What can you do to avoid some online ne’er-do-well from accessing your personal accounts through a password reset? A couple of things:

  1. Choose identifying questions that aren't easily answered through basic Internet research. If you keep a blog about Italian cooking, don't make your identifying question about your favorite kind of food.
  1. Invent answers to your identifying questions and keep a separate list. Just because your mother’s maiden name was Smith doesn’t mean you can’t tell Yahoo it was Jones. Just keep a list so that you have your answers straight. It can be as easy and as old-school as writing down all your questions and answers with a pen and paper and keeping the list in a safe.

Internet security experts have thought for some time that the password reset was among the most easily exploited security measures around, and that’s why many services are doing away with it. In the meantime, you might want to take a few minutes to change your identifying questions and answers so that they aren’t easily cracked.



Wednesday, September 24, 2008

5 Reasons Why We Love Automated Backups

Don't Wait -- Automate!

Are you sure your backups are actually working?

There's one way to find out if your backups are uncorrupted and fully functional -- try doing a full system restore of them. A number of our clients believed they could rely on their backups until we put those backups to the test.


Even though automated backups are a set-and-forget, virtually problem-free solution for protecting data, many businesses still do their backups by hand because switching over to an automated system is just another task on a long and growing list.


More often that not, doing backups on your own means you're not following a set schedule -- you just do it when you (or whoever's responsible for running backups) remember to. Backing up is time consuming and tedious and really one of those tasks that computers were made for anyhow. Let's run down the list of reasons why you should automate your backups if you haven't already:


1. They're regular. Set the schedule and you're good to go -- no more worrying about who's responsible for the backups this week, no more wondering if they remembered to do the backups before they went on vacation, no more putting them off if you're too busy.


2. They're accurate. You don't have to worry about human error, like accidentally saving over data you wanted to preserve, or backing up the wrong files.


3. They're easy. Once you've set up your backup schedule, you'll never have to do it again. And if you sign up for CMIT's Guardian service, we'll do all the setup for you.


4. They're reliable. That's the beauty of automation -- you can rely on your backups to run rain or shine, whether you remember them or not.


5. They're secure. Particularly if you back up to an offsite location, you don't have to worry about disk corruption, theft, or sabotage.


Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Determining If a Tablet PC Is Right For You

Do you need a tablet PC?

Tablet PCs are a highly mobile, easy-to-use computing solution for people who spend a lot of time away from their desks – and an equal amount of time inputting field notes, signed paperwork, and other documents into their computers.


A tablet PC allows you to input information directly through the screen using a digital pen, or “stylus”; some models also come equipped with a regular keyboard. It’s a simple way of interacting that can take a lot of labor out of repetitive tasks.


For example, many doctor’s and dentist’s offices use tablet PCs to make it easier for patients to fill out and sign routine forms. It cuts down on paper use and data entry, thus minimizing the risk that it will be input correctly.


You might also find tablet PCs in frequent use on construction sites, where more rugged models allow people overseeing operations to communicate easily and make instant changes to invoices, work orders, and supply lists.


Or if you’re in an industry where you or your clients have to sign and send a lot of faxes – think insurance, real estate or legal – you can radically simplify your workday with a tablet PC, which you can set up to receive a fax via email, sign using the stylus, and send back through email.


The Dell Latitude XT is one of the thinnest 12.1” convertible (that means it has both a touchscreen and a keyboard) tablets available. It’s versatile, easy to use, and can help make you a lot more productive. Contact us for discounted pricing on tablet PCs.


Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Find Out Who's Talking About You on the Web

Use Google Alerts to Find Out When and Where You're Mentioned on the Web

The folks at Google have invented a lot of useful features to their world-famous search engine. One very handy tool for tracking where you’ve been mentioned on the Web is Google Alerts.


With Google Alerts, you’ll receive periodic email notifications (once a day, once a week, or in real time) when search terms you monitor appear on the Web or in the news. This helps you stay on top of what people are saying about you or your company -- and what they’re saying about your competition or other areas of interest.


Creating a Google Alert is easy: go to On the form that appears, fill out the required fields and select some options from a few drop-downs. That's it! You're ready to go, and your requested notifications will soon start arriving in your inbox.

Say your company is called Hot Dog Industries. Here’s how you’d set up an alert:

By selecting "Comprehensive," you’ll find every mention in the news, on the Web, in blogs, in videos, and in Google Groups discussions.


John Jantsch at Duct Tape Marketing has some recommendations for refining Google Alerts to track different search parameters. Check them out here.


Sunday, August 17, 2008

Making Web Browsing Faster and Easier with RSS Feeds

Use RSS Feeds to Get All Your News
in One Place


If you have to visit a number of news sources and blogs every day for research or to stay on top of the news, you can quickly find yourself overwhelmed. Instead of spending a lot of time clicking around to individual sites looking for fresh content, take advantage of an easier option: RSS feeds.


RSS, or "really simple syndication," is a technology that aggregates Web content and dumps it into a single, simple interface (called a feed reader) so that you can browse all the Web sites and blogs you're interested in – and whenever a new post or article is published, it automatically appears in your reader. (Of course, automatic doesn’t always mean instantaneous – there can be a time lag of between a few minutes and a few hours between the original publisher and your reader of choice.) In short, RSS feeds offer an easy way to stay on top of newly updated content without wasting hours surfing.


Different feed readers use different displays, but most of them feature some riff on the layout Microsoft made popular years ago with Outlook: a column showing a nested file tree on the left, with more detail on the right. For example, here's what the Google Reader looks like. Web sites are listed on the left, with article details on the right.

And here's a screenshot from a Bloglines feed. Again, publications are sorted into folders on the left, with detail on newly updated articles on the right.




If you have Outlook 2007, you can configure it to receive RSS feeds. Click here to find out how. Your RSS feeds appear in their own folder off the same branch as your Inbox, Sent Items, and other popular folders.




No matter which reader you use, you can subscribe to a particular publication's RSS feed by looking for this icon, usually at the bottom of a post or in a prominent spot like the sidebar or masthead:


The newest version of Internet Explorer looks for RSS feeds as soon as it loads a site; if a feed is available, that RSS icon in your Explorer toolbar will appear in color. Just click the icon to subscribe to the feed.


You can also subscribe to feeds by going into your reader, following the directions to add a feed, and entering in the URL of the feed you're interested in.



Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Fake UPS Email That Can Install Spyware on Your System

Don't Open That File! Steer Clear of Emails from 'UPS' about Undelivered Packages


If you've fallen for the latest email scam, you're not alone. Many people trained in good email practices and with a healthy suspicion of unknown senders have wound up with infected computers because of a fake UPS email that's making the rounds.


In this scam, the user gets a message from what looks like the UPS. The message claims that an attachment contains information about an undeliverable package. When the user opens the attached zip file, the file starts downloading trojans and spyware to their computer.


There are a few ways to combat this scam:


1. Most importantly, don't fall for it. The official UPS site makes it easy for you to track packages so that in the event you really are expecting a delivery, you can always go to their site and find out its status. And if you haven't ordered anything delivered via UPS -- junk that email.  The same principles apply for all sorts of email scams, whether it's a phony alert from a financial institution asking you for your bank account number or an email from a purported relative who doesn't seem to know your name.  Be skeptical.  Avoid or delete on receipt any email that is not personalized with your information, is from an unknown recipient, or asks for your personal data.  Any email from an unknown sender, and even email from a family member if it comes with an attachment, should be validated before you open it.  Attachments with file extensions .exe and .vbs are especially dangerous, but of late not even a .pdf can be trusted.


2. Make sure you have anti-virus and anti-spyware software installed and all your definitions updated. A good program will scan every email, every attachment, and everything you download off the web, providing several stop points to avoid downloading a virus.  Products and  update frequencies vary widely, so please do your research or call us if you have questions.


3. Run your virus scan. Then run it again. You may have to run a full scan and removal several times before your system is truly clean.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Diversification Strategy for Your Backups

What is Redundancy, And Why Is It Important?


If you’re beginning to learn about storage and backups, you’ve probably seen a lot about “redundancy.” If something is redundant, that just means there’s more of it than you really need at any one time – which is exactly what you want when it comes to backups. You need extra storage and multiple copies of the same data so that you can retrieve information even if it’s lost or corrupted in a particular location or format.


Think of it as a diversification strategy for storage: by putting your eggs in multiple baskets (or, rather, your data in multiple storage locations), you lessen the chances of ever losing that data for good. For example, high-value corporate documents (contracts, training manuals, accounting files, and so on) should be backed up to your corporate server, a dedicated hard drive, and off site at a remote location. That way you have several levels of redundancy sitting between your data and disaster. If your office floods, you still have your remote copy. If your server fails, you can fall back on your hard drive.


Now, there are all sorts of complexities that come along with this – figuring out what data you need to back up, how often to back up, what level of security you want with a remote storage service, and so on. If you have questions about what storage plan is right for you, just give us a call. We’d be happy to take a look at your network and make a recommendation tailored to the needs of your business.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Helping Your Computer Beat the Summer Heat


Help Your Computer Stay Cool and Running Smoothly


It's summertime, and as the mercury starts to climb, warm temperatures can be harmful to more than just people. Your desktop computer may be at risk of overheating!


Many office buildings shut down their air conditioning on the weekends, which means it can get pretty warm in the office by Sunday night. If you've left your computer on -- a necessity in many office environments for a variety of reasons -- you can take some common-sense measures to keep your computer as cool as possible. Make sure it's situated in a well-ventilated place where the fan can circulate fresh air. Don’t shove it to the back of your desk or against a wall, which will prevent the fan from working properly, and don’t bury it under a mountain of paper, which can act as insulation keeping heat inside the CPU. Check the vent at the back occasionally to make sure it's not clogged or blocked with dust.


If you can't hear the fan running and your computer is very hot to the touch, you could be in the danger zone! Save all your work and shut down your computer so that a tech can investigate the problem before your hard drive overheats and stops functioning.


If you're signed up for CMIT Marathon, our managed services program, we can remotely monitor every hard drive in your office. If we spot a hard drive that's in danger of failing -- due to heat or other problems -- we'll first try to fix the problem remotely. If we can't, we'll send out a tech to investigate the issue on site and swap out your drive if necessary.


Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Signs Your Computer May Be Part of a Bot Net

Telltale Signs Your Computer Has Been Hacked - And Simple Steps You Can Take to Prevent It from Happening


A bot net forms when a hacker gets into your computer and recruits it into a large group of similarly hacked computers (also called a “zombie army”) that are all programmed to follow the hacker’s orders: send out spam, spread viruses, attack web sites, or do other mischief. (Read more about bot nets in this Computerworld article.) Most bot nets run very quietly in the background, only using a small amount of your computer’s processing power in order to avoid tipping you off that it has been compromised. That said, if your computer starts to exhibit the following warning signs, it might be part of a bot net:


  • Your computer seems to be working overtime – the fan is on, the disk is spinning away, but nothing’s happening.
  • It takes a very long time to open programs and perform simple tasks.
  • Your bandwidth slows to a trickle and it seems to take forever to download pages that you know shouldn’t take a long time to load (like Google).
  • Your email client’s Sent Items folder contains messages you’ve never seen.

All of these could be warning signs that your computer is using extra processing power, sucking up bandwidth, and sending out emails unbeknownst to you. So what can you do to stop it – or better yet, prevent it from happening in the first place?


  • Get good anti-virus and anti-spyware protection. Something that will scan both attachments and web pages before downloading, and that will update automatically, tends to be more effective than software that just runs a periodic system scan.
  • If you do have security software that only runs periodic scans, make sure they actually run. System scans often take up a lot of processing power, so they can be a nuisance if you’re trying to work and your computer wants to run a scan. Schedule system scans for nights, weekends, or a time when you aren’t on your computer – and you won’t be tempted to stop a scan before it has fully run.
  • Be careful about downloading attachments and clicking on links in email. An attachment with an .exe file extension should almost certainly be junked – that means it’s an executable file, the most common form of virus out there. In fact, many corporate firewalls won’t even let through this kind of attachment. Similarly, if somebody you don’t know sends you an email saying “Check this out!” with just a link, best to throw that directly in the trash rather than clicking through to a site that attempts to download spyware and viruses onto your computer.


Wednesday, July 2, 2008

How Managed Services Work

Managed Services Let You Declare Independence From Day-to-Day Computer Problems


If you run a small business, you might deal with computer issues in one of these ways:


  • “Hey Margaret!” One employee (and it might be you!) is designated the office computer guru, and he or she is the person everyone asks to fix a printer problem, help out with a software install, or set up a new workstation.
  • “I got a guy.” There’s nobody in the office to deal with computer issues, so you have somebody on speed dial – an independent contractor with a lot of clients just like you.
  • The Yellow Pages. If there’s a crisis and you can’t get your “I got a guy” on the phone, you pick up the phone and get whoever’s available.

All of these approaches have their drawbacks: they waste valuable employee hours; they’re reactive instead of proactive; and they can end up being a lot more expensive compared to the cost of preventing problems from happening in the first place.


Managed services allow you to offload the responsibility for periodic software updates, antivirus updates, security patches, and other regular maintenance so that you can concentrate on running your business. You can have round-the-clock professional support and know that your systems are being monitored and you’ll be alerted if they see a potential problem developing (for example, a failing hard drive). And because most managed service providers bill by the month, you’ll be able to budget for computer support instead of getting whacked with big repair fees whenever a problem arises.


Different managed services providers offer a different slate of options; some charge for services that others include automatically. Our managed service package, CMIT Marathon, includes daily automated proactive maintenance with virus updates, spyware detection and removal, plus management of security patch updates. Remote technicians and engineers at a Network Operations Center, a US-based help desk, and on-site support help ensure you’re not alone when you encounter computer issues.  


Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Using Conditional Formatting in Excel to Quickly Spot Trends




Conditional Formatting Helps You Identify
Groups and Trends Easily

Conditional formatting in Excel lets you identify trends at a glance by formatting cells according to certain pre-set conditions – hence the name.


So, for example, let’s say you run a pet food company and you want to make sure you re-stock when inventory is low. You might set up a spreadsheet like this, which tracks the total number of cases in each of your six warehouses.

Let’s suppose your definition of “low inventory” is anything under 2000 cases. You can use conditional formatting to quickly identify all those warehouses containing fewer than 2000 cases.


First, select the column you want the formatting to apply to. Then go to the Format menu and select Conditional Formatting.

The Conditional Formatting menu contains a series of drop-downs. Select “Cell Value Is”, “Less than”, and then type 2000 into the field. Click the Format button and select how you would like all cells with values under 2000 to be formatted. We chose to make them bold and red. Then click OK.

You’ll see the Conditional Formatting menu with everything filled in. Click OK again. Now the chart will have all inventories under 2000 rendered in bold, red type. Time to start restocking in Cleveland, Des Moines, and Essex!


Monday, June 23, 2008

Our 4 Favorite Tech Sites



4 Web Sites to Love

There’s no shortage of Web sites willing to offer you productivity advice, computer tips, hardware and software reviews, and general technology information to help make your life easier. Below are four of the reads that we keep coming back to.


CNet:  A clearinghouse of up-to-the-minute technology news, plus a massive archive of product reviews.


PC World:  Another good source for product information, including plenty of roundups and comparison articles.


43folders:  This site describes itself as offering "simple ways to make your life a little better." Recent topics include dealing with high volumes of email, free e-books, and "links and resources for the chronically disorganized."


The Register:  It’s a humorous take on technology news, and no, that’s not an oxymoron.

What are the sites you like to visit for tech news and advice? Let us know and we’ll share your suggestions in an upcoming issue of QuickTips.


Wednesday, June 11, 2008

'Stimulus Check' Email Scams

Beware IRS Tax Refund Scams!

A few months ago, we wrote about e-mail scammers using upcoming IRS stimulus checks to get confidential bank information from consumers. With more people than ever filing returns electronically, you might be less likely to raise an eyebrow when you get an email like the one quoted below. But look out: it might look legitimate, and it might even link to a site that looks like the official IRS site, but it's not.

Over 130 million Americans will receive refunds as part of The White House program to jumpstart the economy.

Our records indicate that you are qualified to receive the 2008 Economic Stimulus Refund.

The fastest and easiest way to receive your refund is by direct deposit to your checking/savings account.

Please follow the link and fill out the form and submit before June 15th, 2008 to ensure that your refund will be processed as soon as possible.

Submitting your form on June 15th, 2008 or later means that your refund will be delayed due to the volume of requests we anticipate for the Economic Stimulus Refund.

The above email and others like it are a clever attempt by some Web-savvy con artists to get your personal information. Remember that the IRS, in its own words, "does not initiate taxpayer communications through e-mail." So junk that email and be patient - the last stimulus checks aren't due out until July.


Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Buy Windows XP on Dell Before June 18

Buy a Dell Machine With XP Before June 18!

If you've been putting off a Windows XP purchase, now is the time to do it!  Microsoft is beginning to phase out wide availability of Windows XP and transition to Vista-only sales.  After June 18, you will no longer be able to order Dell computers with Windows XP Home Edition.  You'll still be able to get XP Pro on the Optiplex, Latitude, and Precision lines through 2009, but it won't be easy: first, you'll have to purchase a system that includes a license for Windows Vista Business or Vista Ultimate, and then you'll need to have the OS downgraded to XP Professional.

For more information on this ordering deadline and a handy XP/Vista comparison chart, you can check out this page on the Dell site.

To purchase a Dell system with Windows XP installed before the June 18 deadline, call today! 



Thursday, May 22, 2008

Choosing Your Passwords Carefully


Choosing and Protecting Your

Passwords are a common form of authentication and are often the only barrier between a user and your personal information. There are several programs attackers can use to help guess or "crack" passwords, but by choosing good passwords and keeping them confidential, you can make it more difficult for an unauthorized person to access your information.

Think about the number of PIN numbers, passwords, or passphrases you use every day: getting money from the ATM or using your debit card in a store, logging on to your computer or email, signing in to an online bank account or shopping cart...the list seems to just keep getting longer.  Keeping track of all of the number, letter, and word combinations may be frustrating at times, and maybe you've wondered if all of the fuss is worth it.  While having someone gain access to your personal email might not seem like much more than an inconvenience and threat to your privacy, think of the implications of an attacker gaining access to your social security number or your medical records.

One of the best ways to protect information or physical property is to ensure that only authorized people have access to it.  In the cyber world, passwords are the most common means of authentication, but if you don't choose good passwords or keep them confidential, they're almost as ineffective as not having any password at all.  Many systems and services have been successfully broken into due to the use of insecure and inadequate passwords, and some viruses and worms have exploited systems by guessing weak passwords.

Here is a review of tactics to use when choosing a password:

  • Don't  use  passwords  that are based on personal information that can be easily accessed or guessed.
  • Don't  use  words  that  can  be  found  in  any dictionary of any language.
  • Develop a mnemonic for remembering complex passwords.
  • Use both lowercase and capital letters.
  • Use a combination of letters, numbers, and special characters.
  • Use different passwords on different systems.

There's no guarantee that these techniques will prevent an attacker from learning your password, but they will make it more difficult.