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.