Sunday
Feb222015

Retrieve Windows 8.1 key from BIOS

Tuesday
Feb102015

When the web is enough, a Chromebook is enough

Low maintenance and sufficiently capable, a Chromebook ends the "install, update, reboot" cycle. 

 

The following two systems meet different needs:

1. Existing systems: Login, install, update, reboot, work

I helped an independent consultant set up a new Dell Latitude laptop in February 2015. Which means that we:

  • Downloaded and installed the Office 365 suite of desktop apps
  • Installed QuickBooks (from a CD -- how quaint), then installed two sets of updates
  • Searched for and manually installed a printer driver
  • Downloaded and installed Adobe Acrobat Standard Edition
  • Downloaded and installed McAfee Security Center
  • Downloaded and installed five Dell system device updates

We also downloaded and installed two successive sets of operating system updates, each comprised of several files.

Fortunately, the laptop had plenty of RAM, a fast SSD drive, and a recent mid-range Intel processor. We downloaded the software over a 50 Mbps internet connection: fast enough to exceed the FCC's definition of broadband in early 2015.

The task took a few hours. The new system works well. It meets my client's needs and requires little change -- other than the need to learn a few touchscreen operating system gestures.

He will need to periodically respond to prompts to download and install updates, which may sometimes mandate a system reboot.

2. Chromebook: Login, work

In December, I helped my teenage daughter set up a new Chromebook. Which means I stood by as she:

  • Turned the system on
  • Selected the Wi-Fi access point and entered the password
  • Entered her username, password, and 2-step authentication

The system was ready for her to use within a few minutes. Her bookmarks, settings, Chrome apps, and extensions all installed automatically.

She wiped the data from her old system in another few minutes (Settings | Show advanced settings | Powerwash), then offered that system to one of her friends.

The new system works well. It meets my daughter's needs and requires little change. She will need to periodically respond to a prompt to restart the system to update, which will require no more than a minute or so to complete.

Different needs, different systems

The two systems meet different needs. Both meet the needs of their respective users. Both provide a core set of connectivity and functionality. Both offer ways to communicate, to create documents, and to connect and share online.

A Chromebook poses a basic question: when is the web enough? That's when, not if.

To focus on "...but a Chromebook can't" misses the point. A "...but it can't" statement only identifies a market opportunity.

Most laptop and desktop operating systems were built for an installed software world. If your organization is sufficiently large, you have people to manage the complexity of those systems. They manage the complexity, that doesn't mean the complexity goes away. The systems are still complex.

Chrome OS simplifies the system considerably: "login, install, update, reboot, work" shortens to "login, work." As an administrator, you still configure many options, but the complex parts reside on Google's servers -- on the web, not on each person's device.

As an IT decision maker you should ask yourself: when is the web enough?

When the web is enough, a Chromebook is enough.

By  February 6, 2015, 7:33 PM PST //  @awolber

Saturday
Jan312015

Wichita business attacked by hackers

WICHITA, Kan. -

It's been a frustrating week at Smart Security Inc. in West Wichita. On Monday owner Dee Brandt discovered her business' computer had been hacked.

"I'm angry. I don't like to feel powerless and I'm angry," Brandt said.

Wichita police say hackers installed ransomware on Brandt's computer, making it impossible for her to access the information inside. Brandt says there was a message on her screen instructing her to click on a link and pay $500 to get her information back.

"They basically want me to pay ransom to get into what I own," Brandt said.

Brandt did not click on the link, instead she called police. Officers with Wichita's financial crimes unit say that was the right call. Police say hackers often take the initial payment then drain the victim's account entirely.

Brandt says she's sharing her story so others are aware. She's working on recovering her information and says she'll back up all her data from now on.

Copyright @ 2015, KWCH-TV. All rights reserved.

Monday
Jan192015

10 Security Tips to Share with Your Staff

Are your network users aware of the types and severity of security threats on the web? Are they prepared to defend your essential data?

To protect your network from security breaches, it’s critical to educate your users. The simple tips found in ThreatTrack Security’s Users Beware: 10 Security Tips to Share with Your Users, will help your users understand:

  1. Where and how cybercriminals breach your data
  2. The potential impact of cyber-attacks
  3. Simple and effective defenses
  4. Mistakes to avoid

The right knowledge goes a long way to protect your organization from destructive malware and cybercrime.

Thursday
Jan082015

Revealed: hidden costs of an old PC

Revealed: hidden costs

January 2015

In today’s era of notebooks, tablets, and smartphones, mobility is a high priority—making small businesses more dynamic and responsive in an on-the-go world.

That reality, however, should not detract from the important role desktop PCs still play in today’s business environment, delivering more power, more robust upgrade options, and more functionality compared to their portable counterparts.

While large enterprises typically refresh their desktop PCs once every three years, small businesses tend to hold on to their PCs for five to seven years [1]. Older hardware, however, often slows operations and sparks hidden costs. In fact, PCs more than four-and-a-half years old are estimated to cost 50 percent more to support and take 50 percent longer to perform many tasks [2].

So while retaining those still-functioning workhorse PCs purchased during the early-2000s might seem a prudent move, their continued use could be costing you more than you think. Here’s how:

Hidden cost #1: Slow performance
As a PC ages, it slows and struggles to keep pace with current technology and business needs. Applications take longer to load, heat buildup causes Windows, the mouse, or keyboard to be unresponsive. Compatibility issues between older PCs and new software and printers all drain time, frustrate the user, and undermine productivity.

Modern desktops respond to today’s multitasking, collaborative, and fast-paced business environment with productivity-driving features that allow workers to create rather than wait. New features include: touchscreens, fast-charging USB ports, and solid-state drives that reduce wait times when opening files or switching applications.

Hidden cost #2: More maintenance
On average, 42 productive work hours are lost each year while an older computer is being repaired—two times that of a newer model. Annual maintenance costs for an older PC, meanwhile, sit at $561, about the cost of a new, mid-range desktop [3].

New desktops deliver a greater value in the present and the future. Their longer lifespan, platform stability, and increased durability stretch your budget further, and reduce the burden on your IT department.

Hidden cost #3: Lower efficiency 
Today’s desktop PCs reflect the modern age with space- and energy-saving features unmatched by their older, bulkier peers, some of which have limited ports or require adapters to accommodate modern needs.

New form factors, such as All-in-Ones and mini desktops, embrace sleek, streamlined construction, reduce wire clutter with integrated components, and adapt to the task at hand. In addition to more efficient use of space, modern desktops also require less energy, as the power needed to perform a task requiring a fixed number of computations continues to fall in half every 18 months [4].

Hidden cost #4: Security vulnerabilities
Hackers continue to view small businesses as easy targets, even more so following Microsoft’s end-of-support for Windows XP in 2014. According to Microsoft, existing XP users are “five times more vulnerable to security risks and viruses,” which makes moving to a new PC that can support a current operating system like Windows 8.1 the safest play [5].

Doing the math
While those existing desktops had their time and place, the older hardware may now be hampering your team’s performance. Running a quick cost-benefit analysis addressing issues such as maintenance and lost productivity against the cost of new desktops might prove eye opening and inspire action.

With modern business-oriented desktop PCs, your small business can reap the benefits of technology’s rapid innovation with improved productivity, reduced costs, heightened efficiencies, and stronger security to keep the business running at an optimal level.

[1] Intel, How much is it costing your business to run old PCs?, 2013
[2] The Legislative Budget Board, Review of Replacement Schedules for Information Technology Equipment, January 2013
[3] Techaisle.com, The Ageing PC Effect--Exposing Financial Impact for Small Businesses
[4] MIT Technology Review, The Computing Trend that Will Change Everything2012
[5] Microsoft, Windows XP support has ended