Microsoft Security Essentials antivirus software fails certification

Here’s a link with more info. Don’t be alarmed. Be prepared! Since no antivirus software by itself can keep your PC completely safe, here’s a checklist, courtesy of Steven Boots, MVP. Please let us know if we can help implement these and monitor them over time:

Settings to check:

  • Windows Firewall is enabled.
  • All important/critical updates, including service packs for the operating system and programs are installed.
  • Internet Explorer is at version 8 or 9 and updated with all patches, SmartScreen Filter and Pop-up Blocker are enabled and Internet Security settings are at least set to medium-high (default).
  • On Vista and Windows 7 make sure that User Account Control (UAC) ON and not running with elevated privileges.
  • Make sure that Windows Automatic Updates are set to at least notify, but the preferred setting is to download and install automatically. Even better, subscribe to a service that tests updates and makes sure they’re installed in good time, or lets your I.T. manager know.
  • Make sure that installed applications, especially Adobe Acrobat, Adobe Flash, and Java are at their latest versions. A good monitoring and updating service will manage this for you or alert your I.T. manager.

Browsing conduct:

  • Never click through links from unknown sources and use caution even if they are from a “trusted” source. Practice safe web browsing.
  • Never open unsolicited email attachments.
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Windows 8: Planned Obsolescence

Microsoft released Windows 8 on October 26, three years after releasing Windows 7. While new operating system versions are proclaimed for their new features, there are always extra costs for introducing them in a business. Will the new version work with your accounting system or with your version of Outlook or with other mission-critical software? Is it compatible with your servers, printers and other systems? Microsoft has released five new versions of Windows and five new versions of Microsoft Office in the last 13 years and you can count on more every three years or so. The question for business managers is how to manage this continuing churn.
If you’re putting-off buying needed PCs until 2013 in order to postpone expenditures to another fiscal year and to take advantage of inevitable price decreases and/or increases in PC speed and capacity, you may find it hard, if not impossible, to buy Windows 7 PCs then. Microsoft won’t allow manufacturers to install it anymore. This happens every time there’s an upgrade, so many businesses, especially larger ones, pay staff or consultants to install the older, standardized version onto new PCs available only with the latest version!
Small businesses can minimize unneeded costs by planning PC purchases well in advance. Most firms can’t afford to replace all their PCs every three years, and replacing half Windows XP of them every three years may not work well either. However buying needed PCs every two years, or at least no more than once yearly can help your firm stick with the plan. The biggest opportunity for long-term savings however is with servers. Your business needs email, but does it need Microsoft Exchange (email) Server? Switching to an email server hosted on the web or to an in-house linux email server can reduce your server upgrade and support costs and get your business off of the Microsoft upgrade treadmill. Email and file sharing protocols have changed very little over the past 13 years and are not likely to change much over the next 13, so consider your firm’s server strategy in light of both needs and complete costs.

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Lawyers & CPAs turn to private clouds for confidential backups

One problem with backing-up to the ‘cloud’ is that your files, including sensitive client information, are backed-up to servers you don’t own and control. Have you ever been notified by some online business that your credit card, Social Security and other private data was stolen? How did you feel about doing business with them? Do you want your clients feeling that way about your firm?
One alternative is to setup a private cloud consisting of your computers at sites you control. You control the access and encryption so if you outsource your IT, even your support provider won’t have access to the content of your files.
If you have computers in your office(s) and home, you already have the basic hardware and software you need. In addition to setting-up secure access, data encryption and scheduled backups, we highly recommend also setting-up monitoring to enable you or your support provider to keep these confidential backups working in the event of interruptions. Please contact us if you’d like us to help with this.

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When good antivirus software isn’t good enough

Microsoft Security Essentials is good and free antivirus software, as are free products from AVG, Avast, etc., and especially paid antivirus software. Too often, however, installing one of these on your Windows PC isn’t enough to protect it from infection.

Antivirus software alone without monitoring and alerting is not enough to protect from infection

‘Malware’ or, ‘scareware’ may show a phony warning recommending that you send money to them online in order to ‘clean and protect’ your PC. However eventually your PC becomes unusable regardless of how much money you send.
After cleaning one of these PCs, sometimes spending hours doing so, I’m ready to escalate the level of protection to prevent a reocurance. The problem isn’t which product to install (the leading choices are all good), but rather how to get an early warning of trouble to enable timely corrective action when protection lapses and/or the first signs of a pending infection appear.
“Managed” Antivirus combines leading antivirus protection with monitoring and alerting and in some cases even remote remediation 24×7 to provide a much improved solution over antivirus and antimalware software alone. These can cost $50.-100 per PC per year, but can save many times that compared to the cost of services and downtime in case of infection. Please let me know when you’re ready for peace of mind from infection and we’ll review the options with you.

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Don’t be an April fool!

Be proactive and test restoring your files, as well as backing up. Please call on me or your favorite I.T. pro to complete anything that’s lacking and to help you get the peace of mind you deserve. World Backup Day is March 31, 2012

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Google helps small businesses get online for free

Google helps small businessSign-up now for event in Hollywood, March 12 or 13 to get free, in-person help setting up a domain and a starter website (free for one year) for your organization. According to an article in the L.A. Times, “…only 38% of small businesses in California are online.” You can also setup these same services online when you sign-up here. There are several steps to this process. Allow at least one hour. You may need additional time to locate information and photos and to draft wording, etc., for your new site.

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If it isn’t one thing…

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Low-cost battery backups fail after only 1 year

One client’s UPS (Uninterruptable Power Supply) shut off unexpectedly earlier this week while he was working on his PC, shutting it off immediately. Fortunately he didn’t lose any work. The unit was no more than a year old and it replaced one that also died prematurely. Both were from leading manufacturers. Another client also reported a single UPS failure during the past year, and his was another leading brand. This could be a trend.


  • Consider which unplanned shutdown scenario is more likely and of greater consequence: power failure in the building or UPS failure. If the latter, then consider doing without.
  • Consider buying a more capable unit. For example a 1000va/600w unit. While you may never use the greater capacity, the better quality may prevent an unplanned shutdown which would more than justify the additional cost.
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Turning one-time pain into peace-of-mind

I investigated very slow performance on a client’s PC, a high-quality Dell system that was less than two years old. One of the main symptoms was incredibly long wait times before printing would start – in some cases over two minutes! Our standard ‘fixes’ had no effect, so I began uninstalling printers, planning to reinstall them after restarting. Then I noticed it — 100,214 jobs queued for one printer! After deleting the queued print jobs and reinstalling the printers, system performance was back to ‘snappy.’ Other, seemingly unrelated symptoms were gone as well.
I was not finished, however.
Since we manage over 120 PCs and two dozen servers, my next step was to “proActive”-ly minimize, if not prevent, the chance of this occurring. Unfortunately the system tools in Windows do not address this issue. Fortunately our monitoring and management system supports running custom scripts on managed systems. So I wrote a script to delete old, problem print jobs and scheduled it to run weekly on all managed PCs. Thus we were able to turn a troubleshooting session on one PC into an automated, preventative task running on 120 others!
We have made a signficant investment in our monitoring and management tools, and continue to enhance them to reduce downtime on your systems and the frequency and cost of troubleshooting.

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Great California Shakeout: 10/20/2011

Just thinking about everything I’d need to do to make my workplace completely safe and able to function after a serious earthquake makes my head hurt. So instead I’ve decided to make incremental improvements each year. After safety, I’m very concerned about the continuity of my business. And since my business is helping others keep theirs running, I’m encouraging clients and friends to take at least one step this Thursday to further safeguard their organization’s access to systems, files and data. Please consider these:

  • Backup on-site: Documents and data files on my server are synchronized on 3 hard disks! I also backup each PC’s operating system, programs and settings.
  • Backup to portable: My critical documents and files are also backed-up to a notebook PC so I can get to them without connecting to the internet if needed.
  • Backup off-site: I backup critical documents and files off-site. Hopefully I’ll never need to restore from here, but I feel better knowing I’ve taken this step.
  • Backup power: My notebook PC has a built-in battery, so it was oblivious to both power outages last week. My PC and servers are protected by external UPS battery backups so they automatically closed files and shutdown safely when the power didn’t come back on soon enough.

Here are some links for participating in the California Shakeout:

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