Beware of expensive paperweights!

We have had an interesting job at Colchester IT recently.

As part of a customers computer repair, they provided us with a ‘2TB’ hard drive they had bought on Amazon in order to complete a data transfer. They mentioned that it was playing up but if we could sort it out then it would be appreciated. The storage wasn’t sufficient; nowhere near the supposed 2TB and it wasn’t cooperating with anything we plugged it into. We opened the case up to get to the hard drive with the intention of putting it in our workshop PC to test it more thoroughly but ended up finding a little surprise instead!

It was a genuine looking external hard drive, branded up, but inside was a tiny little USB flash drive, with only a measly 64GB of storage and paired with a glued down weighted plate to make the ‘external drive’ feel authentic!
Luckily, the customer saw the funny side of the situation and informed us that they will be taking it up with Amazon, (and rightly so).

A nice Amazon bargain turned out to be more trouble than bargained for. So when it comes to buying tech online: know your sources, trust your companies, and if it’s too good to be true, it probably is…


Research on standing desks do little for your heart


Cyber security in 2019 – are you insured?

Cyber security in 2019 – are you insured?

The most recent figures for the extent of cybercrime published by the ONS (Office for National Statistics) in March 2018 state that 4.5 million such crimes had been committed in the previous 12 months.

The ONS figures cover all types of cybercrime, including child pornography.

In the first half of 2018, the number of cyber breaches soared over 140% from a year earlier, leading to 3.3 billion compromised data records worldwide, according to Gemalto, an international data security company.

However, the insurer Hiscox has estimated that UK small businesses are being targeted with an average of 65,000 attempted cyber attacks every day, according to the Insurance Times.

Despite this it estimates that  only 52% of SMEs have clear security strategies despite it costing an average of £25,700 last year in direct costs (eg ransoms paid and hardware replaced) per attack.

The information cyber criminals are most interest in is Email addresses, Social Security numbers, Credit card numbers, Bank information, Product information and Birth dates.

The most vulnerable areas for businesses are online banking details, cloud servers, emails and data leaks and breaches.

One growing problem is the numbers of fraudulent emails using named individuals, such as the CEO or Finance Officer authorising payments to be made.

Business cybercrime is an ever-increasing threat and businesses should regularly conduct security audits, ensuring they have robust back-up systems and should examine and if necessary, restrict entry points into the system, only giving access codes to those within the company who actually need them.

They should also take out cyber insurance, something that was hardly I existence ten years ago, but is now becoming increasingly important.

You should check that the policy includes practical support including legal advice, forensics and reputation management to help get a business back up and running as quickly as possible.


Merry Christmas

Wishing all our customers a

Very happy Christmas


A Prosperous New Year

There’s still time to take advantage of our special Christmas gift. We are giving a Cadbury’s Selection tray to every customer who purchases a laptop or has a repair from December 1 to December 24.

Pop in and see us before Christmas.


Digital predictions for 2019

Christmas giveaway and what do the digital experts predict for 2019?

We’ve had a look at some of the developments in digital technology that experts think we might see becoming more widespread next year

Chatbots: Using natural language processing (NLP) and sentiment analytics is likely to improve and if it does it could be much more widely adopted by the service industry.

This is about about all the services that could be provided without humans—fast food lines, loan processors, job recruiters!

NLP allows companies to gather insights and improve their service and an estimated 40% of large businesses have or will adopt it by the end of 2019.

Connected Clouds (Public, Private, Hybrid): going completely public cloud, private cloud, or data centre isn’t always the best option. Sometimes, companies need a mix of all or both and connected clouds are continuing to develop to meet companies’ changing needs—whether they want to cloud-source storage, networking, security, or app deployment.

GDPR: the start of a more global trend that will hold companies accountable for how they treat privacy and personal data.

Augment Reality (AR) enhances environments. Expect to see more AR use in enterprise workforce training.

Cube satellites: tiny satellites are being developed that could drastically reduce the cost of launching and using them in space for all sorts of things from running telecommunication systems or keeping space missions on track.

Digital editing tools: face swaps, lip syncing or even puppetry could be used to produce realistic videos that could have you believing something when it isn’t necessarily true – think fake news!

Information about our bodies – and everything wrong with them: has become far easier to collect, using wearable technology.  It could revolutionise healthcare in 2019.

Click here for more predictions from Wired

Christmas giveaway! We are giving a Cadbury’s Selection tray to every customer who purchases a laptop or has a repair from December 1 to December 24.


Microsoft news

Microsoft will be ceasing to support Windows 7 from December 2018 in line with its police of only supporting older versions of Windows for two years or less from release.

For some of you this may mean investing in a more powerful PC or laptop because the Windows 10 operating system is considerably more space hungry.

Meanwhile the company has this month released its last Windows 10 update for this year.

It features a large collection of 157 new emojis for those who like them, as well as better links to your phone and a smarter SwiftKey-powered keyboard.  It also has enhanced security and privacy.

Among the new features are revamps to better integrate text and photos with mobile phones, both Android and iOS. This will mean that mobiles will have access to photos and text.

Another new feature is the ability to embed 3D animations into both PowerPoint and Word documents.

Microsoft says the reboot will also eliminate some annoying issues by being up to 31% faster to update, 40% smaller to download, and now being smarter about when to actually install the updates. This, it says, will prevent your machine from coming to a halt during upgrades.

However, early in October the roll-out of the update had to be paused after some users reported that it had wiped files from their Documents and Pictures folders — in some cases resulting in the loss of years of images and work, according to the website techrepulic.com

While the problem appears to have only affected a small number of users, they are advised to contact Microsoft support, who say the company has ways of restoring those files.

In other news:

Sadly, the death of the Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen, 65, was also announced in October due to a return of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, for which he was treated in 2009.

His Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates said: “I am heartbroken by the passing of one of my oldest and dearest friends… Personal computing would not have existed without him.”


A tablet that is good for work purposes

The new Microsoft Windows 10 Surface Go has received good reviews for use with a detachable keyboard for work purposes.

It is described as a “budget”, ie low cost model, which means it does have some limitations, according to the Guardian’s Samuel Gibbs, who describes it as better for work than for play. This means that it is not ideal for anyone wanting media consumption as it has no apps for such things as Sky Q, Amazon Video or Google Play Movies.

However, when working on the move, Gibbs says that paired with the Type Cover keyboard it is very good work machine, easier to use on a lap, plane or train table.

Wired, too, gives the Surface Go a decent review.

It makes the same point as Gibbs, about media consumption: “if you want to take Netflix, Fornite and the rest of your favourite apps on holiday this summer” it would not be a good choice.

However: “if straddling between spreadsheets, emails and, well, other more boring stuff is a greater priority, then Microsoft’s Surface Go should be your first port of call.”

The tablet could not be used as your main work machine, but according to these reviews it would make an ideal, lightweight and compact substitute for those times when you have to be on the move and still able to work.


Yet another security flaw in Intel chips

Another security flaw has been discovered in Intel’s computer chips, the third this year, say researchers.

The flaw, named Foreshadow, could be used by hackers to obtain sensitive information from computers released from 2015 onwards.

While Intel has already released a patch to mitigate the problem, this latest revelation is not good news for the company.

It has posted a full list of hardware affected by Foreshadow on its website.

According to an article on the BBC tech pages of its website: “Foreshadow was discovered by collaborative work by researchers from KU Leuven university in Belgium and others from the universities of Adelaide and Michigan.”

Intel subsequently discovered two further weaknesses.

Although there have been warnings that installing the mitigation patch could affect the collective processing power of companies using cloud computing platforms Amazon, Google and Microsoft have already installed fixes for this problem. Individual PC users are unlikely to face this problem, however.

As ever, we advise all our customers and clients to be mindful of their cyber security and to ensure that they download and install security updates promptly as soon as they become available.


Can apprenticeships solve the IT skills shortage?

There has been a serious shortage of suitable skilled IT professionals for some time and it is only likely to get worse as fewer people come from the EU to work in the UK because of uncertainty about their status after Brexit.

Surveys have found that 50% of respondents see the skills shortage as a serious problem, and 25% said recruitment was a major challenge.

Certainly, there is evidence that schools need to do more to encourage students and improve their IT skills.  This is something businesses can help with by getting involved in in-school workshops and activities and by publicising the range of their activities in the workplace that need IT skills.

The apprenticeship levy imposed by the Government on larger businesses was supposed to generate money to increase the number of apprenticeships but the results have so far been disappointing in terms of the numbers of apprenticeships that have been created since it was introduced last year.

However, many smaller businesses do not realise that they can get financial help to take on apprentices themselves.

If your business is below the level where it has to pay the apprenticeship levy, you pay just 10% towards the cost of training and assessing an apprentice aged 19-plus.

If your business qualifies it needs to agree a payment schedule with the training organisation and pay it directly, while the Government pays the remaining 90%. For apprentices aged 16-18 the Government will pay the full 100%.

However, your business also must show that any apprenticeship scheme involves the apprentice working with experienced staff, learns job-specific skills and carries out formal study, such as at a college or other training centre, during their working week.

If you are considering setting up an apprenticeship scheme, you will need to find an organisation that offers training for the type of scheme you are considering.

Given the likelihood that there will continue to be a shortage of qualified IT professionals for some time it is worth small businesses considering taking on apprentices.

There is a lot of information about both setting up and funding an apprenticeship here


Tips to take care of your Surface touchscreen

We have recently been receiving several Surface Pro touchscreen tablets for repair most often because of cracked screens.
These are expensive machines to buy and to fix, and often we’re told when they have been brought to us that children have been using them.
We have some tips for taking care of your Surface Pro, and high on the list, therefore, is to ensure that children are taught that they only need a light touch but also that they must take care not to drop them!
Screens need to be kept clean and grease free. Scratches, finger grease, dust, chemicals, and ultraviolet light can affect their performance, so they should be gently wiped using a lint-free cloth dampened with a little bit of mild soap and water, or with screen wipes. You should never apply liquids directly onto the screen.
Keep your screen out of direct sunlight as prolonged exposure to ultraviolet light or excessive heat can damage the display. You should also always close the cover when the machine is not in use.
It is also important to look after your machine’s battery. While all rechargeable batteries do eventually wear out you can prolong their life with these tips:
• Once a month, let your battery drain below half way before charging it.
• Avoid having your Surface plugged in 24/7.
• Store your Surface in a cool, dry room when you’re not using it.
If you are not going to be using your Surface Pro for an extended period, it is a good idea to charge it to 50% every six months to help make sure it stays chargeable.
Power cables can also be vulnerable. They can be weakened or damaged if repeatedly twisted or bent in the same spot.
So you should avoid pinching or twisting the power cord or wrapping it tightly. It’s better to wrap it in loose coils.