XP – If you are still using what you should be doing.

So you are still using XP?

I would seriously recommend you take 10 minutes, sit down, have a coffee and consider why you are doing this. Right a business case for continuing to use against upgrading. Now read the rest of this blog and do the same.

Regarding the risks in not upgrading or replacing, I can appreciate there is a train of thought that says I have been using this for 10 years, why should I change. I also understand there is a financial reason, as upgrading or replacing could be £3-500.

But consider these facts:

1) Microsoft released XP in 2002 and is therefore now 13 years old. It has been patched hundreds of times and is no longer being repaired.

2) Microsoft Windows 7 and 8 are a similar operating system to XP and daily bugs and issues are found and repaired. These repairs are not being made to XP so anyone able to understand the bugs in Win 7 & 8 are able to take advantage of exploits in XP.

3) New versions of programs are not being made as XP compatible. So you may find that upgrading to Sage, QuickBooks or many other programs you depend upon will not work. You will therefore be forced to upgrade to Windows 7 or 8 at the same time as you upgrade the software which will add to the cost and timescale.

4) The same with new hardware, many new devices are no longer being supplied with XP drivers. When or if you printer goes wrong you may find you cannot buy a replacement and will be forced in to upgrading your PC at the same time.

5) Programs based around XP, such as Outlook Express, Internet Explorer 7 & 8, Office 2003 etc are also not supported any longer and again exploits in these programs are no longer being repaired. Does your business depend on these?

OK, if my argument for upgrading is insufficient or you have a critical piece of software or hardware which will not work on XP? Please read on…

Following are the recommendations we are giving to all users of XP:

1 ) Use passwords for all login’s and programs where passwords are available; change regularly, ie weekly.

2 ) Ensure all email and local data is backed up and held securely.

3 ) Reduce access of shared data to only those authorised for access. Archive data not requiring access.

4 ) Change all user accounts from Administrator to a limited one. That includes managers who may like the option to manage changes quickly. Admin access would allow unwanted programs to install.

5 ) Do Not use (disable) Internet Explorer 8 or lower – Use Chrome or Firefox and remove all unwanted plugins. NB some banks may require Internet 10 or higher so you may be stuck.

6 ) Clear Search history, cache and saved settings such as passwords from browsers regularly or on exit.

7 ) Do Not use Outlook Express 6 – Instead use an alternative such as Mozilla Thunderbird. Outlook 2000 or 2003 is no better, Outlook 2007(SP3) or Outlook 2010 will work with XP, 2013 will not.

8 ) Install Malwarebytes Professional – to prevent unwanted exposure to spyware
http://www.pcsouthwest.co.uk/products/anti-malware . This is around £20 for 3 machines for 1 year, ensure it is setup to scan regularly.

9) Install a good antivirus program such as Avast, configured to  scan regularly http://www.pcsouthwest.co.uk/products/anti-virus this is around £25 per PC per year, ensure it is setup to scan regularly

10 ) Ensure the highest levels of Spam control are set at the domain.

11 ) Use anti-spam software such as Spamfighter – http://www.spamfighter.com/

And lastly watch the news for exploits in XP and any warning which may tip you off to upcoming issues.

If you are concerned and would like to discuss your XP use please email at support@pcsouthwest.co.uk or call on 01392 361999

Keeping safe while browsing #1 – Using a VPN

Keeping safe when browsing #1

I hope to put a couple of blogs about keeping safe when browsing but here is one to get started.

The Scene.

You are in a bar or restaurant and need to send an email and check your bank account, they offer free Wifi, you join this and off you surf. A week later you find your bank account empty and you are spamming your friends, but how can these all be linked?

The frightening thing is this is a true story from a client who returned from a weekend to London.

The free Wifi they joined was a phishing address and captured their browsing content and captured their emails, email address and passwords used while surfing.

But how can you stop this from happening to you?

Firstly we would always recommend speaking to a member of staff behind the bar and asking for them to confirm the Wi-Fi name and the day’s password. There are hardly any business which will just allow free access to Wi-Fi and if they do, please ask them to call me as they need to get serious.

This will help ensure the Wi-Fi address is the correct one but to be safe online we also recommend using a VPN. This stands for Virtual Private Network and is a connection you make as soon as you are connected to the Wi-Fi. All traffic is then encrypted over the private network and is therefore not available to be read by anyone locally sniffing traffic.

VPN’s are usually a paid for option and we will add a couple of suggested solutions to this Blog when we can confirm a good one. If your business offers a VPN connection please use this when connecting to open, free or any connection you are unsure about.

Please let me know of any stories and we are always happy to offer solutions.

Next time “XP – If you are still using, what you should be doing”

Email, POP, SMTP, Exchange, but which one should you use? and why!

The past week has been designated as “Freaky Email Week”, why? Well we have had so many unusual problems with email I do not know where to begin, but will rather give you the run down on email use.

Email comes in a number of variants and you may have heard of Webmail, POP, IMAP and Exchange. As a user, you want to view emails, send emails and search them, but there is so much more to consider when choosing what to use. Such as recovering deleted mail, PC failure and spam control.

WEBMAIL

If you have used a Hotmail, Gmail or many other web page accessible email, you have been using Webmail. It is either as a basic email only system ie inbox, sent items etc or with Contacts, calendar, Word etc, designate either, OWA, Hosted Exchange or Outlook (on the web, not to be confused with Outlook the installed program) more on this later. While a great product Webmail is limited in the slow use in using, attaching files and not being able to link to CRM’s or other programs. It is great for an emergency, when someone sends a large email which your mail client wont download or to prove you have the correct password for your mail client.

Pros : There are usually from account at Hotmail and Gmail. Always on if you have an internet connection.

Cons : using a free service such as Hotmail or Gmail could leave you high and dry if the service is hacked or fails, as you likely will have no recourse with the supplier.

POP/IMAP – Downloading

This is where you use an email client program such as Outlook, Outlook Express(old but still used), Mozilla Thunderbird or many others, is used to download your email from the Webmail server on to your PC. By download, I mean emails are retrieved from your Webmail server and held within the Email client and can be viewed when you are not connected to the internet. POP is used where you are just working with emails and will only download from your Inbox and send using the Outbox. With POP, email downloads and removes the email off of the webmail server, but there is a tick in the settings to “Leave on the server”, but usually the mailbox is quite small and can fill quite quickly, so advise using IMAP or Exchange. IMAP is more of a syncing system, which sync’s all mailboxs, contacts and calendasr with your Outlook. This can be used on multiple devices but can give issues and is not usually that well support for recovery of deleted mail. Mail boxes for POP and IMAP are usually around 400Mb so not huge. Considerations with POP/IMAP – firstly setting up within an email client, if you use the automatic settings usually you will get IMAP which will often set you up with multiple personal folder. Using POP you can setup multiple accounts but have email filtered in to one inbox etc. Secondly there is the consideration of backup. This is not an obvious process for most email clients and is usually a manual process, which involves closing the program, finding the data and manually copying to an external drive. In the years I have been supporting clients, I know of very few that backup email manually and usually we setup an automated process, but usually encourage Hosted Exchange.

Pros : POP is usually a cheap service and IMAP allows a form of syncing folders.

Cons : POP downloads your emails and if your PC crashes you lose everything unless you have backed it up. IMAP can give unusual issues with folders syncing across multiple devices.

Exchange (Hosted Exchange) – Syncing

Exchange refers to a server program that acts as an email incoming and outgoing manager. Exchange is either installed on a local, in office server, or is supplied as Hosted Exchange, installed on a web server or cloud server. The cloud based server is taking over from an onsite servers for small to medium businesses, usually less than 20. It is supplied on a per user mailbox with a monthly fee, but gives a number of advantages over Webmail and POP/IMAP. We ask clients to think of Hosted Exchange as a mail server, which will allow you access as either Webmail, use Outlook (2007, 2010, 2013 or Mac 2011) or via a smartphone and allow synchronisation of items of Email, Contacts, Calendar and Tasks across all devices. It also adds sharing of all items ie you can share your contacts to another user on the same domain or can use Public folders to create a shared calendar, such as a “Holiday” diary. The Exchange is fully backed up, therefore should your PC fail, a replacement can be re-setup and all you mailboxes etc would then re-synchronise back to your Outlook. Hosted Exchange can be an add-on to your domain and supplied as a separate service but in most cases you must have your own domain. If you have @gmail or @hotmail, you cannot use this, although @btconnect.com have their own product, confusingly called Outlook.

Yes we promote and sell Hosted Exchange. Yes we use ourselves and would not be without it. Yes we have clients that use all three and we are happy to support them all. 

So in conclusion Webmail is great but limited, POP/IMAP are usable but dated and limited, Hosted Exchange is more costly but has great resilience and use.