Security Resolutions to Make in 2013

Posted by admin on Mar 19, 2013

Did you make a New Year’s Resolution this year?  Have you been able to keep it?  Here is a suggestion from your friendly computer guys… consider pledging to upgrade the security of your digital life.  Here are a few suggestions to get you on the right track.

Do you have a smart phone, tablet or mini computer? Enable the screen lock.  It may be a pain to have to enter the code every time you want to use the device, but if they get lost or stolen, others could access your email, your files, or even your social network sites.  While you are at it, turn on the anti theft feature.  Most carriers offer the service free of charge, and if they don’t look for a free app that can do the same thing.  The feature can help you find the phone when it is lost, or even disable the phone so that it cannot be accessed.

I am sure you have an antivirus program installed, but when was the last time you checked to make sure it was updated and run a full scan?  All good programs will do that stuff automatically, but it never hurts to make sure that it is doing its job. If you are unsure if you have enough protection, check with your IT guy.

You can also encrypt your usb thumb drives.  I don’t know about you, but I have some pretty important information on my usb stick. If you have encrypted the drive, and used a difficult to crack password, your data will be safe.  Just don’t forget the password you used, because it will cost you a lot of money to get the password removed.  Windows 8 will encrypt usb drives, but there are also a number of free programs for Windows 7 and XP users.

If you use social network sites such as Facebook, you can make sure they are secure as well. Take a minute to review your social network security and privacy settings.  Maybe change your password to something more difficult to crack.

Do you have a backup plan?  Do you actually follow through with the plan?  If you are like me, you usually forget to backup your important data.  Sign up for online backup, and you don’t have to worry!  We here at ICS offer a great online backup solution, but there are numerous others to choose from.

Update your router and wireless password.  If your existing router is more than 3 years old, it probably does not have the best security and firewall settings available.  Since a new router will cost you around $50, and will give you much better performance and security, it is worth the upgrade.  That is also the perfect time to choose a more complex password for your wireless connection.

For power users, you can use OpenDNS to filter the internet.  It is designed to block not only inappropriate sites, but also sites that spread viruses and other malicious threats.  Best of all, the basic service is free, and you can use it on a single computer or an entire network.

Of course, these are just a few suggestions, and they may not apply to your situation.  The point is, to take a quick look at all aspects of your digital life and make sure you are secure.  So for the next month, every time you use a digital device, or use a password protected site or service, double check the security settings and consider changing your password.  Some day you may thank me for it.  If you decide not to follow my suggestions… we are open Monday to Friday, and would be happy to fix whatever problems may arise.

The Windows Family Tree

Posted by admin on Mar 15, 2013

Well, Windows 8 has been out for a few months, and people seem to be torn between loving it or hating it.  Many of our customers ask us “why did Microsoft have to change Windows?”  In actuality, Windows has gone through some really drastic changes in the almost 30 years since its first launch.  Here is a brief history…

1985 – Windows 1.0 ships (no one predicted big things for this somewhat clunky visual file-management utility)

1987 – Windows 2.0 (not only graphical, but you could now overlap open windows)

1990 – Windows 3.0 ships (this version transformed the way that users interacted with their PCs)

1992 – Windows 3.1 (revamped to include networking and better memory management)

1994 – Windows 95 launches (the first complete operating system, essentially killed off DOS)

1998 – Windows 98 (this was the staple operating system for many computers, for many years)

2000 – Windows 2000 (a business-class operating system, equipped with networking and file sharing)

2000 – Windows ME (basically a “repackaged” Windows 98, that did not get high praises)

2001 – Windows XP arrives (merged 2000 and ME into Microsoft’s most successful operating system to date)

2007 – Windows Vista (as with ME, this version did not go over well with technicians and users alike)

2009 – Windows 7 released (proved to be the comeback OS that Microsoft needed)

2012 – Windows 8 debuts (completely changing the way we interact with our computers)

Looking at this extensive list, you may notice a few things.  Firstly, Microsoft released a new operating system about every 2-3 years… except for Windows XP which did not get replaced for almost 6 years.  That is one reason why many expected greater things from Vista.  They had an extra 3 years to get it right.  Many believe that they were actually working on Windows 7, but since it wasn’t ready yet, they decided to launch Vista to keep the revenue flowing in.

Another thing you may notice is that only every third operating system was a hit.  Is it just that Microsoft’s software developers are really crappy at developing new software? Or is it that they push the boundaries so much that it takes us users a bit to get used to it.  For example, when Windows 1.0 launched, we were all using DOS.  Comfortable DOS.  Why change?  By the time we got used to the graphical interface, Windows 3.0 was out.  Windows was finally a big hit! Then we got comfortable again… until Windows 98 launched, and we were again pushed out of our comfort zone.  This time, however, the users embraced the changes.  Same thing happened with Windows XP, and Windows 7.  Windows 8 is really that “in-between” operating system that is pushing us to rethink how we use the computer.  Are we ready for it yet?  Probably not, but give us time – we will learn to love it.

Seven Things That Telecommuting Can Do for Your Business

Posted by admin on Dec 28, 2011

Taken from PC World Magazine, December 2011 Edition

More and more businesses now thrive on remote workers, providing services via the Internet ranging from writing to remote PC and network management. Here’s why you should consider leatting members of your team telecommute.

1 – Your workers will be more productive, by being able to work from home, and having a reduced commute time.

2 – You’ll be able to reach team members, regardless of their physical location by using collaboration services, video conferencing, and remote connections.

3 – You’ll conserve office space and save money, by reducing the number of workers at your office.

4 – You’ll reduce IT management time and equipment costs, even if you provide the laptop and software, as you will not have to provide office furniture.

5 – You’ll be able to take advantage of distributed, cloud-based IT functions, such as Google Apps or Microsoft Office 365.

6 – Your organization will become more agile, giving your workers greater flexibility to meet pesonnel and project requirements.

7 – Your workers will cost less overall.

7 Ways To Give Your Business a Professional Look

Posted by admin on Sep 10, 2011

Every business – large and small – needs to worry about their image. Sometimes we forget to take a look at ourselves from “the outside”. There are ten simple things you can do to give yourself a professional look.

1) Get a logo… and use it – properly. This might seem almost redundant to mention, but this is a pet peeve of mine. Every business or organization needs a logo – that is the easiest way for a potential customer to recognize you. The next step is to use it. Every time your business is mentioned, use your logo – in ads, on vehicles, on clothing – everywhere! The most important step is to make sure the logo looks right. There is a reason that large corporations spend a lot of time creating guidelines on how their logo is to be used. When you see a logo that is stretched out of proportion or all blurry, you notice it.. but for the wrong reason. You have a nice logo… make sure it is reproduced in a nice way.

2) Get a web presence. Now, this can be a simple one-page informational website, or a complex e-commerce site, but you should have your own domain name. I have written about the importance of websites before, and if you want to check out that article, you can read it here in my blog. The main point here is to get a domain name that is uniquely yours. Then, make sure people know about it. Make sure your website address is printed wherever your name and logo are.

3) Use the email at your domain name. You should not use a free email account as your business email. There are many reasons, but the main point here is that it looks more professional to use the email at your domain name. You already own the domain… why not use it for your email as well. Many companies still offer webmail access to your account, so it is just as convenient as Hotmail or Gmail.

4) Now that you have a logo, and a great domain name and email address… why not put that logo in the signature of your email. You will just further reinforce your brand, by reminding them of your logo every time they get an email from you. Also take that opportunity to mention your website.

5) Subscribe to a “call answer service”. Nothing bugs me more than a busy signal – except maybe no answer at all. Most telephone companies offer an answering service. I think that is better than an answering machine because it can take a message while you are on the phone. At the very least, you can inform the caller that their call is important and that you will contact them as soon as you can.

6) Invest in a colour laser printer. The prices of colour laser printers are dropping so fast, that soon they will be the same price as a black & white laser printer. You have a nice logo, and probably some nice photos… why print them all in black & white? There is a reason that everything a large corporation produces is done in colour… because colour sells. Why not print everything in colour, such as your brochures, flyers, quotations, and even your invoices.

7) Use social media. If you have time, you can use services such as Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn to spread the word and keep track of what people are saying about you. This can take a considerable amount of time, so don’t take this initiative lightly. Large corporations have full-time employees that only keep track of the company’s social media sites. Nothing screams “unprofessional” than a Facebook page that has not been updated in over a year.

In a nutshell, you know your stuff… but you should look like you know your stuff.

Network-Attached Storage for Any Business

Posted by admin on Mar 21, 2011

Taken from PC World Magazine, February 2011 Edition

Network-attached storage can make your business easier to run and more efficient in multiple ways.  Let’s look at some scenarios for NAS use in businesses of various sizes.

A small-office or home-office setup consisting of a few PCs, a multifunction printer or two, and perhaps a wireless, peer-to-peer network is far from  optimal for sharing a accessing files.  Data is scattered, and accessing it from outside of the local network requires a VPN or remote control. A NAS box puts important data in one accessible, easy-to-backup location.  You can back up anything you’re working on off-site by logging in and uploading the files to the NAS box.  Most NAS boxes have on-board backup utilities and USB ports for attaching drives.

If you collaborate with coworkers far away, a NAS box’s easy wide-area connectivity can consolidate and centralize your efforts.  Like any other administered network-storage resource, your NAS will allow users to access only the contents you approve.  To handle collaborative work arrangements, simply create folder for each project, give each person access to folders as needed, and give yourself access to all of the folders. A NAS box is self-sufficient, redundant, and task-specific.  But some programs insist that their database reside on a local PC, and others require you to install a traffic-cop program for multiple users.  For these programs, you need a NAS box that uses Windows Home Server.

When buying NAS hardware, focus on redundancy, capacity and speed.  Don’t buy a single-drive NAS box: You’ll need at least a two-drive box for mirroroing one drive on the other so you won’t lose access when one drive fails.  For help, ask the professionals at ICS Computers.

Are Your Secrets Safe Here?

Posted by admin on Feb 10, 2009

Taken from Report on Small Business, November 2008 Edition
Written by Craig Silverman

Every business – no matter how small – is vulnerable to security breaches.  A survey by security software provider McAfee earlier this year found that more than 30% of small- and medium-sized companies in North America have suffered a cyber attack.  Yet 40% of IT professionals in those companies still don’t believe their online systems are at risk.

“Small businesses often have a relaxed culture because they consist of a small group of people who all know each other,” says Nasrin Rezai, director of global information security at Cisco Systems.  “That means the company didn’t start with a culture of protecting information.”  The key is to recognize that educating employees is as important to shoring up a company’s defences as buying technology.

“There is always a human element to security, and if you don’t address this and couple it with a technical solution, you’ll never have a reasonable security model,” says Malcolm Harkins, general manager of information security at Intel Canada.

As a starting point, consider the humble office cubicle, which is home to an array of security shortcomings that the average employee never thinks about.

1) Many employees like to keep a list of their colleagues’ phone numbers taped to a cubicle wall.  Problems arise, however, when workers receive printed versions of the company’s entire directory, complete with titles, home and cell numbers and e-mail addresses.  This company road map can be useful to thieves, who can cite insiders’ names to gain access to the office and its systems.  Restrict hard-copy directories to a listing of names and extension numbers.

2) Passwords can be too complex.  Instead of committing them to memory, employees write them on Post-it notes and stick them on monitors.  When this happens, says Intel’s Malcolm Harkins, “security controls are driving behaviours that make the risk higher.”  Passwords should be at least 10 characters long, and include both numbers and letters.  Change your password every couple of months.

3) USB keys are a convenient way to carry documents and share them with colleagues.  Unfortunately, these storage devices are easily lost and stolen.  Banning their use in the office is one option, says Harkins,”but then people simply print out hard copies or burn files to a CD”.  Instead, insist that staffers refrain from storing sensitive data on USBs or CDs unless it is encrypted.

4) Smartphones store reams of proprietary corporate and personal information. They also frequently sit unprotected on desks and in other public areas.  Use the phone’s password feature to prevent anyone from accessing your e-mail or other data.  Demand that staff notify IT the second a phone is lost or stolen.

5) So much for the paperless office: Employees often leave confidential information lying on desktops and in printer trays.  For thieves and unscrupulous competitors, such finds are as good as gold. 

Take a moment a look around your operation, and see what potential security risks you have… and prevent it.

AVG Upgrade from 7.5 to 8.0

Posted by admin on May 14, 2008

AVG has undergone a major revision, making a much more comprehensive protection package.  In the process, the makers have kept the program easy to use, and seamless in it’s operation.  The problem is that by the end of May, you will no longer be able to get support and updates for any of the 7.5 versions… including the Free version.

For FREE version users, you can get the replacement 8.0 version at Just click on the “Get it Now” button under the “Free basic protection” header.  Follow the simple instructions, and you are all upgraded.

For PAID version users, you can download the newest version from the AVG Website.  You will have to get a new product key in order to unlock the 8.0 program, as your old key will not work.  You can use this online tool to get a new one.  When asked for the new key, remove the existing key, and enter the new one from the tool.

If you are currently using the FREE version, and wish to start using the PAID version, you can purchase that through our online store.

If you are having troubles with any of these instructions, please feel free to contact us, or bring your system in.  Also, if you are on dial-up internet, the downloads can take as much as five hours to complete.  Using our high-speed internet, we can have the program downloaded, installed, updated, and ready in about 30 minutes.


Posted by admin on Oct 2, 2007

By the end of October, we should be in our new place.  Come in and check our our new digs at 820 Gartshore Street, Unit 105 (beside Centre Wellington Hydro).  We will be able to offer you better sales and support, plenty of parking, and we will continue to offer on site service.  Our phone, fax, email and website will all remain the same.