How To Protect Your Computers From Electrical Anomalies

Chris Myers is a field service technician for Tech Experts.

Many people will recognize these as risks of a power outage that can damage computers, but did you know that there are actually many different types of power anomalies? If the power dips for even a quarter of a second (250 milliseconds), your computer will use up its reserves of power and abruptly shut down after only 17 milliseconds.

Types of electrical anomalies

Sags, also known as brownouts and undervoltage, are temporary decreases of voltage levels. This is a very common problem, making up a majority of the power disruptions your computer will encounter. When a sag happens, computers may not get enough voltage to power all of its components. This can cause unseen data corruption, power loss to fans, and a freezing keyboard or mouse.

Electric companies purposefully induce sags in order to deal with periods of high power demands, such as high usage of air conditioners on a hot day.

Blackouts are when all power is lost. They are typically caused by power grid equipment failure, lightning, ice, car accidents, and natural disasters. When a blackout occurs, all data in your RAM and hard drive caches is lost. If critical system files like the File Allocation Table are damaged, it may render your hard drive inoperable.

A spike, also called an impulse, is a sudden and dramatic increase in voltage usually lasting less than one millisecond. It can be caused by a lightning strike or a large section of network equipment coming online. Spikes can cause catastrophic damage to computers, often overloading power supplies and burning circuit boards.

A surge, also referred to as a transient, is a short period of increased voltage typically lasting between 8 milliseconds and 2.5 seconds. Depending on the voltage, surges can cause damage similar to that of spikes.

Noise refers to both Electro-Magnetic Interference (EMI) and Radio Frequency Interference (RFI). Electrical power is transmitted with sine waves, usually as an alternating current (AC). The usage of many electronic devices in close proximity to each other can alter the pattern of these waves. When this occurs, it can result in overheating, data loss, and distorted audio or video.

Frequency shifts, also known as harmonic distortion, usually happen when lighting equipment shifts the sine wave frequency to something other than the standard 60 Hertz. This can result in the overheating of electrical wiring and power supply errors leading to unscheduled shut downs.

Preventing Damage

Surge protectors are the easiest and most affordable way to provide your equipment with an immediate layer of protection. When buying a surge protector, you want a high amount of joules and low let-through voltage.

Joules are basically how much energy the device can absorb over its lifetime. Let-through voltage is how much voltage is passed on to connected devices when the surge protector is hit with a 6,000-volt surge.

The best surge protectors will even have outlets for phone, TV, and USB cables. All of those cable types can be damaged from power surges. Just make sure you aren’t getting a power strip string only, which is simply an extension of a wall outlet and offers no protection.

For the best protection you will need an uninterruptible power supply (UPS). These power supplies will provide power to your equipment whenever it sags or stops completely. Most small power supplies will keep your computer running for about 10 minutes or just network equipment for about an hour. Having enough time to properly shut down your equipment can mean all the difference when it comes to saving your data and hardware.

Easy And Common Steps To Resolve Internet Issues

Luke Gruden is a help desk technician for Tech Experts.

The Internet is key in almost all that we do on computers. A computer without Internet would have limited use — not only because of the browser, but because many programs require the connection to function.

That’s why when we are right in middle of working and we lose Internet, we can get very frustrated very quickly. Luckily, there are a few things you can try to potentially restore your Internet with minimal time and effort.

Calling your Internet service provider or your IT techs can result in an issue taking longer to resolve as someone may have to drive out to your business or you have to wait for the next available phone representative. Why wait when, most likely, you can fix your own Internet in about 15 minutes or less with minimal experience?

However, before we talk about how to bring back the Internet, we must talk about terminology and devices.

The first device that handles your Internet from the outside of your building is the Internet modem. Your modem usually has your Internet provider’s logo on it and is plugged in by a cord going outside (usually through a wall). You also need to know what a router is. A router plugs into all the computers with either wired or wireless connections. Sometimes, the modem is also a router when it’s a two-in-one device.

Finally, you should know what a firewall device is. Firewalls are usually a box that is plugged in between the router and modem, protecting your network. That said, not every business has a firewall.

Now that you have the basic terminology, we can potentially fix the Internet. First of all, if you lose your connection to the Internet, try a reboot of your workstation.

If the reboot does not work, see if anyone else has Internet. If it is just you that’s lost connection, try to see if you can push your Internet wire (Ethernet cable) into your computer. Sometimes, the connection can become loose and that’s all there is to the problem.

If you are using a wireless connection, turn off your Wi-Fi with a button on your computer and turn it back on. If your Internet is not back, you might have to contact your IT. If no one has Internet, take a look at the modem. The modem usually has lights showing the status of the Internet connection. If it shows that there is no Internet, try to unplug the power from it and wait 15 seconds and plug it back in.

The modem will take time, potentially 10 or 15 minutes, but you will see if the Internet connection comes back. If the modem does have Internet, try to unplug the firewall (if you have one), then plug it back in after 15 seconds. If the Internet still is out after 15 minutes, try to do the same thing with the router by unplugging and plugging the power back in. If the Internet is still out for everyone, you probably have to call your Internet service provider as there could be an outage in the area. Most of the time when the Internet goes out, following these steps can likely bring back the Internet connection. This is especially true if you are at home.

Hopefully, following these steps can resolve your lost Internet connection. Sometimes, your equipment essentially needs a restart to get things back into working order. Should you need further help, we at Tech Experts have you covered!

What Are The Signs Of A Failing Hard Drive?

Anthony Glover is Tech Expert’s network engineer.

As a network engineer by day, I can say that have seen a lot of hard drive problems and, if they’re not taken care of properly, they can cause a severe technical headache. It is important to notice the signs that are present to you and, fortunately, there’s several to note.

Sluggish performance of your workstation is one of the main issues. This can occur without warning and it can even seem like a virus or cause a blue screen of death (BSOD).

Another sign is your PC or workstation making clicking or grinding noises. This can cause a read failure to occur and cause the drive to be inaccessible, which in turn causes data loss. [Read more…]

Who Should Be An Administrator On Your Network?

Luke Gruden is a help desk technician for Tech Experts.

In the world of computers, administrators have access to everything in Windows. Having administrator rights allows you to download anything, change any policy, and even change registry entries in Windows. An administrator has enough control over Windows to radically change how it works, even break Windows permanently.

So, who should be an administrator? The answer is different depending on the environment and work being done. In general, the administrator account should only be used by a person who is very experienced and knowledgeable in computers, like a professional IT tech. An inexperienced person with an administrator account could permanently damage the operating system or even destroy the computer itself on accident.

A user that has admin (administrator) rights, even without being in the core files, could still cause unintentional harm to the computer. This can happen because malicious files can be accidentally downloaded and ran and, when you run a program as an admin, you give that program the rights to change your computer inside and out. Malicious programs run by an admin can ruin entire networks of computers. This, sadly, has happened to many businesses.

Domain Networks

On a domain network where many computers are connected to a server, there should be a very small amount of administrators. Ideally, just one. The more people with admin rights, the more likely the wrong program ran by the wrong person can ruin an entire building of computers or an entire business. This is usually how cryptoware spreads.

For domain networks, only professional IT techs should be administrators. The risk is too great to have someone accidentally change a policy or spread an infection that can do irreversible damage to all the computers on the network.

Business Computers

A computer used for business should be treated with more security and care as to make sure no avoidable threats harm or compromise the device. Confidential data and work can be stolen if the wrong websites are visited or by downloading the wrong software on a business computer.

For a business computer user, you might want to consider using a normal account and only use the admin account in extreme situations where recovery needs to be done. If your IT tech has access to the admin account, they can make sure that only best practices and the proper programs are implemented on that profile.

Home Computers

Computers that are used for everyday activities that do not have confidential work data should still be choosy on who has admin access. Having children or teens freely exploring the Internet and downloading odd programs or messing with the internal settings of Windows could potentially cause serious issues.

Home computers should have an admin user with a solid knowledge of computers who will be wary of suspicious websites and programs. More inexperienced users should not run admin accounts.

Generally, the best rule of thumb for admin accounts is that they should be granted to people who can handle the responsibility. Those with less experience or less important needs should have accounts with limited access.

However, if a business or network is bigger, it’s even more important than the only people granted admin privileges are their professional IT team or those who have experience. The title of administrator should be looked as one with responsibility in doing what is best for a computer, a server, and a business network.

5 Effective Lead Generation Strategies To Consider In 2017

Thomas Fox is president of Tech Experts, southeast Michigan’s leading small business computer support company.

Looking to grab new leads? Forget the more traditional marketing approaches. The majority of them are no longer as effective as they once were. Instead, try something new.

Here are five extremely effective lead-generation strategies for 2017.

Although the suggestion to start a blog is hardly groundbreaking, it remains one of the best methods of generating leads and one that is all too often overlooked, even today.

Publishing regular articles provides you with an opportunity to reach your audience and establish your expertise.

In addition, you can encourage readers to sign up for your newsletter or input their email address to access some high-value content. [Read more…]

Why Rebooting Your Computer Solves Many Issues

Luke Gruden is a help desk technician for Tech Experts.

If you have ever had IT help you with a computer issue, you may have noticed that one of the first things we usually recommend is rebooting the computer. That means shutting down the computer completely and turning it back on. This usually resolves most issues the computer could be having, but why is rebooting so effective?

In our day-to-day life, we are accustomed to our computers working all the time, consistently running programs with little to no faults. It comes as a big surprise when our computer does have an issue – especially when it seems like it should never have an issue in the first place. It may not seem like it, but computers are indeed machines and can have an occasional hiccup, like a car making a strange sound for a brief time. There are many hardware reasons why a computer may act up. Sometimes, the computer receives too much voltage for brief second.

Sometimes, the CPU – while operating under a heavy load – may mess up a bit or two, causing a program to not function normally. Or the hard-drive could have been directed to the wrong sector.

More common than a hardware hiccup is a software hiccup, where a program uses too many resources (or not enough resources) and can cause some processes to freeze or be unusable. The data with the program information is unreadable to the computer, but the program does not know this. When these sort of hiccups occur, it seems there is nothing that can be done to have the program run normally.

This is where a reboot can solve an issue. Turning off the computer forces all of the stuck and misread data to be flushed out. When the computer starts up again, the data that was being mismanaged has another chance to be read properly by the program and hardware.

Programs are usually very good at starting up and making sure that everything is running as it should after a fresh boot-up. If the reboot does not resolve the issue, then the issue is typically not a hiccup on the computer’s or software’s end, but another issue that needs to be investigated more closely, usually by a technician.

This is why IT techs are very likely to have you reboot your computer before continuing looking into the issue further: we want to make sure the computer didn’t just have a hiccup. This saves time on both ends, as well as prevents any unnecessary purchases or vendor calls.

In short, computers are prone to little glitches. While annoying, the plus side is that these minor bumps in the road are often pretty easy and quick to resolve.

When it doubt, reboot. You would be surprised by how many problems this can fix, such as a program not opening, and you can return to your work as soon as possible.

When a reboot doesn’t work, then it’s time to call your techs to investigate and get the problem under control.

Six Tips For Making 2017 Your Most Productive Year Yet

Thomas Fox is president of Tech Experts, southeast Michigan’s leading small business computer support company.

Want to up your game in 2017? Ready to hit the ground running? Here are some great tips for making 2017 your most productive year yet.

Squeeze everything you can out of your day
Get to work on the tasks that are hanging over your head at every opportunity. Long commute? Catch up on the latest industry news, draft a few emails or start to plan your tasks for the day ahead. Work remotely? Use any downtime you have, like waiting on hold to speak to the doctor or standing in line at the bank, to tackle the tasks you haven’t yet found time to accomplish.

Become more efficient at completing routine activities
It’s highly likely that you spend a significant proportion of your time on unproductive tasks that do nothing to enhance your achievements. Take a look at your weekly tasks and identify which of them add no value, which can be better managed, and which you can delegate. Make sure you are spending your time on the tasks that really matter. [Read more…]

Five Simple Year-End Technology Tasks To Start 2017 Right

Thomas Fox is president of Tech Experts, southeast Michigan’s leading small business computer support company.

If you want to get 2017 off to the right start as far as your technology is concerned, do a little end-of-year cleaning with these five simple tasks.

Update all of your passwords
If 2016 taught us anything, it’s that security and data infringement threats are at an all-time high. Most people don’t bother to change their passwords until after they have been hacked, which beats the purpose.

Now is the right time to change your passwords. The longer your password is, the better. For added security, use a combination of upper and lowercase letters, numbers, and symbols.

Clean up your hard drive
Get rid of any files you no longer need. Not only will this step reduce the number of files you store on your computer, but it will also make finding needed files much easier.

It will also free up your storage space. If you’re not sure whether you need a file or not, archive it so that you can access it at a later time, if the need arises.

Reorganize your file structure
Once you have ditched the stuff you don’t need, invest some time creating a robust and intuitive file structure so that you’ll spend less time in 2017 searching for documents you know are there somewhere but just can’t seem to find.

Ditch the applications you no longer use
No doubt you have downloaded a whole host of applications that you never use or that have since been replaced by better versions.

Uninstall any programs you are not using to free up space and declutter your computer or mobile device.

Check that your software is up to date
The start of the year is a great time to make sure all the applications and software programs that you use are fully up to date.

In addition to protecting your security by ensuring you have the latest secure versions of an app, keeping your software up to date will also help you to make sure you are not missing out on any great new features.

Four Ways To Avoid Prolonged Sitting At Work

Prolonged sitting at work is a global problem that is unlikely to improve any time soon. So what can you do to incorporate movement into a sedentary job to reduce the damaging effects prolonged periods of sitting will have on your health?

Use a standing workstation. It may not sound particularly comfortable, but standing at your desk for some periods during the day will reduce the negative consequences of desk work. Invest in a decent stand-sit work desk solution so that you can switch between standing and sitting in accordance with your comfort needs.

Stand while talking. If you don’t want to go all in and work in a standing position, make sure you take regular breaks from sitting. One way of achieving this could be to stand every time you are talking on the phone. You may also wish to stand while working on brainstorming activities or while engaged in group workshops.

Stretch regularly. According to the experts, it can be unhealthy to remain in a single posture for more than 30 minutes. If you feel your muscles tightening, stand up and give your body a stretch. The Mayo Clinic has published a handy guide to office stretches that workers can complete while engaged in other tasks.

Get your posture right. Complete a workplace assessment to test the extent to which your seating and working position are ergonomic. Identify any areas of weakness and make the appropriate changes, such as repositioning your monitor, immediately.

What Can I Do To Strengthen My Wifi Signal?

A weak WiFi signal in certain areas of your house could limit where you do your work and enjoy your entertainment activities, such as streaming films music or playing online games. This is actually a common issue with a couple of relatively easy fixes that will improve your wireless Internet connection throughout your house.

The first option is to replace the antenna on your router with a taller one. If your router has a built-in antenna, you can likely add an external one and see a marked increase in signal quality. There are two main types of antennae: omnidirectional and directional. An omnidirectional antenna transmits in all directions, while you can point a directional antenna where you need to strengthen the signal without making it easier for others to latch onto your WiFi. The other alternative to improve your wireless signal is to install a range extender, particularly if the area that requires the strongest signal is behind thick walls or is relatively small.