The Real Risks Of Running Outdated Software

Michael Menor is Vice President of Support Services for Tech Experts.

Are you still holding onto your trusty old server that’s aging towards uselessness?

Or perhaps you are still running important applications on older servers with old operating systems because they’re “good enough” or “doing the job just fine.”

In many ways, your old server is like a trusty old car. You know where the kinks are and it gets you where you need to go.

But lurking below the surface of that trusty old car, and your old server, can be hidden risks that can result in very big problems, even dangers. Usually, when least expected.

Security risks are the number one danger of older technology. The older your operating system or application, the longer the bad guys have to find and exploit vulnerabilities.

This is especially true when the manufacturer is no longer actively maintaining support. Dangers can lurk across the entire aging application platform.

Your older versions of SQL Server are at risk. Perhaps you are still using an old FTP server that’s innocently sitting in the corner. Or you have some older network equipment and appliances.

The bottom line is anything that listens on the network is a potential threat to the server, and therefore your business.

If that software or firmware isn’t up to date, you’re doubly at risk of a major security incident.

Here are the top 5 risks you’re taking with running outdated software:

Crashes and system downtimec505825_m
Aging systems are more vulnerable to failure, crashes and corruption causing significant downtime.

Targeted technology upgrades can reduce total annual outage risk and reduce downtime.

Increased costs
Outdated software is more expensive to maintain than newer versions. Failing software increases costs by overloading IT personnel. The process of applying patches is also costly and time consuming.

Updated software portfolios not only decrease maintenance costs but also free up IT budgets for more strategic and innovative programs.

Decreased productivity
Aging software applications that crash or require maintenance result in reduced employee productivity.

Modernizing software increases productivity by improving the efficiency and quality of work.

Security holes
Mission critical software is more vulnerable to security breaches as it ages. A security breach can compromise sensitive customer and employee information, and proprietary company data.

Legal and regulatory compliance risks
Updated software ensures compliance to governance, regulation and policy as regulatory bodies continue to mandate new global requirements.

This is especially important for healthcare professionals that need to comply with new HIPAA regulations.

With older technology, any of the above risks can strike you at any time. The consequences can be loss of productivity, or worse, loss of critical data that negatively impacts your business.

Perhaps “good enough” isn’t really good enough after all.

(Image Source: iCLIPART)

Why Are Windows And Software Updates Important?

by Jeremy Miller, Technician
Everyone who owns a computer running Microsoft Windows has seen that pop-up alerting you that you have updates to install or that they have been installed. Updates are fixes for a known issue.

Microsoft uses an application called Windows Update Service to look for new updates, and then it categorizes the various updates by how critical they are.

There are security updates which patch vulnerabilities that can compromise your system.

Critical updates fix major issues found with Microsoft products that can cause errors or unusual behavior. Software updates are non-critical issues such as more features and minor bug fixes.

Service packs contain all updates and patches prior to the service pack. You can install a service pack to apply a large amount of updates at once. Also service packs can determine which software you can run.

It is important to update your computer to keep your computing environment stable. If you allow your computer to get too out of date such as not installing a service pack, you may not be able to run a lot of software.
Even worse if you do not install security updates you will have a larger “known” attack surface for exploits.

Windows is not the only software that updates. You have probably seen Adobe Reader, Flash Player, or Java letting you know that there are updates available for install in your system tray. They update for the same reason that Microsoft updates Windows.

Updates are important to keep your system secure and relatively issue free. Updates can also cause issues sometimes. It is better to install the update on a computer to see if there will be an issue before deploying it to the entire network.

A good example of this is if Internet Explorer 10 has just been installed on your computer and now all of a sudden you cannot print a report, the latest update may be the issue. You should first attempt to work with the new update.

Internet Explorer 10 has compatibility mode to work with older websites, if that does not work you may have to uninstall the update and use Internet Explorer 9. This happens because the company you are printing the report from is not compatible with the new Internet Explorer 10 browser.

You will have to wait until either the company updates their server to be compliant with Internet Explorer 10 or you will have to wait until Internet Explorer 10’s compatibility will work with the site.

Keeping your software up to date is an important part of secure computing. Threats and security holes are discovered every day; it is critical you apply any updates the manufacturer releases.

Not all updates apply to every environment, which means that not everyone will get the same updates; it is based on the software you have installed and when you installed it.

The only software that you should always update would be any anti-virus software. This software usually updates automatically several times a day. The moment your anti-virus gets out of date you are not protected with the latest anti-virus definitions.

If you are having trouble with updates and patching or if you have any questions give us a call. We can make sure your computers are up to date and keep you worry free.

Saying Goodbye To An Old Friend… Would A New Workstation Boost Your Productivity?

Many people find it hard to let go of that old workstation that seems to be “working just fine.” But, ask yourself: Is it really?

Most people recognize that, as their machine ages, it seems to get slower and slower.

A fresh install of Windows generally makes the computer speed back up to it’s “like new” speed.

But as we rely more and more on our computers, laptops, phones, and tablets to be productive in our work, does working at that original speed still make sense?

If it isn’t broken, don’t fix it?
Why is it a bad idea to have the “if it isn’t broken, don’t fix it” mentality when it comes to your computer?

For starters, you’re wasting your money doing so. If a computer is past its normal lifecycle then it really doesn’t make any sense spending the money to continuously bring it back to a like new state as far as the software goes because the hardware is still very outdated.

In general a desktop computer’s useful life span is roughly three to five years providing you purchased a mid-range computer and not the bottom of the line model.

For laptops you get slightly less useful life span out of them due to the fact that a mid-range laptop is generally not as good of hardware as a mid-range desktop.

The other reason a laptop doesn’t tend to last as long is the fact that it is constantly being moved around.

This constant movement, shaking, vibrating, dropping, etc. causes a lot more stress on the hardware in comparison to a desktop.

Due to the different factors involved in a laptop’s life cycle, a laptop’s useful life is roughly two to three years – perhaps slightly longer if it is well cared for.

Software updates may require PC upgrades
Another reason to think about workstation replacement has to do with the software you run on your machine.

Many different software companies offer updates to their software.

Some updates offer fixes to problems or security issues, but many updates also offer new features or updates to old features.

These updates sometimes include a better graphical interface that makes a program easier to use.

Generally, these types of updates have higher computing and speed requirements. Many industry specific software companies put out these types of updates, and they’re great!

Who wouldn’t want a more attractive user interface that functions better and offers more options?

The problem: Updating/upgrading software requires more system resources almost one hundred percent of the time.

If you’re the kind of person that likes to hold on to your workstation forever and never update it, but wants those nice software updates, you might see performance problems.

While your software is updating it needs more RAM, more CPU power, and in some cases, more graphical capacity to run to the new software properly. A lot of times, users don’t realize that with new features come new requirements.

In short, if your computer is over five years old, consider replacing it, particularly if it’s a laptop. A faster workstation will help you with updated software, and keep up with your busy workload.

Feature article written by: Tech Experts

Top 5 Ways to “Break” Your Computer

Here are the top five most common ways to “break” your computer. The reason break is in quotations is because no matter what happens to your computer we can almost always fix it…it just doesn’t make sense sometimes from a financial stand point to do so.

My computer won’t turn on
This very common situation and can be caused by many different things.

One common cause, however, that IS preventable is the computer overheating.

The first step to preventing this issue is to put the computer on an elevated surface instead of the floor if you have the space to do so.

The reason you want to do this is normal everyday foot traffic around or near the computer kicks up a lot of dust and debris that can coat the insides of a computer and cause the processor to not be cooled properly.

The other step you want to take to prevent this issue is to take a can of air and blow out the computer on occasion.

We do NOT recommend open­ing the case and doing the interior yourself as it is possible to cause damage to components.

My computer is running really slow
Yet again another common scenario we hear almost every day.

Unfortunately, there is no way to completely avoid this, but there are some ways to slow it down.

As your operating system instal­lation ages, and depending on how much it is used, the operating system, and software files in it can become damaged or corrupt, which slows your computer down.

The best way to combat this issue is to make sure that your uninstall­ing unused programs through the control panel, and simply keeping unused junk files clean off of your com­puter.

The more you keep your computer and OS the way it was when you pur­chased it the better it will run.

This can also happen if you shut your computer down improperly. Always go through the Start Menu/ Shutdown process when powering off your computer.

Constant popups are interrupting me and making my PC slow
Almost always, this very com­mon issue is caused by a virus or spyware on your computer.

Unfortunately, there aren’t any fool-proof methods of preventing a virus or malware attack.

The best thing you can do to help prevent an infection is to have anti­virus software installed on your PC, but keep in mind, even this does not guarantee you will not get a virus/ malware infection.

The other step to help prevent this is to only go to websites that are considered to be “safe,” meaning they are legitimate websites that its owners would not be trying to gain access to your PC or have any reason to infect your computer.

The most common place for users to get viruses and malware is from browsing the web for free items such as software, movies, music, etc. or even from emails.

Unfortunately, if you do end up be­ing infected by a virus, they’re very difficult to completely remove.

The process used to properly remove a virus is complex and if not done properly can damage your computers operating system and/or cause data loss.

That being said even if you bring the computer in it is possible for a virus to attach itself to a file and damage it permanently so even we may not be able to recover all of your files in the event of a very bad infection.

In most cases we are able to remove all viruses/malware from a system and the user not even notice that they ever had one. There are times, though, where the virus does irreversible damage.

My computer can’t get online
This is another common issue, and is most often caused by the above issue – viruses or spyware on the computer.

Viruses, spyware and malware have all kinds of different effects on the computer. When that is not the cause there are several other issues that may come into play.

As long as other computers at your home/business are able to get online the issue is more than likely due to a setting on your computer itself.

The most common instance I can think of with laptops is the user ac­cidentally switches the WiFi switch to the off position (and doesn’t realize the laptop even had a WiFi switch).

In a desktop, however, as long as the connection issue has not been caused by failing hardware, it is usually caused by a setting changed within the computer.

Connection issues encompass a number of possible settings on the computer, so it’s hard to give you all the information to properly troubleshoot this issue in a small newsletter article.

When it comes to connection issues your best bet is to give us a call and let us diagnose the issue for you.

We troubleshoot many connectivity issues here in the shop as well as onsite. So, no matter where your problem lies, we can get you back online.

Windows told me I had some updates so I installed them. Now my computer won’t boot
Windows updates are almost always important, but they can also be complex in how they interact with your operating system and installed software.

Unfortunately, since most of the updates address serious security risks they must be installed.

The best practice regarding updates is to review them immediately, and perhaps even download them to the machine, but wait a few days in case there are issues with the updates.

If Microsoft finds that there are is­sues with a patch, even though they do test them to begin with, they will pull the update off of Windows updates until the issue is resolved.

This will help prevent you from getting an update that can cause a problem.

Hardware driver updates are by far the most common type of update that “breaks” the computer.

We generally don’t recommend downloading them unless you are having a problem with your current driver, or there’s a serious security issue with the current driver.

With hardware sometimes it’s better to go with the “Don’t fix it if it isn’t broke” sentiment. If you do mistakenly update and then are unable to get into Windows, bring your computer in and we can get the issue corrected!

These are a few of the common is­sues that we see every week. Hope­fully this short list can help keep your system running smoothly, and help you solve basic issues.

Featured Article Written By: Tech Experts

Windows Updates… What, When, Why?

Windows Update can be confusing. Microsoft throws a lot of stuff at you, often with little information.

And somehow you have to figure out what you really need, what you might like and what Microsoft wants you to have for their own purposes.

It doesn’t help that most of the updates have totally useless names. Without looking it up, can you tell me why you may or may not need Windows Vista (KB950124)? I can’t, either.

Unfortunately, if you don’t keep up with the patches and security fixes for your version of windows, you run the risk of not only being more vulnerable to a malware attack.

Hackers are always looking for security holes in operating systems and application software to gain access to your computer.

There are many types of updates that can be available for your server or workstation and in most – but not all – cases you will want to install them.

A lot of updates come from Microsoft. Another source is hardware providers that may have made some of the hardware in your computer (like video cards, sound cards, network interface cards, Etc.)

Updates can come from other software that you install to do your work or make your computer run better (like Adobe Reader and Adobe Flash).

The updates that come from Microsoft generally offer more features to a product installed on your computer such as Microsoft Office, Internet Explorer, or even Windows itself.

Windows Update also delivers very important patches that correct issues with the operating system and could potentially allow hackers access to your fi les or anything accessible on your computer.

This can include devices that are connected to your computer such as your router, printers, external hard drives, network attached storage, etc. This can be a serious security risk if your computer is on a network domain.

Gaining access to a user’s computer that has administrative rights to various aspects of the network or server would allow hackers to do much more damage than on a PC you use at home.

In a business setting it is an absolute necessity that you keep your server/workstations up to date with all security patches that are appropriate to your environment.

Just as it is very important to keep your operating system up to date, it is also very important that you keep your programs up to date.

One of the most abused programs in regards to gaining access to users’ computers is Adobe Flash and Reader.

These programs are patched regularly to prevent attacks. Since Flash is used on many websites, and Reader is used for many business documents, you almost certainly have them on your computer.

Recently, Adobe announced a vulnerability discovered within its Flash software that allowed hackers to connect remotely to your computer and use Flash to control every aspect of your computer.

This has since been patched (as long as you updated your Flash player), but it just goes to show how easily your computer can be compromised if you do not keep it up to date.

There are times that you may not want to update your software. One example, and there are many, might be your video card drivers.

You may not want to install this update unless you have a specific need.

Sometimes, updates of these type can cause hardware to malfunction and there are times where the update is designed to fix a specific problem. If you don’t have the problem the update fixes, you probably wouldn’t install that update.

If you have any questions, feel free to call a tech today at 734-457-5000.

Feature article By Tech Experts Staff for Tech Experts