Category Archives: Blog

What is Server Management & How Does It Help?

what is server management?Server management is a task undertaken by a information technology specialist to help businesses get the most from today’s fast-paced world of technology.

Businesses not only need stability from servers and software applications but also scalable solutions to meet their ever-growing needs.

The problem commonly arises when there’s a lack of qualified server administrators to fix more complicated issues. However, that level of talent and expertise does come with a price. That means it doesn’t make economic sense to hire a full time employee for small business IT support tasks such as server management.

This is where using a small business server management company comes in handy. Your servers will be managed remotely with the same level of expertise you would expect from a fulltime server manager. Doing so will help you cut the labour cost significantly without sacrificing the quality of your business operations.

Let’s dig a little deeper into the ways a server management professional can help your business.

What is Server Management?

In general, server management companies can assist your business with the following tasks:

Server setup. As you install more servers, you will need to configure them with your currently existing setup to make sure that everything is up and running.

Server monitoring. This entails checking the status of all the programs and applications running on your servers to avoid issues (e.g. downtime) as they arise.

Keeping all programs up-to-date. All servers require patching regularly. Most noteably for security holes found after the firmware is released. As your server or NAS device holds your company data and intellectual property it is critical that these patches are realised and applied with minimum delay. To keep your servers healthy, a server management company may offer to do this for you either by request or as part of the packaged service you have availed.

Note: Keep in mind that not all service providers offer the same set of server management practices. Some are best suited for supporting self-managed servers while others are enterprise-level specialists.

3 Benefits of Using a Server Management Company

So let’s get to the one-million-dollar question. What are the advantages of using a server management company?

Customised Server Setup

While business activities rely on servers of some kind, this does not mean that all servers are the same. They may differ depending on how a company intends to use it for and thus may require a different setup and configuration.

This is why it is also important to explain your specific requirements to the service provider. This will help both parties come up with the best set up and configuration plan to the servers are up and running smoothly.

Server Management & Security

Server maintenance will increase the security of your servers and data, minimising the risk of hackers accessing your company information. Anti-virus, firewalls and malware scanning assist in keeping the bad guys out.

24/7 Monitoring and Availability

Your servers may experience a critical issue at any time of the day. An effective server management company will make themselves available to their clients 24/7. So instead of trying to tackle issues on your own, you can just let the experts handle it quickly and effectively.

Taking Care Of Technology For You

The biggest reason you need server management expertise? So you can get back to business and let someone take care of it all for you. Server managers will monitor the performance, integrity, and health of your servers round the clock. This can include but not limited CPU usage, load average, server load, Disk storage and more. Preventing issues you never knew existed from ever occurring.

Outsourcing server management is a crucial business process that can add stability and security to your servers. It is more affordable and flexible, than hiring a team of server administrators fulltime.

Many clients prefer a ‘work window’ out of business hours. We can perform your patches and upgrades at a time suitable to you.

So if you wish to focus on the other important aspects of your business, leave server management to a trusted service provider near you. Get in touch with us for all your IT support needs and mobile computer repairs in Sydney.

IMAP or POP email. Which one do I need?

If you use more than one device to access email and you are still using POP email, then maybe it’s time to change to IMAP. This post will help you make the right decision for your needs when choosing IMAP or POP email for your business.

In the beginning…

The email revolution came along for many back in the 90s, and it was rare that you needed to access this email outside of work. In fact email creation was many years before this but it took a little while to gain traction. Personal email followed shortly after, and again it was rare that you needed to access this email anywhere other than your home PC.

Fast forward 20 years (yes, it really has been that long), and we have a plethora of devices, multiple accounts, and 24 hour connectivity. Email and messaging follow us wherever, whenever. Let’s look at how we connect and see if you are getting the most out of your email accounts.

It’s in the cloud

You can think of POP (Post Office Protocol) email as your pigeon hole or PO Box at the local post office. The mail is delivered there, and you have to go collect it, emptying out the box each visit, and taking it home with you. This bit is important as we will see later. The only copy of that email is now at your home on your PC.

IMAP (Internet Message Access Protocol) on the other hand is where a copy of the email is delivered directly to your PC and the original is left on the server at the post office, continuing the analogy. Your email system checks to ensure that all your copies on your device match exactly what is kept on the server (at the post office).

Contingency planning

Now, looking a little deeper at your email usage. If you delete an email from your PC while using POP, then the email is gone. No further copies exist, so unless you have a backup, then that’s it. If you delete an email on your PC using IMAP, then the next time your email application synchronises the copies, it will see the email from your PC was deleted and therefore delete the copy on the server.

So far, so good. Both systems work in a similar manner, until you have an operating system crash, hard disk failure, backup fail or virus attack which deletes or removes your email program or prevents it from running.

IMAP or POP email?With POP, there’s a good chance you may have lost your entire email content, whereas with IMAP, it’s just a question of getting access to your primary copy kept on the server and re-syncing your local copy. This could be re-installing the email program, adding your account details, and allowing the software to download copies of all your email again. While this isn’t a typical backup method, in this scenario it can save your email.

Backup, of sorts

We are, of course, assuming that the primary copy on the server is never corrupted or lost. This is where good email providers take the trouble of backing up your email for you, so in essence you have passed the onus of backups onto someone else.

The backup equivalent with POP relies on you doing the backup locally as you are holding the only copy

Even using POP, you can ask the server to keep a copy of every email you receive, for a specific limited time, or indefinitely. Indefinitely is good so long as you have the space on the server. If not, then deleting after several days or weeks can keep the storage space issue in check.

Multiple devices

Another area that IMAP excels is multiple synchronised devices. Consider sending an email using POP from your iPad, then a few days later while at home you need to review that sent email again. The only copy can be found in your sent folder of the iPad. Your mobile or phone PC doesn’t have a copy. Using IMAP, if the email was sent from your iPad, IMAP would sync all your devices, so you could find a copy of that email in the sent folder of your home PC, iPad, smart phone and server, which is a very convenient feature.

Speed of access

Back when email first gathered momentum (I sound old!), internet access was via old dial-up modems with ridiculously slow speeds by today’s standards. POP was necessary as bandwidth was limited and syncing would simply take too long. As our internet speeds have increased, reliance on cloud services have become commonplace as access speeds negate the delay to access our information. With IMAP syncing both ways (up and down) we don’t notice this delay being processed in the background. By the time you have read your first email, the rest has finished syncing.

Am I using IMAP or POP?

Not sure if you are running POP or IMAP? Have a look in the settings and note the ports used to download (or fetch) email. Ports 110 and 995 are associated with POP while 143 and 993 are used for IMAP.

You might want to upgrade from POP to IMAP to take advantage of the increased functionality. Here are a few things to check.

  • Make sure your email provider offers both. These days they usually do, and will show the settings on their website
  • Check if you have mail left of the POP server waiting to be collected
  • Create a backup of your local email before attempting to change anything

Migrating

Once you have created the IMAP account in your email program, you can move your old POP email over to your IMAP email. This is done in say Outlook by dragging the folders across from one account to the other. This will ‘upload’ the local email back to the email server when the sync occurs. This can take a while so maybe kick this off overnight.  From here on, any changes on your local copy will be reflected on the server, then across all devices. If you move folders around, it may take a while for the server and other devices to catch up.

Microsoft Exchange

One option we can touch on here, but explore further in another post is Microsoft Exchange. When setting up or ongoing management of small business IT, we often recommend users of Microsoft’s Office Suite (Word, Excel, Outlook) opt for Microsoft Exchange. This can be deployed on-site, in the cloud, or a hybrid combination of both.

With Exchange, users can utilise much more functionality and integration than plain email. Sharing of calendars, meeting room booking reservations, spam control, inbox auto-filing, shared address books and auto-archiving are just the tip of the iceberg.

Give Sydney IT Assist a call now and arrange a time to go over some of the options best for your business. Put IT to work for you, not against you.

 

Does My Computer Have A Virus? 4 Computer Malware Symptoms

Does my computer have a virus or malwareThink your computer has a virus or malware? Lets start by answering the question – what is malware? The ‘mal’ in ‘malware’ means ‘malicious’ – but it’s even worse than that. By malicious, we’re talking about computer programs like viruses, spyware, trojans, worms and everything else that infiltrates our systems without our consent and causes all sorts of problems.

Here at Sydney IT Assist, malware is one of the most common computer problems we see each and every day. And believe us, malware might not just be a nuisance like a spam-sending trojan, or a pain like a slow-working or temporarily inoperable computer. Malware and computer viruses can damage hardware, delete or transfer your precious data, and even bring down an entire corporate network.

In short, malware is not only ‘malicious’, it can even be catastrophic.

If you’re reading this article on your computer, likely you’re already thinking ‘Does my computer have a virus?’ If so, you’ll need to look out for those typical computer malware and virus symptoms. Here’s 4 ways to tell if your computer has malware.

1. It’s running slow

A slow computer is often a matter of opinion, but if yours has suddenly or dramatically slowed down, that’s a very common sign of malware. Keep in mind there are a number of reasons for a slow computer, so although you don’t need to panic you should investigate it further.

Sometimes, you will notice that even if you’re not doing anything that is particularly resource-heavy, malware will cause your hard drive to work hard, your RAM to fill up and your internet connection to clog up like crazy.

2. Pop-ups are popping up everywhere

While a pop-up – normally an advert that requires closing – probably just means you’ve visited a legitimate (albeit annoying) website, lots and lots of them are a bad sign.

It’s also important to realise that pop-ups caused by ‘adware’ are not just annoying, the cause can be incredibly hard to remove from the system and the potential damage can be much worse than just a bad mood.

3. Regular system crashes

We’ve all seen that occasional but dreaded ‘blue screen of death’, and we’ve all had a computer simply not behave itself. And it doesn’t necessary mean malware is the cause.

But if it’s happening a lot, especially in conjunction with other weird problems like program crashes, it might not be a simple software or hardware problem – it could be malware. Often, the designer of the malware doesn’t necessary want to display ads or steal your information, they just want to ruin your day, corrupt your files and generally wreck your computer.

4. Strange internet behaviour

We’ve covered pop-up ads, but that’s not all malware will do to affect your internet browsing.

One clear warning sign is that when you try to use your regular search engine, let’s say Google, you’ll actually be taken somewhere else. Or perhaps there are unfamiliar new toolbars on your browser, your home page is suddenly different, or you receive an odd message from a Facebook friend asking you to click an unfamiliar link.

My computer has malware! Now what?

You can try to remove the malware yourself using antivirus software programs, if your computer operating system is still accessible. Just run a full scan and follow instructions if malware is found. It’s a good idea to restart your computer and run another scan with a different tool see if any additional malware is found.

Once your computer is clean of malware you don’t want it coming back! Update your operating system, browser and software applications, then reset all passwords.

If your computer is on a company network or connected to a server then contact your business IT support specialist as soon as possible to stop the malware spreading across the network.

Luckily, while the average malware perpetrator is pretty smart, some experts are even smarter – like the guys at Sydney IT Assist. We have all the latest and greatest tools, techniques, knowledge and advice to remove malware quickly, and then keep it from coming back.

So, no symptoms means no malware – right?

Well, not exactly. Some malware inhabit your computer with the intention of using it for nefarious purposes ongoing. If you knew about this, you would likely call in our guys to fix it. There are a few ways to detect malware that is trying to hide, like booting from a USB drive, scanning for listening ports or looking for processes that we know don’t belong in your operating system. We can even put devices in your business network that look for malware traffic both incoming and outgoing.

So if your trusty computer is all of a sudden behaving more like a hospital patient, get in touch today and let Sydney IT assist nurse it back to health.

4 Easy Ways to Avoid Computer Problems

how to avoid computer problemsIf someone was asked to name the greatest invention of all time, the answer ‘Computer’ would not be scoffed at. That’s because computers have done nothing less than transform our lives. Having once needed a huge warehouse to house what we would now consider a basic computer, modern computers have changed everything: education, health, security, business – and buying a new book from Amazon!. With all of that convenience comes one unavoidable reality: computer problems.

Common computer problems

Indeed, although modern computer technology is incredible, they are still complex machines – and complex machines can go wrong. The computer repairs in Sydney we’re performing the most are Windows problems and crashes, removing viruses, speeding up slow computers, fixing internet connections, getting email back up and running, getting your printer to print again, repairing laptops with charging issues, recovering data – and just getting your computer to do the simple task of booting up.

But although we truly believe in our incredible powers of computer repair, we know that you’d actually prefer to avoid your computer going ‘Pop!’ in the first place.

Here’s how to avoid common computer problems.

1. Use anti-virus

If you’re not using an anti-virus program – get one up and running now! And if you haven’t checked if yours is up to date, make it your absolute priority. Viruses and malware not only slow down your computer, they even compromise your security and safety, and there’s no excuse to argue about the cost because there are plenty of free or affordable options.

Make sure you keep your anti virus software up to date!

2. Don’t overheat

Just like your car won’t work properly – or at all – if it overheats, the same is true for computers. So give your PC or tablet the best possible chance of avoiding computer problems by keeping it cool and out of sunlight, with the vital cooling fans unobstructed and lint free.

Always work in a clean dust free environment to minimise build up at fan inlets and internal components.

If you’re concerned your fan may be clogged up or not working properly, Sydney IT Assist can easily service both desktop and laptop fans.

3. Back up

Imagine one scenario: your computer goes ‘Bang!’ and you’ve lost everything you ever did on it – disaster!. Now the second scenario, it makes the very same ‘Bang!’ but everything vital has been safely and securely backed up. You’d be amazed how many computer users are playing chicken with the inevitable, and believing that hardware and software failure will never affect them. But trust us: it will.

In this ‘cloud’ era, backing up is super easy, so just make backing up every now and then a habit or let us automate the job, so you can rest assured it’s being done.

4. Use it properly

There are plenty of ways you can abuse a computer that don’t involve slapping or kicking it – we’re talking about gentle clicks of fingers, keyboards and mice.

For instance

  • Turning it off without shutting the OS down properly.
  • Clicking ‘Yes’ or ‘Agree’ when windows you don’t properly understand pop ups
  • Clicking on links in junk mail
  • Navigating to dark corners of the internet, and other computer security mistakes.

Sometimes the only solution is to call to Sydney IT Assist – because computer repairs are simply a part of computing life!

We can also help you set up that new PC, or get an easy data back-up procedure in place, just dial Sydney IT Assist on 1300 01 96 96 today and we’ll come to you!