Monday, January 31, 2011

Time to do some maintenance

Websites need routine maintenance the same as your physical location. If you have launched your own website yourself or have forgone your website consultant's maintenance fee, you need to regularly perform some maintenance yourself.

If you haven't done so recently, change your password. Make sure it is long, doesn't contain actual words, and does contain a variety of small and large letters, numbers, and special characters.

Check your server logs for error messages that may be hackers surveying your site.

Keep track of the dates your pages were last updated. If you see activity that you can't explain, you may have a compromised site.   

It only takes a few minutes each month to regularly sweep your site and insure that things continue running smoothly for you and your customers.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Back ups: What can you live without?

Some years ago, I was taking over the IT work at a small business. Back ups were being done on a regular basis and from all appearances disaster would be averted if a server or client computer crashed.

Enter an Outlook client that was hosted on a local machine. Nearly all of the small business's marketing correspondence, contact list, and other information was sitting on a local machine and the local machine's harddrive was not included in the back up protocol.

Murphy's law happens. The machine's hard drive crashed. And even though the data was eventually retrieved, a busy executive had to do without valuable information for a day or two.

If your small business uses outlook, be sure you're hosting the .pst files on your server for easy back up and data management. You can't live without them.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Getting rid of an Old Printer? Read this first....

Does part of your 2011 IT budget include selling an old printer on eBay? Be careful you don't pass on customer information, employee social security numbers, or your business'  bank account information to a printer buyer in Singapore.

Most printers have hard drives that store digital images of the items you print. These harddrives are rarely considered and cleaned when a printer moves on to another user.

report by CBS News outlines just what type of information can be left on a printer's harddrive and the "ticking time bomb of information" that gets shared when a printer moves on.  

Don't allow your printer to move on with confidential information to share.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Don't Forget to Devote some Attention to Your Online Storefront

With the business of the new year, it would be easy to forget your online storefront, but plan some time to review your analytic trends. You may be surprised at what you find.

If you discover days that had good traffic statistics, try to discover how you can repeat the process by using the analytic tools.

Was a spike in traffic due to an addition on your site? Did you increase your hits with a post on your blog?

Find out where your traffic came from. Was there something in the news that brought people together on your site?

Once you know why and how the traffic came to your store, you can plan strategies to recreate the event by developing and monitoring goals.  

Monday, January 17, 2011

Wireless Network? Time to Change the Password

If your business and/or home uses wireless network technology be sure to set up a regular schedule to change the password. Passwords should be changed minimally once per month; preferably once a week.

A new program designed in Germany has proven just how easy it is to hack into the type of wireless most often used by small business and home users. Often these networks are set up using the same network name that shipped with the wireless router. Sometimes even the password is not changed, making it simple for everyday hackers without special programs to hack your network.

In addition to changing your password on a regular basis, it is recommended that your password be at least 20 characters in length and use a wide assortment of special characters, letters (upper and lower case), and numbers. It is no longer recommended to use numbers instead of letters in words (such as n1c3 for the word nice) and your password should not have any identifiable words which make it easier to guess and therefore to hack.

All this is pretty darn inconvenient especially when you are first setting a network up or if you need to make adjustments to your wireless. Consider changing the password temporarily to a lengthy but easy to remember password while you are working on the network; lock the network up with a better, more secure password when you are done working for the day.

Unfortunately, making it easy for yourself to remember a password often makes it easier for hackers with nothing better to do but to attack small businesses and home users just because they can get away with it.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Adding to the Cost of Doing Business

Bringing your business up to date technologically can have considerable benefits but at considerable expense. It is tempting to cut corners.

Cutting corners by purchasing second hand, slower, and less up to date desktops can be a smart move if your business can make do without the speed.

Cutting corners by not purchasing the correct software licenses may not be a wise move.

Consider what would happen if your system came crashing down and you required the software vendor's help to get it going again. If your licensing was in order this would not be a major issue with the vendor and may even be part of the total package of the software purchase.

If you had been short changing the software vendor on the license fees, it may not even be possible to get your business up and running again. You may even experience problems if you had been regularly backing up. Software depends on all sorts of programming parts and may fail if not properly installed with the correct license information.

So when you prepare this year's IT budget make sure to budget for the correct number of licenses but save on those used desktops to replace some of your antiquated equipment.           

Monday, January 10, 2011

Replacing a Laptop keyboard: Gateway Model MC7801U

Have a laptop with missing keys and need to replace it for one that works? You have a few choices. Send it back to the manufacturer and wait, try to find a local repair shop that will tackle it, attach an external keyboard through USB, or find some courage and take on a little risk and replace the keyboard yourself.

The tools you will need for this job are a tiny screwdriver to remove a few screws, a steady hand, some nimble fingers, aforementioned courage, and the replacement keyboard.

A static strap for your wrist is recommended especially in the winter. Static will fry many components of computers. Take care not to touch any part of the computer until you are discharged of any possible static.   

Here's what you do:

  1. Shut down the computer, unplug the electrical adapter, turn over and remove the battery.
  2. Remove the yellowed screws shown in this picture and remove the central cover that comes off with the screws:
  3. Under the cover just removed there maybe one additional screw to remove. If so it will be under the cover where the words "remove the cover" appear in the picture.  
  4. Carefully turn the computer over. The bezel over the keyboard should now appear loose. There are ribbon connections on each side of the bezel that allow for the email, camera and sound controls; be mindful of these connections as you take the next step. With your fingers ever so gently pop the bezel from around the shiny metallic edge of the computer. Take care around the on switch and on the left and right sides. Gently pry the bezel up along the bottom (middle of the computer) My bezel was particularly obstinent on the right bottom corner. With additional patience I was able to slip my fingers in and loosen it. 
  5. The keyboard is held in place by 3 screws as shown. Remove them.
  6. Underneath the keyboard are two tiny ribbon connections that are held in by minature connectors that are smaller versions of those you would find in any desktop. The connectors simply slide up and down to hold the ribbons in place. Remove the ribbons of the old keyboard and remove the keyboard.
  7. Slide the replacement keyboard's ribbons into the connectors and move the connector bar down to lock in place. (This requires some patience; they are tiny.) 
  8. Tilt the keyboard and ensure that the tabs on the bottom are tucked into the appropriate slots. Keyboard should be in place over screw holes.
  9. Prior to screwing in place power up the laptop and make sure your keyboard is functional. Power down and unplug then check connections on the ribbons if you experience malfunctions. When all is working, power down and unplug.  
  10. Replace the three keyboard screws.
  11. Check the bezel connections to ensure they are still well connected then replace bezel. Simply snap in place. 
  12. Carefully turn computer over and replace all remaining screws. Keep in mind the three shortest screws belong in the battery compartment.
  13. Replace battery and pat yourself on the back. 

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Website Design

Some websites are set up to dazzle you. There is music, innovative graphics, wonderfully programmed flash components, and fancy navigation bars that change cursors and popup all sorts of surprises.

Unfortunately, unless you're selling a trip to the Northpole or an amusement park you may want to limit the dazzle components in lieu of a more serious business site.

Certainly you want a unique, up to date site but your main design components should not include a lot of flash. Flash can be a trial for older machines and browsers and it can make it difficult and impossible for search engines to crawl your site.

Then there are the components like music and video that automatically start and/or can't be turned off; minor or major annoyances depending where your customer is observing your site. Give your customers a choice of whether or not to play music or video and make sure the page has controls for each.

And, finally, navigation is so important and should never leave the customer guessing.  You want your customer to be able to navigate your site without tripping in the aisle. This is an area where simplicity is best;  leave your fancy programming for other page components.

Monday, January 3, 2011

Make a New Year's Resolution to Blog Your Business

Creating, and maintaining a blog connected to your website is one of the easiest ways to connect with your customers; keeping them interested and coming back for more.

Another benefit of regular blogging is that it keeps your website evolving and performing better on the search engines.

And finally, a regular blog presents your business style to potential customers, who come to know you as that expert business that provides an assortment of free and helpful pointers and advice.

So make a resolution for the New Year; connect with your customers on a regular basis through your blog.