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2nd Quarter 2014 - May Issue

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Windows XP Passes into History

windows xp support endsThey’re all gone: Windows 95, Windows 98, Windows 2000, and Windows ME (along with a host of other Windows client and server editions you’ve never heard of). On April 8, 2014, Windows XP too passed into history.

What makes losing XP feel so different? Windows XP was first released in October of 2001. In service for over 11 years, XP became the computer operating system of a generation, and possibly the most successful OS ever! So beloved is XP, there are calls online today for Microsoft to simply re-release XP and call it Windows 9.

What does all this mean for your business and its Windows XP computers?

First and foremost, your XP computers aren’t going to suddenly stop working. When support ended on April 8th this year, it meant Microsoft would provide no more help, no more service calls, no more upgrades and security patches for XP. As far as Microsoft is concerned, XP is no longer their problem. It’s simply a page in Wikipedia about the history of computing.

But while your XP computers will continue to boot up, there are concerns. The next time a hacker finds a way to break into XP, or the next bad virus that comes along, it could leave you vulnerable and without a fix.

The second biggest problem is software. As new versions of any software are written, from Microsoft Word to Internet Explorer, no effort will be expended to make them work on XP. That may turn out to be more annoying than it sounds. Need a new printer? No guarantee it will work with XP. Want that new phone to sync with your computer? You may be out of luck.

Still, for many businesses, replacing all your XP computers this year may be unrealistic. What to do?

At Shiloh Service, we are helping our customers deal with the end of XP in practical and proactive ways. Sure, where feasible we’re recommending the replacement of aging Windows XP machines. Where that’s not in the immediate budget, we can help you extend the life of your XP computers by reviewing your business computing practices and recommending ways to protect your network.

That can mean installing the best Anti-Virus suites and malware blockers on your XP machines, restricting their Internet access, or even taking some data sensitive machines offline. What will work best in your situation is what we’re here to help you figure out. Let us help replace or maintain your Windows XP machines without breaking your budget. Call us at 1-888-374-4564 or contact Shiloh Service today!

Keeping All Your Computers Running Today and Tomorrow

keep computers runningIf you’re like most business owners, you bought your computers on the go, as you needed them, one by one. The same goes for peripherals and software too. In one office you have a brand new Apple MacBook and in another an old Windows XP machine. One computer is running Office 2002 and another Office 2010. You may have an aging bubblejet printer or backups that still use tape drives. This year you’re adding a brand new Windows 8.1 All-in-One.

How do you keep those machines all working together, making sense, and secure against viruses, malware, and hackers? How do you know which piece of your eclectic collection will be the next to fail or need replacement?

At Shiloh Service, keeping your business systems running smoothly is our specialty. Our best customers come to us after expensive breakdowns, time wasting data losses, and slow, frustrating machines that have them ready to tear their hair out. And we’re always able to help.

After all, Shiloh has been serving Pittsburgh area businesses since 1971. Our experienced IT professionals are able to evaluate your network, workstations, peripherals, backups, and software, considering them as the complete “system that keeps your business in business.” Then we take care of you, making the most of your investment in those expensive machines by keeping them running as long as possible and as securely as possible. When we know one of the pieces is going to fail, we advise you so that you can plan and budget for its replacement.

We know you can buy computers and computer repair anywhere; at Shiloh Service we offer more: a proactive and professional approach that avoids the heavy cost of emergency overhauls by getting to know your business systems personally and planning out their health and wellness for years to come.

You can learn more by visiting our Premier Service Plan page, or Contact Us today to speak with a Shiloh Service IT professional.

Stopping Malware through End User Education

stopping malware virus user educationWhen we say your business is at risk from malware, what is it that we mean? To start, the word malware is short for “malicious software." It's a term meant to include viruses, worms, spyware, adware, and Trojan horses that intentionally perform annoying or malicious tasks on a computer or network.

The types of possible damage are vast. A purely destructive virus might erase all of your data or shut down your network. Software designed for extortion or theft can silently record all of your keystrokes, picking up passwords, identity info, and credit card numbers. Others can lock your business records behind a password and hold them for ransom.

Up-to-date anti-virus tools are only part of the solution. You should think of protective software like an alarm system on your building. Simply having it installed means almost nothing. Leave the cameras and security lights turned off over night, leave the doors unlocked, and how exactly was your office protected against a break-in?

Computer security is the same. Unless someone is making sure your anti-virus programs are up-to-date and running their scheduled scans, unless firewalls and spyware scans are checked for successful operation, then the “bad guys” will soon take advantage of the first “unlocked door” they find. That may be why you computer is running so slowly right now.

End user education is big part of the solution. No matter what protection we install on your network, an uninformed computer operator can bypass it in a heartbeat. It’s easy. An employee visits a website, one that has been compromised, but they have no way of knowing that. Suddenly a pop-up alerts them that their computer has been infected with a virus, urging them to start a scan right now.

In a panic, they press the button. Another pop-up may ask “are you sure you want to allow this program to make changes to your computer?” They agree, thinking they need to move this process forward. What’s really happening is this – the employee has been tricked into downloading and installing a piece of malware (the first alert was just a ruse). By following instructions the employee helps the virus get past the anti-virus system. To them, it looks like they are doing all the right things; that’s the trick the malware uses to get the help it needs to open the locked doors and shut down the real alarms it couldn’t handle on its own.

Of course, that’s just one example of hundreds of possible attacks; let’s not forget infected email links and attachments, as well as viruses on thumb drives, DVDs, and disks. Without training or experience, even the most conscientious employee can be tricked into delivering the next virus that shuts down your network.

User education can go a long way toward keeping your network and computer work stations safe. At a minimum, Microsoft recommends security practices that encourage awareness of the following:

  • Never reply to e-mail requests for financial or personal information.
  • Never provide passwords.
  • Do not open suspicious e-mail file attachments.
  • Do not respond to any suspicious or unwanted e-mails.
  • Do not install unauthorized applications.
  • Employees should lock their computers when they are not actively using them by password-protecting the screen saver or through the CTRL-ALT-DELETE dialog box.
  • Enable a firewall.
  • Use strong passwords on remote computers.

Microsoft also recommends written policies and accepted procedures as a way of helping to enforce security practices.

To be effective, all IT policies should include the support of upper management and provide an enforcement mechanism, a way to inform users, and a way to educate users. Example policies might address the following topics:

  • How to detect malware on a computer.
  • How to report suspected infections.
  • What users can do to assist incident handlers such as the last action a user did before the system became infected.
  • Processes, and procedures to mitigate operating system and application vulnerabilities that malware might exploit.
  • Patch management, application of security configuration guides and checklists.

Read more on Microsoft’s website in the article Strategies for Managing Malware Risks.

How can you do all this on your busy schedule? It’s easy, call on Shiloh Service to set up and maintain the security and anti-virus software you need and to work with your staff on malware awareness and prevention policies. If your business has already suffered through the expense and lost productivity of virus remediation, you know the investment is well worth it. Call us at 1-888-374-4564, or visit our Contact us page today.

Windows 8.1

If it is time to upgrade to a new version of Windows, what awaits? Perhaps anticipating the concerns of so many users moving from XP to the latest Windows Operating System, Microsoft’s new Windows 8.1 is being promoted as “the familiar made better.”

At first Microsoft tried to retire the well known “desktop” with its icons and folders in favor of an approach using bright tiles and apps (appealing to the younger phone and tablet crowd), but that didn’t sit well with everyone. Never fear, the desktop is back. Actually, you can switch from the old Desktop to the new Start Screen (with its colorful, tiled design) at the click of a mouse or a touch of the screen.

Windows 8.1 makes multi-tasking easier. Talk on Skype while you view the web; write a document while watching video. Work comfortably with up to 4 apps at once depending on your screen size.

The new Windows also offers built-in cloud storage for easy access to files, applications, and settings. By using your Microsoft Account login and the new SkyDrive, you can login at any computer and see your own Start Screen and files. Although your files appear to be right there on the desktop, the SkyDrive view is actually providing a window into your cloud storage space. The files you see don’t take up any space on your computer until you double-click, at which point they quickly download and open. When you’ve finished with them, they’re quietly synced back to the cloud.

The new Windows comes in several versions, including: Windows RT 8.1, Windows 8.1, Windows 8.1 Pro, and Windows 8.1 Enterprise. Each version is designed with specific uses in mind, from providing speedy performance on the latest, lightest laptops to greater security performance for businesses and volume licensing for large organizations. Which is best for your company depends upon your goals, but for most small to mid-sized companies, Windows 8.1 Pro offers the right mix of flexibility and security.

To learn more about what Windows 8.1 has to offer your business and what to expect when bringing a new Windows 8.1 machine into your office environment, give us a call at 1-888-374-4564 or contact Shiloh Service today!

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