Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Which Antivirus Program is Best?

This is one of the most asked questions R3 receives, so I wanted to take some time to explain my thoughts on antivirus solutions.  Unfortunately there isn't one antivirus solution that offers a 100% guarantee from getting a virus. If there were, I am sure that particular software vendor could charge a lot of money and people would gladly pay for the guarantee of not having to deal with virus infections.  With that said, virus infections unfortunately do happen, and it seems like they are happening more often, regardless of which antivirus solution is being used. 

So the question is: Which antivirus should I use from the vast number available in the marketplace today?

R3 Recommendation:  Microsoft Security Essentials
This antivirus is directly from Microsoft and is 'free'. Yes that's right, Free.  Security Essentials integrates into the windows operating system and I feel it does a great job of protecting the system from malicious viruses and spyware.  Since it is from Microsoft, it also updates through the windows update system, so updates are handled automatically behind the scene. 

The other thing I like about Security Essentials is that it is a program that is considered to be 'light weight'. This means it doesn't consume a lot of system resources or slow down your system like some of the other vendors antivirus solutions.  This is purely an antivirus/malware program, and does a great job at it.

Other antivirus software that R3 supports are Norton and Mcafee Antivirus.  However we advise you make sure you have the latest version of the software, and not just 'renew' the service online. Renewing doesn't always update the software but just allows you to continue to receive the latest virus definitions.

Regardless of which antivirus solution you use, it is most likely inevitable that you will get a virus or some type of malware on your system.  When that happens, R3 is there to help you remove that virus and get your system back operational as quickly as possible.  If you have internet access we can sometimes even resolve the issue via a Remote Support session; or if the virus disabled internet access we will pick-up your system and get it back to you ASAP.

Best Regards,
Rob Richman - President
R3 Consulting, LLC

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Is your Data Safe? Backup Recommendations!

Backing up your data is probably one of the most important things you can do, yet most people put this off, only realizing how important it is after the fact. Backing up should protect your data from the following: Hard Drive Failure, Disasters (House Fire/Water Damage/Natural Disasters), Theft/Stolen PC or Laptop, or something even as simple as accidentally deleting an important file.  Many think that using an external hard drive to backup is sufficient, and although it is better than nothing; there are now solutions that are better, easier, and more reliable.

Some Facts:
  • Up to 13% of hard drives fail every year - Carnegie Mellon University, 2007
  • Approximately 2 million laptops are stolen every year, and only 2% are ever recovered. - FBI, 2008
  • 50% of computer users have lost or accidentally deleted files from their primary computer. -Chadwick Martin Bailey, 2010
The above isn't meant to scare you, but to make you aware of how important it is to make sure you have up to date backups of your important data.  The best method of doing this is to use what everyone refers to as 'the cloud'.  There are many companies out there that handle this type of backup, but R3 Consulting highly recommends the services from Carbonite.com

Here are some of the benefits of using the Carbonite Backup Solution.
  1. Set it. Forget it. And Relax
    Just install Carbonite and it starts backing up your files - automatically and in the background. Once installed, you'll 'never' have to remember to back up again. The backup runs continuously in the background, backing up new and changed files whenever your computer is connected to the internet.
  2. If you lose a file, get it back fast!
    If you accidentally delete a file or folder, it will remain in your backup for 30 days before deleting from carbonite.  During this time, you can recover it right from your desktop using the carbonite application. Carbonite also keeps 'versions' of certain documents like Word/Excel. Each time you 'save' a file, carbonite keeps the history. So if you accidentally overwrite a document, you can go restore any of the prior versions.
  3. One Price, Unlimited!
    As noted in the intro, carbonite home plans charge one annual fee, for unlimited storage. As hard drives get larger, you don't have to worry about overages.
  4. 3 Home Plans Available, all Unlimited!
    Carbonite Home - Basic plan, protects entire computer hard drive.  $59/yr
    Carbonite Home Plus - Basic plan, plus 1 External Hard Drive Backup, and Mirror Image. Mirror Image creates an EXACT Image of your computer and in the event you need to replace a failed HD, you can use this image to restore your computer back to that point. You do not have to reinstall programs again. $99/yr
    Carbonite Home Premier - Carbonite Home Plus, plus Courier Recovery Service. This provides you with the fastest recovery possible. If you have a very large backup, it may take a few days to redownload the backup. With this service, they will ship you your backup for the fastest recovery time. $149/yr.
  5. Remote File Access
    Although not a backup feature, since carbonite is storing your backup in the cloud, their web interface allows you to access your files/backup remotely. They have integrated this into the iOS and Android mobile apps as well, so it is kind of like a remote access functionality allowing you to access your files when away from your computer.
  6. Carbonite Mobile Backup - Free
    Literally just announced within the past few days, Carbonite now is able to backup your mobile phone. For iOS and Android users, you can download the app free. If you are a carbonite client it will link to your account, if you are not, then you create one for free.  It allows you to backup your mobile phone pictures/videos, and also adds services if the phone is lost or stolen (such as mobile phone tracking via GPS, remote phone lock and wiping.

As you can see, R3 Consulting is a STRONG advocate of using carbonite for your backup solution. We use it personally to back up our home computers, and have it installed on many client computers.  During the past year we have used carbonite to 'restore' files when hard drives have crashed, it is easy and quick.  Although R3 Consulting does offer hard drive recovery services if/when your hard drive fails, this should be a last resort option as it doesn't always recover all data, plus recovered data can have the tendency to be partially corrupted. Carbonite is a much easier and more reliable solution.

If interested, by clicking the link below, you will be able to install and use Carbonite FREE for 2 weeks (No Credit Card required). If you decide to purchase during or after your trial you will also recieve an additional 2 months added on to your plan by using the link below.

Best Regards,
Rob Richman - President
R3 Consulting, LLC

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

UPS Battery Backup for Computers.

Whether you have a brand new computer or a computer that is six years old, they definitely have one thing in common; They do not like to be suddenly turned off.  The power outage is a computer's worst enemy.  Software is more complex and computers are doing more things now at the same time then ever before; so when the computer turns off unexpectedly, bad things are sure to happen, and most likely that means file corruption.  Windows has gotten better and in most cases the system does some self-healing and you're on your way, but more times than not the system is left crippled.  The good news is, there is an easy and quick preventative solution to this problem, and that is called a UPS Battery Backup. Most people have heard of them but tend to overlook their importance, thinking their surge protector is sufficient.

Surge Protectors only protect against 'Surges', however UPS Units protect from additional power issues indicated below.

I cannot stress to you enough how important it is to have a UPS Battery backup system. There are multiple companies that make UPS Systems, such as APC, CyberPower, and Tripp Lite.  Regardless of which brand you get, I would like to take a few minutes to explain some of the more important features and information.

1. VA - This stands for Voltage Amps. This is one of the main numbers they use in advertising. I won't bore you with the meaning, but just know, the higher the VA number, the larger the battery capacity, meaning longer runtimes. Most home computer system are fine with the 450VA units, however for the few extra dollars i would go with atleast a 685VA or higher.

2. Watts - This number will represent the max watts the battery can output.  Again, without boring you with details, the larger this number the bigger the battery capacity, meaning longer runtimes.

3. AVR - This stands for Automatic Voltage Regulator.  This is 'VERY' important.  This feature is typically on the higher end units, but in my opinion is definitely worth it.  What this does is regulates the voltage that the computer recieves so it is always a pure clean signal. There are times when the power doesn't necessarily go completely out (blackout), but the voltage drops or sags (brownout).  Computers do not like this, and typical UPS Systems may trigger the battery, whereas the AVR feature kicks in and regulates it without having to trip the battery all the time. This saves on the wear and tear of the battery, providing a longer battery life.

4. Battery Replaceable Units - Most higher end units have replaceable batteries. Batteries typically last 3-5 years depending on how often they are tripped. With the higher end units costing $150-$200+, the batteries usually are replaceable for half the cost of a unit. This is good since you do not have to buy a new unit when/if the battery fails, and you can get another 3-5 years of life.

R3 Recommends the following units:
Cyberpower UPS - LCD Display 8-Outlet RJ11/RJ45/Coax Tower USB
CyberPower AVR685 ($72)- Includes AVR Technology, has 685VA Rating, has 8 receptacles 4 have Battery Support, All have Surge Protection. They have wide spaces for 'bulky plugs'. It is flat and more typical of what you may be used to.

CyberPower 1500AVRLCD ($150)- This is 1500VA and has AVR Technology. This is one of the largest capactity consumer level UPS's out there. It has an LCD Screen which provides you detailed info.  This is a standup unit, so you need some more room, but has plenty of receptacles. This may be overkill for some users.

If you are looking to purchase a UPS Unit and want help choosing the right model or you need help replacing a UPS Battery on your current unit, please contact us and we will be happy to assist you.

Best Regards,
Rob Richman - President
R3 Consulting, LLC


Friday, August 10, 2012

Printing from Apple Devices (iPad, iPhone, iPod)

The Apple iPad, iPhone, and iPod have become some of the most popular devices in today's marketplace. With these devices becoming so easy to use for web browsing, email and word processing, many people are using these devices more than their personal computers and they are taking them everywhere.  However, there has been one frustrating issue when working on these devices; PRINTING. That is until now! Apple has been working behind the scenes with Printer Manufacturers such as HP, Epson, and others to overcome this issue. In true Apple fashion, they have announced a technology called 'Apple AirPrint', that is simply amazing. 

Apple AirPrint is supposed to enable iPad's, iPhones, and iPod's (with the latest iOS update) to print without having to install any software or do any configuration at all.  Yes, you read that correctly. No configuration or software install is needed.

So you may be thinking that this is amazing news and you may try to print using your iPad only to find it not working for you.  Well, here is the catch, the printer MUST have the Apple AirPrint technology as a feature, and since the technology is so new, mostly only new printers have it.

If you have an iPad, iPhone, or iPod and want to be able to print directly from your device, then it may be time to look into purchasing one of these new printers.

Although there are many new printers that have this technology built in, R3 highly recommends the Epson WorkForce Series, noted below, for their vast amount of features and reasonable cost.

Epson WorkForce 545
Epson WorkForce 645

If you are looking to replace your old printer and need assistance picking out the right model with all the features you need, please contact us and we will be happy to assist you.

Best Regards,
Rob Richman - President
R3 Consulting, LLC

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Password Management

If you are like me, then you are also plagued by having to remember a ton of username and passwords. With most websites and online services storing some type of personal data, this means you must logon to the website to gain access to your account. Unfortunately we no longer can get away with simple 3 to 5 digit passwords that reference our pets name, or our favorite number.  Due to hackers being able to easily crack short passwords, online websites are getting more strict with their policies. Requirements for capital letters, weird symbols, numbers, 8 digits or more are not uncommon for even the basic website now. This coupled with hundreds of websites you visit daily and security experts saying to not use the same password twice, this means you now must use a tool to manage your passwords.

Luckily there are many tools out there that solve this problem, but the one that I highly recommend is a program called 'LastPass' (referencing the last password you need to remember).

They have both a Free and Premium version, but i have found the free version to work just fine.  In short, you logon to lastpass and authenticate with their secure service. LastPass adds a plugin to your browser and when you logon to a website, it asks if you want to remember that username and password combination. As you do this, you build your database. The next time you logon to that website, as long as you are logged into lastpass, it will autorecognize and prefill in the username and password, or you can choose which password via a dropdown box. LastPass also allows you to precomplete a Form Template that contains most of the questions asked on a fillable form (i.e. address, email, phone number, etc). This way when you encounter a new website that asks you to enroll, you can quickly fill in most if not all of the information using lastpass. 

Another great feature is it works across almost all browsers and OS Platforms such as iOS, Android, Internet Explorer, Firefox, Chrome, etc. There are many other features that make this a great tool, so i highly recommend you check it out.

Visit www.lastpass.com for more information from their website.
A password manager that makes web browsing easier and more secure.

Best regards,
Rob Richman - President
R3 Consulting, LLC