Caleb Pruitt

About Caleb Pruitt

Caleb joined the Beacon team in April 2011 as a Desktop Administrator. He graduated from ECPI in February 2011 with an associate degree in Computer Science and Technology and holds a second associate degree from GTCC in Architectural Technology.

Have You Been Asking “Should I Upgrade to Windows 10”?

If you’re currently running Windows 8 or 8.1 and didn’t update by summer of 2016, it’ll cost about $120 to upgrade to Windows 10. After the debacle that was Vista, one has to wonder if it’s worth updating to Windows 10 at any cost.

Below, we’ll consider the pros and cons of updating to Windows 10. The only assumption is that you’re currently running Windows 8 or 8.1.

First, let’s discuss the reasons why NOT to update to Windows 10:

Lots of Ads – You’ll be force-fed ads for Windows Store apps as your Windows Store app usage is tracked in Windows 10. Which brings us to the all-important privacy issue…

Privacy? Who Needs Privacy? – While many of the default settings can be disabled so as to protect your privacy, Windows 10 uses Cortana. As a result, your queries are sent to the Microsoft servers, whether you like it or not.

Less Control Over Updates – With Windows 8.1, you have manual control over your updates. When you’re running Windows 10 and Microsoft pushes out an update, you get it. No matter what. I like to control my own destiny so…this one hurts.

Software Upgrade CompatibilityI first noticed this when I tried to use Photoshop CS6, the last Photoshop edition that does not require a subscription. However, CS6 will not run on the Windows 10. I am forced to buy an expensive creative cloud subscription. I already paid for the right to use Photoshop. This shortcoming is both annoying and costly. Purchasing a PC that runs 8 is less costly.

But Windows 10 has its perks, too:

CortanaYour personal PC assistant is voice activated. Rather than type your search query, you can ask Cortana and get an answer. Pretty neat feature, eh? Remember though, as mentioned above, Cortana has a big mouth. She’ll share your personal data with a Microsoft server. But if privacy isn’t an important issue for you, then it’s a pretty cool feature.

Security – In this day and age, this is a huge plus. Not only is the architecture more secure, the fingerprint authentication feature means that if your laptop falls into the wrong hands, all is not lost. I love this aspect of Windows 10.

Support – Security updates for Windows 8 runs through January of 2018. After that, you’re at your own peril. By contrast, Windows 10 will be supported through 2025.

With Beacon, Full Support Is At Your Fingertips, Regardless of OS

Regardless of which OS you choose to run, the Beacon IT Services (BITS) team can troubleshoot and remedy technology issues of all kinds. Need to upgrade to Windows 10 or restore your computers’ operating system to an earlier version? No worries. We got it. Just call a Beacon IT specialist at 336.232.5675.

By | 2017-06-12T06:17:41+00:00 June 5th, 2017|IT Services|

What Is A Firewall and Do I Need One

A firewall is a network security system that monitors incoming and outgoing network traffic based on a set of security rules. A firewall acts as a barrier between trusted, secured internal networks and less scrupulous networks. These security measures work to prevent unauthorized access to or from private networks. They examine all messages entering or leaving a company’s intranet.

Hardware Firewalls

When we speak of hardware firewalls they are specialized network boxes that contain customized hardware and software. When configured hardware firewalls provide a protective barrier around an organization’s computer systems and the outside world. Hardware firewalls are best suited for an organization that desires a security umbrella that encapsulates multiple systems. As you might imagine this solution is a bit more expensive than its software counterpart and more suited for medium-sized businesses.

Software Firewalls

In contrast to its counterpart, software firewalls are a more attractive option for individual users and smaller businesses. Software firewalls are installed directly on an individual’s PC or workgroup server. Software firewalls can also be used in conjunction with their hardware counterpart. Software firewalls are convenient for mobile workers that need digital security when they are in the field.

What Do Firewalls Protect Against?

Firewalls are vital for protecting against attacks and winning battles against cybercriminals bent on stealing sensitive business information. A firewall provides a critical choke point. This is where security audits can be imposed. They work to protect confidential information from those not authorized to access it and protect against malicious users.

Types of Firewalls

Firewalls can be broken down into three main types:

  • Packet filters – This type of firewall operates at the router level and compares each packet received to a set of established criteria. Packet-filtering firewalls evaluate IP addresses, packet type, port number etc before being dropped or forwarded.
  • Stateful inspection – Also known as dynamic packet filtering, this firewall technology monitors the state of active TCP (Transmission Control Protocol) sessions and uses this information to determine which packets to pass through.
  • Proxies – This firewall acts as an intermediary between in-house clients and servers on the internet.

The Key Takeaway

If you are a small business with sensitive data then it is critical to take steps to safeguard your business information. Whether your organization chooses to adopt a hardware based firewall solution or a software firewall application, take steps to safeguard your business today. Contact us today for a free network health audit. Your network is the backbone of your business. Our team will make sure it’s always up and running when you need it.

By | 2017-05-30T10:59:32+00:00 April 26th, 2017|IT Services|

How Often Should Your Company Replace Its Computers

To say technology is a critical component in any small business today would be an understatement. However, there is an age-old question, “When should my company update its computer systems?” We all know the struggles we face using a computer that just isn’t quite up to snuff. We are all painfully aware of the early warning signs when a computer is on its way out. There is trouble running our favorite web browser, web pages load a bit slower and excel documents freeze up and crash altogether. We understand that as a small business you need to strike a balance between productivity while maintaining a budget. So, how can you tell when your company should look into replacing its computers?

First, let’s take a glance at the average lifespan of a computer.

It is important to draw a distinction between Business PCs and Consumer PCs. Consumer computers are built to be specifically priced for consumer outlets and use. The inner workings that make up the Consumer PCs are usually purchased from the lowest priced supplier with little to no emphasis on quality or reliability. Cheaper components cause instability, reliability concerns, and overall poor performance. Depending on the strain and demands on your Consumer grade PCs you can expect roughly a 2-3 year life expectancy.

Key takeaway: If your company is using Consumer grade PCs then you can expect around a 2-3 year life expectancy with a 1-year warranty on average.

Now let’s talk about Business Class. In general, these Business Class PCs are built to order. However, there are pre-built models that make use of common configurations. These types of computers have reliable components that are built to perform better and handle common business tasks. In addition, these types of computers have a more extensive warranty that ensures parts are quickly and easily replaced.

Key takeaway: Business class computers also outperform Consumer PCs and have a longer life expectancy. These computers have an average life span of 3-5 years with a much longer warranty on average.

Depending on the class of computer your company has will determine when you will need to replace your computers.

Early Warning Signs a Computer Is Failing

• Performance tapers off as new software or apps are added – all functions begin to slow down

• Issues with updating or installing the latest operating system

• Trouble or issues with running needed software apps

Generally, as computers age and as new software is installed on the systems it will gradually require more resources to run it properly. This will begin to have an impact on overall PC performance and slow down other various functions as well.

So to bring it around when do you purchase new computers for your company? If you have Business Class PCs you will want to replace them every 3 – 5 years as a rule of thumb. Additionally, we recommend reviewing program requirements to balance both productivity and costs. At a minimum when it comes to purchasing a new Business Class PC we recommend these basic specs:

• Intel i5

• 8G Ram

• Solid State hybrid or Solid State Drive

The Bottom Line When It Comes To Replacing Computers

Whether hardware failure or software obsolescence, eventually you will have to replace your company’s computers. Computer upgrades and improvements mean people in your company will spend less time doing more mundane tasks and more time on important activities. If your computer systems are currently 5 years or older it’s time for an upgrade.

By | 2017-05-30T10:59:59+00:00 April 4th, 2017|Computer Related|

Ransomware: Keep Your Employees Safe and Your Business Secure

ransom-note-fonts Did you know $209 million was paid to ransomware criminals in Q1 2016?

A ransomware attack is scary when it occurs. There is little that can be done to stop a ransomware attack that is in progress. The easiest way to mitigate the damage that can be done is preventative care. First, it is important to know what Ransomware is and how it’s spread. Also, you need to know how to prevent Ransomware and how to tell if your system has been compromised.

What is Ransomware?

At this point, you may be asking “What is Ransomware?” Ransomware is a computer malware virus that installs covertly on a computer or smartphone. Pretty stealthy huh? Next, the virus executes a crypto viral extortion attack that ultimately holds your data hostage. Or it mounts a crypto virology leak ware attack that may threaten to publish your data until a ransom is paid. Hence the name “Ransomware”. Ransomware attacks have grown exponentially over the years. As a matter of fact, expert sources have collected over 250,000 unique samples of ransomware in the first quarter of 2013 alone.

Suffice it to say if you are a business you need to know how to protect your sensitive data and keep your business running smoothly.

How Ransomware Spreads

Ransomware is generally spread through trickery. This could be in the form of malicious email attachments from unknown sources. Clicking on a malicious link within an email or from a social networking site could potentially contain ransomware. Ransomware can also spread by an infection from installing software packages from unofficial software websites. They are advertised as updates for Adobe Acrobat, Java and Flash Player normally. Ransomware affects computer systems at the local level. Once ransomware infects the computer system the malware finds files like JPG, XLS, PNG and PPT file extensions. After the hacker encrypts the file the malware tells you that your data is being held for a ransom. The virus will then prompt you to make a payment and receive an encryption key to gain access. Studies show that many people have paid the ransom since the files tend to be too important to give up.

Key Takeaway on How to Prevent Ransomware

It is best to be proactive against ransomware since there isn’t much you can do once your files get encrypted.

Install Anti-Virus Software

It is critical to have adequate Anti-Virus software installed and always up to date. Anti-Virus is only as good as long as it is kept up to date since ransomware is always evolving and becoming more complex. Anti-Virus software continuously checks against the database so it is mission critical that it updates daily to check for new virus signatures.

Avoid Sketchy Downloads

Next, it is important to only download software from trusted sites. Also, be wary of sites that tell you software on your computer is outdated. Websites don’t have the ability to detect outdated software unless you give a website permission to read your hard drive. If your software ever needs an update always go to the official website.

Keep Backups of Your Files

At Beacon IT Services we require server backups for all our clients we manage. Hackers know that most individuals or smaller businesses don’t tend to keep backups of their files. Don’t be caught in this category be proactive and keep backups of your files.

Key Takeaway

The key takeaway to preventing a ransomware attack is to be proactive rather than reactive. The number one way to deal with ransomware is to be conscious of websites you are visiting and the types of content you are downloading. Keep your computer’s anti-virus software up to date and always keep backups of your businesses files.

Learn how we can help you stay safe from ransomware attacks today!

By | 2017-03-17T06:47:43+00:00 March 17th, 2017|IT Services|

Why Your Internet Speed Might Be Slow

A common issue we hear from time to time is “why is my internet speed so slow”. A slow internet connection can be caused by many reasons. Internet speed can be influenced by a need for a higher tiered Internet Service, too many people using your connection and hardware issues.

If you feel like your internet has been slowly trudging along for some time then it may be time to troubleshoot your connection

First, you need to check and see if your organization or business is actually paying for high-speed internet. It could be as simple as a need for a higher tier of internet service. At, Beacon IT Services we recommend at minimum 30 Mbps (megabytes per second) download and 5 Mbps upload speed for a small business. A common issue could be you are not actually paying for high-speed internet.

Next, another factor that affects internet speed is the number of people using your connection. For example, if you have 20 employees uploading and downloading large files simultaneously, it could become an issue. You are placing a lot of demand on your internet connection. When larger numbers of employees are uploading and download large files your connection can start to act finicky.

Another issue that could contribute to slow internet issues is hardware. It is possible your modem could be outdated. Your wireless router might just not be up to snuff. Let’s evaluate some differences between wireless routers.

wireless router

Wireless AC routers have the latest edge in speed along with stronger signal strength. If your business relies heavily on its internet connection, then this may be the most appropriate option.

Wireless N routers can operate at multiple signals and have between 2 to 3 antennas.

Wireless G routers are backward compatible with Wireless B devices. These routers tend to perform slower than Wireless N and Wireless AC routers.

Wireless B routers are no longer manufactured. They operate in the same frequency range as many household appliances which can potentially cause interference.

When diagnosing your internet speed, it is important to evaluate the performance of your router against your daily business operations. For example, a graphic design agency is going to have different requirements than a construction company.

Troubleshooting Internet Speed Issues

Step 1 Reboot your network equipment

  • First, remove the power cable from the device or unplug the power cable from the wall outlet.
  • Wait about 10-12 seconds
  • Plug the power cord back into the device or back into the wall outlet
  • Wait a few seconds for the device to turn on, load all of its settings, and reconnect your devices to the internet access

Step 2 Check your internet service speed

Go to speedtest.net to start your free internet scan. Simply press “Begin Test” this website will give you the current Download Speed and Upload Speed.

Step 3 Contact your internet service provider

If you notice any discrepancies between what your internet service provider is offering you and what you are receiving then it is time to contact them.

Internet speed is ultimately dependent upon your internet service provider. Your ISP may change their network’s configuration or suffer technical difficulties that inadvertently cause your internet connection to run slowly. ISPs may also intentionally install filters or controls on the network that can lower your performance. Don’t hesitate to contact your service provider if you notice discrepancies over your connection.

 

 

 

By | 2017-03-21T13:44:54+00:00 March 3rd, 2017|IT Services|

How To Speed Up PC Boot Time

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One of the top complaints I receive from day to day is “my PC is booting slowly”. This can be caused by many different factors, but below are a few tasks that any user can do to help speed up boot time of their PC.

Cleanup of Startup Items

  1. While logged into your Windows profile hit the Windows Key and R at the same time.
  2. This will open the Run window. Type ‘msconfig’ without the quotes into the box and hit Enter.
  3. Click the Startup tab.
  4. In the far left hand column there are multiple check boxes next to your startup items.
  5. Review items and for those items you deem as unnecessary to start at boot, uncheck the box.
  6. Hit apply once satisfied and then you should be prompted to reboot.

I would suggest leaving any anti-virus programs, as well as, pointing devices enabled. Common startup items that should be disabled are iTunes, Apple Help, any printer software, etc.

Increase Amount of Processors Used At Boot

  1. While logged into your Windows profile hit the Windows Key and R at the same time.
  2. This will open the Run window. Type ‘msconfig’ without the quotes into the box and hit Enter.
  3. Click the Boot tab.
  4. Click the ‘Advanced options…’ button.
  5. Click the check box next to ‘Number of processors:’.
  6. From the drop down select the highest number available.
  7. Click OK.
  8. Click OK again and then you should be prompted to reboot.

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

By | 2017-03-21T13:44:39+00:00 March 23rd, 2016|IT Services|

5 Must Ask Questions For Prospective Hosting Providers

  1. What Technologies Does The Host Offer/Support?
  2. What Types of SLA’s (Service Level Agreements) Are Offered?
  3. Are Web Developers Available To Assist In Case Of Emergency?
  4. Does The Host Offer Dedicated, Shared, or Hybrid Hosting Environments?
  5. Does The Host Offer A Content Management Solution?

1. This is the number 1 question for a good reason.  If the host does not support and/or offer the needed technologies for your website, then they will need to be immediately removed from the list of your potential providers.  Your developer may prefer you host your website on an Apache server (Linux) rather than an IIS (Internet Information Services) server (Windows) to allow for easier management.  It is also important that the site platform be supported.  Whether it be WordPress, PHP, HTML, ASP, or eCommerce platform you want to ensure that your potential host will be able to support and perform updates/upgrades as needed.

2. Service Level Agreements ,aka SLA’s, are guarantees from your host detailing the response and resolution time periods you can expect in the case of an emergency.  Most hosting providers offer multiple levels of SLA’s with those that guarantee a quicker response/resolution costing more than the basic SLA time guarantee provided with a basic hosting contract.  If your website is business critical you will want to ensure that whatever SLA level you select that it meets your businesses needs.  For example, if you are an online retailer (eCommerce) you will most likely want the highest level SLA as every second that your website is down is potential loss of sales and/or customers.

3. If you plan on performing the development of your site either through a 3rd party or yourself you most likely will want a developer available at your hosting provider that can assist if an issue arises that needs immediate assistance.  Many clients use 3rd party developers that setup the site and then are called on an as needed basis to make changes.  Lets say your normal developer goes on vacation and does not have a backup developer in place or your normal developer has an emergency with another client at the same time you need assistance.  At that point you would want to have a backup which is familiar with your site at a basic level to jump in and perform the needed change/fix.

4. Depending on the type of platform you are implementing and the amount of expected traffic will influence your choice of whether your site and database should be on a Dedicated, Shared, or Hybrid hosting environment.  A Dedicated environment is ideal for users that want to ensure that they have full access to all functions of their hosting environment, this is normally needed if direct SQL access is desired or your developer wants to manipulate the box in some way.  Dedicated does normally come at a higher cost, but can provide the most flexibility and access of the three hosting options.  The second option, Shared hosting, is ideal for those users who have basic needs and want to keep cost at a minimum.  This option puts many clients sites/databases on a single box and they share resources.  This is the great option for those users that do not direct access to their web and database boxes.  The last option, Hybrid hosting, can be a good balance between Dedicated and Shared.  Hybrid allows for the either web server or database server to be on a Shared host while the other resides on a Dedicated host.  This is a great option for those that only need direct access to one of the two servers, but also want to save a little money over the Dedicated option.

5. A content management solution (CMS) is an easy way to manage and maintain continuity when developing your website.  CMS will allow those with little to no development background to design and publish web pages with relative ease.  This is a great option if your company wants to have multiple users work on multiple sections of your site without having to employ a group of developers to perform the tasks.

All of these questions will help to ensure that your prospective host is right for you.  To find out if Beacon Technologies is the right host for you please feel free to contact us at the following link:

CONTACT US

By | 2017-01-24T11:05:02+00:00 April 27th, 2015|IT Services|