Does Your Computer Play Nice with Others

Last month I went out and bought myself a whole new computer set up – new screen, computer tower, keyboard, wireless printer (which I already had), wireless adapter  – I bought the works!  I took it all home and could hardly wait to get it all put together.  I was all set up, but it didn’t work!  Not really - afterall, I do work at NGL Connection so I do have connections!  But what if you don’t work here…. or, you don’t have a child or grandchild who lives nearby to get you hooked up?  (We all know they can do this stuff with their eyes closed!)    Maybe you have a business with 3 or 4 computers, 2 printers, a fax machine, a scanner, etc. – now the set-up becomes even more complicated.  

Simply put, a computer network is nothing more than a bunch of equipment connected wirelessly or by cables so that they talk to each other.  The network can be as small as my set-up at home (a one-person network) or as large as the one at NGL Connection where we have 23 employees all with their own computer set-up connected to each other as well as to printers, scanners, servers, etc.

Just a few things to think about:

1.      If you are adding on to an existing set-up, are you adding on brand new equipment to older equipment?  For example, I had a 7+ year old lap top and bought a brand new wireless printer.  I could never make the printer work wirelessly and had to get a cable for it because my printer could not speak to the router.  (Speaking of routers, how old is your router – they do have a life span and unfortunately, do not last forever! Their average lifespan is about 3 years -- not because they break, but more because technology changes that fast!)

2.     Often times the size of the network will determine how you connect your network.  Wireless connections are very common for home set-ups whereas wired connections are often more widely used in businesses.  Additionally, the bigger your network the more extra parts you are going to need to make it all run efficiently.

3.     Maybe at your home each family member has their own lap top, but only one is connected to the printer….. do you just use the one lap top to print things from?  You can connect all the laptops to the one printer.  (Of course, I don’t know how to do it, but I know people who do!)

4.     You work in an office with 4 computers, 2 printers, a scanner, a fax machine… and now you need a server to make sure they are all talking to each other.  I am not going to even pretend to know what you should do next, but I do know that you basically have three options:  become an expert (in all your spare time) as a computer networking  tech OR hire an IT person and pay their salary, benefits, taxes OR contract with NGL Connection for your own IT expert at a minimal monthly fee.

Computers are useful tools that mean different things to different people.  Some of us just want to do basic tasks and we couldn’t care less about how it works while others actually like modifying their computer set-up and are tech-savvy enough to make it happen.  Personally, I am in the first group of people and fortunately have access to computer geeks (I say that affectionately) to assist me when I want to change something in my network at home.  No matter what your needs, give us a call today at 307-288-5491.

 

Those Were The Days!

Those were the days when you got a new Easter bonnet and all gussied up in your favorite dress to go to Sunday school.  These little girls are all grown up now, but their picture lives on as a memory in my computer along with a lot of other family photographs, holiday gatherings, and special events.  I used to put them in hard bound albums, but now it has become so easy to store these keepsakes on computers, in external hard drives, on phones or even on a USB flash drive.  

We keep so much information electronically, ranging from business-critical documents, such as Quickbooks and Outlook files, to treasured photographs, videos, term papers, music, etc. Unfortunately, all of this can be lost in an instant and there are dozens of things that can cause it:  virus attacks, accidental reformats, hitting the wrong key, or even spilled coffee!  No matter who, what or how it occurs, the result is the same.  We go into panic mode -- but thanks to data recovery, all may not be lost!

 To start with, data recovery can be put into two categories:

  • Logical Problems:  your hard drive is working perfectly, but, for some unknown reason, you have deleted files, formatted your drive, and/or lost data.  (Side note: Just because you delete a file and empty your recycle bin, you may think that your file is gone forever…. That is not the case and there is a good chance your file can be recovered.)
  • Physical Problems: your hard drive and some mechanical or electrical components of the drive no longer work -- maybe your computer has been in a fire or a flood.  (In my case, it was spilled coffee all over my laptop keyboard.)                                                

The good news -- no matter what the problem, often times the data can be recovered.

 So, what causes data loss?

Deleted Data: Files can be deleted on purpose or by accident -- no matter the reason, they can be found (even if you have already emptied your Recycle Bin.)

Corrupted Data: Your files can be corrupted in a variety of ways -- these too can be recovered.

Dropped External Hard Drives: These are portable devices and are fragile -- if dropped, it can compromise data.

Power Loss/Electrical Surges: Both situations can cause unexpected data losses.

And there are many other situations that can cause data loss, but I think you get the picture!  

If you find yourself in any of these situations, don’t despair -- there are steps you can take to try to recover your data.  

  1. There are software applications out there for data recovery.  Should you choose to go this route and download an application from the internet, you need to make sure it is from a trusted source.  An untrusted source could destroy deleted data and/or change the contents of the drive.  
  2. Contact your friendly computer technician at NGL Connection.  They can run a diagnostic on your computer to determine the issues impacting your data before any work is done.  (Trust me, I know -- I have had to do this more than once.)
  3. If the damage is minimal, the work can be done in-house and an estimate would be provided to you.  If there is major damage and we are not able to recover data, you can opt to have your computer service technician send your computer out to a data recovery specialist.

 So there you have it! Hopefully, you found this information helpful, and maybe even a little relief. You do have options and you don’t have to hit the panic button the next time you accidentally hit “delete”.

 

How's Your Line of Sight?

Oh My Goodness -- I thought winter would never leave!  Spring has finally sprung -- the grass is green again, the flowers are in bloom, and my allergies are running full throttle -- okay, that part is not so good, but I do love Spring and Summer in Evanston, Wyoming.  Unfortunately, this time of year can also impact your internet service by obstructing the wireless signal at your home.  

Installers generally refer to the path from your antenna to the tower as “The Line of Sight”. This pathway must be unobstructed for wireless signals to be transmitted from one device to the other.  It pretty much works along the same lines as when you point  a remote control directly at your television to change the channels.   There is also a  “Fresnel Zone” which can impact the internet signal, as well.  Think of this as the area directly above and below the line of sight.  Reflections from objects within this area can also decrease signal power.

Let’s look at a few scenarios.

Scenario #1:  Your internet service in the late Fall and Winter is pretty decent (except when there is an ice or wind storm), but every Spring and Summer, your service is “hit and miss”.  It could be due to the leaves (which are full of water) that are now on the trees.  This can cause interference with the line of sight from the tower to your antenna.  And then, if the wind blows, even if the trees are not in the line of sight, they could be blowing in and out of the fresnel zone which can impact your internet signal.

Scenario #2:  My service is fine until I have friends and family come visit for an extended period of time.  If they are coming from afar, are they arriving in a large RV which they park in an area that blocks your antenna?  This creates an obstruction between your antenna and the tower and you may need to move the RV to another area.  (And, as mentioned in a previous blog, if all those friends and family are connecting up to your wi-fi while visiting, that may also slow the internet speed at your house due to the number of devices.)

Scenario #3:  I used to have great internet service, but lately it doesn’t seem to connect as well.  If you live in an area where the wind continually blows, your antenna may have moved and is no longer pointing toward the tower.  If you think that this might be the case, give us a call.  One of our techs can do some troubleshooting, and if need be, have an installer come out to re -aim the antenna for you.

Now that I have pretty much exhausted my wealth of knowledge, my parting words of wisdom: When you get the urge to plant some trees this summer, be cautious where you dig the hole -- those trees are going to grow up one of these days!  If you have additional questions and/or concerns, please give us a call at 307-288-5491.

To Tune-Up or To Not Tune-Up -- That is the Question

It seems the more miles traveled, the more often you need a tune-up -- the car gets checked regularly, the snowblower or the lawn mower gets tweaked before the next season, and even I seem to be getting more tune-ups on a regular basis!  But what about your computer -- when did it have it’s last check-up, and, at what point do you choose to move on and put the old dinosaur to rest?  (I’m talking about the computer!)

If you have a brand new desktop or laptop computer, you are in good shape -- it has the latest and greatest software, a lot of memory available, and it probably runs pretty fast.  But if you are from the “keep it until it dies or breaks” generation, your computer may not be running as fast or as smoothly as it once did, sound familiar? Some of the signs and symptoms your computer might be exhibiting include:

  • Longer startup times
  • Slow speeds
  • Loss of internet connection
  • Inability to use multiple programs simultaneously

Inability to use programs that have a lot of graphics.

There are some things you can do yourself, if you are not technologically-challenged, to improve performance.  This might include:

  • Uninstalling unnecessary software (like I would really know what is necessary and what isn’t)
  • Removing viruses, spyware, and other malware (again, I wouldn’t have a clue where to start)
  • Adding memory might help an older computer, but then you have to know if it has a 32-bit operating system or a 64-bit operating system (yep, here again, I am clueless!  And, by the way, what constitutes an older computer anyway - 1 year, 3 years, 5 years.  Technology is constantly changing!  I have been told that a computer more than 6 years old slows down the internet speed it is connected to while it tries to figure out how to operate.  I have files on my laptop that were created in 2010!  But I have digressed…..)

A computer set-up can be an expensive investment.   More importantly, you don’t want to run the risk of possibly losing important information such as photos, saved documents, music, etc. A regular tune-up can be done to inspect and clean your computer inside and out.  Recommendations can be made by the computer technician as to the benefit of adding memory and/or a hard-drive to improve performance.  

The bottom-line is three-fold:

  • My computer obviously needs a tune-up and maybe even a burial!
  • If performance can be improved, wouldn’t it be less costly than having to buy a new computer.
  • Wouldn’t you want it to be done by someone, other than me, with the technical expertise to do a full diagnosis?

Give our computer services technician a call today and be sure to mention the $5.00 discount on a tune-up, memory or hard-drive upgrade.

Internet Speed Sometimes Slow, Sometimes Fast -- What Can I Do?

Ever wonder why sometimes your internet speed is slow and other times it seems faster.  I always thought it had something to do with my internet service provider -- dang them!  Why couldn’t they provide consistently good service all the time?

A few months ago, I was listening in on one of the NGL Techs who was doing some troubleshooting with a customer over the phone.  The customer was having issues with slow speeds and intermittent internet connection issues.  As part of the troubleshooting process, the Tech asked questions about the number and type of devices in their home.  It turns out it was a family of four who all had their own cell phone, each had their own tablet or laptop, one hard-drive computer setup, and one television where they streamed Netflix -- ten devices that could potentially be accessing their internet service simultaneously!  I had never really thought about the number of devices impacting my internet speed…..and that’s when I had my “A-HA” moment!  

Let’s use the family of four scenario.  If there was one person streaming Netflix or Hulu (approximately 6 Mbps), another checking their emails (approximately 2 Mbps), and two people on-line surfing (about 2 Mbps each), they would be needing approximately 12 Mbps.  If this is a rare occurrence, then no big deal, but if this is an everyday situation, then you may need a larger internet package to meet your needs.

Other things to consider:

  1. If you have out-of-town visitors for long periods of time who want access to your internet for their cell-phones -- you would need to count these devices, as well.
  2. If your computer is more than 6 years old, it’s processing power slows your internet speed down while it tries to figure out how to operate.
  3. Subscribe to a package with a little higher speed than your actual needs. 

Ultra Package - 20 Mbps

Gamer Package - 15 Mbps

Streamer Package - 10 Mbps

Basic Package - 5 Mbps

As for me, after listening to that call, I went home that night and assessed our internet usage  -- there is only the two of us.  Sure enough, as soon as I walked in the door, my phone connected to our internet, and my husband was streaming his favorite show on Netflix AND checking his email on his laptop.  I knew immediately that if I even tried to get onto the internet via my laptop, it wasn’t going to be fast!

Moral of the Story:  Too many devices spoil the speed!  

For more information or if you need help with assessing your current usage, give us a call at NGL Connection, 307-288-5491.

An eBook Guide To Ransomware

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Click Here To View eBook

You've heard us throw around the term "malware" (or malicious software) before, but we've never really delved too deep into the different types of malware that are out in the world. That's all about to change, because this month, we'll be discussing one of the most dangerous and costly forms of malicious software- ransomware. 

2016 saw a significant rise in businesses and home internet users targeted by ransomware attacks. In this eBook, we'll discuss exactly what ransomware and the threat it poses, we'll take a look at it's key characteristics and how cyber criminals pick their targets, and finally we'll look into how you can protect yourself. 

This eBook is designed to give you, your family, friends, or your business an edge in the fight against malware, so don't hesitate to pass this information along by sharing it to your own social media accounts.