Category Archives: Computer Basics

Where Did My Document Go?

It is axiomatic that many of us (perhaps most of us) don’t worry about backing up our PCs until we have a hard drive crash and lose valuable information. This is typically more of a problem with personal PCs than it is with business systems, because businesses usually go to great lengths to make sure that critical data is being backed up. (You are doing that, right? RIGHT? Of course you are. And, of course, you also have a plan for getting a copy of your most critical business data out of your office to a secure off-site location for disaster recovery purposes. Enough said about that.)

So, with business systems, the biggest challenge is making sure that users are saving files to the right place, so the backup routines can back up the file. If users are saving things to their “My Documents” folder, and you’re not redirecting “My Documents” to a network folder on a server, you’ve got a big potential problem brewing. Ditto if people are saving things to their Windows Desktop, which is possibly the worst place to save things that you care about keeping.

But there’s an even more fundamental thing to remember, and to communicate to our users: The best, most comprehensive backup strategy in the world won’t save you if you forget to save your work in the first place! Even in our Hosted Private Cloud environment, where we go to great lengths to back up your data and replicate it between geo-redundant data centers, there’s not much we can do if you don’t save it.

Just as many of us have learned a painful lesson about backing up our data by having lost it, many of us have also had that sinking feeling of accidentally closing a document without saving it, or having the PC shut down due to a power interruption, and realizing that we just lost hours of work.

Microsoft has built an Autorecovery option into the Office apps in an attempt to save us from ourselves. Within, say, Word, go to “File / Options / Save,” and you should see this:

Word Autorecover Settings

That’s where you set how often your working document will be automatically saved, as well as the location. But be aware that Autorecovery works really well…until it doesn’t. A Google search on the string “Word autorecovery didn’t save” returned roughly 21,000 results. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t leverage Autorecovery – you certainly should. But take a look at the Word “Help” entry on Autorecovery:

Word Autorecover Help

Notice the text that I’ve circled in red? It says “IMPORTANT The Save button is still your best friend. To be sure you don’t lose your latest work, click Save (or press Ctrl+S) often.” Bottom line: Autorecovery may save your backside at some point…or it may not. And corporate backup routines certainly won’t rescue you if you don’t save your work. So save early and often.

And if you’re a mobile user who frequently works while disconnected from the corporate network, it’s a good idea to save your files in multiple locations. Both Microsoft (OneDrive) and Google (Google Drive) will give you 15 Gb of free on-line storage. And if it’s too much trouble to remember to manually save (or copy) your files to more than one location, there are a variety of ways – including VirtualQube’s “follow-me data” service – to set up a folder on your PC or laptop that automatically synchronizes with a folder in the cloud whenever you’re connected to the Internet. You just have to remember to save things to that folder.

You just have to remember to save things, period. Did we mention saving your work early and often? Yeah. Save early and often. It’s the best habit you can develop to protect yourself against data loss.

Part One: When Should an IT Leader Use a Vendor?

Build vs. Buy Decisioning in IT Organizations

Many of our clients are constantly challenged by a growing number of technologies to manage and understand in order to support the growing needs of the business. Our clients have experienced this growth quite a bit recently with the amount of technological advancement in both hardware and software creating even more product options for IT. Coupled with the dynamic and rapidly changing business opportunities available, IT Leaders have a lot of opportunities to manage, which includes placing bets on where to build capability versus buy it as a service. In this case, it could be simply described as “EXaaS” or “Expertise as a Service”.

The breadth of technology needs for SMBs is not that different from the breadth of technology needs for the large enterprises. Many in the IT Organization get caught up in trying to be the one-stop shop for all of their firm’s needs. Often the list of technology skills required to run the organization (not to mention grow) gets longer annually while budgets get tighter and tighter. One of the most common struggles is trying to get the skills required for an ever expanding set of technologies from the current IT staff. Sending engineers away for a week to learn additional skills takes away from the capacity to manage and monitor the technical services required by the business. IT Leaders have to constantly juggle the time to train versus the time to fight. But how much time should they allocate for each? And what fighting methods (software and hardware) are we going to commit to mastering, and what fighting methods are we going to allow others to do for us?

Once an IT Leader sets a training ratio, the organization needs to figure out which technologies it will continue to deliver, and which it will source. There are a number of ways to think about this, but here are two methods for identifying which technologies you need to focus on with internal resources. If you plot the skills (or OEM or topics) against their annual frequency, some surprising insights come about. Firstly, that many technologies come up frequently, and there is a significant drop-off quickly. In Marketing and Statistics, this is called “The Long Tail”. The way it occurs in an IT Organization is needing to send an engineer to training to implement the newest version of a software that is only used by IT. An example might be SDS solutions like DataCore, or a Citrix XenApp Farm migration. The critical assumption on this graph is that the less frequently a technology is used or referenced, the less knowledge an engineer will have about the technology. I spoke Spanish (Catalan, actually) while I lived in Madrid, but within 2 years of arriving back in the US I could barely carry a conversation with the guy working in a Mexican restaurant. We all know that if you don’t use something regularly, you lose the capability rather quickly. And investing the resources for an engineer to learn a technology and then use that skill once for your organization is low cost, but low ROI as well. It’s also higher risk because your organization just became the guinea pig for your engineer to practice; not at all a great scenario all around.

The example I use is car maintenance. The activities you have to do very often and are low skill (change oil, refill windshield wiper fluid, refill brake fluids) you can and should do yourself. The activities that happen very infrequently and you may not have the right tools to do (head gasket replacement, control arm replacement, trans-axle replacement) you should find a car mechanic to take care of. It’s the activities in the middle of those extremes (e.g. spark plug replacement, brake pad replacement) that you will need to decide if you want to develop the talent to deliver those services. One of my close friends has restored Mustangs for years, and has personally done just about everything to service all of his various vehicles for the 20 years I have known him. Yet he will not replace brake pads or touch any part of the braking system himself on any car. He simply doesn’t want the responsibility.

Relating this to your IT Organization, you should determine what is needed to run the organization, and then make a framework for choosing which technologies you will invest the time and resources into mastering versus which technologies you will “rent” the skills. When you build your own graph for the IT Organization, it might looks something like this:

chart

On the far left are the areas you want to have skills in-house. On the far-right are the skills and technologies you will want to rent. With a plotting of the needs of the organization like this you will quickly see the obvious. The trickier part will be choosing where that line should exist. In metaphorical terms, you will have to call everything Black or White. There will be obvious colors that are easy to see, but there will be many shades of Grey that you will have to choose a home for. Don’t worry, it may take 2-3 tires to get this correct, but if you make the effort consistently, your abilities will improve.

And the critical last step is to develop the budget for all of these internally developed skills as well as the costs to source them so the CFO has all the data required to understand the costs of running the business as well as growing.

Karl Burns is the Chief Strategy Officer at VirtualQube. He can be reached at karl.burns@virtualqube.com.

Scott’s Book Arrived!

IMG_1716

We are pleased to announce that Scott’s books have arrived! ‘The Business Owner’s Essential Guide to I.T.’ is 217 pages packed full of pertinent information.

For those of you who pre-purchased your books, Thank You! Your books have already been signed and shipped, you should receive them shortly and we hope you enjoy them as much as Scott enjoyed writing for you.

If you haven’t purchased your copy, click here, purchase a signed copy from us and all proceeds will be donated to the WA chapter of Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD).

Great Windows 8.1 Experience!

Win8

Today I had a truly great Windows 8.1 experience! I know some might be skeptical, and I for one felt Microsoft faced some challenges with user acceptance of Windows 8. But I am a big fan of Windows 8 primarily because it provides a multi-computer experience in one device. My “truly great Windows 8.1 experience” came while setting up a new laptop. We all dread setting up or refreshing a laptop because historically it’s been difficult and time consuming to transfer files and settings. But it’s a new day for Windows, and transferring all of my settings, metro apps, and data was as simple as logging into my Microsoft Live account and answering a few questions. First question after providing my live credentials was to enter my wireless security code, second question was “we found this computer on your network that belongs to you, do you want to copy the settings to this computer” and BAM all of my settings and data began streaming to my new PC. This was a truly great Windows 8.1 experience!

Yet Another Phishing Example

Today, we’re going to play “What’s Wrong with This Picture.” First of all, take a look at the following screen capture. (You can view it full-sized by clicking on it.)

Phishing Email from Aug, 2011

Phishing Email from Aug, 2011

Now let’s see if you can list all the things that are wrong with this email. Here’s what I came up with:

  • There is no such thing as “Microsoft ServicePack update v6.7.8.”
  • The Microsoft Windows Update Center will never, ever send you a direct email message like this.
  • Spelling errors in the body of the email: “This update is avelable…” “…new futures were added…” (instead of “features”) and “Microsoft Udates” (OK, that last one is not visible in my screen cap, so it doesn’t count).
  • Problems with the hyperlink. Take a look at the little window that popped up when I hovered my mouse over the link: The actual link is to an IP address (85.214.70.156), not to microsoft.com, as the anchor text would have you believe. Furthermore, the directory path that finally takes you to the executable (“bilder/detail/windowsupdate…”) is not what I would expect to see in the structure of a Microsoft Web site.”

If you want to know what sp-update.v678.exe would do if you downloaded and executed it, take a look at the description on the McAfee Web site (click on the “Virus Characteristics” tab). Suffice it to say that this is not something you want on your PC.

Sad to say, I suspect that thousands of people have clicked through on it because it has the Windows logo at the top with a cute little “Windows Update Center” graphic.

Would you have spotted it as a phishing attempt? Did you spot other giveaways in addition to the ones I listed above? Let us know in the comments.