• Posted on April 24, 2018 10:44 am
    Joseph Forbes
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    Information Technology (IT) professionals have recognized the importance of disaster recovery for decades. High-profile Internet worms, natural disasters, and other high-profile security breaches all serve as reminders of the need to plan properly for disaster recovery and other business continuity issues. Disaster recovery applies mainly to corporations and other large organizations, but the same basic principles apply in home networking, too. What is Disaster Recovery? Disaster recovery involves a series of actions to be taken in the event of major unplanned outages to minimize their adverse effects. In networking, disasters can result from events such as computer malware electric power failures hacker attacks underground cable cuts or failures fire, flood, earthquake, and other natural disasters at a facility mistakes in system administration The related concept of business continuity involves insuring that an organization's critical business processes, including those utilizing IT systems, can be maintained in the event of a disaster. Why Disaster Recovery is Important When executed well, disaster recovery procedures save large sums of money. The financial impact to corporations of even a few hours of lost network and Internet connectivity runs easily into the millions of dollars. Disaster recovery can also improve the quality of human life, and it may even save lives. Loss of cell phone contact with friends and family becomes extremely disruptive during emergencies. All that said, investments in business continuity need to be balanced against practical considerations of the costs and the complexity of preparing for an unknown future: cost - comprehensive disaster recovery is prohibitively expensive testability - disaster recovery plans that look great on paper but are technically unproven will mostly likely fail in practice overemphasis on the backoffice - it's easy to get enamored with solutions for the server room, but without adequate provisions for people and the client-side infrastructure, business continuity won't happen Home networks lack the expensive hardware of a large business, but the preservation of data and communications can be equally important. Disaster Recovery Planning The best approach to disaster recovery focuses primarily on planning and prevention. While earthquakes and terror attacks generally are difficult to anticipate, many other disaster scenarios can be analyzed in detail. For those events that can't be prevented, an IT disaster recovery plan takes into account the need to detect the outages or other disaster effects as quickly as possible notify any affected parties so that they can take action isolate the affected systems so that damage cannot spread repair the critical affected systems so that operations can be resumed These are collectively called risk management or risk mitigation activities. Disaster Recovery Techniques All good IT disaster recovery plans consider the three main components of operations: data, systems and people. From the technical perspective, most organizations rely on some form of redundancy to make possible the recovery of data and systems. Redundancy allows secondary data or system resources to be pressed into service on short notice should primary resources fail or otherwise become unavailable. Organizations can replicate servers and other critical hardware at multiple locations to guard against any single point of failure. While traditional disk mirroring keeps data highly available in normal situations, it works only over short distances. Backups allow snapshots of the data to be captured in moved to remote locations.  Traditional network backup strategies, for example, archive copies of critical data periodically so that they can be restored later if needed. If backups are kept onsite or at only location, their value for disaster recovery is low. Larger organizations invest in storage area network (SAN) technology to distribute data more widely across their internal networks. Some also utilize third-party hosting services for cloud storage. Home networks can take advantage of network backup and cloud storage solutions as well, to better manage their risks. Other common techniques for supporting disaster recovery plans include: assigning people in the organization with special roles to be done in the event of a disaster, and providing them the necessary training performing disaster recovery drills that practice against for specific recovery scenarios

    Blog Entry, Data Recovery, HAPPINESS
  • Posted on April 18, 2018 10:45 am
    Joseph Forbes
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    When I wake up, the first thing I do is reach over for my smartphone and check for emails I might have received overnight. During breakfast, I catch up on current events via my tablet. Whenever I have downtime at work, I check my bank account online and make any necessary transactions. When I get home, I fire up my laptop and web surf for a few hours while streaming movies from my smart TV. If you’re like me, you’re connected to the Internet all day. This is why it's imperative to protect your devices and data from malicious software (malware). Malware is a wide range of software applications developed with a malicious intent. Unlike legitimate software, malware is installed on your computer without your consent. Malware can be introduced to your computer in a form of a virus, worm, Trojan horse, logic bomb, rootkit, or spyware. Here are the latest malware threats you should be aware of: 1 FBI Virus FBI Virus Alert Message. Tommy Armendariz The FBI Virus (aka FBI Moneypack scam) is an aggressive malware that presents itself as an official FBI alert, claiming that your computer is blocked due to Copyright and Related Rights Law violation. The alert attempts to trick you into believing that you have illegally visited or distributed copyrighted content such as videos, music, and software. This nasty virus locks down your system and you have no means of closing the pop-up alert. The goal is for scammers to trick you into paying $200 to unlock your PC. Rather than paying the $200 and further supporting these cyber criminals, you can follow these step-by-step instructions for removing the FBI virus from your machine. 2 Firefox Redirect Virus SearchForMore - Unwanted Page. Tommy Armendariz If you’re a Firefox user, beware of the Firefox Redirect Virus. This vicious malware redirects your Firefox browser to unwanted sites. It also re-configures your browser settings to manipulate search engine results and load malicious websites. Firefox Redirect Virus will attempt to infect your system with additional malware. 3 Suspicious.Emit Backdoor Trojan Virus. Photo © Jean Backus A Trojan horse is an executable file that hides its identity by pretending to be something useful, such as a utility tool, but it’s actually a malicious application. Suspicious.Emit is a severe backdoor Trojan horse that allows a remote attacker to gain unauthorized access to your infected computer. The malware uses code injection techniques to thwart detection and places an autorun.inf file in the root directory of the infected device. An autorun.inf contains execution instructions for operating systems. These files are found mainly in removable devices, such as USB flash drives. Protect your data by following these steps. 4 Sirefef Pirated Software. Photo © Minnaar Pieters Sirefef (aka ZeroAccess) uses stealth to hide its presence and disables your system’s security features. You may be infected with this virus when downloading pirated software and other programs that promote software-piracy, such as keygens and cracks that are used to bypass software licensing. Sirefef sends sensitive information to remote hosts and attempts to stop Windows Defender and Windows Firewall in order to ensure its own traffic won’t be stopped. 5 Loyphish Phishing Scam. Photo © Jaime A. Heidel Loyphish is a phishing page, which is a malicious web page used to steal your login credentials. It disguises itself as a legitimate banking webpage and attempts to trick you into completing an online form. While you may think you are submitting your sensitive data to your respective bank, you have actually submitted your information to a remote attacker. The attacker will use images, logos, and verbiage to persuade you into thinking you are visiting the bank’s authorized website.   Understanding the major types of malware can help you make informed decisions about acquiring tools to protect your computer. To prevent infection from any of these threats, be sure to use up-to-date antivirus software and ensure your firewall is enabled on your computer. Be sure to install the latest updates for all of your installed software and always keep your operating system current. Finally, be cautious when visiting unknown websites and opening email attachments.

    Blog Entry, Hacking, Internet Scam Notices
  • Posted on April 15, 2018 10:44 am
    Joseph Forbes
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    One of the most convenient aspects about the Web today is that tasks that formerly used to be somewhat tedious - such as filling out, creating, or editing PDF forms - can now be done within the Web browser, rather than purchasing proprietary software that can be expensive and hard to use. In this article, we'll take a look at free sites you can use to edit PDF files, create PDF files, and sign PDF files (one of the most common uses of these file types) simply and easily by using a few simple sites. You'll definitely want to bookmark this material, and keep it in mind for future PDF tasks you need to complete. How to Find PDF Files Online   If you are trying to find PDF (Adobe Acrobat) files on the Web, there's a number of ways that you can accomplish this. You're going to be looking for PDF files specifically with these searches, and you'll be able to turn up quite a bit of interesting material, anything from books to white papers to technical manuals. Note: not all of this material is free to use, especially in regards to commercial use; be sure to check with the respective owners to make sure there are not any possible copyright infringements. cats filetype:pdf: Google search for .pdf files; substitute the word "cats" for anything you want cats originurlextension:pdf: Yahoo search for .pdf files; again, substitute the word "cats" for anything you want. Yummy Personal PDF Library: You can browse through lots of interesting .pdf manuals and books here. Fill out PDF forms online with PDFfiller   If you've ever been in the situation of having to fill out a PDF form (job applications, for example), you know that it's not as easy as just pointing your mouse and filling out the fields: no rather than make it easy, you have to fill in the blanks, scan it back into your computer, and then FINALLY email it. Quite a pain! However, you can get around all that with PDFfiller. PDFfiller basically enables you to fill out PDF forms within your browser, without any special software. Just upload your form to the site from either your computer or a specific URL, fill out the form, and then you can print it, email it, fax it, whatever....super convenient. Create PDF files   Use PDFCreator to easily create .pdf files from any Windows application. Some of the many things you can do with this are: convert your Documents to PDF, JPG, PNG, TIF and more, merge multiple documents to one file,make frequently used settings available with one click, compress and resize images to reduce the file size, encrypt your PDFs with AES and protect them with a password, and prevent unauthorized access to your PDFs by changing the security settings. The ability to create PDF files online is very convenient, as you don't need any special software to do so, and most of us are only creating PDF files every once in a while. PDF Misc   Find books and all sorts of files with the Pdf Search Engine, an easy way to look for printed materials distributed on the Web. Get free printouts at PDF Pad: "PDF Pad is a comprehensive online destination where you can download and print the high quality documents you need for work, school and play, free of charge or registration hassles." Read ebooks and other digital publications more easily with Adobe's Digital Editions, a free download that supports PDF files as well. Convert PDF files   Zamzar is a file conversion utility that allows you to convert files into different formats, including PDFs. This is an incredibly useful tool; supports not only PDF files, but over 1200 different conversion types, from video to audio to books to images. No need to download anything, all you have to do is select a file, pick a format to convert to, and Zamzar will send you the converted file within a few minutes.

    Blog Entry, Internet, REVIEWS
  • Posted on October 30, 2017 10:29 am
    Joseph Forbes
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    Most broadband Internet connections stay "always on" - keeping you online at all times. Home network owners often leave their router, broadband modems and other gear powered up and operating constantly, even when not using them for long periods of time, for the sake of convenience. But is it really a good idea to keep home network equipment always connected? Consider the pros and cons. Advantages of Powering Down Home Networks Security: Powering off your gear when not using it improves your network security. When network devices are offline, hackers and Wi-Fi wardrivers cannot target them. Other security measures like firewalls help and are necessary but not bulletproof. Savings on utility bills: Powering down computers, routers and modems saves money. In some countries, the savings is low, but in other parts of the world, utility costs are significant. Surge protection: Unplugging network devices prevents them from being damaged by electric power surges. Surge protectors can also prevent this kind of damage; however, surge units (particularly the inexpensive ones) cannot always protect against major power spikes like those from lightning strikes. Disadvantages of Powering Down Home Networks Noise reduction: Networking gear is much quieter than it was years ago before loud built-in fans were replaced with solid state cooling systems. Your senses might be adjusted to the relatively low levels of home network noise, but you might also be pleasantly surprised at the added tranquility of a residence without it. Hardware reliability: Frequently power cycling a computer or other networked device can shorten its working life due to the extra stress involved. Disk drives are particularly susceptible to damage. On the other hand, high temperature also greatly reduces the lifetime of network equipment. Leaving equipment always-on very possibly causes more damage from heat than will powering it down occasionally. Communication reliability: After power cycling, network connections may sometimes fail to reestablish. Special care must be taken to follow proper start-up procedures. For example, broadband modems generally should be powered on first, then other devices only later, after the modem is ready. Convenience: Network devices like routers and modems may be installed on ceilings, in basements or other hard-to-reach places. You should shut down these devices gracefully, using the manufacturer-recommend procedure, rather than merely "pulling the plug." Powering down a network takes time to do properly and may seem an inconvenience at first. The Bottom Line Home network gear need not be powered on and connected to the Internet at all times. All things considered, turning off your network during extended periods of non-use is a good idea. The security benefit alone makes this a worthwhile endeavor. Because computer networks can be difficult to set up initially, some people naturally fear disrupting it once working. In the long run, though, this practice will increase your confidence and peace of mind as a home network administrator.

    Blog Entry, Hacking, Hardware
  • Posted on October 28, 2017 10:15 am
    Joseph Forbes
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    Leave your computer on all the time, or shut it off when it's not in use; does it really make a difference? If you've been asking yourself this question, then you'll be happy to hear that you can choose whichever way you want. You just need to understand the ramifications of your choice, and take a few precautions to ensure you get the longest life you can from your computer. The most important precaution is to add a UPS (Uninterruptible Power Supply), no matter which method you choose.  A UPS can protect your computer from many of the dangers it's likely to face. The Things That Can Harm Your Computer All of the parts that make up your computer have a limited lifetime. The processor, RAM, and graphics cards all experience aging caused by, among other things, heat and temperature. Additional failure modes come from the stress of cycling a computer on and off. But it's not just your computer's semiconductors that are affected. Mechanical components, such as the ones in hard drives, optical drives, printers, and scanners, are all affected by the power cycling they may undergo when your computer is turned off or on. In many cases, peripherals, such as printers and external drives, may have circuitry that senses when your computer is powered on or off, and initiates the same condition, turning the device on or off as needed. There are other failure modes to consider that originate externally to your computer. The one most often mentioned is a power surge and power drop, where there's a sudden rise or fall in voltage on the electrical circuit that your computer is plugged into. We often associate these surges with transient events, such as nearby lightning strikes, or devices that use a lot of power at once (vacuum cleaner, hair dryer, etc). All of these failure types need to be considered. Leaving a computer turned on can reduce exposure to some of the failure types, while turning your computer off can prevent most of the external vectors that can cause the failure of a computer's components. The question then becomes, which is best: on or off? Turns out, at least in my opinion, it’s a bit of both. If your goal is to maximize lifetime, there's a time period when turning a new computer on and off makes sense; later, leaving it on 24/7 makes sense. Computer Life Testing and Failure Rates There are various failure modes that can result in your computer, well, failing. Computer manufacturers have a few tricks up their sleeves to reduce the failure rate seen by end users. What makes this interesting is that assumptions made by the manufacturer regarding warranty periods can be upset by the decision to leave a computer on 24/7; let's find out why. Computer and component manufacturers use various tests to ensure the quality of their products. One of these is known as Life testing, which uses a burn-in process that accelerates the aging rate of a device under test by cycling power, running devices at elevated voltage and temperature, and exposing the devices to conditions beyond the environment they were intended to operate in. Manufacturers found that devices that survived their infancy would continue to operate without problems until their expected lifetime was reached. Devices in their middle years rarely failed, even when exposed to conditions just outside their expected operating range. The graph demonstrating failure rate over time become known as the bathtub curve, because it looked like a bathtub viewed from the side. Components fresh off the manufacturing line would display a high failure rate when first turned on. That failure rate would drop quickly, so that in a short time, a steady but extremely low failure rate would occur over the remaining expected years. Near the end of the component's life, the failure rate would start to rise again, until it quickly reached a very high failure rate, such as that seen near the beginning of the component's life. Life testing showed that components were highly reliable once they were beyond the infancy period. Manufacturers would then offer their components after using a burn-in process that aged the devices beyond the infancy period. Customers who needed high reliability would pay extra for these burned-in devices. Typical customers for this service included the military, NASA contractors, aviation, and medical. Devices that did not go through a complex burn-in process were sold mostly for consumer use, but the manufacturers included a warranty whose time frame usually matched or exceeded the infancy time on the bathtub curve. Turning your computer off every night, or when not in use, would seem like it could be a cause for component failure, and it's true that as your computer ages, it's likely to fail when turned off or on. But it's certainly a bit counterintuitive to learn that putting stress on your system when it's young, and under warranty, may be a good thing. Remember the bathtub curve, which says that early device failure is more likely when the components are very young, and that as they age, failure rates drop? If you remove some of the expected types of stress by never power cycling your computer, you slow down the aging process. In essence, you extend the length of time the device remains susceptible to early failures. When your computer is under warranty, it may be advantageous to provide a modicum of stress by turning your computer off when not in use, so that any failure that occurs because of turn on/turn off stress happens under warranty. Leaving your computer turned on 24/7 can remove a few of the known stress events that lead to component failure, including the in-rush of current that can damage some devices, voltage swings, and surges that occur when turning a computer off. This is especially true as your computer ages and comes closer to the end of its expected life. By not cycling the power, you can protect older computers from failure, at least for a while. However, for younger computers, it may be more of a "don’t care" issue, as research has shown components in the teenage through adult years remain very stable, and don't show a likelihood of failure by conventional power cycling (turning the computer off at night). For new computers, there's the question of removing stress being an agent of slowing down aging, thus extending the time frame for early failure to occur beyond the normal warranty period. Using Both Options: Turn the Computer Off When New, and Leave On With Age Do what you can to mitigate environmental stress factors, such as operating temperature. This can be as simple as having a fan in the hot months to ensure air movement around your computer system. Use a normal turn on and turn off cycle; that is, turn the computer off when not in use during the original manufacturer's warranty period. This will help ensure all components are aged out under warranty to a time frame when failure rates fall to a low level. It also helps to ensure that any failure that may happen will occur under warranty, saving you some serious coin. Once you move beyond the warranty period, the components should have aged beyond the infant mortality time frame and entered their teenage years, when they're tough and can stand up to just about any reasonable amount of stress thrown at them. At this point, you can switch to a 24/7 operating mode, if you wish to. So, new computer, turn it on and off as needed. Teenage to adult, it's up to you; there's no real benefit either way. Senior, keep it on 24/7 to extend its life. When Running 24/7 Which is Better, Sleep or Hibernation? One possible problem with running your computer 24/7, even if it isn't actively being used, is that you may discover that your computer entered a hibernation mode that's extremely similar to turning your computer off and back on again. Depending on your computer and the OS it's running, it may support multiple types of power saving options. Generally speaking, sleep mode is designed to reduce power consumption while keeping the computer in a semi-operational state. In this mode, your computer spins down any hard drives and optical drives it may have. RAM is powered down to a lower activity state. Displays are usually dimmed, if not outright powered off. Processors run with a reduced clock rate or in a special low-level state. In sleep mode, the computer can usually continue to run some basic tasks, though not as speedily as in a normal state. Most open user apps are still loaded but are in a standby state. There are exceptions, depending on your OS, but you get the idea. Sleep mode conserves power while keeping the computer turned on. Hibernation, another version of reducing power consumption, varies a bit between Mac, Windows, and Linux OSes. In hibernation mode, apps that are running are put into a standby state, and then the content of RAM is copied to your computer's storage device. At that point, RAM and the storage devices are powered off. Most peripherals are put into standby mode, including the display. Once all data has been secured, the computer is essentially turned off. Restarting from hibernation mode isn't much different, at least as experienced by the components that make up your computer, than turning your computer on. As you can see, if you haven’t ensured that your computer won't enter its hibernation mode after some amount of time, you're not really keeping your computer on 24/7. So, you may not be realizing the effect you wanted to achieve by not turning your computer off. If your intent is to run your computer 24/7 to perform various processing tasks, you'll want to disable all sleep modes except for display sleep. You probably don’t need the display to be active to run any of the tasks. The method for using only display sleep is different for the various operating systems. Some OSes have another sleep mode that allows specified tasks to run while placing all remaining tasks in standby mode. In this mode, power is conserved but processes that need to be run are allowed to continue. In the Mac OS, this is known as App Nap. Windows has an equivalent known as Connected Standby, or Modern Standby in Windows 10. No matter what it's called, or the OS it runs on, the purpose is to conserve power while allowing some apps to run. In regard to running your computer 24/7, this type of sleep mode doesn't exhibit the type of power cycling seen in hibernation mode, so it could meet the needs of those who don't wish to turn their computers off. Leave the Computer On or Turn It Off: Final Thoughts If you're asking if it's safe to turn your computer on and off as needed, the answer is yes. It's not something I would worry about until the computer reaches old age. If you're asking if it's safe to leave a computer on 24/7, I would say the answer is also yes, but with a couple of caveats. You need to protect the computer from external stress events, such as voltage surges, lightning strikes, and power outages; you get the idea. Of course, you should be doing this even if you plan to turn the computer on and off, but the risk is slightly greater for computers left on 24/7, only because it's likely they'll be turned on when a severe event occurs, such as a summer thunderstorm rolling through your area.

    Blog Entry, Hardware, KnowledgeBase (KB)