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Computer Repair Business Lessons Learned

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The Lifespan of a Laptop, and when you should consider a laptop repair

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Fort Collins Laptop Repair

Laptops don’t last forever. That’s not groundbreaking news, however, you’re not alone if you’re wondering just how long a laptop should last, whether it’s time to buy a new laptop, or whether it is worth your time and money for a laptop repair on a laptop that is running extremely slow.
Tech experts generally agree that a laptop should last anywhere between three to five years before needing to be replaced. Of course, there are a number of factors that play into this number, including intended use, software maintenance, usage patterns, and computing power.
Don’t Panic IT Solutions tells us the factors that play into the lifespan of your laptop, and whether or not you should consider a laptop repair or replacement.

Intended Use
Perhaps the most important factor in determining whether or not you need to buy a new laptop is your intended use. If you are using your laptop primarily for simple tasks such as writing, creating spreadsheets, or putting together a PowerPoint presentation, you may be able to “repair” the laptop you already have (more on this later).
If you are wanting to use your laptop for state-of-the-art programs, apps, or gaming, you may experience significant slowdown or compatibility issues unless you decide to purchase a new laptop, or put a good deal of money into upgrading the laptop you already have.

Software Maintenance
If you don’t want to spend a good deal of money on upgrading your laptop and you’re not quite ready to make the leap to buying a new laptop, there are a number of things you can do to help prolong your laptop’s lifespan. One of the best things you can do would be to update your software, your operating system, or your security software.
It’s no secret that viruses and malware slow down the processing speed of your laptop and significantly shorten its expected lifespan. Staying up-to-date with your security software and protecting your laptop’s system is crucial in prolonging it’s expected lifespan. It is also crucial to stay on top of BIOS and driver updates. These updates help your laptop to work “behind the scenes”, interfacing with your laptop’s hardware to fix common problems that crop up, solve compatibility issues, and improve functionality.

Usage Patterns
Obviously the way you use your laptop can extend or decrease its lifespan. If you always leave your laptop on, it is likely that it will need maintenance or repairs much quicker than laptops that are only on while being used (fan failure or hard drive replacement are common repairs for laptops that are used like this).
Keeping your laptop in a cool space may prolong its lifespan slightly as the internal components (such as the fans) won’t have to work as hard to function properly. Similarly, laptop batteries can only be charged so many times before they begin to fail. Typically, a laptop battery starts to deteriorate after a few hundred charge cycles. Replacing your laptop battery would be the most common laptop repair that you might need during its regular lifespan. To increase your laptop’s battery life, try to avoid leaving it plugged in all the time, and only charge it when it needs battery life.

Computing Power
The most common end of a laptop’s lifespan is related to the processing speed, or when the laptop’s memory becomes inadequate for modern software. Tech experts estimate that computing power doubles approximately every two years.
Software capability increases generally in tandem with computing power, which naturally makes older laptops obsolete over time. If you are using your laptop primarily for simple tasks (as mentioned earlier), you could “repair” your laptop that is slowing down by purchasing and installing more RAM or a new hard drive until you decide to purchase a new laptop. Unfortunately., these are usually the only components of laptops that can be upgraded or repaired as other hardware replacement is difficult to perform or not cost effective to pay someone else to perform.
It is inevitable; however, that your laptop’s computing power will be outdated by the software that tech companies continue to put out. Keep this in mind as you make the decision on whether to upgrade / update or repair your current laptop versus purchase a new laptop that will last you the next three to five years.

Computer Repair vs. Buying a New Computer

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The following post has been shared by Garrett Tate of Don’t Panic IT Solutions, a Fort Collins Colorado computer repair company

Computer Repair vs. Buying a New Computer

We have all been there. Your trusty PC just doesn’t have the get up and go that it used to. You shop around for a replacement, but the prices you find send you right back to your old machine. Then it happens. One day your computer finally gives up the ghost, and you are left with a decision. Repair or replace? The age-old question of home computing.

I should tell you that I build computers for fun. There was a time that this hobby saved me a bit of money. However, those times have changed. Lately, I have been purchasing new computers because the prices have come down and the costs of parts have gone up. But that is for an entire machine. For repairs, it is often far cheaper to fix the computer than replace the entire unit, especially if your budget does not allow you to upgrade to a better PC.

Ignorance is not Bliss. It Costs You Money

The greatest obstacle to repairing a computer is ignorance of how computers are made. Yes, many of the components are very complicated, but you will not be working on those. Repairing the hardware of a computer normally means swapping out a bad part for a good one. And swapping out parts in a computer is easy because they are modular.

The Power of Modular Assembly

In modular design, a PC is just a framework for different parts to be plugged into. Computers use a very limited number of interfaces, or sockets and plugs. Most parts will fit into most machines. This means that if your computer dies and you decipher that the power supply is to blame, you can buy a new power supply and plug it into the remaining good parts. Voila! Computer repaired for around 30 bucks. All in around the same time it would take you to change a car’s battery. Sounds simple, right? It should because it is.

A friend called me to say he needed a new computer and wanted my advice. After gathering some facts, I offered to fix his slow, crashing PC if he would buy a $50-dollar part. He agreed so one afternoon I spent about fifteen minutes installing some solid-state memory in his machine and reorganizing where he kept his operating system and where he stored his thousands of image files. When I finished, his three-year-old PC was back on track, and I was a hero.

Home Computer Repair is Not Brain Surgery, but it Does Require the Power of Google

Neither of the problems above required any engineering training or exceptional intelligence to solve. I have neither. The solutions to each issue were found by searching Google and watching a YouTube video. The installation of the parts falls about at Lego level on the construction expertise scale. Seriously, anyone can do this. It just requires firmly believing that if something is already broken, it is hard to make it much worse. The cost of the part is the only real gamble.

Sometimes Repair is Not Worth the Time or Money

Occasionally I run into an issue where the cost of the parts, the age of the machine, or the amount of time required for the repair do not justify the project. That is when I shop for a new machine. But, I do not buy the latest greatest thing out there. I get a big case, and a solid CPU and the included operating system. Everything else I just upgrade along the way. Piece by piece.

 

10 Most Common Security Attacks That Will Kill Your WordPress Blog

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Your WordPress blog is like your home online. You must take care of it to prevent unauthorized access and other security attacks. Failure to do so can lead to the downfall of your blog as whoever gets access to it or its code may control it and do whatever they want.

As a blog owner, you must learn about the security threats that you may face on your WordPress blog. There are several of them so you must always be on the look-out and do everything you can to prevent your site from being a victim of an attack.

Shared hosting is common nowadays. You share the hosting server with other users, making it possible for hackers to use any unsecured connection within the shared network, leaving your blog vulnerable to security problems. Consider going for one that is not shared or at least ensure that the shared server has strong security protection.

Hackers who successfully gain access to your code or account may also cause users to be redirected to other sites when accessing your blog. This can be a huge issue as your audience will not be able to access your blog and they might get tired trying if they cannot reach it.

There are more blog threats out there that you must be aware of. We listed some of the most common in an infographic so you can take the step to avoid them.

See our organized and informative image below to protect your blog from these security attacks.

10 Most Common Security Attacks That Will Kill Your WordPress Blog (SBO)

Hiring and Managing your Computer Repair Shop Employees

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Fort Collins Computer Repair Company

Fort Collins Computer Repair Company

This is a guest contribution from Garrett Tate of Don’t Panic IT Solutions, located in Fort Collins, CO

Hiring and Managing your Computer Repair Shop Employees

As a business owner since 2003, we have been through the ringer with employees. Sure, starting out, we were just doing all the computer repair and IT services work ourselves. I remember going into multiple businesses knowing that I was going to spend hour after hour simply setting up the servers and then the countless hours it was going to take to monitor and administer everything for that specific business. 16 hour days were the norm, I was tired, and I knew that I couldn’t sustain the long hours.

Fast forward 14 years, and we have been through 3 different storefronts, and have a very successful business. Looking back, there were the highs and lows, but every single long hour was worth it to build what we can now have. We are so proud to offer a valuable resource, whether that’s computer repair, managed it services, or just lending an ear to people who call in to help walk them through a simple issue.

What’s helped so much after the initial trials and tribulations are our coveted employees. We have been very fortunate to have many great employees, some who have stayed with us for many years. We have seen some employees that weren’t the greatest fits, and to be honest that was nobody’s fault but our own.

And that’s the reason why I’m writing this post. I want to help you, the computer repair shop owner, make sure that you have the resources to not only hire but manage the right people. If you can take one, or maybe all of the items listed below and apply them into your business, you will be on the winning side of things to come.

First, let’s talk about hiring:

  1. Hire based on Evidence. Not based on Enthusiasm. We took this piece of advice from Darren Hardy, and we wish we had made this the number one hiring thought right out of the gate! We hired one of our first employees because he was so happy, enthusiastic, and we thought he would draw customers in because of his charming personality. The problem was, he didn’t have the requisite skills to even send out emails, let alone work on computer. That hire didn’t last long, but we have gotten much better about making sure we read a resume and understand someone’s skills before pulling the trigger.
  2. Be Clear about what you want. As a hiring employer, we have to be incredibly crystal clear about what we are hiring for. If we need someone to be client facing and go into businesses to diagnose network problems, we have to make sure not only that they are pleasant to be around, but that they know how to look at a network and diagnose a problem. There are so many tools that we can use that will help us perform the network diagnostics, but if we hire someone that does not have that skill, they simply won’t last long. Make sure that wherever you post your hiring ad, you detail every single technical skill that your prospective employee must have, any soft skills that would be requirements, and discuss with your team anything that you may have left out.
  3. Ask your Advisors! I belong to a rotary club. You might have a few people you can trust either in a networking group, or, if you are really unsure, ask a trusted family member what they think your best hiring practices should be. You can run your interview questions by them, and ask them if they would recommend asking different questions or expounding on your current ones.

Now that you’ve got some great tips for hiring, here’s some tips for managing your employees:

  1. Make sure you put them in the best position to succeed. If your employees are better at repairing computers than speaking with customers, they might be better served being back in the shop working on motherboards. If you have an employee who is well spoken, smiles a lot, and gives a great handshake, maybe they can be in charge of your client interaction. If you are interchanging roles between two people who have different skills, and they are not a good fit for an alternative role, simply take them and put them in the best place where they can help you, and ultimately grow.
  2. Have weekly or monthly one-on-one meetings with your employees. Asking key questions about how they are feeling about working with or for you can work wonders with employees. They will not only feel like they are valued, but they won’t be afraid to speak with their boss – you, about problems when they come up. If you are offering a new server administration service, and one of your current employees is qualified to fill that role, you may be able to figure out that information through your weekly or monthly meetings.
  3. Compensate well. As the boss, you see the numbers for your computer repair business. You know how many clients you need to blow past your bottom line, and you know what your breakeven is. If and when you succeed, make sure that you give your guys in the shop a raise or a bonus. If they upsell a popular remote support service after they sell a PC, give them a little bonus for the improved performance. They will not only want to stay longer, but ask how they can sell more to earn more, which also benefits the business.

We have been fortunate to have some great employees stay around for a long time, and because of them, our computer repair and IT company has become a mainstay in Fort Collins.

Ways You Can Reuse Your Office Gadgets

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Ways You Can Reuse Your Office Gadgets

Introduction:

There are many ways to minimize business expenses, the best is to reuse and recycle the old office gadgets that are of no use.  Recycling items is very common to people but what probably people don’t know is there are many ways to reuse the gadgets. Reusing the office gadgets is the best way to save money. After all, it is the same material that you are using, only the need of the material is changed, we are using it for some other kind of need. Reusing the gadgets also shows your creativity.

How to reuse office gadgets:

Office supplies often goes sold in bulk. Help keep needy items from collecting dust or going to waste by following adopting creative ways to reuse and recycle those things. There are many ways to reuse and recycle the used or unusable gadgets in your office. Here are few ideas that you can try out. Read on the ideas:

1.  Making and using old tablets as e-readers: If you are still using the old and junk computers for business purpose, then it is time for you and your office mates to switch over to old tablets. You and your rest of the office people can use old tablets in order to read the materials that are needed for the business. Using tablets as e-readers will make it easy and comfortable for you to get the reading done. If you have some old tablets than replace them with old and worn out computers.

2.  Media Player as Storage Device: Flash Drives and Portable media devices are considered to be the most misplaced gadget in the office. If by chance it goes missing then there is no need to buy a new one. Simply find an old media player, and use it to store, transfer and save office data. The capacity of media player is very large and they are capable of storing bulks of data. Thus it can perform dual operations. We can hear music through them and at the same time can use it as a storage device.

3.  Using old computer monitors as TV screens:  If next time, the TV of the office goes burst, you can look for an old computer monitor and can replace it with the broken screen. Thus the monitor can be used as are placement for the TV. It can give both you and your ofice mates a relaxed space to breathe. Thus it is advisable to place the TV in the floor’s common area or in a office pantry.

4.  Using old CCTV as spare parts: Repairing a worn out CCTV will cost more money as its parts are expensive. What best can be done is to take that CCTV, break it apart, cut the spare parts out and use those parts to maintain and upgrade the other things in the system of CCTV. Thus in this way one can save money on buying the new parts. Thus the technique is very cost effective and it will also show creativity of oneself.

5.  Help others: It is often said that what is a thrash for one man may be the treasure for the other man. If you have some old gadgets which are really not of your use any longer then its better and advisable to donate such things to non-profit organisations that can recycle such stuffs for the use of other people. So pick up the phone and dial such non profit organisations and maintain the ecosystem of the society.

6.  Use old device to get money: There are many Tech companies in the world that can happily buy your old devices. Ask your boss or employees whether the particular device is of any use or not. If it is of no use then contact such programs and ask them if they are interested in taking such devices. Give suchdevices to them and in return they will pay you handsome money. Treat yourself and your employees happily.

Conclusion:

Old devices can gather only dust. They cannot do anything other. The best thing is to reuse and recycle these gadgets. You can also show your creativity. You can also take help from any third party organizations too in it. Thus you will succeed in maintaining a cost effective office. Reusing and recycling devices is a fun which you and your employees will enjoy doing.

Hope you have enjoyed reading it. If you have your own ideas on how to reuse and recycle stuffs then please write it in the comment box. All your comments would be entertained.

This Post is written by Margaret. She is a writer/blogger. She writes articles on Technology, social media, WordPress, Gamification, website Hosting, website development and online development etc. These days she contributes on play euromillions

6 Types of Malware You Should Be Aware of

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6 Types of Malware You Should Be Aware of

Malware programs can really be some of the worst stuff on the internet, and they’re more common than mosquitos in the middle of the jungle. They are also so numerous in variety that it would be nearly impossible to pick out a few specific pieces to talk about. Every hacker has their own trademarks and strategies to insert into their own malware, meaning that there are millions of different types being created every month.

What you can realistically learn about are the general types out there and what they look like. Many people already defend themselves perfectly, and you and your customers can as well. All are meant to harm you, and the first thing you need to think about is that there is no limitation on what a piece of malware can do except the imagination of the hacker. Nonetheless, trends do emerge.

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Here are the six main types of malware that you need to know about:

Ransomware

Out of all the types of malware out there, ransomware appears to be the most immediately menacing and hardest to get rid of. It works by effectively locking down your computer and then demanding a payment to unlock it, often pretending to be a security program in the process.

Don’t fall for it, as ransomware never leaves you alone, even if you pay the ransom. They’ll just want more. The best method to fight it is to not get it in the first place, but after that, deleting it in safe mode or a reinstall of the operating system might be in order. Don’t give in to pressure and keep a calm head should you encounter it.

Rootkits

Rootkits are the absolute worst in terms of how difficult it is to get rid of them. They hide by acting as files within your operating system itself, and are therefore nearly undetectable by scanners. They’re also undetectable to any but the most experienced of technicians, and even they would prefer to simply wipe the hard drive and start over instead of spending many hours looking through files. Fortunately, they are more difficult than other types of malware to install, and most hackers won’t find your information worth the extra effort.

Spyware

Personal data is valuable, and the creators of spyware know this. The main goal of a piece of spyware is to remain undetected while collecting information on the user, usually with identity theft as the end goal. It might also be put on your computer to scope out vulnerabilities for later attacks. A manual check of all of your files and frequent scans (with a good malware defense program) are your best hope for detecting and destroying it.

Mobile Malware

A few years ago, malware on smartphones was such a miniscule problem that it wasn’t even considered. Now it is one of the largest threats that security professionals and users alike have to worry about, and due to the limitations of the operating system and difficulties accessing the deeper functions of a smartphone, mobile malware is tricky to remove. People need to start using the internet on their smartphones much like they would on their home computer so they avoid trouble. It is also recommended that people install mobile security apps on their devices.

Adware

Adware is much maligned subset of malware that focuses on selling you things you didn’t know you didn’t want to have. They’re often paired with other types of malware to maximize effectiveness, and the ads themselves nearly always lead to a scam or legally questionable activity. The sooner it is deleted, the less of a risk that other types of malware will invade and cause deeper problems than pop-up ads from your browser or desktop.

Bots

While you might not think of bots as malware in the traditional sense, they are malicious programs used for criminal activity, in this case often to try to hack accounts. They’re the reason you have to type in verification words, and they allow hackers to sit back and let something else do all the work. While the average person cannot directly combat them, they should avoid making important accounts on websites that don’t have a defense against them.

Defenses to Use

While the nature of malware will change significantly over time, there are tools and strategies you can use in order to improve your general defense against these kinds of threats and more.

  • You need a security suite on your computer. You also can’t afford to use a free program that isn’t up to par with the rest of the industry. You additionally need to update it whenever possible, as hackers and malware distributors take advantage of the gap between average update time and update release.
  • If you are going out into the world, you need to use a Virtual Private Network (VPN). While most people will consider it a tool that allows people to connect to Netflix from another country, its best purpose is to keep people safe on public networks and bypass government censorship. Hackers can steal your information on these networks and use it to perform identity theft and spread malware later, so you need the encryption a VPN provides in order to remain completely safe.
  • Most cybersecurity problems are caused by people neglecting important habits, so the most important thing you need to work on is your own cybersecurity strategy. Only use websites that you trust, and don’t download any file that looks suspicious. If you let a piece of malware in the front door with an invitation, your tools won’t be able to help you.

Do you have any other thoughts concerning malware and defending against it? It is a complex topic, so any input would be appreciated in order to keep the conversation going. Please leave any questions or comments below.

FieldNation and Essintial

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If you are doing work orders on FieldNation then look out for Essintial…Quite a few of their jobs are for preventive maintenance at Walmarts.

The work order states:

Under “Hide Confidential Information” it states;

SPECIAL ACCOUNT INFO:

***Any aborted site will be restructed to an $80/flat rate Unfinished Site payment.***

So I do a job for them and sure enough was turned away by the client due to them not being notified of the job. Apparently this was a common occurrence based on my call that night to the call center about the issue. So sure enough they reschedule it and send me again. I accept the work oder and show up and once again the manager on duty turns me away. So the same route, call the call center and let them know and they close the ticket.

Next thing I know I get paid less than $30 (after everyones cut) and their justification was “2nd retry only pay $30.00”. Problem is nowhere in the work order was this stated. So apparently the only one that knew about this whole “2nd retry” thing was Essintial….

Contacted FieldNation about the is and their answer ended up being. “It’s entirely up to buyer what they would pay you after reviewing a WO since they might take different/dissimilar decision’s based on provider’s performance. We suggest you to click on one of their available WO and decline it. It gives you an option to block the company when you do so.”

This makes absolutely NO sense at all. So it’s up to the buyer to change the terms and not notify anyone? And then I’m’ suppose to just “block the company”? So basically what FieldNation is saying is “we condone this type of practice”….Great job FieldNation.

Thumbs down for Essintial and FieldNation on this deal.

Humans of Technology

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Site: http://humansoftechnology.tumblr.com/

I am putting together this new thing sort of like “Humans of New York” . If you have never heard of it you can check it out here: http://www.humansofnewyork.com/

Reason i’m doing it is, it’s interesting to me and in my 20+ years I have met and talked with thousands in the industry and always take something away from it. So I have thought about this for some time and I really think it would be a nice thing to throw out there for our industry.

Some of the differences is obviously I am not in New York and the one I am doing is not going to be about a city…Rather it is going to be “IT” (Information Technology) people from all over the world. Can be business owners, network engineers or anything related to “IT”.

That is where you come in. I’d like to have you on the site.

All that is required is this:

1. Picture….It can be of you, your family, you and your dog, you and your car, you at your store or whatever you want. But, you have to be in it in some shape or form 😉

2. Write something (this will go under the picture)…Now this can be really anything you want but a few thoughts are this:

What the technology industry means to you…

What do you see the technology industry moving towards…

Why you love the technology industry…

Heck you can even put in there about your family if you’d like….

Nothing extreme of course maybe a paragraph or two is about it.

Of course I will be glad to put your name, business name, location or whatever you’d like and I can even link to your website at the end of it.

Facebook Page: https://www.facebook.com/humansoftechnology

3rd Party Companies

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Do you do work for 3rd party companies? If not then maybe it’s time to think about it and see if it might work in your business model.

The reason I bring this us is because many of you have employees and I always hear “what am I going to do on slow times”. Well sometimes doing work for 3rd party companies and be a filler for just that.

Now there are quite a few of them out there and i’ll only talk about a few that I have actually done work for in past. Many years ago I was doing quite a few of these jobs and the reason was simple…”the pay was very good”. But, now fast forward and the pay that some of them are offering is not very realistic and makes you want to just say “not going to do it”. I still think it’s worth looking into for the sheer fact that you don’t have to accept a job and you can also counter-offer a job with a different price.

Here is an example…A job comes in from FieldNation for a printer problem. The scope of the work says something like this:

“Printer malfunction error code 51.0”. Tech will arrive on site and run configuration report and then if error is still there will replace filter cartridge with new one. (the new one has already been shipped there).
Date/Time: Will show information
Location: Will show city etc..
Price: $65

Now you can either say yes to it or counter offer and ask for more money if you want. Really depends on your area and if you think others might be willing to accept the offer or if you think you might be the only one around to do the job in which case you can probably counter on a few things.

Now that particular job is one I actually did. Total driving time was about 20 minutes round trip. Time on site was roughly 15 minutes. So less than an hour for $65. if you are a one person shop then it might be hard to justify doing a job like that. But, if you have techs there is no reason you can not have them do those types of jobs during slow times.

Some of the companies out there are FieldNation, FieldSolutions, WorkMarket, Onforce and Geekatoo….At some point i’ve done jobs for all of them and have never had an issue with payment or anything else as long as you follow directions.

Summer Push

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Summer is coming and with that comes a slow time for many business owners. Hopefully that is not going to be for you, but you never know…

Typically families are all planning trips, end of school, graduations, etc. The last thing on their minds is a computer problem.

With that in mind you still have time to contact your customers and do something that might change their thinking. If you have a list of previous customers (and I hope you do) send them an email/newsletter about a “clean-up”, “tune-up” special you are having and call it “Summer Special” or whatever you’d like. Also, if you have a Facebook page post it on their daily to get the word out. Of course if you use things like Craigslist then post it on there also.

If you have been marketing hard from the start of the year then hopefully it will carry you thru the summer months. But, if you have been lax then there is really not much you can do to correct that. You have to continually market and push in order to not experience that down time. Of course sometimes there is nothing you can do. But, if you have marketed properly then you know that you have done your best and ride it out.

If you are not good at flyers or content then go to a site live Fiverr and get it something done professionally that you can send out. MAKE SURE when you get someone from Fiverr to do your ad or whatever that you get the source files in case you put a date or just a year on it that you will be able to go back and change it for future use.

You still have a few weeks to get these ideas in action and hopefully pull in some customers for the June/July time frame……

Best of Luck!