Thursday, October 27, 2011

Thailand flooding could cause serious downtime in your office

Western Digital has announced their primary manufacturing facilities in Thailand are flooded with some equipment submerged.  Their secondary plant there is also threatened by approaching flood waters.  They expect that the damages to these plants will have significant impact on the company's ability to meet demand in fourth quarter.

Other hard drive companies, such as Seagate, are also reporting production problems due to the floods effect on other production components also made in Thailand.

Flooding of Bang Pa Industrial Park home of Western Digital

How can this cause downtime for you?

  • Hard drive failures can happen at any time.  Even if your data is completely backed up, you can't do anything with that backup if you don't have a hard drive, that works, where you can restore the data.  It could take several days or even WEEKS to replace a failed drive as inventories drop.
  • All of you with computers that are 3 years old (or older) have hard drives that are reaching the end of their life.  You are more likely to experience a failure than those with computers under 2 years old.
  • If you have to buy a new computer to replace an old one that dies, it is possible that by December you could end up waiting on back ordered computers simply because hard drives can't be found to build a new machine.

What can you do about it now to prevent being affected by this problem?

  • Check your backup and make sure that you have everything you need backed up.  Lack of a backup will only make things harder in any drive failure situation.
  • Run hard drive diagnostics to determine if bad results and errors are already showing up on your current drives so you can be proactive and replace the drive NOW.
  • Make sure you have a spare computer in your office.  It may not be the best solution for a drive or computer failure but at least you will have something to use while this problem works itself out.  The spare should be set up so that it can be a replacement for any other machine.  
  • If you have several old computers then you should probably have more than one spare machine.
  • If your computer is over 3 years old and you can't live for weeks without one, go ahead and replace the whole machine now.
  • If you had planned to purchase computers and install them in this fiscal year, don't wait until December to place your order.  
Kardon Technology can help you with all these tasks.  Contact us today!

The heat extremes during the summer caused a lot of damage to hard drives.  We have seen an increase in failures within our client base over the last few months.  Losing a drive is stressful and causes downtime in most small businesses even if they have everything backed up.  Image if you have no way to load that data to get access to it for weeks!  

Saturday, October 8, 2011

My computer is slow. Help!

                It can be frustrating waiting for the important program to load or that last email to send. This frustration can be magnified if your formerly speedy computer has turned to molasses. It is best to think of computers much like cars. Regular maintenance and attentive care will keep both running for quite some time. Negligence in those areas can cause performance issues and even breakdowns.
                Now, a computer isn’t going to last as long as a classic 1960s muscle car, but you may be able to depend on it for longer than a Pinto.
                The most important step to resolving performance issues is to be attentive to when the problems begin occurring. If you can determine when the issues appeared, what you were doing at the time, and whether the issues went away under certain conditions, then you are well on your way to figuring out a solution to your performance problems. It is very tough to fix your computer if you don’t know when the performance issues occur and when it started.
                With computers, there can be dozens of reasons for degraded performance. Some of the most common include:
-          Infections by viruses
-          Spyware/Adware installations
-          Hardware issues (lack of RAM, damaged processor, overheating issues)
-          Excess background programs
-          Corrupted operating system
-          Bloated programs
-          Network issues
As you can see from this list, there are multiple problem areas, so a catch-all solution is not readily available. However, the important thing to remember is that decreased performance does not mean the only solution is a new computer!
Looking at Google, we can see 12 million+ responses for “slow computer”. Be aware, though, randomly trying all of the possible solutions is not the best course of action! Many of these sites are simply trying to sell a cheap partial solution to unsuspecting computer users that are frustrated with their computer.
There are several steps that you can take in an attempt to resolve your computer issues before spending $19.99 on a registry cleaner or PC scan.
-          Make sure that your computer is up-to-date with the most recent patches for Windows, Office, Internet browsers (IE, Firefox, Chrome), other prominent programs (Adobe, Quickbooks, Java).

These programs are commonly patched for security and performance reasons. It is vitally important to keep your operating system and the programs you run up-to-date. And, problems can lie in specific programs or the operating system, itself. A corrupted Windows installation can slow down your computer as much or more so than a virus.

-          Make sure your anti-virus program is up-to-date and regular scans are scheduled.

There are real-time protections provided by most anti-virus programs, but you still need to have regular scans scheduled to allow the anti-virus program to search, find, and remove any threats that it may find. At the same time, you need to make sure that your anti-virus program is performing its desired tasks. Some anti-virus programs can start providing file scanning, email scanning, browser protections and other resource intensive tasks that can cause performance problems on already strained systems.

-          Run a spyware/adware scan using MalwareBytes AntiMalware or Spybot Search and Destroy.

Many people make the mistake of assuming their simple anti-virus solution is complete protection. Yes, there are programs like VIPRE or Kaspersky that provide all-around protection. However, programs like AVG Free and Avast are not designed to find spyware that the two above programs search for specifically. And, there are times that multiple programs are needed to catch what another program might miss.

-          Remove/uninstall old programs and verify clean installations

Old and unused programs produce nothing but bloated wasted space on slow computers. If you don’t need a program anymore, delete it. Some programs also surreptitiously install features that run at computer start-up or within internet browser. These features can cause a bottleneck when first starting your computer or when starting an internet browser. Paying attention and avoiding these problems can help your computer run a bit faster.

-          Make sure your computer is cooled properly, free from dust and pet hair.

Desktop computers can spend months or years in the same spot of an office. Dust and pet hair can accumulate over time and, eventually, it completely negates the use of the cooling fans a computer requires. It is important to make sure the cooling fans can run at their optimum efficiency and that hot air has somewhere to go. An overheating computer can cause slow performance and even unexpected freezes and shutdowns.

-          Verify the proper operation and sufficient availability of hardware components.

Many computers struggle with the standard level of RAM installed on a computer. It is important to be aware of the required RAM for programs and operating systems, as well as the amount of RAM needed for acceptable performance (to your standards). Windows may say it needs 2GB of RAM, but 3 or 4 may help it run smoother with several programs running at the same time. This is also the same for video cards and processors. Yes, the economy computer is only $250, but you may find out 6 months later why it was the economy computer. Also, be aware that hardware needs to be updated in the same way software programs need to be updated. Drivers used to run hardware can become corrupted or out-of-date causing decreases in performance.

-          Finally, be aware that outside factors like network problems can be just as detrimental to performance as a computer problem. Make sure your router and modem are properly updated, setup properly, and securely configured.

You may think your computer is the problem when reading email, but you may have an intruder on your network or unknown network traffic in the background. Make sure your passwords are secure to prevent intruders and be aware of what programs use network traffic. Updates or patches may be downloading in the background causing a slow computer without you even realizing it.
It is a big checklist and, many times, it can be a combination of issues causing your problems. It may be difficult to try and solve all the different problems, but being aware and staying on top of updates and error messages will always help.
Don’t just click “REMIND ME LATER”! Many updates or error messages simply get ignored when people are in the middle of that important report that is due at the end of the day. It is ok to put it off for a couple hours, but don’t let it become a habit!
All of these issues can overwhelm you, but remember…it can be just like a car. Set aside some time for regular maintenance. Thirty minutes of attention can save hours and hours of frustration from a slow computer. And, if the issues are too severe, remember that your friendly neighborhood computer mechanics, Kardon Technology, are at your service.