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Cloud Storage Solutions

Today there are many different options for Cloud storage. We will discuss what some of the most popular options are and their pros and cons. 

  • Google Drive: drive.google.com
    • Size availability: 15GB free with a free Gmail account but paid accounts give greater amounts of space
      • Space is determined by where the document is housed and not by what has been shared with you
    • Resources needed: The Google Drive was traditionally based on the Internet. Now mobile apps exist to access Google Drive. There is a program that will allow you to access and use the Google Drive as if it were a drive on your computer and you can access across all of your devices.
  • Microsoft OneDrive: onedrive.live.com
    • Size availability: 5GB free, but paid accounts give greater space, and you can buy more. 
    • Resources needed: Windows 10 computers come preloaded with Microsoft OneDrive that you can access as if it were a drive on your computer. Each Microsoft account has its own access to OneDrive. OneDrive is also the default location for any files saved in Microsoft Office. Mobile apps also exist to access OneDrive across all of your devices. 
  • Apple iCloud: icloud.com
    • Size availability: 100GB free but can pay for more
    • Resources needed: iPhones and iPads automatically back up to the iCloud through the Apple ID that you used to access them. It is possible to access the iCloud through an app directly on your iPhone or iPad. If you access the iCloud through this drive, it acts much like a typical drive on a computer. 
    • Only available for Apple devices
  • Dropbox: dropbox.com
    • Size availability: 2GB free but can pay for or otherwise get access to more
    • Resources needed: There is a Dropbox app available for mobile devices and for computers. This program acts more like a folder than a drive. You will need a Dropbox account to use it. 
  • Amazon Drive: https://www.amazon.com/photos/welcome
    • Size availability: free photo storage for Prime Members, plus 5GB, but you can pay for more space
    • Resources needed: There is an Amazon Photos app and an Amazon Drive app available for mobile devices and for computers. The Amazon Drive app acts much like a folder. The Photos app is more customized for photos. 

Before choosing any of these solutions, Tech Lab highly recommends reading the license agreement. Dropbox owns anything that is put onto it. This may make it not the best place to store confidential documents. 

You can share files with other people in Google Drive, Microsoft OneDrive, and Dropbox. When you share a file with someone else, generally this does not count against their space. The user has the ability to download a copy of it, in which case it would count against their computer’s space, or to save a copy to their own account. This is a great way to keep access to something you fear you might lose. However, when you save a copy, the changes are no longer synced in the document. 

Internet required

Because these are Cloud solutions, these generally require the Internet to work properly.  It is possible to make the programs available for use offline, but when you make changes offline, these changes will not be reflected in the files online until the device where you have made the changes goes back online. 

It is also possible to download the documents from the Cloud as files to your computer. However, if you do this, changes will no longer be synced with the Cloud. 

If you have questions on any of these options or need help setting up a cloud solution, contact Tech Lab at 414-208-4682.

Need a Faster Internet Connection?

You made sure you have the right size internet package from your provider. But are you getting what you paid for?

When you perform a proper speed test, are you getting the speed you are supposed to be getting? 

Many sites have speed tests. Here’s one:

https://www.speedtest.net/

Speed tests are meant to be performed with a computer hooked directly into the modem.  You plug an Ethernet cable into your computer, and you plug the other end into your modem.  Then you run the speed test.  If you are not getting the speeds you are supposed to be getting according to your ISP, then you need to talk to your ISP because something is going wrong with their equipment. 

If all that is adequate and you are still having issues, that’s where Tech Lab comes in.   There are several things we can do to increase your Internet speed:

  1. We can put in a (better) router. 

Most ISPs will not give you a router.  Routers provide improved signal strength.  If you are close to your modem and are having speed issues, this would be the first thing we would do. 

  • We can move the router. 

Your router gives off signal strength in a circle around it.  If your router is set on the edge of your house and you can’t get signal on the other side of your house, we can move the router to the middle of your house, and you are likely to be able to get signal on both sides of your house.  This is also better for the security of your Internet network, as it means that your neighbors aren’t getting your WiFi. 

  • We can put in access points. 

If your house is bigger than your router can account for or you have walls that interfere with the signal (e.g., brick, concrete, or metal), then access points are the way to go.  These extend your wireless network. 

Not sure what the problem is?  Tech Lab can find the bottleneck.  Call Tech Lab today at 414-208-4682, and we can evaluate your space to find the problem. 

Slow Network Speed?

Now that we are all at home, working, doing schooling, streaming movies or TV shows, doing online gaming, etc. on the Internet, some of you may have noticed that your Internet just isn’t doing the job. Maybe it’s too slow.

Tech Lab can advise you to make your wireless Internet faster.

Let’s first talk about what your Internet Service Provider (ISP) does.  Examples of ISPs in the area include Spectrum, Charter, and AT&T.  This is the company you purchase Internet service from:

  1. What kind of package you are purchasing from your Internet Service Provider (ISP)? 

There are a wide variety of Internet packages that you can buy from your ISP that will give you different speeds.  Different options will be available in your area. 

Regular streaming requires at least 3Mbps, while 4K streaming requires 25Mbps. Gaming requires at least 4-8Mbps but will get better response from 10-25Mbps. If you are getting less than this, you will experience long times of “Loading…” to the point that you are not experiencing a seamless experience. Some graphics-intensive websites, like social media with videos that often play automatically, will also give you trouble. You also need to consider upload speed in your Internet package as well.

Next you’ll want to consider how many devices are being hooked up to the Internet. In most cases, the speed you get is divided among the devices you have that are hooked up to the Internet. Most devices that are hooked up to the Internet will go on the Internet automatically to refresh its content or update, so even your smart home devices and the computers and cell phones you are not touching are probably using some of your speed. Not sure if you have a high enough package? Give Tech Lab a call at 414-208-4682, and we can advise you.

African Americans in Technology and Computing

February is Black History Month, so we decided to highlight some African American people who have been major figures in technology and computing. We’ve included links where you can read more about the lives of these amazing people.

  1. Granville Woods (1856-1910): He was the first African American to be a mechanical and electric engineer. He held more than 60 patents. Among his inventions were a telegraph that sent messages between train stations and moving trains and an invention that allowed for voice and telegraph to be sent over one wire.
    • https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Granville_Woods
  2. Garrett Morgan (1877-1963): He held patents for many successful inventions. Among his inventions were straightening hair cream, an improved machine, the precursor to the yellow light on a traffic signal, the friction drive clutch, and a breathing device that was the precursor to World War I gas masks. He gained quite a bit of notoriety when he saved people from a fire and suffered from racism in people boycotting his inventions thereafter.
  3. Katherine Johnson (1918-2020): She was a research mathematician. She was one of the first African American women to work as a NASA scientist. While a NASA scientist, she performed calculations for orbital mechanics that enabled America’s first space flight. If this story seems familiar to you, that is because she was the inspiration for the main character of Hidden Figures. She also co-authored 26 scientific papers and received an astronaut’s award.
  4. Otis F. Boykin (1920-1982): He patented 27 electronic devices. Among his inventions are the electronic control devices for guided missiles, IBM computers, the control unit for the pacemaker, the wire precision resistor for radios and TVs, a burglar-proof cash register, and the electrical capacitor.
  5. Roy L. Clay, Sr. (1929-): He worked on writing one of the first computer codes. He led the team to bring HP’s first computer to market and wrote software for this computer. He established HP’s software development team and then managed HP’s computer division. Now he is the CEO of Rod-L Electronics, a company that he started. He invented the first electronic equipment safety testing device to be certified by the Underwriters Laboratory. He was inducted into the Silicon Valley Engineering Council’s Hall of Fame.
    • https://ontechstreet.com/2015/02/roy-clay-sr-godfather-silicon-valley
  6. Shirley Jackson (1946-): She is a physicist. She is the first African American woman to earn a doctorate at MIT and the second African American woman in the US to earn a doctorate in physics. She was the first African American to be Chairman of the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission and the first African American to be president of Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, where she still works today. She has collaborated on over 100 scientific articles.
    • https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shirley_Ann_Jackson
  7. Phillip Emeagwali (1954-): He conducts research on next-generation supercomputers. His research on the fastest computer on Earth solved a famous unsolved mathematical problem, for which he won the Gordon Bell Prize in 1989.
  8. Marc Hannah (1956-): He is an electrical engineer and computer graphics designer. He co-founded Silicon Graphics and was the principal scientist for movie special effects. In this role, he developed 3-D graphics technology. This is the technology that was used for Jurassic Park, Aladdin, Beauty and the Beast, and Terminator 2. For this reason, he is sometimes called the founder of special effects.
    • https://www.blackhistorymonth.org.uk/article/section/science-and-medicine/marc-hannah-special-effects-founder/
  9. Mark Dean (1957-): He co-created the IBM personal computer. He was part of the team that developed the technology that allows multiple devices to be connected to PCs. He led a design team to create a one-gigaherz computer chip. He was the first African American to become an IBM fellow and was inducted into the National Inventors’ Hall of Fame.
    • https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mark_Dean_(computer_scientist)
  10. Kimberly Bryant (1967-): She is an electrical engineer who worked in biotechnology. She founded Black Girls Code. The goal of this foundation is to teach computer programming to black girls aged 7-17. So far, they have been able to reach over 3,000 girls.

Windows 7 Support Ends January 14

What does this mean? On a supported operating system (Windows 8 and higher), if Microsoft learns that there are ways for hackers to get in or other things that aren’t working right (bugs), they fix them. If you have a problem with Windows, you can call Microsoft and they will help you fix it.

On an unsupported operating system (e.g., Windows XP, Windows Vista, Windows Server 2003, etc.), these are not fixed. This means that as you get farther and farther past the end of support date, the more likely your computer is to get infected by viruses, not work with various programs and other devices, and have other problems.

What should I do??? Tech Lab recommends upgrading to the most recent operating system. This means that you will not have to upgrade again for a while, and it also means that you are getting the fastest and most secure version.

If you don’t upgrade, you may be able to purchase extended support – for a while. It depends on the type of operating system you have. There are a wide variety of software for servers that can and cannot receive extended support. If you are a company that has Windows 7 Professional or Windows 7 Enterprise, you can pay Microsoft for a longer support period while you switch over. However, Microsoft wants you to upgrade. This extended support will get more and more expensive the longer you don’t switch over. If you are interested in extended support, please contact Microsoft.

How do I upgrade?  The best and cheapest answer is, have Tech Lab or another tech take a look at your computer. 

Some computers can be upgraded, and that is cheaper than buying a new computer.  However, only a tech like Tech Lab will know if yours can be upgraded and how to do it.  If you upgrade a computer that can’t handle the upgrade, the computer will crash and die.  If you don’t know what you are doing when you upgrade, you may lose all your data. 

You can also buy another computer with the new system already on it. However, not all new computers are created equally. Some are slow to begin with and will fall apart and die very quickly. Tech Lab can help you find the best computer to meet your needs that will last a long while and get your new computer set up.

I like Windows 7 and Windows Server 2008.  What happens if I don’t upgrade?  We expect hackers to target Windows 7 computers as soon as support ends.  The farther you get past the end of support date, the more likely your computer will be to get infected by viruses. 

Other companies will also quit supporting Windows 7.  If you buy a new printer or get new software after the end of support date, you can expect those not to work on your computer either. 

I tried Windows 10 and did not like it. Tech Lab can help you set up Windows 10 so that it looks and acts like Windows 7 if you want. Call us at 414-208-4682 to schedule your session with us!

2019 Wrap Up

As 2019 comes to a close, Tech Lab would like to thank you for your business and support. We value you as our clients and look forward to continuing to working with you in 2020.

Shopping Online Safely

As we approach the holiday season, it is common for people to shop online. However shopping online can be dangerous if you don’t take the right precautions. Tech Lab has put together a list of 7 ways to keep you safe.

  • Protect the device you are using to shop with. If you are using a computer, make sure it has antivirus software and malware protection. 
  • Protect your Internet connection. If you are on the same connection as other people, you want to be able to trust that they are not going to hack your connection. You cannot trust this on public WiFi (e.g., Internet provided by Starbuck’s, McDonald’s, etc.). If you have any questions about the security of the connection you are using, use your phone’s data. Your own secured home WiFi should be protected as well.
  • To app or not to app?: App shopping can be safer than online shopping, but it can also be a source of scams if you choose the wrong app. If you use an app for online shopping, use the app designed by the company. Check reviews for the app to see how it does. Make sure the company is regularly updating it. Set the app’s security settings the way that you want them on your mobile device.
    • An app that Tech Lab recommends to help you find the best deals is Honey Smart Shopping Assistant. It is available on iPhone, Android devices, and an extension on your web browser.
    • Rakuten is also an app that pays you for your purchases you make online. It is available on iPhone, Android devices, and an extension on your web browser.
  • Make sure you are using a site that you trust to do your shopping. How to know if you should trust the site:
    • Scams tend to appear long enough to get your money, and then they have to move out of town. So first make sure that they are a company. If you know their name from somewhere else and know people who have successfully ordered from there, they have passed this test.
    • You can also check the reviews of a site you have never heard of before. Use other sites to check their reviews and not their own site. They can change the reviews on their site, but it is harder to do on other sites. If you cannot find any reviews on other sites, then these sites are more likely to be scams. If the reviews are bad, do not make your purchases here.
    • For sites whose names you do know, make sure you are on their site. For brick and mortar stores, you can ask their website address in store. When typing the address in, however, be careful. If you type the address and change one letter, you will not go to the website you want. You can also type the name of the store into a good search engine, and odds are that the first link will take you to the site you want to be on.
    • The e-mails that you receive from companies you do not know are the most likely to try and scam you. Do not click on links in their e-mails! Even companies you do know track people who click on their e-mails. It is much safer to go to the website and type in a coupon code there than it is to follow an e-mailed link. 
    • Check out their delivery, exchange, return, and privacy policies. If there is a problem with your purchase, what is their policy?
  • Now that you have checked out the site, make sure the website has been secured. When the site asks for your payment information, make sure that the website address starts with https:// and that there is a padlock by the address. If not, it is not safe.
  • Many sites will ask you to make accounts. Here are some ways to make sure you stay safe with an account:
    • Make sure you choose a good password for your account, especially if you have payment information. Change the password from other passwords you may use. A good password is 10-16 characters long and includes uppercase and lowercase letters, numbers, and special characters. It is not only comprised of individual words.
    • Look at the security settings for your account. Some payment accounts will send you notifications if it thinks it may not be you making changes to the account. Other accounts will allow you to set up multi-factor authentication so that it is not just the password authenticating you.
    • Don’t save your payment information. It is more convenient to save it, but if the website ever gets hacked, your payment information will go to the hacker too.
  • Protecting your payment information:
    • A good online store will accept major credit cards. It will not require money orders or electronic funds transfers (EFTs). If it requires money orders or EFTs, then do not use this site.
    • Credit cards are protected from fraud in ways that debit cards generally are not. Tech Lab recommends using a credit card for online shopping, as opposed to a debit card. Be sure to check your credit card regularly for charges you didn’t make.
    • If you don’t check your statements regularly, you can also use a Visa gift card or similar card. This is also better than a debit card because the amount possible for you to lose to scammers is more limited.
    • There are several services that you can use that will protect your payment information in online transactions. Examples are Paypal, Apple Pay, and one-time credit card numbers. You have less fraud protection with these than you do with a credit card, but it protects the credit card number. This may be a problem if you want to make a return or need to show the credit card to verify your identity.

Finally, consider where you are having your packages delivered and who will be there when they arrive. Some people steal other people’s packages. You can sometimes have your packages delivered to a secured location to protect them, like the local UPS location or to a shipping locker. In other cases, you can put in specific delivery instructions. 

If you run into problems or are not sure what to do please call someone to help you. Tech Lab can be reached at 414-208-4682.

Repair versus Buying New

A question I often get asked is, “Why should I repair my computer when I could buy a new computer for $200?”. 

Computers that cost $200 are made of cheap components; that is how they cut costs. They wear out quickly and they break easily. The technology in the computer is outdated already by the time you get it. Instead of ending up slow over years, they start off slow. You can expect computers with these components to last for maybe a year.

Instead of a $200 computer, Tech Lab recommends buying one that is more expensive but made of better materials.  If you spend $600-$800 on a computer, you can expect that computer to last for five to six years before it gets overtaken by better technology. 

You also need to consider the time it takes to set up the new computer or the cost of purchasing programs for the new computer. If you move your files, passwords, bookmarks, etc. to the new computer, that takes time and materials as well, and if you did not, that may be a time loss as well.

If you do the math on this, a new $200 computer every year will equal the actual cost in three years of a $600 computer and in four years of an $800 computer.  That does not count the cost of programs or setup time.  So you will have at least a $200-$400 cost savings in going with the more expensive computer. 

If you are not sure what to look for in a new computer and would like advice, Tech Lab can help you find the right computer to meet your needs. If you need help setting up your new computer, Tech Lab can set it up just the way you want it and move your files, passwords, bookmarks, etc. to the new computer also. Contact us at 414-208-4682 or through the contact form on our website.

Using Passwords- Part 2

I forgot my password. What do I do now???  This depends on where your account is. For websites that require a password, they will have instructions if you have forgotten your password. Some websites will send you a reset link in your e-mail. Other times, you will answer security questions to prove that you are you. Some websites, if you have this set up, will send you a text to prove that you are you. We recommend setting up security questions and using two step authentication for important accounts like you bank account. I got locked out of my account because I typed my password wrong. Now what??? Depending on where your account is will determine your next step. Some places will ask you to wait a predetermined length of time before you try opening your account again. Other places will have you call a phone number.  How to know if you entered your password correctly? If it doesn’t go through right on the first try, check your password log to make sure that you have the right user name and password. Check whether the site is asking for your user name or your e-mail, and put in the correct one. Check to see if you have Caps Lock on, and turn it off if it’s not supposed to be on. Type the password somewhere else where you can see what you are typing. When you are positive the password looks like what you should type into the box, then copy the password and paste it into the password box. If you use a password manager, you can copy and paste the password directly from the manager.  Passwords can be frustrating to an individual but they help keep you and your information safe.

Keeping Yourself Safe Online Using Passwords

For most of your accounts, you will have a user name (sometimes this is just your e-mail address) and a password to log in. The theory is, by entering that combination, you prove that you are you and have the right to do whatever you are doing (e.g., shopping online, social media, etc.). 

Unless a hacker breaks into your account and pretends to be you. The easiest way for a hacker to do that is to get your password. How can a hacker do this? 

1) You give the hacker your password.

2) The hacker guesses your password. 

3) The hacker tries out various passwords until he finds one that works. 

4) The hacker installs malware or a virus on your computer that gives him your password. 

How can I keep my passwords safe? 

1) Do NOT give your password to anyone. Assume that if someone is asking for your password, especially someone that you do not know, they have bad intentions. The company where you have your account will NOT ask for your password. Only click password reset links when you have requested the reset. 

2) Use antivirus software and malware protection software (see other blog posts for more details).

3) Follow password guidelines:

a. Use uppercase and lowercase letters, as well as numbers and special characters. 

b. Your password should be between 8 and 18 characters. 

c. Change your password every 3-6 months. 

d. Don’t use personal information. 

e. Use different passwords for every site. 

These password guidelines are unusable! They are too much of a pain in the neck. 

Yes, you are correct. That is why many sites where you make passwords will make you follow password guidelines as much as they can. 

We recommend using more security for the accounts you most want to protect (e.g., your bank account, etc.). For these accounts, make sure that they have their own password and that you do not share that password. 

A password manager can help as you manage your passwords for many accounts. Your phone and browser (e.g., Chrome, Edge, etc.) can do this to an extent, but we do not recommend relying on them. A password manager can generate a password that you can use that follows password guidelines. It can store usernames and passwords. Once you have an account you can copy and paste them from the password manager so that you do not have to worry about mistyping your password. Examples are KeePass and 1Password. When you change your password, be sure to change it here too!