Technology Advisor Blog

How to Change the Wireless Network Priority in Windows 7

Posted by Ann Westerheim on Mon, Sep 14, 2015 @ 10:09 AM

We recently upgraded our phone system, and while the network was being updated, I was temporarily connecting my laptop to our guest network so I could access the Internet without interruption. After the updates were completed, I switched back to our office network and all was well.

The next day I arrived at the office and everything was working fine until I discovered I couldn't print.  At first I though some printer settings had changed when phones were added to the network, but it turned out that I had the same problem we get so many customers calls for... I was connected to the wrong wireless network!  My laptop automatically connected to the guest network when I arrived in the morning and I didn't notice.  Being busy, I switched it back.  Next morning the same the same thing happened, and I realized I had to update the network priority.  We're so busy taking care of clients, sometimes we forget to take care of ourselves!

Changing the wireless network priority is easy:

  • Click on the start menu and type Network and Sharing Center:Network_and_Sharing_Center


  • In the Network and Sharing Center click "Manage Wireless Networks":Manage_Wireless_Networks


  • Click on the network to be given priority then select "Move Up".  Wireless_Priorities-2

Note that in the example, the target network has been moved to the top position.  The Move Up / Move Down buttons are highlighted to illustrate how changes can be made.

After setting the proper priority, I will always connect to the right network even when I'm in range for an equally strong signal from our guest network.  

Getting more out of your laptop speakers

Posted by Ann Westerheim on Wed, Sep 09, 2015 @ 15:09 PM

Our team here at Ekaru sat down in the conference room a few weeks back to attend a web-based training event from one our technology partners.  The audio was coming through my laptop and not the speaker phone we normally use.  With the air conditioner blowing, and the projector fan running, none of us could here the audio from the laptop, even though it was on full volume.  

Brian came to the rescue and said "I can fix that" (as he often does!).  Here are a few quick steps so the audio from your laptop will fill an office conference room.

  • Right click on the speaker icon in the lower right hand corner of your screen



  • Select "playback devices"
  • Select/highlight the speaker


  • Press the "Properties" button
  • Click on the "Enhancements" tab
  • Click on "Loudness Equalization"


  • Press "OK" and you're done!

The result? All of us could hear comfortably!   Try this next time you're using your laptop to either present or play a webinar or video in a small group.

7 Ways to Lose your Data - Are you Protected?

Posted by Ann Westerheim on Mon, Jul 27, 2015 @ 14:07 PM

Don't lose your data!Most people know data backup is important, but they remain unaware of all the real risks of losing data.  Data backup winds up becoming the sort of thing you know is "good for you", but real attention gets put off as the threats seem vague.  The most common ways of losing data are connected to our every day lives, and it's worth a review.

1.  Viruses and Malware.  If you're on the Internet you're at risk of getting viruses and malware.  Even with up to date antivirus protection, a business class firewall, and other safeguards, there is no such thing as 100% security.  The worst viruses today are versions of "ransomeware" that encrypt your data and effectively hold it hostage.  You'll be asked to pay a large sum of money to get the data back, but you're playing with fire by paying off criminals, and you're not guaranteed to get your data.  If you don't have a backup, you'll lose everything.

2.  Deleting files accidentally.  Human error can't be eliminated.  You may delete an entire file, part of a file, or over-write a file.  When you're composing a new proposal do you often use a existing document as a starting point?  No matter how organized your workflow is, you simply can't rule out making a mistake like this.

3. Hard Drive Failure.  If you stop to think about how hard drives work, its a miracle that ANY hard drives actually work.  All your data sits on thin disks spinning at 7,500 to 15,000 RPM with extremely tight engineering tolerances.  Have you ever dropped your laptop or spilled coffee on it?  Solid state drives offer some advantages, but always remember your data is is just stored in electronic bits and if its corrupted in any way, you can lose it all.  If other components in your computer fail such as a power supply or a mother board, your system won't work, but your data will be ok. When your hard drive fails, you're out of luck without a backup.  There are labs that can recover data, but these services run in the $1000s of dollars, and there's no guarantee your data will be restored.

4.  Employee Misconduct.  We covered the possibility of accidental deletion of data, but there is also the risk of intentional misconduct.  If you have a disgruntled employee could they destroy your data? If they steal or destroy things like parts or supplies you can get them back, but you CAN'T get your data back without a backup. 

5.  Loss or Theft of Computers.  If your computer is lost or stolen, the cost of the equipment is small compared to the value of your irreplaceable data.  Insurance may help recover the cost of the hardware, but it can't get your data back.  Computers retain a high value on the stolen market, so beware of the risks.

6.  Building Disaster.  Fortunately, these kind of disasters are rare, but they can happen.  You could have a fire or a flood.  What happens if the fire sprinklers go off in your office?  Many people make the mistake of keeping a backup in the same place as their equipment.  You MUST get your backup off site!

7. Natural Disaster.  An earthquake, hurricane, or tornado could wipe out your entire building and town.  In this case you may need to quickly set up a new office or run an office virtually in the cloud.  A backup stored anywhere near the original data would be at risk.  

Unfortunately, for many people, it takes a data loss or scare to get serious about backup.  Don't wait until it's too late. Take some time at your next staff meeting to review your critical data and backup protection.

Help! My Spell Checker Disappeared!

Posted by Ann Westerheim on Fri, Jun 19, 2015 @ 11:06 AM

Spell_Checker_Doesnt_WorkI encountered annoying problem recently: my spell checker in Microsoft WORD disappeared.  I noticed a few misspellings and wondered why they weren't caught with the red squiggly line under the word automatically, and then I started getting in the habit of going to the "Review Tab" and selecting the "Spelling and Grammar" button to review the document.  This worked fine, and as long as I kept the document open, the spell checking would continue to work.  However, each time I opened WORD to create a new document, the spell checker would be off by default and I would have to remember to turn it on manually again.  F7 turns on spelling and grammar.


Given that I have relied on a spell checker for years, I decided this process was risky and I finally took the time to figure out what was going on.

The first thing I checked is to confirm that the automatic checking feature wasn't turned off by mistake.  To check this, go to the "File" tab and select the "Options" button and then select "Proofing".  There is a check box to enable "Check spelling as you type".  Check_spelling_as_you_type

In my case, this was turned on already so this wasn't the problem.  It appeared that my settings were correct, but the spell checking didn't work by default.

After looking further I found the problem was that the language wasn't selected.  Hit "Control A" to select the entire document, and then go to "Review" / "Language".  Make sure the proper language is selected, and the check box that says "Do not check spelling or grammar" is NOT checked.  By selecting the entire document, you can reveal settings for headers and footers.  In my case, what probably happened is that the setting was turned off somewhere at some point, and the setting was just buried.

Reveal_FormattingTo reveal a "buried" setting, hit SHIFT+F1 to reveal formatting.  This is where you can find the problem.  In this case, after checking everything else, the "buried" setting was found.  By clicking on the "Language" link, the defaults could be changed.  

The spelling function was working fine in all other Office products, so it remains a bit of a mystery what happened here. If I figure out more, I'll post an update.

What would you do if you lost ALL your data?

Posted by Ann Westerheim on Fri, May 01, 2015 @ 09:05 AM

Laptop-DisasterImagine if you lost all your data from one of your business computers or worse yet, your company server.  Imagine if you lost all your accounting and financial history, all your customer information, and all the other work you took years to create?  Imagine if suddenly you couldn't operate your business.  What is the impact of lost revenue and productivity?  Most businesses don't think about this until its too late.  The time to plan is NOW.

Consider all the risks to your data.  Cyber security is in the news all the time - major businesses such as Target, Home Depot, and Sony all had major breaches last year.  "Ransomeware" viruses are making headlines. With this new type of virus, your files are sabotaged and you're asked to pay ransom to recover them.  Scary stuff.  Your business also faces risks from lost or stolen equipment, user error, hardware failures, site catastrophes, and even sabotage.  Although many businesses get by and never experience a major event like this, if it happens to you, its too late to create a plan after the fact.

WHAT are you protecting? The first step in creating a disaster recovery plan to to fully understand WHAT you're protecting.  This includes your financial information, customer information, line of business data, emails, and all the documents you've spent years creating.  Over time, things keep getting added, and without a focused inventory, its easy to not fully understand what you have.

WHERE is your data? The next step is to evaluate WHERE your data is located.  Is it centralized on your server? Is it distributed among many PCs and laptops?  Are employees really following rules about where to store important data (hint: they're probably not).  Asking where your data is sounds like a simple question, but when you take a serious look, its not that simple.

COST of downtime?  Finally, your business will need to assess the COST of lost data, down time, lost revenue, and lost productivity.  For example, you may have a rudimentary backup that protects your irreplaceable data, BUT recovering that data on new hardware could talk a week or more.  What is your cost of down time?  What are the compliance requirements in your industry?

What can you do?  Your first line of defense is to put in as many safeguards as possible to protect your data.  This includes perimeter security, antivirus protection, security patch updates, strong passwords, physical security, etc.  We always advise to think about security as "layers" of protection.  

However, keep in mind that there is no such thing as 100% security.  Also, you still need to plan for hardware failures, human error, and site catastrophes.  

With this in mind, your backup will save your business.... or not.  It's time to get a solid plan.  Recently at a local office building where one of our clients is located, during routine electrical work in the building, what was described as an "explosion" occurred and many systems were damaged. NO ONE was expecting this, but fortunately the client was prepared and recovered quickly.

Often when we meet with clients and suggest a data protection plan, we are asked why? Why isn't our old tape backup ok?  Why isn't it ok to manually swap out drives?  Why isn't it ok to just expect the backup software to work every day on its own unmonitored?

As a starting point, ANY backup is better than NO backup.  Take a look at what you're doing.  there are many choices a long the way

Local vs Off-Site:   Local recovery is fast, but if you have a site catastrophe, you're not protected at all

"File and Folder" vs "Image":  Its easy to miss important data with a file and folder backup and if you need to recover and entire system, you may take days or weeks to get everything installed again.  

Manual vs Automatic:  We meet many businesses who are diligent about running a manual backup, but the people who are diligent about taking the backup off site are rare.  Often backups are missed, or the media is stored with the systems.  

Unmanaged vs Managed/Verified:  If you don't verify your backup, you can't be sure it is actually recoverable.  If you're using tape (you shouldn't!), its estimated that around 40% of tapes aren't recoverable. If you installed software how do you know its actually working properly without checking every day.

Don't delay!  Take an in depth inventory of WHAT you're protecting, WHERE it is, and the COST of losing data, or downtime during recovery (if you can recovery).  Only with this information can you make a smart decision about how to protect your business.

Security updates are boring? Think again. It's the LAW!

Posted by Ann Westerheim on Thu, Apr 09, 2015 @ 15:04 PM

DataSecurityDo you read about security updates and your eyes glaze over?  What could possibly be more boring, right?  Well, think again.  The Massachusetts Data Security Law applies to ALL businesses (and non-profits) and ignoring this law won't work.  

The Massachusetts Data Protection Law (201 CMR 17.00: Standards for The Protection of Personal Information of Residents of the Commonwealth) went into effect over five years ago on March 1, 2010.  The goal of the law is to help prevent identity theft and it applies to all business and non-profits who have personal information for any Massachusetts resident including a combination of first name or initial and last name with bank account numbers, credit card numbers, social security numbers, etc.

Security breaches are in the news just about daily, and the threats are only getting more sophisticated.  Data security is an ongoing process,  and the anniversary of the law is a good time to review the requirements.  What many people don’t know is that even the smallest businesses and organizations need to follow these rules.  Also, ongoing training is required by the MA Data Security law, as well as other industry specific security regulations such as HIPAA (Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act), so this is a good time to review the requirements.

Here are the eight technology requirements included in this law:

1.  Secure user authentication protocols including control of User IDs and passwords, and blocking access after multiple failed attempts:  Use of “strong” passwords is required (uppercase letters, lower case letter, numbers, and symbols) and never put your password on a post-it by your monitor, or under your keyboard or anywhere else that's easily accessible!  Vendor supplied default passwords should never be used, and if your password is 123456, this is the most popular password in the world and you should change it immediately!

2.  Secure access control measures that restrict access to records and files containing personal information to those who need the information to perform their jobs:  If multiple employees use the same computer, its important to make sure that protected information can only be accessed by the employees who need that information to do their jobs.

3.   To the extent technically feasible, encryption of all transmitted records and files containing personal information that will travel across public networks, and encryption of all data to be transmitted over a wireless network:  Typically, when you connect to a bank or payroll company, the connection is encrypted with “SSL” and you’ll see https:// before the web site name.  NEVER email protected personal information unless you have the capability to encrypt the email.  Many people don’t realize that sending an email is the equivalent to sending a postcard by regular mail instead of using a sealed envelope.  The contents of the message can be read along the way.

4.  Reasonable monitoring of systems, for unauthorized use of or access to personal information:  Many applications report on access logs and system logs can also be checked.   Check to see what’s possible with your systems.

5.   Encryption of all personal information stored on laptops or other portable devices:   Laptops must be encrypted if they contain protected information.  Other portable devices such as USB hard drives and flash drives also need to be encrypted.  The Windows Password you use to log into your laptop is just a password and doesn’t meet the encryption standard. 

6.  For files containing personal information on a system that is connected to the Internet, there must be reasonably up-to-date firewall protection and operating system security patches, reasonably designed to maintain the integrity of the personal information:  Every month Microsoft releases security patches on “Patch Tuesday” and these need to be applied by law.  In addition, about half of threats are related to other applications like Adobe Flash, etc so don’t forget these vendor supplied updates as well.

7.  Reasonably up-to-date versions of system security agent software which must include malware protection and reasonably up-to-date patches and virus definitions, or a version of such software that can still be supported with up-to-date patches and virus definitions, and is set to receive the most current security updates on a regular basis:  Do you know if every computer in your office has up to date antivirus protection?  New threats are circulating daily, so its not enough to just install software and assume its running properly.  It needs to be monitored.

8.   Education and training of employees on the proper use of the computer security system and the importance of personal information security:   Users often unknowingly break basic rules for “convenience” so they can get their work done faster.  

So much about how we do business revolves around technology, and our daily actions can help keep our data more secure.   Is your data secure?  Are you protecting your customers and your employees?  Are you protecting your business?  Be sure to review security on a regular basis.

Change the Program Windows Uses to Open a File

Posted by Ann Westerheim on Mon, Mar 30, 2015 @ 14:03 PM

DefaultProgramsHave you ever tried opening a file and found that it opened up in an unexpected program?  Recently, I installed a new PDF editor so I could do more than just view a PDF.  I didn't need the full capabilities of Adobe Acrobat, so I opted for a lower cost program which could do most of what I needed to do, which included just basic edits.  After installing this program, I received a PDF file in an email, and when I opened it, instead of seeing the file in Adobe Reader, it opened in the new program.  It opened fine, but when just reading a PDF, I didn't want to see all the menus for editing a file.  I had inadvertently changed the "File Association" and didn't know it.  This also commonly happens with media files.  We get a few calls about this now and then, and figured it would be useful to post some instructions on how to handle this.

AssociateaFileTypeTo see what your Default Programs are in Windows 7, to to the Windows Start Button, which is the colorful flag inside a blue circle on the lower left hand side of your screen. After clicking on Default Programs, you'll open a screen which will let you "Associate a file type or protocol with a program". This is how you make a particular file type such as an .mp3 or .pdf open with your preferred program.  

After clFileAssociation-Docxicking on this selection you'll see a long list of file types, and the Current Default.  In the image shown, I've highlighted .docx to show that it is currently opened with Microsoft Word.  If I wanted to change the program, I would simply hit the "Change Program" button and make another selection.  Note that I just selected a commonly known file type and program to show where the settings are, and we're not suggesting making any changes to this particular default.

Sometimes when you install new software, you may not realized that during the installation process you inadvertently changed a file association.  If you ever need to make a change, just go to "Default Program" and make your change. Subscribe to the Technology Advisor Blog to get more tech tips like this.

Get a Text Message Notification for Important eMails

Posted by Ann Westerheim on Thu, Feb 26, 2015 @ 08:02 AM

Mail_NotificationsHave you ever been waiting for an important email and stuck filtering through your entire cluttered Inbox to check for it repeatedly until it arrives?  With Ekaru cloud-based Exchange mail, you can set up a Text Message notification so you'll see when the important email arrives without needing to constantly check your Inbox.  

To access your settings, log into Webmail, and select "Options" on the upper right hand side of your home page, and then select "See All Options". On the left navigation, select "Phone" and then select the "Text Messaging" Button.

From there, you can "Turn on Notifications".  You'll be asked to enter your information for your carrier and your phone number, and will then need to authenticate.  After notifications are turned on, you'll be able to set up "rules".

Mailbox_RuleTo set up notification "rules", click on the link that says "E-Mail notifications using an Inbox Rule". There are many different types of rules you can set up, but in this case, you'll select "It was received from...", and then select the email address you're interested in.  

You'll then be able to apply the rule "Send a text message to..."

If you are waiting for an important email, or perhaps receive some critical business notifications during the day, this is a way to help organize and cut through the clutter of your Inbox.  


Wiring Closet / Network Gear: Are you a Felix or an Oscar?

Posted by Ann Westerheim on Mon, Feb 09, 2015 @ 12:02 PM

Wiring_Clean_upDoes your wiring closet look like a neatly organized space or a tangled web of wires and black boxes?  Your wiring closet is where your Internet and phone connections enter your office, and this is the heart of your network infrastructure.  How the area looks isn't about cosmetics, but rather, critical for network up time.
Here's a photo of a network we recently worked on for a small office.  The changes we made were relatively minor, but have a tremendous impact on the ability to rapidly troubleshoot and remediate network issues.
Here are some of the things we recommend:
  1. Router is clearly labeled
  2. Switch is clearly labeled
  3. Network gear is placed on shelving or a rack so nothing is stacked on top of anything.
  4. Color coded wires of an appropriate length are used to connect the switch and patch panel
  5. All ports are labeled on the patch panel so we know what wire goes to what office (with a corresponding number on the network jack)
  6. Wires are wrapped and bundled so connections are easy to visualize

Over time, equipment gets swapped out, Internet providers are changed, and office staff size changes.  It's natural that over time, the wiring closet gets a bit chaotic (just like your clothes closet at home).  In addition, workers may start storing other equipment in the room.  As a "best practice", we recommend at least a yearly clean up to keep things in order.

When a problem occurs, the time savings to quickly diagnose and remediate an issue is critical.   In many cases, we can recommend quick self-help over the phone to power cycle a router or switch that can often mean your network will be back up in minutes.  When things are organized and labeled, the guess work is removed.

Keep the area neat and organized, and swap out old equipment.  If you spot any network gear that's five years old, its time to replace it BEFORE it fails.  

Seven Questions for your Annual Technology Plan

Posted by Ann Westerheim on Thu, Feb 05, 2015 @ 15:02 PM

2015_Technology_PlanIt's that time of year - time for planning.  You may have already completed your yearly plan in the Fall, but if you're like many small businesses, you're wearing many hats and even though January has passed, it's still planning season.

As techies, when we hear the word "technology", we start thinking immediately about routers, switches, servers, operating systems, VPNs and all the different things we work with each day.  To form a technology PLAN for your business, the important place to start is to think about your business, and then see how technology can help move you forward with your goals.  

Here are the top seven questions we recommend exploring as you put together your technology plan for the year.

  1. What was your biggest business accomplishment in the past year?
  2. What is your top goal for the next year?
  3. If your business was at its absolute best, what would be different?
  4. What are the top three things getting in your way with respect to technology?  What are people grumbling about in the hallway?
  5. What is your biggest drain on productivity/profit right now?
  6. What are some things you've seen other business do that you wish you could do?
  7. What is the biggest change you see on the horizon for your industry?

To get the most from technology, it's important to think about  technology as a strategic tool to meet your goals and move beyond the mindset of technology as a necessary evil involving replacing things with newer things, or repairing what's broken.  Start with what you want for your business in the next year, and then see what role technology can play.

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