Technology Advisor Blog

Don’t just rely on good luck to protect your data!             ….you won’t after reading this….

Posted by Ann Westerheim on Thu, Mar 17, 2016 @ 12:03 PM

St-Patricks-Day.jpgFACT #1: The latest versions of “Ransomware” viruses can sabotage all your data and applications.   In February, Hollywood Presbyterian Medical Center in California paid $17,000 in bitcoin to hackers after being hit with a virus.

FACT #2: The failure rate of hard drives and tape drives is 100%! Incredible, isn’t it? Most people don’t realize that ALL drives fail at some point. But what’s really dangerous is that most companies don’t realize that their drives have failed until after they try to recover the data stored on them. Only then do they realize that the backups stopped working long ago or that the data is corrupt and can’t be restored.  Protect your mission critical business data now.

FACT #3: Having a copy of your data in some other format does NOT – and I repeat does NOT – guarantee a fast recovery of your data or network. Most people don’t realize that a data backup doesn’t include all your software and settings. If you had to restore your server using your backup data, you would first have to re-install all your software programs and configure the settings. Only then could you install all the data – the entire process can easily take several days.

FACT #4: If you keep your backup onsite, it could be worthless to you in the event of a fire, flood or even a power surge. Smart business owners ALWAYS keep an offsite copy of their data.

If you’re concerned about protecting your data and your business, we can help you!

Business continuity? Backup?  Disaster Recovery? Image? File and Folder?   Don't get bogged down with the technical buzz words.  It's all about protecting your business, and we can take care of the technology part.  Call us at 978-692-4200 to get a complimentary evaluation.

Security Alert:  Don't forget to Reboot your Computer!

Posted by Ann Westerheim on Tue, Feb 02, 2016 @ 15:02 PM

Reboot.jpgData security doesn't stand still!  There were twelve Patch Tuesdays in 2015 and another twelve are planned for 2016.  The updates never stop.  "Patch Tuesday" is the day each month that Microsoft releases their newest security updates, typically the second Tuesday of the month (January 12).  The details change every month, and in January there were six "critical" and three "important" security patches affecting Microsoft Office and Windows. Remember that security patch updates are required for the MA Data Security Law and other industry security compliance standards such as HIPAA.  Also, remember that security is not "set it and forget it".  It's a constantly changing landscape.

About Reboots... Many security patches require reboots, and some security patches are sequential and will not install without the prior patch.  If you're on a support plan with us, required  automated reboots are typically only allowed over night.  If you have a laptop and just put it to "sleep", remember to run at least a weekly reboot.   As a general rule, never leave un-saved work open on your system.

Also, VERY IMPORTANT:  NEVER SHUT DOWN YOUR SYSTEM IN THE MIDDLE OF INSTALLING SECURITY PATCHES.  Your system will warn you to not shut it down, but sometimes it takes a long time (depends on how many patches are released each month and how many require reboots, and other factors).  We all get impatient at times, but keep in mind that you can seriously damage your system by interfering with the updates. We're mentioning this because more than one user inadvertently did this in the recent past (with bad consequences!) and we want to be sure everyone is aware.

Also, as a general rule, the regular reboots will help your system run more efficiently, so don't skip this step!  The best time to reboot?  It's up to you, but plan on rebooting at least once a week.  Your computer will thank you!

Ekaru Donates a Digital Sign to the Cameron Senior Center

Posted by Ann Westerheim on Thu, Jan 21, 2016 @ 18:01 PM

CameronDonation_2015.jpgWe’re proud to support the local community.  The Cameron Senior Center in Westford invited us for a tour and reception last week after donating a digital sign to the center. 

A digital sign displays dynamic digital content such as photos, videos, streaming media, and other information.  Instead of a static sign that needs to be printed and displayed, with a digital sign you can update content anywhere, anytime, and display multiple things on a single display.  If you’ve been to a Dunkin Donuts recently, you’ve noticed that all the menus on the wall are digital.  You’ve probably also seen digital signs at your local bank.  All content is uploaded through the cloud, so you can manage multiple displays from a single console without having to visit each site. 


The staff at the Cameron Senior Center are updating event notifications, calendars, and weather information, in addition to photos and news from the community.  The monitor is located right above the coffee station to keep everyone up to date.  We love technology, and it's exciting to see technology helping the community. 

We recently installed a digital sign in our own office for fun!  Ask us for a demo if you’re interested.

Protect your Computers with Proper Power Management

Posted by Ann Westerheim on Thu, Jan 14, 2016 @ 16:01 PM

Overloaded_Outlet.jpgDo your electrical outlets look like this?  Time to change!  One of the things we look for in a healthy network is proper power management.  For maximum uptime, and to protect your digital investments, it's time to clean house and get your power management in order. 

As a best practice, we recommend that all sites have ALL networking equipment, and all servers on a quality UPS (Uninterruptible Power Supply) and ideally the UPS will have reporting and alert notifications sent to us.  A UPS is an electrical apparatus that provides emergency power  when the input power source fails.  Generally, the battery power can sustain a very short outage, and will provide enough power to ensure a safe shutdown of a Server.

The advanced UPS units also can do compensation for overvoltage and undervoltage conditions without even needing to go on battery, thus preserving battery for possible real outages which often accompany low voltage conditions.

The more sophisticated units provide monitoring for various events.  Some of the power alerts we routinely monitor include:

  • Compensating or not compensating for High input voltage.
  • Switching on or off battery.
  • Distorted input


  • Minor power disturbances are happening at all sites and are routine and frequent.
  • They are caused by routine behind the scenes activity or faults in the electric distribution system (like circuit fault where the utility automatically switches to a different alternate source to maintain power), with a very brief sub second interruption of service.
  • Sites without adequate power protection are subject to mysterious (and tough to diagnose) side effects, including internet outages.  If network equipment frequently requires a power cycle to restore operation it is a clear indication that there have been power disturbances (very common issue with Cable Modems in particular).
  • Surge strips alone are not adequate to deal with such power events, because they do not deal with power sags, nor overvoltage or undervoltage conditions.   Remember surge strips should NEVER be plugged into the OUTPUT of a UPS.
  • The network UPS can provide such alerts even when the site has no power, if all the required networking components are powered on the output of the UPS.  We can isolate the root cause of internet outages at sites without going onsite, because we will have received the alerts before the power in the battery is exhausted.  The fix is that we or the client notify the power provider and much time and angst is avoided all around.


Frits Riep and Ann Westerheim

Don't post pictures of your boarding pass on the Internet

Posted by Ann Westerheim on Mon, Oct 12, 2015 @ 15:10 PM

Do you like to post photosBoarding_Pass_-_Krebs_on_Security of your boarding pass on Facebook or Instagram? Don't!  The barcode reveals a lot more information that you think!

This past week security guru Brian Krebs revealed on his blog, KrebsonSecurity, the risks of posting your boarding pass on line.  Sure, it's fun to be boastful about all the exciting places you travel to, but did you know your personal information including your frequest flyer number is encoded in the barcode? With a free online barcode reader, a user can get access to too much information.  With a name, frequent flyer number, and record locator, a user was able to log into the airlines web page and have access to future flight information.  not only would your future iteneraries be revealed, but someone could potentially change your seats or cancel your flight.  

Think twice before posting on line.

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.

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