network

Setting up your small business computer network

When it comes to setting up a small business, there are literally hundreds, if not thousands, of decisions to make. One of the most important is what your computer network will look like, and how it will operate. Functionality and simplicity should be key drivers in all of your networking decisions – whether you are just starting out or looking to update your existing network to meet the growth requirements of your business.

Part 1: Assess your requirements (now and into the future)

So, at the moment there’s just the three of you (or five, or 10) – and you know you need a network to share access to the internet and company printers, and to files from one another’s computers. If you add staff in the next six or 12 or 18 months, will your office and your proposed network have the space to accommodate them? Thinking and planning ahead may save a lot of time, effort and money down the track.

Part 2: Decide on your networking needs

When it comes to networking, the main choices are wired, wireless or hybrid:

Wired networks have great advantages in terms of reliability, speed and security, but installation can be tricky depending on the physical layout of your office – ethernet cables will need to be installed, and once they’re in place the location of your devices is (relatively) set in stone. Understanding your business floor plan and mapping out your hardware and equipment is incredibly important if you’re going to go with wired technology.

Wireless networks are the option of choice for many businesses because of their greater flexibility. No cables mean you are free to wander the office with your laptop – working from the couch or the lunchroom table as you please. No cables also means lower installation costs. Wireless technology, however, is often slower than wired tech, and can be affected by physical interference (walls, pipes etc).

Hybrid networks, using a combination of wired and wireless connections, give the best of both worlds – speed and security via ethernet if required or the freedom to roam using wireless access if your team members need a breather on the couch!

Part 3: Talk to the Geelong computer network specialists and put it all together

Remember that there are security and data protection risks when it comes to networking, and we highly recommend that you speak to an expert before you start purchasing and installing your modem/router/adapter/firewall/switch/cable/access point etc. (not to mention your computers and printers!).

At Geelong Technology Group we can work with you to understand your networking needs and then build the best IT network solution for your unique situation – whether you’re just starting out or you need a scalable overhaul. Our technicians have decades of experience assisting businesses of all sizes to create the computer networks that work for them. We can also help out with data back-up solutions, security setup and maintenance, and remote access for those employees working from home.

Don’t put up with wi-fi dropouts, snail-paced buffering or redundant technology – give us a call and overhaul your productivity today! Servicing Geelong, the Bellarine Peninsula, the Surf Coast and surrounding regions, GTG are your business IT solution specialists. Contact our experienced IT technicians on 1300 GET GTG (1300 438 484) or email support@geelongtechnology.com.au

gaming

Ready, Set, Game: Setting up your PC for gaming

Setting up for gaming on a PC is one of those ‘how long is a piece of string’ exercises – you could cobble together what you need from what you have, or you could head towards the stratosphere and join international gamer/YouTube phenomenons who allegedly spend upwards of $100,000…

We kind of hope you sit somewhere closer to the former option (because let’s face it, that kind of spend is a bit crazy), but we also acknowledge that the PC remains the best platform for gaming, so let’s explore what you might need:

Ergonomics

Whatever your budget, the ultimate gaming setup still needs to address the issues that concern any PC user – namely an ergonomic workstation setup. Indeed, when you consider how easy it is to get involved in a game and for hours to pass in the blink of an eye, having the right setup for your body’s health is even more important.

Start your setup with a desk that you can comfortably fit your legs under and onto which you’ll be able to rest your forearms easily (with your elbows at a 90-degree angle and your wrists in a straight-line position). Next, and possibly most importantly, is your chair: if you’re going to be spending a lot of time gaming, an investment in a gaming chair is also an investment in your posture and spinal health. A great gaming chair has a high-back design to cradle your whole body, height-adjustable armrests, and height-adjustable head and lumbar cushions. Other game-chair features may include memory-foam construction, deep-recline functionality, and breathable materials.

Hardware for gaming

Unlike consoles, games released for PCs (and we’re talking hundreds of thousands of titles) have different tech requirements, with some far more demanding than others. If you’re investing in a new setup, it’s a great idea to do a little research first – considering your processor, graphics card, RAM, and storage requirements against the types of games you’re planning to play.

The processor is the heart of your setup, determining performance, while the GPU (graphics processing unit) creates the beautiful face to your games, with high-end graphics cards allowing high frame rates, thus making higher resolutions playable without any lag. There are plenty of pre-built PC options available that will allow a great gaming experience, or you can pick and choose your individual requirements and go for a custom-built gaming PC.

Beyond the box, the next most important piece of gaming hardware is your monitor (or, in many cases, monitors). After all, how better to appreciate the detailed graphics of your favourite games than on a high-resolution monitor? As well as resolution (and the actual screen size), other things to consider when purchasing a gaming monitor include refresh rate, response time, colour accuracy, and available ports (and cost!).

Accessories for gaming

Okay, so this is where you can really start to have a little fun with your PC gaming setup. Accessories to consider include:

  • a gaming headset (look for comfort, durability, true stereo sound or simulated surround sound, and a microphone for team-based games; options include wired or wireless)
  • a gaming keyboard (comfort, responsiveness, and reliability should come first here, but decisions will need to be made regarding switch types, full-sized or tenkeyless (TKL), backlit or no, and wired or wireless)
  • a gaming mouse (with options including wired or wireless, various hand grips, RGB lighting, programmable buttons, and even weights you can add or remove to improve your gaming accuracy)

You can also go above and beyond with additional speakers (for true surround sound), a webcam (if you plan to stream your gameplay), customisable lighting to attach beneath your desk or behind or above your monitor, a cable management tray or box, and blue light reduction glasses (to reduce eyestrain and to avoid messing with your sleep patterns too much).

Contact the Geelong PC gaming specialists

From a pre-built PC on a budget to a high-end, liquid-cooled custom-build, the team at Geelong Technology Group can help with all of your PC gaming needs. After all, we have staff members who enjoy their gaming as much as you do (if not more!) and we have the experience and knowledge to put together the perfect setup for the games you want to play.

Call us today for the best gaming system setups in Geelong and surrounding areas, including Ocean Grove, Barwon Heads, Torquay, the Bellarine Peninsula, the Surf Coast, Golden Plains, Colac, and Warrnambool. 

1300 GET GTG (1300 438 484)

📍 166 Francis St, Belmont

password manager

Should I use a password manager? Simple answer: Yes

According to a 2021 article in The Guardian, ‘the tyranny of passwords’ may be coming to an end – well, at least some time in the next ‘two to five years. Biometrics (including not only fingerprint IDs and face recognition, but more sci-fi stuff such as tech that recognises the shape of your ears, how you hold your phone and move, and even breath detectors) will eventually save our overburdened brains from remembering if we used mYpa$$w0rD or MyP@ssWORd (please don’t use either of these!). In the meantime, however, how best to navigate the password conundrum of easy to remember/easy to crack versus impossible to remember? The answer is a password manager. Indeed, a good password manager can be your first and best defense against being hacked (as long as you are also avoiding phishing/smishing scams).

What IS a password manager?

When it comes to the safety of your accounts online, you should use a strong and UNIQUE password for each app or website you use. (Reusing the same or similar passwords across websites is a serious NO-NO, security-wise.) Apparently, on average, that’s around 190 passwords per person. Possible? Possibly… Likely? Not at all. This is where a password manager comes in. A password manager is a software application that acts like a digital vault, securely storing your login credentials, which are then encrypted with one master password. Once you’ve set up a password manager account, you only need to remember the one (strong and unique) master password. A good password manager will also generate strong passwords on your behalf, and provide auto-fill services, saving you from entering details such as postal addresses or credit card numbers each time you require them.

Password managers can be desk-top based (that is, storing your passwords locally on a device, such as your laptop), or cloud-based, whereby your encrypted passwords are stored on the service provider’s network (and can thus be accessed from any device, as long as you have an internet connection). Depending on the password manager chosen, your master password can generally also be further strengthened by enabling multi-factor authentication (MFA) and/or biometric authentication on your account.

Choosing a password manager

There are plenty of password managers out there – some free, some available via annual subscriptions. Options (in no particular order) include KeePass, Bitwarden, LastPass, 1Password, Dashlane, Zoho Vault, Keeper, and RoboForm, among scores of others. Differences can lie in whether they offer MFA or biometric authentication, whether they allow you to share passwords with trusted family and friends, and even whether they feature data breach scanners – scouring the dark web to check if any of your logins appear online.

To choose a password manager, ensure the manager uses industry-standard AES 256-bit (military-strength) encryption, as well as ‘zero-knowledge architecture’ (whereby your passwords are encrypted prior to leaving your device). Check as well that your chosen manager works across all of your devices (syncing between your computers and phones, if required). You can also take advantage of free and/or trial options in order to try a couple of different password managers to find the one that’s right for you.

Remember: once you’ve chosen a password manager, you need to protect your account with a master password (or a ‘passphrase’), which needs to be super strong and memorable. Once your account is activated, it is best practice to further protect it with MFA. Extra security can be applied by allowing access to the password manager only from registered, trusted devices.

Need more information? Contact Geelong’s IT security specialists

Alongside your chosen password manager, you should also ensure your antivirus software is up to date, check your overall cybersecurity, and always double-check the legitimacy of any apps or extensions you’re planning to install.

With decades of IT experience helping homes and businesses in Geelong, the Bellarine Peninsula, the Surf Coast, and surrounding regions, the Geelong Technology Group team are well versed in IT security and protection – if you have any questions about password managers or any cybersecurity concerns, don’t hesitate to get in touch:

1300 GET GTG (1300 438 484)

📧 support@geelongtechnology.com.au

📍 166 Francis St, Belmont

computer_cookies_what_are_they

HTTP cookies, web cookies, internet cookies, browser cookies: What are computer cookies?

They don’t involve raisins or chocolate chips, but they are bite-sized: the computer version of cookies might not be as tempting as the IRL version, but can certainly come in handy. Essentially, computer cookies are small slices of information that enable convenient and personalised web browsing. These small packets of data are generated by a web server and sent to a web browser that stores the cookies for a predetermined period of time. 

What are computer cookies used for?

Generally, cookies are there for web-browsing benefits (although they do also free up storage space on servers). They are used for:

  • Session management to ‘remember’ individual login information and user actions or preferences.
  • Personalisation to customise a user’s experience, often through targeted advertising.
  • Tracking within shopping sites to track items that users view (or have viewed previously) and to record items in a shopping cart while a user browses further. Without these cookies, every time you visited a new page within a site, your shopping cart would revert to ‘empty’.

Different types of HTTP cookies 

Get to know your main two types of cyber-world cookies:

Session Cookies

These computer cookies are short-lived. They last just for the period of time that you are navigating a website – once you exit a site, the session cookie is deleted. These particular cookies are only ever stored in Random Access Memory, never written to the hard drive.

Persistent Cookies

Rather than expiring when a website is exited or a browser closed, longer-lasting cookies – or persistent cookies – expire only after a specified length of time or after a specified date. These cookies are used for two main purposes – authentication and tracking.

  • Authentication cookies help manage user sessions by tracking when a user logs in and under what name. They can also ensure that the correct user information is delivered to the correct user.
  • Tracking cookies log multiple visits to a site over time – building up a picture of a user based on what they browse when they return to a site. This information can be used for targeted advertising, but can also help users by retaining details such as log-in credentials.

Managing your computer cookies (and any cookie concerns)

Computer cookies consist of information that is sent out and back without being changed. This unaltered data cannot infect your computer with viruses or malware. Unfortunately, some internet nasties may be disguised as cookies (known as ‘super cookies’ – which many browsers will be able to block). Some cyberattacks can hijack cookies, enabling access to a user’s browsing sessions.

Cookies are an optional part of your internet experience. However, banning all cookies may make some websites difficult to navigate. Different browsers store their cookies in different places, but all will allow you to remove cookies already stored. Plus, allow you to choose how future cookies are collected or stored. (Generally, the cookie section of a browser is found under Settings > Privacy.)

Choose Geelong’s IT experts for your internet security

Regardless of how you manage and govern cookies, it’s best to remain vigilant and clean up your cookies regularly. If you are concerned about your online security when it comes utilising cookies, or if you’re not 100% confident regarding the online security of your business, Geelong Technology Group is here to help.

With our extensive experience and comprehensive cybersecurity solutions, we can assess your current situation and recommend actions to ensure your business is safeguarded against cyber threats in the future, so get in contact today. 

1300 GET GTG (1300 438 484)

📍 166 Francis Street, Belmont

smishing

What is smishing? SMS phishing attacks and protection tips

When it comes to cybercrime, there’s always something new on the horizon, hoping to catch us unawares. One of the latest is ‘smishing’ or SMS phishing. It’s fast becoming an ever-increasing problem for both individuals and businesses.

 

Definition of smishing

SMS phishing is essentially a form of phishing attack undertaken through text or SMS messages. The messages often contain an urgent notification regarding banking or courier services or an offer for a free product. They aim to manipulate people into turning over sensitive data such as bank account details, credit card numbers, account passwords, or access to a business’ computer systems.

 

How does smishing work?

Smishing works much like email phishing. It uses social-engineering tactics to appeal to our desire to have things work smoothly (Oh no! There’s a problem with my bank account!), to help others (A message from a bushfire relief charity? Sure, I’ll help out!) or to help ourselves (Eighty percent off a new phone? Heck, yeah!). Unfortunately, because text messages seem more personal,  we may be more likely to click a link in an SMS than we would nowadays in an email.

Utilising trust (scammers pose as legitimate organisations), context (lots of people are expecting packages around Christmas, for instance), and emotion (we must act now!), cybercriminals write messages that will generate action. In this case, the clicking of a link within the text message. This malicious link may either trick you into downloading malware onto your phone that then masquerades as a legitimate app (into which you enter your personal details) or takes you to a fake site, again requesting your sensitive data. These apps and websites are often well disguised and look ‘legitimate’, tricking the unwary.

 

How can we avoid smishing attacks?

As more and more mobile phones are used for work, SMS phishing has become not only a consumer threat, but also a business threat. Avoiding smishing attacks is paramount. But how do we do this? First, we need to lose any false confidence we have in text message safety – smartphone security DOES have its limitations, and CAN be compromised. 

So, the best way to remain safe? Follow the golden rule and do nothing. That is, always err on the side of caution and don’t click on links in text messages.

Of course, sometimes we may have clicked a link in a hurry or in error, and some messages may include legitimate links, so how can we manage the risk?

  • If you have clicked on a link that you now believe may be suspect, DO NOT give any personal details.
  • If you believe it may be a legitimate message, but you’re not sure, navigate to the official business webpage via a separate browser or call the company using a number that you look up independently of the text message. (And remember, legitimate institutions are extremely unlikely to request login information or account updates via SMS.)
  • Don’t reply to messages that look suspect, even to text ‘Stop’ – this will indicate your number is active and may prompt further smishing attempts.
  • Only ever download apps from an official app store.
  • Utilise multi-factor authentication (MFA) wherever possible. A password inadvertently provided via a phishing attempt may still be useless to a cybercriminal if the second level of verification/authentication is required.
  • Report possible smishing attempts to the ACCC Scamwatch.

 

Need more information?

At Geelong Technology Group, our experienced IT professionals are here to help you avoid smishing messages, phishing emails, and other cyber-related scams or attacks. Helping homes and businesses in Geelong, the Bellarine Peninsula, the Surf Coast, and surrounding regions with their online security is what we love to do, so give us a call today on 1300 GET GTG (1300 438 484) or drop into our showroom at 166 Francis Street, Belmont.

small business IT challenges

Five small business IT challenges (and how they can be overcome)

As small business owners know, being a minnow in a big pond poses unique challenges. Without the resources available to larger corporations, small business owners need to navigate rough business waters with ingenuity and creativity. Tech can often play an important role in aiding SMBs, but it can also become a frustrating roadblock if things aren’t going to plan. So what are those tech challenges small businesses face? And how can they be overcome?

Staffing and technology expenses

Specialised internal IT staff are greatly in demand, and having an ‘IT Department’ – even if its a department of one – is out of the question for many small businesses. Technology spend – whether its on upgrades to existing hardware, advanced business products or new systems – can also put a significant strain on an organisation’s IT budget. (Link here to Nov Blog #1)

Too many IT business options, not enough time (or knowledge)

With an ever-growing number of programs and systems available to support and grow businesses, choosing the correct technology solution for your business is an ever-more-difficult and time-consuming proposition. Does the technology have all of the functionality you will require? Or, conversely, a surplus of options that you really don’t need? Will the tech be compatible with your daily operational needs? Is scaling up with the technology in the future going to be possible or problematic? All of these questions and more need to be answered before you invest your hard-earned cash.

Integration issues

Following on from the previous point, the lure of embracing new technology can play havoc with older IT systems, applications and business assets. Certainly, new IT options can help small businesses level the playing field with larger competitors, but only if their integration does not introduce inefficiencies or operational disruptions.

Employee accessibility

As well as working seamlessly with your existing infrastructure, new tech for small businesses also needs to work with – and for – your staff. SMBs may not have the staffing capabilities to ensure that new technology system roll-outs are smooth and timely, keeping downtime to a minimum. The technology vendor will likely provide training videos and tutorials, but a formal induction to become acquainted and comfortable with a new platform may not be possible for smaller organisations.

Data safety and security

Having the right back-up solutions and disaster recovery procedures is imperative for every business, no matter their size. But how many SMBs have these measures ready to go if a server crashes or there’s a power outage? Hackers are also becoming more sophisticated at targeting small businesses, many of whom lack the requisite cybersecurity resources to tackle these looming threats.

Get the right advice to conquer SMB IT challenges

For many SMBs, these five challenges are considered par for the course – a necessary evil when it comes to running a smaller organisation – because they aren’t aware that better IT support results are possible. 

Small business IT systems need regular maintenance to run smoothly and securely. However, keeping on top of things – both of existing structures and emerging technology options – doesn’t all need to be done in-house. If you’re not a tech-driven company, the best way to ensure your business is tech-savvy in the most budget-friendly way is to have highly capable partners that can steer you in the right direction. An experienced IT support partner, such as the knowledgeable team at Geelong Technology Group, can help your business address and overcome all of these challenges. Offering expert advice, tailored to your unique business situation, GTG will help your business take advantage of technology, avoiding its pitfalls in the process.

Give us a call to chat about your IT support needs today. 1300 GET GTG (1300 438 484)

Business IT Support

The Lowdown on Budgeting for Your Business IT Support

Budgeting: there’s a word few people love the sound of! But for small and medium businesses, budgeting for your IT support is a crucial step to getting the right support at the right price to meet your unique business requirements. Customisation is key!

Why should I budget for IT support?

It’s easy to fall into the mindset that business technology is a necessary evil – a set of items and services that you need to ‘shell out for’. At Geelong Technology Group we urge you to turn that thinking on its head. Technology is an investment in the operation of your business; supporting your company’s goals, helping to exceed your customers’ expectations and enhancing your ability to respond to changing business environments. Spending wisely on tech and IT support is prudent finance.

What should my IT support budget include?

IT is an integral part of nearly all businesses, and beyond the hardware required for your business (computers, laptops, tablets and mobile phones, for example), IT support may extend to VoiP communication systems (link here to Oct Blog #2), network servers, cloud storage, cyber security, data back-up, software and more. It’s a long list, and not all of it may be relevant to your situation, so first steps in the budgeting process involve assessing what you do and do not need.

What level of support do I need?

If your business doesn’t already have an IT strategy, using the budgeting period to craft one is an easy way to conquer two tasks with one planning session. Look closely at all aspects of your business and nut out what support you need and how that will allow your business to grow and thrive (and survive any knock-backs). Many businesses think they can take a less-is-more approach to IT support and still operate effectively. Unfortunately, this is often not the case, and may set up SMBs for problems down the track when their IT infrastructure falters or fails at a crucial juncture.

It’s a good idea to approach your IT support in the form of a health appraisal; think about keeping your business in tip-top shape with a proactive day-to-day plan, while also anticipating possible expenses for unexpected issues or changes that may arise. Evaluating your needs will allow you to firm up your IT requirements for both your current situation and for future scalability – giving your chosen managed services provider (MSP) the clearest information to recommend and price an IT support strategy.

How much should my IT support cost?

Unfortunately (and fortunately!) there is no ‘one size fits all’ model when it comes to IT support expenses. Pricing will be dependent on your business activities, size, set-up and the amount of support required, with recent research indicating that IT budgets as a percentage of revenue range from around 2% up to 8%, with the average, depending on business type, around 3% to 4%.

The good news for smaller businesses is that outsourced IT support is often a lot cheaper than employing staff onsite – and it can deliver a wide range of technical expertise. Managed IT services through an MSP can also be tailored to your needs at any given time, allowing for scalability up or down should circumstances require.

Speak to Geelong’s remote support specialists

Truly the only hard and fast rule about tech support budgeting is that there is no hard and fast rule – it comes down to what your business needs. So just to reiterate – customisation is key.

At Geelong Technology Group we work with numerous businesses of different sizes and across different sectors, tailoring their IT support to meet their unique requirements. If you’re seeking transformational results that consistently make better use of your IT budget, take a moment to get in contact with Geelong’s IT professionals today. 1300 GET GTG (1300 438 484)

Managed Services Provider

Managed IT Support: Switching Your Business IT to an MSP (Managed Services Provider)

Business downtime due to IT issues has got to be one of the most frustrating issues a company can face. And there are enough frustrating issues to face in this 2021 world without adding to them! Outsourcing to a managed IT services provider is a delegation that will not only offer a PROACTIVE approach to the management of your technology infrastructure but will also free up you and your team to get back to day-to-day business.

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