Your Most Embarrassing IT Questions Answered – Part 1

Your Most Embarrassing IT Questions Answered – Part 1 One of my favorite TV shows right now is The IT Crowd, a British comedy about three IT workers stuck in the basement office of a big company answering IT questions. And while I can relate to a lot of what the characters do in their jobs, it’s the stupid situations they get into that I love the most. For example, the IT department’s manager Jen knows nothing about computers or anything IT related. It’s a running joke through the whole show. In one scene, she has an interview with another company and is bragging about her IT knowledge. The hiring manager asks her what the letters IT stand for because she always wanted to know but was too afraid to ask. Jen, of course, doesn’t know either, but she’s too embarrassed to admit it. And her coworkers aren’t very helpful: I don’t think anyone should ever feel embarrassed for needing clarification on computer basics. After all, technology changes are happening so fast these days, it can really be hard to keep up. And while you may feel tempted to assume you know what IT is all about, it can also get you into some tough situations down the line. So, here’s a quick list of IT terms and new technologies with their definitions. IT stands for information technology, Jen. Basically, IT is about using computers, software, applications and networks to store and share information – something we all do on a daily basis. It’s widely known that we live in the ‘information age’ because we are so dependent on information technology. An IT Department, like the one in The IT Crowd, is responsible for managing the computers, networks and other technical areas of the business. Smaller companies may choose to outsource these functions. Cloud computing is an example of information technology. It refers to storing and accessing data and programs over the Internet rather than your computer’s hard drive. The cloud is just metaphor for the Internet. Although it’s nice to think of, your data does not live in the clouds in the sky, but rather server space in a data warehouse. With an online connection, cloud computing can be done anywhere, anytime. These days, data storage via the Internet is available for both consumers and businesses, for free and at a range of costs depending on storage needs. PC stands for personal computer used by a single person. Many people may see a distinction between PCs and MAC computers, though they are essentially the same. In the early days of the ‘80’s when PCs where first made available, IBM and Macintosh were the two big competitors in the personal computer market. PC described an IBM-compatible computer in contrast to an Apple Macintosh computer. Again, these days they are the same. They both use the same hardware components and Intel processing chips. Although Apple has its own operating system (see below), you can install the Microsoft Windows operating system and the Office software suite in an Apple computer – and vice versa with the Apple OS and programs. An operating system (or OS) manages computer hardware and provides common services for other computer programs. It’s not an exaggeration to say that a computer is useless without an operating system. The OS performs basic tasks like input from a keyboard, output to the screen and memory allocation. Most desktop PCs come preloaded with Microsoft Windows. Macintosh computers come pre-loaded with Mac OS. Large corporate servers may use Linux. Smartphones and tablet PCs also have operating systems to run applications and...

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Buy or Repair: Two Simple Rules

Buy or Repair: Two Simple Rules As a computer technician and IT guy, I often get asked, “Should I repair (or upgrade) my computer or just get a new one?” Sometimes, it’s obvious that the person is itching to buy something shiny and new. Other times they’re trying to hold on to what they have for as long as possible. Here are two rules of thumb that I offer up to clients: 1) Buy a new computer if it’s older than six years. High-quality computer will last you six good years before you’ll need a replacement. Just don’t buy the cheapest option out there. If your computer is younger, it can be upgraded and last up to five more years if it is a laptop and up to six years more if it is a desktop PC – all depending on how much you upgrade. At minimum you’ll spend $300 – 500 in upgrades to ensure your computer lasts six more years. The cost rises if you want even more performance. Simple upgrades may include memory (RAM), hard disk drive (or Solid State Drive), operating system and software. Upgrades are often a more cost-effective solution than investing in an entirely new computer. 2) If your computer does not have a dual-core processor, then buy a new computer. A processor is the heart of your computer and dual-core will give you more processing power compared to a single-core. It leads to faster speed and overall performance. How do you know which you have? It’s simple: • Click the Start button • In the box “Search programs and files” type CMD and press enter • In the command prompt window type “WMIC CPU Get /Format:List” and press enter • Find “NumberOfCores” this will tell you how many cores your processor has. If your computer is not working – or eventually gets to that point – give me a call. We can quickly rule out its age and processor type if that’s not the case, and I will give your PC a thorough check and estimate on repair costs. I can even give you some personal guidance on the best PC to purchase for your needs if you go that route. You may have a computer now that doesn’t really fit your needs. If you stop and ask yourself what you use the computer for and what you plan on using it for in the next few years most of the time you can come to a simple...

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Why Cloud Storage Is a Must Have

Why Cloud Storage Is a Must Have Cloud storage is ideal for companies that want an easy and reliable data backup solution, have employees or contractors that work offsite from the main office, or would like to reduce costs by paying for only the data storage they need. Most cloud solutions enable you to access the most recent copy of all your files from any device without the hassle of emailing them to yourself or sticking them on a USB drive and carrying it around with you. Cloud also provides a secure, off-site backup of your important data. Here are a few examples of cloud storage solutions that many small businesses are taking advantage of for document storage and backup: DropBox. This free cloud storage service acts like any other folder on your desktop and lets you easily sync documents, photos and videos between computers, share them with others, and create backups. It integrates easily with Windows and other platforms. It’s definitely a must have for anyone who needs to make their files readily available to multiple users or computers. Office 365. Want secure, anywhere access to email and calendars, Office Web Apps, web conferencing and file sharing? Office 365 cloud storage is perfect for your small businesses because it is an affordable subscription service that is easy to use and that works with your existing hardware. Because Office 365 is a subscription service, you pay only for the number of users you have each month and not for software and licenses you may not be using. Microsoft SkyDrive. If your company has deployed the new Windows 8 recently, you may be already enjoying the benefits of a SkyDrive cloud storage. Windows 8 offers a built-in SkyDrive app. With it, you can view and browse the files you’ve saved to SkyDrive.com. You can also install the free SkyDrive desktop app and automatically sync your files across your computers. Google Drive. As Google’s version of DropBox, Google Drive cloud storage also allows you to click and drag files to a folder located on your desktop and store them online. The service features 15GB free online storage and the ability to buy more storage such as 100GB for $4.99 per month. However, if you’re looking for a new service to sync and store files across multiple devices and the cloud notes a PC World review, SkyDrive would be the better option. You’ll also have an easier time managing online documents and you get free remote access to your home PC while you’re on the go. Mozy. This online backup system allows you to manage multi-user environments, schedule automatic backups, and monitor the health of your backups from the convenience of a single web-based admin console. SugarSync. A longtime PCMag.com Editors’ Choice for file synchronization, SugarSync allows you to synchronize your files as you work on them on which ever computers and mobile devices you choose. A Web account serves as a backup method for getting at your files when you’re using a shared or borrowed device, like a computer at an Internet café. File synchronization and data backup through the cloud is mandatory these days for every business and even personal computer users. You’re probably not even aware of how much data your company consumes and how easily these files could be lost or corrupted without the proper backup system in place. Blue Diamond PC offers personalized consultation to help you select the best cloud solution for your needs. We can then work onsite or offsite with you install these services in your computing environment and train you and your staff...

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Custom PC: 7 Reasons to Buy

Custom PC: 7 Reasons to Buy So, you need to buy a new computer or custom PC. Maybe the dinosaur you had has seen better days or you’d finally like to get those upgrades you’ve been holding out on. Your next move: Buy the best deal you can get from your neighborhood big-box retailer, right? Wrong! Why navigate the aisles, long lines and lame sales guys if you don’t have to. Your other option is working with a skilled technician (like me!) who can build you a computer with quality components and designed for how you will actually be using your computer. Whether you work with Blue Diamond PC or not, here’s why a custom-built computer is the best option. 1. Personalization. Your custom PC can be built to support your computing needs. Are you a gamer and need a multi-video card set up (SLI)? Are you a graphic designer and need a higher quality processor and multi-core/multi-thread capability? There are really no limits the possibilities for your unique system. 2. Solid-State Hard Drives (SSD). Most store-bought computers come standard with hard disk drives, which offer little protection for the wear and tear we put on our devices. (I wrote about this topic recently). Instead, all Blue Diamond PC custom-built computers use solid-state hard drives that offer a much faster start-up time, faster time to access data and resistance to shock and vibration. 3. Software You’ll Actually Need. The PC you buy from retail electronics stores come with only the operating system installed. There may be trial-versions of software already loaded (called bloatware), but most of it is just wasted space. You’ll have to buy and install the Microsoft Office Suite for example on your own or have someone else install it. Other software to consider includes accounting, communication and design programs. Again, a custom-PC is built with your specific needs in mind will include the software you need already loaded. 4. Data Transfer. Included in the price of a custom built computer is data transfer from your old computer, including documents, photos, music, and videos. I can also install your favorite web browser. 5. Longer Lasting Computer. If you buy a computer for a specific need – software for example, you might buy the minimum hardware for that software. Yet, the new software that comes out within the next year or two may have more requirements and not work on that particular PC. So, it’s beneficial to buy a custom pc that will last several years – a computer that has more than the minimum required components. 6. Support a Local Business. Does Best Buy or Wal-Mart really need more of your money? Joking aside – when you support a local small business you support the local economy and skilled professionals. Further, you can actually work with the person who assembled your computer with full services and on-call questions. In fact, many of the sales people who work at these retail chains are poorly equipped and unknowledgeable about the PCs they are selling. 7. Quality Components. Manufacturers like HP and Dell put together standard parts and sell “pre-made” computers. Although fast enough for typical use and competitively priced, these systems use second-rate hardware with limited upgradability. Instead, I constantly keep up-to-date reviewing quality parts to find the best parts to assemble the highest grade custom PC. For more information about ordering a custom PC built by Blue Diamond PC, contact me at...

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Making the Case for Solid-State Hard Drives SSD

Making the Case for Solid-State Hard Drives (SSD) Bet you thought all hard drives were the same, right? Wrong!  A hard drive with mechanics (HDD) vs. a solid-state drive (SDD) with NAND flash chips. (source: Intel) This may have happened to you in the past or to someone you know. In fact, it’s from one of my long-time clients, who owns a small marketing agency. She was traveling back to Dallas from a business trip in another state. The airport was really packed and hectic that day. As she was being rushed through the TSA lines and hurrying to the gate, her laptop slipped out of the case and dropped on the hard tile floor. I sympathized, because that’s life and these things happen. However, we both shared a moment of panic when we talked later that day. The drop had done damage to components on her laptop’s hard drive resulting in total data loss. Sound pretty extreme? In fact, most PCs and laptops use what’s called hard disk drives or HDDs and offer little protection for the wear and tear we put on our devices. These hard drives are built with disks called platters that spin at a high RPM. (You may have noticed a spinning noise on your computer before). Data is stored on a magnetic coating on the platter. A read/write ‘head’ on an arm moves back and forth while the platters spin to pick up the magnetic data. If this head gets damaged, like it did for my client, the hard drive will no longer work and you’re likely to lose all of your saved data. Up until recently, PC users have had very little choice in what hard drive or primary storage they got with their laptop, netbook or desktop computer. Fortunately, those options are more readily available and less costly. Let’s take a look at another option for storage – a solid-state drive or SSD, which, as the name implies, is a hard drive with no moving mechanical components. It does essentially the same thing as an HDD (booting your system, saving your data while the system is off, etc.), yet data is stored on memory chips rather than moving disks. Compared with the HDD variety, SSDs are typically less susceptible to physical shock, are much quieter, and have lower access time because they don’t need to seek to locate stored data. Most of the advantages of SSDs over traditional hard drives are due to their ability to access data completely electronically instead of electromagnetically, resulting in superior transfer speeds and mechanical ruggedness. Today most high-end computers and ultrabooks come standard with an Solid-State hard drive (SSD). As of 2012, the price of Solid-States has begun to decline dramatically making them a worthy option for everyday computer users – including small businesses and personal/at-home users. Other advantages of solid-state hard drives include the following: 1.       Much faster start-up time 2.       Faster time to access data 3.       Faster boot and application launch times 4.       Solid-States have no moving parts and therefore are basically silent 5.       Don’t require special cooling and can tolerate higher temperatures 6.       Resistant to shock and vibration (If you travel a lot with your computer or use it out in the field, this is of major importance to you). For these reasons, Blue Diamond PC installs Solid-state hard drives on all of its custom built computers. If you already have a computer, there is no other system upgrade that will give you the performance boost of an SSD. You’ll quickly notice a dramatic boost in performance and boot-up and application load...

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