Categories
Security

Fake Tech Support Scams

A Fake Tech Support Scam involves a scammer calling you at home or work and requesting access to your computer. They’ll say your computer is infected with a virus or a myriad of other claims. These types of scams have been around for several years now, but recently there has been an uptick in activity. Have you received a call from “Microsoft” or other “Tech Departments” stating that your computer is infected or “sending out errors”? Please let us know about it in the comments below.

How It works

Here’s how it works. You receive a call from a vendor, usually it is claimed to be Microsoft, your Internet Service Provider, or a security software vendor. The caller states that they’ve detected errors on your computer or problems with an account.

The caller may ask you to check Event Viewer logs for errors (FYI, there will always be warnings and errors in Event Viewer) or ask if your computer has crashed recently. Chances are you will answer in the affirmative.

Once they have you believing there is a problem, they will offer to connect to your computer to fix the issue. At this point you will be directed to a website to initialize the connection. The scammers often use legitimate remote support channels such as TeamViewer, GoToAssist, LogMeIn, or Join.Me. These software companies are not involved in the scam in anyway, the scammers are simply using these services to create the connection back to your computer.

Once the scammers are connected to your computer a number of things can happen.

  • The scammers may install Malware used to steal personal information such as passwords and banking information
  • They may find a “big problem” that needs to be fixed at a high cost. In reality there is no problem and they won’t be fixing anything.
  • You may be told that you’ll need expensive software to clean up your computer or to fix the problem they have concocted.
  • They will often try to sell you “firewall protection” for 1 year, 3, years, or 5 years and ask for payment via PayPal or another processor.
How To Avoid

Simply put, without prior contact, Microsoft (or any other vendor) will never initiate a call requesting personal information and/or access to your computer. Occasionally, Internet Service Providers will call users to (legitimately) inform them that a computer on their network is sending out large volumes of spam (due to an actual virus or malware), these cases are few and far between. In those cases, the Internet Service Provider typically blocks the computer from accessing their network until the infection is dealt with.

What happens if you do have a Tech Support ticket open with a service provider or vendor? How do you respond in these cases? It is wise to verify that the caller is who they say they are. This can be done by checking (and verifying) Caller ID or asking for your existing Ticket # to compare with your notes. If you are still skeptical, simply ask if you can call back  into the support center to continue the call.

Just Hang Up

If you do get a call that sounds like a scam, the best advice is to simply hang up. If the call is legitimate, the vendor will get in touch with you another way. Finally, never give out your credit card or personal information unless you initiated the call and have verified who you are talking with.

Or….Have Some Fun With Them!

While we would never recommend this, there are videos spreading around the internet of people trolling the scammers and they are hilarious! Here are some of the best that we found (Caution: there may be some colorful language).

“Type www.” — “Ok, w-w-w-d-o-t”; antagonising call centre scammers

Locating The Tech Support Scammers -Part 1

Locating The Tech Support Scammers -Part 2

Going into a scammers pc and deleting his files!!!

Categories
Security

How To Secure Your SMB Network – Part 2 of 9 – UTM Gateway

Welcome to How To Secure Your SMB Network! This is part 2 of a 9 part series that discusses our approach to Network Security and how we secure client networks. As you will see there are many facets that go into creating a secure network. Think of it as a puzzle with each piece playing an important role. The days of installing Norton Anti-Virus on your computer and thinking you are safe are over.

What is a UTM Gateway

UTM stands for Unified Threat Management. The idea is to block security threats before they enter your network. Traditionally a network gateway his consisted of a Router and Firewall while the workstation would handle AntiVirus, AntiSpam, Web Filtering and other security functions. A UTM Gateway combines a Router, Firewall, Anti-Virus, Anti-Malware, Intrusion Prevention, Content and URL Filtering, etc. into one device. This device analyzes incoming network traffic before it enters your network and can throw out suspect data before it has chance to infect your computers. Many UTM’s can also handle remote access needs, such as SSL VPN.

Let’s create an analogy incorporating Airport Security. The TSA checkpoint would be your UTM Gateway. Passengers go through a screening process before they can enter the boarding area, just as data goes through a screening process at the UTM Gateway before it can enter your network.

How Does a UTM Work

All data that is entering your network must pass through the Gateway. A UTM Gateway processes this data and then decides whether to allow it to enter the network. The Anti-Virus and Anti-Malware functions will look for viruses and malware in the incoming data. If it finds anything suspicious it will prevent the data from entering the network. The Content and URL Filtering functions look at where the data is coming from and makes a determination if that is a safe location. This can also be used to block access to certain websites, or categories of websites. Websites that are known to serve Malware and other malicious code are blocked as well. The Content and URL filtering function can also prevent outgoing traffic from sending data to malicious websites. Many of the Ransomware infections that are in the news today require that the infected computer contact an outside server to download an encryption key. If that server is unreachable due to Content and URL filtering, the Ransomware program is unable to encrypt your files.

UTM Licenses

Most UTM’s have an annual subscription or license that gives you access to security updates for your UTM. These updates are similar to the Anti-Virus and Anti-Malware definition updates that frequently install on your computer. The UTM vendors are constantly providing updates of new viruses, malware, and malicious websites in an effort to keep the latest threats from entering your network.

What to look for in a UTM

When purchasing a UTM there are many factors to consider.

  • Remote Access and VPN capabilities
  • Annual Subscription fees for the updates (Your UTM will quickly lose functionality without current definitions)
  • Processing power, how much data can the device analyze and pass through to your network. This is of particular concern on larger networks or very fast internet connections.
  • Wireless capabilities
  • Capabilities of the vendor’s security labs, how quickly can they provide updates when a new security threat is identified.

How To Secure Your SMB Network – E-Book

How to Secure Your SMB NetworkThis is the second part of a nine part series that details How To Secure Your SMB Network. Every Wednesday we will post a new section that gives details and examples on how Banks Technology Services secures out client’s networks. We have compiled all of this information into into an EBook which you can download for free. The E-Book contains additional information, real world examples, and is updated as new technology emerges. To receive your FREE copy, head on over to the [intlink id=”7985″ type=”page”]How To Secure Your SMB Network[/intlink] page.

 

 

 

 

[content_band style=”color: #333;” bg_color=”#f3f3f3″ border=”all” inner_container=”true”] [custom_headline style=”margin-top: 0; align:center;” level=”h3″ looks_like=”h3″ ]How To Secure Your SMB Network Blog Series[/custom_headline]
Part 1 – Network Security Principles
Part 2 – UTM Gateyway
Part 3 – Content Filtering
Part 4 – Software Restriction Policies
Part 5 – Spam Filtering
Part 6 – Endpoint Security
Part 7 – Patching
Part 8 – Administrative Rights
Part 9 – Conclusion[/content_band]

Categories
WiFi

WiFi Network Basics

WiFi is a funny thing, no cords, easy to connect, it’ll be easy, they said! However, if you’ve ever struggled with WiFi coverage issues, you know sometimes it’s not so easy.

What Determines How Far A Signal Can Reach

Building construction is likely the biggest determining factor affecting the coverage of your Wireless Access Points. WiFi really doesn’t like cinder blocks or metal, both are kryptonite to your WiFi signal. A good Access Point may cover 20,000 square feet in a wide open shell building or outdoors. Once you add walls, furniture and people to a building the coverage quickly drops.

Locating your Access Points correctly is the second biggest factor. Does your particular Access Point radiate a signal in all directions, or is it directional? If there are antennas, are they aimed appropriately? Finally, in most cases Access Points located on desks or shelves will not have the range that Access Points mounted high on a wall or ceiling will have. When Access Points are mounted towards the ceiling, they don’t have to deal with obstacles like people and furniture. If you currently have an Access Point sitting on your desk, put it on top of a shelf 6 – 8 feet high (or higher), you’ll likely see a significant improvement in the range.

How To Measure Signal

WiFi signals are measured in dBm (decibel-milliwatts). The signals are negative numbers with -30 dBm being a much stronger signal than -60 dBm. The dBm scale is logarithmic instead of linear, a 3 dBm gain is double the signal strength, meaning a -45 dBm signal is twice as strong as a -48 dBm signal. Here is a chart with relative signal strengths.

Signal Strength Required for
-30 dBm Max achievable signal strength. The client can only be a few feet from the AP to achieve this. Not typical or desirable in the real world. N/A
-67 dBm Minimum signal strength for applications that require very reliable, timely packet delivery. VoIP/VoWiFi, streaming video
-70 dBm Minimum signal strength for reliable packet delivery. Email, web
-80 dBm Minimum signal strength for basic connectivity. Packet delivery may be unreliable. N/A
-90 dBm Approaching or drowning in the noise floor. Any functionality is highly unlikely. N/A

Credit: Metageek.com

Heat Maps

Heat Maps are created by measuring WiFi signals in all areas of a building and then overlaying those measurements onto a floor plan. This gives you a graphical representation of where your problem spots are. Whenever you are making changes to the WiFi network (I.E. Installing additional Access Points, Swapping out older equipment, etc.), I highly recommend you capture before and after heat maps. This allows you to objectively see the results of your changes.

You can spend thousands on WiFi Heat Mapping software, however for most folks there is a free program that will do the job. Ekahau HeatMapper is an easy to use program that lets you import a floor plan and will then overlay your WiFi signal measurements. There is an excellent YouTube video (only about 2:30 long) that shows you exactly how to take the measurements. How To Create A WiFi Heatmap by Tinkernut Labs. Take note, the free version of Ekahau HeatMapper doesn’t allow you to save your HeatMaps. You’ll need to screen capture or print the maps if you wish to keep them.

WiFi Channel Overlap

The final consideration we’ll cover in this article is WiFi Channel Overlap. If you are using 2.4GHz (802.11 B/G/N) Access Points, channel selection can play a big role in the performance of your WiFi Network. In a 2.4GHz WiFi Networks, the maximum number of non-overlapping channels is three. Most of the time we’ll use channels 1, 6, and 11. The graphic below explains it a little better for us visual folks.

WiFi Network Basics 2.4GHz Wi-Fi channels (802.11b,g_WLAN)
Image source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_WLAN_channels

So, why do you want to keep your 2.4GHz channels from overlapping? It gets really technical, but in terms I can understand it’s because WiFi Access Points always listen before they talk, and they won’t interrupt each other (Sounds like something I should implement). If you have four Access Points using overlapping channels, each Access Point must wait to transmit until no other Access Point is transmitting. You can see how this can quickly become a problem on busy networks with lots of WiFi traffic.

However, Access Points on non-overlapping channels won’t “hear” any other Access Points when they “listen”, eliminating any transmission delays. In other words, the Access Points won’t have to wait for anyone to quit talking before getting a word in.

For a more detailed technical explanation see Ekahau’s Channel Overlap article.

5GHz WiFi Access Points

Just a quick note, if you are using newer 5GHz (802.11 A/C) Access Points, this isn’t much of a consideration because the 5GHz band is wider and has more “room” for each channel.

Conclusion

I hope that helps explain a little about how to get the most out of your WiFi network. What questions, do you have? Please ask in the comments below.

Categories
Security

How To Secure Your SMB Network – Part 1 of 9 – Network Security Principles

Welcome to How To Secure Your SMB Network! This is part 1 of a 9 part series that discusses our approach to Network Security and how we secure client networks. As you will see there are many facets that go into creating a secure network. Think of it as a puzzle with each piece playing an important role. The days of installing Norton Anti-Virus on your computer and thinking you are safe are over.

Layered Approach to Network Security

Our philosophy takes a layered approach to network security. No one solution solves the problem, it takes various products, devices, solutions, and software that all work together to secure an environment.

Unified Threat Management

First, we start at the edge or perimeter of your network by using Unified Threat Management (UTM) Gateways to keep threats from entering your network. Having UTM hardware at the perimeter of your network will keep most Malware, Viruses, and Ransomware from entering your network in the first place.

Content and URL Filtering

Next, we apply Content and URL filtering to your workstations. This prevents access to websites that contain known threats and networks used by Ransomware, Malware, and Viruses to transmit their files. Some exploits (specifically encrypting Ransomware) work by installing a small undetectable program on the computer. That program then attempts to download and install a “payload”. This payload is what does the damage to your computer. If the computer is not able to access the network hosting the malicious payload, the exploit becomes relatively harmless.

Software Restriction Policies

Another layer in our approach  is using Software Restriction Policies to limit what programs can run on your network. Most businesses use only a handful of programs on a regular basis. The idea is to “Whitelist” these common programs so that they run without restriction. Programs that are not Whitelisted will need a special Username and Password to run, or they are blocked from running. This essentially blocks malicious programs from running in the background without your permission.

Endpoint Security and Anti-Spam

Moving on, Endpoint Security and Anti-Spam solutions are deployed to all devices on your network. Endpoint Security is installed on every workstation and server. Anti-Spam may placed at the edge of your network or in the cloud, so that email is filtered before it even enters your network.

Patching and Updates

Our patching and update systems are used to quickly (and quietly) install needed updates and patches to your systems and software, without interrupting your end users. Occasionally vendors will release patches that need to be deployed quickly to protect against a rapidly spreading threat. Our systems make this process simple and pain free.

Administrative Rights

Lastly, we restrict Administrative Rights to limit the attack surface of malicious threats. This means that your employees will use a restricted user account. This normally doesn’t cause any interruption to most people’s daily work. If a user needs the ability to install programs, run manual updates, change settings etc. we provide a separate username and password they can enter to temporarily have these permissions. The result is any malicious code that executes can only execute at the restricted user permission level. This alone will stop the vast majority of threats.

Catered Approach

Every solution we provide is catered to the individual business. While this article details our general approach, every business is different and has different needs. Some software packages require you to have Administrative Rights to run the program. Sometimes business owners want to use Content and URL Filtering to restrict access to Facebook or Monster.com. Some businesses, often branch offices of larger companies, have very specific requirements placed on them by Corporate IT departments. We always take into account your specific needs when implementing our network security solutions.

How To Secure Your SMB Network – E-Book

How to Secure Your SMB NetworkThis is the first part of a nine part series that details How To Secure Your SMB Network. Every Wednesday we will post a new section that gives details and examples on how Banks Technology Services secures out client’s networks. We have compiled all of this information into into an EBook which you can download for free. The E-Book contains additional information, real world examples, and is updated as new technology emerges. To receive your FREE copy, head on over to the [intlink id=”7985″ type=”page”]How To Secure Your SMB Network[/intlink] page.

 

 

 

 

[content_band style=”color: #333;” bg_color=”#f3f3f3″ border=”all” inner_container=”true”] [custom_headline style=”margin-top: 0; align:center;” level=”h3″ looks_like=”h3″ ]How To Secure Your SMB Network Blog Series[/custom_headline]
Part 1 – Network Security Principles
Part 2 – UTM Gateyway
Part 3 – Content Filtering
Part 4 – Software Restriction Policies
Part 5 – Spam Filtering
Part 6 – Endpoint Security
Part 7 – Patching
Part 8 – Administrative Rights
Part 9 – Conclusion[/content_band]

Categories
Mobile

5 Things You Need To Know About The New Verizon Unlimited Plan

Unlimited data on the Verizon network is back, thanks to the Verizon Unlimited plan! Six years ago, in 2011, Verizon terminated unlimited data plans. Verizon’s (recently retired) CFO, Fran Shammo, once famously(infamously?) said, “At the end of the day, people don’t need unlimited plans.” Unfortunately(Fortunately?), the people disagreed as every other major carrier has been offering various incarnations of unlimited plans. Here are five things you need to know about the new Verizon Unlimited plan, including my actual pricing breakdown.

 #1 – Auto Pay Discount

First things first, the advertised prices you are seeing for the Verizon Unlimited plan include an auto-pay discount. If you do not sign up for auto-pay, then you will be paying more. On a single line, the auto-pay discount is $5/month. On two or more lines, the auto-pay discount is $10/month. Verizon won’t automatically enroll you in auto-pay, so if you are changing plans takes a few minutes to double check your billing preferences.

#2 – Throttling

Throttling is the practice of slowing down your data transfer rates after you have used a certain amount of data each month. The Verizon Unlimited plan isn’t black and white when it comes to throttling. Verizon guarantees no throttling for your first 22GB each month. After using 22GB in a single month, Verizon says, “We may manage network usage to ensure a quality experience for all customers, and may prioritize your data behind some Verizon customers during times/places of network congestion.” They are very clear saying “may” instead of “will”, it does seem that throttling will be based on network capacity/usage as opposed to an automatic switch that will throttle you after 22GB. This does appear to be a gray area, time will tell how much throttling is actually being applied to users. Please let us know in the comments section below if you are experiencing throttling after using 22GB.

#3 – Hot Spot or Tethering Limitations

The Verizon Unlimited plan includes Hot Spot or Tethering capabilities for no additional charge. Your first 10GB each month are at normal 4G LTE speeds. After you’ve reached the 10GB mark, Verizon will then throttle you to 3G speeds when using a Hot Spot or Tethering. Unlike the Throttling mentioned in #2, this is a hard and fast cutover at 10GB. It doesn’t have any actual limits, you still have unlimited data, but after 10GB your data transfer speeds will be slowed quite dramatically. Finally, the 10GB of Hot Spot and Tethering data is separate from the 22GB of mobile data mentioned in #2. If you use all 10GB of your Hot Spot and Tethering data, you still have a full 22GB (Not 12GB) of mobile data before any throttling will kick in on your phones and/or devices.

#4 – Line Access Charges

Line access charges are still in place and have not changed. For most users, that means each phone is $20/month and each device (tablet, MiFi, etc) is $10/month. The advertised prices do include these line access charges, see #5 below for more details.

#5 – Pricing Breakdowns

The pricing on the unlimited plan can be a little confusing. Here’s how it breaks down.

A single line is advertised at $80/month. This is made up of a $65/month fee for the unlimited data, a $20 line access fee, and then a $5 auto-pay discount. If you do not enroll in auto-pay, your cost will be $85/month.

Two lines is advertised at $70/month. This comes out to $110/month for unlimited data, two $20 line access fees, and then a $10/month auto-pay discount. Without auto-pay, you will are billed $150/month for two lines.

Lines Three and Four are similar to two lines. The data package is still $110/month and your $20 line access fees are added to that. The auto-pay discount is still $10/month. For three lines you can expect to pay approximately $54/month per line ($160 / 3 lines = $53.33/line). The same thing applies to four lines. $110/month for data, four $20 line access fees, and a $10/month auto-pay discount ($180 / 4 lines = $45/line).

Finally, most folks have a device payment plan, your device payment plan will be added to these charges along with those lovely taxes and fees that Uncle Sam (and Verizon) like to add on to our phone bills.

My Example

For the sake of providing a real-world example, here is my billing breakdown since moving to the unlimited plan the first day it was offered. My account has two lines with two device payments (No tablets or separate MiFi devices).

Unlimited Plan  $110.00
Line #1
Line Access  $20.00
Insurance  $7.15
Device Payment  $29.00
Line #2
Line Access  $20.00
Insurance  $7.15
Device Payment  $24.00
Auto-Pay Discount  -$10.00
Surcharges  $3.72
Taxes and Govt Fees  $3.00
Total Monthly  $214.02

Interestingly enough, before switching to the Verizon Unlimited plan, I was paying for 24GB of monthly data. The cost was $110, exactly the same cost of the new Verizon Unlimited plan. All other charges are exactly the same, except for the new $10/month auto-pay discount. In my case, I’m now saving $10/month. What are your initial thoughts on the new Verizon Unlimited plan? Have you made the switch or are you thinking about it? What questions do you still have? Ask away in the comments below and we’ll do our best to answer.

Categories
Media

Banks Technology Services Featured On Panel Of Data Security Experts

Banks Technology Services was recently featured on Digital Guardian’s panel of Data Security Experts. The panel discussed misconceptions around Endpoint Security. We’re honored to be part of this group and would like to thank Nate Lord and Digital Guardian for including us.

Take a look at the article here: Data Security Experts Answer: What is the Biggest Misconception Companies Have About Endpoint Security & Protection Tools?

About Digital Guardian:Digital Guardian

Digital Guardian, Inc. provides data security solutions to protect data from insider and outsider threats. It offers data loss prevention solution that automatically blocks and controls only those behaviors that pose a threat to organization based on the user, event, and data type; solutions for managing regulated data and automatically classify regulated data; and Digital Guardian network agents that provide visibility, analysis, and control needed to detect and prevent data breaches. – Bloomberg

 

 

 

 

Categories
Windows OS

Windows 10 – Live Announcements

What We Thought vs. We We Got

Today’s 1PM EDT announcement has brought a few surprises and confirmed a few expectations. We’ll be updating this post throughout the Microsoft event.

Microsoft Windows 10 Logo - Courtesy of microsoft.com
Microsoft Windows 10 Logo – Courtesy of microsoft.com

Name

  • What We Thought: The next version of Windows would be named Windows 9.
  • What We Got: Windows 10

Upgrade Cost

  • What We Thought: It will be a free upgrade for for Windows 8 users.
  • What We Got: Microsoft declined to discuss upgrade and pricing information during the Q&A session.

Start Menu:

  • What We Thought: The Start Menu will make a valiant return
  • What We Got: Start menu does indeed make a return. There is a “Me” tile on the start menu with pinned apps. Some aspects of the Start Menu will be re-sizable.

Cortana

  • We Thought: Cortana voice assistant will be included.
  • We Got: No official word yet. However, Microsoft did indicate that Windows 10 is also the next version for Windows phone. This seems to indicate Cortana will be included.

Release Date

  • What We Thought: Summer/Fall 2015 Release to retail, with a developer/technical preview coming very soon
  • What We Got:  Retail release will be late 2015. Technical Preview will be released tomorrow (October 1, 2014)

Other Notable Items

  • There will be a separate touch mode and keyboard/mouse mode that will optimize the interface for your input
  • The “Charms Bar” is staying, but may change slightly
  • You can now Ctrl + V to paste into a command prompt window.
  • You’ll have the option of using Multiple Desktops in Windows 10, with different apps on each desktop
  • The Windows 7 Snap View and Win Key + Arrow Keys works again in Windows 10
  • Technical Preview will be available tomorrow and can be downloaded from the Windows Insider program at http://preview.windows.com
  •  Windows 10 will also be the next version for Windows Phone.

I followed coverage from The Verge today, they did a fantastic job with their live blogging and tweeting. I’ll be reviewing the Windows 10 Technical Preview very soon and will have lots more Windows 10 details.



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Categories
Windows 8.1

Windows 8.1 Recovery Options – Restore, Refresh, & Reset

Recovery Options

Windows 8.1 includes several Recovery Options which I believe are an improvement over Windows 7. You can access these Recovery Options by [intlink id=”7199″ type=”post”]Booting to your Windows 8.1 Recovery Drive[/intlink]. If possible, before you attempt any of these Recovery Options, make sure that you have full backups of everything on your computer. I suggest starting with the Restore option first, as it is the least invasive option. If that doesn’t solve your issue, continue on to Refresh. If you’re still stuck, Reset may be your only choice. Let’s look at each of the Recovery Options in a little more detail.

Restore

Restore is the least invasive Windows 8.1 Recovery Option. Restore uses previously created Restore Points to take your computer back in time, ideally to when your computer was working correctly. By default, Restore Points are turned on for the disk that contains your Windows installation. Whenever you install software or Windows Updates are installed, Windows 8.1 will automatically create a Restore Point. Windows 8.1 will also create a Restore Point if there hasn’t been one created in seven days. Finally, you can manually create a Restore Point from the System Protection tab of System Properties.

Windows 8.1 - Recovery Options - Create A Restore Point
Windows 8.1 – Recovery Options – Create A Restore Point

Refresh

The Windows 8.1 Refresh option begins by backing up all of your files, settings, and personalizations. It also keeps track of any Windows 8.1 Apps that you have loaded from the App Store. Refresh will then install a brand new copy of Windows 8.1. After the installation completes, it continues on to restore your backup. When everything is complete it will boot up to the login screen, you can login normally since Refresh preserves all of your User Accounts.

While the Refresh option keeps all of your settings and files, it does delete all of your installed software. During the Refresh process, Windows 8.1 creates a file named Removed Apps. This file will be on your desktop when the Refresh completes and contains a list of every application that needs to be re-installed. Microsoft does make this a little more convenient by linking the software titles to their respective website’s. Make sure you have your license keys and/or serial numbers for all licensed software you have installed. In my testing, Windows 8.1 kept all of my settings, even my Desktop Background Image, my saved Wifi Networks, and my user accounts.

Reset

The Windows 8.1 Reset option removes everything from your computer and then installs a fresh copy of Windows 8.1. This is the “nuclear option” that will erase everything on your computer and start you over from scratch. This is a last resort, if Restore and Refresh did not solve your issue, then proceed to Reset. Always make sure your backups are up to date, because you will need to restore your files from a backup after using the Reset option.

Before proceeding with the Reset option, make sure you have installation sources for your software. I also download my network and display adapter drivers to a flash drive in advance. Otherwise you’ll need another computer, with internet access, to download your network driver. Also, make sure you have serial numbers and license keys for all licensed software you’ll be re-installing. If you can’t find this information, there are many utilities (LicenseCrawlerKeyFinder, & Belarc Advisor) that will allow you to recover your serial & license numbers.

Questions About Windows 8.1 Recovery Options?

In the coming weeks, we’ll be covering each one of these options with a dedicated post that will go into much more detail. Once these #BanksTechTips posts are live, I’ll link them together in a series so they are easy to find. Have you used any of the Windows 8.1 Recovery Options? What were your thoughts? Did they work for you?

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Categories
Applications

6 Ways Trello Will Make You Work Smarter

What Is Trello?

According to the fine folks at Trello, “Trello makes it easy to organize anything with anyone.” Trello is a web-based application that will make you more productive. It fits in somewhere between your to do list and full fledged project management software, and in many cases it can replace both. It keeps you on track, using your own system, and lets you track your results.

The Basics

Everything starts with your first Trello Board. A Trello Board contains all of your Lists, your Lists contain all of your Cards. Sound confusing? It’s not once you see it. Take a look at this image compliments of Trello:

Trello - Overview
Trello – Overview

Everything on the screen makes up a Board, in this case the title of the Board is, “The Great Kitchen Redesign”. Next you’ll see the individual columns. Trello refers to these columns as “Lists”. This Board contains four lists, “Ideas”, “To Do”, “Doing” and “Done!”. Finally, each individual item on a list is a “Card”. Cards can be just text or they can be customized as images, URL’s, attachments, checklists, etc. You can also label cards based on their category and assign them a due date. Now that you have the basics down, let’s look at why you need to be using Trello.

1 – Visual Workflow

Ever get that, “I have so much to do, but no clue where to start” feeling? When your To Do list develops a mind of it’s own or you have a major project with lots of moving parts, getting a birds-eye view of everything involved will help you hone in on your next step. Trello lets you visualize your entire workflow and quickly determine what action you need to take next.

When you create a new Board, Trello automatically creates Lists for “To Do”, “Doing”, and “Done”. This left to right workflow is a common theme in Trello. When the status of an item changes, you simply drag it to the appropriate list. At the end of the day, hopefully most of your Cards have moved from “To Do” to “Done”.

2 – Customizable Workflow

Trello’s workflow is both completely customizable and adaptable to many different productivity systems. The hugely popular Getting Things Done system works fantastically on Trello. If you love your current system, chances are you can easily customize your Trello Boards, Lists, and Cards to make it work even better. Guilherme Ferreira wrote an excellent article about How To Implement Getting Thins Done With Trello. Below is the customized workflow that Guilherme created, based on the GTD system. Again, notice the left to right theme, as items change status and near completion they are moved from left to right.

Trello - Getting Things Done - http://gsferreira.com/
Trello – Getting Things Done – http://gsferreira.com/

3 – Trello Templates

I’m a huge fan of templates as duplicative effort drives me absolutely crazy. Trello has the ability to copy entire Boards, Lists, and individual Cards. This feature makes it easy to create a template List, or even a template Board, that you can copy whenever you need. I currently have a list of 11 things that I do every single day. These are repetitive tasks that I complete every day, regardless of my workload. Rather than create ten new Cards on my To Do List every morning, I’ve created a List that I use as a template for these daily tasks. Each morning, I copy this list and it becomes the basis for that day’s To Do List. As I complete the tasks, Cards are moved to my Completed List.

4 – Collaboration

Trello’s ability to work with multiple individuals and teams really set it apart from other productivity apps. Trello allows you to create an Organization which would include all of your team members. You can then share your Trello Board(s) with members of your Organization. Once you share a Board with your Organization, all Organization members can view the Trello Board. If you want to give certain members the ability to edit, you simply Add them to that particular Board. Finally, you can assign Cards to individuals within your Organization and make them responsible for updating a task’s status. These Collaboration tools make it easy to quickly determine the status of a project and determine which pieces (Cards) need more attention.

5 – Trello Mobile App

The Trello team really went above and beyond when they developed the Trello app. It’s available for Android and IOS, they also have a Windows 8 app in the Windows App Store. The Trello mobile app brings the full Trello experience to your mobile devices. Just about anything you can do in the web interface you can accomplish in the app. They even built in the drag and drop features so you can quickly move your Cards around. With many apps today, users almost expect a scaled down version and reduced functionality. This is accepted because of the convenience factor. When working with the Trello app I don’t get this reduced capacity feeling, they really did a great job with it.

Trello - Mobile Apps - Trello.com
Trello – Mobile Apps – Trello.com

6 – Public API for Trello Integrations

Trello has made available to the public an API so that developers can create new programs to integrate with Trello. There are some really talented people doing some really cool things with the API. One popular program gives you the ability to create RSS Feeds from your Trello Boards. Other developers have built programs that help automate tasks in Trello, such as List and Board creation. I’m hoping to create a program that will work with my Trello Templates and make the copy/paste process completely automated.

Another Trello integration that is hugely useful is If This Then That (IFTTT). IFTTT works with hundreds of websites and applications allowing you to automate tasks. IFTTT has picked up Trello and now allows you to do things like send a text message to create a Card on a Trello List or have your Siri reminders show up on your Trello Board. I use a IFTTT “recipe” to create cards on my To Do List at scheduled intervals. It’s incredibly useful to remind me to do things like get an oil change or check the batteries in my smoke detectors.

Trello For The Win!

Trello has dramatically changed the way I work. Before Trello, I was using Workflowy as a To Do list manager. Workflowy does a good job at a basic To Do list, but it lacked a lot of flexibility that I needed. In Trello, I have added a “Waiting On” list to my daily workflow. When I’m unable to take additional action on a task because I’m waiting for someone else to do something, I move that card from my “To Do” List to my “Waiting On” List. This step alone was huge for me, it allowed me to focus only on the items that I could immediately take action on.

Give Trello a shot, I think you’ll find it intuitive and easy to use. The ability to visualize your work will help you focus on the most important tasks. To learn more, head over to Trello’s website and Take A Tour of Trello. Best of all, it’s Free!

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Categories
Windows 8.1

How To Create A Windows 8.1 Recovery Drive

What Is A Windows 8.1 Recovery Drive

A Windows 8.1 Recovery Drive is a bootable USB flash drive that you can use to troubleshoot Windows 8.1. The built-in Create A Recovery Drive tool, makes this process quick and simple. You will need at least a 512MB USB Flash Drive, a larger drive is fine but 512MB is the minimum. Make sure you don’t have any files you need on the flash drive, when you create the Recovery Drive it will be formatted and everything on the flash drive will be deleted.

The Windows 8.1 Recovery Drive gives you access to several different troubleshooting options. You can use the Recovery Drive in many of the recovery options provided by Windows 8.1, including [intlink id=”7201″ type=”post”]System Image Recovery[/intlink] and Recovery From A Restore Point. You can also use the Recovery Drive to perform Reset or Refresh operations in Windows 8.1. Lastly, you can use the Recovery Drive to access Startup Repair and Command Prompt features in Windows 8.1.

How To Create A Recovery Drive In Windows 8.1

Begin by opening up Control Panel, make sure All Control Panel Items are showing, and then click on Recovery.

How To Create A Windows 8.1 Recovery Drive - Control Panel
How To Create A Windows 8.1 Recovery Drive – Control Panel

Now you’ll see the Advanced Recovery Tools screen. From here, you will click on Create A Recovery Drive.

How To Create A Windows 8.1 Recovery Drive - Advanced Recovery Tools
How To Create A Windows 8.1 Recovery Drive – Advanced Recovery Tools

The Create A Recovery Drive window opens and gives a brief description of the Recovery Drive. Click Next to continue.

How To Create A Windows 8.1 Recovery Drive - Recovery Drive
How To Create A Windows 8.1 Recovery Drive – Recovery Drive

Now select the USB flash drive that you want to use for your Recovery Drive. Double check that you select the correct drive letter because everything on the flash drive will be deleted during this process. After confirming the correct drive is highlighted, click the Next button.

How To Create A Windows 8.1 Recovery Drive - Select The USB Flash Drive
How To Create A Windows 8.1 Recovery Drive – Select The USB Flash Drive

You’ll receive one final warning that all data on the flash drive will be deleted. Click Create to begin creating your Recovery Drive. 

How To Create A Windows 8.1 Recovery Drive - Create The Recovery Drive
How To Create A Windows 8.1 Recovery Drive – Create The Recovery Drive

Windows 8.1 begins creating the Recovery Drive, you’ll see a status window indicating the progress. This process only takes a few minutes.

How To Create A Windows 8.1 Recovery Drive - Creating The Recovery Drive
How To Create A Windows 8.1 Recovery Drive – Creating The Recovery Drive

When the process completes, you’ll receive a The Recovery Drive Is Ready message. You can click Finish to close the window.

How To Create A Windows 8.1 Recovery Drive - The Recovery Drive Is Ready
How To Create A Windows 8.1 Recovery Drive – The Recovery Drive Is Ready

That’s it, you now have a fully functional, bootable USB Recovery Drive that allows you to access some of the more advanced recovery features in Windows 8.1. In order to use these troubleshooting features, you must boot your computer from the Recovery Drive. To boot from the Recovery Drive, you’ll need to make sure that the Boot Order in the BIOS has USB Device before your Hard Drive. You can also access the Boot Menu from your BIOS Splash screen and choose to boot from the USB Device.

Questions About How To Create A Windows 8.1 Recovery Drive?

Did this work for you? Did you run into any difficulties? What questions do you have about the Recovery Drive? Please ask your questions below in the comment section and I’ll be sure to answer them.

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