Top Tips For Working From Home

As increasing numbers of people work from home because of the Coronavirus, MPMIT provides top tips to help you maintain your professional poise and manage your time so you can keep your balance and avoid burning out.

Will it be tea (or coffee) and biscuits, the sofa and Netflix or fevered squirrelling away at the computer? Clearly, there are distractions at home but many people actually tend to work harder than when in the office, simply because there are fewer interruptions.

You don’t have to travel, which can save a few hours, and you don’t have the distractions of office life such as loud co-workers, endless meetings, chatter, answering the phone for colleagues and so on. As a result, you can concentrate solely on work if you can successfully navigate the pitfalls of working from home.
So how can you best manage your workload, maintain your professional poise and still work like a champion from home?

Your very own space

If you’ve got a dedicated workspace at home, that’s great. You can use it as an office. If you don’t you need to carve out a workspace that’s off-limits to other family members. You don’t have to set landmines and roll out barbed wire but there need to be some clear boundaries. There’s nothing worse than being on a work call, in a virtual meeting or trying to get something finished than being plagued by children’s endless waves of screaming, a yapping dog, mewing cat or doorbell ringing.

Always there

Be responsive. Get in the habit of sending a prompt reply whenever you get an email, even if it’s just to say, “Got it,” or, “I’ll get back to soon.” If you don’t, your colleagues might assume that you’re slumped on the sofa, tea and biscuits in hand, and binge-watching Netflix. And it goes without saying that you need to do your best to be available for conference calls or other collaborations, even if you don’t have strict work hours and other participants are in a time zone from hell.

Virtual dress code

Virtual meetings will surely play a part in your home-based work and may even require your video presence. Is there a dress code for video calls? Common sense dictates that you look reasonably polished, from the waist up at least. Pyjamas, vests and bed hair are probably best avoided.

Present and able

When your presence is required in a virtual work meeting but you don’t need to speak, it’s a good idea to be present rather than doing the ironing, putting the kettle on or tickling the baby, even if you are on mute. You never know when somebody is going to say; “What do you think…?” and you suddenly have to be ‘creative’ because while you were listening in you were also not listening at all.

Be equipped

Who was it who said, “Be Prepared”? It doesn’t really matter but it’s a handy motto for working from home.  In practical terms, this means ensuring your computing equipment is in tip top shape and loaded with the latest in protection and privacy. Working from home sometimes translates to working where ever you are, which sometimes may not necessarily be at home. It goes without saying that antivirus protection is essential but have you ever considered a VPN (virtual private network)?  A VPN keeps all your communications with the office private, whether you’re at home, visiting a client or travelling. For secure communications between you and your clients, colleagues, boss it’s just as essential as antivirus software.

Sharing docs and backing up

You may have some monster-sized docs to work on from home which are too heavy for email even when compressed. Or there might just be a lot of docs flying back and forth. As such it’s a good idea to have cloud-based storage service that can be shared between colleagues. It’s simpler than sending and receiving docs and makes it easier to work on documents that other people are contributing to, so you’re always working from the latest version. And of course, it goes without saying that back-ups at the end of the day are essential to safeguard against loss.

Keep it clean

Here’s an odd thought; every minute of the day we lose about 30,000 to 40,000 dead skin cells from the surface of our skin. In practice, this means lots and lots of dust on your computers on top of the accrued detritus that’s already there. Cleaning your computers, including your smartphone, is important so it’s a good idea to use a proper cleansing agent. Computers are generally not amenable to water. Alcohol wipes are a good alternative and also keep your devices free of bugs when you’re out and about.

Nail down time management

When working from home time can blur and it’s easy to find yourself working without taking a break, which of course, will backfire at some point with mistakes, over tiredness and a creeping reluctance to drag yourself back to the computer. This is why breaks are important. Think of your work from home as a day in the office and don’t deprive yourself of breaks. You’ll find that you can work consistently well rather than go through the peaks and troughs of unstructured working days.

The MPMIT Team, offering local IT support in byte sized chunks to Micro businesses and Sole Traders in the Ipswich, Bury St Edmunds, Stowmarket and the surrounding areas.

Please, Please, Backup Your Data

backup

Have you noticed how many ‘experts’ have sprung up recently?

They’re everywhere.

They’re always telling you to eat healthier, drink less, do more exercise – basically stating what should be obvious. Of course, that doesn’t mean you take any notice of their advice. After all, if you did everything they told you to do life would be pretty boring.

The problem is you shouldn’t ignore all their advice. Listen to it and take on board the things that will make a difference to you.

If you do ignore all the advice you are given, you could regret it.

Take a new client of ours.

The other day, we a small business that had tried to self-manage its computer and fix a problem itself.

The fix resulted in the loss of emails. After much head scratching, the team decided to call MPMIT.

Of course, the first thing we did was to ask if they had a backup, to which they replied:

‘What’s that? Not sure how I go about doing that.’

After a visit to their site, we managed to retrieve their emails and get their systems back up and working again.

After explaining what help MPMIT can provide for small businesses they have agreed to come onboard with our 6 monthly maintenance scheme.

The maintenance scheme consists of regular site visits primarily to make sure that everything is clean and dust free, that all the software is behaving itself and is up to date, and to make sure you have a backup of all your data external to the machines in your business.

The moral of this story is, if you haven’t already done so, make sure you have a maintenance plan sorted? If you don’t, you could end up doing a lot of damage to your business.

 

MPM Computer Consultancy provides IT Services, Support and Training to sole traders and small businesses in Ipswich. Bury St Edmunds and surrounding villages.

The 20 Second Wait – A Case Study

One of our customers runs peer to peer Ethernet networking using one PC as the master IT issuesand the others as slaves (where their company documentation was concerned).

This worked well, except when saving Microsoft Office documents as it took 20 seconds to save the document to the master PC.

Our client was ruining jumpers by the truck load, suffering from ‘shiny elbow’ syndrome whilst waiting for the documents to save.

Jumping into the car, we dashed over to their office to check it out. All the settings for peer to peer networking looked fine. We tested Notepad and Word Pad, both of which saved instantly, so we started researching Microsoft Office and their forums for anything that might help.

  • We disabled all firewalls – nope
  • We un-installed the AV products – nope
  • We tried several registry changes – nope

After 4 hours there was only one thing left to try – we set up a test environment with the same operating systems and application software, so we could play to our hearts’ content without disrupting our client’s work, to see if the problem was resolvable.

We set up test machines and within 2 hours had found the problem. The anti virus software had a tick box to allow scanning on LAN files – this should be un-ticked if within a network and in going so, would let data traffic through instantly.

The problem was that the trigger to this box wasn’t working. We contacted the anti virus software support team, who after an online chat session, decided we were right and said their software would be amended on the next release.

We didn’t hold our breath.

But, as soon as the new update/version of the AV software was on general release, we tried the change and it worked and the customers was really pleased as it meant no more shiny elbows!

MPM Computer Consultancy provides IT Services, Support and Training to sole traders and small businesses in Ipswich. Bury St Edmunds and surrounding villages.

How to Make Your PC Run Faster

Don’t you just hate it when your PC starts to slow down? How to improve your PCs speed

Rather than sitting there cursing it as you wait for your programmes to load, why not do something about it? It really isn’t that difficult and it doesn’t take long.

All you have to do is follow these simple steps to make a difference.

1. A tidy desktop

A cluttered desktop makes it difficult to find your files, plus it looks awful. But not only that, it can also slow down your computer’s processing speed.

Simply delete any icons that aren’t needed and organise the ones you can’t live without.

2. Empty the bin

Deleting stuff and sending it to the recycle bin is easy. But, just like your office bin, it can get really full, which in turn will slow your PC down.

Make sure you empty it out regularly.

3. Delete files

No, we don’t mean delete every file on your PC, just the ones you don’t need.

Over time you would have amassed a number of documents, programmes, videos or music files that you don’t need any more. Rather than leaving them there to take up unnecessary space, delete them to improve your computer’s performance.

4. Virus

Nothing slows a PC down like a virus and some can infect your computer without you even knowing about it. That’s why you should regularly scan your system for any nasty little critters that have snuck through your defences.

5. Cleanup

On your Windows PC, under System Tools, you’ll find the Disk Cleanup programme. This will scan your PC and remove any temporary Internet files, setup log files and other temporary files you don’t need to be storing. It will also empty your recycling bin.

6. Defrag

Ever come across the Disk Defragmenter programme? Do you know what it does? Basically, it scans your hard drive and arranges all your files in a clean and neat order that makes it easier for your PC to find things, therefore speeding it up.

This is the last step of your maintenance routine that should be done regularly.

There you go, we told you it was easy. All you have to do is set yourself a reminder to go through your maintenance routine regularly.

MPM Computer Consultancy provides IT Services, Support and Training to sole traders and small businesses in Ipswich. Bury St Edmunds and surrounding villages.

What To Do When Network Sharing Becomes Problematic

Network sharing problems aren’t always as they seem – a case study

Solving IT problems
If your PCs had been merrily chatting away over your peer to peer network right up to the point when you changed your router, you’d expect that to be the problem, wouldn’t you.

That’s exactly what one of our clients thought.

They’d been forced to change router because they’d been experiencing serious drop outs with their telephone line. Obviously, they were convinced this was the problem, but our super sleuth senses told us otherwise.

The case began with an early Monday morning call. The client reported that none of their shares were working, so the second user couldn’t get on with their work. We felt that the replacement of the router shouldn’t be linked to the issue, so we got the client to ensure that both PCs were turned on and connected to the new router.

Everything was fine and dandy, both the PCs’ lights shone brightly, but they weren’t showing up in the company workgroup.

After an hour’s deliberation, checking the network settings on both PCs and pinging from one PC to the other – success!

The router was indeed a red herring – the AVG Firewall did it.

It was blocking the link on one of the PCs. When the firewall was turned off, all went back to normal and both PCs could once again happily communicate with each other.

Should you experience a similar problem, this check list should help you find the culprit:

  • Check the PCs are on and logged in
  • Check they are connected to the router and that the router is indicating an active connection
  • Check the Windows network nettings, work group/domain and ensure you have allowed network discovery
  • Check the Windows firewalls are off
  • Check your anti-virus software as it may be affecting performance
MPM Computer Consultancy provides IT Services, Support and Training to sole traders and small businesses in Ipswich. Bury St Edmunds and surrounding villages.

Better Broadband for Suffolk–Update

A while a go, we wrote about the continuing campaign to get better broadband for Suffolk.

Well, here’s an update for you as reported by EADT24:

SUFFOLK’S MPs gave the proposals to bring in superfast broadband to rural parts of the county a ringing endorsement during a special briefing at Westminster yesterday.

County council leader Mark Bee joined Local Enterprise Partnership chairman Andy Wood and Chris Soule from the Federation of Small Businesses to meet MPs whose constituents are waiting for fast broadband to reach their communities.

All the MPs welcomed the fact that the council was near to choosing which of two providers – believed to be BT and Fujitsu – would carry on the work.

And they were looking forward to the day when work would start on breaking down the “digital divide” that has built up in Suffolk over recent years.

While households in Ipswich and part of Felixstowe can get speeds of up to 120 Mbps through Virgin fibre-optic cables, properties in some rural parts of the county struggle to get 1Mbps.

Central Suffolk and North Ipswich MP Dr Dan Poulter has constituents on both sides of the digital divide.

He said: “The news about how far we have come is excellent and it is right to note the work that has been put in by the county council, the LEP and the FSB.

“It is great that we are one of the first four areas of the country to take this major step forward.”

Waveney MP Peter Aldous said it was good news that rural areas would be among the first reached, but work would also continue to improve services to enterprise zones which was vital for boosting business.

Mr Bee said communities with some of the slowest broadband speeds in Suffolk would be among the first to have work completed.

The first properties to be linked up should be at the end of this year with the first programme completed by the spring of 2015.

Ultimately the aim was to bring superfast broadband to all properties in Suffolk by 2020.

Narrowing the digital divide

A recent article posted by ThisisMoney.co.uk highlights that it’s not just Suffolk that’s struggling with woeful broadband speeds.

They report that, according to figures from the Federation of Small Business, 63% of firms (from a survey of 3,000 small businesses) in rural areas are dissatisfied with the speed of their broadband connection. That’s in direct contrast to 48% in urban areas.

Despite the Government’s pledge to create 10 ‘super-connected’ cities by 2015, the FSB believes that they are not going far enough to help rural businesses. In fact, this will have the effect of widening the gap.

The FSB are calling for a rollout of 20 Mbps superfast broadband to 98% of rural communities and businesses to help ‘close the digital divide between urban and rural businesses.’

MPM Computer Consultancy provides IT Services, Support and Training to sole traders and small businesses in Ipswich. Bury St Edmunds and surrounding villages.

Floods Cause HDD Shortages

floodThe Thai floods have had an unexpected impact on Intel’s forecasts, according to Simon Quicke’s article in Microscope.co.uk.

The floods caused a shortage of hard disc drives (HDD) causing Intel to cut its Q4 forecasts, warning investors it will miss the numbers it had previously been aiming for.

Revenue is now expected to be down to about $13.7bn.

“Sales of personal computers are expected to be up sequentially in the fourth quarter. However, the worldwide PC supply chain is reducing inventories and microprocessor purchases as a result of hard disk drive supply shortages. The company expects hard disk drive supply shortages to continue into the first quarter, followed by a rebuilding of microprocessor inventories as supplies of hard disk drives recover during the first half of 2012,” stated the vendor.

Quicke goes on to comment that the latest research from IHS iSuppli suggests that HDD shortages will lead to close to a four million unit shortfall in PC shipments on the first quarter of 2012.

Although the situation is set to improve in Q1 of 2012, the analyst house is warning that it will  take time to filter through to the supply chain, meaning it will only be in Q3 when things start to get back to normal.

Author: MPM Computer Consultancy provides IT Services, Support and Training to sole traders and small businesses in Ipswich. Bury St Edmunds and surrounding villages.

Welcome To The World of Databases

The Benefits of Databases

database

Every business gathers information which needs to be organised, easily accessible and secure.

The humble database is a business’s best friend. It’s there to organise, process and manage information in a structured and controlled manner.

This is the first of 3 posts that will look at databases, how to choose the right one for you and potential drawbacks.

What is a database?

Let’s get back to basics. A database is a collection of data that’s been organised so your computer can quickly select desired items. It could be a customer mailing list or stock codes for example.

In the good old days companies relied on manual filing systems which tended to be unreliable, unwieldy to use and very slow. Plus they can be used to cross-reference information held in different files. A relational database management system uses common ‘keys’ to tie related information together (e.g. a customer ID number can be used to identify an individual customer or link a customer to an order for specific goods).

Database benefits

The more you know about your customers, suppliers and competitors the better so if you can store your information in a structured way you’ll gain a great advantage.

Gathering and processing information is time consuming but it’s also the best way to keep track of how your business is performing.

A sophisticated relational database management system will help you with this. By constantly adding data you can gain a historical perspective on how particular products are performing and help you identify trends.

The use of this type of database technology will help you:

  • Reduce time spent managing data
  • Analyse data in a number of ways
  • Promote a disciplined approach to data management
  • Turn disparate information into a valuable resource
  • Improve the quality and consistency of your information

So as you can see databases can really give your business the edge. The next post in this series on databases will look at types of database systems and deciding which one is right for you.

Author: MPM Computer Consultancy provides IT Services, Support and Training to sole traders and small businesses in Ipswich. Bury St Edmunds and surrounding villages.

How to Avoid Losing Important Server Data

lose

It can happen to the best of us.

Lost data is inconvenient, annoying and can be down right expensive.

So how can you made sure you don’t fall foul of the data gremlins that love to cause chaos?

Well, before we get to that, here are a few sobering statistics to think about:

  • 60% of businesses close down within 6 months of losing their data
  • You could be fined up to £500,000 under the amended Data Protection Act if you’re found to have recklessly lost confidential data
  • 45% of business still have insufficient back-up procedures in place to protect their data

Sounds scary when you look at it like that, doesn’t it?

If you are one of the 45% read on (in fact even if you think you have sufficient procedures in place it would be a good idea to keep reading) because this blog post could save you time, money and your reputation.

9 Ways to reduce the risk of losing your data

1. Back-up system

We’ll start with the most obvious. If you don’t already have one, set up a back-up system both on and off site. You also need to test them regularly and should consider having a disaster recovery package.

By having an off site back-up you’ll help protect yourself from possible disasters such as fire or burglary.

2. Maintain your network

Set yourself up an early warning system. Using anti virus and keeping your patches up to date will help you maintain your network and hardware. This will help show up any devices that could potentially cause problems before they arise.

3. Keep an eye on your data

Understanding what data you store, where it’s stored and who has access to it will help you make sure it’s safe at all times. You should also regularly review your IT risk assessment and IT security policy.

4. Keep it secret

Wireless networks can run the risk of being hacked into because you don’t need a physical connection to access the data. To boost your security use a complicated password or hide the name of the network to stop potential intruders being aware of its existence.

5. USB

It’s a good idea to restrict the usage of USB memory sticks. This will prevent data being copied to unsecure devices and so reduce the risk of malware being introduced to your network.

6. Encrypt

If you have data going off site make sure it’s encrypted. You should also secure remote access to prevent data being stolen from mobile hardware.

7. Training

Make sure all your staff are trained in the importance of IT security (such as the use of passwords) and give them their own space on the service to save their documents.

8. Be up to date

Keep your asset register and user accounts up to date.

9. Keep it clean

Wipe data before disposing of old hardware or make sure recyclers do this for you.

By following these simple steps you will help prevent your company becoming yet another statistic.

Author: MPM Computer Consultancy provides IT Services, Support and Training to sole traders and small businesses in Ipswich. Bury St Edmunds and surrounding villages.

How to Set Up Skype…

phone call…And enjoy free phone calls to other Skype users

If you’re looking to cut your overheads, what better way than to start using Skype?

You can chat for free to other Skype users anywhere in the world and enjoy reduced cost calls to other users.

Not only that but there are a wealth of other features available for business and private users.

What’s more it’s very easy to set up – all you need is a computer.

How to set up Skype on your computer

First of all head over to the Skype website and click the download button (if you are a Mac user use this link).

Once your download has finished click ‘save file’ to set up your Skype application and follow the onscreen instructions of the set up wizard.

After the installation process is complete just click on your Skype desktop icon and away you go.

Finding contacts

Once you’re all set up you’ll need some contacts – you can search by name, Skype name (if you know it) or email address.

As soon as your contacts have accepted you you can start chatting.

You can even get an app to enjoy Skype on your Android or iPhone.

Why not try it out?

Author: MPM Computer Consultancy provides IT Services, Support and Training to sole traders and small businesses in Ipswich. Bury St Edmunds and surrounding villages.