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Anti-virus reviews December 2017

Choosing malware protection software just got harder

It goes without saying that protecting your business computers with good anti-virus software remain a vital element of a sensible technology strategy.  The sophistication of threats from phishing attempts, malware and infected websites continues to increase.  As do the negative consequences of being infected.

Until recently there were two main factors:

  1. whether the software protected you; and
  2. that it didn’t slow down your computer too much.

Now there’s a third:  does a government exert undue control over the organisation that developed the software?  Recently Kaspersky, consistently one of the best applications in independent reviews, has been linked to the Russian government.  Other software has been linked to its respective government for example, allegations online that Symantec has shared its source code with the NSA.  Who know’s what is true, it’s impossible to be sure.  What we would say is that the malware threat is real and present whereas the threat from government intervention seems to be more speculative.  So when choosing, it seems sensible to prioritise software with good protection and performance.

PC Pro recently reviewed malware protection software and here’s a table summarising what it found.  For reference we’ve added the country the software organisation is located in.

Software % Detection
(100% is good)
False positives
(small is good)
Memory
(small is good)
Originating
country
Bitdefender
PC Pro LABS WInner
100% 0 2.1 Romania
BullGuard 100% 8 1.9 UK
Panda (Free)
PC Pro Recommended
100% 3 1.8 Spain
Symanetec 100% 8 1.8 US
Kaspersky
PC Pro Recommended
99.7% 0 2.1 Russia
Avira 99.7 1 2.0 Germany
ESET 99.7% 1 1.7 Slovakia
F-Secure 99.7% 38 1.8 Finland
Trend 99.7% 1 2.0 Japan
Avast (free)
PC Pro Recommended
99.0% 3 1.7 Romania
AVG (free) 98.7% 3 1.8 Czech Republic
Microsoft Windows Defender (Free) 98.7% 6 1.7 US
McAfee 97.4% 7 1.9 Romania

Bitdefender has risen to the top again in recent reviews.  100% detection with little impact on performance.  It’s also good on Android phones.  Over the last few years, it’s been less consistent then either Kaspersky or Symantec but right now hard to beat.

Consistently #1 in recent years.  Still recommended in recent reviews.  Allegations of Russian government interference.  Good detection rate, highly customisation and low false positives.

Consistently strong with 100% detection.  Trusted in enterprises, low impact on system performance, highly configurable.

By |2017-12-05T17:43:11+00:00December 3rd, 2017|In Business, Security|

GDPR – Data Protection for small businesses

GDPR stands for General Data Protection Regulation and is a change in the law that companies will need to comply with.  It will apply in the UK from 25 May 2018.  It’s an evolution of the existing Data Protection Regulations.

It applies to any business that holds data about individuals.  If you are not already registered with the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) you can check if you need to at their website here.

If you are registered, the ICO has a useful checklist on how to comply with GDPR at this link and here’s a summary:

  • Review information you hold

  • Communicate privacy information

  • Document individual’s rights and subject access requests

  • Review how you obtain consent including how you get parental consent for childrens’ data

  • Have procedures to detect breaches

  • Appoint a Data Protection Officer

Computer Weekly published a useful guide here about the changes too:

  • The GDPR applies to companies globally (that process personal data about EU citizens).

  • The GDPR considers any data that can be used to identify an individual as personal data. It includes, for the first time, things such as genetic, mental, cultural, economic or social information.

  • The GDPR tightens the rules for obtaining valid consent to using personal information.

  • The GDPR makes the appointment of a role called Data Protection Officer mandatory for certain organisations.

  • The GDPR introduces mandatory reviews called privacy impact assessments to determine how personally identifiable information (PII) is collected and explains how that information is maintained, how it will be protected and how it will be shared.

  • The GDPR harmonises the various data breach notification laws in Europe and is aimed at ensuring organisations constantly monitor for breaches of personal data.

  • The GDPR introduces the right to be forgotten.

  • The GDPR extends liability to all organisations that touch personal data.

  • The GDPR requires organisations design their processes so privacy is the default.

  • The GDPR allows any European data protection authority to take action against organisations, regardless of where in the world the company is based.

By |2017-10-13T08:05:49+00:00September 25th, 2017|In Business|

Anti Virus Reviews Jan 2017

Protecting your computers with good anti-virus software remains one of the most important aspects of business technology as malware today is extremely sophisticated. Even with a good backup in place, if you were unlucky enough to be infected with something like CryptoLocker it could encrypt your backup as well as all your files leaving you in a very difficult situation. So install good anti-malware software and keep it updated.

Computer Shopper recently reviewed all the major software and the overall winners were Norton Internet Security, Trend Micro and Kaspersky Total Security with all three achieving top 100% detection rates. ESET put in a good performance too.  At the other end of the scale, Bullguard performed badly as did Intel Security (McAfee), Microsoft and Avast.  Symantec Endpoint Protection remains an excellent business product, either through the cloud version or installed from a local Windows server.

For Apple Macs used in business, we rate Flextivity which uses Intego’s protection engine.  Intego have been providing security for Apple’s OS X longer than anyone else and have a track record in discovering malware and updating their products to block it fast.

Shortlands Computing is independent of all hardware and software providers, so you can be confident we’ll always recommend what’s best for you, not what’s best for us!

By |2017-01-30T14:53:08+00:00January 25th, 2017|Security|

Completely uninstall Office 2011 on a Mac

For some odd reason, Microsoft doesn’t provide an easy method to uninstall Office 2011 from a Mac.  There are instructions on Microsoft’s support website here, but they are very long winded.  Having had to uninstall Office 2011 many times over the last couple of years to upgrade our Customers to the (much better) Office 2016 for Mac, we have a script that automates this.   Be warned, even with this script it is still complex and requires use of the command line, but the script avoids typos and leaving elements of Office 2011 lingering around.  There are some important caveats:

  1. All local emails, contacts and other information will be deleted so make sure these are backed up somewhere else first;
  2. The Trash will be emptied and the mac restarted so close all important work before running this.

In other words, use at your own risk, and there’s no implied warranty with this!

  1. Open terminal and in all these steps replace yourusername with your user name (type whoami in Terminal if you are not sure).
  2. Download the script file from this link,  move it to a file in your home folder and save as uninstall_o2011.sh (or name of your choice).
  3. In terminal, make it executable: sudo chmod 744 /users/yourusername/uninstall_o2011.sh and type your password when prompted
  4. To run the script type sudo /users/yourusername/uninstall_o2011.sh

Follow the prompts, your Mac will restart.

Now you are ready to install Office 2016!

By |2017-01-25T11:35:19+00:00August 23rd, 2016|In Business|

Windows 10 critical start menu error

How do I know if I have the Windows 10 Critical Start Menu error?

Every time you click the start button at the bottom left of your Windows 10 desktop you will receive this message.

Critical-error

Clicking Sign out now will log you off.  You can use your computer and clicking icons on the taskbar will continue to work, as will Windows keyboard shortcuts.  But if your files are on OneDrive, that will generally stop syncing so any changes you make will not be uploaded to the Microsoft cloud.

This issue has been around since June 2015 and, as yet, Microsoft doesn’t have a fix.

What can I do about it?

There’s no guaranteed solution and unfortunately you might need to reset your PC to its defaults, but we’ve compiled below the fixes that have worked for some computers we’ve seen.  You’ll also find links to other sites that have suggestions for resolving the critical start menu error.

With all these don’t click the Start Button or you will receive the error.  If you do have the error on your screen, reboot the computer first and log on again.

This is Microsoft’s recommended solution and is a bit convoluted but seems to work in about one time in five.

Press Windows key on your keyboard + r at the same time, type msconfig then press Yes when prompted and you’ll see this window

msconfig

Click the Boot tab and then tick Safe boot and check Network

msconfig-sm

When prompted reboot.  Then when the computer restarts log on.  Press Ctrl, Alt and Escape together to bring up Task Manager.  Click File in the top left and then Run new task.

Type cmd and make sure Create this task with administrative privileges is ticked.

You will then have a black command window: type sfc /scannow and press enter

cmd

When that’s done type msconfig directly into the black Command window, go to the boot tab and deselect Safe Mode.  Press OK and reboot when prompted.

When the PC restarts test and see if the error has gone.

Press the Windows key on your keyboard + r at the same time, then type ms-settings:  Click Accounts then Other users and then Add someone else to this PC.  We want an PC account not linked to a Microsoft account so click I don’t have this person’s sign-in information.  Click Add a user without a Microsoft account at the bottom of the window.

add-user

Enter the details for a new user – it doesn’t matter what you call it but not Guest or Administrator.  tempadmin would be fine.

When the account is created, click on it and click Change account type.  Set the account type to Administrator.

Reboot the PC and see if that works.

Before you do this make sure you have the product key or logon details so you can reinstall the software.

To uninstall, press the Windows key on your keyboard + r at the same time, then type control panel and press enter.  Type programs in the search box in the top right and then click Add or remove programs.  Select your anti-malware software, click Uninstall and follow the prompts.

Reboot your PC when prompted, then test.

If that doesn’t work reinstall your malware protection before trying the next few steps.

To repair Office, press the Windows key on your keyboard + r at the same time, then type control panel and press enter.  Type programs in the search box in the top right and then click Add or remove programs.  Select Microsoft software, right click and click Change.  Select Online Repair and click Repair.
Before you do this make sure you have the logon details to Dropbox so you can reinstall the software.

To uninstall, press the Windows key on your keyboard + r at the same time, then type control panel and press enter.  Type programs in the search box in the top right and then click Add or remove programs.  Select Dropbox, click Uninstall and follow the prompts.

Reboot your PC when prompted, then test.

Press the Windows key on your keyboard + r at the same time, then type ms-settings:  Next click Update & security, then Check for updates.  Install all updates, reboot and see if the error has gone.

It all else fails, reset your PC

If you have tried all else and no luck, then unfortunately the only option is to reset your PC.  Be warned, this will delete all your documents, pictures, music and programs i.e. your anti-malware, Word, Excel, your email settings and any other software you had installed.  So before you start:

  1. Copy your files to an external hard drive and/or a cloud backup or file sharing service
  2. Make sure you have the product keys for everything.

To start. press the Windows key on your keyboard + r at the same time, then type ms-settings:

Select Update and Security, then Recovery on the left hand side.

Under Reset this PC, click Get started.   Select Remove everything and follow the prompts.

When this has finished your PC will be just like it was when you first bought it and yuo can set it up again from scratch.

What causes it

Unfortunately, we don’t know but from what we can see neither do Microsoft! It doesn’t happen with local accounts so it’s something to do with the way a Microsoft Account syncs with Windows.  We’ve never seen it in a Windows 10 computer joined to a domain, even if the computer is also linked to a Microsoft account.

As above, reinstalling your malware protection can help for some computers, but we’ve seen it with Norton, Kaspersky and Avast so it’s not related to a specific package.

Other sources of information

By |2017-01-25T11:35:19+00:00April 29th, 2016|In Business|

Round up of anti malware software reviews December 2015

Protecting your computer with good anti malware software is very important as malware today is extremely sophisticated. Even if you have good backup in place, if you were unlucky enough to be infected with something like CryptoLocker it could encrypt your backup as well as all your files leaving you in a very difficult situation. So install good anti malware software and keep it updated.

In the past anti malware software tended to slow your computer down and whilst that is still true, most modern PCs can easily accommodate the demands of protection software. In the past some free anti malware software was very good but there is now a gap between free software and paid-for versions. Unfortunately both Avast and AVG free aren’t as good as they once were so if you have either of those packages installed it would be worth changing to something else.

Computer Shopper recently reviewed all the major software and the overall winner was Kaspersky Total Security 2016, achieving perfect detection rates. A 30 day free trial of Kaspersky can be downloaded here. Both Norton Security and ESET put in good performances too. At the other end of the scale, the once excellent BullGuard performed badly as did AVG and Avast. McAfee has been very poor in tests for the last couple of years, but we are pleased to see it improving, not least because it comes bundled with so many Windows PCs by default. Windows 10 also includes Windows Defender which wasn’t tested but will also protect your PC from Malware if you don’t load alternative anti malware software.

Macs aren’t immune to infections and whilst it still isn’t such a big risk right now, it’s getting steadily worse. Intego has been providing high-quality Mac protection for many years and remains a very capable product. It came top in a recent macworld review with ESET performing well too.

On the subject of cost, even if you’re not changing anti malware software it’s often cheaper to buy a brand new boxed version of software and not upgrade through your existing package. Take a look an Amazon’s prices in the first instance. Many vendors charge a higher price on their website than is available from independent resellers.

Shortlands Computing is independent of all hardware and software providers, so you can be confident we’ll always recommend what’s best for you, not what’s best for us!

By |2017-01-25T11:35:19+00:00December 3rd, 2015|Security|

Office 365

One of the most important technology decisions businesses make is to select a system for emails. And right now, growth in Microsoft’s Office 365 service seems unstoppable. If you are a small or medium size business, that is likely to affect you even if you do nothing. The time is right to review your email system.

Whether you are using email connected to your website, have an ageing in-house email server or rent business class email you should take a serious look at Office 365. For a small business Office 365 provides a business class service that syncs mail, calendars and contacts. Moreover, it bundles the latest versions of Office (i.e. Word, Excel, PowerPoint and Outlook) for your PCs as well. Five copies in fact.

Historically, Microsoft has dominated enterprise IT and consequently email accounts on Microsoft’s Exchange servers were regarded as the standard business email service. However only large businesses could justify the costs of hosting it themselves. Small and mid-sized organisations, very sensibly, tended to rent mailboxes on a pay as you go basis from companies running exchange servers for many organisations. However with the growth of Office 365, it’s hard to see how these independent hosts of Exchange servers can really compete with Office 365. We expect they will see a decline in revenue in the next few years, with a corresponding drop in investment and that will inevitably lead to poorer service for some users.

Office 365 isn’t the only product out there and competitors like Google Apps offer a range of powerful features too. But where Microsoft has the edge is that small and medium sized businesses are used to having Word, Excel and PowerPoint software on their desktop and even with Google’s cost advantage, it’s a big culture shift to move your working environment completely into the cloud. So what appears to be a cost saving very quickly can become more expensive through higher training and support costs, at least in the short term.

In the interests of balance, Office 365 biggest weakness remains it’s file sharing. OneDrive still doesn’t cut it against services like Dropbox or Google Drive. OneDrive does have the capability to allow documents to be edited by more than one person at the same time, potentially a big advantage in some situations, and possibly a source of confusion in others. But compared to Dropbox, OneDrive remains cumbersome and confusing. However businesses tend to work around that by combining Office 365 with products like Dropbox.

Shortlands Computing is an independent consultancy and will consider carefully our customers current business processes, plans for the future, technology skill and willingness to change when suggesting any new systems. But right now we are seeing fewer and fewer situations for a small business where Office 365 doesn’t come out on top.

By |2017-01-25T11:35:19+00:00November 17th, 2015|In Business, Productivity|

Anti Virus Reviews Jan 2015

Protecting your computer with good anti-virus software is very important as malware today is extremely sophisticated. Even if you have good backup in place, if you were unlucky enough to be infected with something like CryptoLocker it could encrypt your backup as well as all your files leaving you in a very difficult situation. So install good anti-malware software and keep it updated.

In the past anti-malware software tended to slow your computer down and whilst that is still true a bit, all modern PCs can easily accommodate the demands of protection software. Some free anti-virus software is good but there is now a gap between free software and paid-for versions. Unfortunately AVG free isn’t as good as it once was so if you have that installed it would be worth changing to something else.

Both PC Pro and Computer Shopper recently reviewed all the major software and the overall winners were Norton Internet Security 2015 and Kaspersky Internet Security 2015, achieving top detection rates. ESET put in a good performance too. At the other end of the scale, the once excellent Bitdefender performed badly as did AVG, Microsoft and McAfee

Avast Free was the best free product, with its detection ability putting it in 4th place just behind Norton, Kaspersky and ESET. Avast is also lightweight so it won’t slow your computer down as much as some other software.

Macs aren’t immune to infections and whilst it still isn’t such a big risk right now, it’s getting steadily worse. Intego has been providing high-quality Mac protection for many years and still remains the most capable product. Sophos, Avast and Bitdefender all perform well too.

On the subject of cost, even if you’re not changing anti-virus provider it’s often cheaper to buy a brand new boxed version of software and not upgrade through your existing package. Take a look an Amazon’s prices in the first instance. Many vendors charge a higher price on their website than is available from independent resellers.

Shortlands Computing is independent of all hardware and software providers, so you can be confident we’ll always recommend what’s best for you, not what’s best for us!

By |2017-01-25T11:41:25+00:00January 20th, 2015|In Business, Security|

Computers for University

It’s nearly back to university time (or starting university time!) and we sometimes get asked to recommend computers for University students. The good news is that most computers today are more than capable for what students need.  There are also lots of great-value options too. So choice often comes down to style and budget. What’s most important to pick something small and light as you’ll want to be able to easily take it to and from lectures.

You may also be wondering whether to use Windows or an Apple Mac. We blogged about the Windows vs. Apple debate a while ago and here’s a link to some advantages and disadvantages to help you decide. You may also have heard of Chrome books as these are increasingly making their mark in schools and colleges and more on those below.

One important consideration for students is the office software you will want to use (i.e. word processing, spreadsheets and presentations). You will need to buy this separately from your university computer and Microsoft Office running on a Windows PC is still the most capable suite for creating reports, assignments and presentations. Perhaps surprisingly, Microsoft Office on a PC is noticeably better than Microsoft Office on a Mac. Microsoft offers a four-year university subscription to the full Office suite and 1Tb online storage for 2 computers for a mere £59.99 and details can be found here.

Computer Shopper’s Oct 2016 edition reviewed laptops and the recommended low cost model is the Acer Aspire One Cloudbook 14.

Dell’s XPS 13 is a great, light Windows laptop with a robust design and plenty of performance.  It’s had good reviews since it launch a year or so ago.  Similarly the larger Dell XPS 15 is a very good laptop too

Google also offers some very capable and exceptionally good-value Chrome books with prices starting from under £200. You will need to be comfortable with Google’s approach to working online – it is possible to get access to files offline but it works best when you are connected to the internet most of the time. However, these days with Wi-Fi everywhere and phone tethering that’s not too much of a problem. Google’s feature-rich office suite using Google Drive costs a mere $1.99 a month for 100 GB storage. It’s not quite as good as Microsoft’s offering but is more than capable for most people. All Chrome books run Google’s operating system, not Windows or Apple so you can’t load software but they all include online office software, access to social sites, email and web browsing. They will start in seconds and all your data is stored on the cloud so is safe and automatically backed up. Here are a couple of links to a Google video and some recent reviews of Chrome books:

Laptop Ninja – Finding the best chromebooks

If your budget can stretch, take a look at the Surface Pro. Getting the bad news out if the way up front, it’s expensive at £749 for the 128Gb model (which is the minimum we’d recommend). Top end models go up to an eye-watering £2200. However, Surface Pro’s are exceptionally light and portable being a mix between a tablet and laptop. Importantly they run the full version of Windows 10, so you can load Microsoft’s Office suite and any other Windows software you want In addition to the portable keyboard, you can also connect a second display and a full-size mouse/keyboard. So you can use it like a tablet when that suits and at other times plug-in a keyboard, second display and have a fully- functional Windows 8 system. Pricy, but it gets great reviews and is very flexible.

Last but not least there is Apple’s Macbook Air. No compromise on the classy design and build. And Apple’s OS X is also hard to beat for the “it just works” factor. And it will link seamlessly with an iPhone. Microsoft’s Office software, whilst not as good as on a Windows PC, is good enough. So what’s the catch? Well, it’s just price. The cheapest starts at £749 and for a top-end model expect to pay £999. University pricing will reduce these prices a little so make sure you select that at check-out. We’d also recommend you extend the warranty to 3 years as there are some great deals for students on AppleCare protection.

Finally, it’s vital you back up your files as computers to break, get dropped or have coffee split on them!  If you purchase the University version of Office 365 then OneDrive is included so put all your files there and they will be safe should something happen to your computer.  Other similar options include Dropbox or Google Drive.

By |2017-01-25T11:35:19+00:00August 14th, 2014|In Business|

Cloud File sharing

With the range of cloud file sharing and backup services available today, backing up your files, photos and other important data is easier than ever. It’s also more important than ever with malware around that can completely encrypt all your data! Not to mention the other more traditional ways you can lose your precious information such as liquid spills, dropping your laptop, fire or a leak.

We last blogged about cloud file sharing in January 2012 and the most significant change since then has been a dramatic fall in prices. Google Drive remains an excellent file sharing and backup tool and the prices are fantastic. For $2 per month they give 100Gb of storage and for $9.99 per month, 1Tb. That’s huge! And Google Drive now works really well on all platforms including Apple Macs. Google Drive’s web application is extremely powerful too and allows you to view and edit files online.

Similarly, Microsoft’s OneDrive is excellent value particularly with an Office 365 subscription. If you have a Windows 8 computer, OneDrive is hard to beat. Like Google, Microsoft has a powerful web platform and has recently launched its familiar Word and Excel office software as apps for iOS so files can be edited from mobile devices.

Other products that remain very capable are Dropbox, LiveDrive, SugarSync and Carbonite. Dropbox is rock-solid across all platforms and Carbonite remains one to the most straightforward backup tools for both businesses and people at home.

If you are a business looking to set-up cloud file sharing, Shortlands Computing can offer expert, platform independent advice. All cloud sharing services cope badly when two people edit the same file at once and create multiple versions or conflicted copies. Local file servers deal with this seamlessly and Shortlands Computing are highly skilled at combining a cloud sync service with more traditional local file servers in a way that gives you the best of both worlds.

If you want advice on file sharing or backups, Shortlands Computing will give you the peace of mind that your files are protected in the most cost-effective and efficient way for you.

By |2017-01-25T11:35:19+00:00July 11th, 2014|Backup, In Business|