This week let’s discuss the top 5 IT tasks to focus on this new year.  We will go into each one in more detail and link to some of our previous blogs to help you make plans and set goals for your IT for 2022.  Let’s look at the top 5 tasks first:

  • Security
  • Work From Home Hybrid Setups
  • Cloud services
  • Microsoft 365 licensing Changes
  • Forward Planning for Hardware Requirements
  1. Security

No matter the time of year security should be the top of your priority list when considering your IT setup.  However, let’s make 2022 the year we all take a proactive step to cyber security rather than a reactive step when a cyber attack happens.  MJD can help you on your proactive security process through getting Cyber Security accreditation and advising solutions that are suitable for your circumstances.  You can read our blog on Cyber Security accreditation here and all our other security related blogs are tagged so you can easily filter and read more on particular topics.

  1. Work from Home Hybrid Setups

As the global pandemic is still with us and affecting the way we live our lives and how we work, we would always recommend considering your office setup.  Do you have the capability to allow employees to securely and productively continue to work from home if required.  Also, don’t just consider this for the pandemic, think beyond the pandemic and the flexibility that this can give your company and your work force, that for whatever reason they can’t work in the office they can continue to work and allow your business to function.  From an office fire or flood which leaves you without a workspace to snow stopping employees travelling to the office, if you have the capabilities and technology in place, business can continue.  We have a blog here on our essential WFH equipment and a blog on the considerations of the WFH environment and your business security here.

  1. Cloud Services

This area ties in nicely with the previous area, but should be given it’s own importance and time to be considered as this can benefit the business not just for the WFH benefits.  As more and more of the software we use daily offers cloud based options it is important that we make ourselves aware of these if the options are available to us.  Cloud based services can give us the flexibility to work from anywhere and reduce the capital costs required with servers and the maintenance of this equipment.  Most cloud services are monthly based subscriptions so allow you to budget for a fixed cost each month and not have to guestimate your maintenance budget on servers and any parts that may be required further down the line for them.  We wrote a blog on what is the cloud which you can read here.

  1. Microsoft 365 Licensing Changes

This year Microsoft are making some changes to the way in which they offer their 365 licensing.  These changes will see a shift from monthly licensing charges to annual commitments and we would urge you to speak with your Microsoft 365 provider to plan and discuss the impact this may have on your business in the coming year.  We will be in touch with all our clients to discuss these changes.

  1. Forward Planning for IT Hardware Requirements

Unfortunately, the worldwide chip shortage is going nowhere anytime soon, so we still need to consider our IT hardware requirements as far in advance as possible.  We are still seeing shortages of equipment with no forecast dates of arrival of the stock to our suppliers from the manufacturers, so the more time you can give your IT service provider to get the hardware the more chance of success you will have.  You can read our blog on the chip shortage here.

If you would like to discuss any of these IT areas and would like help to plan your IT for 2022 please don’t hesitate to get in touch with the team here at MJD, and let’s make 2022 the year your IT works for YOU!

 

How often when faced with an IT issue do you get asked if you have tried switching it on and off again?  Probably enough that you may even try it yourself before contacting your IT support now?  Maybe even enough that it annoys you that you get asked to try something so simple?  Today we want to explain why we ask this question so often and what the benefits are of a restart of your device.

Regularly rebooting your computer, at least once a week can be beneficial!  It can be tempting to leave your PC on and just log off every night or put it to sleep, thinking you are saving time on the startup.  However, this can reduce the machines efficiency and actually slow you down!  There are a few processes that happen during a reboot or shut down that benefit your PC.

We explained RAMs purpose in an earlier blog, a reboot will allow the RAM to be flushed.  What this means is that all the tasks that are running and using the RAM are stopped and cleared.  When you log on next after the reboot your RAM is clear and ready to go again!  Also when we close a programme it sometimes doesn’t close properly and continues to use some RAM even though it’s closed!  Cheeky we know, but this is called a memory leak, again the reboot is like a reset for the RAM clearing it of these memory leaks.

A reboot will also reset software in the same way it resets the RAM, so if you experience issues with something not working like usual within a programme.  To explain why this works, we need to understand what happens when these issues occur within software.  When these issues happen, what is occurring is the software code has reached a point where it doesn’t know how to resolve the issue it has faced.  The coding doesn’t have an answer for the sequence of events you have just performed.  Therefore, when you reboot the PC the coding for the software is reset back to the start and you can try again, without it being stuck at that point it couldn’t recover from and hopefully not end up at the same stuck point.

Let’s apply this into your working week, if you spend 15 minutes of your working days waiting on slow processes or waiting for programmes to respond and open, this is over an hour each week where you aren’t getting anything productive done on your device.  Compare this with, shutting down your PC once a week minimum, so this is done at night rather than logging off, this takes the same time and same number of clicks.  Then in the morning, you switch your PC on and while it boots up you maybe make your morning cup of tea or coffee before starting the day.  A task you would have done anyway and therefore no working time is lost.  But you have potentially gained over an hour back in a more responsive device to work on!

Hopefully this has helped to explain the benefits of rebooting a device and why it is such an important tool in your IT departments toolbox to help resolve issues you may be faced quicker than it might take to track down that exact issue that may never happen again after the software and device has been reset.  If you have any questions on anything in this blog please don’t hesitate to get in touch with the team here at MJD and let’s make IT work for YOU and give it a helping hand with a weekly reboot!

This week we look at another piece of hardware which sometimes is part of the build on your PC or laptop.  The graphics card is the piece of hardware responsible for producing the image which is displayed on your monitor or screen.  It translates the data into a form which your monitor can understand to display the correct image for you.  The better the graphics card the higher quality the image produced.

There are two types of graphics card: integrated and discrete.  Integrated graphics cards are built into your motherboard and this is found on most standard PC and laptop specs.  As it’s inbuilt they cannot be easily upgraded.  Discrete graphics cards are pieces of hardware which can be installed at a later date as an extra component.  This makes them ideal for upgrading at a later date.  The average user who browses the internet and carries out office work, the onboard graphics will be sufficient.  If you intend to carry out gaming or video editing, a discrete graphics card is recommended.

When reading about graphics cards previously you may have heard of GPU, this stands for Graphics Processing Unit.  Much like the CPU, this is the brain of the graphics card.  It acts as the translator turning the signals into a recognisable format for your monitor.  Sometimes a graphics card is needed to allow your PC to display dual screens through the outputs offered on a graphics card.

Modern graphics cards also have their own dedicated RAM onboard, which is the same as the RAM in your PC, however, is just for the use of the graphics card to process the data it is being given to send to the display. If you have any questions or are interested in installing a graphics card to your device please don’t hesitate to get in touch with the team here at MJD.

As restrictions are easing and we are moving into a new phase of living with the COVID-19 pandemic, we are seeing a trend develop for a hybrid working pattern and home working is here to stay.  That’s why this week we wanted to highlight the essential pieces of equipment that we would recommend to make your work from home setup more efficient and make your IT work for YOU.

  1. Docking Station

The most useful piece of kit you could have in your work from home and your office setup is a universal docking station.  We recommend and use the Terra 731 Docking Station, which means that all you have to do is connect a USB cable to your laptop and you can be connected to your monitors, speakers, internet, keyboard and mouse as quickly as you can connect the cable!  This can make the transition between office to your home desk feel effortless and you won’t even think about it.  This means you and your employees can concentrate on getting down to work and not having to setup your desk and work station each time you move between the two setups.

  1. Height adjustable monitors/Monitor Stands

                           

It is important to make sure that you now consider your work from home setup as a permenant fixture and therefore, are your monitors at the correct height for ensuring you have good posture?  If you have two monitors are they both at the same height?  If not, it would be worth considering new height adjustable, or if these monitors are still in good working order a monitor stand which would allow you to properly adjust the height of the monitor screen.  Terra have a range of monitors so please get in touch with your specific requirements for a bespoke recommendation.

  1. Microsoft 365

By using Microsoft 365 for your whole business setup or as a hybrid solution, this can help you to move seamlessly from office to home by having access to your files in the 365 cloud.  This also gives you access to use Teams to help manage your business remotely and to collaborate and stay in touch even while you are all in different locations.  If you have any questions or want to maximise the use of your 365 licenses, just get in touch with the MJD team and we’d be more than happy to help.

  1. Laptop

     

A laptop goes without saying, due to its portability will allow you to take it between the office and your home office with ease and combined with a docking station at both desks will allow you to always have everything you need at all times.

  1. Headset

If you are not the only one in your house then to ensure privacy and that your clients and colleagues can hear you clearly in video calls a headset is a must and not an expensive part of your kit.

  1. Security Software

This is a rather vague heading, but by this we want to encompass not just anti-virus & anti-malware but also security monitoring services which constantly monitor for suspicious activity on your devices which could be a result of malware or a ransomware attack plus remote management software for mobile devices to allow you to wipe them and protect your data if they are lost.  This is the most important part of your hybrid setup and why we left it to last to ensure it’s the one that sticks with you.  Portable devices are more likely to get lost, be left behind and be outwith your nice secure office network and therefore need protection from the environments they find themselves in.  Get in touch with our Cyber Security Specialist here at MJD to discuss your security software requirements and how to best manage your portable devices.

 

Over the past year we’ve probably all had to deal with one of these three connections to get a monitor setup in our home office but ever wondered what the difference is between each one?  Lets dive right in and explain.

Let’s start with the abbreviations:

VGA = Video Graphics Array

DVI = Digital Visual Interface

HDMI = High Definition Multimedia Interface

VGA is the oldest connection out of these three, it was first developed by IBM in 1987 and it allows for the display of 356 colours on monitors. DVI was designed by Digital Display Working Group in 1999 with the aim of replacing VGA to allow monitors to display a true-colour palette.  HDMI first began development in 2002 by few different companies and made the previous two connections obsolete.  It allows for the transmission of high-definition audio/video, along with 8-channel audio transmission.

VGA being the oldest technology is slowly being phased out of new devices and when converting VGA to newer technology through adapters it can result in lower quality video as the signal goes from analogue to digital.  VGA also can only provide a maximum of 640 x 480 resolution whereas DVI can go up to 1920 x 1200 for single link and 2560 x 1600 for dual-link connections.  However, HDMI is now the most preferred connection as it can transmit both sound and video and can support 4k.

If you have any questions on your connections to your monitors in your work place or home office setup please don’t hesitate to get in touch with the team here at MJD.

This week we are going to demystify what an Operating System is.  The term is sometimes shortened to OS as well.  Our mobile phones, laptops, PCs and servers all have operating systems to be able to run the applications and carry out the tasks we require of them on a day to day basis.

So, what is an operating system?  It is the primary software installed on a device that manages and coordinates the hardware and software installed on the device.  It provides us as the user with an easier way to interact with the device.  It manages all devices which provide input to the device and sends information to output devices.  It does this with software called drivers which are written by the hardware creators to allow it to communicate with other devices.  Common examples of Operating System are Windows, Mac OS X, Linux, Android, iOS.

To explain how this works, lets run through an example of a task many of us carry out on a frequent basis: printing a document in Microsoft Word on a Windows machine.

 

This means that your software programmes do not have to worry about all the different input and output devices that might be used, it just passes the instruction to the Operating System to deal with it.  Without an Operating System you could not run many of the programmes you use day to day as they would not be able to communicate with the hardware connected to your device.  It is a very important piece of software in our IT setup that often gets overlooked, but not today in our blog!

 

The shortage of computer chips was an initial effect of lockdowns and factory shutdowns because of COVID-19 last year, and production is now back to normal.  However, the way in which we use IT and the fundamental way we all now work has changed and looks likely to stay in some form in our future.  The increase in demand for laptops and devices to help us work from home has therefore increased the number of chips required to produce these products and currently demand is higher than the supply.

What we are seeing here at MJD is common IT networking components are going out of stock and the incoming stock’s lead time is much longer than what we would usually have seen.  To the point where the lead times can be a couple of months.

What does this mean for you?  The more advance warning of IT requirements that you can give us the better chance we have of successfully achieving the desired outcome ready for when you need it.  Because our usual options may be low stock or a long lead time it will mean we need to review and work with the stock available to ensure that we can still provide you with a fit for purpose and effective IT solution.  It also means that IT components which need chips will increase in price, so again this means it is important to involve us from the beginning of your plans so we can give you current prices to allow you to determine the total cost of the project for budgeting requirements.

You may be thinking, as restrictions ease and we all get setup with the IT hardware we require to work in our “new normal” patterns that this will ease and become okay.  However, the chip industry is advising that this problem could take them a few years to resolve completely due to the time taken to expand through building new factories and getting these tested and qualified for production to begin.  This is why we wanted to warn our clients and to help you understand that any major IT projects you wish to carry out, consider getting in touch with us as early as possible so that we can plan with you and advise any components lead times at that point so we can make your IT work for YOU.