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What Computer Repair Can Be Done Remotely?

Posted & filed under IT Support.

There are many problems with isolation. We don’t want to get you started. We know it’s true, but one issue we can help with is computer repair. Yes, there are problems with your home devices that we can address remotely.

Perhaps before sheltering in place you were willing to make do, or you’re only facing challenges now. You’re working at home, kids are online learning, and you’re sharing the same computer.

You need to remain connected to the world and continue working, but you don’t want someone to come into your house to check your computer, and you’re not keen on going out to wait in line at a computer repair shop. Fortunately, with technology today, it’s much easier for IT experts to resolve computer issues remotely.

Remote Repair of Home Computers

There are many common computer issues that we can help address remotely. We’ll start out by sending you a link to download a tool that gives us remote access and control of your computer. Please know that we value our customers’ privacy. Even with this tool, we’ll still be able to access the computer only when you allow us to.

Now, what can we do once we have eyes on your computer from our remote location? Many things.

If you’re troubled by a slow computer, we can run diagnostics. We’ll find ways to speed up and optimize your computer to get you back in business more efficiently.

Running into software errors? We can take a remote peek and troubleshoot the issues to get you back on track.

The problem might be due to a virus or malicious software. A remote computer expert can identify security risks and remove viruses or spyware.

Perhaps you have to install software for video conference calls or online learning. With remote access, IT experts can install and set up applications, and personalize them to your needs.

Working from home has many of us setting up separate email accounts, because we need to keep personal and professional communication separate. With authorized access, remote tech support can install email and handle problems.

Your home printer may have been up to the job when it was in use intermittently, but it’s struggling to manage the demands of everyone at home at once. Installing printer drivers and some maintenance tasks are doable through remote support.

Then there’s the big one: data recovery. This is the one that makes people panic. “I’ve lost everything!” Our comforting support team can help recover lost files and restore peace of mind.

Get the IT Support You Need

If you need help with your computer, you can submit a request through our support center or give us a call at 763-691-1957. PGP Computers is here to help no matter where you are!

Protecting Shared Computers for Work from Home

Posted & filed under IT Security, Tech Tips.

Many families today have a shared home computer to help with day-to-day activities. A teen can search for a job and stream shows. A parent can check work emails, pay household bills, and shop online. A youngster can play an educational game to buy Mom or Dad a few minutes of peace. Yet with COVID-19 sending so many people home to work, the shared computer is getting a lot more use.

Not every employee was lucky enough to get sent home with a business laptop. Some employers ask you to use your own computer. At the same time, you may also be accommodating kids doing online learning, and those little ones still want to go online and point and click to help Elmo plan a birthday party.

But sharing the computer can now present a security risk. You may have important work documents on the home computer. You could log in to the business network unaware of malware downloaded onto your home device, and, of course, that malicious software isn’t doing your home computer any favors either.

With so many people using the computer, make sure to set up virus protection on your home device. Additionally, you may set security patching and software upgrades to happen automatically. One of your young users could be seeing the message requiring an update and ignoring it. That leaves you unaware the software is vulnerable to bugs or threats.

Protecting Shared Computers

Setting Up Personal Profiles

With everyone sharing the desktop, your work is at risk. You could have downloaded a spreadsheet containing employee personal identification information. That represents a compliance risk if another user inadvertently accesses the document.

Or you could lose hours of work. Someone else might drag that project you’ve been working on to the trash with a school assignment rubric.

Our IT experts can set up different account profiles for each user. Doing this not only helps to secure your work from home, but can also add protection for your kids.

The immediate appeal is personalizing the desktop for the individual user. Your kids can pick their own home screen backdrops and menu bars. You might not need access to TikTok, but your teen is thrilled to have it right there on the desktop. For smaller children, you can make icons and text bigger. Set up narration to give yourself a break from the umpteenth reading of Goodnight Moon.

For parents, security advantages of the profiles include being able to set up the following:

  • Web filtering enables you to set rules to screen incoming Web pages. This can help avoid children seeing explicit content or accessing a malicious site. You might also limit Web browsing to particular sites.
  • App limitations can ban kids from buying and downloading certain apps or making in-app purchases. For older kids you could require parental permission first.
  • You can set up Screentime limits for particular sites (e.g. Netflix or YouTube) or allow young people to access online content only at certain hours of the day.
  • Age restrictions allow you to filter mature content from search results. These also filter what apps, games, and media the young user can view or buy.

Individual profiles also make it easier for parents to track online activity and computer use. We can even set it up for you to receive reports on Web browsing and application use.

Secure your work from home and protect your family of users. Get help setting up the right controls for your home computer needs. Contact PGP Computers today at 763-691-1957 or contact us.

Work From Home: Revisiting Business Etiquette

Posted & filed under News.

Business etiquette for working in an office environment is well established: show up on time, wear pants, put your name on your lunch in the fridge – those kinds of things. But working from home is a new thing for many people and businesses. These tips for business etiquette for remote work support professionalism.

Work from Home Business Etiquette

#1 Watch tone

Making a joke or sarcastic comment to someone via text, online chat, or email is different now. When we’re together in the office setting, we can “read” other cues to determine when someone is being serious or not. Tone won’t always translate effectively without accompanying body language such as facial expressions. You can use smiley emojis or playful gifs where appropriate, but it’s safer to be wary of jokes or comments that rely on tone to work.

#2 Be proactive

There are many ways this applies in the online video conference environment. For one thing, test your microphone before joining the meeting. We’ve reached the point where you should be familiar with the basics of the business online meeting tool. The time has passed for you to begin each meeting with the frustrating, “can you hear me now? Wait, how about now?”

Also, pay attention also to your surroundings. Maybe your “home office” is in the basement laundry room. It’s the only place you can get the peace you need to concentrate! At the same time, you should check your camera view before a meeting. Do you want co-workers or clients seeing your dirty clothes bin or delicates laid out to dry?

#3 Pay attention

Give an online meeting your full attention. In a meeting in the office, you all sat together in a conference room with no other distractions. Now, it’s super-tempting to check your email or Facebook, especially if you’re getting popup notifications while you’re in the meeting. When you “take a peek” at another browser during a meeting you can miss key points.

You’ll also want to silence your mobile phone and put it out of reach. For important meetings, put a note on the door of your home or apartment asking visitors not to knock. After all, you can’t predict when that online order of toilet paper will finally arrive.

#4 Avoid distractions

The above point talked about distractions that might steal your attention. You should also be aware of all the ways you can be distracting to others. A busy, cluttered background on a video chat can be an issue. There are articles out now discussing the books visible on celebrity library backgrounds!

Typing on a keyboard or clicking persistently with a mouse is also distracting. You don’t notice these noises, but they’re easily picked up on a computer microphone. Using a headset will help, you can go old school and use a pen and paper to take your notes during online meetings.

Also, take steps to warn others about your upcoming meetings. Feed kids beforehand if you’re going to set up in the kitchen. That way, all your colleagues don’t have to see teens raiding the pantry over your shoulder. Put animals outside. No matter how cute you think it is to have your furry officemate wrapped around your shoulders for the call.

#5 Dress professionally

We mentioned the well-established “wear pants to work” rule already. This one persists in the home office setting. Search the internet and you’ll find videos of people caught wearing board shorts – or worse – for work calls. You might think your computer camera is only capturing you from the waist up, but what if you have to move?

Working from home allows many of us to live the dream of staying in our PJs all day. Still, you need to look the part for meetings. As an aside, getting dressed for your work from home will also help to put you in a professional frame of mind.

In fact, all these business etiquette ideas help you to switch gears and think work. Working from home can be challenging, as the boundaries between personal and professional blend. Still, prioritize being respectful and attentive during work time to get more done. That means more time available to binge-watch television in your boxer shorts.

Need help setting up remote work technology or troubleshooting online conference tools? Our IT experts can help. Contact PGP Computers today at 763-691-1957 or contact us.

Keep in Touch While Social Distancing

Posted & filed under Networking Solutions, Software.

Quarantine doesn’t have to mean you’re on your own all the time. Sure, back in the days of the plague or pox, people were stuck. But now, we have technology to let us remain connected even while social distancing. Here’s a roundup of top options for fun with family and friends.

You can’t have an actual party at your home right now, but a virtual house party could be fun.

The Houseparty app (houseparty.com) allows up to eight people to connect online in a video chat “room.” There’s no need to call people (like on FaceTime) – you get a notification when friends are online. Plus, you can switch between rooms easily. It’s like wandering from the kitchen into the backyard.

Zoom (zoom.us) is another app that lets you have a virtual get-together. Only the host needs to have a Zoom account, and the other participants follow the link to the video conference. Free meetings are capped at 40 minutes, though, for groups of three or more.

If your friends and family are on Google, you can bring up to 150 of them together in a Google Hangout (hangout.google.com). Long a go-to for international calling, Skype is another video chat option.

Connecting Online during Social Distancing

Social Distancing Chat

Maybe you want to catch up but really don’t need to see each other’s faces. Perhaps you don’t want to have to get dressed!

Take texting up a notch with Slack (slack.com), which can keep clubs and teams together during quarantine. You can easily share files, instant message, share gifs, and also jump on a video call.

Discord (discordapp.com) is another app that combines text chat, voice chat, video chat, and more. A favorite already with gamers, Discord offers helpful templates to get started. People also use this app to live-stream art creation, read stories, play music together, and even host digital conventions.

Nextdoor (nextdoor.com) helps you connect with your neighbors. Did you see a coyote? Want to know when garbage pickup is coming this week? Hosting a virtual garage sale? This is social media specific to your ’hood – and you don’t have to go out of doors to get caught up.

Movies with Friends

Another way to chill together online is by enjoying a movie or binge watching a TV series.

With Watch2Gether (watch2gether.com) you can create a room and invite friends and family to watch YouTube, Vimeo, Dailymotion, and SoundCloud. You could even use this app to replicate the group gym class experience. PopSugar, for instance, offers a wide range of free videos available on YouTube.

If you have a Netflix account and a Google Chrome browser, you can tune in together with Netflix Party (netflixparty.com). The app lets you chat back and forth while viewing. The best thing is that all party members are watching the video in sync. No one ruins that big moment by texting a response a few seconds early!

Other Great Options

Looking for more active virtual fun? With Rave (rave.io) you can host a virtual dance party. You can sync music videos from YouTube, Vimeo, Reddit, Google Drive, Dropbox, and Viki with friends in real-time, or create a playlist of songs, then text and video chat simultaneously.

If you’re wishing you could meet someone new, try Quarantine Together (quarantinetogether.com). This dating app starts out by asking you if you’ve washed your hands today. Then, it will match you with someone else for a text chat. After 20 minutes of texting, you’ll be sent a video chat URL.

Really, there’s no excuse for being a hermit during quarantine – unless you want to be, of course!

If you need help setting your devices up with any of these apps or the video or voice technology, our experts can help – remotely. Contact PGP Computers today at 763-691-1957 or contact us.

Setting Your Scholar Up for Online Learning

Posted & filed under IT Security, Software.

Schools around the world have closed their doors during the COVID-19 crisis, students from kindergarten through graduate school are being asked to learn online. It’s a change for everyone, but having the right technology in place can help with the transition.

Your student may have been using the Microsoft Office suite of software at school. If you don’t have Microsoft Word, Excel, and PowerPoint at home, check if your school is providing licenses or free software.

If not, buying a subscription to the online Microsoft 365 package allows you to pay monthly or yearly, and it’s much more affordable than in the past. One month is about the cost of two café coffees.

Otherwise, your student may be able to get work done using Google’s suite of tools. Teachers may accept links to Google Docs, Sheets, or Slides. These free options are also useful when your student needs to work on a group project. People can collaborate online in real-time using the G-Suite software.

Online Learning

Teleconferencing with Teachers and Peers

Your student is likely to need to download teleconferencing software such as Zoom or Skype. Beware! Cybercriminals take advantage of every opportunity. Noticing the increased demand for these services, they’ve set up bogus sites. Make sure that you are downloading from the legitimate sources: www.skype.com or www.zoom.us.

While we’re talking about teleconferencing, you might pass on these best practices:

  • Use headphones to limit audio distractions.
  • Join calls from a low-traffic setting with simple backgrounds.
  • Ask others at home to avoid downloading, streaming, or backing up while the student is live online.
  • Connect to the router with a network cable, or at least be as close to the wireless router as possible during the call.

Considering Cybersecurity

In addition to setting up fake teleconferencing sites, cybercriminals have other ways to exploit the situation.

Remind any students learning from home that they need to keep their username and password private. This is a lesson that never gets old.

Are you still using Windows 7 on a home computer? This popular operating system (OS) reached the end of its life in January 2020. Yes, it may still work, but it is no longer receiving security updates from Microsoft, and the bad guys know Windows 7 is vulnerable. Continuing to use this OS puts you at risk. Without new upgrades, you’re no longer protected from vulnerabilities or exploits.

You probably already know to avoid using public wireless networks. Although your students can’t go to a coffee shop or public library right now to get online, reminding students to secure their online activity is critical.

This is a good time to review your Wi-Fi setup. Too many homeowners don’t change the default username and password on their routers. Big mistake. You should also:

  • hide your Wi-Fi network from public view
  • set your network up to encrypt transmissions
  • update router software regularly

A Focus on Learning

There’s one more thing parents and guardians might consider. At school, the computers prevent students from going to certain sites or downloading files, but you may not have the same blocking and filtering set up on your home devices. This can be addressed in settings.

If you have to share a computer, set up a student-specific user profile to:

  • prevent your student from getting distracted during learning
  • limit exposure to malware and cyberthreats
  • avoid them accessing any of your work files

You may feel isolated during the coronavirus quarantine, but you’re not alone. Our tech experts can help you set up and secure your technology for work or school from home. Contact PGP Computers today at 763-691-1957 or contact us.