3 common computer problems & how to fix them yourself

“Have you tried turning it off and on again?”
The IT Crowd

It’s become a catchphrase because it’s effective and really works. And while that solution can solve a lot of issues, there are other things you can try to when your computer is acting up.

Here are 3 common computer problems and some simple steps you can take to troubleshoot them yourself without having to call in the IT support cavalry.

Your computer is running slow

Computers need rest, just like us. If you leave your computer on for long stretches at a time, your computer can begin to feel sluggish.

Here are some things you can try when a slow computer has got you down:

  • Close unneeded programs and tabs: Whatever your workflow, it’s easy for extra windows, open files, and internet browser tabs to pile up. Each of these is eating up system resources whether you’re actively using them or not. Close what you don’t need and see if that improves performance.
  • Open Task Manager or Activity Monitor: Sometimes background process hang around or become bloated. In order to really see what’s going on, use the Windows Task Manager or Mac OS X Activity Monitor. They provide easy to read diagnostics that show how much of your system’s resources each process is using. From there you can see what program needs your attention and force quite programs that are frozen or not being used.

If you’re running into this problem a lot, it could be time for a more thorough, professional evaluation.

Difficulty connecting to the internet

As more of our work moves to the cloud, slow or intermittent internet connections can be maddening when you’re trying to work. It could be the issue is with the connection itself, in which case you’ll need to address that with your internet provider (or try a different coffee shop down the street). But sometimes your computer or location is causing the problem.

Here are some things you can do to try and improve your internet connection.

  • Check your computer: The first step is understanding exactly what is acting slow. Is it your whole connection, or just your browser? Try closing different applications to see if that makes a difference. If you like to listen to an online radio service, it could be hogging all your bandwidth.
  • Check your surroundings: Our lives are increasingly networked, so odds are you have your smartphone nearby and maybe your smartwatch or other accessories too. Wireless frequency bands are surprisingly narrow bands of frequencies and it’s easy for signals to get crossed and performance degrade. Try to adjust your devices so they have sufficient breathing room to send and receive without conflict.
  • Check your network: Is the person next to you having the same problems? Check your hardware and make sure that everything is plugged in and receiving a signal.

Deeper issues such as how your business utilizes its WiFi and data transit may require expert management.

Your document won’t print

We may be more digital than ever, but sometimes we still need paper. All it takes is one temperamental printer to back everything up.

If you’re trying to print and nothing is coming out, here are some things you can try.

  • Check the printer status from your computer: Open the Printers & Scanners menu of System Preferences in OS X or in Windows, open Device Manager, so you can see if there’s a paper jam, an offline printer or something else.
  • Check the physical printer: Maybe it has a paper jam, or is out of paper.
  • Check the size of the document you’re printing: Just like when you download something from the internet, when you send a document to the printer, it has to download the entire file before it can print. If you’re sending a large document that’s full of graphics, it can take your printer longer than you might expect to download the entire document before it starts printing. Really large files can also cause the printer to get overloaded and freeze.
  • Reset the printer connection: In Mac OS X, when you have the Printers & Scanners menu up, Right-Click on the list of devices and select “Reset Printing System”. On Windows 10, you can use the Printing Troubleshooter by typing “Printing Problem” into the system search bar to get started.
  • Turn the printer off and on again: Yes, this technique works on printers too.
  • Update your drivers: Printers don’t often get the same love our computers do in staying up to date, so it’s easy for them or our connection to fall behind. Check your computer’s printer drivers.  In Windows 10, use the Device Manager and find your device. Then right-click and select “Update drivers”. Check for a System update with OS X and if it’s built-in, your system will update automatically.

Increasingly, printers are shared across whole departments and keeping them running well may require reaching out for more help.

Phishing 101: What it is, how it works and how to avoid it

Ever gone fishing? The cybercrime phishing works in a very similar way.

Tech-savvy con artists bait an email hook, send them out into the internet waters, and pull in personal information that can help them gain access to protected systems.

You know what this means, right? That Nigerian prince doesn’t actually need help transferring “much funds” to “American dollars US.” In fact, if you click on that link, you’re the one likely to suffer heavy losses.

It’s better if you don’t respond at all.

Phishing can also include attachments that download malicious code onto your systems. Keylogging software and other information-gathering viruses give malicious coders access to sensitive data like logins and passwords. Just opening the wrong email could put your entire company database at risk.

Understanding the risk

With phishing, hackers have an easy way to attack that can be highly profitable. Consider the fact that the average cost of a successful phishing attempt on a mid-sized business comes with a $1.6 million price tag.

Enterprise businesses are not exempt, even with massive IT departments and increasingly complex security protocols.

Spear phishing, more targeted phishing attempts that mimic other known users, make up 95 percent of all attacks on enterprise businesses. If you received an email from the CEO, you’d probably open it too—even if it turned out it was from a hacker.

Leaving the bait on the hook

Keeping your company safe from phishing attacks starts with something very basic: education.

Give your employees examples of some of the most sophisticated attack scenarios and strategies to avoid them. For example, if you get an email from “Google” asking you to log in, never use an embedded link. Always load websites using the actual URL, not hyperlinks provided via email. This avoids the risk of spoofed pages designed to capture login credentials.

Ignoring attachments also helps eliminate the risk of ransomware downloads.

In addition to educating your workforce about the most common lines of attack, you can also institute some company-wide defense strategies and tools.

Better passwords using management software

Encouraging your employees to use strong passwords is helpful. But the longer and more complex the password, the more likely users are to write them down, send them to an accessible email box, or otherwise immediately undo their increased security.

Password management software can take care of the problem by automatically filling in software and password information on recognized sites. When the password manager doesn’t recognize the site, it’s a warning sign to employees about a possible spoofed site.

Social media monitoring

Email phishing is still the most common form of phishing, but social media platforms also offer an avenue of attack.

Using fake accounts, hackers can approach your employees through less guarded communications like social media. Monitoring what happens on corporate social accounts and teaching your workers about the risks of corporate espionage through social contact can go a long way toward minimizing your risks.

Partnering with a cybersecurity expert

Small businesses rarely have the budget to support an in-house IT department, and even when they do, cybercriminals are relentless. The number of cyberattacks creeps up every year, leaving you with some tough choices.

Thankfully, it is possible to get high-level protection against phishing without investing in more top-level salaries. Talk to your managed services provider to see how they can provide the defenses you need against phishing attacks, without the cost that comes with a whole new department.

The cybersecurity employee training checklist

By 2019, it’s estimated that cybercrime will cost more than $2 trillion and affect businesses across the world. The numbers indicate how serious this issue is. However, what many business owners don’t realize is what their biggest risk actually is.

Their employees.

Effective cybersecurity employee training is an essential step when it comes to protecting your company. After all, a secure business is a protective one.

Creating, planning and executing cybersecurity training can seem daunting; however, with the tips here, it doesn’t have to be.

What employees need to know to protect your data

While cybersecurity employee training is imperative. And the foundation for network security training is simple. You need to make sure your employees fully understand their role in this.

Some of the things employees should know in include:

  • They have a responsibility to protect company data.
  • Proper document management practices need to be used, along with notification procedures.
  • Passwords need to be strong and secure, so they are not easy to guess.
  • Ensure employees understand that they are not allowed to install unlicensed software on any of the company’s devices.
  • Internet use needs to be restricted to sites that are known to be safe.

How to ensure your employees receive proper cybersecurity training

You almost certainly have anti-virus software, intrusion prevention systems and a strong firewall to protect your network. And even with all of that, isn’t possible to block every single threat out there.

As a result, you have to be able to rely on your employees to keep the network safe.

After all, these are the individuals who are on the front lines. They’re determining whether or not they should download that mysterious email attachment, or click on that oh-so-tempting pop-up ad. One of the best ways to ensure they make the right decision is with quality, cybersecurity employee training.

Provide ongoing cybersecurity training

Cybercriminals and hackers are always looking for new and innovative ways to “trick” even the most experienced users into downloading malware or responding to a malicious email. If you want to ensure your workers don’t fall for these tricks, it’s essential to let them know these threats exist.

Not only do you need initial training when you first hire a new employee, but also ongoing training to ensure that your network is protected from the latest threats out there.

There are some businesses that even send out daily security tips via email to their workforce. Not only is this beneficial in keeping everyone informed, but it helps to keep cybersecurity top of mind.

Make security something personal

When you have employees who aren’t directly involved in your company’s technology efforts, then network security may seem like a foreign concept. However, most of your employees have purchased something from their home computer with a credit card.

You can use this very practical, relatable example to help make your business’s security more personal for your employees. They’re likely careful with their credit card number. They need to be careful with company data, too.

Help them understand that their information is best protected when they follow certain security policies that have been designed to keep the network safe.

Be accessible to employees

Part of cybersecurity training for your employees should include letting them know who to turn to if they experience any type of network security incident, or if there are any questions about cybersecurity. If you don’t have an IT support team on-site, be sure your employees know how to get support and help from your service provider.

Keeping your data safe

If you want to ensure your small business’s network is secure, it starts with proper cybersecurity employee training. Be sure to play your part. Protecting your company’s sensitive information is serious business.

If you need additional help with your cybersecurity employee training, consider reaching out to a security expert. Most managed services providers can help you achieve an optimal level of security and protection.