Welcome

Advotech offer reasonable hourly and flat fee rates for onsite computer and network support services or low cost contracted services and remote support. We strive to serve as Dallas/Fort Worth's one stop Information Technology support service. Advotech provides a superior service commitment, exceptional value, and the best trained technicians to care for your computer and network support needs.

Normal Hours of Operation for On-Site Services:
10:00am - 6:00pm M-F
10:00am - 2:00pm Sat

Some services are available 24/7/365 at normal rates. After hours, or emergency on site service calls are handled at higher rates. A voice message, web based form, or email stating an emergency will get a call back within 30 minutes.

So your computer is slower these days...

Aside from SpyWare and Virus problems (surfing safely), the most common slow PC complaint is due to the way files are written to the hard disk. Essentially, files are written wherever the hard disk head can find the nearest open space. This doesn't mean that that space will be big enough for the file to be written, so what happens is that most files end up scattered across your hard disk. Loading a single file that is in pieces all over your hard disk takes allot more time than if it were in adjacent spaces on the disk. In Microsoft Windows XP, you can "defragment" the files on your hard disk using a provided tool. This will speed up file reading operations and substantially improve your system performance. Advotech recommends that you defragment your disks weekly. The following instructions will help you: To open Disk Defragmenter, click Start, point to All Programs, point to Accessories, point to System Tools, and then click Disk Defragmenter.

Surfing Safely

Surfing the Internet is a necessary part of life these days. You can find just about anything you want online, but it's not all a bed of roses. Between malicious web sites, spam email, and probing hackers, your browsing habits and practices can get you into trouble. Here are some simple tips to avoid problems:

  • Get the tools you need to make surfing safer.
  • Advotech recommends Microsoft Security Essentials. Their security package is as good as any security package currenty for sale and it is free.
  • Don't trust email you aren't expecting. Look closely at the sender and subject, if they don't match what you know about them, then it might not be from them.
  • Protect your personal information. Never pass your sensitive information via email, or provide it to an untrusted web site.
REAL Power

Real power is very exciting to most people, but real power doesn't come from the wall sockets in your home unless you have a real thunderstorm. When that happens, delicate computer systems and related hardware can receive harmful excessive current that turns your $1,000 desktop into a nice door stop. It's very easy to avoid this by using surge suppressors to keep your systems form harm. Don't forget about telephone and cable outlets, they can pass lightning strikes to your equipment just as easily. The best recommendation is to unplug any equipment during a thunderstorm. http://www.theiowachannel.com/weather/3618811/detail.html tells you how more than just your computer may be at risk.

So you want a wireless network...

Wireless networking holds the promise to free your broadband connection to any computer in your home or business, but is not without risk. What is a wireless network? Today's most common commercially available wireless networks are networks that use radio signals to communicate instead of phone, power, or network cabling.

Wireless networks, by their nature, are open to accept connections from other wireless devices. This means anyone with a cheap wireless network card can hop on your network and and do their worst if security is not enabled. Almost every wireless network product vendor ships their products without security enabled by default. That's the first problem with wireless networks, but also fairly easy to correct.

Every wireless device in the market supports WEP, but with a 64 or 128 bit single shared key security method, WEP doesn't provide much security for those that have more robust security needs. It is, however, adequate protection for a home to use in order to restrict access to their network. It can be simply augmented by restricting connections to approved wireless MAC (Media Access Control) addresses only.

For those that need better security, WPA provides 256 bit encryption using either TKIP (Temporal Key Integrity Protocol) or AES (Advanced Encryption Standard) (under pre-WPA2 standards) algorithms that use multiple rotating keys to prevent replay attacks. This security can also be enhanced by performing user access validation prior to connections being allowed. It is suitable for most business purposes.

Finally, on the security front, every one of these wireless networks broadcasts its name or SSID (Service Set IDentifier) to the world by default. This name acts as a primary key before any other access authentication can take place. Any device that doesn't know your SSID cannot access your network. The SSID broadcasts that tell devices your SSID can be turned off, so that only someone that knows your network's SSID, or has captured and analyzed a logon will be able to access it.

Another problem wireless networks have is that they are prone to interference from both natural and man made sources. All of these standards operate in the free 2.4Ghz range, which is essentially the home of a whole lot of man made equipment from cellular phones and cordless home phones, to microwave ovens. These devices can and do interfere with the operation of wireless networks (usually temporarily), so if your communication needs are critical every moment, forget about a wireless network. Otherwise, expect the occasional outage, but be sure to enable some form of security.

The last problem with wireless networks is range. If you have a very large home, or business building, you may need multiple access points using WDS (Wireless Distribution Standard) to bridge them with the main broadband sharing access point. Alternatively, you could try using higher gain antennas available at your local CompUSA to boost range. Keep in mind that any solution that boosts signal strength like high gain antennas and amplifiers also tends to violate FCC rules about the impact of high power unregistered devices on a free frequency range.

In summary: Use one vendor's equipment for maximum compatibility, enable at least WEP security, plan for occasional outages, and extend range with multiple access points. If this still sounds like more trouble than it's worth, then maybe a PowerLine or HPNA (Home Phoneline Networking Alliance) based network might be more to your taste.

Simple Identity Theft Prevention

How many of you bank, shop, or transact other business online? There are at least 4 million Department pf Defense employees that access their pay records online only. Even offline, stored financial data can be placed at risk in computers that are used on the Internet as well. As one of the fastest growing crimes in America, identity theft is a concern for everyone. A criminal gaining access to your bank or credit card accounts or personal information can wreak havoc with your credit and leave you holding the bag. Protecting your personal data at home and online is not too painful and lowering your risk for a reasonable effort level is well worth it.

Before we tackle the computer and online environment, let's take a quick look at your other home risks. Your garbage can and mail box are prime targets for identity thieves. Bills, old checks, financial statements, credit offers, the list goes on. All of these documents need to be shredded with a crosscut shredder before discarding and mail should never be left in the mail box for long. Arrange for someone to pickup mail if you are going to gone from your home for more than a day. In short, anything with your full name combined with any other sensitive information should be shredded before discarding. Phishing and social engineering are methods to get you to divulge your data to a criminal by making you believe the criminal represents an organization or interest with access or rights to your information. Any phone call you receive from someone requesting your personal information or credit card numbers should be suspect. Request a way to call them back via the organization's published numbers and verify the number is associated with the organization before proceeding. Suspect good deals that come to you out of the blue via the telephone or any other method. If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.

Now for your computer, there are a few things you should do here. Your online activities pose the greatest risk. You need a hardware, or good software firewall. You need good Anti-Virus and Anti-Spyware software. The software versions will need regular updates to keep ahead of the hackers out there. You also need to take some precautions with your own personal online and offline habits. Online, you should use different, complex passwords for each identity related account you access. You should set your browser security settings as high as possible for general surfing and avoid clicking advertising links from unknown vendors, or links in emails that come from unknown senders or are out of character for the known sender. Never follow links sent via email purporting to be from your creditors or financial institutions asking you to validate your account information. Call them instead, if you believe it is valid. Most financial or credit organizations will never send you an email unless you have asked to receive account updates. The last thing you need to be aware of online is who you are doing business with. Be careful about providing your credit card numbers online. While ensuring the site is secure is absolutely the bare minimum, ensuring the vendor is honest and keeps your data secure is necessary too.

Offline, you should secure any financial, health, insurance, or other documents containing your personal information by using encryption and password protection. Most financial software packages have this feature built in. Use it as well as Windows encrypted folders to make your private data secure from undetected Spyware, or short term physical access to your computer by a criminal. Don't use Windows auto-logon features and always use complex passwords that are at least eight characters long, contain numbers, letters, and both upper and lower case. Never use a common word, name, or other easily guessed password. Something like T8$f~lly can be easy to remember, though very hard to guess and extremely time consuming to hack. Finally, change all of your passwords frequently and use a secure password manager to keep them organized.

The last thing you need to do is monitor your accounts and credit. Keep on eye on your financial account activities and your credit record. If you notice something amiss, call the financial organization or credit reporting agency and report it, change your passwords and pat yourself on the back for catching it early.

Let's Talk Open Source

Some folk are just plain tired of paying Microsoft styled prices for software or have been so confused about pricing and licensing options that they have either purchased the wrong software or licensing options for their systems. This can cause several issues:

  • You cannot perform the task you desired.
  • You paid too much money.
  • You have violated your licensing agreement.

Until very recently, there has not been desktop office or operating system software that can allow you to dispose of Microsoft based solutions entirely. Many have touted open source (free software) solutions for years. As an interesting technology trend for programmers and schools, it worked. As a viable alternative for today's highly inter-connected businesses, open source software had been less than ideal.

 

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