Saturday, October 18, 2008

My take on My Space

Many of my friends and acquaintances have accounts on My Space, or Face Book, or one of the various other social networking sites. I do not like these types of sites nor do I have accounts on any of them, here's why. Personally it doesn't make sense to me that the ultimate way of expressing oneself on your My Space page is by posting everyone else's copyrighted content. These sites post ads to their users' pages and the user has absolutely no control over what ads are there or what they are endorsing. There have been numerous confirmed reports that supposed "private" user profiles and information have been compromised and distributed all over the interet. Now "My Space" is everyone's space. Lastly these sites greatly increase your exposure to malware and supposed "hot girls" that want to be your friends. These are clearly scams and often great security risks.

My advice if you want some "space" on the web create an account on a reliable free web-host that does not put ads on your pages, learn a little html, and post whatever you want. And no, Tom, I don't want to be you friend.

Posted by:
Josh Nicholes

Friday, October 17, 2008

Often overlooked IT shortfalls

No one can dispute that daily our society, our economy, and our daily lives become more dependent on information technology and communications networks. From the stand point of IT administration this means that their role becomes increasingly more important. I think however there are several key areas that are often overlooked that can have serious consequences.

First, off site data back-up. Most organizations are serious about backing-up and safeguarding important data. They spend a lot of energy, time, and money purchasing and setting-up back-up software and establishing policies and practices to ensure data is safely backed-up. However if the back-up media is stored right alongside the servers then an environmental disaster (fire, flood, theft, etc.) will claim not only your original data but the back-ups as well. To be stored in another physical location preferably in another region to provide true safety.

Secondly, no single point of failure. Every aspect of your network should have a redundant or a fall back system. This includes everything from having raid arrays on your drives, to an alternate Internet connection in case one fails, to having a secondary electrical power source if there is a power failure for critical systems. Not to mention there should be two of every server on your network. Web and mail servers, dns, dhcp, wins, domain controllers, and so on. If one goes down the other one needs to be able to step in and take over. This type of a system also makes most maintenance appear seamless to users since they rarely even notice if something goes off-line.

Third, disaster recovery plans are important. Have you planned for all of the contingencies that might occur? Have you actually tested your back-ups and redundant systems? Do you have procedures in place to deal with failures and or mishaps. This will help to reduce panic in a disaster situation as well as establish clear guidelines and procedures. Additionally it will help you analyze the types of threats and situations that may occur and may even lead you to some that you hadn't thought about.

Fourth, remote access. Now I realize their are some security concerns that go along with this as well but the fact is that IT admins are human and cannot always physically be on-site to deal with issues or outages. It is worth at least considering some type of remote access solution to allow admins to gain access and manipulate the network from any location. This may mean the difference in restoring service in minutes as opposed to days or weeks.

Lastly, network monitoring. Admins need to monitor security and event logs on all systems as well as implement network inventory and monitoring solutions. It is important that you remain aware in real time of the devices that are connected to your network and their health. Rouge, unauthorized, and malfunctioning devices can pose not only a very serious security threat but also a physical threat to your networks as well as your data.

Posted by:
Josh Nicholes

Thursday, October 2, 2008

10 PC Troubleshooting Tips

I've been doing PC repair and IT administration for almost 10 years now, and here are some things that I hope will help anyone fixing PC problems. If you follow these tips you should be able to resolve 90% of your pc problems.

1. This is the most important tip that I can give anyone at any level of expertise. KEEP IT SIMPLE. Most issues have very simple solutions, if you over complicate it the answer will be hard to find.

2. Check the connections, is everything plugged in? This question irritates even me when tech support asks it but the fact is TRY THE SIMPLE STUFF FIRST. Make sure all the cables are plugged in properly and are secure. Additionally are all of your expansion cards tight, are all the internal cables plugged in properly. Numerous times I have had to take the side cover off of a brand new machine to plug in an IDE cable or a power cable.

3. What has changed? What is different now that you are having problems. Have you installed any hardware or software? Have you applied any security patches, or updates? Has anything changed in the physical environment?

4. Try a reboot Sometimes, as silly as it sounds, this can fix many problems. Unplug your peripheral devices shut down the PC for several minutes and boot it back up again. It is always worth a try.

5. Viruses and spyware. What can I say these days malware accounts for about 75% of the problems that I deal with. Make sure your anti virus definition files are up to date and do full through system scans. Don't be afraid to use on-line scanners or stand alone tools like stinger.

6. Hit the blogosphere. Chances are someone out their has already faced your problem. Don't be afraid to ask for help. There is a wealth of knowledge out there and don't be afraid to share what you know with others.

7. Don't spend too much time on your problem. It doesn't pay to get frustrated, walk away. Sleep on it. Sometimes a fresh outlook is all it takes to uncover the answer.

8. Determine if the problem is hardware or software. If you can answer this question I'll bet you can solve the problem much more quickly.

9. Replace suspected bad with known good. OK OK ... I know everyone out there probably doesn't have a whole pile of parts to test and troubleshoot with but most of us have more access to spare parts than they realize. Give it a try.

10. Don't put a lot of faith in those software packages that promise to identify and solve your problems for you. My experience is that NONE of them are very good. Most good IT techs don't use them and there is a reason for that.

Posted by:
Josh Nicholes