EPX Technology Blog

Windows 10 Tips: It’s time to plan your upgrade

Microsoft has made a significant change to the way it is rolling out the Windows 10 upgrade, sending a clear signal to users that it is no longer a question of whether they make the move, but when. It has decided to no longer wait for users to request a free upgrade and soon some machines will automatically start the upgrade process.

An upgrade to Windows 10 is currently available to all eligible users through the Windows Update service, which notifies PC owners when various software upgrades become available. In the next few months Microsoft will change the Windows 10 upgrade status from ‘optional’ to ‘recommended’, meaning the process will start automatically if users have Windows Update set to download all recommended updates.

It has even been reported that, as part of Microsoft’s keen approach to Windows 10, the software giant has found a way to override users switching Windows Update off, so that Windows 7, Windows 8 and Windows 8.1 machines are now all automatically receiving updates again.

“When Microsoft wants something done, they will get it done”, said Dan Ellis, co-director of EPX. “One example is the way they ended support for the massively popular Windows XP, despite it being used on around 27% of PCs worldwide at the time.”

One major reason why upgrading will become essential is the availability of security patches to protect against dangerous new malware or other vulnerabilities.

“The way we see it now is that the move to Windows 10 is inevitable, so resistance will become pointless. In the meantime, we are going to buy our customers as much time as possible so that they can plan their upgrade”, explained Dan. “There will be measures we can take to delay the upgrade, but our advice to all business PC users now is to begin making upgrade preparations right away.”

While the Windows 10 upgrade itself has been widely reported as being straightforward, it is not without potential pitfalls. Dan concluded by saying, “Every measure will need to be taken to ensure compatibility with third-party software. We have heard of versions 19, 20 and 21 of Sage 50 Accounts, for example, not working for computers that have been upgraded to Windows 10. Naturally, our expert IT technicians are on hand to help plan these upgrades, so anyone wishing to get the ball rolling can simply call 01785 878 311 and speak to our advisers.”

View | 0 Comments | Posted By Tom Harris | Posted 19th November 2015   

EPX’s “Wear your PJs or Onesie to work day” in aid of Children in Need

PJs and onesies

The EPX team got fully into the swing of things for Children in Need 2015 with a “Wear your PJs or Onesie to work day”, which raised almost £80 for the charity.

View | 0 Comments | Posted By Tom Harris | Posted 18th November 2015   

Data backups and company insurance: Are you covered?

Ever heard of someone trying to make a claim on an insurance policy, only to find out that, because of a clause in the small print, they weren’t covered, after all? EPX Technical Services has learned that although many businesses take great care in ensuring they are covered in the event of a serious loss of data, many insurers have very strict and extensive data back-up requirements in order for their policies to be valid.

“We have come across superb examples where insurers have been worth their weight in gold”, said Dan Ellis, co-director at EPX Ltd. “Recently, one of our customers’ servers crashed completely, putting the system right out of action. Fortunately, their insurers paid not only for the new hardware, but also for our technicians’ time to put everything right again.”

Steve Seabridge-Chadwick, a senior I.T. engineer at EPX, has been looking closely at the commonly overlooked requirements. “In addition to proper firewalls and anti-malware software being in place, common basics include that data has to be backed-up at least once a week and that the backed-up data has to be stored ‘off site’”, he explains. “The precise definition of ‘off site’ varies, with some policies even requiring a physical distance of ten miles from the back-ups to the usual office or work place.”

A guidance document from popular business insurers Hiscox simply states, “We will not make any payment for reconstitution of electronic data unless you take all reasonable steps to make back-up copies of all such data at least once a week and keep the copies away from the business premises”. “Of course, any hard drives being taken from an office to a person’s home, for example, have to be encrypted, to prevent data falling into the wrong hands in the event of theft”, said Steve.

One of Barbican Insurance’s business policy documents goes further, requiring policy holders to ensure that back-up systems use the correct calendar date. This would indicate that, in the event of data loss requiring a claim to be made, even if a back-up has been correctly made, if the server it came from is not set to the correct date and time then the insurer would not be liable for the costs of putting the system right again.

Fortunately, free advice is available, with the British Government’s own Cyber Essentials scheme, a set of basic technical controls for businesses and organisations to use. It identifies some fundamental technical security controls that an organisation needs to have in place to help defend against Internet-borne threats.

The full scheme, launched on 5 June 2014, enables organisations to gain 1 of 2 new Cyber Essentials badges. It is backed by industry including the Federation of Small Businesses, the CBI and a number of insurance organisations which are offering incentives for businesses. Further details can be found here: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/cyber-essentials-scheme-overview

Of course, help is also on hand in the form of the experts at EPX. To discuss your data back-up requirements, simply call 01785 878 311 speak to our friendly advisers.


View | 0 Comments | Posted By Tom Harris | Posted 12th November 2015   

Windows 10 Tips from EPX: Upgrading Sage 50 Accounts

There are believed to be around 200,000 companies in the UK that use accounting software from the Newcastle-based company Sage. EPX has learned that not all versions of Sage 50 Accounts are compatible with the new Windows 10 operating system.

A statement on the Sage website says, “If you’re installing Sage Accounts for the first time after installing Windows 10, the following versions are fully tested and supported:

  • Sage 50 Accounts v22
  • Sage 50 Accounts v21
  • Sage 50 Accounts v20
  • Sage 50 Accounts v19”

However, EPX has heard of some systems running versions 19, 20 and 21 not working after the computer completed an upgrade to Windows 10. Sage’s advice for anyone with those versions who encounters problems after an upgrade to reinstall the Sage Accounts software.

The company’s website says that Sage 50 Accounts 2012 (v18) and below is not supported on Windows 10.

EPX’s advice for anyone considering a move to Windows 10 is to check their Sage Accounts version number before doing so and, if necessary, contact Sage regarding a possible upgrade.

View | 0 Comments | Posted By Tom Harris | Posted 9th November 2015   

Focus on Cyber Security – Malware vs virus vs spyware – what’s what?

We seem to be seeing constant reminders of the possible risks to cyber security at the moment. Serious cases of data breaches and hacking are hitting the headlines on a regular basis. Being at the frontline of keeping businesses IT infrastructure and data safe and operating smoothly, EPX is always keen to promote best practise in matters of data security.

Malware vs virus vs spyware

Malware is the generic term for any software that gets installed on your PC that performs unwanted tasks, often for a third party’s benefit. The effects of malware can range from simple annoyances (pop-up advertising) to causing serious computer invasion and damage (e.g., stealing passwords and data or infecting other machines on the network).

Types of malware include:

  • Virus – Software that replicates itself and spreads to other computers, often deleting files, reformatting hard disks or using up memory and processor time.
  • Adware – Software that displays ads.
  • Spyware – Software that gathers information of your web usage and transmits it to interested parties.
  • Ransomware – Software that encrypts local data, followed by a demand for payment to decrypt it.

Almost everyone knows about the havoc computer viruses can cause, but there are other, equal, if not greater threats, namely spyware and ransomware trojans. Awareness of these other kinds of malware is considerably lower that for viruses and the level of protection most PC users have against them is accordingly less strong.

There are several options for popular anti-malware software, such as Spybot Search and Destroy, Malwarebytes and HijackThis.

How malware gets onto computers

Many pieces of free software have malware bundled within them that are installed at the same time. Instant messengers, peer-to-peer programs and software that promises to speed up Internet connections are common offenders. Another common way to infect a computer is through emails with what appear to be benign links or email attachments.

Real life ransomware examples

Perhaps the most famous ransomware trojan of recent years is called CryptoLocker, which affected Windows machines. Infected PCs saw their data encrypted, with a ransom note typically demanding a payment of 300$ in Bitcoins to make the data useable again. Although CryptoLocker itself was easily removed, files remained encrypted in a way which researchers considered infeasible to break. Some victims claimed that even though they had paid the ransom their files were not decrypted again.

Although the CryptoLocker operation was shut down in late-May 2014, it is believed that the scammers successfully extorted a total of around $3 million from victims. But cybercrime never stops. A case similar to CryptoLocker was reported recently in Glasgow. Despite having anti-virus software, a customer database for two hair salons in the city was encrypted by Russian hackers, who demanded a 1000€ payment. Unable to operate without the data and frightened he may lose the businesses, the boss paid up and got the key to restore the files, only to find that much of the data was corrupted anyway. Read more here – http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-scotland-scotland-business-34647780

EPX is here to help

EPX’s aim is to keep its customers’ IT systems safe and fully operational at all times and data security is always a high priority. Please make sure you speak to your account manager if you have any questions regarding how well protected your system is from malware attacks. For a free IT security consultation, please call EPX on 01785 878311.

View | 0 Comments | Posted By Tom Harris | Posted 6th November 2015   

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