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Posts Tagged ‘backups’

Protecting Point of Sale Systems from Costly Downtime

Saturday, September 18th, 2010

Point of Sale SystemWe do work for several restaurants and retail stores here in Phoenix, Arizona. These shops are all using windows based point of sale systems. While the software and database that run on the computers to transact credit card payments and process menu items are highly customized and supported by the franchise in most cases, the underlying operating system and hardware is not.

We have learned a lot about these systems and can say with certainty that the biggest issues we have run into are lack of proper backups and lack of spare hardware. When a point of sale system goes down for a store, especially a busy store, it is NO FUN. Employees need to process payments manually by hand and write out paper receipts. As you can imagine, the slowdown at the register does a lot to aggravate customers and employees alike. But there are three things that you can do as a retail store business owner to minimize downtime in the event of a system crash.

1. Perform regular system maintenance

Hiring a firm like my PC Techs to regularly maintain your equipment each month can save you from several hours worth of headache and hundreds or thousands of dollars in lost sales. Our technicians will visit your store and examine your systems for irregular performance. System errors, faulty hardware, failing hard drives, botched OS updates, and corrupted data can, in many cases, be identified and corrected before it becomes a larger problem. Dust can be cleaned out (the largest cause of hardware failure), and parts inspected. Unnecessary programs can be removed and system performance improved. The best part of this scenario, the repairs can be performed before or after regular hours, so customers never experience delay.

2. Perform regular, complete data backups

Usually during the same time as the system maintenance, our technicians can perform a complete data backup of all of your POS systems. This is important. When a hard drive crashes, you want to get your system back online as quickly as possible. To rebuild an entire system, restore data from on off site repository, and get all the hardware and software working correctly could take many hours. With a complete system backup, it could be as simple as popping in the right piece of replacement hardware and running a 30 minute recovery.

3. Identify and build an inventory of replacement parts

When a system failure happens, recovery time can be improved considerably when the right spare parts are kept on hand. Rather than buying hard to find computer equipment online, and waiting for it to be shipped, a replacement part can be obtained from storage and quickly installed to replace the broken component. That part can later be replaced to storage, so you always have a backup on hand for the next time disaster strikes.

When you think about the security of your data and your ability to transact business, keep in mind your local computer experts and ways that they can work with you to help improve the reliability of your computer operations. For help with the maintenance and emergency support of your POS systems, contact my PC Techs today. (602) 456-0150.

Faster computers power faster business growth

Monday, September 13th, 2010

The modern office is definitely an amazing thing to watch. Emailing, scanning, printing, digital document processing, online database systems, more. What isn’t done via computer in today’s office? As a business owner or manager in charge of running an office, it’s important to remember that productivity in a digital office is often directly tied to the computers that power the office. Office productivity can be boosted significantly with simple technology upgrades. When is the last time the computer systems in your office were upgraded? What about the network? ISP? Accessories, such as printers, scanners, copiers? How about recently added mobile computing technologies (laptops, smartphones)?

Information SuperhighwayIt is important for your office to stay up to date with the latest technologies. When humans using computers power the majority of the operations in your office, it makes sense that faster computers will allow for faster work and increased productivity. Computers that have become old and slow due to age act as a handicap to your employees, and will hold them back from performing at higher levels. In addition, the speed factor is not the only negative that comes from using old technology. Older computers, networks and accessories are more prone to fail, causing office staff to take time away from work to focus on bugs, viruses, errors, and repairs.

Every office should maintain a reasonable technology budget that allocates a reasonable amount of money to spend, every year, on technology upgrades. When planning this budget, you should go beyond simply looking to replace computers that break. You should be looking to make upgrades that will increase office productivity. Simple things like replacing still working old computers with faster units, installing faster printers, giving employees access to email while in the field via laptops or smartphones. In addition to upgrades, your budget should include regular maintenance. A technician should visit on a regular basis, as often as once per week. Your technician should keep your computers updated, solve minor errors, and perform cleanup tasks to increase performance. That will limit the amount of time office staff must spend fiddling with computers and will allow them to focus on their work.

Ultimately, faster computers in your office will allow your office to perform more efficiently. You will process more work and, as a result, your business will have the capacity to grow further and faster than ever before.

Keeping technology working, so you can too!

Wednesday, September 8th, 2010

Can anyone name a small business, or any business for that matter, that doesn’t rely upon technology for day to day operations? Computers play such an integrated role in our lives. Much like automobiles, it is important to maintain your computers and run periodic checks on them to avoid failure.

When doing routine system maintenance, there are several different areas of the computer that should be checked for potential problems. The operating system itself, installed software, updates and patches, anti-virus definitions, the network settings, the system fans, dust levels, hard disk drives, backups, and external devices! Some are more important than others. For example, if your hard drive fails, you could face some very costly data recovery issues. Dust is another one, dust and heat are the biggest killers of electronic components. A competent computer repair firm will have a checklist of items that a technician will run through, the hard drive and dust levels being just one of those, to ensure optimal performance.

Not to get stuck on the automobile analogy, but it’s so easy to do comparisons between that and computer repair. If you forget to change your oil, over time your engine suffers. If you go long enough, eventually your engine will fail. Computer maintenance is the same way. A lot of clients have come to us with failed hard drives. Sometimes we can get their data off pretty easily and recover their systems. In the worst cases, those hard drives need to be sent off to a lab where data recovery becomes extremely costly. Client with crashed hard drives are usually surprised when we tell them that the crash could have been avoided. There are warning signs that most equipment will give when things go bad, and the signs usually begin a while before the actual crash takes place. For hard drives, it could be slow performance, errors while working, errors in system logs, or even clicking or grinding sounds. Most computer fans make noises too when they are about to fail.

Our experts service and repair machines and are experienced in the different ways you can identify computer problems. If you hire a team of professionals that know how to keep your computers working, and have them come out monthly for a quick checkup, you too will be able to keep working. For most people, computer failures usually happen at the worst possible time. Like, right before an important project deadline. If your computer suddenly crashes or the network is not working you may lose work and income. All of this could be avoided with just a couple hours of preventative maintenance per month.


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The click of death

Saturday, February 21st, 2009

We are starting to see a lot of dead hard drives at my PC Techs over the past several months. I think a lot of this has to due with the rapid expansion of storage capacity over the past several years. All of this growth has put a strain on the industry to maintain quality in manufacturing. Here’s a good article that speaks to the growth and another that touches upon reasons for hard drive failure.

When a hard drive dies, several factors determine whether or not you can recover your data at a reasonable price. The most important factor of course is the extent to which your hard drive is damaged. In many cases, if the hard drive is not yet completely disabled, the data can be recovered and backed up to another system within hours on the same day. This is done without expensive equipment by an experienced computer tech with the right software and know-how. Even using this low cost method, however, could set you back several hundreds of dollars. It is a time consuming process to recover data from a damaged drive.

In cases where a hard drive has experienced complete failure or is more severely damaged, there is little that anyone can do but send the drive to a specialized clean room facility. This is an unfortunate situation, as clean-room facility data recovery typically begins at $1800 and up.

Ultimately, you want to do everything you can to protect your valuable information from loss and prevent either of the scenarious above. The good news: There’s plenty you can do in advance before a hard-drive fails to protect yourself.

First and foremost, manufacturer and brand of drive is very important. If you’re buying a pre-configured system (such as one from Dell), you may not have a lot of choice over the manufacturer and brand of the hard drive that comes with your computer. However, if you’re building your own computer or if you’re buying a replacement system, look for hard drive manufacturers who have a track record of reliability and a drive brand that has high ratings. I have always preferred Western Digital hard drives above all others in the market for this very reason. Through hundreds of hard drive recoveries I can tell you that Western Digital has the lowest failure rate of all other manufactueres that I’ve seen.

Second, no matter what hard drive you do have, realize that every drive WILL fail at some point. It may be in a month, it may be in a decade. Eventually, the drive will quit and at that point you’ll want to be sure you have a good backup of your information on hand. my PC Techs can help you establish a backup plan that will protect your data against loss regardless of what happens. Our typical plan will account for all types of possible disasters, such as fire, flood, viruses and/or hard drive failure. From all of your purchased iTunes music, to invaluable pictures of family and friends, and other personal data, it’s difficult to count the value of the information on any individual computer. You owe it to yourself to spend a little bit now, not only to protect your information, but to save yourself from thousands of dollars later if you ever need to get it back and you don’t have a backup on hand.

Finally, keeping an eye and ear on your computer system can help tremendously in preventing catastrophic failure. In almost every single instance, a hard drive that’s failing will give you warning signs before it eventually goes for good. The first place you can look is in the system event logs. As a hard drive begins to quit, the event log will list data read and write errors that will warn you that something bad is about to happen. The second warning sign might come from the hard drive itself. If you hear a clicking noise in your computer, it could be a sign that the hard drive is on it’s last leg. A loud clicking sound coming from your hard drive is a warning to you that you should immediately consult an expert to transition your data over to a new hard drive before it’s lost for good.

Following these few simple steps can be a life saver, literally, as more and more of our life information is stored on our computer systems. If you have any concerns or questions about theh state of your hard drive, establishing a backup plan, or data recovery and data transfer, please contact a specialist today at my PC Techs. We’re happy to answer your questions and provide help.

 

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