Archive for November 2010

What is a ‘Virtual Assistant’?

November 26, 2010

So… you might have heard the term ‘Virtual Assistant’ used – especially if you know a bit about Perfect Notes – but you don’t really know what it means… Let me see if I can explain it a bit – particularly in regard to the things that we can help you with!

Wikipedia tells us, as a start:
Virtual assistance (or VA) is the professional service of remote administrative office and other specialized support by a virtual assistant who works with clients in an ongoing, collaborative professional relationship.

But that doesn’t really help me to understand it any better, so I doubt that it helps you either! So let’s try to describe it a bit more clearly.

A virtual assistant takes some of the administrative tasks of running your business off your hands, so that your time is free to do the stuff that makes you money – or keeps you happy.

So how can you tell whether you need a virtual assistant to help you run your business?

  • Do you spend all of your day selling to customers, or creating widgets, or training people, or installing machines – then come back to the office and spend another hour at your desk catching up on all the paperwork?
  • Do you know that you need a holiday, but dread the thought of going away, because you are the only one who knows how your business should run?
  • Do you know that your website should be updated but have no time to do that? And you suspect that you are missing out on customers because your website is a long way down the list in Google Search results?

If you answered ‘Yes’ to any of these questions, a virtual assistant could help you.

So, send us an email or call us on 03 9894 0530, to talk about how we can help solve some of your business problems – and make your life easier!

Backups

November 21, 2010

Well, it’s an oldie but a goodie – the topic of backing up your data – particularly your business data.

It might seem that we regularly discuss the need for having backups of your information – especially if you are running a business with that information – but we talk about it regularly because it’s so important!

Data that needs to be considered ranges from your holiday snaps from the digital camera, through your university essays to the accounting information that allows you to invoice your business customers. Obviously, the backup procedures for each of these types of files is different, but you need to ensure that you have at least two copies of all of these, to make sure that you always have access to them – remember, CDs and DVDs can be scratched or lost, so another copy is always a good idea.

For businesses, there are at least a couple of choices for backup locations – you can keep one copy of your information in a separate physical location (say one at home and one in the office), or there are a number of services that allow you to put a backup copy online (over the internet). In each case, there are issues that need to be considered, including how quickly you can access the second copy if you need it and what the costs are. Along with this, you need to decide whether you need an automated backup process or you can (and will!) do it manually. So if you want to talk to someone about the backup requirements of your business or your family, have a look here and send us an email – we can help you.

So – why am I mentioning this now? Well, I had a meeting with a business associate on Thursday morning – it had been postponed twice due to illness, so it was important that we catch up this time… In the morning, I got an SMS that she would not be at the initial meeting, as she had been up till nearly 4.30am with her local IT guy, trying to remove a virus from her work PC, but that our later meeting was still on – so it sounded like she had an ‘interesting’ night! By the time the initial meeting was over and I called her to let her know I was on my way, she had managed about five hours sleep – so our meeting was definitely happening. Anyway, to cut a long story short, when I got to her office, this was the story:

1. She was concerned about backing up her data and her clients’ data, so she bought an external drive (well, actually two) to ensure that she always had a separate copy apart from the one on her PC.

2. One of the two drives in the external case was faulty. So the initial setup did not complete, but she had great difficulty convincing the people that she had bought it from that she had followed the correct process and the drive was actually defective and needed to be replaced. The process of trying to convince them to repair or replace it under warranty had taken around a month, so far.

3. She got a virus on her work PC. Trying to remove this required a reboot and going back to a previous Restore point. Windows did not recover correctly from this, so she sent a panicked message to her IT guy – who worked through the night to try to recover from the issues.

The outcome of all this – the IT guy was not able to remove the virus in a single step, so the single drive in the external case is being used to take a backup of all the files required (as was its original purpose in life!) – this process looked as if it was going to take all of Thursday and probably at least half of Friday, if not longer. After that had been done, the PC was going to be taken away to have the virus removed by whatever means were required – which may well require a complete clean install and then reinstallation of all software being used on that machine. I have not heard how that process went, but obviously my associate is not happy that this virus is causing so much grief and downtime for her business.

So, ultimately, she was doing the right thing by setting up a backup system to ensure that her business could run smoothly if there were any issues – but it did not quite get organised before she needed it. Let us help you to avoid this situation! An email or a call on 03 9894 0530 can start the process of protecting you from being caught out like that.

Why we’ve been so quiet…

November 12, 2010

Well, while it might not have been obvious to everyone out there, Perfect Notes has been very busy for the last two weeks.

A fortnight ago, we received a request for quote for some work setting up and supporting Plone websites and associated servers. While some colleagues believed that there was no point in responding to this, we decided to at least do some preliminary work to determine whether it was worth our while to provide a response. So there was about a day’s worth of research and investigation… At the end of that time, we had determined that it was possible for us to do the work requested, so the real work started – to produce the quote!

Well, the long and the short of it is that Kathy spent a week and a half pretty much dedicated to this work, while David spent a couple of days on it – investigating some processes directly and then doing a review of the completed document.

Ultimately, if we get this work, we will be employing a couple of other people to help us out, so that none of our other customers or potential customers suffer – and if it doesn’t happen, well, we have both learnt a lot in the process of producing the quote – which is all good – any increase in knowledge has got to be good! You, our customers, definitely benefit from our increased understanding of the possibilities that are out there – the IT world is always moving forward, so this research has kept our ability to support you and your systems moving forward.

And, of course, it takes a while to catch up from a work overload like that – but we seem to be up to date again.

So, we hope to keep this blog updated a bit more regularly again – and not leave everyone in the dark so long in the future.

Firesheep Menace

November 3, 2010

Welcome to the new business focused Perfect Notes blog.

Our first post will be to revisit a security issue that’s become public in the last few weeks. Other users can easily take over your Facebook and other accounts just by sitting near you when you access these accounts on public Wi Fi systems. The bit of software used for this takeover is a Firefox browser add on called firesheep.

Perfect Notes IT did some testing on this flaw at a McDonald’s WiFi to gain first hand knowledge of this security exploit. We took over 2 (of our own) Facebook accounts seamlessly in only a couple of minutes. In neither case was there any clue to this take over to the user. One machine was modified in the way most people recommend as being enough to disable the firesheep risk (we reset the machine to force the connection into a secure mode).  Nonetheless it proved possible to take over a Facebook account some of the time just as the connection was made!

The lessons to draw from this are obvious. Don’t trust public WiFi. Be aware of security issues. Don’t believe all you read on FB even when (you think) you know who it comes from.

Perfect Notes IT can help with your security issues. Contact us if you have questions.