Before you take your PC in for “repair”…

So your computer crashed.  You’re thinking of taking it to a local computer repair store – e.g. one of the big box stores, a local computer repair shop, etc.  What about all of the important information on your hard drive?  What about your consignment software?  Sure they told you they’re going to “restore” everything for you, but what does that mean?

Let’s focus on a very specific issue – hard drive failure.  Everything on your computer is stored on the hard drive.  Whether it’s software you installed, documents and images, or data you entered into a program, ultimately, it gets stored on your hard drive.  If your hard drive crashes, it needs to be replaced.  The new hard drive will be empty though.  Even after Windows is installed, all you have is that – Windows.

They’ll definitely copy your database and files over to the new hard drive, but did they actually install your programs, printer drivers, etc.?

One of the calls we get most often is clients that took their PC in for repair and “now nothing works.”  If the repair shop you’re using says they’re going to completely restore everything, find out what that means.  How are they going to reinstall your software?  Do they have the CD or a download link to do so?  What about the printer drivers?  Do they know the right one to install?  Do they know how to configure it?

If you have to take your PC to a repair shop, for hardware issues, it might not be a bad idea to just get them to replace the hardware and make sure Windows is installed and functioning.  After that, call The Computer Peeps and we’ll ensure your software and printers are working exactly how they should be.

Who “Owns” Your Website?

Something we see a lot is store owners without access to their own Website.  They hire a person or company to register a domain name, setup a Web Host and design a Website.  All is fine and dandy until one day, an update needs to be made to the site.  All of a sudden, the person with all of the information – e.g. user names, passwords, etc. – is nowhere to be found.  Or even worse, the person who did this work for you is “holding your site hostage” until you give he/she something.

Ok, let’s spend a few moments on some of the puzzle pieces I mentioned above.

Domain – Your domain name is where it all starts.  This is the name you spent hours deciding on.  You thought long and hard before selecting the perfect domain name.  One that’s not too difficult to say (so when you tell your customers, they don’t have to ask you to repeat it).  The domain name is what people are going to type into their Internet browser to get to your Website.  For example, to get here, you typed www.thecomputerpeeps.com and hit ‘Enter’ on your keyboard.  Voila!  By the magic of the Interwebz, something told your computer where to find our Website.

Website – This is what people actually see after they type in your domain name.  Your Website is what you paid someone to design, with text, pictures, a blog, a link to your Facebook page, etc.  It’s truly what people came to your Website to see.

Your domain name was probably registered via GoDaddy, 1and1, etc.  These companies help you register your domain name with ICANN, the Internet naming and address authority.  This is a very important piece of the puzzle.  Wherever your domain is registered, is where you’ll tell the world how to find your Website/Web pages.

Tip: Head to [Domain Tools] and lookup your domain name to see who it’s registered to!

So there’s a little Geek 101 for you!  🙂  As you can see, this is already quite a bit of info to wrap your brain around.  For geeks like us, this is kindergarten stuff.  This is why people hire professionals to do things for them!  And that’s just fine, I’m not saying to not trust people and to not hire people/companies.  What I am saying though is, don’t just hand over the keys to the kingdom.  If you’re going to hire someone to do your Website, here are a few items you need to be in the loop on:

  • Register the domain name yourself – It is such an easy, yet pivotal part of the process.  Your domain name needs to be in your name, not your tech’s, not a friend’s – your name.  All it involves is, 1) go to a Website such as GoDaddy and search for the domain name you’d like to use and 2) pay for the domain name (you can usually pay for a year, 2 years, 3 years, etc.)
  • Where your Website is actually hosted – Your domain name is only the tip of the iceberg.  The Website itself – i.e. all of the pages, the pictures, etc. – have to be “hosted” somewhere.  This just means the files need to be on a computer somewhere in the world and those files need to be publicly available to the rest of us out here in the world.  Since running a Web Server isn’t something most people are interested in doing, you pay a Web Hosting service to host those files for you.  This is a very important piece of the puzzle here.  If you want to update text on your Website or change an image, you need access to where the files are hosted at.  If your tech/Web Developer has your site hosted on his/her Web Host, that means they’re in control.  Sure they can give you the FTP user name and password, but they can change that on you at anytime, cutting you off from access to your pages.

This is why we recommend getting your own Web Host.  You don’t need to understand all of the geeky stuff that goes on behind the scenes.  What you do need, is control.  If you start working with one Web Developer and then decide to start working with a different Web Developer, you should be able to hand him/her a single page that says, “here is my Website info.”  They can do all of the geeky work for you, but if at any point you decide you don’t want to work with them, it’s just a matter of changing the passwords and they’re locked out.  If it were the other way around, he/she could just lock you out.

There are times when it’s ok to let your Web Developer do the hosting for you, but that’s something only you can decide.  I’ve seen store owners work with reputable companies, only to be “locked out” when it comes time to move on to a new Web Developer.  I’ve also seen store owners work with smaller companies or individuals and have nothing but a positive experience.  It’s just like anything in this world – there’s no way to predict the future.  All I can say is, there’s a way to make sure things are always in your control.  If there’s any doubt or question, then always err on the side of caution and get the domain and hosting registered yourself.

If you need any assistance registering your domain or signing-up for Web Hosting, The Computer Peeps can help you do this.  We’ll ensure you get the right host and that everything is in your name.  Don’t get stuck with a Website that can’t be updated or a domain name that isn’t in your name!  The cost of “transferring” everything over costs far more in both time and money, than to just register everything in your name.

Windows Updates – The Good and the Bad

Windows is an Operating System, one that most of you are running – well, all of you if you’re running consignment software.  Just like any application software, Windows is updated from time to time.  I’m not talking about going from XP to Vista or 7.  Within each version of Windows, it is constantly updated.  The majority of the time, these are security updates (to help keep your computer protected from vulnerabilities).  This is “The Good” portion of Windows updates.

Some of these updates aren’t specific to Windows though.  Hardware devices (e.g. printers) can receive updates from Microsoft.  This is “The Bad” portion of Windows updates; well, at least it can be.

The reason I wanted to take this opportunity to discuss the good and bad sides of Windows Updates, is because your tag printer can be affected.  You know, the little device that is basically the life blood of your business.  If you can’t tag items, you can’t put inventory out on the floor for sale.

In a recent update, I noticed Microsoft recommended one for my Zebra LP2824 driver…

Zebra + Windows Updates

Now, I’m not saying that installing this update is going to break everyone’s tag printer.  What I am saying is, any change to your printer driver (the software that makes your tag printer function) can lead to undesirable results.  Even the slightest change can cause alignment issues, skipping tags, etc.

So it’s a double-edge sword keeping your system up to date.  You want to make sure Windows is updated and secure.  You don’t want to just let any and all updates come down, not without your knowledge.

Watch What You Click!

One of the most common issues The Computer Peeps encounter with each client is unnecessary, unused programs.

So how do these programs get there in the first place, Dean?

Great question!  There are a bunch of little programs on your computer that do pretty cool stuff.  For example, Java is software that helps you do things like upload pictures to Facebook.  It’s not a program you run everyday and it’s pretty subtle, but it’s something you need (and want, even if you don’t know it).

The problem is, companies like to partner up and help one another out by “marketing” their partners…

Java Install Bing Toolbar
Java Update Installs the "Bing Toolbar"

So what’s wrong with that picture?  It’s so cluttered with text, images and information that most just skip right over and click “Next”.  Look a little closer though.  Let’s see if it looks any different if we put the spotlight on a particular area…

Are you sure you want to install?

NOW do you see?

This isn’t an accident and the layout of this installer wasn’t done without thought.  Subversion is one of the greatest marketing techniques.  We see it on TV, in stores and on the Internet.  The people designing ads and screens such as the one above are doing so hoping you will either A) pay attention to “the big stuff” or B) be so overwhelmed with information, that you just click and move on.

So if there’s a lesson to be learned here, it’s…

Pay attention to what you click!  There’s nothing wrong with taking a second to pause and read – there’s no rush to install software.

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