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Is pirated software safe?

Pirate software

Pirated software. The temptation of being able to obtain a product absolutely free of charge can often prove too much for people to resist. In theory it sounds great doesn’t it, a costless method of being able to achieve your business objectives without having to draw out of the already thinning wallet. However, the real truth is that there is almost always a hidden “price” that comes with your so called freebie, and it’s not cheap.

The real cost

Although everything looks perfect and it seems as if you’re getting a good deal, don’t be fooled, pirated software can actually end up setting you back a costly sum. Here’s why:

Firstly, when using pirated software your computer is more likely to crash. The coder who pirated the software can engineer the application to attack or drain on the system, slowing down your computer leading to its inevitable crash. As a result, this will cost you time and you could potentially lose your files or any data on the computer that could be damaged and irretrievable. Need I say this could have catastrophic effects on a business. Moreover, if you thought it couldn’t get any worse, there is even the possibility of the counterfeit software causing irreparable damage to your PC and all other software installed, rendering it useless meaning you will need to go out and buy a new computer which, I imagine, is probably going to cost you considerably more than what you would have paid for the non-pirated software in the first place.

Secondly, one of the nastier problems of using counterfeit software is that nine times out of 10 it will contain some form or another of either spyware or malware which loads onto your computer and reports personal information without your knowledge. This information can be anything from credit card and bank account details, to passwords, telephone numbers and addresses – all of which can be exploited by what are known as identity thieves.

An identity thief is a person that will steal anothers identity in order to pose as them and have access to the benefits of that person.

Finally, one thing cyber thieves are good at is testing software in order to find vulnerabilities in it which allows them to exploit certain aspects of a supplier’s software. More often than not these exploits come to the awareness of the official supplier/creator who will provide patches in order to fix these vulnerabilities and protect those using their software. Although, if your software is pirated, you will not be eligible for these updates and thus will not be incorporated into the protection of the official supplier. Due to this, your computer could be vulnerable to attacks from cyber criminals trying to exploit your system which can lead to your PC becoming rendered useless, your data being lost or stolen and ultimately, your business being quite seriously damaged.

If you still haven’t seen reason; a recent study by IDC (International Data Corporation) found that global enterprises have a three in 10 chance of infection from pirated software, spending approximately $114 billion per year dealing with the impact of malware-induced attacks, and incurring potential losses of $350 billion due to data breaches.

And let’s not forget, this software is illegal. You’re breaking the law and using pirated software could land you with a hefty fine – perhaps even worse.

What you can do to protect yourself

Need I say, it’s more than advisable to get all of your software from its original producers or at least any vendors that they support in the sale of their product or service.

When shopping online it is important to ensure that the websites you are using are legitimate. You can check this by looking for “Https:” in the URL address. This means that any information submitted on the website will be encrypted (although it might not mean it’s legitimate). Aside from this, you can also check for a padlock at the start of the URL address too which does prove the legitimacy of a company.

Always use your common sense. If a price or an offer seems too good to be true it is more than likely it is and I can almost guarantee there will be a hidden cost or threat in order to balance this out.

So, if you are considering or even currently using pirated software it’s important that you get rid of it. It’s an immediate threat and not worth your time or money to have to deal with the consequences.

Act now, protect the future of your business.


How to stop Nokia Lumia freezing during Windows update

If you’re having a problem with your handset freezing on the spinning cogs screen during a Windows update, try this to fix the problem.

1) Charge your phone for a minimum of 60 minutes.

2) If the phone won’t load up the start screen, reset and restore your phone as follows but PLEASE NOTE! This restores factory settings deleting all personal content!

Switch off your phone and remove the charger. If the phone won’t switch off, simultaneously press and hold the power and volume down keys for 10-15 seconds. Release and the phone will restart.

As soon as the handset powers back up, press and hold the volume down key until an exclamation mark is shown on the screen. Then let go of the volume down key.

3) Press the volume and power keys in this order: Volume up > Volume down > Power > Volume down.

4) Wait for your phone to reset. As it resets you will see gears rotating on the screen for up to 5 minutes. The screen will then go blank for 30 seconds and then restart.

5) Go through the initial phone setup. If the date and time are shown, make sure the values are correct.

The update should now continue without any issues.


Axon – An Intern’s Journey

Hi, my name is Dominic Bentley. I’m 17 years old and I am currently a sixth form student at All Hallows Catholic College in Macclesfield where I study Geography, History, Business & Economics and Spanish.

On 1st July this year I decided to take some time away from my regular school life to gain some work experience and so began work at Axon. It was to be a six week internship and quite frankly I was extremely nervous at first, because I had never had a job before let alone been in a serious working environment – so I wasn’t quite sure what to expect.

As my first day came around and my Dad (kindly) dropped me off I came to be stood outside the doors to the Axon office. I was swiftly buzzed through the doors by the wonderful Claire who was very accommodating and moved me through to a waiting area where I anxiously awaited my first meeting with Tim Mears, one of the directors. Whilst waiting my eye was drawn to a newspaper article in front of me which described the success of Axon during 2013 with a turnover of over £1.5 million and a revenue increase of 40% on the previous year’s trading. I was suitably impressed as I started to get a feel for Axon and the magnitude of its operations.

Before I could indulge further, I glanced up to see Tim who led me through the middle of the office to the conference room. Instantly I could see that a lot of work had gone into the business with the funky and modern design of the office allowing it to be both comfortable to work in and practical. (In fact they invested £100,000 in the redevelopment of the office). I sat down to speak with Tim and we quickly got through preliminary matters.

Afterwards, I was walked around the office and got introduced to everybody and it quickly became apparent that everyone was extremely nice and laidback giving the office a very hardworking yet chilled out atmosphere. Although, it did take a couple of days to remember everyone’s names, especially considering there are three Tim’s, two Peters and two Richards!

Next, things began to kick into action and I was given my first job to complete. Over the course of my six week internship I was involved in many different activities including working with the technical team in database auditing, supporting the financial team through analysing sales, overhauling the CRM system into a more capable and accessible tool, assisting with the marketing through research and blogging, and I even worked with engineers to build computers.

Needless to say, I believe from the work I was allowed to be a part of I have gained not only some real knowledge and understanding of the IT sector but the notion that a hardworking and reliable work ethos really can help a business succeed – an idea that I will take into later life. I have seen several of the employees here at Axon miss multiple lunches because they are engrossed in their work, I on the other hand was introduced to Alan Partridge by the office which meant lunchtimes in the break out area were a must as he became a frequent highlight of my day!

All in all, I have thoroughly enjoyed my experience at Axon and really do feel at home and if given the opportunity would love to come back.


Looking for cloud computing companies in Cheshire? So was Bob…

When it comes to cloud computing, we’ve got all of your business needs covered. Axon is the Macclesfield based cloud computing company, and we can help you make the leap from on-premise servers to the cloud, ensuring a hassle free transition.

If you are looking for a cloud computing company in the Cheshire or South Manchester area, get in touch with us here, or find out more about our cloud computing services here.



How to create a safe password

In today’s modern world everything is going digital, from the way you socialise to the way you run your business. Such a shift in culture has led to a monumental rise in the number of people using computers, tablets and phones, so much so that they have integrated themselves into our lives to a point where some people don’t see how they can live without their trusty gadgets.

With technology becoming such a crucial, intricate part of our lives there has never been a time where the need for virtual protection against hackers has been higher with billions upon billions of attacks on digital devices, products and services made by hackers each year.

Initially I imagine you might think “Well I will just buy myself some anti-virus software and make sure my firewall is turned on”, yet sometimes the problem is not the hackers ability to exploit a device, but the owners attitude towards protecting the device.

If you would like to take better responsibility for not only your computers but your online products and services that you are subscribed to then ask yourself, are my passwords safe?

Tips For Creating A Safe Password

What is a safe password? Below you will find some tips about creating safer passwords.

A safe password is made up of five characteristics:

1)     Firstly, it must be at least eight characters long.

2)     It must not contain your username, real name or company name.

3)     It should not contain a complete word (December -> D3cemB3r)

4)     It should be significantly different from previous passwords.

5)     It should contain characters from each of the four categories;

-          Uppercase letters = A, B, C

-          Lowercase letters = a, b, c

-          Numbers = 0, 1, 2 , 3, 4, 5

-          Symbols (found on the keyboard) = ~ ! @ # $ % ^ & * ( ) _ – + = { } [ ] \ | : ; ” ‘ < > , . ? /

If you combine all five of these rules together you create a password that is extremely strong (in theory) to crack. For example; “I love food a bit too much” -> “1 Lov3 f0Od + b1t to0 Mu_Ch!” (You can even include spaces)

As you can see the password is completely random yet something I can relate to and easily remember should I need a hint to recall my password, and at the same time it is still a very reliable, solid password.

All in all, if you manage to stick to these password building rules you will undoubtedly be able to fend off any potential intruders, helping to protect any personal, sensitive information and possibly saving your business from falling victim to a hacker’s assault.

Remember, in the virtual modern day world, you may not be able to see the threat but it is most certainly there. If you have concerns over the security of your businesses IT systems, we can help. Take a look at our IT security services here.


How does cloud computing benefit businesses?

Cloud computing - woman - blog

Cloud computing. Ever heard of it? I’d be surprised if you haven’t as it’s the latest IT hype with businesses worldwide adopting the new approach to infrastructure as stories of its success spreads. CRN predicts that by the end of 2014, small businesses will spend almost $100 billion on cloud computing services.

But, what is cloud computing? Cloud computing at its simplest refers to the storing and utilisation of data and programs over the internet rather than through your computer’s hard drive. In fact, the “Cloud” is just a metaphor created to represent the internet.

Data that you store and use on your computer’s hard drive is known as local storage. Its source does not originate from the cloud, it’s from your computer.

Once you delve a bit deeper in to cloud computing you find that it can be split into different areas.

Specifically, cloud computing describes anything that involves delivering hosted services over the internet. These services can be split into three different categories: Infrastructure-as-a-Service (IaaS), Platform-as-a-Service (PaaS) and Software-as-a-Service (SaaS).

Software-as-a-Service is where a business or consumer subscribes to a software application to access it over the internet. Google, Twitter, Facebook and Flickr are all examples of SaaS.

Platform-as-a-Service is where a business can create its own custom applications for use by all in the company. PaaS services are hosted in the cloud and accessed by users simply via their web browser. The majority of businesses that use cloud technology will use PaaS because it allows them to create a database to store information that employees can see and edit while also creating tailored applications for the business to better achieve objectives.

Infrastructure-as-a-Service is where a cloud provider gives a company access to a computing resource in a virtualised environment. In particular, IaaS specialises in providing companies with virtualised hardware. Examples of such hardware are virtual servers, network connections, bandwidth, IP addresses and load balancers. This can be seen through Netflix, which provides consumers with films via the cloud as a customer of Amazons cloud services – they have been given virtual server space.

Why move to cloud?

I bet you are probably thinking this is all quite confusing and are uncertain about the benefits of adopting cloud technology over the costs, because at first it can sound like a lot of work. However, a survey in May 2013 by the analysis firm Research found that 92% OF CIO’s (Chief Information Officers – IT) and IT professionals think the cloud is good for business.

So, is “The Cloud” worth your time”?

Firstly, one of the primary motives behind adopting a cloud perspective in business is the prospect of reduced costs. When it comes to cloud, it can be much more cost effective as you only pay for what you need. A company could have x number of servers yet only use 10% of their capacity as a whole meaning they are paying 90% more than they should be. With cloud you can save considerable amounts of money which could be otherwise used to reinvest into the business and help further growth and achieve sustainable development.

Secondly, by subscribing to a cloud provider rather than buying servers personally you greatly increase the flexibility of your company because if you need more bandwidth than usual, a cloud based service can instantly meet the demand. As a result, this means a business suffers less down time and is not losing out on potential revenue. In an InformationWeek survey 65% of respondents said that “the ability to quickly meet business demands” was an important reason to move to cloud computing.

Thirdly, once a company begins relying on a cloud service provider rather than solely on themselves there is no need to have complex disaster recovery plans. This is because cloud computing providers take care of all the maintenance, updates and patches meaning a business is more optimised to combat issues thus saving the business time and money. It also means that should the worst happen, and your business premises become rendered out of action through an emergency such as fire, flood, theft or similar, the business can be relocated quickly and seamlessly to alternative premises with no loss of data. The Aberdeen Group found that businesses that used the cloud were able to resolve issues in an average of 2.1 hours, which is nearly four times faster than businesses that did not use cloud.

Finally, thanks to cloud technology the employees of a business have better control over their projects and can work from practically anywhere in sync with other employees as each cloud document is automatically updated in real time online. Therefore, this adaptability means that workers can have a better work life balance while also boosting productivity as they can work whenever and wherever they want – assuming they have an internet connection. Not to mention, if a company has employees based in different countries in different time zones workers will not have to send files back and forth over email, meaning better efficiency and lifting a company’s general standard of work. According to one study, “73% of knowledge workers collaborate with people in different time zones and regions at least monthly”.

So, whether you are an entrepreneur, a small business or even large company, cloud technology is something that you should really take a look into. Not only does it help improve infrastructure for both the up and coming and the current but it can greatly boost a company’s prospects through the utility it offers. The possibilities with cloud are endless. A survey by Frost & Sullivan proves this having found that companies which invested in cloud had a 400% return of investment. If that doesn’t impress you then I don’t know what will.


What is load balancing?

Load balancing is when two or more lines are connected to a load balancing router, and that router works as a fail-over to keep you connected to the internet if one of your lines goes down. So if, let’s call it line 1, goes down, the load balancing router automatically routes your traffic down line 2 instead – so no outage. Your business keeps running. Your lines can be ADSL, ADSL2+ or fibre – it doesn’t matter.

So effectively, you’ve got two lines, but only one router. This gives you greater bandwidth and is more straightforward to set up on your network than having two lines and two routers.

Don’t confuse it with bonded broadband though, this is something different where multiple internet connections are bonded together to improve slow broadband connections – but not to act as a fail-over.

So what’s the benefit of load balancing? Well it spreads the load, meaning your connections aren’t being used to capacity giving you better response times. It gives you high availability, reducing the chances of downtime and the associated business losses. And it gives you peace of mind, that if one of your broadband lines fail, you can continue with business as usual via your second line.


How to spot a computer virus

The relentless threat from computer viruses is not something to be taken lightly. There is malicious software out there that has the capacity to damage your business beyond repair in just minutes. So what can you do to avoid such a cyber-attack? How can you spot a computer virus?

Well there are a few things you can look out for that could indicate that something is wrong…

- Your machine starts taking a long time to boot up, runs slow, hangs, freezes or locks up
- Error messages start to appear (look out for ones that say you don’t have access to certain drives)
- Your computer crashes and reboots itself several times throughout the day
- The CD drive tray opens and closes by itself
- Pop-up adverts start to appear on your screen
- Applications start to work incorrectly, or won’t run at all
- Files won’t open
- Printers and other hardware devices stop responding and start behaving strangely
- New icons appear on your desktop that you didn’t put there
- The sizes of files and folders starts to fluctuate
- Programmes and files go missing
- Menus appear distorted
- Your web browser changes – tool bars appear that you haven’t installed and random pages pop up
- Applications start to open by themselves
- Hard drive space disappears
- Your internet connection drops
- Files have moved, been deleted or become encrypted without your knowledge

If you notice any of these on your systems, run a scan using your anti-virus software (if you are comfortable doing so) and contact your IT provider immediately for further advice and investigation.


Increased storage for OneDrive plans

Good news for OneDrive users … Microsoft has increased the amount of storage you get. Your 7 GB is now 15 GB, and that’s a free upgrade. And Office 365 now comes with 1 TB of OneDrive storage. So this gives you loads more space for your documents, photos, data and documents. OneDrive for Business users also get 1TB of storage per person.

So what is OneDrive? Well it’s cloud storage from Microsoft. Use it to store all your folders, files and data, and then access it from any computer, tablet or smartphone with an internet connection. OneDrive for Business is a part of the Office 365 suite. With Office 365 you also get SharePoint. Which is also cloud document storage. So what’s the difference? Well SharePoint is intended for data that you need to share. You can give everybody in the business access to your SharePoint site, or different departments access to different areas within SharePoint, but it basically works as a document sharing portal. A place for all your company documents, and you give access to personnel as required. OneDrive is designed for documents that don’t need to be accessed by multiple people. Files you need to store, use, but not share on an on-going basis. And OneDrive (as opposed to OneDrive for Business) is intended for personal use – your holiday snaps, family videos etc. Whereas OneDrive for Business is intended of course, for business use.

So, lots of choice, loads of storage, all in the cloud and all accessible from any location (with an internet connection) and on any device. Perfect!


Microsoft Office 365 plans set to change


Microsoft has announced that as of 1st October it will be changing its Office 365 plans to improve the product for small and midsize businesses. So what’s changing?

The three new plans will replace the current Small Business, Small Business Premium and Midsize Business plans and will be tailored to businesses with up to 250 employees, offering increased choice and flexibility.

And the new plans will look something like this…

Office 365 Business
– Outlook, Word, Excel, PowerPoint, OneNote and Publisher
– 1TB of OneDrive for Business cloud storage

Office 365 Business Essentials
– Business class email and calendaring
– Office Online Web Apps
– Online meetings, IM, video conferencing, cloud storage and file sharing

Office 365 Business Premium
– Everything from both the Office 365 Business and Business Essentials plans.

The changes have been made to reflect feedback the company has received from its SMB customers and regarding business growth and how 365 can support this growth.

So how will this affect you as a current O365 customer? Well Microsoft has a policy of giving 12 months’ notice of any core subscription changes so you’ll only be affected upon your first renewal after 1st October 2015 – a year after the plans officially change. And if you’re currently a Small Business Premium customer your seat limit will be raised from 25 users to 300, and Midsize customers will get a price reduction from $15 to $12.50 per user per month. UK prices are yet to be released, but to give you an idea, US pricing has been announced at $8.25 for Business, $5 for Business Essentials and $12.50 for Business Premium.

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