Christmas List

What’s on your Christmas list? What about your son or daughter? Did you know Irwin Electronics can do more than just repair computers? We can build custom computers too! We add more vendors and distributors to our list all the time. We can get awesome deals on electronics. If you need a custom desktop, let us know what the intended use will be, and who it’s for. We can design it for you, and build it. If you know what you want, like the latest Geforce or Radeon graphics card, we’ll be sure to include it, and at the best price possible. If you need a small form factor desktop for general use, we’ve got you covered. Those same great deals extend to laptops, too. We can also upgrade old computers. Are you on a tight budget, but need something to do email or Facebook? Do you have an old dinosaur in the closet that doesn’t work anymore? If your needs are simple, we may be able to bring new life to that antique. We prefer Microsoft Windows, as that’s what we are most familiar with, but Windows is not cheap. Did you know there are FREE operating systems that give you a similar desktop, and the same web browsing capabilities? Ubuntu Linux is well known, and very powerful. If your computer is quite old, Ubuntu may not run any better than Windows. There are many other distributions that will work well on even the oldest computers! Memory is one of the lowest cost, and best upgrades. You’ll get the most bang for your buck by replacing the memory in that old relic. Did you know Windows XP does not fully configure itself for memory over 512MB? You may have upgraded to 3 gigabytes of RAM, but if you did not properly tune the registry, you’re not making the most of it! If we lost you on the technical jargon, have no fear. We’re here to help you. That’s why we want to know what your needs are, and what old equipment you may have. You would be surprised what we can do on an extremely limited budget.

Our deals are not limited to computers. If you need a new printer or router, we can help you there as well. Perhaps you need a new television. It wouldn’t hurt to call us for a quote. While we do not stock equipment for sale, we can still use our buying power to get the same great deals. Let us know your needs, and give us a couple of hours to shop around for you, at no cost to you. We will call you back and let you know what we found. If you like the price, we’ll take care of everything. If you can find a better price, please let us know where you found it! You have nothing to lose. Our goal is to save you money. What other computer repair company does that?

A big part of our referral based marketing is networking. We belong to several networking organizations, and have established contacts in nearly every field. Perhaps you want a complete home theater system to go with that new TV? We know someone who does that. Do you want to remodel a room to make a true theater? We know someone who does that too! As your IT solution, we need to have all these contacts, but you do not have to be a business to take advantage of our services. Of course, if you are starting a small or home-based business, we are your complete IT solution. We will help set up your computer network. We can leverage our business partners to build a complete home office. We will assist with all your computing needs, servers, network, data storage, and offsite backup. How merry would your Christmas be to have a new home office, with all new equipment? We can make that happen! All it takes is one simple phone call to Irwin Electronics at 480-382-4761. Tell us what’s on your Christmas list, and let’s see how we can help you.

Posted in BNI

Boot CD

We had a great idea, but the execution is proving to be a little more difficult. As they say, the devil is in the details. Many of our clients call us when they have a virus, or blue screen, that prevents their computer from booting properly or connecting to the Internet. Often they have deadlines and must get online to complete a project, or even send a few e-mails, before we can work on their computer. This also means we cannot remote control their computer to resolve the issue without driving to their location. The idea is to distribute a boot CD ahead of time that will load a Portable Edition of Windows. This will allow immediate Internet access for our customer. The CD would include our remote control software, so with a few clicks, we can log in and resolve the issues. The second piece of the equation is what limits us to a Windows based product. Most any Linux boot CD would allow the Internet access, and give us a variety of tools to eradicate viruses and spyware. However, we would not be able to load our remote access tool without a little more custom programming. At Irwin Electronics, we are experts at computer hardware and virus removal. We are not experts at programming, or writing custom software. We are attempting to create a free solution from the variety of tools available for download. Windows PE based solutions appeared to be the best option as they are free and legal. Many Enterprises use them for just this type of task. The Ultimate Boot CD for Windows, UBCD4Win was the perfect solution. However, after extensive building and testing, it appears our Remote Control software does not work as expected in a PE (Portable Edition) environment. Hiren’s Boot CD is another possible option. The problem with Hiren’s is the legality. Yes, it is available as a free download for anyone. Most of the tools included are free, open source, utilities so there is no problem with that. Hiren’s however, does not use a PE version of Windows. That means our software should work perfectly, but if the Windows operating system is not properly licensed, that could spell legal issues for us. Since this is a limited use system used to remotely resolve issues, and not to be permanently installed on any computer, we may be covered. Remember, we are Microsoft Certified engineers. We would not want to endanger our certifications, licenses, or company. We want to work with Microsoft, and remain in their good graces. Microsoft does not endorse, nor support, any of these portable versions of their Operating System. There is no way for us to contact Microsoft and receive authorization for any of this. Of course, we could always hire a programmer to create a custom solution, but that’s an expense we are not willing to pass on to our customers. We are all about saving you money. We look for solutions to give our customers the best service, at the lowest prices, without sacrificing quality. We do have a working product now, but it needs a little more testing before we release it. If it passes our tests, we will distribute copies to our existing and new clients. We will also have an image available for download on our website so potential customers can burn their own copy, just in case they need it in the future. We will post the information on our website as soon as it’s available. As “Your IT Solution”, we offer much more than computer repair. We can recommend solutions for all your IT needs! As always, our initial consultation and diagnosis is free. Call us today at 480-382-4796 with any questions or concerns. We want you to be a satisfied customer for life, and recommend us to all your friends. We believe the best way to build a business is with honest, dependable service, at the right price. We would rather have 10 customers at $70 than 2 at $200. Many IT companies will tell you that you must be on a monthly maintenance plan in order to provide the necessary updates to your equipment. We have plans like that too, but we configure your software to update itself automatically. Many people cannot afford a monthly plan, and are not interested in that. We work for you, on your terms. If you just need a onetime fix, we’ll be happy to assist you. We are confident that you will return to us with all your future IT needs.

Posted in BNI

WHY We Do What We Do

At Irwin Electronics, our passion is end user support. We believe people should not need a new computer due to a software problem! We believe we can make your old computer perform like new. We understand the financial hardships people are struggling with today. We can’t believe Computer Stores, and even some smaller tech companies charge such exorbitant rates! We believe that if we provide the best service, at the lowest prices, we will have enough volume to cover our costs. We believe that our customers will be so pleased with the service we provide, and the rates we charge, they will tell all their friends, family, and neighbors about us. We are confident we can help you with your computer problems. We love the satisfaction we get when we solve someone’s computer problem. Whether you have a laptop that will not connect to the Internet, a desktop that will not boot, or a nasty virus has infected your system, we employ the latest tools to diagnose and fix your problem. When a customer calls us, upset, because they cannot access their business e-mail, or keep in touch with their grandkids via Facebook, we know that within a few hours they will be happy, excited, and relieved. We offer some of the lowest prices in the industry. We encourage you to shop around and compare our rates. Low prices do not translate to poor service. We could easily charge much more. We have over 20 years of experience. We are Microsoft and CompTIA A+ certified. We are very professional. After years of servicing thousands of servers for corporate clients we are a little tired of working silently in the background with little to no recognition. All our customers knew was that everything was working when they came to work. They had no idea that we were working all night applying patches and fixing issues before they became problems. When you call us, you know something is wrong. If you’re in Phoenix, Peoria, Sun City, or Scottsdale, we will come to you, usually within 30 minutes. You will see how hard we work to resolve your issue, and usually see immediate results. You will also find your computer is much faster! We are experts at cleaning and optimizing Windows. We hate to see someone discard a perfectly good computer because of a software problem. Many people think they will need a new computer because their old one is simply running too slow. People also fall prey to big computer stores telling them they need the latest and greatest new computer just to keep up, when all they do is surf the Internet. If you access your email online, such as Gmail or Yahoo, you’re still surfing the net. With Google Docs and Windows Live you can even create and edit Office documents online. It takes very little processing power to run a web browser. We want to save you money! To give you an example, this blog, and our entire website, was created using an old $300 entry level laptop. We even have a gallery site with family pictures online all created on this same laptop. If you’re not playing the latest games, editing movies, or performing complex mathematical calculations in large spreadsheets, you do not need the latest computer. Please call us before buying a new computer to see if we can help you. We do not stock computers and peripherals for sale, but we do have accounts with multiple distributers. To give you another example, a customer of ours was experiencing difficulty connecting to the Internet. Their Internet Service Provider told them they had a bad router, so they spent nearly $200 at Best Buy on a new one. They called us for assistance installing and configuring it. We told them we could get a router that does the same thing for $50 and perform the installation/configuration for $70. We then had them run a couple simple tests that their provider should have done. We were able to determine in one simple phone call that the router was NOT the problem. They were able to return it for a full refund. We only wish they would have called us first. We could have saved them time and money. We want to do the same for you! We know gas is expensive, we understand millions of Americans are unemployed. We see seniors spending their life savings on medical bills. The last thing you need is to spend money on a new computer because a computer store told you so. Call Irwin Electronics at 480-382-4761 first. Let us help you decide if you need a new computer, and how much you really need to spend. With our years of experience and training, we can some pretty amazing things with the equipment you already have.

 

Posted in BNI

The Dangers of Warez

Warez is defined as copyrighted works distributed without fees or royalties, and may be traded, in general violation of copyright law.

This week a customer brought us a laptop that was a victim of warez sites. Their teenager had been downloading games from these sites so he could play them without paying for them. The problem, aside from the blatant copyright violation, is that these files are typically laden with viruses. Antivirus software is not foolproof. When a Trojan is embedded in a file, such as a game, the user is in effect giving authorization to run the program including all lines of code therein. Depending on the code inserted, the virus could be used to steal credit card information, take over your computer to be used in a Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) attack, display unwanted advertising, or any number of unwanted activities. In this particular case, the virus disabled the antivirus software and began downloading adware to display advertising. Multiple toolbars were installed in the web browser and the screen was littered with pop up and pop under ads. Typically viruses that can disable antivirus software cannot be removed from within Windows. Most major antivirus companies provide recovery CDs for download. These can be used to boot the computer into a Linux operating system, scan and remove the software, before the virus can execute. Keep in mind, these should be downloaded and created from a clean system. Some viruses can interfere with the creation process. Irwin Electronics has already created a number of discs to assist us in removing these viruses. This case proved to be an exception to the rule, and is the reason for this blog post. Following the removal from the rescue disc, the problems were not resolved. We have been doing this for a long time, and have many tools at our disposal. We proceeded to scan with one program after another. Each program identified, and attempted to clean or remove, many files that were identified as containing a virus, adware, or other malware. Eventually we were able to whittle the list down to 2 infections. The remaining 2 however proved to be nearly impossible to remove. By the time we were done, Windows was so damaged that it would lock up or reboot with a blue screen. We began to move to the next set of tools in our arsenal that help to repair windows. These too were proving ineffective. All of this takes time. When a customer is paying by the hour, you reach a point where further efforts become cost prohibitive. Sure, if this would have been one of our computers, and we were so inclined, we could have continued and eventually cleaned the system. We reached a point where reimaging the system to factory default became the most reasonable option. We do not like to resort to such drastic measures, but rest assured, our competition would have long before trying so hard. Some computer companies would have convinced the customer it was time to upgrade to a shiny new laptop. We are not in the business of selling computers. Once we made the decision that it was time to quit, we continued basically working for free. After reimaging the computer, we installed all the latest patches, updates, and service packs. Next we installed new antivirus software, removed unnecessary trial ware, and installed programs our client needed. We configured all the options on each piece of software we installed and fully tested the system. When we returned the system to our customer, it was better than new!

The whole point of this is not necessarily to say Irwin Electronics is the greatest computer repair company in the Phoenix area. We like to think we are, but this is to state the dangers in Warez sites. Do not believe that just because you have antivirus software you’re safe. Viruses are nasty. We’ve talked before about what they can do. Now you can see that removing them can be just as bad. No matter how you look at it, viruses are expensive. They steal your credit, steal your identity, and trash your computer. All this time, work, and expense because someone wanted to save a few dollars on a game. Irwin Electronics specializes in virus removal. We see this all the time. If you still think it can’t happen to you, do yourself a favor and write down this number- 480-382-4761. Not if, but when, disaster strikes give us a call. We will be happy to help you.

Posted in BNI

Should you move your servers to the cloud?

This week a potential client said he wanted to move his servers to the cloud. The decision to move to the cloud is not so easy. We see it everywhere, Amazon, Google, even Apple has iCloud. First, let’s examine what is the cloud. Commercial advertising will have you believe that cloud computing is a mystical, heavenly, place where all your data resides in peace and harmony for all eternity… Hardly!

Cloud computing is nothing more than rented space in an offsite datacenter. Amazon’s oldest, and largest, datacenter is in Northern Virginia. Depending on your needs, you may purchase space similar to a large hard drive, a shared (virtual) server, or a dedicated server.  There are many advantages to cloud computing. You do not need to hire staff to support the servers and infrastructure. Most datacenters have multiple locations to minimize the impact of geographical disturbances. Cloud based datacenters have very large pipes connecting them to the Internet backbone. You do not have to worry about patching the servers, installing application updates, and data security… wait, not so fast.

Storing your data in the cloud is essentially just putting everything on the Internet. With this realization, some people would stop right there. After all, isn’t the Internet a dangerous place, full of characters who are up to no good, trying to steal your most precious data, your money, and your identity? Then again, does your bank offer Internet Banking? They all do, and whether you sign up for it or not, your data is still accessible via the Internet. If done properly, your data is safer on the Internet than it would be stored locally. How can that be, you ask? What if there is a fire in your building? Or a flood, tornado, hurricane, earthquake, you get the idea. So we can all agree, backing up your data offsite is essential. What if your business is financial, medical, or a similar highly regulated industry? Again, your bank is already online, so it can be done. So what’s the problem, why doesn’t everything move to the cloud?

Remember, the cloud is more than data. You can also rent server space, run your applications, create a website, and use it to share all of the above with anyone, across multiple locations. Cloud servers are also scalable. You can simply pay a little more to add bigger servers, more memory, more storage, etc. So again, this cloud thing sounds great, why not? Well, you are now relying on your Internet connection to access not only your data, but also your applications and servers. You are adding more single points of failure. There is a lot that can go wrong between your office and the nearest datacenter. Can you afford to not have access to your programs? Sure, you may be able to go without Word or email for a short period. What if your office uses a special application that stores your client’s records? Could that application even be moved to the cloud to begin with? Let’s not forget the great East Coast blackout of 2003. You may be on the West coast, but your cloud datacenter could be in Virginia. But didn’t I say cloud datacenters are dispersed throughout various geographical regions? Amazon suffered a major outage in 2011 when severe thunderstorms in the area knocked out both their primary and backup generators. This was the latest of several outages affecting their customers. Even though they have multiple sites, that does not mean there will be no interruptions. Godaddy suffered networking problems on September 10, 2012 affecting millions of sites.

So what’s the solution? This is where Irwin Electronics comes in. We are experts in this area. We have built several datacenters in the Phoenix area, and one in Encino California. We will work with you to discuss your needs. We will evaluate your applications, your data, and your tolerance for downtime. Many companies today are going to a private cloud. This is not much different from the standard client/server environment that has been used for years. Today’s servers are powerful enough to handle virtualization, allowing the equivalent of multiple physical servers running on one box. Blade servers are ideal where a powerful infrastructure is required in a small space. Thin clients make great workstations. This involves a very small, low power, box replacing the large desktop computers, and running the Windows operating system and applications from the server. From here, your data can be encrypted and backed up to the cloud. You are less likely to suffer downtime in this situation, as everything is running locally, but can still be externally accessible. Going this route does not necessarily mean you need to hire a full time IT staff either. Irwin Electronics can set up a contract where we will remotely monitor your systems, ensure all patches and updates are applied in a timely manner, and provide onsite service as needed. We service the Phoenix metropolitan area. We have the ability to contract with local organizations outside our immediate area if necessary. You do not need to search for companies to handle each aspect of your build and support. We will handle most of your requirements internally, and we will contract others where necessary. One call to us is all you need. We will handle everything for you. Call 480-382-4761 today for an appointment.

Posted in BNI

Data Loss

Worried about Data loss?

Studies show that human errors and hardware failures are the 2 most common causes of data loss. The most common hardware failures are hard drives, memory, and power supplies.

Hardware failures come in many forms, and are often hard to predict. It has been said there are two types of hard drives, those that have failed, and those that will! When memory fails, even a single defective bit in memory can cause system instability, Windows crashes, lockups, blue screens, and of course data loss.

Irwin Electronics has industry leading software to detect many of these failures. Our software will diagnose every component, including the motherboard and processor. Don’t be fooled by the free alternatives anyone can download. We have tried these and compared them to the commercial software. Irwin Electronics believes in, and supports, open source software. We often donate when we find a product we really like. However, when it comes to true hardware diagnostics, nothing compares to the commercial products the pros use.

We had a computer with a hard drive issue. (Not a customer’s system.) We tested the drive with Windows built in diagnostic tool and found bad sectors. That is a major indication of imminent failure! Windows was able to recover the data. We then ran a boot time test of the drive, including all sectors. Windows determined the drive was clean. We tested the drive with software that monitors the drive’s built in S.M.AR.T. (Self-Monitoring, Analysis and Reporting Technology) software. Again, the drive tested clean. We downloaded and installed a bunch of free diagnostic tools. Most of them did nothing more than read the S.M.AR.T. system, or run a simple check using the same software as Windows. None of them indicated any serious problems. Next we ran our commercial product on the system, and the drive test quickly failed, every time! If this would have been a customer’s computer, and we ran only the built in or free tools, we would have given it back only to have it fail shortly after. Our customer would have lost data, and we would have lost a customer!

That is not to say that it is impossible to have a catastrophic failure shortly after we thoroughly test a system. Electronics can and will fail. What we can offer you is peace of mind. You will know that once we have performed our diagnostic service, you can be certain that every component has been properly tested and verified. Hardware failure at this point is highly unlikely. We even give you a full diagnostic report. You will see every component installed, make, model, and serial number (if applicable), AND their test results! This is a $40 service by itself. If we perform additional work on your system, we will often include this report for FREE. Of course this only applies to customers in the Phoenix Metro area. These diagnostics cannot be run remotely. We are located in Peoria,Arizona and come to you valley wide seven days a week. We support all major brands of desktops, laptops, and servers; including HP, Dell, Lenovo, Asus, Acer, and many others.

Another common cause of data loss are Viruses and Malware. At Irwin Electronics, we have access to some of the best antivirus software on the market for much less than you would pay retail. Many times we have found that we can properly install, configure, and test antivirus software for the same price you would pay for a retail box! If your antivirus is outdated or expired, we will uninstall the old product for you, before installing the new one. If you have multiple products installed that perform the same function they will seriously impact the performance of your system, even if one of them has expired. Antivirus software installs hooks into the operating system that intercept files as they are read from, or written to, the hard drive. The software then scans the file for known virus signatures. It also monitors files for risky behavior. The more hooks you have redirecting files, the longer it takes to move any data. This is another reason why Internet Suites are better than stand alone software. Most suites provide antivirus, firewall, anti-spam, and anti- phishing components. Installing these separately would create multiple hooks as each component would need to intercept the data to analyze it. Most suites will install one hook into the hard drive and network connection, and then perform all the analysis required before sending it back on its way. Another benefit of Irwin Electronics is that we can perform this service remotely! We have a small file on our website that when launched by you, connects to our systems allowing us remote control. Of course, this only works when YOU launch the file. It has been preconfigured to connect ONLY to one of our computers, and terminates when either of us exits it. As long as you have Internet access, you can establish this connection. Keep in mind that software that monitors Internet data will also terminate this connection. In most cases, you click [OK] on an alert and re launch the remote program. Don’t worry; we will walk you through it.

We can also help you decide if you need a full suite, or simply antivirus. Windows itself provides a limited, but effective, firewall. Most routers provide NAT (Network Access) Translation, which also provides firewall security. These are effective only on incoming connections. If you frequently download software from the Internet, a good firewall will also scan outgoing connections which could be sending your private data to the bad guys! Corporate environments already have professional firewalls installed that perform deep packet analysis on all data, which means they inspect every bit of the data sent through their systems, and also restrict where that data is sent. Your computer has 65,536 ports through which data is sent and received. Some software only “monitors” standard ports, while others can provide complete anonymity on all ports. If your goal is to make your computer appear offline, or disappear, from the network, we can help you with that too. One of our clients was a Police Officer that required complete anonymity when surfing suspect sites. In this case, we installed a professional antivirus and firewall solution in addition to instructions on how to surf using special anonymizing proxy web sites that route data through multiple servers worldwide. These even hide or mask your IP address, which is a specific network address assigned to you by your Internet provider. You may not realize it, but websites have several ways to indentify you. They know your approximate location, your ISP (Internet Service Provider), what web browser you are using, even the operating system on your computer! Sites like, http://whatismyipaddress.com/ and http://www.whatismybrowser.com/ provide examples of some of the data collected.

We can help recover lost data, assist in moving data to a new computer, recommend backup solutions, detect imminent hardware failure, and protect your data.

To summarize, there are many types of failures that can occur leading to data loss. Irwin Electronics has been doing this for over 20 years. We are experts in the field, and a wealth of knowledge and experience. If you have questions, please call us at 480-382-4761. We are always happy to answer your questions, and we want to be your IT guys!

 

Posted in BNI