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Support for Windows XP with Service Pack 2 Is Ending

Next week, on July 13, Microsoft will be ending its support for Windows XP with Service Pack 2 – a popular operating system that many of our clients have used for years.

Now, an end of support doesn’t mean that your software will magically stop functioning. It does mean that Microsoft won’t be issuing software updates for this version of XP anymore. You won’t be getting any more patches or updates to improve system reliability, stability, or security. If on July 14 a big new security threat exploits an as-yet undiscovered loophole in XP running Service Pack 2, best of luck to you – Microsoft won’t have a patch for it.

What to do? Either install Service Pack 3 for free, or transition to Windows 7.

For a lot of companies who are still operating with very tight budgets, the former option might be the only truly viable one – not to mention that a lot of businesses are understandably reluctant to upgrade to Windows 7 until there’s been at least one service pack release.

It’s natural not to want to make a major investment in a full-scale operating system overhaul for every computer in your company. However, you’d do well to start thinking about how you’re going to address this transition over time. Think about which users are really going to need Windows 7 and who can wait. That way you can prioritize upgrades and do it in a gradual way – a few computers one quarter, a few more the next – that will minimize shocks to your budget and to your user base.

(Note: There’s no Service Pack 3 for the 64-bit version of Windows XP. If you’re running the 64-bit version of Windows XP with SP2, you have the latest service pack and will continue to be eligible for support and receive updates until April 8, 2014. If you’re not sure which version you’re running, click here.)

How to Write Now and Send Later in Outlook


There are a lot of reasons you might want to delay sending a message in Outlook. Maybe you want to get all of your “happy birthday” messages for the year written and scheduled. Perhaps you want to make sure a message reaches a recipient in a different time zone at the beginning of their day, even if it’s midnight where you are. Whatever the goal, chances are you’ll need to use this function someday. Here’s how.

In Office 2003 and earlier versions of Outlook, write your message as normal. When you’re finished, go to the Options button on the toolbar. Go to the “Delivery options” segment of the Message Options dialog box that opens. Check the box that says “Do not deliver before” and then use the drop-down messages to select a date and time. Click the Close button when you’re done and hit Send on your message.

The steps are basically the same with Office 2007 and later versions, except that you start by finding the Delay Delivery button on the Options ribbon (see below).

Here’s what the Message Options dialog looks like in Office 2007 for a message scheduled to go out at 9:30am on July 23, 2010.


Now, a note about how Delay Delivery actually works. Depending on what kind of messaging service you use, the message may “live” in a different place until it actually sends. 

If you’re using a POP or IMAP setup, the message will sit in your Outlook outbox until the send time arrives. If you have Outlook up and running at the send time, your message will go out as scheduled. If you do not have Outlook running, the message will remain unsent until the next time you start it up. 

If you’re on an Exchange server, the message will “live” on the Exchange server until the send time – it doesn’t matter if your own personal Outlook client is open or not. As long as your server is up, the message will send as scheduled. 

Not sure of the difference between POP/IMAP and Exchange email? Click here to download our free guide to small business email, which explains the differences between POP/IMAP and Exchange and shows you how to decide which setup is best for your business.

Before You Leave for Vacation, Make Sure You’ll Come Back to Happy Computers

In the summertime, you have a few unique things to worry about: traveling with a computer; making sure that computers don’t suffer from heat or lack of ventilation; and ensuring that a big storm or hurricane doesn’t knock out your systems while you’re away.
If you’re traveling with a computer, you’ll want to make sure you don’t accidentally leave it at the airport – that’s an obvious first step in a successful journey! After that, your primary worry until you get to an electrical outlet will be making sure you have enough battery power to last.

 1. Make sure you’ve run a full backup before you leave. Save copies of important documents on your corporate file server, and password-protect and encrypt the files on your hard drive.

 2. Invest in a biometric USB flash drive that requires an authenticated fingerprint to access files.

 3. Give yourself plenty of time at the airport, and keep an eye on your computer at all times — a recent study showed that people most frequently lose their laptops at security checkpoints and at departure gates.

 4. While traveling, preserve the life of your battery by dimming your screen; turning off autosave; minimizing the number of programs you’re running; and disconnecting external devices like mice and USB drives.

 Keeping your computer cool during a heat wave can be a big challenge. A few common-sense precautions can help.

 1. Give your computer access to plenty of air. Clear those stacks of paper off your CPU, pull it out of the corner, and make sure your fan can operate properly.

 2. Speaking of fans – take the cover off your CPU and make sure your fan is clean. If it’s gunked up with dust and pet hair, it won’t be able to run efficiently.

 3. Move your computer to a place where it doesn’t have to work so hard to cool itself. If it’s sitting in bright sunlight or if it’s right near an appliance that generates a lot of heat (like a projector, for example), it’s already at a disadvantage.

 Let’s say you’re shutting down the office, leaving your computers behind, and getting out of Dodge for a week or two. How can you make sure a storm, flood, or hurricane doesn’t put a damper on your return?

 1. Get expensive equipment up off the floor. Even mild flooding can cause major damage to thousands of dollars worth of computer equipment.
2. Run a full backup and test it to make sure you could restore your system in the event of a major data loss. We’ve spoken with countless business owners who run backups but never test them, and then they’re shocked to find out their “business-critical” backups are corrupted or incomplete.

 3. If you have an onsite backup system, great. If you have an offsite backup as well, that’s even better. And if your offsite backup is far away in a secure location that’s not prone to major weather events, that’s best.

 4. Write down all your software product keys, license numbers, passwords, configuration notes, and encryption codes and put them in a locked safe — preferably both on premises and off.

 5. Have a plan in place so that if a major disaster occurs while you’re away, other people in the office know how to contact each other and what procedures to follow in order to get your business systems running again. This includes writing down the sequence in which applications, servers, and databases need to be brought back online in order for data to properly repopulate.

Do you want to Grow Your Small Business without giving up your LIFE?

The CMIT Summer Webinar Series is here! Listen to why you should attend this event.

One of the biggest complaints of small business owners is that they don’t get to spend enough time on their own professional development.

Lisa Earle McLeodCMIT is pleased to host business author and humor columnist Lisa Earle McLeod in a fun, free summer webinar series specifically designed for you, the small business owner. The series will focus on three topics that business leaders consistently cite as the most challenging, and that can also have the greatest impact on the bottom line – networking, employee engagement, and internal organization.

Register Now
June 24, 2010 –
Is Networking a Waste of Time? Or An Effective Marketing Strategy?
How to be a great networker without being a creeper.

July 22, 2010 –
Motivating Employees During Tough Times.
3 things you can do right now that won’t cost you a dime.

August 26, 2010 –
The 3 Secrets of Organizing Your Business (and your life).
Are you running your life or is it running you? Simple steps to reverse the order.

Learn more about Lisa Earle McLeod from her website, http://www.lisaearlemcleod.com

Check out the CMIT archives: Small Business Technology Webinars
Click here to access the recordings

Register Now

How to Recognize (And Avoid) PDF-based Malware

 The world of cybercrime is vast and varied, but you can still make at least one generalization that holds true: hackers will always gravitate toward popular sites and programs in the hopes of maximizing the reward for their efforts. Put another way, this means that most software with a wide user base has its share of security threats.

Adobe Reader is a common PDF (portable document format) software that allows you to read documents but not edit them.  As PDFs grow in popularity, they are increasingly made the vehicle of cyberattacks. Adobe Reader has been repeatedly exploited by hackers. Many versions of PDF-based malware are triggered by the user opening an infected PDF file, which then gives hackers access to the computer.

One of the newer, scarier versions of Adobe malware sends out an update prompt that looks convincingly legitimate. It overwrites the real auto-updater function and opens up the computer to be controlled by a botnet.  (Botnet is a jargon term for a collection of software agents, or robots, that run autonomously and automatically. The term is most commonly associated with malicious software, but it can also refer to a network of computers using distributed computing software. – Wikipedia)
If you want to protect yourself against PDF-based malware, you can do a number of things:

  1. First and most importantly, don’t open PDFs from people you don’t know.
  2. You can disable JavaScript in Acrobat and Reader. (Most attacks are executed via JavaScript.)
  3. Use good antivirus software and keep it up to date.
  4. Remember that individual software will occasionally require security updates, so you do need to keep an eye out for legitimate update prompts.
  5. Closely examine automatic update prompts to make sure they’re the “real thing.” If it’s misspelled, if the language is odd, or if logos or icons look like they’ve been altered, the prompt could be a fake.
  6. If you’re directed to a site to download an update, take a good look at the address bar. Legitimate updates to Flash and Acrobat will come from Adobe.com. Fraudulent ones will have a different address.

Protect Your Computer from Prying Eyes With a Few Keystrokes

Folks are so concerned about protecting their computers from malware, spyware, and hackers that they often overlook one of the easiest intrusion methods of all. If you don’t “lock” your computer, it’s open for anybody to access the moment you step away from your desk.

There are a couple of ways to lock your computer:

  1. Hit the Windows key and the letter L at the same time. (Applies to Windows XP and later versions.)
  2. Alternately, hit CTRL+ALT+DELETE. You’ll be presented with a menu of options. On a Vista machine, the options are: Lock this computer, Switch user, Log off, Change a password, or Start Task Manager. Select Lock this computer and you’re done.
  3. On a Vista machine in Non-Classic mode, you can also click the lock icon on the start menu.

No matter which method you use to lock your computer, you can unlock it by hitting CTRL+ALT+DELETE and entering your password.

If you don’t want to have to bother with manually locking your computer, you can set it up to automatically lock when it wakes up from screen saver mode. Here’s how to do it:

Windows 7:

This feature is automatically enabled.

Windows Vista:

Go to Control Panel and then Appearance and Personalization. Click on Change Screen Saver. Check the button that says, “On resume, display logon screen.” Click OK.

Earlier versions of Windows:

Right-click the desktop and select Properties. In the Display Properties window, select the Screen Saver tab. Select a screen saver file from the drop-down list. In the “Wait:” field, set the amount of time you want the screen saver to wait before it turns on. Then check the box that turns on password protection. Depending on your version of Windows, it might say “On resume, password protect” or “Password protected.” Click OK.

Many people resist locking their computers because it’s a hassle to enter in their password or they don’t feel like there’s any danger in leaving their machine open and unattended. But most of those people lock their homes and cars at night, even if they live in safe neighborhoods. The same reasoning applies here: while you might be fine without it, there’s no harm in using the safety features that are available to you. And if you travel frequently, you absolutely need this protection on your laptop – your office might be safe, but plenty of other places aren’t!