Restart - Switching off and on is not always what it seems

It is an IT support cliché – have you tried switching it off and on again?

To be fair, this frequently solves many problems with misbehaving IT devices. Typically, shutting down and switching off the power to a computer will restore its temporary internal structures to a known “fresh” point, which enables it to work normally when it is started again.

However, for many PCs and laptops, using the physical button to switch them off and on does not do what you expect it to. Instead they go into a sleep mode, remembering where they were, to try and make things faster when you next press the physical ‘On’ button. As a result, they do not restore things to a “fresh” state.


To make sure your PC or laptop really does get itself to this fresh starting point, you will need to use the ‘Restart’ option.

Back in Windows 7 days, Microsoft recommended that desktop PCs and laptops should be restarted at least one a week. With Windows 10, things are more nuanced, and a lot depends on how the device is used. Some very heavily used devices can benefit from a daily restart while more lightly used systems can last 20-30 days before they need restarting. As a rule of thumb, a weekly restart remains a good starting point.

To carry out a restart, make sure you have closed any open applications and saved your work. Then, as illustrated:

Restart Windows
  • Click the Start button
  • Click the Power button
  • Click the Restart Option and the device will immediately restart


And more…

The most important factor in keeping your IT devices running smoothly and securely is to make sure they are running their latest software updates. We’ll cover how to check this for Windows devices in the next post.


It’s not just computers that benefit from a restart. From a mental health point of view, it does us all good to restart/reset out internal computers on a regular basis. The mental health and wellbeing advocate and rugby legend Sir John Kirwan gave some excellent insights into one way of doing this in a recent episode of the “Don’t Tell Me The Score” podcast.

More Information

Microsoft: Optimise Windows for better performance
Microsoft: Tips to improve PC performance in Windows 10
Don’t Tell Me The Score: Mental Health : Sir John Kirwan


Working from Home - Cyber Security & Wellbeing

Working from home is going to be with many of us for the foreseeable future, not just to help with social distancing but also as many organisations question the economic and environmental impact of our regular daily commute to expensive office space.

Cyber Security

SAN Institute Working From Home Fact SheetTo keep ourselves cyber secure when working from home and to double check on any bad habits we may have acquired over the past months, it is worth revisiting the SANS Institute's Top 5 Steps to Securely Work from Home checklist. This covers:

  • You
  • Your Home Network
  • Your Passwords
  • Updates to your Devices
  • Your Kids & Guests

Click here to see the full article.


Don’t forget, that wherever you are working, your physical and mental wellbeing is of paramount importance. A great resource, with useful and thoughtful tips is the BBC's Don’t Tell Me The Score podcast episode: Looking after yourself at home with James Collins. Click here to listen to the podcast.

Further information

The SANS checklist is available in other languages from: Other related resources can be found at:

Full details of the award winning Don't Tell Me The Score podcast can be found at, with the back catalogue at

Aspen Software Earns Respected Technology Industry Business Credential

CompTIA IT Business TrustmarkWe are delighted to announce that we have received the CompTIA IT Business Trustmark™, a respected industry credential that signifies our commitment to sound business practices and quality service.

“Earning this credential identifies Aspen Software as a business that meets or exceeds the best business practices the IT industry has to offer,” said John McGlinchey, vice president, Europe and Middle East, CompTIA.

The CompTIA IT Business Trustmark was developed by CompTIA, the non-profit association for the information technology industry, in collaboration with industry experts and leaders, to identify IT companies that follow industry best practices related to service agreements, standard operating procedures and systems and tools for delivering services.

IT Business Trustmark presentation to Aspen SoftwareNeil Smith is pictured receiving Aspen Software’s IT Business Trustmark (centre) from Mark Williams, Chair of the CompTIA UK Channel Community (left) and Jim Hamilton, Vice President of Member Communities at CompTIA (right).

Companies that earn the CompTIA IT Business Trustmark have pledged to follow a robust code of practice that meet or exceed industry standard levels of customer service. They’ve also met industry-agreed standards in areas such as data security practices, staff competencies and holding of adequate insurance.

CompTIA’s IT Business Trustmark is a vendor-neutral, business-level credential designed to qualify and differentiate high-calibre solution provider organisations operating in the UK.

We are proud to be part of that community.


OneDrive for Business & SharePoint - the differences

We're big fans of Office 365, use it to run our business and have been pleased to see OneDrive for Business get better and better – even unlimited storage for Office 365 subscribers will be with us soon.

SharePoint Online and One PremiseOne Drive for Business

We're often asked about the differences between OneDrive for Business, SharePoint and "plain old" OneDrive, this blog post from Microsoft is a good answer to that question.

Another useful place is the Office 365 Roadmap. Using "OneDrive" in the search option will show you what is in the pipeline for the product and what new changes are already available.

A particular issue for OneDrive for Business is that certain characters that are valid within a filename on your PC (in particular # and %) cannot be used if you want to store a file with that name in OneDrive for Business.  Full details can be seen in the following Microsoft support article.  The good news is that the fix for this is in development which will make the move to OneDrive for Business and SharePoint Online even easier.


Office 365 UK User Group - Upgrades, Migrations & Projects

Presentation SlidesThe Office 365 UK User Group ( is a great environment to share information about real world experience of Office 365 with a group of like minded people.  Please click here to download a copy of the slides that supported our contribution to events at the evening session on 17th June 2013.

A big thank you goes to the Office 365 UK User Group team for organising a really useful event.

Update 5th July 2013 – Thanks to everyone for the feedback from the User Group meeting and from the Thames Valley SBSC where we re-ran this on 4 July.  Thank you also to SBSCer John Murdoch for the additional link on Autodiscover and Active Directory, the slides have now been updated to include this information.


Is Your Website Up? (Value IT Support)

Do you know whether your website is up and running now? Or does the front door to your business look like this at the moment?

Browser connection errors...

You've made a significant investment in your web presence, but how do you know that it's always available to the outside world? Unsurprisingly there is a whole industry that is willing to help. Simply Google or Bing "Website monitoring" and you will see a wide range of options available. But which should you choose?

The key things to look for are the reliability of the monitoring service and the location of the monitoring points. Clearly the monitoring service always needs to be checking the availability of your site and ideally it should to be carrying out the checks from the same geographic locations as your intended audience. That way it will be checking the connectivity to your web site and not just whether the web server is working.

In use, most services simply ask you for the web address of your site or application, the frequency of checking (typically from one minute upwards) and how you should be notified if your site is down. Notification is usually through email or SMS although some providers also provide smartphone apps.

So what's our recommendation?

Monitored by Pingdom If the primary audience for your website or application is in the UK, mainland Europe or North America then, based on several years of real life use, Pingdom ( is our first choice. If you have just one website to monitor they have a great free service. For multiple sites their pricing is very competitive - at the time of writing you can start with the five site "basic package" for US $9.95 per month and then add checks for extra sites at the equivalent of US $0.50 per check per month.

You can see how the monitoring process works in more detail on the Pingdom website. Remember too that the service can be used to monitor more than web site availability. As an example, for our clients, who use the remote web access facility provided by Microsoft Small Business Server or Server 2012 Essentials, a Pingdom check provides the ideal verification that their staff can access their office based applications and data when working away from base.

Checks also show the response times for your site or application and can be configured to monitor other key services such as email. To round it off, Pingdom also have some useful free tools, including a full web page speed test, located at

So, don’t wait for your customers to tell you that your website or web application is down, use the tools available to keep an eye on things – it’s easy and inexpensive.



Anti Virus False Positives - AVG and Visual Studio (Technical Note)

It was the telephone conversation that every custom software development business dreads:

"I'm running the installer from your latest update and my anti virus software is telling me that it is infected with a virus!"

As a company developing custom business software, we are in a position of great trust when we produce software to install on our clients' PCs and servers. In fact, we use anti-virus and anti-malware products from four different vendors to maximise protection throughout our company network, so I was confident that we had not shipped infected software.

Back to the conversation...

Whilst we could have suggested temporarily disabling the anti-virus software or setting up an exception so that it would ignore our software and its installer, that really wasn't a viable option or something I would want to do. So we agreed a plan of action with our client.

A quick return to our testing lab enabled us to fire up a new test PC image, install a copy of the anti-virus reporting the problem (in this case AVG) and reproduce the reported problem. Needless to say, all of our other anti-virus products were quite happy with our software.

What to do with our false positive?

Theoretically we could contact the anti-virus vendor, supply a copy of our files and ask them to change their scan signatures to fix the false positive but, in reality, this wasn't a practical option. A quick trawl of the internet revealed that false positives are a common problem and major anti-virus vendors are not keen to accommodate a piece of custom software that may only be installed on a few PCs. So what were our options?

Rebuild & Test

As there was a facet of the executable file that seemed to be confusing the anti-virus, our next step was to rebuild our solution with varying compiler options and retest. Fortunately, an acceptable solution was soon found, simply recompiling the executable with optimisations switched off produced a program that the anti-virus found acceptable. (In Visual Studio 2010 this simply meant unticking the "Enable Optimizations" setting under "Advanced Compiler Options...".)

As, in our case, compiling without optimisation caused no adverse affects in the finished program, we were able to ship the update which our client then installed without any problems.


Lesson learnt - when trying to resolve an anti-virus false positive, don't forget to experiment with the compiler options.


Thames Valley SBSC - What's in the Tool Box?

Presentation SlidesThursday 5th July 2012 – my turn to do some sharing at the Thames Valley Small Business Specialist User Group (an excellent peer networking group for IT pros serving small businesses).

Please click here to download a copy of the slides – I hope you find them useful. Thanks go to those who have recommended some of these tools to me in the past.



Google Alerts and Twitter - Value IT Support

Back in February, we mentioned how useful Google alerts are for easily keeping up to date with what people are saying online about you, your competitors and your customers.  If you've been using them, you'll know how well they work delivering useful information directly to your inbox.

If you're also using Twitter and want to be alerted when something you're interested in is contained in a tweet, then Google alerts can help you with that too.

Simply set up a Google Alert in the usual way and change the "Type:" to "Realtime" to monitor a range of social media sources including Twitter. If you need to act on a tweet, then changing the setting "How often:" to "As-it-happens" can also be useful to minimise delay.

You can find out more about Google's realtime search facility at where the video will give you a good introduction to its capabilities.


Your domain, website and email, it’s your brand - Value IT Support

How often do you see a nicely sign-written van or lorry featuring a company's website address?  If you're like me and spend a fair amount of time in traffic jams, I'm guessing quite a lot.  It's a good way of promoting your business and encouraging people to visit your website.

However, I often notice that some organisations who have invested in a professionally produced website, featured it in their advertising and on their vehicles then give a "free" email address as a way of contacting them.  For example you might see something that urges you to find out more at but then the email address they use is [email protected].  Compare this to the ad featuring  with an email address of [email protected].  I don't know about you, but Whizzo Washers is already looking like a more professional organisation to me.

When you register a domain name, "mailboxes" that will let you send and receive email aren't normally included in the price.  You typically need to either buy them as "add-ons" or buy a more comprehensive hosting package.  In this situation, I can see why the free email option seems attractive.  I've got nothing against free email addresses, they can be really useful, but if you have gone to the expense of registering a domain name then why not use it with your email address too?  If you use a facility known as email forwarding, there won't be any additional cost.

Nowadays, any domain hosting package worth its salt should include free email forwarding.  This will allow email sent to "your domain" to be forwarded to another email, address – even a free one.  This is exactly what the folks at Whizzo Washers did, they invested significantly less than £10 per year to register their domain and then used the inclusive email forwarding capability to forward all email sent to to their Gmail address. 

They're even using their address for email replies.  (When logged into Gmail, choose the "Settings" option, select "Accounts and Import" and click "Send from another address".  This sets up and verifies the email address to use as the reply address.)

I would suggest that if anyone is producing a website for you and offering you domain registration and website hosting, then they should provide a solution for your email too.  At the very least this should include the email forwarding which I have just described - at no extra cost.  For more "business oriented capabilities" expect POP3 or IMAP mailboxes with webmail capabilities, or at the top of the spectrum, something that includes things such as company-wide shared calendaring, address lists and the ability to access your email using the ubiquitous Microsoft Outlook, webmail, mobile phone or tablet (but more about that later),

Just remember, whatever options you choose for your website. It's your domain and don't forget to use it wherever you can.

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