Bulletproof Your Data with a Backup and Disaster Recovery Solution

i.t.Now offers a state of the art data Backup and Disaster Recovery (BDR) solution that “bullet proofs” your data.

Service Highlights:

  • A complete solution that is designed to reduce any server down time with the use of a specialized back up and virtual server appliance.
  • Allows near real-time backups – as frequent as every 15 minutes.
  • Offers offsite storage at an affordable cost
  • Provides a low cost, speedy disaster recovery process.
  • Data is encrypted so it is not accessible to anyone without the passkey, either on the NAS or at the remote storage facility.
  • Eliminates the cost and time of managing on-site tape backup. We monitor and manage the entire process.
  • All costs are bundled at a price that is comparable to the overall cost of buying and managing tape backup. This includes frequent on site backups, on site virtual server, remote storage, disaster recovery in the event of disaster, and 24×7 management of the entire process.

Executive Summary
A recent study discovered that, of companies experiencing a “major loss” of computer records, 43% never reopened, 51% closed within two years of the loss, and a mere 6% survived over the long term. For small and medium-sized businesses in particular, these statistics suggest the necessity of crafting a Business Continuity Planning (BCP) strategy grounded in a robust data backup and recovery solution.

Unlike large enterprises, many smaller companies cannot afford optimal in-house strategies and solutions in service of BCP. These companies are consequently at an elevated risk of being put out of business due to any major loss of data. Loss of data could mean emails lost, accounting data lost, patient or client files lost, company records lost, client legal records or orders lost and so on. This white paper evaluates the scope of BCP for smaller companies, by examining their challenges, range of existing solutions and their drawbacks. We’ll also discuss how our solution overcomes commonly faced challenges to offer the most comprehensive solution out in the marketplace.

Business Continuity Planning for Small and Medium Size Businesses
BCP is the blueprint for how businesses plan to survive everything from local equipment failure to global disaster. Data-oriented BCP, an indispensable component of business planning regardless of organization size, poses the following challenges. Smaller businesses generally lack the in-house IT resources to achieve these demanding planning, technical and process requirements. Therefore, many SMBs either neglect to implement any data-oriented business continuity plan or else approach data backup and recovery in a sporadic, rudimentary fashion that fails to conform to the best practices of BCP.

Risks of not having a plan in place:

  • Understanding regulatory compliance requirements in your industry. Regulations such as the Healthcare Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) and the Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act (GLBA) and other laws, both state and federal.
  • Understanding how to mitigate the risk of losing vital business data, such as customer records.
  • Being aware of the environmental hazards that the business infrastructure is exposed to due to your geographical location.
  • Estimating time it would take to build the business back if disaster strikes without having any BCP in place.
  • Understanding ROI for having a BCP in place.

Technical Challenges:

  • Identify the lowest-cost, highest-performance data backup medium (tape or disk) based solution and keeping abreast with the latest and greatest in the industry.
  • Ensure that all backed-up data is encrypted and otherwise safeguarded from theft. o Ensure that backed-up data can be restored to different kinds of hardware.
  • Ensure that data backup continues even during active recovery phases.

Operational Challenges:

  • Identifying what data to back up.
  • Identifying how frequently to back up and related costs and ROI.
  • Retain the ability to recover not only the most recent data, but also data from oldertime horizons, such as past quarters and years.
  • Retain the ability to monitor and manage the integrity of ongoing data backupprocesses so that backup failures can be diagnosed and remedied before adversely impacting the BCP lifecycle.
  • The need to hire staff who can understand, design, implement and keep a BCP running 24/7 and be available to get business back in action after disaster strikes.

Traditional Solution vs. Emerging Technology
Implementing a data-oriented BCP strategy first requires designation of a specific data storage medium. Magnetic tape and disks are the two leading media for data backup storage. While magnetic tape is currently dominant, analyst Dave Russell of Gartner believes that:

“Recovery will move to online disk-based storage in the future. This will cause a major shift in the backup market during the next four to five years.”

Smaller companies in particular will benefit from the shift, as recent advances in design and manufacturing lower the total cost of disk-based storage in terms of storage per bit. Falling prices, combined with the various performance advantages that storage industry analysts cite, render disk increasingly attractive. Gartner Group highlights the suitability of disk for these organizations by explaining that:

“The need for high-performance online recovery of data, combined with the availability of low-cost disk arrays, has influenced enterprises and small and midsize businesses to adopt a disk-based approach for backup and recovery.”

Tape, in contrast to disk, is physically delicate and easily compromised by environmental factors such as heat, humidity, and magnetic interference. Moreover, tape cartridges must be replaced frequently (every 6-12 months). Tape’s innate sensitivity contributes to high failure rates, with analysts estimating that anywhere from 42 to 71 percent of tape restores fail. Even when magnetic tape backups are successful, tapes themselves are subject to loss or theft, and may be in the possession of an employee or vendor unable to reach a recovery site. Thus, even when physical backup and restoration processes succeed, tape may not prove to be as timely and appropriate a medium for data storage as disk. Time is a crucial consideration because each hour of server, application, and network downtime endured until data restoration comes at a high cost, especially to smaller businesses.

Analyst Jon Oltsik of Enterprise Strategy Group also points out that tape is seldom encrypted, compounding the destructive impact of tape theft: “Very few people encrypt backup tapes, which means that they rely on the security of the backup and off-site rotation process.” (source: Internetnews.com)

Disk offers not only lower cost encryption but also other advantages. In contrast to tape, “disks are more durable, last longer, withstand more overwriting and you don’t need to clean any heads,” according to Rinku Tyagi of PCQuest. He also pointed out, “When it comes to backing up using disks, they are easier to manage. Disk backup systems include management tools, often browser-based, for you to easily configure settings and check status from anywhere.”

HP enumerates other advantages of disk storage, noting that:

“Data is backed up to disk much faster than tape, which translates to less impact on production server availability. Disk is also a more reliable media than tape and less prone to error, which translates to less failed recoveries.”

While disk offers advantages over tape, it is not a panacea. After installing disk technology, Companies will still be responsible for monitoring and managing backup processes, encrypting and safeguarding backed up onsite and offsite data, restoring data to new hardware, and other functions. Without implementing a layer of governance over disk-based data backup, these Companies court the danger of failed backups and delayed restoration of data, thereby jeopardizing their chances of successful recovery from major data loss.

Smaller Companies unable or unwilling to invest in the human expertise and infrastructure support systems necessary for data-oriented BCP can leverage our data backup and recovery solution, which removes cost and complexity burdens from your staff.

A Complete Solution that addresses all of your BCP Needs

Near Real-Time Backups: Our “Incremental Forever” methodology captures all changes to the initial image in increments of 15 minutes. The Incremental Forever technology not only backs up recent datasets but also allows end users to reconstruct the state of their data as it stood at the end of various 15-minute restoration points. This level of forensic and auditable data recovery may satisfy various regulatory requirements (such as HIPAA and GLBA) for data retention and data record reconstruction, and also serves stakeholders such as supply chain planners, warehouse analysts, auditors, and legal counsel.

On-site Virtual Server: If any of your servers fail, our server virtualization technology embedded in the Network Attached Storage (NAS) allows customer servers and applications to be restored and rebooted in minutes. As you may sometimes endure a wait of several days in order to receive replacement servers from vendors, your NAS can have your business up and running. The NAS multitasks so that, even while functioning as a virtual server, it can continue to back up data from other devices plugged into the NAS. Our technology thus allows you to remain in business without any significant loss of data backup, server functionality, or application downtime.

A Complete Image: We generate an image of all hard drive partitions via an agent, which is warehoused on the NAS device physically located at your location. The data is stored using AES- 256 bit encryption and compressed. We employ a block-level, not file-level, backup, which means that data is captured at the level of 1’s and 0’s. Block level data is raw data which does not have a file structure imposed on it. Database applications such as Microsoft SQL Server and Microsoft Exchange Server transfer data in blocks. Block transfer is the most efficient way to write to disk and is much less prone to errors such as those that result from file-level backups. Additionally, block level backups are not affected by open files or open databases. The block- level image is an exact digital duplicate of the on-site server

Intuitive and Flexible Restoration: A good backup system should allow for quick and flexible restores. Our solution allows for recovery of files, folders, partitions, mailboxes/messages, databases/tables using a quick and intuitive process. In case of a complete server failure we do support a bare metal restore to new hardware which has a different configuration, hardware and drivers as compared to the failed server. Our 15-minute incremental based backup allows restores to be done from any point in time, allowing for multiple versions of files, folders, messages/mailboxes, database/tables to be restored.

Secure Remote Storage: After imaging the servers to which it is attached, the NAS device then creates an independent 256-bit encrypted tunnel and transmits the imaged data to a secure offsite location where it resides in an encrypted, compressed format. That remote site then replicates again to an alternate data center, creating a total of three copies of the data in three geographically distinct regions. Since the data is encrypted and only you have the key, no one has access at any of the remote storage facilities.

Transmitting data to a remote site is a key component of BCP. It guarantees that, in case of physical damage to the client’s network or NAS, or even regional disaster, the data is safe in uncompromised locations. Encryption is an important step in the process of transmitting data between the NAS and the remote sites, because it greatly reduces the risk of data loss incidents that plague magnetic tape and prevents man-in-the-middle attacks during transmission. We employ the 256-bit Advanced Encryption Standard (AES) algorithm because it has never been broken and is currently considered the gold standard of encryption techniques and render transmitted data immune to theft.

Secure, Bandwidth Throttling Transfer: Transmission itself occurs over your Internet connection, and can easily be configured to minimize bandwidth consumption. Our NAS leverages Adaptive Bandwidth Throttling, which only utilizes unused bandwidth or allows us to set an outbound limit. Our UDP based smart transfer technology utilizes a host of innovative algorithms to speed up data transport and resume from failure. We can therefore exercise fine control over the data imaging and transmission processes.

24×7 Completely Managed Solution: A 500-person Network Operations Center (NOC) monitors your NAS units and the attached servers 24/7. Failed processes generate immediate alerts to our engineers, who often remotely correct errors within minutes of receiving notification. In case of more serious NAS issues, we will conduct repairs at your site. If any NAS units are irreparably damaged or destroyed, at an additional cost we will overnight ship replacements— pre-loaded with all stored data—directly to your location.

Affordable Cost: We offer a pricing packaged that is all inclusive of the complete backup and disaster recovery service-with no hidden costs. All your costs are bundled and include the NAS, the Incremental Forever Methodology, file restorations, file integrity checks, secure data transmission and remote storage.

Server 2012 Open Licensing and OEM Downgrade Rights

Some questions that have been prompted by the recent move to Server 2012 concern downgrade rights.  Many companies are put in a situation where they need to purchase a new server license(s), but their business applications are not yet fully compatible with Server 2012.  Since Server 2008R2 volume licensing is no longer available for purchase, what can be done?  The answer lies with downgrade rights.

Server 2012 volume licensing comes with rights to downgrade to Server 2008R2.  This is advantageous for a couple of reasons.  One is that it allows you to accommodate any applications that are not ready for Server 2012.  Another is that at some future date you can use the same license to move to 2012 at no additional cost.

Server 2012 OEM licensing also offers downgrade rights, but with one small caveat.  Microsoft reports that:

“The OEM license terms for most OEM versions released with or after the Windows Server 2003 R2 operating system allow for the user to downgrade to an earlier version.”

That’s good news for all of us that have purchased OEM licenses.  It’s been confirmed that both Dell and HP OEM licenses will allow for downgrade rights with 2012.  If you happen to have an OEM license from another manufacturer you’ll have to check their specific OEM License terms to confirm that you have downgrade rights.

Windows 8 Pro OEM and Volume versions will also have downgrade rights to Window 7 Pro.  If you have a copy of Windows 8 OEM(non pro) your downgrade rights would be limited to Windows 7 home.  It’s important to note that if you have legacy applications that will only run on XP, Windows 8 will not come with downgrade rights to XP.  You’ll have to update the app or find a replacement if you want to upgrade your OS.

If you have questions about Microsoft Licensing or downgrade rights contact an expert at i.t.NOW for assistance.  There is also some great information available online here.


Server 2012 Licensing Explained

With the recent move to Server 2012 and the change in Microsoft’s traditional licensing model have come a slew of questions.  The change in the licensing model has been driven largely by trends in the industry for data centralization and cloud centric computing.  There are actually some nice benefits that the new licensing model offers to those who are currently using a hypervisor such as VMware or HyperV.  The licensing model is also simplified so that there are now really only 2 versions of Microsoft server OS where there were previously many.  Here’s how it all breaks down.

There are basically 2 version of Microsoft Sever licensing that will be commonly used in businesses.  One is Server 2012 Standard, and the other is Server 2012 Datacenter.  One of the big changes with 2012 is that there is no difference in feature sets between the two versions.  Standard now has all of the great features that were previously only available with a more expensive server OS.

The main difference with these two licenses is the licensing model.  A datacenter license is good for unlimited virtual instances on a single physical piece of hardware with up to two processors.  That makes it ideal for heavily virtualized datacenter environments.  The standard license is good for two virtual instances on a single piece of hardware with up to two processors.  This is a fit for lighter virtualization installments, and for most small businesses that have a few servers and are using a hypervisor.  The new standard licenses cost approximately 30% more than the previous standard license, but with the ability to do 2 installs.  This can reflect significant licensing savings for businesses leveraging the benefits of virtualization.  Both datacenter and standard licenses will still require the use of Server CALS for every user or device that will be accessing a server.

As always, when planning a move to a new server OS it’s important to check your available server resources and compatibility with your main business applications.  Many of the applications that you’re currently using may not be ready for the move just yet.  It’s recommended that you test thoroughly and know compatibility before doing a migration of a live server environment.

For questions or to learn more specifics feel free to call the experts at i.t.NOW who can help you with your licensing questions.  There are also some great resources available online from Microsoft that can help with your licensing questions.

What is Jail Breaking?

Jail breaking is the process of hacking a device (typically a smartphone or tablet) to bypass the digital rights management software usually installed by the hardware’s designer.  This software exists to limit the type and amount of software or apps that can be run on a device.  By jail breaking a device, users can have the ability to “tweak’ their device’s operating system or run unauthorized software.

In technical terms, jail breaking can be defined as installing a modified set of software patches that allow you to run unauthorized code or apps.  While jail breaking can give the user more freedom in customization and usability, it can also create risks.

Is jail breaking safe?
For many, jail breaking a device lets a user travel outside the traditional bounds of an operating system.  But the risks associated with jail breaking can include malicious software attacks, decreased battery life, slower device processing speeds, and increased data plan usage.

Is jail breaking legal?
The correct answer is yes.  The U.S. Government currently says it’s legal to jail break a digital device. But, the debate surrounding the topic is a fierce one.

Hackers and activists claim that jail breaking is a right, using the analogy of car modification. Car modders are not seen as breaking the law when they make changes or additions to their cars. Why should programmers?

Corporations like Apple, on the other hand, continue to lobby for more strict laws regarding jail breaking. But, currently, the most they can do is claim that jail breaking violates their user agreements and voids a device’s warranty. Whether or not this will change remains to be seen.

How to jail break
According to TechHive.com:

“Generally, jailbreaking tools come in the form of OS X or Windows desktop applications. Currently, the only tool to jailbreak the A5 processor-based iPhone 4S and iPad 2 with iOS 5.0.1 is called Absinthe. Other tools, such as PwnageTool and redsn0w, are only able to jailbreak older devices running iOS 5.0.1. The renowned iPhone Dev-Team released the very first jailbreak tool, and the group is still central to the iOS hacker community; its blog is a good place to go to see what’s new in jailbreaking tools.”

Virtualization Solutions from i.t.NOW

In 2011, C.H. Spencer & Co., a supplier of pumps and related equipment to mining, power, industrial and municipal markets, was looking for a way to cut business operating and hardware costs.  Company executives knew they wanted to scale back the number of servers and hardware needed to run the business, but they didn’t have the in-house expertise to handle the transition.

Enter i.t.NOW.

i.t.NOW is a Utah-based provider of I.T. solutions including virtualization, data backup and recovery, cloud computing and more.  The company’s virtualization solution gives small businesses the ability to decrease in-house operating and hardware costs, and reduce the number of needed servers and computers, and hardware and software upgrades.

For C.H. Spencer & Co., the staff at i.t.NOW developed a custom virtualization plan.

First, i.t.NOW decreased the number of in-house servers from four to one, with one server now running four virtual machines. This move saved C.H. Spencer & Co. an estimated $17,000 in hardware costs, upgrades, warranties and maintenance over the life of the machines, which typically last three to five years.

Second, because of the decreased power consumption, C.H. Spencer & Co. will see significant savings. On average, each server that C.H. Spencer & Co. used cost $300 per year in electricity, a total of $1,200 per year for all four servers.  With the new single, virtualized server from i.t.NOW, electrical costs will average less than $300.

Finally, i.t.NOW’s services gave C.H. Spencer & Co. technology that will scale with its growth. With virtualization, tasks like memory addition and data migration become more simple and cost-effective.

“Our transition to a virtualized office was pretty seamless. We compared three different I.T. companies, and ended up choosing i.t.NOW because it had the most comprehensive virtualization services.  We started the switch the Friday after Thanksgiving, and i.t.NOW had us back up and running by Monday.  They were there to help with any additional needs whenever we needed them.  They also helped upgrade two of our core software programs at the same time. We even installed i.t.NOW’s data backup and recovery system, i.t.BDR, and that’s helped us recover lost data at a moment’s notice,” said Randy Burgoyne, controller for C.H. Spencer & Co.


“We started looking at a variety of options for expanding our servers.  We wanted good, solid hardware.  We had three dell servers, and an 800 gig array of storage space.  When it came down to it, we wanted to compare prices.  We got bids from three places, and we felt that i.t.NOW had the best total solution.  They mirrored our entire server environment, and cut us back to one machine using VM Ware.  The implementation went very smoothly.  We also upgraded two of our core operating programs at the same time. It was a large undertaking, but i.t.NOW handled it well.


Implemented the Friday after Thanksgiving.  i.t.NOW had our server up before the transition, and we were up and running again on Monday, and were ready to handle any additional problems throughout the next few days.  They also expanded our storage, and we also installed an i.t.BDR unit that has been seamless as well.”


To learn more about i.t.NOW and its comprehensive I.T. services, call (801) 562-8778 or contact us using our online form.

How to Defragment Your Hard Drive

If your computer is running slower lately, it might be time to defragment your hard drive.   A computer’s hard drive has more moving parts than most of your computer.  And if you haven’t cleaned up your hard drive in a while (or ever), it can take a long time to load programs or data.  If you want a relatively quick way to speed up your computer, a defragmentation of your hard drive might be the best answer.

What is a fragmented hard drive?
A hard drive works by storing data on a spinning disk (unless you have a solid state drive). Your data is stored on the hard drive in rings, making it easier for the hard drive’s arm to read the data.  Over time, however, data can be stored in multiple rings because of updates and deletions, making it harder for your hard drive to access the needed information.  When you defragment your hard drive, you’re helping to repair the fragmented data, which makes your hard drive run faster and reduce wear and tear.

How do I defragment my hard drive?
Luckily, Windows has a hard drive defragmentation tool already installed on your computer.  Whether you have Windows XP, Vista, 7 or 8, it’s a fairly easy process.  Here’s the easiest way to find it in Windows XP:

  1. Click on My Computer
  2. Right click the hard drive you wish to defragment, and click Properties.
  3. Find the Tools tab, and click Defragment Now.
  4. Click Defragment.

On Windows Vista or newer, it’s much easier.  Click on the Windows icon in the lower left.  Enter Defrag in the search box, and it will bring up the program.  Open it, and click Defragment Disk.

That’s it for Windows users.  It should be noted that a hard drive defragmentation consumes a lot of your computer’s processing power, so if possible, do it while the computer is not in use.

For Apple users, there are multiple third-party systems that can help with this process.  Apple claims that its operating system is designed to limit the need for hard drive defragmentation.  It does this by designing the system to download whole programs, instead of adding new pieces like Windows, and by using larger, unused hard drive space for new programs.  If you feel that a hard drive defragmentation is needed, a third party application should be used.

By defragmenting your computer’s hard drive, you’ll help increase your computer’s speed, eliminate unnecessary files, and help prolong the life of your hard drive.


CCleaner 101

CCleaner is a computer “cleaning” tool for Windows and Mac created by Piriform. For many, CCleaner is an excellent utility program that allows users to clean out temporary Internet files and history, clean up the registry and remove potentially unwanted files and data.

Don’t know what it is? Here’s a quick CCleaner 101 to get your familiar with the program.

CCleaner Features:

Here’s the definition from Wikipedia:

“CCleaner supports the cleaning of temporary or potentially unwanted files left by certain programs, including Internet Explorer, Firefox, Google Chrome, Opera, Safari, Windows Media Player, eMule, Google Toolbar, Netscape, Microsoft Office, Nero, Adobe Acrobat, McAfee, Adobe Flash Player, Sun Java, WinRAR, WinAce, WinZip, GIMP and other applications, along with browsing history, cookies, Recycle bin, memory dumps, file fragments, log files, system caches, application data, autocomplete form history, and various other data.  The program also includes a registry cleaner to locate and correct problems in the Windows registry, such as missing references to shared DLLs, unused registration entries for file extensions, and missing references application paths.  As of v2.27, CCleaner can wipe the MFT free space of a drive, or the entire drive itself.

“CCleaner can be employed to uninstall programs. In addition, CCleaner allows the alteration of start-up programs, similar to the Microsoft Windows MSConfig utility. Users can disable start-up programs. As of version 2.19.901, CCleaner also allows users to delete system restore points.”

Our personal experience with CCleaner has been excellent, and we use it on a regular basis with our clients. If you’re still in doubt, CNET gives CCleaner a 5/5 rating, calling it a “highly recommended” product, and even awarded it a 2009 Editor’s Choice Award.

For more information on CCleaner, or to download the program, visit piriform.com.

Why You Should Clean Your Computer

Admit it: cleaning your computer isn’t on your regular to do list, if it even makes the list at all.  But, it’s one of the most important things you can do to improve performance and extend the life of your computer.

Whether you have a desktop, laptop or both, here are things you’ll need to get your computer free of grime and dust.

  • Can of compressed air
  • Flat-tip and/or Phillips screwdriver
  • Rubbing alcohol
  • Cotton swabs (Don’t use a cotton ball, because they can leave debris)
  • Cloths (Lint-free, paper towels, anti-static cloths)
  • Water

Important notes before you start: Make sure your computer is turned off, and that it’s disconnected from the power source.  Also, check your computer’s warranty before removing any covers or back plates. Doing so may void any existing warranties.

When you’re ready to clean your computer, you’ll want to start on the inside.  For a desktop computer, there are many ways to remove the outside cover.  Most modern desktop computers will use around two fasteners for the rear cover, two push button-style fasteners, or use Phillips screws for the rear or side cover.  When in doubt, refer to your computer’s owner’s manual.

For laptop computers, place the computer upside down on a flat surface.  To avoid scratching the computer, you may want to place a towel or something soft on the table.  Remove the battery first, then look for the vents for the cooling fan.  Remove the screws, and remember where each screw goes.  You may need a smaller Phillips screwdriver to complete this task.

Once you get inside your desktop or laptop, try to touch as little as possible.  Use your compressed air to clean out any dust or debris.  Be careful when using compressed air on the vent fan, and use short air bursts to clean it. For larger dust debris inside the computer, use Tweezers or a cotton swab to safely remove them.   Lastly, blow compressed air into the CD/DVD drives and large ports, aiming the air so it blows the debris out of, not into the computer.  You should also use a lightly damp cloth to wipe down the trays of the drive.

Now move to the outside of the computer.  Use rubbing alcohol and a cotton swab to clean around all the computer’s openings. Flip the swab over and use the dry end to finish.

Now comes the keyboard. Flip the keyboard/laptop over and lightly shake it.  A lot of the crumbs and debris will most likely fall out.  Use compressed air to clean out any remaining debris.  Next, take a cotton swab dipped in rubbing alcohol and clean the tops and sides of the keys. Don’t be afraid to use a lot of swabs.  Once one starts to get dirty, switch to a new one. It should be noted that you shouldn’t use a vacuum to clean your keyboard or laptop, as it can create a static electricity buildup.

Now you’ll clean your monitor.  For a glass screen monitor, use a glass cleaner to clean the screen, unless the manufacturer recommends differently. For an LCD laptop or flat-panel display, use a lightly dampened lint-free cloth.  Spray the cloth, not the screen, and lightly rub the screen to clean it. You could also use a computer monitor cleaner, which can be found at computer retail and supply stores.

Finally, you’ll come the mouse or touch screen. First, we’ll focus on the mouse. Disconnect the mouse from the computer. Rub the top and sides of the mouse with a paper towel dipped in rubbing alcohol.  Remove any grime buildup with a fingernail.  If you have an optical mouse, be sure that the optical lens is clear of dirt and debris.  For a mechanical, ball-style mouse, remove the ball and use compressed air to clean out the area.  To clean the ball, wash it with water and let it dry.

Article adapted from an original post that appeared on the Microsoft at Home website.

An Explanation of the “F” Keys

Along the top of most computer keyboards are a series of function keys. They are numbered from F1 to F12, and go from left to right.  But do you know what they actually do?

Most of the function keys are pre-assigned to perform certain actions when they are pressed.  These are usually called shortcut keys. This holds true primarily for function keys F1 through F7. Other keys, such as F8 through F12, are typically not assigned for regular computer use, but instead have more programming related functions.

While each key typically has a universal function, there may be some variation as to what each key does on a user’s computer. Below are the functions that each of these keys are generally assigned to (on a Windows-based computer).

  • F1 – Opens Windows help.
  • F2 – Opens the title line of folder so it can be renamed.
  • F3 – Search function.
  • F4 – Shows address bar list display for Windows Explorer or My Computer.
  • F5 – Refresh the active program.
  • F6 – Runs through items on desktop or window.
  • F7 – Runs the Spell and Grammar check in the open program.
  • F8 – Runs Windows in Safe Mode.
  • F9 – Break point debugging use when used with the Shift key. On some programs, it has no assigned use.
  • F10 – Opens the File menu for the active program.
  • F11 – Shows full screen view in Internet Explorer.
  • F12 – Bypass debugger – Command prompt access.  On some programs, it has no assigned use.

The source for this article was “What Do the F Keys on a Computer Do?” written by Nina Nixon, originally published on ehow.com.

How the Keyboard Got Its Shape

Ever wondered why a keyboard’s keys are arranged the way they are?  The modern keyboard arrangement can be traced to the late 1800s when Remington & Sons manufactured the first commercial typewriter, called the Remington Number 1. It was similar to our modern keyboard, with the letters Q, W, E, R, T, Y starting the top row, giving it the nickname of “qwerty.” While the first qwerty keyboard and typewriter weren’t perfect, its future development would help shape the keyboard as we know it today.

Another keyboard that challenged the qwerty layout was the Dvorak keyboard. This keyboard design placed the most-used keys in the middle row, making the distance a user’s fingers traveled shorter.  It is also designed to make the hands alternate on consecutive letters.  But, while the keyboard was designed to increase efficiency, it didn’t catch on like the more popular qwerty keyboard.

A study performed in the 1950s showed that while the layout of the Dvorak keyboard was deemed as more efficient, typists maintained the same rate of typing with both systems.  This helps explain why the qwerty keyboard has remained the standard.

While the keyboard on your computer is most likely a qwerty keyboard, you can try out the Dvorak keyboard layout by visiting this website.