Look after your customers – reboot your router!

Look after your customers – reboot your router!

A typical WiFi router

A typical WiFi router

If you offer WiFi to your customers you are probably letting them down! Whatever you might think about customers coming to your café, and then sitting glued to their smartphones, it is a service that most people expect. Certainly if you offer it then it’d better work! I’m sure you think everything is fine. Your customers – probably not so much! So, what’s the issue here? We need to go a bit technical, but the fix is easy!

Here are the salient points:

  • For a device (laptop, mobile, whatever) to connect to your network it needs an address. We don’t need to get too technical, but just know that there’s a limited number (about 200) available & each device has to have a number different to anything else on your network.
  • When the device connects, your WiFi router will hand it an unused number from it’s pool.
  • When the router runs out of unused numbers then no more devices can connect.

You might think 200 devices is plenty – and, in a domestic environment, it is. But in a busy shop, café, railway terminal etc. it’s not that generous. Sure, the provision of the number to a device has an expiry built in (called TTL or Time To Live). This means that, when a customer leaves, their number will eventually be returned to the pool for re-use. But, judging by the number of times I fail to connect to a facility’s WiFi, it doesn’t happen fast enough.

What does it look like when your customers suffer from this lack? Their mobile will say “connected, obtaining IP address” and not have Internet access.

So, what can you do?

  • The first, and easiest, remedy is to regularly power-cycle the router. Yes, the old “turn it off, then turn it on again!” trick. Make this part of your morning start-up routine.

For the rest, we need access to the router – more specifically the DHCP portion. If this is beyond you then you can always give us a ring.

  • Inspect the DHCP ‘pool’, and ensure it’s a big as possible. Different routers display the setting in different ways. But you should make sure that the pool is at least 225.
  • Turn down the TTL. This is normally expressed in seconds, so 3600 is one hour. Probably plenty. If this is too large then the router will hold onto that allocation well after the customer has left*.
  • Change the WiFi password regularly. If you don’t then that one-time visitor from last year will walk past your café, automatically connect, and bag an address from the pool.

A few notes for the curious.

  • What we are talking about here is IPv4 addressing. This is generally expressed as four clusters of three digits (e.g. 192.168.121.064). You can’t fiddle with the first three clusters, it’s only the last one that changes: and it varies from 000 – 255 For various technical reasons you can’t use the first or last. And the router will use one, generally 001 (or 254 if you’re a BT customer). I generally set the pool at 011 – 240. If you are really curious have a look here.
  • If the TTL expires while the device is still connected it simply gets renewed, so not a problem.
  • If you have ‘static’ kit (network printers, tills, card machines etc.) then always deal with these using a “DHCP Reservation” – NEVER NEVER allow them to have a “hard-coded IP address”!

Blocking scam emails

I thought you’d like to see what all this email compliance effort looks like in practice. The image is of stats for our outgoing email, as seen by our monitoring system. The green represent compliant (i.e. genuine) emails that we have sent – viewed as a percentage of our mail traffic. The red represents non-compliant (i.e. scam) emails that we didn’t send (mostly originating in Russia). There is a lot of them! These emails claim to be from us (i.e. someone @backofficeit.co.uk) – but, because they fail the compliance checks we have put in place, the receiving servers have blocked them. Which is what we want.

It’s to avoid this deluge of scam emails that servers around the world are tightening up on compliance. If your email is non-compliant one of two things are going to happen.

  1. People are going to receive scam emails claiming to be from you. This is why many professional bodies are now insisting that email systems are made compliant, because you can see how much damage this could cause.
  2. Well-behaved servers will receive your email and, because it isn’t compliant, delete it just to be safe.

I leave it to you to decide which is the worst option.

What amazes me is how many people we tell about this have still not done anything about it. Apart from an hour of someone’s time there is no cost*. And yet we point all of this out to people and, weeks later, nothing has improved. Why? It just needs to get done.
* For all the features & delivery stats there is a small annual fee. But the important basics are free.

Take care of your laptop!

Dusty laptop

Inside lurks unpleasantness!

One of the issues we are called to all too often is a faulty laptop. Upon close inspection the laptop has “cooked itself” – i.e. overheated & destroyed some key components. Space inside a laptop is limited, so getting adequate cooling is always a challenge. But users can make it much worse all too easily. Laptops, in general, suck air in through the underside, across the components and out through the side. They are already fighting a battle with dust (see picture). But what will REALLY kill your laptop is placing it on a soft surface. Tempting as it may seem to put it onto your comfy duvet – don’t! The laptop will settle in, block the underside air vents, and failure is short minutes away.

Always place your laptop on a hard, clean, surface. If possible tilt the back edge up for extra airflow (and it makes the keyboard easier to use!).

The end of Windows 10

Winver displayMicrosoft are starting their countdown to the end of Windows 10. If you have the very latest version (Windows 10 22H2) then that date is October 14th 2025. Older versions expire sooner! An yes, this is because Microsoft want you to move to Windows 11!

What does this mean to you, and what do you need to do about it? Let’s dive in.

  1. What version have I got? To find out type winver into your computer’s search box on the taskbar & press return. You’ll get a box like the one in the illustration. You can see my PC is Windows 11 Version 23H2.
  2. When does my version expire? Microsoft have published a guide here.
  3. Can I update? If you go to the Windows Update task on your computer you’ll see what you can update on your current system. This page will tell you if you can update to Windows 11 – or not, as the case may be.
  4. Should I update? In general, the answer is ‘yes’. Keeping your Windows (indeed, all your software) updated is a crucial part of maximising the security of your system.
  5. My machine says I can’t upgrade to Windows 11 – what can I do? In general this means a new PC/laptop. This is because certain key security features in Windows 11 rely on bits of hardware that may not be present in older systems.
  6. And if I don’t? Your PC will not stop working overnight! What will actually happen is that Microsoft will stop researching & developing fixes for problems within the Windows10 operating system. The concern is that should a hacker discover a flaw in Windows10 they can exploit it a will, as the flaw will not be discovered & remediated by Microsoft. If you are a domestic user then that might be a risk you are willing to run. For a business user, however, this is unacceptable. Your Cyber Essentials certification, and probably your business insurance, let alone your liabilities to your customers & suppliers would all be in a dire straight, should you be running an unsupported version of Windows.

 

As ever, if you need help or advice, give us a ring on 01905 426364

How Microsoft doesn’t help with GDPR compliance

Getting Outlook to help with GDPR compliance

One of the constant issues we see is people sending out emails that are addressed to multiple recipients. And the addresses of all those recipients are visible to everyone who gets a copy of the email. Now, unless they have the explicit permission of everybody involved, they have just driven a coach and horses through the laws surrounding privacy, generally referred to as GDPR. And yes, it is the law. And yes, they could get fined. So, a bit of explanation, then onto to Microsoft’s unhelpfulness.

Standard office email form

Standard office email form

When you compose an email there’s the “To” field – self explanatory. Then there’s the “CC” field. This stands for “Carbon Copy” and harks back to the days of the typewriter. Everybody in the “CC” field gets a copy of the email. But, crucially, they also get to see all the people in the “To” field and the “CC” field. Which is really not good when doing a mass email. To get around this there is also the “BCC” field. This stands for “Blind Carbon Copy”. Everybody in the “BCC” field still gets a copy of the email. But, crucially, none of the recipients get to see who else was on the list. This is what you MUST use – unless you have good reason for letting everyone know who else got the mail.

The reason Microsoft doesn’t help here is that, when you start a new email in Outlook (the most popular business email client), the “BCC” is hidden by default, discouraging people from using it. The fix is easy:

  1. Open Outlook & create a new email
  2. At the top click “Options”
  3. Click the icon “Bcc”
  4. Close the email

You’ll now have the “BCC” option on all future emails!

BCC field enabled

BCC field enabled

If you are interested in getting you email secure & compliant, have a look at our offerings in this area.

Email compliance

PowerDMARC email compliance management

PowerDMARC email compliance management

Email security is being tightened up all round. In order to give your email the best chance of being delivered without problems take advantage of our free service. By sending an email to our special address we will send you a report on the state of your email compliance, with suggestions for improvement. We have a full suite of email compliance tools to help you achieve a 100% rating!