Is the Cloud safe?

A friend asked me a question today.  Is the Cloud safe?  She feels like a Luddite because she’s not using it, but she really doesn’t feel like it’s safe.  I’ve talked to a number of people who feel the same way. Some people think that their data in the Cloud will be stolen in some fashion.  Others tell they’re afraid that their data will be taken out of context and they’ll be hauled off to jail. So, what’s the answer?

Is the Cloud Safe?Is the Cloud safe?

Well, yes it is.

The Cloud is the safest place I’ve found to store my data.  This is because my data backup is on automatic pilot.  When I change a file and save it, it gets updated to my computer AND to Dropbox.  We’ve had several customers who use an external hard drive to back up there data once a week or once a month.  The trouble there is that people are fallible.  People don’t always remember to do a task.  They may have set up a calendar alarm to remind them to back up their data, but decide when it goes off that they will do it “later”.  And “later” never comes.  Those customers I mentioned earlier then had their hard drive crash, but hadn’t backed up their data in six months or a year.

So, is the Cloud Safe?

Well, no, it’s really not.

There have been several instances where the “bad guys” have broken into databases and stolen data.  One instance last year when a Password Manager was hacked and thousands of passwords were compromised.  (Which is why I am constantly harping on folks to change their passwords frequently!)

Another concern according to MalwareBytes that many people (and companies) have is: “It’s physically out of your hands. You aren’t saving to a hard drive at your house. You are sending your data to another company, which could be saving your data thousands of miles away, so keeping that information safe is now dependent on them.”

It’s really your call.  Convenience vs. keeping your data physically in your possession.  But, if you have precious data that changes frequently, I really recommend the Cloud.  Oh, and change your password!

 

Chris Eddy of Geek For Hire, Inc. has been providing computer service to families and small businesses with Mac’s and PC’s for the past fifteen years. His company is highly rated by both the BBB (Better Business Bureau) and by Angie’s List. You can find more on our website, or give us a call 303-618-0154. Geek For Hire, Inc. provides onsite service (Tier 3) to the Denver / Boulder / Front Range area as well as remote service throughout North America.

We’ve been using Amazon Prime for the past few years.  We like the free 2-3 day shipping and the online streaming. I haven’t tried the Kindle lending library yet.  I’ll try that next!   Prime is normally $99/year, but you can try it for 30 day for free by clicking on this link: Try Amazon Prime 30-Day Free Trial (Yes, we’ll get a small commission if you sign up.)

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iPhone 6 Touch Disease

Have you heard about the newest malady to affect the iPhone 6 and 6+?  It is something dubbed the “Touch Disease”, which affects the touchscreen of your iPhone.  You’ll notice a flickering grey bar and then your touchscreen will stop working.  This has primarily been impacting iPhones which are almost two years old.

This issue was reported by iFixIt on August 23rd in a blog post.  They did provide an image of the flickering grey bar at the top of the phone:

iphone 6 touch disease image from iFIXit

Gizmodo thinks the problem appears to be a part of the “Bendgate” issue:

“The iPhone 6 and 6 Plus flex more than other phones, which causes all of their guts flex too. The soldering beads connecting the chips to the logic board can’t handle the long-term repetitive stress of your back pocket”

Engadget reports that:

“Weirdly enough, replacing the screen isn’t a proper fix. The gray bar will creep onto a new screen even when it’s been swapped out because that’s not where the problem resides. It’s a problem with the Touch IC chips inside the phone, which separate from the logic board in a manner similar to the one that some claimed caused Microsoft’s Xbox 360 red-ring of death. They must be replaced for the problem to completely go away, and Apple’s in-store Geniuses are not equipped to do that kind of soldering work. Hence, the quandary. In a YouTube video cited by iFixit, repair specialist Louis Rossmann predicts that this “touch disease” malady could turn into a class action lawsuit if enough customers make a stink. “

MacRumors assures us that:

“The iPhone 6s and iPhone 6s Plus are not affected by the same issue as Apple strengthened the body and changed the position of the Touch IC chips in those devices.”

Bottom line?  If your iPhone 6 or 6 Plus is still under warranty and you start to experience any of these issues, take it in right away for replacement. If it’s not, try not to store it in your back pocket or any place where it could flex easily.  Also, learn how to use Siri to open apps and to use its voice-to-text functionality. This may help tide you over until you can replace your phone or get the innards soldered properly.  Here’s a link to my blog on Top 10 Ways to use Siri.

And, I hope it goes without saying, but I’ll say it anyway!  Make sure you keep your iPhone backed up!

Chris Eddy of Geek For Hire, Inc. has been providing computer service to families and small businesses with Mac’s and PC’s for the past fourteen years. His company is highly rated by both the BBB (Better Business Bureau) and by Angie’s List. You can find more on our website.  Geek For Hire, Inc. provides onsite service (Tier 3) to the Denver / Boulder / Front Range area and remote service throughout North America.

We’ve been using Amazon Prime for the past few years.  We like the free 2-3 day shipping and the online streaming. I haven’t tried the Kindle lending library yet, but I’m tempted!   Prime is normally $99/year, but you can try it for 30 day for free by clicking on this link: Try Amazon Prime 30-Day Free Trial (Yes, we’ll get a small commission when you sign up.)

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Ransomware

Chris has seen several Ransom Ware infections in the past 18 months or so.  Ransomware is just about the worst of the malwares the “bad guys” have thought up. Essentially, once you get infected, the ransomware installs a nifty little program which encrypts all of your data.  Then, they’ll give you a pop-up letting you know that you have so much time to pay a ransom to receive the encryption key.

Here is a screen shot of one of the ransom notes Chris has seen.

HELP_DECRYPT - ransom ware - modified

I’ve asked Chris to tell you what ransomware looks like, what you can do if you’re infected, and how to protect yourself.

I’ve seen three actual instances of ransomware in the past few years.

The first instance occurred about two years ago at a customer site.  I found that their personal and business files were all encrypted.  Since they had a fairly recent backup of their data, the thought process was relatively quick: remove the old hard drive, install a new one, rebuild their server, and restore their data.  This took several hours to complete, but it was successful and very little data was lost.

The previous instance occurred last summer, to a customer I hadn’t served in many years.  I forget the nature of the problem which motivated the service call, but I soon discovered that their personal data was unreadable.  I turned off the computer and removed the hard drive, so that I could see what customer data was there without allowing the infection to proceed if it was still active. Turns out the customer already had a secondary infection which had been running for the past six months.  This created a huge volume of temporary files and greatly delayed my getting permission to access to their data. Somewhat fortunately, every personal folder which had been encrypted had had a text file and an HTML file added, which contained a document from the ransomware software.  The document indicated that the data was encrypted, and if you wanted to get it back you had pay a fee in BitCoin at one of 4 different IP addresses.  Note that only one IP address was responsive.  The ransom cost started at some amount, and would increase as time went on.  To prove that they were indeed the ones which encrypted the data, they offered to decrypt one file immediately and at no charge.  In talking with the customer, they identified the one file that was the most critical, and this one file was successfully and promptly decrypyted. Eventually, the customer decided to pay the ransom, which was about $700.  It it took a long time for the customer to get the BitCoin payment into a spendable account, and then the payment could not be given because none of those IP addresses were accessible.  We were ultimately declined access to provide the ransom payment because their servers were too busy to receive another connection.  Apparently their servers were being crushed with activity from their own success.

The most recent occurred a few months ago at a business I frequent.  The symptom to them was that the computers which run their business management application displayed an error message saying that the database was corrupt.  Since I was there at the time this happened, my recommendation was that they turn off all of their computers. Turns out they received an encrypting infection called “Locky”, because the customer files are encrypted and renamed to have a “.Locky” extension.  But there was no opportunity to pay a ransom to get the data back.  Another problem was that there was no backup of their data for several years.  The solution was to replace the old hard drive with a new drive in the server computer, reinstall and update the operating system, and coordinate with the manufacturer to reinstall the application and look for old data.  Fortunately, a copy of the database that was 6 months old was found; so there was a 6 month gap in time, but at least they had not lost 20 years of customer data.  Also, a good antivirus was installed on all of their computers, which they did not have before.  They did not understand that they needed a good antivirus installed.  This was actually a problem that was waiting to happen.  It could have been avoided if their usual “IT Guy” had taken the initiative to see what they did and did not have, rather than just doing a technical task they were called in to do.  They are hopefully in the process of getting a backup procedure, because hindsight showed that having a 6 month gap in customer data could have been avoided if their usual “IT Guy” had implemented backups of their data.

There are lessons to be learned from these experiences.

  1. Have a good antivirus on all of your technology.  Note that there is no antivirus on the planet that can protect you from all things all the time.
  2. Have your computer prepped by a competent IT person.
  3. Make backups of your data.  Backups never go out of style.  It can be to an external hard drive, or a USB thumb drive, or to a cloud based backup service like Dropbox.
  4. Know the completion status of that backup.  I’ve lost count of the number of customers who believe that they have been backing up for long time, but turns out that their data is actually old because the backup has not worked for years.

Chris Eddy of Geek For Hire, Inc. has been providing computer service to families and small businesses with Mac’s and PC’s for the past fourteen years. His company is highly rated by both the BBB (Better Business Bureau) and by Angie’s List. You can find more on our website.  Geek For Hire, Inc. provides onsite service (Tier 3) to the Denver / Boulder / Front Range area and remote service throughout North America.

We’ve been using Amazon Prime for the past few years.  We like the free 2-3 day shipping and the online streaming. I haven’t tried the Kindle lending library yet, but I’m tempted!   Prime is normally $99/year, but you can try it for 30 day for free by clicking on this link: Try Amazon Prime 30-Day Free Trial (Yes, we’ll get a small commission when you sign up.)

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iCloud – Valued Apple Feature or not?

iCloud

We’ve been getting a lot of questions about Apple’s iCloud recently.  iCloud is something many of us have been using for years.  But are you sure how to best take advantage of it?

If you have multiple devices – an iPhone, iPad, and iMac, for example, you can listen to your music whether you’re at home, a coffee shop, in your car, or on a trip.

If you don’t have an Apple computer, you can still access some of the iCloud features from your Windows computer.  Head over to www.iCloud.com and sign in with your user ID and password.  Some of the features available at the website include Mail, Contacts, Calendar, and Photos.  Access to your music is not available here.

20160621 iCloud image

The “Find My iPhone” feature is available at the iCloud website.  Take a minute now to sign in.  Navigate around the site briefly, but especially take a look at the “Find my iPhone” feature so that if you do lose your phone, you’ll know how to use it.  (Make sure any folks in your family who are challenged in the area of knowing where their possessions are, have this feature turned on!)

When you sign in to the iCloud, your user ID is probably your email.   If you’ve forgotten your password,         it’s relatively easy to reset it.  Remember that the password for your iCloud account is different from the security passcode you may have set up to access your iPhone or your iPad.  If you have set them up to be the same, please change one of them now!

Another feature I’ve just learned about on the iCloud is the ability to share photos with other people.  When you click on the “Photos” icon, your pictures appear.  At the bottom of the screen there are three buttons – Photos, Share, and Albums.  Your Photos shows all the pictures you’ve taken from a given point in time organized by date.  Albums arrange your photos by different categories like Selfies, Panoramas, Videos, and Screenshots.

To share photos, click on “New Shared Album”.  Give it a title, and select who to share it with by entering their emails.  Once the structure is set up, you can then add photos to the album.

If you need help setting up your iCloud properly, check out Apple’s Help pages or the Genius Bar at the Apple store.

Chris Eddy of Geek For Hire, Inc. has been providing computer service to families and small businesses with Mac’s and PC’s for the past fourteen years. His company is highly rated by both the BBB (Better Business Bureau) and by Angie’s List. You can find more on our website.  Geek For Hire, Inc. provides onsite service (Tier 3) to the Denver / Boulder / Front Range area and remote service throughout North America.

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The Scariness Increases

Ransomware

Chris forwarded a link to me the other day about some scary “malvertising”.  For those of you who didn’t have Senor Garcia for High School Spanish, “mal” is a Latin prefix meaning “bad”.  Other words you might be familiar with include “malware” and “malicious”.  And that’s what this is: Malware that looks like advertising, but really contains malicious code.

I can hear you saying: “But I know how to be careful and not click on stuff that looks suspicious!”  And that’s the issue right there.  These are “advertisements” that appear on highly respected websites.  ARS-Technica warns us that:

“Mainstream websites, including those published by The New York Times, the BBC, MSN, and AOL, are falling victim to a new rash of malicious ads that attempt to surreptitiously install crypto ransomware and other malware on the computers of unsuspecting visitors, security firms warned.

The tainted ads may have exposed tens of thousands of people over the past 24 hours alone, according to a blog post published Monday by Trend Micro. The new campaign started last week when “Angler,” a toolkit that sells exploits for Adobe Flash, Microsoft Silverlight, and other widely used Internet software, started pushing laced banner ads through a compromised ad network.”

Another technical site, MalwareBytes, mentions some other websites, including Newsweek, Realtor.com, and NFL.com.

And, the malware that is being downloaded isn’t your run-of-the-mill virus.  In many cases it is Ransomware, which takes all of your files and encrypts them with a special key.  You then need to pay a ransom to get the encryption key to get your data back.

This is not a message you want to see popping up on your screen!

Ransomware Image - source: http://arstechnica.com/security/2016/03/big-name-sites-hit-by-rash-of-malicious-ads-spreading-crypto-ransomware/

Ransomware Image – source: http://arstechnica.com/security/2016/03/big-name-sites-hit-by-rash-of-malicious-ads-spreading-crypto-ransomware/

What is our advice?

  1. Use an adware blocker like AdBlock Plus
  2. For some websites, they won’t show you ANY content unless you agree to see their ads.  In that case, never click on an advertisement.
  3. If you really are interested in a product or service that is being offered, go to the company’s site directly.
  4. Keep your data backed up to an external source.  And back it up at least once a month – more often if you are working with ever-changing and precious data.

If you need help getting rid of any malware, or learning how to regularly back up your data, give us a call!

Chris Eddy of Geek For Hire, Inc. has been providing computer service to families and small businesses with Mac’s and PC’s for the past fourteen years. His company is highly rated by both the BBB (Better Business Bureau) and by Angie’s List. You can find more at http://www.GeekForHireInc.com Geek For Hire, Inc. provides onsite service (Tier 3) to the Denver / Boulder / Front Range area.

We’ve been using Amazon Prime for the past few years.  We like the free 2-3 day shipping and the online streaming. I haven’t tried the Kindle lending library yet, but I’m tempted! Prime is normally $99/year, but you can try it for 30 day for free by clicking on this link:  Try Amazon Prime 30-Day Free Trial

Windows 10 Update

Upgrading to Windows 10?

We continue to see machines that have upgraded to Windows 10 with serious problems.  And, I continue to get asked if machines should be upgraded.

Here’s the scoop:

  • If you have a Windows 7 machine, don’t upgrade unless you have a serious business need.
  • If you have a Windows 8 machine, you should be okay to upgrade, although you may still experience some issues
  • If you have a Windows XP or earlier machine, don’t (DO NOT!) upgrade.  Consider purchasing a new machine with Windows 8 or 10 already installed.

If you’re planning to upgrade do this first:

  • Back up your data.  Use an external Hard Drive if you have one, or upload to the Cloud
  • Make sure you have a list of all the programs and applications that you use.
  • Make sure you know what all of your passwords are, especially if you have asked your computer to remember them for you.
  • Make sure you know what your WiFi Router password is.

Tired of the Win10 “Nag” message?

I asked Chris how to get rid of the message that pops up frequently reminding you to UPGRADE NOW! WHILE IT’S STILL FREE!.  Here’s what he said:

  • “The only reliable method I’ve found so far to prevent a machine from presenting the “Get Windows 10 Upgrade” (GWX) nag message is to rename the GWX folder which contains the upgrade program.
    • See a small window icon in the tray, to the left of the clock in the task bar.
    • Go to the folder: “C:\Windows\System32” /and/ the “C:\Windows\SysWOW64”
    • Rename the “GWX” folder to something else – such as: “_GWX”, if it exists in either folder.  Note that you will see a popup titled “Folder Access Denied” and the message “You’ll need to provide administrator permission to rename this folder”.  Click on the “Continue” button to proceed with renaming the GWX folder.
    • Reboot your machine.
    • See that the small window icon is not present, and note that it does /not/ reappear”

If you have any questions about upgrading, give us a call

Chris Eddy of Geek For Hire, Inc. has been providing computer service to families and small businesses with Mac’s and PC’s for the past fourteen years. His company is highly rated by both the BBB (Better Business Bureau) and by Angie’s List. You can find more at http://www.GeekForHireInc.com Geek For Hire, Inc. provides onsite service (Tier 3) to the Denver / Boulder / Front Range area.
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Heads UP!

Heads Up folks!

I’ve gotten three calls this week from people who have fallen victim to the phone calls from “Microsoft”.  The person on the other end of the phone is very convincing.  Within the first minute or two, you just know that they are right.  You do have spyware or viruses on your computer and you’ve given them your credit card info and let them onto to your machine.

Then there is the phone call that I keep getting and wrote about in a previous blog. http://geekforhireinc.com/who-is-really-calling/ They leave a message that says:

“This call is in regards to the security software we installed on your computer last year. Now we see a red flag on our end stating there is a security breach on it. Please call 1-866-758-1262. I repeat, 1-866-758-1262. Thank you.”

Please be aware that these types of calls are on the rise and they are getting better about fooling you.  I’ve said it before – Microsoft, Apple, Dell, or HP won’t call you to tell you that your machine has been infected.  Don’t give these people access to your computer or your credit card info!

Be careful out there folks!

Chris Eddy of Geek For Hire, Inc. has been providing computer service to families and small businesses with Mac’s and PC’s for the past fourteen years. His company is highly rated by both the BBB (Better Business Bureau) and by Angie’s List. You can find more at http://www.GeekForHireInc.com Geek For Hire, Inc. provides onsite service (Tier 3) to the Denver / Boulder / Front Range area.

Snow Day – perfect time to organize your computer files!

With the beautiful weather outside, it’s hard to concentrate on getting any work done.  The view from the deck outside of my home office is breathtaking – see for yourself:

Snow Day at the Eddy's!

Snow Day at the Eddy’s!

A day like today might be a good day to clean up your computer files!

Organize your photos:

I don’t know about you, but I don’t always put my files where I can easily find them again.  Especially my photos!  Every once in a while I’ll organize my photos by date.  I generally use the year and month.  I put the year first so that when the computer sorts the files by name, they’ll remain in date order.  If there are a lot of photos from a particular day or event, they’ll get their own file folder.

  • For example, my files might look like this:
    • 2016-02-February
    • 2016-01-January
    • 2015
      • 2015-12-December
      • 2015-11-November
      • 2015-11-November – Thanksgiving Vacation
      • 2015-10-October
      • etc., etc.

Once I get the file structure organized, I simply drag and drop the photos to the correct folder.  At the same time, I might also rename some of the photos too. Then it’s much easier to search for (and find) the photo of Auntie Em from among the hundreds of photos I took last Thanksgiving.

If I didn’t name the folders by date with the year first, but instead used the month first, when the computer sorted the folders based on name, it would end up looking like this:

  • April 2015
  • April 2014
  • August 2015
  • August 2014
  • December 2015
  • December 2014
  • February 2016
  • February 2015
  • February 2014
  • January 2016
  • January 2015
  • January 2014
  • July 2015
  • July 2014
  • June 2015
  • June 2014
  • etc, etc.

… and that wouldn’t be very helpful at all.

To rename a photo file, simple place your cursor on the file.  Then you can double click on it to rename it, or press the F2 button.  Give it a new name that is meaningful to you.  That will make it easier to find it later.

Organize your Computer Files:

When you store documents on your computer, it’s important to file them in such a way that you are able to find them again.  I’ve watched while friends have downloaded a file or photo from the internet and it goes straight into the “Downloads” folder without even getting a new name!  There are hundreds of files in there.  How will you ever be able to find that pdf again when its name is “2848066_orig.pdf”?  I would suggest setting up your files in a way that makes sense to you.

For example, you could try something like:

  • Family
    • Dick
    • Jane
    • Sally
    • Tom
  • Home
  • Photos
    • 2016
    • 2015
    • 2014
  • Recipes
    • Beverages
    • Desserts
    • Main Meals
  • Work

Then when you need to find a file, you’ll have a much easier time of it!

How do you get motivated on a day like today?

Chris Eddy of Geek For Hire, Inc. has been providing computer service to families and small businesses with Mac’s and PC’s for the past fourteen years. His company is highly rated by both the BBB (Better Business Bureau) and by Angie’s List. You can find more at http://www.GeekForHireInc.com Geek For Hire, Inc. provides onsite service (Tier 3) to the Denver / Boulder / Front Range area.

 

 

 

 

Who is Really Calling?

Computer scams are rampant if my voice mail is any judge.  For the last few weeks I’ve been getting a voice mail message with the following recording:

“This call is in regards to the security software we installed on your computer last year. Now we see a red flag on our end stating there is a security breach on it. Please call 1-866-758-1262. I repeat, 1-866-758-1262. Thank you.”

We’ve also received phone calls from regular people like you or me who fell victim to these scams.

Whenever you receive a call on your home or mobile phone from a number that you do not recognize, be extra careful. Dell or Microsoft or Toshiba or even Apple won’t be calling you to tell you that your computer has a virus.  When you get this kind of call, your spider-sense should be tingling!

There are times though when you answer the phone and the person on the other end is very convincing.  You might believe them and agree that they can access your computer remotely.  Then when you hang up the phone you have second thoughts.  Some things you should do right away are to:

  • Turn your machine off.
  • Disconnect the internet from your machine.  You may need to unplug the Ethernet cable from your machine or turn off the router if you have wireless service.
  • Turn your machine back on and confirm that your anti-virus is still working and is still installed.
  • Start your virus scanner.  It should tell you whether any malware has been installed, and it should remove those programs.
  • Once your virus scanner has completed and has removed any potential threats, you can reconnect your internet.
  • For the next few days be very cautious about how you use your machine.  For example, it would be prudent not to enter any financial or banking information on that machine – use your phone or iPad instead.  If the machine doesn’t show any signs of continued infection, it should be fine.  If it starts displaying pop-ups or becomes very slow, it’s time to call in a professional to do a through scrub of the machine.

You can find other symptoms of an infected machine here:

Chris Eddy of Geek For Hire, Inc. has been providing computer service to families and small businesses with Mac’s and PC’s for the past fourteen years. His company is highly rated by both the BBB (Better Business Bureau) and by Angie’s List. You can find more at http://www.GeekForHireInc.com Geek For Hire, Inc. provides onsite service (Tier 3) to the Denver / Boulder / Front Range area.

 

Experts say computers won’t last as long as you think

We have several customers with very old machines and they generally ask us how much longer they can expect their machine to last. We’re talking ten plus years! Remember Windows ME? Yup, we’re still seeing customers with that Microsoft Operating System!

It’s true that the machines that were built prior to 2010, for example, are likely to last five or so years. Some people have gotten them to last longer by taking special care of them. For example, we’re still happily using our 2008 iMac. Eight years later, it still performs very well. However, machines built in the last couple of years were only made to last three to six years.

I talked with Chris about computers in general and how long we can expect them to last.

“Computer technology doubles every three to four years and computers tend to last about four years. The better (more expensive) computers tend to last much longer than the cheaper ones will.”

Other experts around the internet chime in:

“…we use the 3-4-5 theory.  Plan on three years, hope for four, and don’t push past five years.”

“If you’re looking at the computer as a whole, with no interest in upgrading or replacing parts, expect to get at least three years out of the average desktop computer.”

“As a general rule of thumb, I expect laptops to last two to five years. Desktops may last three to seven years.”

“…a good timeframe to consider upgrading is around every three to four years.”

What can you do to help your machine last longer and keep it humming along?

  • Keeping the insides free of dust and pet hair.
  • If a machine is short on RAM, adding more will help it to run faster.
  • Too many protective software programs will make a machine run slower.
  • When the hard drive is more than 50% full, it will begin to run slower.
  • Viruses will tend to make your machine run slower. If you think you may have a virus, run your virus scanner to remove them.
  • Things get bigger and more computationally intense over time, so there are lags.

Remember, even if your machine is running perfectly, to keep your machine backed up regularly. Backups never go out of style and you never know when that hard drive might fail!

Chris Eddy of Geek For Hire, Inc. has been providing computer service to families and small businesses with Mac’s and PC’s for the past fourteen years. His company is highly rated by both the BBB (Better Business Bureau) and by Angie’s List. You can find more at http://www.GeekForHireInc.com Geek For Hire, Inc. provides onsite service (Tier 3) to the Denver / Boulder / Front Range area