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October 16th, 2014

Productivity_Oct16_AIn order for email to work, systems rely on what are called protocols. These are essentially a set of rules that dictate how data moves from system to system. When it comes to email, there are currently two major protocols: POP and IMAP. While most email systems will support both, it is a good idea to know the difference between the two and which is generally better for you.

Difference between POP and IMAP

POP, or Post Office Protocol, was first developed in early 1984 and is currently in its third version (POP3). POP works by allowing users to retrieve email and download it onto their computer. Because this protocol was developed before constant Internet connections, it is meant to allow users to interact with their email on their computer and then connect to the server to send it.

What this means is that usually, you connect to the server and download all of your messages onto your computer and then disconnect from the server with all messages being deleted from the server. When you connect to the server again, the messages are uploaded from your computer to the server which then sends the messages to the recipients.

IMAP, or Internet Message Access Protocol, is a newer protocol that was designed for faster and constant Internet connections. Essentially, the email messages live on the server and the user downloads copies to their computer. When the copy is sent, it is uploaded to the server which then overwrites the message and sends it to the recipient.

Which protocol should my company be using?

While most email servers will support POP, many experts agree that it is best if companies use newer email protocols. The reasons for this are:
  • POP is largely outdated. As stated above, this protocol was first introduced in the '80s. The current, and most popular, version was introduced in 1989.
  • POP can be less secure. By default, older protocols can transmit password and login data unencrypted, which means anyone with access to your network and tools could gain access to the data.
  • POP can't support multiple devices. Due to the way POP works, only the currently connected client can see email messages. If you are on your mobile device, but logged into your email client at work, you won't get messages on your device.
  • POP lacks important business features. Most of us rely on calendars, address books, and task lists that are integrated into most email clients. With POP, these are most likely third-party solutions that live on local machines. This makes it difficult to access this information from other locations.
There are some really great newer email systems out there, including servers that run IMAP protocols, and even Web-based email solutions that pretty much negate the need for email servers in the office. If you are currently using POP, it may be worthwhile to contact us to see how we can help upgrade your email solution.
Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic Productivity
October 13th, 2014

Across the world are cadres of computer expert-hackers competing in a criminal enterprise – and you’re the target.

They’re trying to see how fast, and how well, they can break into business information systems. It’s a growth industry. And the bad guys are very, very good.

That’s why another growth area in the information technology world is cyber liability insurance.

Is it fair, or right, that you should have to protect yourself with insurance against cybercrime? No. But neither is it fair that we need to lock our homes, install security systems, or take any of the other things we do to protect ourselves.

It’s simply smart business to protect yourself against financial loss from an information breach. Think Target (information stolen on 40 million customer credit and debit cards and 70 million other records) and Fidelity National Information Services (3.2 million customer records – including credit card and financial information), and a growing list of others.

If you’re a small business you don’t have the protection that these major corporations possess. It puts added emphasis on cyber liability insurance.

A July 5, 2012 cyber liability article on the entrepreneur.com website said, “A study of insurance-claims data for 117 privacy breaches found that the average cost is $5 per lost customer record, with a typical breach exposing 100,000 records, according to NetDiligence, a security risk assessment firm in Gladwyne, Pa. The cost includes legal defenses and settlements; crisis response, including required customer notifications; and business-interruption costs and fines. The study did not consider hard-to-measure costs such as lost business opportunities.”

In 2012, Shawn Henry, the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s then-top “cyber cop” (as described in the Wall Street Journal said, “We’re not winning,” adding that current public and private approach to fending off hackers is unsustainable.

“Computer criminals are simply too talented and defensive measures too weak to stop them,” he said.

And that was two years ago. Since then the situation has only gotten more complicated and challenging.

The William Blount Insurance Agency of Knoxville and The IT Company suggest taking these steps, immediately, to protect yourself and your business:

  • Assess your vulnerability
  • Create and enforce clear protocols with employees on use of mobile devices, wi-fi and social media
  • Invest in strong technology safeguards (email encryptions, etc.) and firewalls, but understand that firewalls reduce, but don’t eliminate, unauthorized traffic
  • Be realistic about the risk, but regardless of protection measures there remains a risk exposure; consider transferring that risk to a third party  via insurance policies

 

Cyber liability insurance can’t ensure you won’t be hacked, but it can ease the financial pain of an information technology leak.

October 2nd, 2014

Hardware_Sep29_AComputers and mobile devices might be high tech but they are still exposed to dust and grime and get dirty after a time. While for many a slightly unclean screen is a minor annoyance, neglecting to clean your devices could result in a decrease in longevity and possibly performance too. Once you commit to regularly cleaning your tech equipment it is important that you know how.

Cleaning desktop monitors

The monitor on your desktop is what many people spend the majority of their days in the office looking at. A clean monitor makes it easier to see your desktop more clearly. The best way to clean your monitor is to turn it off first, then take a microfiber cloth (these can be purchased at many optical stores as well as computer stores) and gently rub in a circular motion.

If there are still spots, then dip the cloth in a tiny bit of water - don't spray the water onto the screen - and try cleaning again. It is important that you don't press hard on the screen, as this could damage your monitor's pixels. Also, it is not a good idea to use paper-based products like paper towel or tissue, as they will not only leave residue, but may actually scratch the monitor slightly.

Cleaning mobile screens

Mobile and other touch screens usually will get your fingerprints all over them, making it harder to see what you are looking at. The best way to clean these screens is with a microfiber cloth. For tougher to remove spots you can dip the cloth into a small amount of water and then gently wipe the screen. Don't splash water onto it before cleaning, as water could get inside the device, which will likely void the warranty while potentially ruin internal components.

Some people suggest rubbing alcohol to remove fingerprints and disinfect the device. While this will be ok for some screens, many manufacturers recommend against it because the alcohol can eat away at the protective film on some devices.

If you notice that there is a lot of dust or gunk on the edges of your screen, or even in cracks, you may need to take the device into a mobile shop for further cleaning. Do not open the device yourself as this could void the warranty.

Cleaning your keyboard

Our fingers are touching keyboards almost all day, and after a while you will notice that your keyboard gets a bit grungy, with debris and dirt even between the keys. Before you do start cleaning, be sure to unplug the keyboard, or turn it off if it is wireless. To clean the upper parts of the keys - where your fingers strike the keys - try dipping cotton swabs into rubbing alcohol and then cleaning the keys with a gentle rub.

To clean between keys you will need compressed air which can be purchased at most office supply and computer stores. Spraying in between keys should be enough to get rid of most of the dust and grit.

Cleaning your mouse

Like the keyboard, the mouse can get quite dirty too, with grime from your fingers and dust in general. The best way to clean a mouse is to first unplug it and then use cotton swabs dipped in rubbing alcohol to gently clean it. You should not need to open your mouse and most models are designed to not be opened by users.

Cleaning your laptop's body

If your laptop's body is dirty the most effective way to clean it is to turn it off, unplug it, and clean it with cotton swabs dipped in rubbing alcohol. Some online articles recommend using a Mr Clean Magic Eraser, or similar cleaning tool. While this does work, it acts in the same way as super fine sandpaper, so you have to be careful that you do not end up actually lightly scratching the body.

Cleaning your computer tower

Some people may want to clean their desktop computer's tower. While this is doable by taking a slightly damp microfiber cloth and wiping down the front and side of your tower, we strongly recommend avoiding the back, and certain areas of the front, as there are ports and components that could be easily damaged.

As always, be sure to disconnect the power source and all wires before cleaning, as any water damage could ruin your computer.

Cleaning the inside of your computer

Dust will eventually get into the inside of your computer and could clog up cooling fans, causing them to stop working properly. This can potentially lead to other components overheating. The internal components of your computer are extremely fragile and need to be handled with great care. Do not take the case off of your computer as this usually voids your warranty.

For all of your computer needs our technicians are here to help.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic Hardware
October 1st, 2014

BCP_Sep29_AMany business owners and managers readily acknowledge the fact that they need to be prepared for a disaster, and most do have backup-plans in place should something actually go wrong. The thing is, it can be difficult to actually know if your plan will be enough to see your business through a disaster. What can help is knowing the common ways business continuity plans (BCP) fail.

There are many ways a business continuity or backup and recovery plan may fail, but if you know about the most common reasons then you can better plan to overcome these obstacles, which in turn will give you a better chance of surviving a disaster.

1. Not customizing a plan

Some companies take a plan that was developed for another organization and copy it word-for-word. While the general plan will often follow the same structure throughout most organizations, each business is different so what may work for one, won't necessarily work for another. When a disaster happens, you could find that elements of the plan are simply not working, resulting in recovery delays or worse. Therefore, you should take steps to ensure that the plan you adopt works for your organization.

It is also essential to customize a plan to respond to different departments or roles within an organization. While an overarching business continuity plan is great, you are going to need to tailor it for each department. For example, systems recovery order may be different for marketing when compared with finance. If you keep the plan the same for all roles, you could face ineffective recovery or confusion as to what is needed, ultimately leading to a loss of business.

2. Action plans that contain too much information

One common failing of business continuity plans is that they contain too much information in key parts of the plan. This is largely because many companies make the mistake of keeping the whole plan in one long document or binder. While this makes finding the plan easier, it makes actually enacting it far more difficult. During a disaster, you don't want your staff and key members flipping through pages and pages of useless information in order to figure out what they should be doing. This could actually end up exacerbating the problem.

Instead, try keeping action plans - what needs to be done during an emergency - separate from the overall plan. This could mean keeping individual plans in a separate document in the same folder, or a separate binder that is kept beside the total plan. Doing this will speed up action time, making it far easier for people to do their jobs when they need to.

3. Failing to properly define the scope

The scope of the plan, or who it pertains to, is important to define. Does the plan you are developing cover the whole organization, or just specific departments? If you fail to properly define who the plan is for, and what it covers there could be confusion when it comes to actually enacting it.

While you or some managers may have the scope defined in your heads, there is always a chance that you may not be there when disaster strikes, and therefore applying the plan effectively will likely not happen. What you need to do is properly define the scope within the plan, and ensure that all parties are aware of it.

4. Having an unclear or unfinished plan

Continuity plans need to be clear, easy to follow, and most of all cover as much as possible. If your plan is not laid out in a logical and clear manner, or written in simple and easy to understand language, there is an increased chance that it will fail. You should therefore ensure that all those who have access to the plan can follow it after the first read through, and find the information they need quickly and easily.

Beyond this, you should also make sure that all instructions and strategies are complete. For example, if you have an evacuation plan, make sure it states who evacuates to where and what should be done once people reach those points. The goal here is to establish as strong a plan as possible, which will further enhance the chances that your business will recover successfully from a disaster.

5. Failing to test, update, and test again

Even the most comprehensive and articulate plan needs to be tested on a regular basis. Failure to do so could result in once adequate plans not offering the coverage needed today. To avoid this, you should aim to test your plan on a regular basis - at least twice a year.

From these tests you should take note of potential bottlenecks and failures and take steps in order to patch these up. Beyond this, if you implement new systems, or change existing ones, revisit your plan and update it to cover these amendments and retest the plan again.

If you are worried about your continuity planning, or would like help implementing a plan and supporting systems, contact us today.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

September 24th, 2014

SocialMedia_Sep22_AFor many small to medium businesses, social media has become an integral part of their overall business strategy. Most businesses have a presence on at least one platform, but one issue many business owners and managers struggle with is how they should be using social media effectively. To help, here is an overview of the three most common ways small to medium businesses use social media.

1. To be a resource for existing and potential clients

This approach is by far the most popular used by businesses of all sizes. The main idea here is that social media is used as essentially a two-way street where you can pass information about the company, products, and industry to your followers. In turn, they interact with the content and eventually start to turn to your profile and page when they are looking for information.

One of the best ways to be successful with this approach is to provide your followers with information about the company, facts, tips about your products and industry, and links to other relevant content.

By sharing content, users will generally interact with it more and begin to see your company as a reliable source of information. This often translates into enhanced brand awareness and potentially sales.

The downside with this approach however, is that it can be time consuming to constantly develop new content. Most companies eventually reach a point where what they produce and share is pretty much the same, and overall payoffs begin to decrease. One way around this is to work with professionals to come up with dynamic and different content.

2. To provide customer service/support

These days, when someone has a problem with a company's services or products, the first port of call for complaints is often social media, largely because it's the most convenient place to vent where you can get instant reactions.

It therefore makes sense to create support or customer service presence on these channels. Some companies have even taken to launching support-centric profiles, where customers can contact them about anything, from complaints to questions, and receive a personal answer. For many companies this is ideal because it eliminates the hassle of customers having to call a support line and dealing with automated machines.

This approach can prove useful for businesses because it often makes it easier to reach out to disgruntled customers and track overall brand satisfaction. The downside is that you will need someone monitoring services 24/7, and to respond in a timely manner which may be tough to do for many smaller businesses.

3. To sell something

There are an increasing number of businesses who have launched social media profiles with the intent of selling a product or service. The actual sales may not take place through social media but the information on these profiles and platforms channels potential customers to an online store or to contact a company directly. Social media's instantaneous nature makes for a tempting platform, especially when you tie in different advertising features and include content like coupons, and discounts.

While this hard sales line can be appealing to businesses, many users are seemingly put off of companies with profiles that only focus on selling via their platforms. The whole idea of social networking is that it is 'social'; this means real interactions with real people. Profiles dedicated only to trying to sell something will, more often than not, simply be ignored.

What's the ideal use?

One of the best approaches for small to medium businesses is to actually use a combined approach. Most people know that ultimately, businesses with a presence on social media are marketing something, but focusing solely on this could turn customers off.

A successful split that many experts have touted is the 70-20-10 rule. This rule states that you should make 70% of your content and profile focused on relevant information to your audience. 20% of content should be content from other people and 10% of content should be related to selling your products or services e.g., promotional.

If you want to use social media for support as well, it is a good idea to create a separate profile dedicated just to this end. If complaints are lodged or noticed using your main account, direct them towards the support account.

As always, if you are looking for help with your social media strategy, contact us today to see how we can help.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic Social Media
September 24th, 2014

You can file the dust-up between the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services inspector general vs. health care providers and the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) under this heading: it’s always something.

The EHR is the future. What’s happening right now is that the IG is chiding CMS and health care providers for doing enough to safeguard the security of EHRs from fraud.

This may seem odd in that a key selling point of EHRs for years was that they are more secure than written records. But nothing is that simple.

While much of the EHR focus has been to safeguard under the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) the personal health information of patients, the OIG report was directed at health care billing and other types of financial fraud.

Here’s report’s title: “CMS and its contractors have adopted few program integrity practices to address vulnerabilities in EHRs.”

Here’s what it found: “Specifically, few contractors were reviewing EHRs differently from paper medical records. In addition, not all contractors reported being able to determine whether a provider had copied language or overdocumented in a medical record. Finally, CMS had provided limited guidance to Medicare contractors on EHR fraud vulnerabilities.”

OIG suggested as the solution that guidance be given to contractors on detecting EHR-associated fraud, saying “CMS could work with contractors to identify best practices and develop guidance and tools for detecting fraud associated with EHRs.”

The second recommendation was that CMS direct contractors to use providers’ audit logs, useful, it said, to distinguish EHRS from paper records (you can read the full OIG report here: http://oig.hhs.gov/oei/reports/oei-01-11-00571.pdf).

Much of what we hear and deal with concerning EHRs has to do with protected health information (PHI). Legally, health care providers can be hammered into oatmeal if they fail to adequately protect PHI. The Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology has guidelines – which also include PHI protection using EHRs – available for use: http://www.healthit.gov/sites/default/files/pdf/privacy/privacy-and-security-guide.pdf.

But again, PHI is a separate issue from potential fraud, and shouldn’t be confused. What this signals is that the government in short order will begin pursuing cases of EHR-related fraud, and will do it very publicly as a means of deterring others from following the same path or making the same mistakes.

In the absence of CMS-related best practices, consult with your IT provider to come up with your own.

If you’d like to speak with The IT Company how to do that (we have an extensive group of health care-related clients) please contact us at 865-392-9200.

 

September 18th, 2014

Productivity_Sep15_AAlmost every employee in every role relies on technology in order to do their job. When technology is working, everything hums along and productivity is solid. The second our technology stops working however, we can find ourselves struggling to even complete the most basic of tasks. The result can be a dramatic drop in overall productivity. The thing is, we know our systems will eventually breakdown. But, do you know what to do when this actually happens?

What to do when your systems stop working

Often, our first reaction when our technology or systems stop working is to either panic, or get angry. Once we are over this, we often feel desperate to get the problem fixed but may be at a loss as to what to do.

When technology does breakdown, here are some recommended steps you should take:

  • In the words of Douglas Adams, "Don't Panic!" - One of the more popular quotes from the immensely successful Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy is "don't panic". This rings true for the vast majority of tech problems. While you may feel like you are facing a big issue at the time, most systems can be fully recovered. This is especially true if you have backup solutions in place.
  • Note what you were doing before the problem occurred - This is an important step, as when something does go wrong, one of the first things tech support will ask you is what you were doing before the problem occurred. The more information that you can give them, the more likely they will be able to solve the problem faster.
  • Ask your colleagues if they are having the same problems - Because so many business systems are networked together, many techs will want to see if problems are localized to your computer or are network wide. Armed with this information, it is far easier to work out the most effective solution.
  • Try turning it off and on again - When faced with many tech problems, you will be asked to turn the system - be it your computer, an app, server, etc. - off and on again. Sometimes the fault lies in the software or short-term memory (RAM) of systems, and turning the system off and on again is enough to fix this.
  • Google it - If an issue persists and it is related to the software on your computer, or a website, try searching the Internet for an answer. If the page doesn't load, you then know the problem is related to the Internet connection. Should the problem be with a cloud service, checking the provider's website or social media feeds is useful to check for post status updates of their systems.
  • Don't rush into a supposed fix - It can be tempting to try out the first supposed fix you come across or someone suggests. The problem is, some 'fixes' can actually end up harming a system even more. For example, you may find suggested fix for a phone that has been dropped into water that says to take the device apart and dry it with a blow dryer. This will damage components, and also void your warranty, which could make the issue even more expensive to deal with. Instead, you should seek the advice of an expert like us.
  • Don't overreact - Have you ever felt so frustrated you have wanted to reach out and smack your computer? While this may make you feel better on one level the reality is that you could make a bad situation worse. When faced with any tech troubles it is best to walk away for a short time so that you can deal with the situation in a calm and collected way.
  • Call your IT partner or IT helpdesk - If the system doesn't work after restarting we strongly recommend stopping there and reaching out to your IT helpdesk or an IT partner like us. We have the experience to investigate the problem, and we can usually come up with an answer and hopefully a fix in a short amount of time.

Preventative steps you should take

While it is inevitable that systems will eventually breakdown, it doesn't mean we are powerless to prevent this from happening, or at least minimizing the potential fallout. One of the easiest preventative measures you can take is to try and take care of your devices and systems. This includes being careful to not physically damage them, while also being sure to watch what you install on your systems, and implementing security standards.

We also strongly recommend working with an IT partner like us. We can help manage your systems and implement measures to keep them working long into the future. Beyond that, we can help monitor systems so that should something start to go wrong, we can begin to implement a fix even before you notice it. And, if something should break down, we can either fix it ourselves or recommend an expert who will be able to help.

Looking for help keeping your systems running and employees productive? Contact us today to learn more about our services and how they are designed to help.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic Productivity
September 11th, 2014

MobileGeneral_Sep08_AWhen you go to upgrade your phone you may consider selling your old one. However, one issue you may face is having a number of apps on your device that contain personal information. You need to take care that you deauthenticate apps when you're considering getting rid of, or selling your upgraded devices. The next question is which apps should you be looking out for?

What exactly is deauthentication?

Some apps, although not all, require that you authenticate your device in order for them to work. Many developers who ask users to authenticate their device do so in order to either prevent copies of the software from being created and utilized, or to ensure that the device and app can communicate securely.

Some examples of apps that ask for authentication include those that use multi-factor authentication, password managers, and apps that require a subscription or credit card information, etc. On some devices you even need to enter a code or key, much like installing software on a new computer, in order to activate all the features of the app.

The main reason many developers require authentication is connected to security. As security is becoming an ever more pressing issue, there is a good chance that we will see more apps asking users to authenticate their devices in the future.

The issue with this is that when you go to sell your device you will likely need to purchase the app again or the buyer of the device won't be able to set up their own account.

Common apps you should deauthenticate

Apps with subscription services: This includes apps like Google Play Music, Spotify, Office for iPad, cloud storage apps that you have linked your device to, etc. These apps are usually either linked with your device or your phone number so it is a good idea to deauthenticate them.
  1. Kindle app: The Kindle app is actually linked to your device and users who want to use the app will likely not be able to if the device is linked to your account. You can unlink devices by going to the Amazon site, logging in and selecting Manage your Content and Devices when you hover over your account name.
  2. Password management apps: These apps usually require that you authenticate your device to use a particular service. If you try to log in on a new device, these apps may not work properly.
  3. Chat apps: Some chat apps like WhatsApp or Line require that you register for the service using your phone number. If you are keeping your number, you shouldn't have to deauthenticate, but if you are getting a new number, you should go into the account settings of each app and unlink your number. WhatsApp for example has a feature that allows you to move your number to a new device.
  4. Any app or service that you have linked credit card information to: While you ordinarily don't have to physically deauthenticate these apps, as the information is usually linked to an account and password, it is a good idea to unlink your credit card with any app on your phone before you hand it over. This will help ensure that credit card information is not stored or accessible.
When it comes to the major app stores, e.g., Windows Phone Store, Google Play, and iTunes, you will often see that your device has been linked to your account. If you are going to sell your device, the best course of action is to reset using the factory reset option. This will delete all data and installed apps on the device. This will often be enough to deauthenticate all apps.

If you are looking to learn more about getting rid of your older devices, contact us today.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

September 5th, 2014

It’s an IT dilemma facing authorities, parents, and it’s a part of the continuing national debate about parental responsibilities: how do health care providers limit online portals what parents – that’s right, parents – can’t see of their children’s health records?

It’s a legal and regulatory minefield for those in charge of managing and protecting information. The minefield is growing with the increasing popularity of online patient portals.

While parents have the responsibility of raising their children, they don’t have the right to see all of their children’s health information. Laws from the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) to state laws and rules apply confidentiality to various children’s health records.

In a 2008 study in “Online Research Journal, Perspectives in Health Information Management,” focus groups of teens and adults explored the issue of online portals as a way of accessing health information.

This finding was perhaps predictable: “Teens in general felt that it was their decision whether or not to sign up for the portal and they should not need their parents’ approval. Not surprisingly, parents felt they should have to provide consent for their teens to use the teen patient portal.” (http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2556441/).

On top of that, laws vary from state to state. In Tennessee, for example, a teenager must have his or her parents’ consent to get a tattoo, but a pregnant teen-ager can receive pregnancy tests and prenatal care without a parent’s knowledge: http://www.state.tn.us/tenncare/tenndercare/teenrights.pdf

In California, under that state’s confidentiality requirements: “…parents do not have an absolute right to see their child’s records. Under state law, providers may refuse to provide parents or guardians access to a minor’s medical records when ‘the health care provider determines that access to the patent records requested by the (parent or guardian) would have a detrimental effect on the provider’s professional relationship with the minor patient or the minor’s physical safety or psychological well-being.” (http://www.teenhealthlaw.org/fileadmin/teenhealth/teenhealthrights/ca/Ca-ParentAccessRules.pdf).

On the one hand parents are told to be involved in their child’s life, be aware of what their child is doing, and be active in monitoring their behavior. On the other hand they’re restricted from access to significant areas of their children’s health information.

That’s a debate for in which the country and its leaders will have to engage. For IT professionals in the health field, it creates a host of complexities. How do you create an online portal for ease of patient access to medical records, but make sure that parents don’t have access to specific, individual records?

  •  No national standards or definitive guidance exists in this arena. Thus, it’s sort of a “you can try that but if it doesn’t work you’re in trouble” situation.

 

  • The Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT has put together what it calls a Privacy & Security Tiger Team “move forward on a range of privacy and security issues.”

 

  •  While the country awaits the team’s findings – assuming they’ll work – there are two options for health care providers:

1. work with an absolutely reputable and capable IT provider who can develop the best possible protections for your organization.

2. tread carefully in the minefield.

September 4th, 2014

Hardware_Sep02_AYou undoubtedly use computer monitors daily, whether at work, at home or both. So, you know that they are available in a variety of shapes, designs, and colors. What a lot of people might not know is, based on the technology used to make them, they can be broadly categorized into three types commonly used today.

CRT (cathode ray tube) monitors

These monitors employ CRT technology, which was used most commonly in the manufacturing of television screens. With these monitors, a stream of intense high energy electrons is used to form images on a fluorescent screen. A cathode ray tube is basically a vacuum tube containing an electron gun at one end and a fluorescent screen at another end.

While CRT monitors can still be found in some organizations, many offices have stopped using them largely because they are heavy, bulky, and costly to replace should they break. While they are still in use, it would be a good idea to phase these monitors out for cheaper, lighter, and more reliable monitors.

LCD (liquid crystal display) monitors

The LCD monitor incorporates one of the most advanced technologies available today. Typically, it consists of a layer of color or monochrome pixels arranged schematically between a couple of transparent electrodes and two polarizing filters. Optical effect is made possible by polarizing the light in varied amounts and making it pass through the liquid crystal layer. The two types of LCD technology available are the active matrix of TFT and a passive matrix technology. TFT generates better picture quality and is more secure and reliable. Passive matrix, on the other hand, has a slow response time and is slowly becoming outdated.

The advantages of LCD monitors include their compact size which makes them lightweight. They also don't consume much electricity as CRT monitors, and can be run off of batteries which makes them ideal for laptops.

Images transmitted by these monitors don’t get geometrically distorted and have little flicker. However, this type of monitor does have disadvantages, such as its relatively high price, an image quality which is not constant when viewed from different angles, and a monitor resolution that is not always constant, meaning any alterations can result in reduced performance.

LED (light-emitting diodes) monitors

LED monitors are the latest types of monitors on the market today. These are flat panel, or slightly curved displays which make use of light-emitting diodes for back-lighting, instead of cold cathode fluorescent (CCFL) back-lighting used in LCDs. LED monitors are said to use much lesser power than CRT and LCD and are considered far more environmentally friendly.

The advantages of LED monitors are that they produce images with higher contrast, have less negative environmental impact when disposed, are more durable than CRT or LCD monitors, and features a very thin design. They also don’t produce much heat while running. The only downside is that they can be more expensive, especially for the high-end monitors like the new curved displays that are being released.

Being aware of the different types of computer monitors available should help you choose one that’s most suited to your needs. Looking to learn more about hardware in today’s world? Contact us and see how we can help.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic Hardware