Double Up On Productivity With A Dual Monitor Setup

setting up dual monitors synergy networksHave you considered using a dual monitor setup? As a time-pressed business owner, you’re probably looking for ways to improve productivity when it comes to computer usage. You can consider a faster processor or a larger hard drive, and you probably should. But one easy, affordable way to boost your productivity is to upgrade to a dual monitor setup. A good 22” monitor costs less than $200 and can quickly pay big dividends in boosted productivity and reduced headaches.

In fact, having a dual monitor setup has been shown to increase productivity by 20-30 percent. Some studies demonstrate additional benefits, including improved ergonomics and workplace satisfaction by workers who use dual monitors.

I have become a huge fan of using a dual monitor setup for both my office and home workstations to gain screen real estate. Using dual monitors helps me reduce time alt+tabbing back and forth between two different programs or views. I can easily view multiple programs side-by-side without scrolling. A dual monitor setup uses two screens operating from a single computer. This lets you move your mouse back and forth between them, dragging programs between monitors and creating an extra-large desktop.

A dual monitor setup works great for laptop users, too.

set up laptop docking stationWhile the portability of laptops makes them convenient, tiny screens are a downside. At Synergy, I use what’s called a “docking station” for my laptop. I can bring my laptop to my docking station at work, plug in two cords and instantly have access to my desktop work station’s larger monitor, wireless keyboard and mouse, speakers and more. This eliminates the need to have both a laptop and a desktop computer.

Situations Where Having A Dual Monitor Setup Is Useful

  • View web updates in real time: Web designers or developers can easily view web updates in real time, using one monitor to view the site while logged in and the other to view the site from a user’s (not logged in) perspective
  • Sharing data between applications: For instance, you can browse images online and simply drag the image to the other screen where your photo editing application is open, without downloading and saving the image.
  • Reference critical information: Dual monitors makes it easy to have reference information displayed on one screen while you work on a new document on the other. For example, one screen could have a PDF file, while you’re utilizing the other screen to write a report in Microsoft Word.
  • Watch a video while applying the information: If you frequently watch how-to-videos, you can have the video going on one screen, while doing what’s instructed on the other in real-time.
  • Convenient video conferencing: Ideal for multi-location businesses or companies with remote workers, dual monitors make it easy to see the person you’re video conferencing with while referring to their files on the other screen.
  • Multi-task: Okay, technically, statistics show we can’t truly multi-task. However, most of us are frequently switching between various types of tasks throughout the day. Using multiple monitors makes this easier and less disruptive. View a web page while writing an email, refer to a document while writing something, or work with two large spreadsheets side-by-side.
  • Easily edit presentations and documents: Having a second monitor makes it easier to refer to your source document while adding info to your presentation or new document, whether your source document is a spreadsheet, word document or web page.
  • See more of your game world: Dual monitors aren’t just useful for work tasks. Avid gamers can extend their game across multiple displays.

Creating A Dual Monitor Setup

dual monitors for productivity synergy networks madison wiMost modern computers can accommodate dual monitors, including laptops. Synergy Networks can help you configure your monitors if you like. Settings for multiple monitors are located in the same place as the controls for your individual monitor, so you don’t need extra software.

You can purchase and connect a second monitor yourself. Synergy Networks can also do this for you.

Most new desktop computers come with more than one port for a monitor—whether DisplayPort, DVI, HDMI, the older VGA port, or a mix. Some computers may include splitter cables that allow you to connect multiple monitors to a single port.

Most laptops also come with ports that allow you to hook up an external monitor. Plug a monitor into your laptop’s DisplayPort, DVI, or HDMI port and Windows will allow you to use both your laptop’s integrated display and the external monitor at once.

Configuring a dual monitor setup in Windows is relatively easy.

Just plug the monitor into the appropriate port on your computer, and Windows should automatically extend your desktop onto it. You can then drag and drop windows between monitors. However, Windows may mirror your displays instead, showing the same thing on each one by default If that’s the case, it’s easy to change.

You can control the way dual monitors displays information under “Display Settings” on your computer. If Windows failed to detect all your connected displays or monitors, there’s a “Detect” button you can click to help find new monitors you’ve recently connected.

You can click each connected display and choose an appropriate scaling level for it, which is useful if one display is a high-DPI display and one isn’t.

Need More Information about Dual Monitors? Give us a call.

If the idea of connecting multiple monitors is appealing, but the thought of doing it yourself is daunting or confusing, just give us a call. Synergy Networks would be happy to help you set up workstations for you and your employees that optimizes productivity and makes each workday a breeze!

Data Backup And Avoiding Disaster

data backup services for PC

Data backup is something most people know they “should” do. However, we frequently get panicked calls from people who’ve neglected to properly back up their data. Unfortunately, even if we can salvage data from a broken or corrupted hard drive, the process can be time-consuming and expensive. And sadly, sometimes the data cannot be retrieved at all.

data backup services in madison wiBefore the days of digital, the main threats to information, personal records and priceless family photos were fires or floods. Now, a trip on the stairs can send your laptop flying and your data into oblivion.

Synergy Networks provides cloud and local data backup services that run automatically, so you can trust that you’re protected no matter what happens.

Why You Need Data Backup

“I thought it wouldn’t happen to me.” We hear it all the time from clients who come to us with a corrupted hard drive. It can happen to you. We’re in the business of providing professional PC support to businesses and individuals, and it even happens to us from time to time!

Here are just a few of the common reasons you need data backup.

  • Computer crashes always happen when you least expect them.
  • Virus Infection is a common cause of data loss. Aggressive, malicious viruses can corrupt files and disable computers.
  • Hard drive failure is something to be aware of because hard drives have a finite lifetime and can fail suddenly and without warning.
  • Physical computer damage has become more common because we now tote our computers wherever we go. Your files are more at risk if you use a laptop.
  • Theft is always a risk, since computers are sought after by thieves and cannot always be kept secure while you’re traveling, even across town.

Cloud Backup Versus Local Backup

madison wi data backup serviceWe’re huge fans of redundancy when it comes to data backup. We provide for both local and cloud backup, so you’re covered no matter what.

Many computer users locally backup their files to an external hard drive or flash drive, which is a good first step. However, if you experience fire, flood, theft or power surge, this will not protect your information. Saving data to a separate location is necessary for better protection. This can be easily done if you have an external hard drive.

synergy data backup madison wiLocal or physical backup is only as secure as the device you’re backing up to. When saving files on a physical device, your backup device needs to be kept in a different location than your computer. In addition, despite your best intentions, you may forget to copy your files as often as you should, leaving a large amount of recent work unprotected.

Cloud (online) backup is an important part of your backup strategy.

Files stored online are safe from damage to your physical location. If catastrophic weather or fire damages your PC and local backup here in Wisconsin, cloud backup ensures there’s another copy of your data in a totally different location or even a different state. In that case, you will still have remote access to your information from any computer with internet access. We can quickly and easily restore your files and photos to your computer from a secure online server.

Your Data Backup Options: DIY or Trust the Experts

The only thing more heartbreaking than trying to retrieve lost data for a client who didn’t have the proper data backup services in place is trying to help a client who had a backup application, but didn’t regularly run backups or maintain them properly.

data backup for PC madison wiYou certainly can back up your data yourself. Some backup services are even free. But data backup is only as good as your ability to configure settings properly and run the backups regularly. It’s also risky to download unknown software without the expertise to know what software packages can be trusted, and which might actually pose risks for you, your privacy or your data.

More business owners and individuals are entrusting their data backup management to Synergy Networks, so that they can “set it and forget it” and know that we’ve got them covered. While a local backup not managed by us can be scheduled to run on its own and even monitored by you to make sure it’s running, our backup means we keep an eye on backups and notify you when we see it’s not happening as expected.

A client said to us recently, “I’m no computer expert. I just want it to work, and I don’t want any surprises. It’s well worth the $14/month to me to know my computer and my data’s in good hands with professionals.”

The bottom line is that if you value what’s on your computer, you’re wise to take steps to protect your information from sudden loss.  Work can be redone, but the loss of cherished files like family photos and personal records is permanent.

Learn more about Watchdog Systems Monitoring Services from Synergy Networks. Our Premium Watchdog Package includes data backup up to 20G. Or call us if we can answer questions for you.

What Small Businesses Need to Know About Security Software

security software how to watchdog

Wading through tech-speak to know what you need for security software can be overwhelming. And meanwhile, you have a business to run. Here are a few key things you need to know about the importance of security software for small and mid-sized businesses, the benefits and your options as a small or mid-sized business owner.

What security software is and why it’s important for small businesses.

Security software is your computer’s or network’s defense against intrusion and unauthorized use of resources. Your need for effective security software as a small or mid-sized business is on the rise. According to a report by Keeper Security and the Ponemon Institute, 50 percent of small businesses have been breached in the past 12 months.

Small businesses are a key target for hackers, since they have more valuable data than the typical individual, but far less elaborate protections in place than a large corporation. In fact, studies show that a majority of small businesses are “underinsured” or “uninsured” when it comes to security software.

Losing your data permanently is the worst possibility. Endangering the data of your customers is another severe threat. But using security software comes with many additional benefits to keep your business strong, healthy and protected.

Security software keeps your data and system secure.

Security software keeps sensitive company and client data safe from attack from viruses and hackers. It also guards your system and applications from being lost or compromised due to system corruption, internal or external threats. Advanced security software can also leave an electronic trail to monitor internal use and flag threats of embezzlement or information breaches.

Security software protects your time and money.

As a business owner, you can easily comprehend the catastrophic financial loss that could be caused by a major security attack that compromises or destroys critical data. But your time is equally valuable. Security software that protects against malware and other “germs” keeps your system healthy and speedy, which protects your time. And when your security software proactively keeps bugs at bay, you won’t worry that you’re going to lose a whole day, multiple days or a week to restoring your system’s health. This can happen if over time your machine gets so debilitated by malware that you can no longer use it without a major cleanup.

Security software delivers peace of mind.

When you, your employees and your clients know you have a robust security system in place, you can communicate and share information with ease. You won’t have to worry that you or an employee will inadvertently open an attachment that contains a virus or other harmful code. The right security software also provides early warning alerts to detect potential intruders and let you know before they have the chance to do any damage. For example, it can send alerts about logins from unknown IP addresses or devices so that you can follow up.

Your security software options: Do it yourself, or get help from the experts.

There are a number of effective security software options on the market that let you handle security yourself. Some of them are free. But knowing which ones are safe, which ones work best, how much “insurance” you need and then finessing settings to work well for your unique business can be intimidating for a non-techie. And even the best antivirus, malware or web protection product is only as good as your memory to run regular scans. Countless times, we’ve had a client bring us a compromised computer to fix. When we dig deeper, we find that security software was loaded, but it wasn’t used properly. Security software won’t protect you if you don’t use it properly and keep it up-to-date.

Our Watchdog System Health Monitoring is designed to ensure your computer systems stay healthy, updated and bug-free. The basic version of WatchDog ($4/month/workstation) takes care of the keeping your hardware healthy and updated – first with performance thresholds related to CPU, hard disks, memory, and network and secondly with automated patching (updates) for Windows, Microsoft, Java, and Adobe as well as hardware driver updates. You’ll get e-mailed alerts, regular reports, and someone keeping an eye on your systems to make sure things remain “healthy”.

To address software security needs, upgrade to Premium Watchdog, which includes a security software called WebRoot SecureAnywhere. This provides anti-virus, anti-spyware, and web filtering. Also included in Premium Watchdog is backup to protect your critical data.

All WatchDog clients get free downtime notifications for routers, websites, and company networks. WatchDog clients also have free access to a remote ticketing system. This way, if a problem does arise, we can take a look remotely without you having to lug your machine to our office or even pick up the phone.  Once you’re a WatchDog client, we can usually remotely diagnose what’s wrong and provide estimated costs for the fix, if applicable. Often, we can even perform the fix remotely once you’ve decided you want it done. This can be a huge time savings and bring peace of mind.

Protect your most valuable business assets against security threats and performance issues. Start your one-month free trial of WatchDog Systems Health Monitoring. To have security software included, choose Premium Watchdog.


We’ve Moved to Verona

Its been a lot of chaos the past couple months but we’ve moved and are finally all settled into the old cheese shop in Verona. Once I can put together my email list for invites, we will be hosting an open house lunch thing this summer.
In the meantime, please update your records with our new address and phone numbers as follows.

202 W. Verona Avenue, Verona, WI 53593

The sign in front (in the picture) is in progress now but will end up being very unique.  Keep an eye out for that as you drive by in the next week or two.

We've Moved - Synergy Networks

We’ve Moved – Synergy Networks

Superfish Vulnerability Affecting You?

Click the image below to check your system (at to see if the Superfish vulnerability is affecting your PC.

They also have a lot of great detail on the scope of the problem and how to resolve it if you are affected.

While you’re there, I’d recommend looking at LastPass as a password manager as well.










Even more info on Superfish from AVG linked below.


AVG Superfish Info


Google Apps Status DashBoard

So, you’ve made the move to Google Apps and something’s not working quite right.

Is it Google that’s down or a problem with your network or computer?  While Google is certainly very reliable and redundant, they still run into problems where things aren’t working as expected.  That said, with mail client software out of the picture (using native Google Mail interface), there are fewer potential links in the chain that can break.  If your mail client (Outlook, Thunderbird) is not working, try logging on directly to the GMail interface.  For all domains, you can simply go to and enter your full e-mail address and password.  If it’s working there but not in your mail client software, Google is not the problem.

The Google Apps Status DashBoard will always show the current status of Google Apps, identifying if there are problems with Google Apps and shows a history of outages.

Click the link below to see the current Google Apps Status DashBoard.

Google Apps Status DashBoard

Google Apps Status DashBoard




Also, don’t forget about the Google Apps Toolbox for troubleshooting MX records, mail headers and other Google Apps issues.  Link below.

Google Apps Toolbox

Cloud Collaboration Questionnaire

Cloud Collaboration Questionnaire

The information requested below is needed for migrating to Google Apps and having it ahead of time will expedite the process of getting your domain(s) switched over as quickly as possible.  This questionnaire can also be provided to you as a web form in order to securely submit the information requested to Synergy Networks.  Feel free to contact us with any questions you may have.

Domain Name(s):

Existing Mail/Collaboration System (ie. Exchange, hosted pop3 accounts, etc.):

Domain (Registrar) Manager Account Login Information:

Web Hosting Service Provider (cPanel) Login Information:

First & Last Names + email address for each user:

  1. Joe User –
  2. Mary User –

Alternate names (optional) that can be accepted and forwarded to the above:

  1. joe@ and juser@ should both forward to joe.user@
  2. mary@ and muser@ should both forward to mary.user@

Group names that are forwarded to multiple persons (e.g. sales@, billing@, returns@, info@, etc.)

  1. sales@ should forward to both joe.user@ and jane.user@

A valid address from above to catch all incorrectly addressed emails to this domain:

If no ‘catch-all’ address is used, the email will be bounced back to its sender.  Recommend bouncing mis-addressed e-mails to minimize spam.

Users who will be using an email client (Outlook, Eudora, Outlook Express, etc.) on their computer:

The alternative is to use the Gmail web interface directly, which many people find to be more useful/flexible. Either method can be used exclusively or interchangeably.

  • jane.user@

Users who want their mobile phone configured with Google Apps and what type of devices they use:

  • Joe User has an Android phone
  • Jane User has an iPhone

Users who will want an existing mail store, calendar, and contacts migrated to Google Apps:

I’ve got “Crypto Paranoia”

Annoying viruses on our computers are something we have gotten used to dealing with, but there is a new and very malicious virus called CryptoLocker that is poised to cause serious problems. CryptoLocker is the latest and most damaging of a type of virus called ransomware, which are Trojan viruses that encrypt your files until you pay a fee (ransom). When the virus has finished encrypting your files, the alert shown below will appear giving you 96 hours (or four days) to pay $300 or lose all your encrypted personal files forever. 

Crypto Locker VirusCrypto Locker Virus


It should be simple to track down the hackers given that they’re taking a ransom, but it’s not that simple.  Since CryptoLocker demands payment through MoneyPak or Bitcoin, both of which are private, decentralized fund-exchange networks, it’s almost impossible to follow the money.

How does your computer get infected?


Continue reading

Time for a new PC or Windows upgrade from XP?

I have a personal laptop that I was going to leave on XP but the more I read about the potential problems, the more I am looking at upgrading to Windows 7.  The link below will take you to the Windows Upgrade Advisor.  Download and run the Windows Upgrade Advisor to see if your PC is ready for Windows 7. It scans your hardware, devices, and installed programs for known compatibility issues, gives you guidance on how to resolve potential issues found, and recommends what to do before you upgrade.

If your PC is not up-gradable, now is a great time to look at a new PC.  The upcoming holiday shopping season always brings some great deals on technology.  Give Synergy a call and we would be glad to help you with your purchase and get your data loaded on a new PC!

Microsoft Security Research Paints Bleak Picture for XP Users

Summary: The latest security threat report from Microsoft shows the outlook for Windows XP users is getting grimmer. Things are bad, getting worse, and in six months the trouble really starts.

By  for Zero Day |

The 15th and latest of Microsoft’s Security Intelligence Report (SIRv15) has been released. We spoke with Tim Rains, Director, Trustworthy Computing at Microsoft about the results.

There are a lot of periodic threat reports from companies in the security business, but Microsoft’s report is based on an probably the broadest set of data in the industry: they gather information from over 100 countries; more than 1 billion systems which use Windows Update, the Malicious Software Removal Tool (MSRT) and Microsoft’s free Security Essentials program; more than 400 million accounts and millions of Office 365 accounts; and from the billions of web pages scanned every day by Bing.

Though there is other data in the report, Rains chose to focus this month on the situation as it relates to Windows XP users. Citing third party data, he said that 21% of users are still running Windows XP, which will reach end of life in April 2014, after which no security updates will be issued for it.

As we have noted before, once the last Windows XP patch is issued (likely on April 8, 2014), unpatched vulnerabilities will begin to emerge. Some will have been saved by attackers for the time when there will no longer be a chance for it to be patched. Rains brought up another likely scenario: In subsequent Patch Tuesdays, Microsoft will patch vulnerabilities in Vista and later versions of Windows. Malicious researchers will reverse-engineer these updates, test to see if they affect Windows XP (most will), and write exploits for them targeting XP.

Even before all this happens, the vulnerability situation for XP users is bad compared to later versions of Windows. In the chart below we see two measures, based on data from the MSRT Software Essentials and a few other Microsoft sources: on the left is the number of computers infected with malware, and therefore cleaned of it. On the right is the percentage of systems that encounter or block malware.


Windows XP users are many more times as likely as Windows 8 users to be infected by malware- source: Microsoft

There is some variability in the Encounter Rate, but all four Windows versions are fairly close to one another. The infection rate, on the other hand, clearly shows that Windows systems have gotten more resistant to attack over time. At the extreme, Windows XP users are almost six times more likely to become infected with malware as Windows 8 users. Globally, 17% of systems encounter malware.

Why are Windows XP users more vulnerable now? Because Microsoft has steadily incorporated defensive technologies into Windows with each new version. The only major technology XP had was Data Execution Prevention (DEP), and even the implementation of that has improved greatly in subsequent versions. As this next chart shows, the number of disclosed vulnerabilities which bypass DEP in Windows XP has steadily increased over the last few years.


The number of CVEs for which exploits were written that could have been mitigated by enabling DEP as compared to the number of CVEs that had exploits that bypassed DEP. (source: Microsoft)

Windows Vista, Windows 7 and Windows 8 all introduce new technologies that may block exploits that would get past DEP.

Tablets – Tools or Toys?

TabletsTablets are the topic of the day.

I get paid to stay current with tech “stuff”, but even after some research and observation (co-workers and coffee-shoppers), I was not completely convinced that I would use a tablet; then Santa brought us an iPad last Christmas.  My 12 year old son and I started using it around the house for web searches, games, checking email, FaceBook and now it has completely replaced the laptop! It connects to my wireless network and accesses the internet quickly and the display quality is great.  I was using my Android smartphone to take notes in meetings and read my email at work, so I tried using the tablet instead. When WiFi is available, the tablet has become my preferred way to read and respond to e-mail and web searches.  I use Google Keep (more on that later) to take notes in meetings. One of things I was worried about with a tablet was the ease of typing. I purchased a keyboard to use with the iPad, but once I got used to the touchscreen keyboard, the external keyboard rarely gets used. There are some very nice keyboards that are integrated into cases, making it easier to type for longer periods of time. Still a tablet isn’t going to replace a laptop for typing long documents.

When looking at tablets your major decision is what type of operating system you want. I had no experience on the iOS that runs the iPad and my iPod crazy son had fun showing Mom how to navigate it. The Android OS will look very similar to the Android smartphone. The Windows OS is available on the Surface, the iOS is exclusive to Apple and installed on the iPads and the Galaxy Note, Kindle and Google Nexus come with the Android OS. You will find the greatest variety of tablets available with the Android OS.

The variety of applications available for tablets is exceptional. iTunes, Google Play and Amazon are all very popular. Many of the apps are free and installing them is quick and easy. The battery life on tablets is very good, most tablets can go for almost 8 hours versus most laptops 2.5 to 4 hours.

The technology for tablets has improved dramatically just in the past year and the competition for buyers has brought the prices down and the quality up. Even though the screens are small, the tablet displays are crisp and very good quality. With services such as Netflix, Hulu and Amazon you don’t even have to fill the memory with video files; instead, you can stream entire libraries of material directly to your tablet. They are being utilized more and more in educational settings. If the books you need are offered digitally, you may save some money, space and weight just by downloading them onto a tablet.

After a year long test drive, the tablet has replaced some of the functions I used on my phone and most of the functions of my home laptop so for me it really isn’t replacing any device completely, but I am definitely not giving it up! I am hoping Santa brings us a 7 inch tablet this Christmas…Hint Hint

Christmas Tablets