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Complete IT Blog                              

IT Support: Contract It Out, Or Keep It In-House?

James David - Friday, August 19, 2011

How to handle IT infrastructure and support is one of the core considerations of any small to medium business (SMB). So how do you handle it? Should you manage your own IT support internally, or contract it out?

The answer, as always, is going to be different for every business, and in the modern IT environment, it will almost certainly involve a mix of the two. There are some recent technology developments, however, that make taking advantage of some degree of managed services and outsourcing beneficial to a small to medium business.

Cloud computing, managed services, and mobile devices are bringing huge productivity and feature gains to SMBs. Previously, the technology that these services provide was only available to large businesses that could afford to run, manage and support the servers, networks and components in-house with a specialised IT team. Cloud computing and managed services bring these technologies to the little guys affordably, reliably, and with the flexibility and support an SMB demands.

These days the humble corner store can afford to have all the benefits of a Microsoft Exchange server; like email, contacts and calendars synced across multiple devices with powerful collaboration and sharing tools, and advanced networking, without building, managing and supporting either. Managed services and cloud computing help SMBs punch above their weight.

So what do you need to consider when assessing your tech support situation?

Be innovative and entrepreneurial! You know your business; the little details that no-one else knows. How can you use technology to create competitive advantages and efficiencies, or solve problems? Speak to an expert who is plugged-in and will help you understand emergent technologies, their benefits, potential pitfalls, implementation, and support.

Some basics:

  • How many people is your business employing, how much internal IT knowledge do you have, and of what quality is that knowledge? Google Apps, a simple maintenance agreement, and contracted IT support may be all you need.
  • What does your business do? Innovative technology use can create competitive advantage, solve problems and make doing what you do faster, more reliable, and more efficient in almost any business, but some industries will benefit more than others.
  • What is your existing IT situation? What needs to be supported, developed, upgraded, or made redundant?
  • What technologies do you plan to use? How are you going to find out about your options, make a technology plan, implement it, and support it?

Finding the right IT support mix for your business is always a challenge, and is something that must be assessed continually, especially in the fast-paced modern IT environment.

How are you handling your IT support, and what have you learned from doing it?

 

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Is it time to update your inbox?

James David - Thursday, June 30, 2011

The power of email systems has increased exponentially over recent years - gone are the times of 250 megabyte Exchange mailboxes - and yet our email systems often languish as relics of times gone by. So why aren't businesses taking advantage of the plethora of new tools and potentials modern email systems have to offer?

Microsoft Exchange is an industry staple, and Exchange 2003 was a great system, but technology evolves at a blistering rate, and the developments our communication tools have seen since its release in 2003 are incredible. When Exchange 2003 was released, for example, we didn't know that we were getting ready to leave behind our Blackberries for Apples, and that we wouldn't need special back-end mobile services to give us email and internet on the go and without the woe. Clouds were, primarily, mischievous and carefree entities that roamed the skies and watered our plants. And having all the advantages of an Exchange server meant... having an exchange server.

These days the (then necessary) limitations of an established staple like Exchange 2003 can seem archaic - especially when you consider how our use of email, internet, and connected devices has changed and grown. Happily, the upgrade options available to every level of business, and even households, are a varied, friendly, and powerful bunch.

Cloud-based solutions, such as Office 365 and Google Apps, provide Exchange-level functionality, reliability and redundancy, without the cost and management of running an in-house Exchange server. If you're a small business and want collaboration, shared contact lists and calendars, and simple and sensible syncing and integration between multiple devices, these services are amazing.

If you need more, or if you need the absolute slickest of integration with Microsoft Office, Exchange 2010 is everything you're used to, only with ten years of technological advancement considered, developed and integrated.

Upgrading your IT systems can be a costly and time-consuming consideration, but there comes a time when the cost of stagnation far outweighs that of change. It could be time to look into your email systems, and see what an upgrade will bring to your business.

 

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Online backup services and making your technology work for you

Seth Reinhardt - Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Online backup services keep your important data safe and secure in case of emergencies and are a vitally important service for small businesses. But protecting your data is not all they will do for you.

Do all the things you’ve always done, when, where and how you want to.

By the release of their 2010 second quarter results, Apple had sold just over 51 million iPhones. This equates to a considerable number of people walking around with much of the productivity capacity of their office computer, in their pocket. And that’s not counting people who prefer Android smartphones or the legions of businesspeople who swear by their blackberries.

What I’m saying is that, these days, we don’t work with a single centralised device. The desktop PC is no longer the focus of our work environment. Laptops, tablets and smartphones allow us to break free of the office and work wherever we want, whether that is in a client’s boardroom or under the warming touch of a pleasant sunbeam. And it’s fantastic - I don’t want to be couped up in an office all day if I don’t have to be and I want to add value to my interactions with clients by increasing my capacity to work productively and collaboratively outside of the office. I also want my important documents to go with me when I leave my desktop and I want them to be back there once I walk out of that client’s boardroom.

That’s something an online backup service can provide. Not only will they ensure that your important data is backed up automatically, conveniently and securely, but once it is, it will be online waiting for you, wherever you may need it. Some services can even provide online syncing, so that you can set your backup up as you like it and then all but forget about it. It will, quietly and transparently, make sure that the most recent versions of all your files are synced automatically on all the platforms you use, ready for you when you need them.

I changed to an online backup service, and I can never look back. I do a day’s work on my desktop, get home to my laptop and everything is there just as it was in the office. On a recent trip I was sitting in a taxi on the way to the airport and needed to share a file with a collaborator. All I had to do was open the browser on my smartphone and head to my backup website. Two minutes (and a kilometre of Sydney traffic) later it was done.

Technology doesn’t just let us do new things, more advanced things or better things. It enables us to do all the things we’ve always done, when, where and how we want to. It gives us flexibility and convenience and takes care of important tasks in more efficient, effective and secure ways than we could do them manually.

It gives us time, our most precious resource, to be the best we can be.

Give Complete IT a call on 1300 732 850, or head to our contact page here, to talk about what you want your technology to do for you.

 

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Fix your computer without leaving your house part 2: maintenance and prevention

Seth Reinhardt - Friday, September 24, 2010

Earlier in the week James talked about that hopeless feeling you get when you turn your computer on and are faced with a fault of some kind. Even the most mundane faults and instabilities can be frustrating and time consuming to deal with, which is why we offer troubleshooting and hardware repair services. Let’s talk about how to avoid these situations in the first place through general good practices.

Even the most mundane faults and instabilities can be frustrating and time consuming to deal with, so what can you do to avoid them?

First of all – heat. Computers generate a lot of it and have to work hard to dissipate it. Keeping your desktop or laptop out of the sun, in a cool location and with plenty of breathing space will help it stay cool. Be particularly careful using laptops in bed or on a surface that will cover up their ventilation.

Dust is a big contributor to heat in a computer. If your desktop lives on the floor, or is just generally outside of a controlled environment, it is going to end up full of dust sooner or later. Dust does two things that computers don’t like. It bears particles that can conduct electricity and it impedes a computer's ability to cool down – it insulates. Computers are always happiest when they are cool (and not short circuiting), so keeping them free of dust will extend their lifetime and reduce the likelihood of a hardware fault. You can reduce the amount of dust that gets in a computer by keeping it in a clean environment, off the floor. If your computer has been around for a long time, it could be time to seek preventative maintenance.

Clean power is important – buy a surge protector and use it for your computer and monitor. Daisy chaining power boards together may work fine for most of the time, but may also result in cooked components. High quality surge protectors protect your gear and some brands even offer insurance if something does go wrong. Also consider shutting down and unplugging your gear if you are away for a few days: it not only protects your gear while you aren’t around, but it’s environmentally responsible as well.

On a related note: the hibernate modes in Windows Vista and Windows 7 work very well. They reduce your power consumption and running costs, are kind to the environment and are snappy to get back to desktop when you need to use your computer.

If your computer is showing signs of instability, such as being slow and unresponsive, or generally instable, give us a call on 1300 732 850 and take advantage of our troubleshooting service. If there is an issue with your computer, we have years of professional servicing experience to draw on in finding it and resolving it quickly and efficiently before something goes properly wrong. We also offer IT home tuition, in which we demonstrate good habits that will keep your computers running their best.

 

 

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Encourage innovation with IT auditing

James David - Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Technology has irreversibly changed the ways in which we do business, and the next technological breakthrough could be the very thing that propels your business to the next level. But with technology changing so quickly and so subtly, what can you do to make sure it doesn’t pass you by?

Regular professional IT auditing could be the difference between your business picking up on technological innovations, and being left behind.

The word ‘audit’ often carries with it some quite negative connotations, but regular professional IT auditing could be the difference between your business picking up on technological innovations, and being left behind.

IT auditing looks at the state of a business’s IT practices and operations, as well as its IT environment, technological requirements, risks and exposures and wider industry standards, practices and developments. Performing regular IT audits ensures that a business’s changing requirements, exposures and external IT environment are monitored and measured. This encourages considered, efficient and effective IT planning and informed decisions that can be made quickly and effectively in the future.

IT auditing monitors emerging technologies, practices and possibilities, evaluates them in the context of your business and then factors them into short-term, medium-term and long-term planning. It means that thinking about and planning for technological developments is an integral and continual part of your IT development. And that means that by the time the next technological revolution hits the mainstream, you will already have identified it, monitored it, considered it and iterated on your implementation of it.

Innovation isn’t a rush of blind optimism. It is researched, considered, planned and developed. And professional IT auditing will help you to get there.

Give Complete IT a call on 1300 732 850, or email us here to talk about how our specialised IT consulting expertise can help to keep your business ahead of the curve.

James David

Your IT Implementation, Planning and Support Specialist

Complete IT

 

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Toddler-proofing your iPhone or iPad’s App Store account

Seth Reinhardt - Friday, September 17, 2010

It is very easy to buy something on one of the various app stores. A few taps on your iPhone, iPad or Android and you’ve spent a couple bucks and are most of the way done with installing your new software. But if you have toddlers running around, it may be a little too easy.

A few days ago the Sydney Morning Herald ran a story on a toddler who managed to rack up a $50 bill for apps from Apple’s app store. This is something that I have been thinking about because my four year old nephew recently discovered his parents’ iPhones and is always on the hunt for new “memory games”. He is currently a huge fan of Angry Birds and Pocket God, but this is subject to change by the second.

iPhone app store restrictions

This is all good and harmless. However, if he asks one of us for a new game and we put in the password and download it, the phone remembers the account information for a while. This means that he can then quit out of the game, head back to the App Store and spend $1, 199.99 on BarMax CA. And this would be irritating.

Some apps also use in-app purchases to drive their revenue. And while Apple’s user interface is fairly simple, the UIs in the apps themselves are often a lot more ambiguous and complex. If my nephew is anything to go by, toddlers learn how to work these phones by doing; which means pushing every button - the bigger and shinier the better - in the app and then seeing what happens. With in-app purchasing enabled, this can easily lead to surprise invoices from Apple.

So what can you do to prevent your toddlers racking up big bills from the App Store?

  • Turn off in-app purchasing by going to Settings > General > Restrictions > Allowed Content > In-App Purchases OFF
  • Set your devices to not remember account information, so that your account information will be required for any App Store downloads or purchases
  • Turn off Wi-Fi and 3G data when they are using the devices, so that the App Store can’t load. Settings > General > Network > Cellular Data OFF or Settings > General > Network > Wi-Fi > Slide to OFF
  • Put restrictions on your App Store and iTunes account (this will cause them not to show in your device until you remove the restrictions). Settings > General > Restrictions > Allow: Installing Apps/iTunes OFF

Have you had any surprise App Store invoices from your kids? Was it an app you ended up enjoying? Let us know in the comments.

 

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You can do amazing things with your computer!

Seth Reinhardt - Tuesday, September 07, 2010

And we can show you how!

Modern technology allows us to do amazing things. The only problem is learning how to operate it in the first place!

Computers and mobile devices have made huge strides in user-friendliness in recent years and computer confidence is now well within anyone’s grasp. Sometimes you just need a helping hand to get you going.

Take advantage of powerful new software, start your own website, or just give your kids a good understanding of internet safety and basic computer use.

Complete IT offers a range of affordable and very useful services for home users, of which our IT home tuition service is just one. Have you just bought your first computer, a new device, or some new software? Are you planning on returning to the workforce or starting a new job and need to brush up on some software and computer skills? Want to know how to photoshop your best friend into a giant burrito? Maybe you want to take advantage of powerful new software, start your own website, or just give your kids a good understanding of internet safety and basic computer use. We are here to help.

Knowing how to properly run and maintain your computers and electronic devices can save you a lot of trouble in the future. Especially if we’re talking about a family computer that gets a lot of use, for many different reasons, from people of varying skill levels! Our IT home tuition service can teach you how to properly maintain your devices. It can also teach you how to improve your internet security and keep your information safe by avoiding viruses and security threats.

Despite recent advances in user-friendliness, one aspect of our daily interaction with technology seems to just get more and more complex: getting our ever-expanding array of devices to communicate happily with each other. Want to know how to setup a secure wireless network, use your smartphone to provide an internet connection for your laptop or get your camera to output straight to your LCD? Give us a call and we can help you get properly set up and teach you how to do what you want to do, and maintain everything you need, yourself.

Or if DIY isn’t your thing, give us a call and we’ll do it for you!

Head to our contact page or call us on 1300 732 850 to talk about how we can help you make the most of the technology in your everyday life.

 

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Why perform an IT audit?

James David - Wednesday, September 01, 2010

You most likely have a pretty good idea of the computer hardware you are running in your home, as well as what software runs on that hardware. At home it is easy to know what you have and what you need, as well as what to do if something breaks. But if you take that home environment and multiply it by an order of magnitude, you have the work environment. And in that situation it is not only more complex, but also more critical to properly understand your IT infrastructure.

That is what an IT audit is for.  An IT audit evaluates your present IT environment and its current and future requirements, risks and exposures, as well as broader industry standards, competitive risks and opportunities. In this way you can gain an understanding of what’s working and what isn’t, as well as what you have, what you need and what possibilities exist for engendering competitive advantage through innovative IT infrastructure.

Work more efficiently, more effectively and to higher standards of quality.

Why should you consider an IT audit? IT auditing, if done properly and regularly, is one of those short term costs that can contribute to significant long term efficiencies, savings and growth. Understanding your existing IT environment will help iron out problems and inefficiencies in your infrastructure, which means that you and your staff will be able to work more efficiently, more effectively and to higher standards of quality.

It will also aid in planning for future requirements, which allows future IT purchasing decisions to be made as part of a long-term business strategy, not just an immediate IT requirement. Planned purchasing decisions will lead to less waste, because a strong plan based on good information should provide the right tools to meet your needs as they arise. Measure twice, cut once!

An IT audit also encourages a forward-facing approach to IT infrastructure. It will help you to keep tabs on what is happening in the technology world, so that you are in the know and ready to go when the next game-changing technology pops up.

Give Complete IT a call on 1300 732 850 to talk about your IT needs and about how an IT audit can help you.

James David

Your IT Implementation, Planning and Support Specialist

Complete IT

 

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The iPad is exciting, but also makes me sad

Seth Reinhardt - Friday, August 27, 2010
iPad

As the resident IT support/manager/everything in my family I am in charge of looking after anything that is associated with the word ‘megabyte’ or which may, at some point in its life, come across cabling of some description. So, when we decided on an iPad as a gift for an upcoming big birthday, I was tasked with setting it up and filling it with interesting things to play with. This seemed like an excellent excuse to play around with some new gadgetry. Then I picked one up and it made me sad.

iPad

When I look at it as a lover of gadgetry, the iPad is undeniably cool. Its thin, stylish design and brushed metal construction give it a great feel in your hands and make it very easy on the eyes and its wonderfully organic touch screen makes it a joy to use. It benefits from years of intelligent, creative and innovative people developing for the app store and that, combined with its ubiquitous connectivity, gives it incredible potential. But it’s that potential that leaves me disappointed.

As soon as I had it powered on and registered to iTunes I had a bit of a “What now?” moment. What am I supposed to do with this thing that I can’t do more portably on a smartphone or more powerfully with a computer?

As a creative person I wish I could’ve picked up a pressure-sensitive stylus, loaded up Photoshop or Lightroom and gone to town drawing, chopping and post-processing. That, to me, would make it an amazing device; the organic feel of drawing with a pen on a portable and connected device, with all the power of modern digital creative software.

iPad

I would love to be out with my camera and be able to sit down, drop the photos straight into my Lightroom database on the iPad and get to work sorting and post-producing them. Or load up a powerful drawing app and be able to sketch digitally, with true pressure-sensitivity, wirelessly and portably, wherever I happened to be.

I guess it’s the idea of a powerful, digital, portable and connected sketchbook that gets me. And that’s what leaves me disappointed.

Plants VS Zombies HD, however, will always be awesome.

I know there are uses for the iPad, so what are you using yours for?

 

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Intel SSDs to jump in capacity

Seth Reinhardt - Thursday, August 26, 2010

Hard drives have been falling in price at a phenomenal rate in recent years and now represent really great value. You can buy a high quality 1TB 3.5” Seagate drive, or a 500GB 2.5” drive to drop into your PlayStation 3, for just over a hundred bucks. I used to pay that much for a spindle of CDs!

But what hard drives haven’t done recently is dazzle us with high tech upgrades and cutting edge performance improvements. The drives I have in my PC today spin at the same 7200 RPM as the ones I had in my PC five years ago. The biggest improvements to hard drive technology have come in the form of reliability and stability, with performance improvements being pretty slight.

intel x25-m

Image via Intel

That’s where Solid State Drives (SSDs) come in. They use flash memory, instead of spinning platters, to provide storage. This means they have no moving parts, which makes them reliable, long lasting and very, very fast. Unfortunately, it has also made them far more expensive per gigabyte and limited them to lower storage capacities – this high performance 80GB Intel X25-M is $433. This makes them fantastic drives for your operating system install and your critical apps, but not much more than that.

Intel’s roadmap shows that this may well be set to change. In May they announced production of NAND flash memory that uses a smaller 25nm process to get 8GB of memory on each chip, double the previous limit of 4GB. This technology is now looking to bear some fruit, in the form of increased capacity for Intel’s upcoming SSDs.

Its X25-M drives look to be expanding to 160GB, 300GB and 600GB models, while the X25-V series will go from 40GB to 80GB. That’s a huge jump in capacity! A 300GB SSD is plenty for an operating system install, a full suite of applications and associated files. With the right price point, this could be a nice entry point to the speedy world of SSDs. Intel’s Enterprise range looks to be growing as well and will be replaced with 100GB, 200GB and 400GB models.

It’s great to see this innovation in hard drives and I’m looking forward to SSDs becoming more affordable and more mainstream, as well as sub 20 second boot times for my Windows 7 machine!

Via CRN Tech

 

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