Author Archives: Shaun Oshman

About Shaun Oshman

Shaun Oshman, founder of iSupportU, arrived in Boulder in March of 2009. iSupportU was started as a company within 2 days of arriving in town. As the man in charge, Shaun cultivates new business and steers the metaphorical boat. Constantly striving towards striking a balance in life between friends, business and environmental ethics, Shaun’s free time is spent working to refine his backflip skills, skiing in the winter, gardening, cooking, reading, listening to podcasts, dancing to music, sailing, hiking, climbing and practicing capoeira.

Why your wifi sucks and how to fix it

We all have experienced it. The WiFi connection drops during the most important online meeting of the year — and this is after investing in the most expensive router you could find at Best Buy. Like many businesses, your WiFi sucks. Here are the likely reasons and what to do about it.

Your neighbors: Imagine you go to a dinner party. As the night progresses, more people show up and the wine flows. The room fills up and the noise levels rise. After a while, you can hardly hear the person right next to you. This is happening in most commercial buildings all over the world right now for WiFi.

Most wireless networks are set up in the 2.4-gigahertz spectrum. This spectrum is like an overcrowded three-lane highway for data. Your neighbors could be in the same lane as you are. Or you could be trying to squeeze between the three lanes. This will result in poor performance. If you notice that your WiFi suddenly gets bad, it could be that a neighbor made a change to their network that has affected your network.

Ideally, businesses would join forces in an office building and create one high-quality WiFi network that everyone can use. With modern access points, it’s possible to create multiple wireless networks with the same device. This would remove all interference. Then we would all sing “Kumbaya.”

This problem is so ubiquitous that most enterprise-grade WiFi hardware have a feature that can take down rogue WiFi hardware. This is considered “rogue access point containment.” In other words, if you set up a WiFi device that interferes with mine, mine will shut yours down. This is radio frequency war.

The 5-Ghz spectrum is like an unknown highway with no traffic. Most higher-end WiFi devices support dual channels. This means they can create both 2.4-Ghz and 5-Ghz networks. With this feature, users have the flexibility to switch between networks if performance is compromised. Not all devices will work on the 5-Ghz spectrum, so it’s good to also have the 2.4-Ghz network option for them.

Other electronics: Microwave ovens and cordless phones are classic causes of 2.4-Ghz interference. Newer devices are more effective at keeping their transmissions from bleeding into the WiFi range, but if your neighbor has older devices that do not abide by the rules of “stay in your lane,” you could have problems. Either ditch the cordless or upgrade to a new model. Keep the microwave away from your networking equipment.

Outdated firmware: Just like a computer, networking equipment requires updating. These updates can introduce new features to your hardware to increase the quality of the network services. Start with this step before going down the path of replacing older gear.

Old routers: WiFi technology has gotten significantly better in the past few years. Features such as Airtime Fairness and dual-band networking dramatically increase the stability of the signal. Settings are important. A lower-quality WiFi unit, properly tuned will function better than a high-end unit with a low-quality installation.

Checking for channel interference is important when setting up new devices, so work with a professional on the setup. Many of these WiFi units have easy to use management panels that you might want to use yourself. Get a lesson from your IT professional and see what you’re comfortable with. It’s neat to see all of the devices connected to each unit. From there, it’s easier to understand why you are experiencing performance issues.

In the end, your network experience always will be better when plugged directly into the switch. WiFi still is evolving and is never going to be as stable as a wire. If you’re going to work in the same place consistently, then have it cabled. It’ll increase your productivity and rule out WiFi frustrations.

Prepare for any Data Recovery Emergency with These 5 Backup Tips

Losing data is enough to send chills down the spine of even the toughest tech expert. Viruses, malware, corrupted files, accidental deletion, and hardware failure are just a few of the things that could cause a loss of important data. Rather than remain at the mercy of the technology gods, check out the following five backup tips that will keep you prepared for any data recovery emergency:

Think About What’s Most Important

Give yourself a moment to consider the most important data you want backed up. This includes personal photos and videos, music, documents, application data, and your system itself. Examples of documents requiring backup include spreadsheets and word processing files. Apps store information such as contacts, browser favorites, and email messages, with most programs keeping them safe in a folder inside your user folder.

As far as your system goes, it’s always possible to reinstall apps and Windows if you have the original programs or can download them. However, if your hard drive crashes, you need to switch to a backup system, or a disaster recovery backup. It’s quick and simple to create such systems and maintain them a few times a year to keep your laptop functional (and keep your sanity for when things go wrong).

Use a USB Drive or External Hard Drive

hard-drive-81344_1280Purchase a USB drive, or an external hard drive that’s easy to use. Simply plug the device into your PC or Mac; identify which files and folders to backup; and start the backup process. It’s important to note that not all USB drives are created equal, so be sure to do your research and find a quality option that features plenty of storage space. USB drives are one of your ‘local’ backup options that allow you to store your data, take it with you, or stow away for safekeeping.

Use a Cloud Backup

unnamedCreate a cloud backup, which stores your files online and allows you to access them anytime, anywhere. Password creation is generally part of the process to keep your files secure. Cloud backup is celebrated as one of the most secure and easily accessible (accessible to you, that is) methods available, but it generally requires paying for a subscription. A subscription isn’t the worst thing when it comes to data backup, however. According to PC Magazine, some of the top cloud backup services include iDrive, CrashPlan, and SOS Online Backup.

Automate, Automate, Automate

Consider an automated backup option if your system features a fast Internet connection and you want to save your recent documents and applications on a daily basis. An automated backup that’s permanently connected to your computer requires software installation but that’s pretty much it. As with the Cloud, automated backup allows you to access your data from any computer that features Internet service.

Negatives of automated backup systems include how slow some of them are. Your first backup can take days if not weeks, and it’s not the best system for videos and music. However, there are numerous viable systems available such as SpiderOak and Comodo that offer the versatility and affordability you need. Automated backup is yet another way to keep your data secure, so think about if it’s right for your data storage requirements.

Don’t Forget to Organize

UntitledRemember, whatever backup means you select, it’s important to stay organized. If you consistently keep your files and data well ordered, you’ll know exactly what requires recovery and can easily put items back where they belong.

The Importance of Shifting from Work/Life Balance to Work/Life Integration if You Want to Keep Your Best Employees

Want to ensure your best and most talented employees stay with you for a significant amount of time? Of course you do.

Employees-working-6Successful implementation is all about work/life integration, something that’s replaced the traditional work/life balance. Employees are increasingly put off by the idea of “trudging” to work every day and getting their hours in. Today’s employees want and expect to be as engaged in their work lives as they are in the personal lives, and employers are doing their best to keep up.
Check out a few examples of employers making the switch to work/life integration and actually treating employees like people instead of nameless worker bees:

Paid Time Off

This beloved concept is not exactly new. However, more companies are creating unlimited-paid-time-off policies today. This idea usually results in visions of two months on a Caribbean island or mountain in Aspen, but the reality is quite different. When employees really love their jobs, they actually want to be at work. This is to further their careers, as employee value is not just about the work, but the time put in.

Working From Home

Mobile technology makes it possible for employees to do their jobs no matter where they’re located. This concept is particularly important during cold and flu season, or when the weather is simply too nasty to travel. Companies such as GE are providing employees with the opportunity to work from home on days when coming to work isn’t a good idea, and are subsequently reducing the spread of disease in the office. The trust exemplified by companies that treat their staff like adults is often mutually reflected by employees, something highly important in long-term company-employee relationships.

Flex Time

Some people do their best work when the sun is rising, while others prefer to burn the midnight oil. Employers are subsequently providing flex time options so employees can work when they’re most productive. This also means less time sitting in bumper-to-bumper traffic, whether on the way to work or coming home for the evening.

[Healthy] Food and Drinks

Access to more (and better) food and drinks is another increasingly common employer tactic. There are even offices that feature mini bars complete with beer on draft. Some employees may indulge in too many libations before noon, or consume so many sugary snacks that they’re bouncing off cubicle walls, but this is hardly the norm. Rather, most employees understand that there’s a time and place for eating and drinking, and are happy to be working for a company that wants to make snacks and drinks readily available. Blood sugar levels that remain steady have proven to result in better employee production.

Employee Responsibility

All of the above ideas are rooted in employee responsibility, or the idea that adults are responsible for their actions and understand the consequences of inappropriate behavior. Employees who fail to grasp this concept—well, it doesn’t take long for such people to receive their walking papers. An employee who takes serious advantage of the work-from-home concept, or continually drinks his or her weight in booze every day, isn’t going to last, and said employees will likely have a difficult time suing for wrongful termination under these circumstances.

Remember, employees who feel appreciated and trusted are going to perform better and stay with their companies longer. The above tactics make it much easier for companies to see who’s the best—and who has yet to grow up.

Wired vs Wireless in Business: Why You Should Still Wire Up Your Office for Data

The way we access our information is rapidly changing. Remember dial-up internet? Since then, the web and our methods of staying connected have completely changed. The latest trends in connectivity cut all ties, both literal and figurative, with the wired web of the past. Just because something is new and popular, doesn’t mean it’s implementing best practices and is optimized for network security. So, should you wire your office up for data or transfer your network to wireless? Let’s dive into the pros and cons of wired vs. wireless connectivity in business and why wired wins.

Wireless Connection: Benefits

150801-isupportu-wireless-310568_640The obvious benefits of a wireless network is the lack of physical wires! We all know that familiar feeling of waging war with a tangled mess of wires. A wireless network is easy to use and accommodates changes in a network without cords and cables. Adding new desks and employees? A wireless network is the easiest logistical choice.

Additionally, with the total proliferation of mobile devices in our lives (the workplace included), a wireless network is easier for employees to connect their personal devices to the network. An easily accessible network is paramount when considering the happiness of an iPhone toting workforce.

Wireless Connection: Disadvantages

While keeping employees connected on their mobile devices is an important aspect of establishing an office network, this ease of use can open the entire network up for security problems. Information Technology decision makers (ITDMs) believe wireless networks to be the most vulnerable element of the IT infrastructure, according to a new survey. Nearly half (49%) of respondents ranked wireless networks as most exposed from a security standpoint, in contrast to just 29% for the core network. Of course, if the mobile devices are owned by the company, it would be easier to maintain security standards, but as soon as employees are allowed into the wireless network with their own personal devices, the entire system becomes vulnerable to hacking and viruses.

The most obvious and detrimental disadvantage to a wireless network is the fact that sensitive and private data is saturating the airwaves. Sending confidential information through a wireless network can be safe, but it can’t ever be as safe as a wired network. If your company deals with confidential and personal information, a wireless network would be a liability.

Wireless technology has improved over the years, but is still not as fast as a wired connection on a local network. This may not be an issue for things like internet traffic, but when connecting to resources on your local network such as file shares, this could be noticed from a performance perspective.

Wired Connection: Benefits

150801-isupportu-splitter-311142_640A wired network obviously incorporates physical network into the data connection. The wires enable increased security, control, reliability, and speed. Using physical connections might not seem as advances as the wireless alternative, but it is the superior choice when your data is precious and confidential. If your business values security over hip trends in tech, a wireless network is the obvious choice.

Wired connects are always going to be faster and more consistent than wireless connections. If you are connecting to a local database such as Quickbooks, an unstable wireless connection could greatly affect the performance of the software.

Keeping your network wired also insures that the network won’t get bogged down with non-essential traffic. Unauthorized users can’t jump on your network, obviously increasing security. Additionally, those iPhones and tablets might make for a happier workforce, but is that because they are being more productive, benefiting from the increased accessibility of a wireless network, or it is because they are browsing Amazon or Facebook while on the clock?

Wired Connection: Disadvantages

The only real shortcoming a wired office has is the physical wires. If the sight of a wire makes you cringe, go for the wireless alternative. The fact that those wires offer superior connection/security/control/speed is an important thing to weigh against visible wires. But, if you are a savvy business owner, those wires might start to look like little life-lines, ensuring your office remains safe and secure, better able to conduct business with that hard-wired peace of mind.

2 Factor Authentication: What it is and Why it’s Critical for Your Business to Do Right Now

Two factor authentication is a little bit like locking your door and then locking your deadbolt. One lock might be sufficient, but that deadbolt really comes in handy when someone tries to break in. You may already be using a password to protect your sensitive accounts and data, but if you aren’t using 2-step authentication, then you are leaving your information vulnerable and exposed. This extra security step may seem like a hassle, but it is a critical element in a good digital security plan for your personal accounts and for your business.

150801-isupportu-security-265130_1280The news has been flooded with recent news of data getting hacked and personal information being stolen. Anthem Insurance, Target, and other big retailers have have had customers names, email addresses, birthdays, wage information and street addresses stolen. These security breaches have cost millions of dollars and the confidence of customers.

Two-step verification uses a traditional password in tandem with a second step as an additional security measure. The second step can be an additional question or the possession of a physical component, such as a cell phone. When you go to an ATM to make a withdrawal, you must first insert your card and then enter your pin. This is an example of multi-step authentication. If someone wanted to make a withdrawal from your account they must possess both the physical card and your PIN, thus making it harder to access your account.

Securing an account has three levels:

  1. What you know (password)
  2. What you have (a phone)
  3. What you are (fingerprint or retina scans)

As a society, we are currently moving from ‘What you know’ to ‘What you have’ security. For businesses, this level of security is becoming the due diligence expected of decision makers. This means that if there is a breach and two-factor has not been implemented, it puts the organization at a risk of liability for the breach.

According to Google Support, “2-Step Verification adds an extra layer of security to your Google Account, drastically reducing the chances of having the personal information in your account stolen. To break into an account with 2-Step Verification, bad guys would not only have to know your username and password, they’d also have to get a hold of your phone.”

It’s easy for someone to hack your password. It’s even easier to hack into your personal data if, like many of us, you use the same password for a variety of accounts. Even if you are careful with your passwords, everyday online activity can leave you prone to attack. If you use the same password on more than one site, download software from the Internet, or click on links in email messages, you have already participated in “risky” behavior.  These online activities are nearly impossible to avoid entirely, so instead of becoming a sort of online hermit, start implementing 2-step authentication and get on with business as usual.

Dozens of the biggest websites already offer 2-step authentication. These digital giants, including Amazon, eBay, LinkedIn, and Twitter, think that 2-step authentication is important enough to offer and encourage it. Even though it might seem like an unnecessary hassle, many experts recommend implementing 2-step verification everywhere you can, especially in the places you spend the most time online or wherever you log personal information. If you are unsure if a service or site supports 2-step authentication, head over to twofactorauth.org to see if it is offered.

In conclusion, you’d better play it better safe than sorry with 2-step authentication. Sure, it might be inconvenient to check your phone for a code or enter an additional security question, but getting your personal or business data stolen is even more of a pain. So, protect yourself and your business with 2-step verification wherever it is available and avoid any nasty surprises.