Category Archives: Tips and Tricks

What is the Difference Between a T1 and Comcast Coax? How to Find the Right Internet Connection for Your Business

Internet is internet, right? Not at all. We are presented so many options as businesses from Internet Service Providers (ISP’s), but it’s hard to figure out which solution is the best fit for my business.

Take the time to understand and weigh Internet connection options and services to keep business activities focused and on-task, for the long term. Let’s have a look at a couple of popular Internet service options that will keep your company up and running.

T1 LineT1 Cable

The T-carrier system was introduced in the 1960s by the telephone service company, the Bell System, and was the first to support digital voice transmission. The T1 line, part of the T-carrier system, was the original. T1 lines are used today by ISP’s to support businesses that need reliable and low latency online connection.

A T1 line for a business simply means that the phone company has installed a fiber optic line (sometimes it is copper) into the office that is connected directly to the phone company’s central office, then to an ISP. These lines are dedicated and not shared by other users, making them very reliable. T1 lines can be used to transmit 24 digitized voice channels (when connected to an office phone system) or carry 1.544 million bits per second (Mbps) of data (when plugged into the office network router).

Some companies require more than one T1 line. If this is the case, T1 lines are bonded, and the connection speed is increased by 1.544Mbps for each line added. One T1 line is a good fit for small companies with very low Internet needs.

While T1 lines provide excellent reliability, they are typically the most expensive option for Internet connectivity. Pricing depends on the distance from the phone company central office. Monthly costs vary by provider and, as the T1 line also connects to a web server, the fee includes both phone company charges and the fee the ISP charges.

For companies that can’t afford to have an unreliable Internet connection, a T1 line offers Internet access that is “always on”. While the service may be costlier, it can quickly pay for itself in a matter of time. Productivity increases can also be realized due to the uptime of the services.

A Service Level Agreement (SLA) is available that guarantees bandwidth, performance uptime and reliability, latency, and service time to repair should the service go down.

Comcast Business CoaxCoaxCable

Leveraging the existing residential cable TV network, Comcast business-class cable services were introduced in 2006 and initially targeted at small business owners. Comcast business uses the current broadband cable network to deliver Internet access.

This type of broadband cable for businesses requires a cable modem, which can either be leased or purchased depending on the agreement with Comcast. Because the Internet service uses an existing network of cables, the bandwidth is shared among all subscribers. A high number of users could cause connections to be slower as all users are being accommodated by the same system.

A coax cable connection through a provider like Comcast or Time Warner will easily be ten times faster than a T1 line. The best way to understand this is to imagine a very fat, leaky pipe. For things like streaming video or moving large files over the internet, Comcast excels because with TCP/IP, there is an accuracy check that goes with the data. For services such as VOIP, high ‘noise’ or packet loss can cause call quality issues over the line. Phone calls do not require high bandwidth, but they do require low latency.

Service levels are also a consideration when evaluating Comcast business options. Generally speaking, there is no SLA for cable business services simply because the system is shared with other subscribers. Therefore, there is some risk, as a company receives no guarantee of performance or time to repair should there be issues or disruptions.

Because companies are dealing with the community cable company, which is also servicing residence subscribers, there may be some frustration in support needs. This can be a critical issue for businesses that must rely on Internet access and online performance every day, hour, and minute.

Generally speaking, the cost is typically lower than for a T1 line because the equipment, cables, installation, and overall costs are usually relatively inexpensive. The cost depends, however, on service area and the amount of work required for install.

When evaluating the best Internet service for your business, consider which is the dominant business issue for your company: losing Internet connection would be costly to your business or budgets are tight, and Internet speeds or connections aren’t a concern to your company. Identifying the priority may help you determine the best route. Ideally, a business would have a T1 and a Coax connection run into a firewall for failover redundancy. This allows the phone traffic to go over the T1 and the data traffic to run over the Coax. The firewall acts as the ‘traffic cop’ to manage this. If one of the services goes out, the device will switch over to the failover.

We help Boulder and Denver companies, every day, determine the best Internet connection option and service that is right for them to grow. If you need advice on the best for your business, contact us!

How to Choose the Right IT Service Provider

Selecting the right IT service is essential to business success, as it streamlines operations considerably. IT service management is defined as applying technical and business expertise to help organizations create, manage, optimize, and access relevant information and business processes. These services are usually outsourced, hence the issue of finding the right provider for your business needs.

So what does it take to choose the right IT service provider?

First: Knowing What to Look For

ball-862119_1280The first step in selecting any service provider for your business, whether it be an IT services company or any other provider, is to know what you’re looking for. Such criteria of course include verifiable competence, experience and track record, reliability and punctuality, and adherence to industry standard rates (i.e. won’t surprise you with outrageous invoices). You want a provider with talent, training, and experience to take care of your business needs, especially when it comes to IT!

Some of the most important areas to consider when selecting an IT services company include: IT certifications and experience, payment terms, IT product repair capabilities, and availability/bandwidth. Following are some important questions to ask when choosing the best IT company.

Certifications and Experience

When it comes to IT certifications, there are any number of different products, services, and training levels an IT professional can be certified in. Generally, the more, the better. But at the very least, some of the key certifications that contain industry standard best practices would be: Project Management Professional (PMP), Microsoft Certified Systems Engineer (MCSE), Certified Information Systems Security Professional (CISSP), Cisco Certified Network Professional (CCSP), CompTIA A+, and Certified Systems Information Auditor (CSIA). It would also serve to know how long the IT provider has been in business, get a list of companies they’ve worked with, and receive any references to organizations with similar equipment and needs to your own.

Flexibility and Payment

If you’re satisfied with the IT company’s level of expertise, the next step is to determine the company’s flexibility and what you’re going to get for what you’re paying. Does the IT provider offer block hour arrangements that provide a certain amount of work per month for a fixed price? Will the provider fix something that’s broken for an hourly rate? How about service agreements that detail exactly what the provider will do for you every month in terms of maintenance and repairs?

The goal is to find a provider who offers clear terms of service and billing, and aligns with your own business’ values and financial capacity.

Requesting Service and Product Repairs

Fixing broken equipment is one of the IT provider’s hallmark services, so it’s very important to go over what your potential provider’s repair services entail. Are you required to call the provider? Send them emails? Is there an online client portal that allows you to request help as needed?. Additionally, do they have a general time frame with regards to repair turnaround, and does that vary based on the type of repair? If so, what are the standard repair timelines per product or service? Do they specialize in particular repairs, whether it be hardware, software, cloud services, etc., or are they generally proficient across the board? It’s also recommended that you ask how the provider handles service requests internally to give you a much better idea of how it operates and the most efficient method of communicating a service request.

An Ounce Of Prevention

Repairs aren’t the only IT provider cornerstone—preventative measures are just as important. Remote monitoring and access are two trending services IT providers offer, with some providing monitoring by the hour or even minute. This means the provider is instantly notified of an issue and will rectify the issue before it becomes a major problem. It’s therefore important to determine if the provider you’re considering offers these services, and if remote monitoring software is compatible with your system. It’s also important to inquire as to whether the provider has the bandwidth to service your company properly, and how fully utilized the provider’s team is…or is not.

Additional Tips

Finding the right IT provider also means inquiring about how quickly they can dispatch help, especially in the event of an IT emergency. Making sure an IT service provider can meet your company’s needs at the right price and within the right timeframe is key.

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.

Google Apps vs. Office 365

When it comes to getting work done, everyone has a preferred set of applications for things like email, word processing and spreadsheets. In terms of popularity, the two most preferred suites are Google Apps and Microsoft Office 365. While both platforms are similar in the tools they offer, it’s the capabilities of each platform that makes them more ideal than the other for personal, business, or educational environments.

Because this has become the subject of so much debate over the past few years, we’ll compare the platforms here:

Best For Businessworkstation-405768__180

Even though Office 365 has been around much longer than Google Apps, a number of large companies have already switched to the latter. It really depends on the business.

Google Apps is simpler than Office 365 in almost every respect — from having a simpler pricing structure to offering fewer features. The cost of using both at an entry level is about the same, but things get a little more complicated when you want to upgrade. Microsoft offers six different plans that the user has to go through and decide between, while Google only has two. Plus, Microsoft only offers Office 365 as a yearly subscription, whereas Google Apps is has a month-to-month option.

Google Apps was born in the cloud. Microsoft is showing up to the game a bit later. Because of this, many of the web-based productivity tools offered by Google are more robust than the corresponding Office 365 tools. In addition, Google Apps has a better track record when it comes to uptime. At launch, Office 365 was plagued with outages that kept many businesses holding off adoption until it stabilized. It’s gotten better, but as of February 2013, Office 365 users experienced 113 minutes of downtime for every 1 minute of downtime for Google Apps users.

Depending on one’s perspective, the Office 365’s extra features can seem either like an asset or a drawback. For companies that don’t need much from their applications, having fewer features can make Google Apps easier to learn and use effectively.

Generally speaking, Google tools will integrate more effectively with Apple google-485611__180tools. Microsoft solutions do not always integrate well with Apple operating systems. Due to this, a company might make the email hosting decision based on the type of computers already in use at the business. Apple shops should strongly consider Google Apps for Work. Microsoft-based offices can go either way, but if wanting to have those productivity tools function seamlessly in the desktop environment, then Office 365 will be the better choice.

That said, many prefer Office 365 in the workplace because they are accustomed to using one of the applications within it more than the others, such as Microsoft Word over Google Documents. While Gmail is largely preferred to Microsoft Outlook, Outlook has been around far longer, and many companies have been working with it for years — why switch now?

Most organizations stick with the Microsoft productivity suite because of familiarity. Learning new systems takes time and costs money. That being said, studies have shows that organizations see significant productivity gains by moving over to the Google Apps for Work suite. While it might not be as dramatic a change as the move from fax to email, it’s pretty close.

One thing’s for sure, though: If you’re looking to integrate the both in your business, you’ll have a tough time. They aren’t compatible, and if you try to copy and paste information from one platform to the other you will likely run into a problem. An example would be while attempting to transfer Excel formulas to Google spreadsheets.

Best For Educationhome-office-569359__180

In working with applications for education, both teachers and students need a suite that enables easy collaboration, offers a lot of storage, and supports learning programs. Both Office 365 and Google Apps for Education offer the usual applications that are necessary for basic office functions and can be used anytime, anywhere, and from any device. The two also supply users with a great deal of storage, but the storage for Google Apps for Education is unlimited.

So then it all boils down to the learning programs, a contest that Google seems to have won with Google Classroom. Google Classroom serves as a virtual learning environment that allows teachers to assign work, grade students, add files and upload media, and keep track of progress. At the same time, students are working within it, they can upload documents from their computers or Google Drive, and collaborate with their classmates on assignments.

Best For Personalworking-690680__180

In terms of having an office suite for your own use, it’s all about personal preference, more than anything else. Some people have grown up using Office applications, while others began using Gmail long ago and gradually moved onto using Google’s other applications from there.

Because not much is generally needed from an office suite, when used on a personal level, individuals often juggle whichever platforms are more convenient to use, often using more than one — sometimes using alternatives to Microsoft and Google applications. For instance, a Mac user may prefer Gmail for communicating with friends, Pages for word processing, and Excel for accounting.

It’s worth it to keep an eye on both Office 365 and Google Apps for any or all of your needs. Both companies are constantly working to improve their platforms and make them more user-friendly. The rule of thumb, however, seems to be that Google Apps is simple, while Office 365 is more complex.