Words With Experience?|
Well, with nearly 30 years of IT experience involved in programming thru systems development, I guess I have learned something. So with an aire of “I really don’t like modern technology”, here are a few thoughts to brighten your day.
What have I talked about?
July 24, 2012 -- Bleeding Edge or Anchor?
An anchor is easy enough to imagine in your mind. An anchor holds something, such as your information network, to a firm position. Soundly protecting one of your most important assets. An anchor can also sink you into the depths of uselessness.
The Bleeding Edge of Technology is an old term referring to the danger of riding on cutting edge technology. If you are careful you can skillfully utilize the most recent developments in technology, but if you slip (even just a little) you can cut your technology foundation into ribbons, making it useless.
It is not a laughing matter that technology is changing so quickly that most of us fall behind before we even get started. Technology now has solutions for problems we have not even imagined invading our businesses. Many years ago, when Computer Problems Resolved was being conceived, I looked at what it would take to keep up with changes in technology. I resigned myself to the fact that one person could not do it - not in 100 hours a week could one person stay workably current with all the changes. It takes teams of men and women with a special intelligence to keep abreast of the changes and how they can best be applied. And yes, they always keep a band-aid in their pocket.
But look at the other end of this marvelous spectrum, anchored to technology that has worked for years. I would be the last person to advise someone to update their technology because it was old. Technology is never truly outdated until it ceases to meet your needs. But there can be a cost to keeping older technology in the house - maintenance and support. I once had to upgrade a mini-computer simply because we could not afford the support contract on the older system. If you need to replace a fender on a car five years old, no big deal. But what about when that fender is fifteen years or twenty-five years old? Ah, the parts are not so plentiful and the cost skyrockets. Except for the love of an antique it is wiser to buy something newer and less in need of costly repairs.
We should all build our information systems on a solid foundation. PERIOD! This foundation supports your pocket book and keeps your employees productive; you cannot afford to risk it. As your foundation ages, plan and schedule updates that will keep you productive and competitive. Build a plan for tomorrow - you do this everyday with other aspects of your business, do not forget your secretary’s computer. Then, explore the cutting edge as you need or desire. Develop a sound philosophy as to where your technology will run. If your business is cutting edge and you have problems yet to be resolved then keep your eyes on the technology fairs - your solution is coming. However, if you do not need the latest and greatest and fastest and slickest then proceed cautiously and keep the band-aids close.
I have built Computer Problems Resolved on sound proven platforms with my client’s productivity and pocket book in mind. I resist change for change sake but advance confidently with client’s changing needs. I even bleed a bit exploring cutting edge opportunities. If you have questions about announcements from recent technology expos, I may not know the answer right away but I can find out and explain how they might help you or put you at risk. Give me a call so we can talk.
Back to the Top
June 18, 2012 -- Software Costs
Your data is the most valuable component of your computer. If your system crashed you could replace the hardware with little difficulty, even upgrade in the process. Then there is the software, which can get pricey whether you want it to or not but it, too, can be replaced. But what about your data? PLEASE, BACKUP your data - it CANNOT be replaced. ENOUGH SAID!
But let's go back to the question of software. Keeping your software current to your task is probably the most expensive idea ever introduced to owning a computer. The software vendors are pushing constantly for you to upgrade, but why? They need you to upgrade so they can eat but do you need to upgrade? Maybe.
Has your use of the computer changed? Simple question. Are you doing more today, or working differently today, than when you purchased this beast? Most of us rarely change what we do yet our employees insist on having the latest and greatest and prettiest software. Software costs you to purchase the license - your right to use it, you never really own it. Then you have to take time to install it -- more time and $$ out of your pocket. Then whoever is using the new software has to learn how it works - more lost productivity and more $$ gone on the breeze. If your computer works and the job is getting done, why change it?
But what if the job has changed, changes pushed on you by a third party, and you now need to upgrade to meet their requirements? On two occaissions in the past I have had to upgrade hardware and / or operating systems to meet the changing requirements of software required by a third party vendor. But if you need their services you have no choice but to upgrade.
I wish I could tell you that you would never have to upgrade your software or your hardware but it just isn't true. If you surf the web you really can't use Windows98 any longer but Windows 2000 still works - mostly. Use sound judgement in your decision to upgrade, pretty is not always better but it is always more $$ out the door. Most of us need to work with companies who are trying to stay ahead of their competition and their fight means you have to make changes - not pretty but the truth. If you are always looking at the latest and greatest and prettiest and you will never be satisfied and will always be paying more $$ than will make you happy. Be smart in your decisions and your costs in time and dollars will be minimized.
Back to the Top
May 14, 2012 -- Defending Microsoft
Windows XP was introduced in 2002. In fact is sometimes referred to as Windows '02 - odd, but true. Based upon Microsoft's ten year plan WindowsXP should have been put to bed last month, April, 2002, but it has two more years of support. Why? Microsoft has elected to designate WindowsXP SP3 as a separate product, not just a service update. What does this mean to you? To answer that question you must understand the Microsoft software lifeline.
Every, almost every, Microsoft software product gets FIVE years of active upgrades, updates and support. These include product improvements, fixes, service patches, etc. At the end of five years, passive support continues for another five years - essentially only service patches. At the end of ten years support for the product is put to bed, terminated, ended, kaput! All support for WindowsXP SP3 ends in April, 2014.
Will the product still function? Yes. Is the product still viable? Yes, with some limitations. Do you need to jump to the next or current product offer? Not really. So what should you be worried about? Your Sanity!
As with all business Microsoft needs to sell new products. Over the next two years you will be harassed, harangued, threatened, and maybe even lied to in order to sell you their new product. As long as you are using XP they cannot sell you Windows7 - or 8 or 9 or . . . WinXP SP3 will continue to get security and service patches through April, 2014 then these patches / updates will end - but the product will continue to work. Don't be disappointed in Microsoft, their ten year program is actually quite generous - and it is expensive for them to maintain old software. But don't let them harass you into leaving a platform that is working for you - unless you have money to burn OR
Yes, there is an 'OR'. Next time I will talk about the 'OR' and how you may be feeding your own need to spend $$ to keep up. Until then, tune out the rantings of Microsoft and be kind to your computers.
Back to the Top
March 22, 2012 -- But do we need it?
Many years ago, when my children were young, my wife and I went to purchase a video camera. We looked at the different models and quickly moved away from the large VHS cameras to the hand-held 8mm family. Then checking each one for features chose the one that had the most wonderful collection of features and was affordably priced. I still have that camera, use it on occaision, but have yet to use more than a very few of those fancy features.
The iPad3 has just been released and it is filled with the most wonderful features. I am told it can even be a hand-warmer. The new "phones" and tablets take better pictures than our older 35mm cameras could ever hope for, except for possibly the very expensive professional models. These new electronic devices can do more marvellous feats than we could have ever dreamed of. Surely the engineers who come up with these devices are well paid for their creativity is AWESOME!
Going into a phone store to purchase a new phone is a trip - I ask for a PHONE and am shown these marvellous devices which do EVERYTHING I never wanted. What do we really need from our electronic devices? Before you go shopping make a decision, no two decisions. First, what do you need? Second, what will you really use? Even a new salesman can make you forget these two questions and wrap you up inside the magic of the new technology. But YOU need to remember - what do you need and what will you really use?
In the world of small business I need reliable, servicable and affordable. But we do need to keep up-to-date with technology or our business will suffer. You either keep current or get left behind. So here is today's conundrum - YOUR purchase today will shape what is developed tomorrow. If you purchase frills today there will be more tomorrow. The simple, solid, reliable bar phone is GONE - not that there are not abundant customers but because too many customers gave in to the frills they did not want and do not use. There is a place for this wonderful new technology, YOU need to decide if it is in your business.
Purchase wisely for you are guiding tomorrow!
Back to the Top
February 29, 2012 -- Just DON'T Click On It!
It is LEAP Day, that day that helps our clocks and calendars re-sync with the rotation of the earth. Great Day! Historically it is also a day for launching new viruses, trojans, and other malware.
Last week I was called to a client's shop - he thought he had a virus. It took only a couple minutes to confirm, Yes He Did. As I set to cleaning his computer and restoring it to "normal" he continued and almsot obsessed over the fact that he did nothing to bring this virus into his system. I never argured, he was probably correct. You do NOT have to do anything for a trojan, or many viruses, to infect your computer. But you can do something to stop them.
YOU are the most important part of your computer's security. YOU, the user. As you surf the web or review your email, KEEP YOUR EYES OPEN - BE ALERT! Today's trojans start with stubs planted in common webpages - the kind you visit everyday. As they come down the pike they will stop and chat with your anti-virus / security software and then pop up on your screen. In and of themselves these stubs are not malicious. Oh, but as soon as you acknowledge them - they can be devestating in an instant and then you have to call me (or somebody like me) to clean them off. Some will get so imbedded in your system the only way out is to reformat - wipe out EVERYTHING on your hard drive and start over.
So here is some simple advice to protect yourself. FIRST - BE ALERT, when something pops up on your screen do not click without reading and think before you click. KNOW the name of your security software and know if the pop-up is from your anti-virus. It is a good idea to set your security software to handle attacks automatically, that way you might get a notice but not a prompt for action. If you are being asked to approve something you are in trouble.
Second - DO NOT ACKNOWLEDGE THE POPUP! It will say your are infected and click here to clean or click here to close. DON'T CLICK! Any acknowledgement will cause massive infection. Instead press ALT + F4 keys, this will terminate the current process. If the pop-up goes away you may be safe, no guarantee. If the pop-up continues, reach around the back of your computer and pull the power plug - DO NOT SHUT DOWN, PULL THE POWER! A bit extreme? Maybe, but it will stop the infection.
Third - and possibly most important - ALWAYS KEEP YOUR SECURITY SOFTWARE CURRENT! If your virus definitions are a week old your are NOT protected. Hundreds of new viruses are released every day, if you get behind you get tagged.
When Computer Problems Resolved runs a routine System Health Check we take additional precautions to protect your system and provide a recovery path. Can we guarantee you will not get tagged by a trojan or virus? Absolutely NOT, nobody can, but it has been quite a while since I lost a system to an infection.
Remember, YOU are your BEST FIRST LINE OF DEFENSE - THINK!
Back to the Top
January 30, 2012 -- Windows 8 - Is it for You?
WindosXP is aging out in April, 2012. This poses two questions, the most important is does it still meet your needs? If your office is using WindowsXP and is still able to get their work done then enough said. But if you are about to order new computers your only real choice is Windows7, which isn't bad at all and as long as you are willing to give up old peripherals - like old printers, scanners, etc - then Windows7 is a good choice. Get the Pro version, do NOT try to put any HOME version in the workplace and the Ultimate may not be worth the added expense.
Now the second question, when was the last time Microsoft had only one Windows system in the market? XP is aging out (ten year support cycle, five years active development / support then five years maintenance) and Vista was a failure. That leaves only Windows7 - but Windows8 is on the horizon, maybe. We do not have a release date for 8 and cannot find a release date - but it is coming! Question is, do YOU want it?
Windows8 was originally conceived for the mobile market, so I essentially ignored it. A month ago I learned that it is now desktop oriented. Microsoft has "reimagined" Windows so that all platforms will run one (not quite the same) system. From your smart phone to your pad to your tablet to your notebook, desktop and even your server - Windows8, the NEW "reimagined" Windows. Point to ponder is this is the third time Microsoft has "reimagined" Windows and the first two failed miserably (WindowsME and Vista).
Windows8 boasts better security with a more aggressive Windows Defender - personally I prefer ESET software for security because they know what they are doing - system virtualization - one computer must not be enough, or is it one operating system is not enough - and a host of features targeting the smart phone, pad and tablet markets.
Here is where my prejudice shows - I work with small business concerns, primarily in office environments. A touch screen based system will NOT enhance your work, it WILL slow you down - but the keyboard / mouse will still work on the desktop. I have been reading a lot about Windows8, trying to catch up, and have not found anything that will improve or enhance the office environment. If you are heavy on tablets, pads or point-of-sale then you might consider Windows8 when it is eventually released. If your folks work at a desk stay with XP and 7 while we wait and see what happens to the newly "reimagined" Windows8.
Back to the Top
January 9, 2012 -- Yet another New Years comment
Aren't you tired of everyone commenting on the New Year? Hopefully this one will be a tad bit different, you see I look at the "new year" as another day, another opportunity, another day of responsibility. The only thing really new about it is the last digit in the date - maybe last two digits.
Successful small business owners and entrepreneurs treat every day as a "new year", looking at the successes and failures of their business with a critical eye. What have I done right? What have I done wrong? What can I do better? Most don't even realize they are doing it - it has become a matter of habit, not intent.
We all have events in our lives, and our business lives, that require special planning and extra contemplation. Business events are planned out weeks, months, sometimes years in advance. Allocation of resources is carefully mapped out and execution of major steps is monitored closely. This si the time when the successful business owner has their most important and difficult decision - what can I delegate?
Face it, YOU cannot do it ALL! You must share the load or break under the weight. You have developed a competent staff and you trust them - now let them help carry the weight. [Now here comes the sales pitch you knew would be coming soon] Computer Problems Resolved provides assistance to the small business sector in technology support. As you share the weight of your work with your staff, whether special projects or day to day functions, watch for them to stumble. If the technology load gets to be a burden to you or them, please give us a call. I don't know that we can help but we might be able to provide that last little bit of energy and relief to put you over the top and help keep you there.
Happy New Year? It happens EVERY DAY in the world of small business and we are here to help you achieve the next one.
Back to the Top
November 1, 2011 -- Do you doityourself?
In recent months I have been talking with a number of small business owners (which is why I have not been updating these words)and many of the business owners tell me they take care of their computers themselves. Or a few might have a family member or a staff person to care for the computers when they can. Gentlemen, I applaud you - with caution.
Running a business is tough, in good times and most of us will admit these are not 'good times'. But here is the caution, your computers know when you are under stress, or have an important deadline looming on the horizon. Your computers know and they are about to crash - Murphy's Law. If your business requires your full attention, when are you going to find the time to fix those nagging problems that are degrading your computer systems?
Yes, computer techs, professional repair people who know the ins and outs of most of todays denizens and can watch out for your back (at least as far as your computers go) are not cheap. Some charge by the month, some charge by the hour and a serious crash can cost many, many hours. During this repair time your staff are non-productive, unless you send them out of town or to get lunch. But non-productive staff adds to the cost of computer failures. So please take a suggestion from someone who has seen business owners sweat deadlines - fix the problems NOW before your systems crash. If you don't have time to do normal maintenance (clean up the garbage, run updates, scan and defrag the drive, check for malware infections, etc), if you don't have time today what makes you think you will have the time when your system crashes?
Gentlemen, do yourself a favor. Enlist the support of a computer professional whom you trust and who will respond to your needs. Do it TODAY, before one of your most valuable resources crashes and your company burns on the looming deadline.
Back to the Top
August 26, 2011 -- Do You need NEW Equipment?
Clients often ask me if they need new equipment. When I reply by asking them if their equipment is broken the jump back with "that is your job". Yes, that is my job, not only to keep clients working but to preserve their resources. Before you can answer the question about purchasing new equipment - first ask yourself, if your computer were working properly, is it meeting your needs?
Most folks want new equipment because it is "NEW", but new equipment is expensive. The hardware has come down in cost but by the time you add licensing fees for your productivity software (MS-Word, etc) plus the time for someone like me to set it up and transfer the data files from your old system, it gets down right pricey. Don't replace working computers because they are sluggish -- CLEAN THEM UP! Our System Health Check program keeps computers working but some do get bogged down between visits. I once talked with a man who was about to throw his third computer out - it just wouldn't work. After looking into the problem I found his system was heavily infested with malware. He would buy new equipment, do the same things and get more viruses. Of course his system didn't work - work smarter, don't spend money without fixing the problem - the user.
Now there are times when new equipment is justified. Some industries update software rapidly to keep up with trends and demands. Older equipment often cannot handle the new software so if you are going to be trendy / current - you will have to invest in new equipment about every 18 months or so. Some occupations do require this. Also, major upgrades in office systems may require upgrades in hardware and software at the PC / workstation level. Sad, but true.
Final word on new equipment. Before investing full price on custome equipment, consider saving money w/ Refurbished Equipment. Some of the companies that require tomorrow's features lease equipment for a year and then upgrade. The "old" equipment is cleaned up and sold as "refurbished". It still has years of productivity in it -- at about half the price. If you are interested, shoot me an email (link at bottom) and I will point you toward some very good companies offering refurbished systems. Keep your systems clean, keep your anti-virus / security current, work intelligently and above all - Have a good day.
Back to the Top
August 15, 2011 -- Office Systems and Getting Personal
Before we get started on this journey of words I must admit that I have never truly adhered to the concept of folks writing on the Internet just to satisfy some urge. So, why am I doing this? Years ago, when Computer Problems Resolved was started, I tried to put out a quaterly newsletter for clients and prospective clients. Over the 12 years I have been caring for the systems of clients I have published two (2) newsletters. It is expensive and time consuming - so here is my newsletter. I will do my best to add usable content weekly or bi-weekly as time allows and issues demand.
To begin I would like to express my standing on what a 'computer' is and is NOT. I support the small business community, not homes nor large corporations. Computers in the small business community are used to get business done. Not watching movies, playing games with folks in China, and should not be used for mindless surfing of the Internet. So computers at my client sites are business tools and when they don't work properly business productivity is down which translates to lost income for the owner. Our systems are not optimized for gaming or video or graphics, unless that is the business of the client. My business is keeping the technology resources of my clients humming so they can take care of their clients and conduct their business.
That said, there is one more point those in the business of providing a service must keep up front - personal contact. I use e-mail extensively and I know all of my clients rely on e-mail. But every one of my clients appreciates my personal attention to their problems and a personal report when problems are resolved. I reach across cyberspace to service some systems that are critical and cannot be taken down during the business day but I do my best to service / attend to most systems personally. This way I get to know my clients, what they are doing and what needs we might investigate. I am not a voice hidden on the other end of a virtual line, I am a resource when needed as such and a presence when problems arise, or it is time for service. At Computer Problems Resolved we know that a personal touch is better than anything virtual.
Back to the Top
Send me your comments or topic requests.
(c) 2012 E Gale Buck