Your In-House Tech

August 15, 2008

VOIP for business

Filed under: Uncategorized — Ralph Kirkland @ 5:01 pm

Everyone has heard about VOIP. Some have tried it with decidedly mixed results. Let’s try it at home for ridiculously low prices, a la SunRocket. Quality could be poor. Companies go out of business. Vonage is still around with low rate, but not so certain voice quality.

So is it a good idea? Some make the mistake of trying a low cost program at home, then concluding the quality is not there.

That is not a fair assessment for business. There are some great service providers. I use cBeyond. They make sure they are conservative with the number of lines they support. Hence, voice quality is superb. They guarantee uptime, as a real business class provider. They usually beat the ATT price, and often other providers. Service is great.

How are they different? Simple is the way to describe their system. It is a Cisco based network. Take a look at this system map. Look at the complexity of the old telephone system as opposed to the cBeyond system.

Yes, I do represent cBeyond because I think they do a great job with a great product.

This is a real change for business.


August 10, 2008

Why Should You Do Business with Me?

Filed under: Business,Computers — Ralph Kirkland @ 7:20 pm

That is an excellent question. I have thought about it a lot. (Note the stall to think a little more.) I look at what other people say.

They talk about how long they have worked in IT.
How many certifications they have.
The services they offer.
They offer a great price.
They give you 24 hour monitoring of your equipment.

None of these are compelling. Other vendors can do most any of those.

So how am I different?

If you have an immediate problem, then the first thing is to get that fixed.

Second, I want to learn about your business. What are you trying to achieve. What do your computers mean to your business. How serious is a computer or network being down for your business. How safe is your data? Do you have adequate data protection?

All these things involve your values, your time, your business, and ultimately your family. There is an out of pocket cost of service. There is a real cost of time and energy if you don’t have service.

I like to look at your overall business. Often, I know people that I trust that can help you save money in other areas. Once I learn your business, I may be able to find referrals for you. I do that for many of my clients.

Instead of a list of services, what I look want to know is how I can help your business. Once we decide that, then I talk about services.

Until I begin to understand your business, I can only give you an uneducated guess about how to help you.

Other service providers can do this also. Very few get personal with computer services. Have a talk with your computer service company. Is your computer service providing the support you need? See what you think.

My website is In-House Tech Support.

August 5, 2008

What’s in Your System?

Filed under: Uncategorized — Ralph Kirkland @ 7:46 am

If you want information on what hardware and software is on your computer, do you have a way to find out?

Would you like to collect all the installation codes for your software in one place?

What is that system board in my computer?

There is a great little program, Belarc Advisor, that is free for home users.

This is the way Belarc describes the result. Belarc “builds a detailed profile of your installed software and hardware, missing Microsoft hotfixes, anti-virus status, CIS (Center for Internet Security) benchmarks, and displays the results in your Web browser.”

Simple to install. Runs automatically. A great little tool. Larger shops should look at the commercial versions of the software.

Checking the Little Things

Filed under: Uncategorized — Ralph Kirkland @ 7:38 am

Most of us assume everything is right with a new computer. Sometimes that is not true.

I seldom see memory issues. However, I just checked out a computer that would not recognize some of its memory. This one was used for gaming and had 4 GB of RAM. The customer had tried to analyze the problem, but ended up with the computer seeing only 1 GB.

I assumed the problem to be either the memory slots or the memory. I tried different combinations of memory until I eliminated the slots as the problem. I ended up with two bad memory sticks.

I replaced both of them. The computer then rebooted showing 4 GB of RAM.

The customer then said, “Oh, we’ve always seen 2.5 GB.”

Their computer was just out of warranty. But their memory was bad from the start.

Check your RAM. It is probably fine, but are you seeing all you bought?

August 2, 2008

Beating a Dead Horse – More on Backups

Filed under: Computers — Ralph Kirkland @ 11:09 am

People who blog are full of opinions. You have to decide which ones are worth your time. I was just reading some c|net comments about hard drive backups. Some people hate the companies whose hard drives failed for them. Some think hard drive backups are great. Some hate the backup software. Some hate CDs. Some love CDs. All have opinions.

Why backup to a hard drive? Simple, your hard drive will fail at some point. Having a separate hard drive gives one more chance. Probably both will not fail at the same time. Cost is always a factor.

With one backup method only, I would choose online backup.

Why online?

The cost is probably about the same as your hard drive or CD collection.

Online backup gives you a copy of your data in separate location. That online service will have multiple backups of all their data, giving you even more protection.

Your main danger with online backup is the company could go out of business. Usually, you get some warning, giving you time to move to another provider.

The odds are better with online backup. The cost is roughly the same.

Whatever you do, set up automatic backups.

August 1, 2008

This is Why You Must Have Backups

Filed under: Computers,Software — Ralph Kirkland @ 1:28 pm

Recently, a friend called me in a panic about her computer. She could not get it to boot. Could I save her drive. I thought I could. I was wrong.

She told me her computer was slow six or eight months ago. I offered to check it. She never got it to me.

I started trying to repair her Windows partition. No partition even showed up. I went to the BIOS setup. I could see the hard drive listed there. I tried read the drive in another computer.. The computer took 5 minutes to boot, then the drive could not be read. I held the drive close to my ear. I could hear click-click-click….. Not a good sign for a hard drive.

I ended up replacing her hard drive. But all her data was lost. Her only recourse is a very expensive data recovery.

So she just needs to restore her most recent backup. Wrong. When backups are not automatic, they do not get done.

What should you do?

I recommend that you have an automatic backup on your computer.

Second, I recommend an on-line backup. With an on-line backup, all her data would be available. Why on-line, even if your computer and all your backups are stolen, you still have your data on-line.

This should work as long as you don’t need to backup more than about 10 GB. So what do I recommend? Carbonite. The cost is only $50. Only $20 after rebate.

Office EULA Pops Up Every Time You Open an Office Application with Vista

Filed under: Computers,Software — Ralph Kirkland @ 11:57 am

This stumped me the first time I saw it. I continued to accept the EULA, but I still got the message. I kept doing the same thing over and over, one definition of insanity.

The problem is actually a fairly simple one. So what is the problem. It involves the way that Vista limits installations to reduce unwanted applications from installing. The problem is that in this case, it creates its own problem.

Here is the basic Microsoft solution, from 884202.

    To resolve this behavior, follow these steps:

    Log on to the computer by using a user account that has administrative credentials.

    Start an Office program, such as Word. The End User License Agreement dialog box appears.

    Note For Windows Vista, click Start, click All Programs, click Microsoft Office, right-click an Office program, click Run as administrator, and then click Continue.

    Click I Accept.

    Exit the Office program that you just started.

    Repeat step 2 to step 4 for the other Office programs that still prompt you with the EULA.

If this does not correct the problem, the same bulletin has the steps for editing the regsitry.

Berfore starting this, I recommend a program called ERUNT. It backs up the entire registry in case you make a mistake. The Microsoft regedit does not back up everything.

Once you have a backup, you can edit the registry. Follow the instructions of this Microsoft tech bulletin, 884202.

If you are not comfortable doing this yourself, call a reliable computer technician, like me.

XP 2008 Anti-Virus

Filed under: Computers,Software — Ralph Kirkland @ 11:44 am

This is not an Anti-virus program. Do not download and install it. Do not download and install any program that pops up on the internet and tells you that you have a virus.

Do not install any program from a pop-up when surfing the web. This program is installed from a pop-up that warns you that your computer has a virus. You run the inspection. It installs a program that poses as anti-virus. You get a report of multiple viruses, trojans, etc. on you drive. You need to send them $49.95 to remove the problems. Don’t send them money fi you have the problem.

Save yourself. If you have downloaded it, turn off the system restore feature. Uninstall the program. This may take several steps. You may have to manually delete files.

Then run your own anti-virus software and Spybot Search & Destroy. The system should not need to be re-formatted so you have to start from scratch. You may have to manually delete some files.

Once you have eliminated the malware, you should restart the system restore feature.

If you are unsure of how to proceed, call a reliable computer technician. I am in the Decatur, GA, area.

A tough backup hard drive

Filed under: Computers,Hardware — Ralph Kirkland @ 10:31 am

I have been looking for a backup hard drive to recommend.  Most have some great reviews from users, but most also have complaints.  Drives fail after short periods.  Drives fail after minor problems. Drives have failed multiple times.  

I discount problems like the drive never worked.  Why?  If 30 people think the drive is great, the one or two who say it never worked are really just user error.  Sometimes, I see a pattern of several reported drive failures and poor support. Then I doubt that I want to recommend the drive, even when I have had no problems.

Well, now I have found a great test of hard drives at Popular Mechanics.  One drive came thru all their drop tests, including being run over by a Chevy Tahoe.  This is the one I now recommend.

Finally, a Great Hardened Hard Drive!

The drive is the eGo Rugged Hard Drive.

July 31, 2008

Business computing

Filed under: Business — Ralph Kirkland @ 1:20 pm

At some size, most businesses take on someone to manage their computers.  For those not at that stage, or those that don’t want to get to that stage, outside computer support can free up their time.

Isn’t this a big cost?

It is money taken out of the business.  That cost may easily be offset by gains in other areas, like sales or production.  For some, this cost only is incurred in an emergency.  Is that the wrong thing for you to do?  I don’t know. 

Protect yourself:

  • Have an automatic backup setup.  Not automatic, not happening.
  • Store a copy of the backup off-site.
  • Ideally, I think you should have an on-line backup.
  • Do you know the code numbers you need to re-install your software?  They may keep you from having to buy the software in case of disaster.
  • Do you have a good security software suite, anti-virus and firewall?
  • Are your computers running slowly?  Do they need a tune-up?
  • Is your internet speed so slow it causes problems?  Could you save money with a different phone provider?
  • Is your wireless router exposing your and your customer data to the world?  Not safeguarding your data, could lead to huge fines.
  • Finally, are you spending time keeping computers going that you should be spending on sales, marketing, or making calls?

Am I aware that some businesses cannot afford any services?  Sure.  But as soon as you can, you should start off-loading computer support to someone. Is this a self serving opinion. Of course. But it is true.

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