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Technology Money Saving Tips and Tricks

Monday, November 12, 2012
Technology is an essential part of running any successful business. But how that technology is utilized can impact the amount of time and money being spent. To make things easier for your business, we've put together a list of tips and tricks to help you save valuable time and/or money.

Use all-in-one printers at one central location
Using all-in-one printers not only combines your printer, scanner, and fax machine but it can save desk space, individual repair costs, and save money on multiple printer cartridges. Also, it can be used as network devices so it can be shared across your LAN.

When it’s not in use, turn it off!
Even for small periods of time, for example, on your lunch break or during an off-site meeting. LCD monitors still use power when blank. The start up and shut down of computers does use a small amount of energy but not nearly as much as a constant running computer.
Stop overcharging your laptop battery
Once your laptop is fully charged, take out the battery. If it is left in, it will still use power even though it is fully charged. This can lead to long term consequences including premature battery replacements.

Buy office supplies in bulk
If your business is purchasing office supplies every two weeks, think about purchasing these supplies at a wholesaler and buy in bulk. You will save money and time/gas by not running to the store every couple weeks.

Switch to Internet based phone services
Voice over IP (VOIP) can slash your phone bill dramatically when compared to traditional land lines. VOIP can also offer increased functionality and uses versus regular phone systems.

Get rid of bulky, energy inefficient equipment
To create a less cluttered office, remove applications, servers, backups and all other hardware that can instead be implemented as software as a service (SaaS) and/or cloud computing. These alternatives offer enhanced security, increased bandwidth, expert staff, and no hefty hardware bills.
Save money on shipping costs
If you send out mailings to mass contacts, shipping costs and stamps can become very expensive. Make sure that you have the most recent and correct mailing data to avoid returned mail. The U.S. Post Office will go through your mailing list, fix addresses and flag incomplete addresses – for free. Every address that is not returned is money saved.

Laptops > desktops
If possible, have your employees use laptops versus desktops. Laptops can use up to 90% less energy than desktops, using less heat and reducing utility costs. Laptops also make it possible to work remotely, which can save time, money (travel expenses), and crowded offices.

Install motion sensing lights wherever possible
When every light in the office is on every day, those monthly energy costs will add up fast. Installing motion sensing lights makes the most sense in areas that are infrequently used – such as closets and bathrooms.

Choose Energy Star office equipment
When purchasing new equipment, an easy indicator of energy efficient products is to look for the Energy Star models – which are designed to power down or hibernate after a period of inactivity. Energy Star models can save between 35-65% on most items and up to 90% on some products.

Let an expert assess your situation
If you still feel like you could be saving more money but can't figure out how, hire one of our IT Consultants to review your workplace habits and their recommendations could save you a lot of time and money!

The End of Windows XP is Getting Close

Monday, November 05, 2012

The clock is ticking. In less than 18 months Windows XP will officially be “dead”, with no more Extended Support, and more importantly, no more security patches. Hopefully, this news does not come as a surprise, as Microsoft has foretold the fate of XP since its release back in 2001. Did you realize that XP was 11 years old?!?

On April 8, 2014, Microsoft will no longer provide Extended Support for XP (they have already dropped “regular” support), which gives users only a short amount of time to make the leap to a new Operating System. Additionally, many third party software providers are not planning to extend support for their applications running on Windows XP, which translates to even more complexity, security risks, and ultimately, added management costs for your IT department if you are still managing Windows XP environments.

End of support is nothing short of a death sentence for XP. Make no mistake about it, XP can be considered obsolete even today, despite the fact that Windows 7 only just overtook it as the undisputed king of the OS market. With the release of Windows 8 and Windows Server 2012, migrating off Windows XP should definitely be on your company’s to-do list.

If you are interested in making the move, or want to see what Windows 8 can do for you, please contact your IT Resource consultant or our sales department. We'll show you how you can benefit by making the switch now.

An All-In-One Solution

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Many of our customers will turn to IT Resource when it comes time to purchase new computers for their company. Whether they need a new laptop for an on the road user or 10 new workstations within the office, IT Resource will find and price out new hardware for our customers’ needs. Recently, we have been looking into some new options for our customers regarding replacement desktop computers. One of those options was the HP Compaq Elite All-In-One Business PC.

These PCs are a computer and monitor all packed into one relatively small device. IT Resource installed three of these devices for a customer and after setting them up and getting them installed and running, I can say that I’m quite impressed with their build quality and ease of use. Depending on what specifications the customer needs, most of these models come with a 24” HD screen, built-in wireless, large hard drive, wireless mouse and keyboard, and various other integrated functions built right into the device. Because most of the computer is wireless, a power cable may be the only cord sitting on your computer desk. 

If your company is looking for replacement workstations and monitors in the near future, the HP Compaq All-In-One solution may be the way to go. Give the IT Resource Help Desk a call at 616.837.6930 and we’ll be able to determine if we can get a new All-In-One into your company!

Heating Up!

Monday, October 22, 2012

A few days ago a request came into our help desk team from one of our west Michigan based customers. The explanation was brief but straight to the point. It seemed one of their computers was experiencing some video issues and wasn’t displaying a picture properly. Kevin Luke, one of our Help Desk team members, took the call and jumped into action. After some initial troubleshooting and working with the customer and HP, he found that the computer was still under warranty. A few phone calls and emails later, Kevin had a new video card on its way for the computer!

Due to HP’s excellent service, the new card arrived next day and was ready to be installed promptly. Kevin headed over to our customer and installed the card to get them back into production as quickly as possible. Due to HP’s warranty program, Kevin needed the old card in order to send it back. However, before sending it off on its way, I was able to snap a few pictures of the card to see exactly where the failure point was.
From this picture it looks like the card warped quite a bit. After further examination we found that the metal heat sink itself had bulged up and caused the failure. However, thanks to HP’s quick response and turnaround time, we were able to provide our customer with prompt service and get them back to production as soon as possible. At the benefit of IT Resource’s partnership with HP, we are able to work diligently to pass the expertise and good experiences along to our customer to make the repair process as quick and painless as possible!

Open House Celebration!

Thursday, October 11, 2012

A big thanks to the many friends, customers, vendors, and community members who came to celebrate our open house! This year marks our 13th year in business and the completion of our office expansion. As members of three local Chambers of Commerce, we were thrilled to have them participate in our ribbon cutting ceremony, making our expansion official.

Here we are celebrating with our friends from the lakeshore, the Grand Haven, Spring Lake, & Ferrysburg Chamber of Commerce.

Our celebration continued with the help of the Grand Rapids Chamber of Commerce. As new members of this group, we are so excited to jump in and be a part of such a great organization.

We've been long standing members of the Coopersville Chamber of Commerce. In fact, our Director of Sales, Carrie Borchers, is the president of the Chamber. No expansion project would be complete without this group in attendance.

To offer a memento, the Chamber allows you to keep your ribbon and attendees can sign it. It's a nice little gesture to remind us how fortunate we are to be able to continue to grow and expand our business.

As guests began arriving we offered tours through our space. One important area of our office is the data center, and our associates Kevin and Carrie are showing people what really happens with all those servers. In addition to the data center that we house on-site, we've recently expanded our cloud-based hosted and disaster recovery solutions by adding a second data center site operating out of the US Signal Managed Data Center in Grand Rapids.

A group of attendees from the Grand Rapids Chamber stayed around to mingle and see our new space.

Customers, friends, and vendors enjoyed themselves throughout the evening. Our stellar sales rep Molly Reid (second from left) was on hand to answer questions and provide tours.

No open house would be complete without a little support from family. Our Managing Partner, Gary Lutz, had his parents, sister, and brother in attendance.

Our engineers took some time to show our longstanding customer, Gina Otterbein of Northern Physical Therapy, the new space.

Thank you again to everyone who came out to celebrate with us, and for the continued support you've shown our company over the last 13 years. We are truly grateful to have such wonderful customers and friends. Here's to another 13!

End the Year With a Little Savings from Microsoft

Thursday, October 11, 2012

It's hard to believe, but the 4th quarter is upon us. As you look over your business expenses for the year, saving a little money here and there probably sounds pretty appealing. That's why we've partnered with Microsoft once again for The Big Easy, an annual 4th quarter program designed to save you money on a variety of Microsoft products that make your business run smoother.

If you're not sure what products to purchase, keep in mind that as of April, 2014, Microsoft will no longer support Windows XP SP3 and Office 2003. What does this mean for you? It means you should take action. After April 8, 2014, there will be no new security updates, non-security hotfixes, free or paid assisted support options or online technical content updates. Running Windows XP SP3 and Office 2003 in your environment after their end of support date may expose your company to potential risks. You'll want to plan ahead to get current with Windows 7 and Office 2010. This option has upsides well beyond keeping you supported. It offers more flexibility to empower employees to be more productive, while increasing operational efficiency through improved PC security and management. It also enables your organization to take advantage of the latest technology trends such as virtualization and the cloud.

Additionally, if you've been considering upgrading your server or purchasing new software licenses, now is the time to take action. The Big Easy allows you to choose from a variety of Microsoft products and solutions while earning money back as a subsidy on qualifying purchases. The subsidy from Microsoft can then be used towards software, hardware, or services from IT Resource. Eligible products that might interest you include: Microsoft Office 365, Windows 7, Project, Visio, Microsoft Exchange Server, Microsoft Lync, Microsoft SQL and Microsoft SharePoint.

By taking advantage of this promotion, you can save up to 20% on total engineering service fees. If you are considering upgrading your current licensing and/or purchasing new Microsoft products, now is the time! To learn more about this subsidy, contact us and we can show you how this program can benefit your business. Keep in mind, purchases must be made by December 31, 2012 in order to receive your subsidy check, so act now!

A Look into Windows 8

Thursday, October 04, 2012

Over the past couple of months there has been quite the buzz over Windows 8; Microsoft’s newest Operating System set to roll out on October 26, 2012. For most home users this release won’t mean a whole lot. However, for business users this could mean a change in the not so distant future. Depending on what your business has signed up for, newer computers may start coming in with Windows 8 rather than Windows 7. My main goal with this post is to touch on some of the major changes and familiarize everyone with the new Windows 8 layout. Fortunately I’ve had the opportunity to install it on my laptop here at work and use it full time.

Let’s start out with the biggest change: The Start Screen. 
  
This screen now replaces the old Start button located in the bottom left hand corner of the screen. This is the screen that you’re greeted with upon login. By default, it has tiles that show things like the weather, your mail, chat programs, and the calendar. Once you have more programs installed you can add tiles for those as well. I added tiles for Microsoft Word and Microsoft Outlook. This screen can be customized and changed however you like. Think of this screen as your Home Screen.

Windows 8 still has the old style Desktop like in previous versions of Windows. So, if there are files you need quick access to they can be located on the desktop. After a few days of use I've found that I’ve been moving away from using the desktop and focusing more on the new start menu. 

Along with the start menu change, Windows 8 also employs new login methods. When setting up Windows 8, the setup asked for an email address. I put in my Windows Live ID and continued my setup. Upon reading further, I found that Windows will automatically save your personal profile (Bookmarks, settings, etc…) and even link with a Microsoft Skydrive account. I found this to be quite handy as sometimes I have bookmarks on one computer and I would like to have access to them on my other computers, like my laptop.
Some of the other notable changes I found are an upgrade from Internet Explorer 9 to Internet Explorer 10, a new Task Manager, Built in Anti-Virus, a new lock screen, and many other additions to the operating system. Another handy feature that is a little less known is the removal of the Blue Screen of Death. Now, if Windows encounters an issue that causes Windows 8 to stop functioning, a new, easier to read error screen appears.
Overall, I expected Windows 8 to be a step in the wrong direction. However, after using it for some time I have found it’s not so bad after all. Within time, new computers ordered will come shipped with Windows 8 and users will have to switch over. While the move to Windows 8 won’t happen overnight, expect to start seeing new computers arriving with Windows 8 installed. If you have any questions regarding Windows 8, would like to know more about it, or would like to know if your next computer can come with Windows 8, please don’t hesitate to contact us at 616.837.6930 and we’ll be happy to help in any way possible!

iPhone 5: Worth the hype?

Thursday, October 04, 2012

I've had some time to play around with the newly released iPhone 5, and overall, I think the new device is more of an evolutionary product, as opposed to a revolutionary product. With its screen now 4 inches at an almost 16 by 9 display, its updated a6 soc processor, and iOS 6, the iPhone 5 is 60% faster than the iPhone 4s. In addition, the ram is increased from 512mg on the 4s to 1gb on the iPhone 5. The metal back on the new body of the phone is a step up from the glass on the previous models. The phone is also lighter feeling than the 4s but still feels like a solid Apple product. They new screen is what you would expect from Apple and the 4 inch size gives you the space to add an additional row of icons. Overall, very nice and clear.

One major change in the new iPhone 5 is the replacement of Google maps with a new Apple version that includes navigation. I'd have to say this app leaves a bit to be desired. Having Siri navigate is a nice touch... if only the mapping function worked properly. I tested it to see if it could get me from my home to work. Not a difficult commute and the app failed. It seems as though the new app is more like a beta version, and not a complete Apple product.


Other points worth noting:

- The 8 megapixel camera has been tweaked with new optics and a faster processor that makes auto focus quicker, allowing you the ability to snap pictures as fast as you can click. However, the picture quality is about the same as the 4s.

- There is no NFC - being able to pay with your phone is the future.

- The new iPhone 5 does have improved wifi and 4G LTE speeds


Conclusion

For those who have anything less than a 4s, the new iPhone 5 may be a worthwhile upgrade. If you have a 4s and you are content with 3G, I'd recommend sitting this one out. 

Note: if your carrier is Verizon and you have unlimited data, taking the upgrade price on the iPhone 5 will move you to a tiered data plan. And, you can sure rack up data usage charges quickly on the 4G LTE network. Do the math, but you might find it cheaper to buy the phone at retail price and keep your unlimited data.


By Steve Nowak, IT Resource Network Engineer

Image courtesy of Apple

Office 365: Perfect for Small Businesses

Monday, October 01, 2012

Are you a small business with a couple of employees and few resources, but want to be seen as professional and dependable? Is a full server setup too much for your office?  In case you’re not ready to take the plunge into the world of Windows Server and Symantec Backup solutions, there may be a different option; Office 365!

Office 365 is a relatively new solution from Microsoft. In an effort to move everyone to the cloud, Office 365 hosts services like email, video chatting, and even Active Directory right from the web without the need to have equipment on-site. Along with those options, Office 365 gives the ability to create a central site to create, edit, and host a variety of office documents. Once these documents are added and submitted, other users in your organization can log in with their account and make changes to existing documents with the permission of the publisher. Also, due to the versatility of Office 365, these changes can be made from a computer, phone, or even a tablet without the need of having Microsoft Word, Excel or PowerPoint installed. Office 365 gives the ability to use these Office apps right from their website. However, if Outlook or any of those Office programs are already installed, don’t worry, it’s easy to configure them to work directly with Office 365.

Fortunately, IT Resource is an Office 365 Partner and we would be happy to set up and configure Office 365 for you! Contact us at 616.837.6930 or email us if you would like more information. We'd be happy to do an on-site walk through with you if you are in the west Michigan area. Outside the area we can easily do a video conference call and get you all set up.

3G vs. 4G: Is It Worth It?

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

As an employee in the IT profession, I am often asked what the latest and greatest is when it comes to upcoming technologies and services. One of the big questions is whether 4G technology on mobile phones and tablets is really worth it compared to its older counterpart, 3G. Most, if not all smart phones released today have the 4G radio built into the phone which gives access to the new network and potentially faster speeds. Each cell phone carrier (Sprint, AT&T, Verizon, T-Mobile, etc) has a different 4G Network. The big ones we’ll need to focus on are LTE, WiMax, and HSPA+.

First, let’s look at a comparison chart thanks to diffen.com


These are general estimates of the speeds of 3G and 4G comparatively. Just from this table we can see that 4G is considerably faster than 3G. However, tables don’t mean anything without data. I wanted to really test the speed of 4G just to confirm this website's claim. I have a Droid RAZR through Verizon which used the LTE 4G network. AT&T recently moved to LTE as well as Sprint. AT&T also uses the HSPA+ network on their previous iPhone 4’s however it’s not as fast as LTE. I connected my phone to the 4G network and ran a speed test to find out what kind of speeds I was getting. Here are the results of that test.

This was taken from my phone while at the IT Resource office on the 4G network. My download speeds were just about 18.6 Mbps which is far above the data throughout the table above. To put it into perspective, at those speeds we should be able to download a 5 Gigabyte movie in just less than 40 minutes or a full length CD in just about a minute and a half! However, it’s not nearly as high as the projected 1 Gbps which is expected. The same goes for the Upload speed. But, these numbers don’t mean much unless they’re compared to different tests. So, following that test I removed my phone from the 4G network so I was only using 3G to test the speeds. Here are the results from that test.

Take note, both the download and upload speeds are significantly slower compared to the 4G test done previously. And for reference, that same movie downloaded here would take almost six hours and that same CD would take over 6 minutes! While this was only done on the Verizon Network, the LTE technologies between the three big carriers (Sprint, Verizon and AT&T) are similar enough to warrant similar results.

Just to compare Phone Network speeds to home speeds, I decided to run a speed test against my home Internet Service Provider which is AT&T Uverse. I have the 18Mbps plan which is advertised at 18Mbps Download and 1.5Mbps Upload. Here are the results of that test.
 While not spot on, the results I received were close to what are advertised for my contract. However, they’re still slower than what I receive on my phone. This really shows how far along the phone companies have come regarding wireless connections and speed.

While these tests shouldn’t be used solely for your phone or internet decision making, hopefully it helps with making the next choice in phone technologies. Most companies will also offer a 4G solution for your home as well if you like the speeds you’re seeing. 

Of course, if you have any questions on phone technologies offered today and what phones are compatible with your network, please don’t hesitate to give IT Resource a call or refer to the Android and Apple and Blackberry…Oh my! blog post done back in February. We would love to hear from you!