iPad Mini is Max

If you’re looking at the new iPad Mini for yourself or as a holiday gift, it looks like a winner to us. But there are plenty of other choices if you’re looking to give a tablet as a gift this year. We have a few ideas, so let’s start with the Mini

It’s the same configuration as the iPad, and it will compete with the Fire, Nexus and any other smaller tablet likely to hit the market. You’ll be able to download all the Apple apps, and at a much lower price than the “big” iPad, it might be a good gift idea. It could also work well for younger students who may find the smaller size easier to handle.

If you’re thinking about it for business, there’s a lot to recommend. If your network is already set up for iPads and iPhones, the new model will fit right in. You shouldn’t miss a beat for the apps, email, calendars and anything else you need.

As for the smaller size, we seem to like smaller devices. They’re easier to carry to meetings, and they take up less table space at your favorite coffee shop.

If the iPad in any of its models and derivatives don’t work for you or the person you’re giving it to, you can choose from several manufacturers, sizes, operating systems and features. Here are five considerations.

1. Size it Right

Today’s two most popular sizes are 7-inch and 10-inch models. The smaller ones are great for people who love to read books or play games during their commute or when traveling. The larger ones are better for working on documents, editing photos and, in some cases, replacing a laptop.

2. Pick the Best OS

Apple’s iOS for the iPad is the easiest to learn and use and has the largest library of apps for tablets. The latest iOS 6 software provides Facebook integration and Siri for the iPad mini and fourth-generation iPad with Retina Display. Lower-cost tablets like the Amazon Kindle Fire HD and Barnes & Noble Nook HD use customized versions of Android with interfaces geared toward watching movies, reading e-books and magazines and enjoying other content on the go. The Nexus 7 uses Android Jelly Bean, which has the look and feel of an Android phone. Google Now lets you search using your voice and remembers your searches. Windows 8 (and its close cousin, Windows RT) has a dynamic Live Tile interface that streams updates right to your Start screen on everything from email and news to social updates. And, you can run two apps at once on the same screen using Microsoft’s Snap feature.

3. Anticipate its Use

If the primary use will be surfing the Web and playing games, smaller, lower-cost tablets like the Kindle Fire HD, Nook HD, Nexus 7 and iPad mini will fill the bill. For a student, artist or mobile professional, think about a tablet with a built-in pen, such as the Galaxy Note 10.1 or the Galaxy Note II, which is a cross between a phone and a tablet. The ThinkPad Tablet 2 running Windows 8 is a great option for traveling executives. For work and play, the fourth-generation iPad with Retina Display and the A6X chip is great for editing HD video, and you can add an external keyboard. A Windows RT tablet, such as the Microsoft Surface or ASUS Vivo Tab come with external keyboards and Office 2013 preloaded.

4. Make it Kid-Friendly

There are a lot of kid-friendly tablets, many under $200. The Fuhu nabi 2 is a 7-inch Android with a drop-safe bumper, built-in parental controls and more than 2,500 lessons in English, math, science and other subjects from kindergarten to fifth grade. The Amazon Kindle Fire HD and Nook HD are also great options for kids. Amazon’s FreeTime feature lets you set daily screen-time limits and decide which content your kids can access from within profiles that you set up for each of them.

5. Price it Right

You have a lot of choices, ranging from $200 to $600. The Internet makes it easy to compare prices and features, and the competition will be hot.

If you get one (or more) and need help configuring with your network and other systems, we’re more than happy to help and share reviews of our favorite apps and features. A phone call – 973-433-6676 – or email will do the trick.

This article was published in Technology Update, the monthly newsletter from Sterling Rose LLC.

Simplify Your Website Hosting

What happens when you switch your website host? On the surface, it usually appears to be seamless. But if you’re recovering from an outage and need to update your website or need to move it to another host, there are a few things happening behind the scenes that you should know about.

Whenever anyone types in the name of a website, usually preceded by www and followed by a .com or .net, it’s actually referencing a numeric code that corresponds to a specific location on a specific server. They’re known as the DNS records. When you move your service from one host to another, your domain (www.yourcompany.com), which corresponds to your website and email addresses, stays the same. The DNS records change. Other servers use those DNS records to connect people to your site or send you and everyone else in your company email.

Your DNS records are held by the company that registered your domain name. We recommend that you have that company host your site and email unless you have a compelling reason to do otherwise. The more complicated the route and the more parties involved, the longer it takes for your hosting changes to be recognized over the Internet.

You can run into even more problems if you don’t have your access information. Usually you need your email address and/or username and your password. For Go Daddy, you also need your customer number.

If you don’t have that information, call the company that has your domain registration or the person who handled it for you. Make sure you are the owner of your domain. If not, make arrangements to gain it. Do it well before the domain registration expires. There are procedures to follow, but they get a lot more difficult when you’re within three or six months of the expiration date.

If the person who registered your domain is nowhere to be found, not available or uncooperative, we can help you work through the resolution procedure, including locating the registrar holding your DNS records. If you can identify that you are the owner of the company using the domain name, you generally can get access to the records and ownership. Call us at 973-433-6676 or email us to help with any DNS issues.

Most people run into problems moving their website hosting when they don’t plan ahead. Here’s what you should do:

  • If you don’t know who are the registered owners, administrative contact and technical contact for your website, run a “who is” search. In Internet terms, it’s whois. A simple way to find your site info is to type whois and your domain.com (or net…) into a Google search box. It should give you places to look. You can also go to Go Daddy.
  • If you’re with Go Daddy, for example, it will show as public information the contacts – with phone numbers and email addresses – and the DNS records. Write down that information and store it in a safe place.
  • Resolve any ownership and access issues. The major registrar companies have 24-hour customer service and procedures to verify you are the owner or should be. The process can take a few days, so don’t make this a last-minute proposition.
  • Gain access and make sure you have control.
  • Contact the company that you want to host your website. They will need the access information, so be prepared to share it. (You can always change it later if you need to.)
  • If you’re moving your hosting, don’t tell your current host. They could pull the plug, and you could be without a website and email. There is an exception, and we’ll get to that shortly.

When you make the change, here’s the short version of what will happen. The location of your new host’s domain and mail servers will be put out on the Internet. When the code for your domain is typed in, visitors will be routed to your new servers. The same will happen with your email.

There is a time lag. We are told to allow 24 hours, but we’ve seen changes take place in two minutes. Once you can verify that the new servers are being accessed, you should inform your old host that you have made the change. Your old host will have no way of knowing unless they’re checking, and it’s a courtesy to let them know your former space is now available for them to resell.

If you had your website and email with a cable or phone company, for example, you should let them know – especially for email.  Your mailboxes will continue to receive messages from people who use the same provider, and you’ll never know they’re sitting there.

If you need to make a change or are thinking about it, talk to us – 973-433-6676 – or email us. We can answer your questions and discuss your options.

This article was published in Technology Update, the monthly newsletter from Sterling Rose LLC.

Stories From the Storm

This year was the second in a row that our kids had no Halloween because of a storm. This year’s storm was more devastating than last year’s. We hope that by the time you read this, you will have survived and recovered from two storms. Some of our customers could not shut down during the storm. Those with cloud-based solutions – Microsoft Exchange is a mere $4 per month – minimized their downtime and recovered faster.

In the wake of the storm, we can’t emphasize the cloud enough. In very simple terms, the “cloud” is a system of large servers and data storage facilities. “Cloud” providers almost always have redundant systems in widely scattered locations to avoid localized, devastating effects of storms, earthquakes and major power outages

At $4 a month per mailbox, Microsoft Exchange could have been a bargain. Just for email, all you and anyone in your business or family would have needed only to find Internet service for a smartphone, tablet or computer to stay in touch. Granted, it was a challenge or impossibility for most people. But, if you had your own mail server go down, not only did email not go through, emails sent to you started bouncing back after three days. It added to complications

If you put everything in the cloud instead of keeping programs and data on local servers, you can have even more protection. The cost of Microsoft Office 365 can be less than $20 a month for a small business and closer to $10 a month for home users. How many dollars per hour is your business or personal time worth? Do your own math and figure out your own ROI. Our guess is that you’ll make up the cost for a year in an hour or less. Remember, too, that the cost of Office 365 or any similar program includes the software licenses and automatic updates and upgrades.

Here are some of the problems you’ll be able to avoid – even though we did find ways to solve them.

One solution was cumbersome, but it worked. Our client needed to receive phone calls when cable and phone service went down. The problem was compounded by the fact that they did not have the password to reset their cable modem while it was on battery power.

We were able to install a “butt set” on their system and hooked it into where the phone line came in. This enabled us to manually forward phone calls to a cell phone number. The person with that cell phone then became the contact point for the business. He took the caller’s contact information and then called another person at his company. That person called back the customer or client.

It was not ideal, but it did help the company remain accessible and responsive during the weather emergency.

One of our customers has a business that requires them to make pick-ups. They depended on having access to documents during and immediately after the storm. By having those documents backed up to “the cloud,” which is really an off-site data storage center, we were able to help them stay in business. They told us which documents were needed and to whom to send those documents. We were able to access the documents and email them to their customers.

Going forward, it’s important to have a disaster plan in place. No matter what you believe about climate change or global warming, some facts are very clear:

  • Weather can have a profound effect on our ability to conduct business – and our ability to communicate with family and friends.
  • We may very well be in some sort of weather pattern that can have severe effects in our part of the country.
  • Disastrous effects can strike in unlikely places – such as inland locations that were flooded out with relatively little rain.
  • Technologies and capabilities are now available to help mitigate the effects of severe weather.

We believe the best action you can take is to set up as much of your servers, email, data and programs in the cloud as you possibly can. Cloud providers have back-up locations. So, in all likelihood, your systems should be up and running unless multiple disasters strike multiple locations at the same time. The more likely scenario is that if you have access to the Internet, you will be able to stay in touch and in business.

Cell towers are affected by power outages. Although they have battery back-up and maybe solar back-up power, heavy use will suck up that power very quickly. Use texting instead of email or voice wherever and whenever possible during a power outage. It uses less bandwidth and can help conserve a precious resource.

You and Your Cellular Provider

With cellular service likely to be your “lifeline” in the event of a power, phone and cable outage, you might want to contact your cellular provider ahead of any event. In some cases, they may give you an allowance for extra minutes or text messaging. You can also review your phone and data plan and increase your minutes and gigabytes.

Revising your plan could save you money. It will also give your provider a better idea of how much more capacity they’ll need to provide so they, too, can meet their emergency.

You need to line up as many alternatives as you can to ride out weather-related outages. It’s a business decision; you need to weigh the cost of having those alternatives against the cost of downtime. Having data and email available through the cloud may be relatively inexpensive.

We can help you develop a disaster plan and provide the accessibility you need to ride out the storm or survive outages. Email us or call us – 973-433-6676 – to discuss what should be in your emergency preparedness plan.

This article was published in Technology Update, the monthly newsletter from Sterling Rose LLC.

Stormy Weather Checklist: What to Do Before a Major Storm

The following guidelines should be followed in order to protect computer equipment before a storm arrives:

  • Generally speaking, move all equipment close to windows to a safer location, usually an interior closet or an inside corner of a room. If some equipment cannot be moved, try to enclose it as much as you can with tape and plastic bags such as garbage bags or a tarp.
  • Specifically:
    • Shut down and unplug all computer equipment including PCs, servers, monitors, printers, routers, switches, phones and phone systems.
    • Turn off and unplug surge protectors and battery packs.
    • Bag and seal all equipment to protect from water damage in case a window breaks or the roof leaks.

    Please follow this order in shutting down your systems:

    1. Turn off any printers.
    2. Save your work and turn off desktop and laptop computers.
    3. Turn off your secondary servers if any, and then your main server.
    4. Turn off backup devices.
    5. Turn off your network switch.
    6. Turn off your firewall or router.
    7. Unplug telephone handsets.
    8. Turn off your telephone system.
    9. Turn off your Internet provider’s equipment (cable, DSL, satellite, or T1 modem).
    10. Unplug and turn off all surge protectors and battery packs for all devices.

    Getting Back Running After the Storm

    Even after the storm passes, damage to equipment can still occur. This damage is usually caused by post storm power surges or outages while the power company begins to restore power to the affected areas. It is best to receive the “All Clear” from your power company before reconnecting your valuable equipment – which connects to your valuable data

    • Physical recovery can begin once you’ve assessed the damage to your property. This will include removing all bags on computer equipment and moving all of it back to their original locations. During this phase, any equipment that may have been exposed to water or damaged will have to be inspected more closely to determine whether it needs to be replaced. Leave those items powered off and please call Sterling Rose to inspect them.
    • Equipment should remain powered off and unplugged from the electrical outlet until the electrical power in the area has stabilized. Failure to follow this procedure can cause extensive damage to equipment from power surges and repeated or rapid-succession power outages.
    • Once the “all clear” is received from the power company, core systems and infrastructure should be restored first. These include routers, firewalls, switches, servers and telephone systems. We highly urge and recommend you follow the order below – AND wait until an item finishes loading completely before moving to the next item.

    Please follow the order below:

    1. Plug in and turn on all surge protectors and battery packs for all devices.
    2. Turn on your Internet provider’s equipment (cable, DSL, satellite, or T1 modem).
    3. Turn on your network switch.
    4. Turn on your firewall or router.
    5. Turn on your telephone system.
    6. Turn on your main server first, then other servers if any.
    7. Plug in telephone handsets.
    8. Plug in and turn on desktop and laptop computers.
    9. Plug in and turn on backup devices.
    10. Plug in and turn on printers.
    11. Activate any other peripherals.

    As always, call us if you have any questions. Our office phone is 973-433-6676. You can also text our mobile phone – 973-590-4470. When communications systems go down, text messages use less data bandwidth than voice conversations on cellular networks.