Data-Plan Drains

We’ve talked about keeping your data usage in line with your plan to avoid expensive extra charges. It’s getting easier and easier to exceed your plan’s limits, and it’s going to get more expensive. Here are some data-plan drains you can easily plug.

Let’s start with the cloud. As much as we like the idea of being able to store all sorts of files in a place where you can get them from any computer and easily share for collaborative efforts, the cloud has its dark side. Companies such as Amazon, Microsoft, Apple and Google all encourage you to store work, music and picture/video files on a site so you can easily share them on mobile devices.

When those mobile devices are not connected to a Wi-Fi network, they use cellular data networks. And because we’re sharing these files more – or accessing music files on a cell phone or even from our car radios as we travel – we’re using a lot of data. If you have a 2-gigabyte-per-month data plan, you can drain it pretty fast.

You can prevent hefty charges by either limiting your data downloads or by increasing your plan’s limit. Either way, you still need to watch your data so you don’t drain your plan.

Little plug-in hot spots are becoming more popular, and they can be big drains on your plan. Again, you can download a lot of data when you’re using a cellular network. And if you invite a business associate or friend to use your hot spot while on a cellular network, guess whose data they’re downloading. That’s right – yours.  It won’t take long to drain your account and get hit with those extra charges.

Those 4G cellular networks can really sneak up on you, too. After Sandy, we drove to South Carolina and Florida. When we stopped our first night out, I turned on my laptop to work with a client. When I finished, I got a text message from my wireless carrier telling me I had already used 50 percent of my monthly data limit. It was only then that I realized my computer getting back into sync after being off for a few days. With a 4G connection, it took only 45 minutes to hit 2 gigs.

Fast Internet connections are readily available on cellular networks. You really need to monitor your use, but we know that can be difficult. As much as we dislike Microsoft’s Windows 8, it has a feature that can measure your usage when connected to a measured connection. You can also set your computer so that you don’t get any Windows updates when you’re on a wireless network. You will need Windows 8 – and upgrades are going $39 to $200.

Where can you get some help? You’re not likely to get it from the carriers. We see unlimited data plans going away as more people put more things in the cloud and access them more often. It makes good business sense for them, so being more vigilant makes good sense for you.

We can answer questions and offer advice on your particular data-plan and usage needs. Just call us at 973-433-6676 or email us.

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

School-Dazed Networks

A talk on “The Global Technology Outlook” by William La Fontaine, Vice President of Technical Strategy & Worldwide Operations Research, IBM, at the Morris County Chamber of Commerce raised a lot of interesting points about the role technology needs to play to help our students be competitive in the job market. As a parent and IT specialist, I have strong opinions to share.

We need to continuously upgrade our curricula and ways we learn to prepare our students to find good jobs and provide the workforce our country needs for economic growth and sustainability. Today’s college degree is yesterday’s high school diploma, and tomorrow’s college degree will need to be today’s graduate degree.

Smart and powerful technology will play a key role as educators and students learn how to find and use more resources and develop more and better collaborative tools. They will do this in their own classrooms and then expand to classrooms or collaborative groups that can be located anywhere in the world.

To me, the prospects for my children are exciting beyond my imagination.

However, our schools tend to have older equipment that can’t keep up with the devices students and teachers can bring to classes. Computers are old and slow, and the Wi-Fi networks can’t handle the traffic needed to provide the best learning opportunities in school.

If you are reading this, you know how important it is to have the right technology to receive and send information, and you know what it takes to do it. We need to demand and support initiatives that teach our teachers how to make full use of technology, and we need to demand and support measures that ensure our schools have the necessary tools – computers and networks – to handle the Internet traffic that deliver educational resources.

I was impressed by the global technology R&D efforts that William La Fontaine outlined at the Morris County Chamber. I’ll be really impressed when I see schools and parents working together to implement new ways of learning that give our students a leg up in meeting future challenges head-on.

What’s going to impress you? You’re invited to leave a comment.

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

Where’s My Speed Channel?

“My computer worked fine at the coffee shop. Why is it so slow at home?” We’re hearing this complaint more than we’d like. The problem usually is that you don’t have your connection set to the channel at home that gives you less interference.

We get a lot of calls about this from clients who have been on a public network and then find their computers running “slower than molasses” on their wireless network. In most cases, the computer is fine. The problem usually is with the connection channel and a conflict with other wireless devices in your house or neighborhood.

It’s very easy to see if your wireless channel setting is the problem. Just plug your laptop directly into your router. This gives you a direct, wired connection – the fastest connection you can have. If you see an immediate improvement in your computer’s speed in browsing the web and downloading files, you’ve likely identified the problem as a wireless issue and not one with your computer.

We can typically fix this problem very easily by remote access to your router and computer. Every router and computer is different – even if you have two routers and computers that are the same models from the same manufacturers. Settings can vary.

In addition, homes have a lot of devices that all broadcast radio signals of one sort or another. Besides routers and computers, you have cordless phones, bluetooth devices and TVs that either run through your Wi-Fi network or run within a limited bandwidth range.

We have the training and tools to analyze your router, computer and how all devices in your home interact with each other. We can tweak various settings to optimize your network and Wi-Fi devices to get you on the right channel for maximum speed.

We can also help you with the proper placement of a Wi-Fi extender. The best location for an extender is where you get a strong signal from the router to the extender and from the extender to the locations in your house where you use a computer or tablet connected to the Internet. If that ideal location is in a place where you don’t want the extender to be seen, we can help you conceal it.

Somewhere down the line, increasing use of LED light bulbs in homes and offices will affect wireless networks. The LEDs in the bulbs have the ability to transmit data, and we may soon see “Li-Fi” networks. They will present other challenges in managing radio interference to keep networks running smoothly.

In the meantime, if you need to find the right speed channel for your home or office, call us at 973-433-6676 to set up a remote troubleshooting session or email us to schedule one.

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