Mail Services Make a Difference

Some people stay with their email out of loyalty or inertia. For some home-based users, we can find a few good reasons why you should switch. For businesses, we can’t find one why you should stay.

First, here’s a little history. Back in the early days, we accessed the Internet through dial-up modems, and some of you may remember CompuServe, which preceded AOL. They tried to have enough local phone numbers to handle traffic and differences in users’ modem speeds. A number of local ISPs (Internet Service Providers) sprang up to meet the demand. Some, such as Mindspring, became regional or national providers.

All of them offered email services under their own domains. You’re still likely to see addresses with AOL and Mindspring. You’re also like to see some small providers still servicing email accounts. Together, there are some problems, especially when you look at the capabilities of telephone carriers, cable companies, Internet-based providers such as Gmail and services such as Microsoft Exchange.

Let’s look at the smaller providers. Email is a 24/7/365 necessity today. Along with texting, it’s a huge communications tool that we use to conduct business and even find meeting places on a weekend day. This raises a critical question: What happens when email service goes down from, say, 7 p.m. Friday until 9 a.m. Monday?

A small provider may not have the capability to respond to outages in a timely fashion, either by having someone to fix a problem or the network to route traffic around a trouble spot. If you are a business, you simply cannot afford to stay with an email service that can’t recover quickly. If you are a home user who does not have a smartphone with email capability, you should still switch, but it may not be critical for you.

Everyone, especially business users, should be looking at their providers and their platforms. AOL and Mindspring, from what we’ve seen, are not upgrading their email-handling systems as fast as others, such as Gmail. We’ve seen AOL users couldn’t open files because their systems could support their needs. They had to save files and then open them outside of AOL.

We realize change is hard for many people, especially those attached to their AOL systems. However, email services from your ISP, Gmail or Microsoft Exchange are much more robust and give you better access from Internet and cellular connections. Keeping an AOL browser can be expensive as well as slow. You still pay monthly access fees for connections that others provide as part of their service. You can still access AOL email from Internet Explorer or Firefox, for example.

We can help you find the email service that’s right for you. Just send us an email or give us a call – 973-433-6676 to start the conversation and develop an action plan.

Pass on Provider-Provided Gateways

Whether you get your Internet and VOIP telephone service from your local phone carrier or cable company, you likely use their “gateway” as a router. They’ll tell you it’s free, but it’s not. You pay a monthly rental fee, for one thing, and you may be bound by the strings attached – later if not now.

You have choices when it comes to choosing and setting up the equipment and configuration of your communications and network systems. For starters, you can have your service provider configure your gateway, which can bring in your TV, Internet and phone service, to be just the modem. That way, you can use your own router for your Wi-Fi network.

Using your own router has its pros and cons.

  • You can use your existing network configuration or, if you get a new router, set up your configuration to match the needs of your office or home.
  • You can control the bandwidth going to computers, printers, TVs, devices, etc. on your network and to any applications that run over your network.
  • You – or anyone you hire – can make changes to fine-tune your network as needed. Your provider’s tech support may not cover everything you want to do, regardless of whether they give you support by phone or send a technician.
  • You control all access to your network.
  • Depending on the provider’s set-up, you may lose some features they provide, such as remote controls or caller ID on your TV screens. In some cases, you can work around those issues.

However, the aspect of provider-provided gateways that we dislike more than anything is that your provider can use your gateway – the device they put in your home or office – to create a public hotspot. While it won’t give outsiders access to your network, we see it as a way to use your service fees to expand their networks when they should be spending money on infrastructure. In some ways, it also makes you dependent on their customer base to provide your service in an urban or more densely populated area.

Once they create that network of hotspots, it becomes easier for the provider to control the bandwidth and affect how you use your network.

Personally, I think that’s just wrong.

If you have any questions about gateway and router technology or need advice or assistance in setting up or optimizing your network, we’re ready to help. We can service any technology system that comes into your house or business and make sure it meets your needs – not your provider’s. Send us an email or call us at 973-433-6676 to discuss your needs or make an appointment.

New Devices and the Texting Blues

We’re starting to see a lot of texting problems for customers who have switched from iPhones to Android devices. They’re not receiving text messages. One of the most common problems is other people’s phones not realizing that their new devices are not on the Apple network – even though they see “blue” while texting.

The reason is that Apple’s network isn’t as smart as the phones that use them. If you switch to an Android or Windows phone, it can take up to 45 days for Apple to remove your phone number from its network. So, when friends with an iPhone or Apple device want to send you a text, they pull your cell phone number out of their directory and send you a message – just like they’ve always done.

And, just as always, they see the blue that indicates they’re sending the text across the Apple network – which, by the way, is why there is no texting charge from your carrier. However, if your new phone is not an Apple, it’s not on the Apple network, so you don’t get the message

If you still have your old iPhone, here’s what you need to do.

Go to “Settings” and then “Messages” and turn off the “Instant Messaging” or “IM.” That will take your old phone off the cellular – or data – network. If you want to hang on to your old iPhone, you can use it like an iPod without telephone capability. Simply go to “Settings” and turn off “Cellular Data.” That will limit emails, web browsing and push notifications to Wi-Fi only.

If you are traveling internationally with an iPhone this summer, you can take similar steps to reduce your cellular roaming charges. You’ll have Internet capability at Wi-Fi hotspots, and you’ll be able to talk to people by using apps such as Skype or Viber as long as you have an Internet connection.

You can read more about the uses of Airplane Mode from Apple. If you need help with your settings, we can walk you through the process. Just call us at 973-433-6676 –not from the phone you want to reset. We can also answer your questions by email.

The Apple of Our ‘i’

With Apple’s announcements of new operating systems and products, the summer of anticipation begins. The word we like to sum up some of the new possibilities is “continuity.” Here’s why.

One of the new capabilities you’ll have with the new iOS 8 operating system for the iPhone is the ability to start writing an email on your iPhone and continue writing it on your Mac, which may be able to run OSX 10.10 – to be known as Yosemite. In many ways, it’s Apple’s attempt to succeed where Microsoft hasn’t in enabling users to work across multiple platforms.

Apple is also offering the capability to send text or instant messages to contacts with non-Apple devices. It will end a major headache for many who have contacts with Android devices (see New Devices and the Texting Blues). Apple also announced several new apps for the new OS.

Naturally, Apple will want you to use that capability on their new iPhone 6, due to hit the market in September. The new iOS 8 will run on the iPhone 4S and all iPhone 5 devices, and it will work with iPad 2 and later.

A lot will be happening this summer as developers start working with the new operating systems. You can read more about Apple’s new features on the company’s iOS 8 Preview page. We’ll keep you posted as news unfolds.