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.

How You Like ‘Dem Apples?

Apple device users have a lot to celebrate. The new iPhone 5 was introduced, and the new iOS6 operating system was made available for newer iPhones, iPads and iPod Touches. There’s a lot to talk about, most of it good news.

The models that can accept the new iOS6 are the iPhone 3GS and newer, iPad 2 and newer and fourth generation iPod Touch and newer.

As you would expect, I have my new iPhone 5, and I really like the bigger screen, the thinner device size, the lighter weight and the much faster speed. The 4G speed on the new iPhone could be faster than some home computers, and that can be good and bad.

The good? No explanation needed.

The bad? Getting all that streaming content in all its glory can be very addictive, and you can exceed the limits of your data plan before you know what hit you. So, make sure you’re on a Wi-Fi connection before you go wild.

The iPhone and new iOS are generally good, and I recommend them. However, like all new technology, some upgrades will be needed:

  • Apple’s maps are not up to the Google maps, but they will catch up. Both mapping systems are based on input from use data, and as more people use Apple maps and add more data, the quality will improve. It took a while for Google to get where it is today.
  • Siri seems to be on a break every time I ask her for some information.  Got to make sure she’s on the job.
  • Passbook has a bug that won’t let you connect to the iTunes store.

We’re pretty sure we’ll see iOS6.01 in the near future.

We’ve seen a few posts on some sites that might interest you.

  • Although the iPhone 5 is a 4G phone, you might notice you’re talking on a 3G connection. That’s because it’s clearer – for now. They’re working on making 4G voice clearer.
  • If you’re on the Verizon network:
    • Your iPhone 5 has international capability
    • Your iPhone 5 is unlocked, enabling you to use a SIM card to switch to the AT&T and Sprint network at 3G

On the whole, we recommend installing the new iOS6 on your Apple device if you are able to. If you have any questions about  the new phone or OS, we’d be happy to answer them by phone – 973-433-6676 – or email.

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

Office 365 Coming to Your Home

We’ve always been proponents of cloud-based computing. You can keep your applications up to date and your data secure – and pricing has always been good for businesses. Now, Microsoft is about to make cloud computing more accessible for home and small-business users with Office 365 Home Premium and Small Business Premium.

According to a recent post by Microsoft, a single subscription to Office 365 Home Premium covers up to five users, essentially an entire household.  Each user can each sign-in with an individual Microsoft account with its own settings, and all users can access their own documents. Each subscription includes:

  • All Office applications: Word, Excel, PowerPoint, OneNote, Outlook, Access, and Publisher. (However, only PCs can use OneNote, Publisher and Access.)
  • The ability to use Office on PCs or Macs – a real benefit for multi-platform households that will no longer need to buy separate versions
  • Nearly 3 times the amount of SkyDrive storage with an additional 20GB over the 7GB you get for free.
  • 60 minutes of SkypeTM world calling per month – but restrictions apply

Microsoft is also offering the new Office 365 Small Business Premium for organizations with 1-10 users. Each gets:

  • All the Office applications: Word, Excel, PowerPoint, OneNote, Outlook, Access, and Publisher plus Lync. (Again, however, only PCs can use OneNote, Publisher and Access.)
  • The ability to use Office on up to five PCs or Macs for a single user. Users also have flexibility to change their five devices at any time, and full featured Office applications are available for temporary use on any PC.
  • A 25 GB Outlook mailbox, shared calendar, contact manager, scheduling and task-list tools, and 10 GB professional-grade cloud storage for the organization plus 500 MB per user.
  • The ability to host online meetings with audio and video using one-click screen sharing and HD video conferencing (HD video camera required)
  • The ability to set up, build, and maintain a public-facing website with no additional hosting fees.

Premium licenses are regularly updated, giving you the latest features and services.  A free 30-day trial will be available online for both packages. The Home Premium package is $99.99 per year, and the Small Business Premium package is $149.99 per year.

We can answer any questions you have about the new online Office 365 packages and help you will installations and configurations. We believe it’s a smart way to go for better cost-efficiency and for keeping your systems up to date and secure. Call us at 973-433-6676 or drop us an email to discuss it.

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

Getting Straight with Windows 8

Microsoft is scheduled to release its new Windows 8 operating system Oct. 26, and for the first time in almost 25 years of tech support, we have some real concerns about a new OS

Windows 8 makes a drastic change in the computer interface, starting with the elimination of the Start menu. It’s going to take users a lot of time to get used to the new way. In a lot of ways, we expect the learning curve to simulate that of the switch from Office 2003 to Office 2007. It was not a well-received upgrade, but we all got used to it, and many of us are happily humming along with Office 2010. (We’ll have more to say about Office in our next article of this newsletter.)

Windows also has a track record since Windows 98, in our opinion, of making every other OS release an intermediate step before another upgrade. Windows 2000 was quickly replaced by XP, and many IT managers kept it as their OS, skipping over Vista to Windows 7.

Windows 8 impresses us as an OS that’s more designed for tablets and – by extension of the concept – mobile devices. It will work on desktop and laptop computers, but here are some red flags:

  • You likely will not be able to go directly to Windows 8 with all of your existing software packages.
  • We don’t know how well the software publishers will support the new OS. Their support will depend on how well their customers buy and install Windows 8.

On the other hand, here a couple of reassuring factors:

  • Although computer manufacturers will go to Windows 8, you will have an option to have Windows 7 installed – and we’re betting a lot of people will take that option.
  • We will continue to support Windows 7 and the software packages designed to run on that OS.

One other thing to keep in mind if you’re still running XP is that Microsoft will stop supporting that OS within the next 18 months or so. If you want to continue using your XP, we can help you with some work-arounds, but that may not be your best move.

Call us at 973-433-6676 or email us to talk about how you can get the most out of your hardware and software systems for near-term and long-term effectiveness and cost-efficiency.

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

Lowdown on Hijacked Email

Emailing information is fast and convenient. We do it often without a second thought – and that discarded second thought can come back as a painful reminder that you need to be careful to prevent your email address from being hijacked.

There really isn’t a lot you can do about hiding your email address or anything else, for that matter, even if you never go online. That really came home to us personally when we moved this summer. The purchase of our new house, the sale of our old house – everything – was public record. My email address is out there because it’s part of my business. I want people to contact me.

So, it’s there, and it can be planted like a seed. What happens? Well, you might be one of 25 people getting a message as an addressee or cc. If someone has hacked one of those person’s email accounts, it’s like the fox getting into the henhouse.

Here’s what can happen. All the hacker needs to do is substitute an email address for any one of the 25 addresses in the list. If I’m one of those people, for example, my name only, Norman Rosenthal, might appear in the list. But unless you hover your mouse over my name, you won’t see my email address: [email protected]. If hacked, the message to Norman Rosenthal could unknowingly go to [email protected]. (More hacking originates from Russian domains than anywhere else in the world.) So, when you hit Reply to All, the message – and all those names – go to a bad guy who can try to penetrate everyone’s computer.  If he’s successful, he can plant a virus or malware of some sort on every computer in an address book that doesn’t have good protection. He can send a scam message and get a bite, or – if you read the previous article, the bad guy can get into an Outlook file that has user names and passwords for bank accounts.

You can prevent your email address from being hijacked by using some common sense and taking a few precautions.

  • Most obvious, if something looks funny or out of character, don’t open the email or click on links. If a request from a friend doesn’t seem right, pick up the phone and call if you must do something. Otherwise, just delete it.
  • Use strong passwords for all online access to your email accounts.
  • If you’re sending usernames, passwords or account numbers, don’t send it to a big list. Send it to one person and send it in a series of emails. Put part of the info in each email. That way, if one gets intercepted by chance, the hacker likely will not be able to piece all the info together.
  • Use bcc if you must send a message to a long list of email addresses. It will prevent those massive Reply-to-All responses. Remember, if 25 people send Reply-to-All responses, those addresses are being exposed 225 times.
  • If you’re buying or selling something over the Internet, such as on Craig’s List, hover over names and email addresses and make sure it feels right to you.

We’re available by email or phone – 973-433-6676 – if you have any questions about ways to prevent your email address from being hijacked.

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

Credit Cards: Small Businesses are Big Targets

Accepting credit cards is a way of life for many small businesses, and most owners don’t give a second thought to extra layers of data security. After all, what can a small mom-and-pop store have that would be attractive to hackers? Well, as it turns out, small businesses are big targets because they’re pretty easy to hack – and a valid credit card number is a treasure.

The Wall Street Journal a year ago chronicled the tale of a newsstand owner with two stores who was victimized. And even though he thought he was taking precautions to protect his customers’ data, cyber thieves planted a software program on the cash registers at his shops that sent customer credit-card numbers to Russia. At the time the story was written, he was out about $22,000 because the credit-card company said he didn’t do enough. They said his weak password for his cash-register software, pos, was easy for hackers to try.

But a weak password is only part of the problem for most small businesses. Too many small businesses store passwords to sensitive data in Outlook or other email clients, and the data can frequently be found easily hacked Excel spreadsheets. Even if you have antivirus and antimalware software, there are numerous ways that hackers can find their way into your system. For some, it’s like taking candy from a baby.

However, you can put up some protective fences around your data. The measures may cost a little more money than you’d like, but those costs are smaller than the liability you could face from a breach of your data.

  • Get “business-grade” antivirus and antimalware software. We offer it for $4.25/mo/computer, and we set it up and monitor your threat activity. In addition, we assist you on any software changes you make to ensure that your virus and malware protection remain at your expected level of performance. Why is this important? You need to protect yourself against somebody installing a Trojan horse that can turn up years later. The newsstand owner’s system was compromised two years before anything happened. You can have the same protection that big corporations buy.
  • Don’t keep user names and passwords in Outlook folders or Excel files. To be honest, they shouldn’t be on a computer. You should write them down on a piece of paper and store them under lock-and-key. Having your data compromised through an email backdoor is a growing problem. (See Lowdown on Hijacked Email, the next article in this newsletter issue.) If you get an email from your bank, credit-card processor or PayPal, don’t just click and reply. Hover over any link or email address and see where it’s really going. Better still, go to your provider’s website independently of the email or pick up the phone and call customer service.
  • Use strong passwords. If I had a nickel for every a-b-c or 1-2-3 password I’ve seen, I’d be managing a large investment portfolio instead of IT systems. Make your passwords long or complex or both. Use uppercase and lowercase letters, numbers and special characters.
  • Keep your Wi-Fi network secure. Networks are all over the place in commercial and residential areas. Just take out your smartphone and see how many networks are in your range. If your network is unprotected, anyone can sit in range unnoticed for as long as they need to find a pathway to your valuables

We would welcome the opportunity to provide a free risk-management assessment of your practices and systems. Call us at 973-433-6676 or send us an email and feel more secure.

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

The Device Trap

When I was a kid in New Jersey, we were careful about having long telephone conversations with people in California because it was very expensive. Last summer, my wife and I thought nothing about calling our kids in New Jersey from our vacation in Australia because an Internet phone call was free.  We associate the Internet with free, but that can be a costly trap when streaming content over the ‘Net onto tablets and smartphones.

What used to be a mobile telephone is now a “connect from anywhere for anything” device. Besides talking on one, we use it for email, calendars, web browsing and a growing number of apps that allow us to buy coffee or whatever at Starbucks or turn off the lights in our homes from hundreds of miles away. Apps also allow us to watch a TV show, sporting event or movie on our device from any place with enough available bandwidth.

It’s all so cool that many people don’t pay attention to how many gigabytes of information they download for music and movies – in addition to browsing the web or checking email.

I’ll have a few words about email later in this article because it deserves a special look. But for now, let’s focus on streaming content.

If you have your device connected to a Wi-Fi network, it’s the same usage as sitting at a desktop computer. You’re not using a cellular network. However, as soon as you tap into that 4G network, your provider can see, measure and charge you for all the bandwidth you’re sucking out of the network.

Yet, our providers have conditioned most of us to use our devices. Voice (telephone conversations) and texting are low-cost, high-margin products for them to give you. So, it’s easy for you to buy hundreds of phone minutes and dozens, if not unlimited, text messages. It’s a natural extension of this conditioning to check football scores or breaking news stories, for example, and then watch the video highlights on a phone or tablet that’s connected to the mobile network.

Before you know it, you’re hit with overcharges, unless you’re one of those rare souls who monitor the use of each device on your plan. But that’s not the only function that eats bandwidth.

Remember email? With built-in cameras, we can take pictures or video with our smartphones and send them directly to family and friends. Have you looked at the size of those files? The iPhone default, just to make the point, is 2 megabytes – enough to print a huge enlargement of a picture you’re going to delete. That’s bandwidth. The videos of kids and pets doing cute things? Even more bandwidth. Those YouTube videos or feature movies? Major bandwidth.

Eventually the prices providers charge will come down as market forces and economies of scale kick in. In the meantime, there are things you can do and urge your friends and family to do to reduce bandwidth and move the cool stuff and data faster. You might want to pass these along.

  • Choose a smaller file size when emailing pictures. Unless somebody is looking to blow up a picture to hang on a wall, a small, lower-resolution file will look just fine on a tablet, laptop or smartphone screen.
  • Connect to a Wi-Fi network whenever possible. Just about every smartphone or tablet on the market today gives you the ability to seek a network connection. Make that connection whether it’s at a coffee shop, restaurant, supermarket, office building, home, airport or Amtrak network.
  • Be aware of bandwidth. Just as we did when we called “long distance” to California, realize that there are limits and costs and make the choice to use your bandwidth on your terms.
  •  Maximize your network’s power. There are many ways to make sure you get a strong-enough Internet connection to any part of your office or home. We covered that in our May newsletter article about routers.

We can upgrade your home or business network to reduce cellular network use. We also would be happy to do a lunch-and-learn at your business or speak before a group to show you ways to enjoy all the cool content out there without breaking the piggy bank.  Give us a call at 973-433-6676 or drop us an email to take the next step.

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