Pants on Fire

Whether it’s business or politics, there’s a tendency to point fingers at other parties or make excuses. Some people will do anything to avoid responsibility. Yes, stuff happens, especially with technology and especially in these times, with so many people using more technology for work, school and entertainment. We believe this places a premium on being honest and upfront when dealing with tech issues.

I’ve been doing IT work for 30 years, and as I’ve built my own small business to serve other small businesses and home users, nothing has become more important than honesty and a let’s-get-it-solved attitude. In today’s daily-life environment, many of us feel we must be our own advocate, and technology has given us the tools. We can research anything on the internet to provide our supporting information; it doesn’t matter if we haven’t asked the right questions to get the right answers. And we can tell the entire world how we’ve been wronged; again, it doesn’t matter if we’re right or wrong.

In my IT world, life gets ever more complex. We have the capability to do so many things for work, school or entertainment because of technology. We invest money and emotion into putting technology to work, and we don’t leave a lot of margin for error. With small margins and little wiggle room, one could easily reason it’s better not to hold any responsibility. When that happens, honesty suffers.

A recent example of how this fits into our business occurred during a perfect storm. Have you ever seen the message telling you that firmware is updating and telling at the same time not turn off your computer? There’s a reason for that: it kills the computer.

In our case, we were in the final process of setting up a computer for a client. We were going through the last reboot – and we knew not to shut off the computer. What we didn’t know was that the computer hadn’t been plugged securely into the power outlet. When I moved it, the plug fell out, which was just like shutting off the computer. It no longer worked.

I told the client what happened and how we would fix the problem. I called Dell and told them what happened and got a replacement. I could have said it was a defective unit and gone through the long paperwork process of getting a replacement. I could have said the update was bad. Because the old computer was still in the office and working, we got the old one ready for work, and when the replacement new computer came, we completed the project.

Another time, we had scheduled the installation of a new server right after we returned from a trip. Normally, we don’t do major system work during business hours, but the problem the new server was to solve kept getting worse.

We came in on a Friday afternoon, and after assessing the situation presented the options. We said we could spend hours trying to fix the problem, but we weren’t optimistic about a good outcome. The other option was to shut down business and do the data migration right then and there. The client left it up to us to make the decision.

We did the migration over the weekend, and then we committed to be back in their office Monday morning to make sure everyone in the office could access all the information they needed. We could have just told them to call us Monday if they had a problem, but that would have meant more downtime for the business and a lot more tension and aggravation. When would they know they were having a problem, and how long would it take for us to get there? We knew what questions to ask and would know how to fix the problem.

By being upfront about everything in these examples, we and our clients understood the value we provided for each other. That helped us get on the same page and provide a timelier solution. If you or someone you know is tired of getting the runaround from an equipment supplier or another IT service provider, call us – 973-433-6676 – or email us discuss the problem. You deserve to know the truth – and the knowledge to make a sound decision.

New Technology Raises Bottom Line

Presenters at a recent conference we attended hammered home the economic benefits of upgrading your technology. Keeping old equipment running may far exceed the cost of investing in new systems, and here are some of the ways presenters quantified the costs.

In one analysis, the total cost of owning a PC that’s four years or older is $2,397, which is enough money to buy one or more newer PCs. The biggest factors in the cost are repairs and lost productivity, and here’s how they were broken down:

  • Total direct costs for PC repairs and upgrades for computers four years or older are $442. While this doesn’t seem like much at first glance, older computers experience problems nearly twice as frequently as newer ones – and they can drain employee productivity and IT resource efficiency.
  • Lost productivity costs can add up to $1,965 in the example we saw. They used an average of 98 lost hours and an hourly pay rate of $20 to come up with that number.

Your numbers may be higher or lower, but here’s the real question you must ask: What will it cost in lost business when you can’t close a transaction at the time your customer or client is ready to move? If your equipment is balky, your customer or client may balk. Four years seems to be the maximum service life for most technology these days, but your experience might be different.

What does a new computer cost? The range of variables is as wide as the sky, but let’s say $500 to $1,500. The numbers can give you some guidelines for determining how advanced you need your technology to be. In a world where time is money, you should be able to benefit from serving your customers and clients faster – because they benefit from it, too.

Companies that supply computers to businesses find customers want hardware-based features such as electronic pens, which essentially capture hand-written notations without the need for typing or retyping to increase productivity. Other features that increase productivity are faster multi-tasking capabilities – which can include the ability to run certain applications faster as well as switch apps fasters – and faster refresh rates. Businesses consider design (to aid productivity) and security as key factors, too, but performance is top of mind.

This doesn’t necessarily mean everyone in an organization should get a new, feature-filled computer. Today’s range of choices allows you to focus a computer’s capabilities on the needs of each job. A more basic set of tasks can still be accomplished faster with new equipment that doesn’t need all the bells and whistles. The same logic can apply to technology for printers/copiers. Those who need to print or copy more documents than others should have access to faster machines. If you’re the boss and you want to print or copy your own documents, you can tie your computer to a personal printer.

More than just computers and other office technology, your operating system makes a huge difference. And that’s why you should upgrade from Windows 7 to Windows 10 if you haven’t done so already. In a business environment, you can select a level of sophistication to match the needs of groups of multiple users to keep your office workflow up to speed. Windows 10 OS software also keeps you up to date on system security. Microsoft has said many times that Windows 10 will be its last OS. All security and performance advances will come as updates of Windows 10.

Avoid the risk of falling behind because your systems are old, slow and prone to failure. We can help you plan equipment upgrades to maintain or improve your office productivity, especially if you haven’t moved up from Windows 7 – which Microsoft will no longer support after next February. Call us – 973-433-6676 – or email us to set up an appointment to discuss how upgrades can improve your productivity.

The 5G Promise

5G is just about here, and the telecom carriers are pushing it out. Android devices, made by numerous manufacturers, are about to come on the market – even if networks are in the development stage. Rumors abound that Apple will hold back until 2020 to introduce 5G devices, and that’s a good decision for a number of reasons.

Continue reading

New Company, Old Stuff…Old Company, New Solutions

A recent acquisition of a company by one of our clients illustrates the problems you can face with old software as well as old hardware. And our onboarding of a new client illustrates the problems that compound each other after neglect and poor shortcuts. Here’s how we tackled them together.

The software issue, which involved an old, old version of QuickBooks, drove home the benefits of keeping applications up to date. Our client, an accounting firm, recently acquired another firm, and we knew the technology had lapsed, and we even developed a budget number to bring it all up to date. Our question was whether to implement our project now or wait until after the upcoming tax season.

Wanting to do it right, we decided to move forward. Based on the problems we encountered, we made the right decision – because it was not a simple file conversion process. The old version of QuickBooks was from 2008; 2019 is the current version. There was an interim version is 2012. As with Microsoft Windows updates, we had to go through numerous updates because each update was built on a previous update.

In addition to the QuickBooks updates, we had to work with various versions of Windows and aged computers that couldn’t run Windows 10 and the current QuickBooks. Complications arose when people didn’t know the administrative emails and passwords required to set codes and perform updates. We tried numerous combinations, but the problem was solved by talking to the owner of the acquired company, who recalled a Hotmail account for QuickBooks. We had to work through additional emails and passwords – and inconsistencies on security questions.

We finally got it all done after several extra hours of time and another access issue. Our client is set for tax season, but we can’t help but wonder about the cost difference between software updates and the time and expense of the extra work.

Similarly, with old and new, we recently added a client who had been disenchanted with the managed services (monthly fee) program of their previous IT provider. We bid against another company that also offered managed services.

We don’t offer managed services because we believe it shortchanges clients. They pay a monthly fee but never know what the provider is doing for them. When we bill for the hours we work, we always provide a detailed description of our services.

We also don’t like to scare new clients into buying and installing new equipment, such as a server, until we take a deep dive into their systems and their needs. The bidder said the client needed a new one ASAP, which was logical because the server was eight years old. But when we talked to people there and learned how they work, they hadn’t been using the server, which had an old firewall that had never been registered. We registered the firewall and upgraded the software, putting off their need for a new server, which they were using to scan files to send to their printer.

Going forward, we’ll show them a different way of doing things without a server, and it should save them several thousand dollars.

We pride ourselves on being trustworthy, and we build our business on that trait. If you know a company or individual who’s looking for a new IT service provider, we hope you’ll refer us. And if you need a look at your systems, you can rely on us for an assessment that will show you the most cost-effective options. Contact us by phone – 973-433-6676 – or email to set up an appointment for you or a referral.

Tech Upgrades for New Year

New technology is a great value. You can improve the performance and cost-efficiency of business and home systems by investing in new hardware and upgrading application software. Consider some of these upgrades.

December is always a good time for businesses to look at technology investments because it can affect your taxes. Your CPA or tax advisor can tell whether a year-end expense can help reduce your taxes while increasing your capabilities, and we can tell what might work best for you to make those capability increases a reality.

First, look at your operating system. If you are on Windows 7, remember that Microsoft’s support of this ancient OS will go away in a year. They’ll no longer provide security updates and bug fixes. Cybercriminals salivate when they see any outmoded system because they can likely pull a hacking technique off the shelf and get into your system.

Yes, there will be some workarounds for you to continue to use Windows 7, but why do it? Windows 10 is much more efficient and secure, and Microsoft is dedicated to supporting it. Most common business apps running Windows 7 are easily upgradeable to run on Windows 10. If you have customized software from a publisher that’s still supporting it, they should be able to help with a conversion to the newer OS. If not, you may want to move to a new app, especially for the security aspects.

You should also look at your hard drives for business and home computers. Solid state drives (SSDs) have come way down in price this year, and while they’re not necessarily Walmart specials, they are good values.

SSDs are faster and more reliable than mechanical hard drives. The mechanical drives have moving parts that can wear out and crash, putting your data in jeopardy. They also require more space to move files around, and as they become fuller, they are less efficient. SSDs have no moving parts and don’t physically move around files. That makes them immune from physical crashes, and you only need a drive half the size to hold the same amount of data.

Call us – 973-433-6676 – or email us with questions about technology upgrades or to help you install new technology. You can hit the ground running in 2019 or get up to speed early on in the new year.