Archive for the ‘Atlanta IT Companies’ Category

Something Happened

August 14, 2015

Something HappenedWho says techies have no sense of humor!  The Something happened error from Windows 10 is elegant in its simplicity and humorous in its delivery. One blogger referred to it as existential.

The error is frustrating for those who receive, but I have to admit it made me smile.  It reminds me of my Unix days where the “existential” error was: Fatal error at a command prompt.  It had an equally helpful description – none – as to what could be happening.  Somehow a graphic window with “Something happened” is far more friendly than “Fatal error” at a terminal prompt.  At least the Something happened gives you closure, even if only a Close button.

For the Unix crowd, sometimes there was a code or string of esoteric language following the Fatal error, but often mere mortals could not decipher it.  Somehow, we survived the error and reboot. Often the error did not reoccur and if it did, you would have to investigate and fix.

Not to make light of computer issues (this post is tongue-in-cheek), but something always happens.

If something happens and then happens again and you don’t know what to do, feel free to reach out to me.  Perhaps together we can find a solution so it will happen no more. You can email me at: mary@lansystems.com.Something Happened

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The Cloud and Microsoft Office 365

February 14, 2012

[tweetmeme source=LANSystems only_single=false]Guest blog by Geoff Rigsby, Microsoft Account Manager at Synnex

On a weekly basis I am asked, “What is Office 365 and how can it help me?”

For instance, if you’re running a small business with 5-10 employees, setting up your own IT infrastructure can be a monumental task.  First, you have to purchase the hardware and software like an HP Server and Windows Server 2008 software.  Second, if you want to have your own email domain, you’ll need to purchase Exchange Server software.  And if you want to share files between employees, you will need SharePoint Server software and you can’t run that without SQL Server software.  It adds up and before you know it, you’ve just spent $50,000!  In addition, you will need someone to configure and maintain.

This is a great deal of expense for just a few employees to communicate, collaborate, and work.  Here is where Office 365 is beneficial.  It eliminates the need for a large infrastructure investment and allows you to take advantage of enterprise IT tools for a fraction of the cost. Office 365 will give you the same productivity and collaboration tools delivered in a subscription based service.  It is licensed on a per-user per-month plan and allows you to scale up or down easily and as-needed.

Depending on the needs of your company, you can obtain every option; Exchange Online, Lync Online, SharePoint Online, and Office Professional Plus in a nice, neatly bundled package or as separate units.  This allows  all of your employees to easily and securely access the same information, from anywhere, anytime – whether it be on a PC, phone, or web browser. User management is made easier by using a single administration access point that allows you to set up new user accounts, control access to features, and receive status updates on all services and tools in real time.  Support is available directly through Microsoft but I recommend working with a Microsoft Partner.  Partners can help you choose the right services, provide added capabilities, and assist with the transition.  They can efficiently manage your network and provide ongoing support for Office 365 giving you more time to run your business.

Paying for Office 365 is easy!  Just work with a Partner. They will send you a quote.  Then you accept the agreement and submit your credit card information in a secure transaction.  Payments are scheduled automatically each month to the card on file.

For more information on Office 365 and how it can help your company, visit www.microsoft.com/office365 and make sure to work with a Microsoft Partner in your area.

Geoff is a Microsoft Partner Account Manager working at Synnex.  You can contact Geoff at: v-grigsb@microsoft.com

Requiem for the Blackberry

October 17, 2011

[tweetmeme source=LANSystems only_single=false]Last week’s Blackberry outage has caused lots of withdrawal pains.  The blogs and message boards are filled with comments defending and vilifying Research in Motion (RIM) Blackberry’s creator.  Network interruptions are inevitable as we have seen with Sony, Google, Microsoft and Netflix. Someday we may have uninterruptible networks, but the departure or threatened departure from Blackberry seems to be more about the availability of multimedia, cooler mobile devices than a network disruption.

For years Blackberry has been the choice in mobile devices for corporations. You can argue that this is because they are more secure because of how RIM handles encryption or the limitation of online features. Certainly iPhone and Android users can be more social online because their devices support many more apps.  They can access Facebook, Tweet, Farmville and Angry Birds from anywhere that they have a signal.  The available apps make it easy to stay connected.  But with the convenience of being online all the time, some sacrifices are made in being secure.  If you want a real scare, google “mobile device hacking” and read some of the recent hacking successes and access your vulnerability.

It really comes down to which device you are most comfortable with and how easily you can change.  Corporations like Blackberry for many reasons including solid systems and the ability to regulate users. Often corporations don’t change their infrastructure because of the expense of installing new equipment and training employees to use and support the new system.  Rationale always states the benefits of one technology over the other to support the choice, but equal arguments can be made for practically any technology choice.

As interesting and amusing as it is to read the comments from the technology aficionados, it is as important to balance the arguments with facts.  Facts may not change the product choices we make – that’s a subject for another blog – some products will win and others will lose based completely on preference and little on the superior technology.  Blackberry once led the pack but is now struggling for market share in a sea of products that offer more. The loyal followers of Apple and Google are happy to share their opinions on why their choice is the best and the features that make mobility fun and efficient.

A Giant Leap for Quantum Computing

July 24, 2011

[tweetmeme source=LANSystems only_single=false]Today’s computers are the product of a digital revolution.  When we talk about computing, we talk about an environment of ones and zeroes that add up to all the programs, graphics and communications that we use. Often we tease, it’s just ones and zeroes but that small concept has enormous and far-reaching implications. 

In the early days of computers, there was a competition between analog and digital computing for a practical, supportable, calculating machine.  Actually, analog computers go back to ancient times and were used to calculate the position of stars and planets.  Probably the most familiar example of an analog computer is a slide rule. But as analog slide rules were replaced by digital calculators so were analog computers replaced by its digital competitor. Analog computers are powerful because they have multiple states and are not constrained by just ones and zeroes.  They can solve very complex equations. But in that power is a complicated framework not easy to mass produce.  Transistors and later solid state and integrated circuit technology made the digital computer ubiquitous.

The digital computer has a new competitor in the quantum computer. Quantum computing is not really new, the concept has been around since the 1970s, but it is a complicated structure based on quantum mechanics. Most of the work in quantum computing has been theoretical because the technology was not available to take the idea from a dream to reality. 

The recent announcement that Lockheed Martin will purchase a quantum computer from D-Wave Systems is a giant leap for this emerging technology.  Experts are already speculating on the quantum gains in computing speed as exponential and tens of thousands of times as fast as the fastest digital computer.  It is an exciting time to be a technology aficionado. It is a time when anything is possible and the universe has no limits.

Social Media Tactics: Part 1

March 31, 2011

[tweetmeme source=LANSystems only_single=false]By Katie Sewell, TAG and Mary Hester, LAN Systems

social_media_tacticsBy now you have heard that Social Media is a revolution.  A big change is coming in the way businesses market and communicate their message.  To understand Social Media you have to spend time studying the concept, method and strategy.  Don’t worry if it seems complicated and time consuming at first.  We have a few proven strategies that we personally use to give your social media campaign a boost. We’ll start with Twitter and Facebook.

Twitter – Twitter is a social networking site which enables news sharing and connectivity among people and businesses through short updates. It’s hard for some to understand the Twitter sensation.  Why would anyone tweet their lunch menu or location? There is a great deal of self-indulgence on Twitter and you should always be conscious of your personal safety. Try these few tips to propel you to the top.

1)      Be interactive – reply to and retweet items of interest.  Post articles about you and your company.  Give information of interest to your community.  Minimize the sales pitch.

2)      Use and create hash tags for topics and events.  TAG promoted the 2011 Technology Summit with #GTS2011 on Twitter.  You can use the hash tag term to search and it may “trend” on Twitter which is similar to going viral on YouTube.

3)      Keep it real and meaningful – don’t tweet just for the sake of tweeting.  Automated tweets and pre-canned quotes and messages are obvious. Twitter is a conversation that you have in your own voice.  The voice can be business or personal, but be genuine.

Facebook – If you are going to use Facebook for business, be sure to keep it separate from your personal account.  Being on the Internet is like being in a magnified fishbowl where every imprudent act is available to all and kept forever.  Even with the risks, Facebook can be a fabulous business tool if used wisely.

1)      Create a company Facebook page where you can write about your company values, events and people. Post tasteful pictures and items of interest.

2)      Invite Facebook users to “like” your page.  Remember, it’s about quality here, not quantity. While it’s important to have a high number of “likes” on your company’s page, it’s more important to keep the content fresh and updated.

3)       An important goal to have for your organization’s social media sites, especially Facebook, is to encourage interactive behavior from your users. A good way of accomplishing this is to have contests where a prize is given. When you want feedback and user interactivity, offer a reward or prize that makes it worthwhile for the user to participate. LAN Systems is having a contest for a copy of Microsoft Office Pro 2010 for liking its Facebook page. We’ll let everyone know how it turns out on our page.

4)      Share links and Tag others in your posts and status updates. This creates exposure from both sides. Be polite and considerate when sharing.

5)      Like and or comment on photos, articles and posts. Depending upon your online persona, you may want to avoid controversial topics.  In any case, always review your posts before submitting for content, spelling and grammar.  A typo isn’t the end of the world, but it can be embarrassing.

Once you create your Twitter and Facebook page, it’s important to check on a regular basis. Your company needs to appear to be responsive to the users. Answer messages and keep the conversation going!

Next time, tips for LinkedIn and Blogging.  Until then, please send us a comment or leave a message.

How to Protect Your Computer Against Malware

February 21, 2011

[tweetmeme source=LANSystems only_single=false]Each year the damages from computer malware cost US businesses billions of dollars. These costs are not only in lost productivity, but permanent loss of critical business data. Arguably, most if not all infections are preventable with the proper understanding, training and protection. Don’t be the next victim, take the steps now to ensure protection and recovery if the worst should happen.

First, let’s understand computer malware. Often the term virus is used to describe all malware. Technically speaking, there are viruses, rootkits, Trojan horses, worms and spyware. The attack method may differ but they are all malicious.

A virus is a program that runs itself and replicates itself. It can affect files or the boot sector and can delete all your data. The “Melissa” and “I Love You” viruses gained global attention.

A rootkit or Trojan horse allows access to your system without your knowledge. Often they look like a useful piece of software but in fact they are back or trap doors.

A computer worm is a self-replicating computer program. It uses a network to send copies of itself to other nodes. Once on the system, worms do not need to attach to another program and can run themselves. Worms cause a denial of service attack making the network unusable. In general, worms target the network and viruses attack files.

Spyware is computer software that is installed on a personal computer to intercept or take control of the PC. Spyware can hijack a computer and cause serious problems by gathering and transmitting personal data, loading undesirable software or redirecting browsers to malicious sites.

Protecting yourself –

  1. Have a good backup, just in case you need to restore
  2. Use a firewall
  3. Keep your system updated with the latest security patches
  4. Install and update anti-virus and anti-spyware software (see below for choices)
  5. Do not open email from anonymous, unknown or suspicious sources
  6. Do not download files or software from anonymous, unknown or suspicious sources
  7. Do not navigate to suspicious or promiscuous websites
  8. Regularly scan your system for malware (see below for choices)
  9. Worth repeating – be sure that you have a good backup so that you can restore your full system if needed
  10. If you think you have been attacked, act quickly to isolate the infected computer and remove the malware.

You can purchase anti-virus and malware protection or there are many free versions for home users. For anti-virus, AVG, Avast and others have free versions. For corporate anti-virus, we use Symantec Endpoint. For malware, we like Malwarebytes (personal or corporate edition) and Advanced System Care. With so many choices if you like one better, use it. The important point is that you have to have malware/virus protection.

Use a three prong approach to keep your system safe: educate, protect, monitor. Try to understand the types of threats to your computer. The more educated and informed, the better you can protect your system. Monitor for threats and scan your system often. If it looks suspicious, don’t open the email, go to the site or download the file or software.

Please be watchful of the sites you visit, the software you download and the email you open as the threats to your system change daily.

Clouds in an Azure Sky

January 30, 2011

[tweetmeme source=LANSystems only_single=false]Clouds are made of increased bandwidth and storage blended with the advances in virtualization and remote access. Today’s technology allows us to compute anywhere, anytime. The sky is clear blue for cloud computing, but it hasn’t always been that way. 

Cloud computing grew out of the centralized or mainframe model. For those who remember mainframes, it was the only way to compute. We had remote access, but it was cumbersome, slow and expensive. Programmers got in the habit of coding all night long when rates were the cheapest. Then those long, sleepless nights were replaced by distributed computing, a computer for everyone, but somehow programmers still program all night. 

The distributed computing model was embraced rapidly. With amazing graphics and Internet availability, the computer became a household appliance.  But distributed computing had its drawbacks, it was hard to interface disparate systems and collaborate in real-time. Recently, 100% availability and remote connections at LAN speeds have resurrected the centralized computing model with a new name. You could say that computing has come full circle back to a centralized computing model that we call Cloud Computing.  It is provocative, exciting and revolutionary. 

New technology holds a dilemma as most computer users don’t really care about the technology; they just want it to work easily and reliability.  And business owners are only slightly interested in the merits of a distributed or centralized computer model. They want computer systems that are economical, productive and work without needing a staff of IT gurus. 

The cloud or hosted computer solution (called ASP, SaaS, Cloud Services) has been around for years, but has enjoyed only limited success.  Most of the early adopters had sophisticated IT experience and the trained staff to develop and manage cloud solutions. Today, even popular hosted applications have reduced features online or make it difficult to migrate out of the cloud. Microsoft has addressed these issues with Azure.  It is powerful enough to host your world-class enterprise datacenter with the reliability, efficiency and agility you demand, yet provides simple, scalable, portable services. 

Microsoft Azure supports three roles: Web role, Worker role and a Virtual Machine (VM) role.  Enhancements are planned for the Web and Worker roles that have been used by many companies for programming and development. The new VM role will provide a generic environment that can be used for test or production.  It will also compete with Google and Amazon offerings. Learn more about Microsoft Azure and Cloud Power.

Azure SQL provides high-availability, fault tolerant relational database services in the cloud. You can serve local or cloud-based applications and only pay for what you use. Administration is simplified. You don’t have to install, setup, patch or manage software. Built on SQL Server you can leverage the same development and management tools used locally. Learn more with SQL Azure videos.

Azure has great appeal to programmers and developers as is evidenced in the keynote and sessions at PDC10, but for users the cloud is still a confusing concept. Perhaps the average user will never really understand or be awed by the technology that fuels cloud computing, but it will be widely used because of its economy and availability. 

Cloud computing will enjoy widespread use until the next technology revolution replaces it with another better, faster and less expensive solution. Who knows what that might be, but it might look a little like distributed computing.

For more technical notes and information go to: www.lansystems.com/technotes.html

Managing Rows and Columns in Excel

January 27, 2011

Excel[tweetmeme source=LANSystems only_single=false]Guest author David H. Ringstrom, CPA, www.accountingadvisors.com

Users often hide rows or columns in a spreadsheet to conceal private data, or perhaps just to keep a large spreadsheet manageable. This is a helpful feature in Excel, but many users often go about managing rows the hard way:

Excel 2007 or later: In the Cells section of the Home tab choose Format, Hide & Hide, and then make a selection as to what to hide or unhide.

Excel 2003 and earlier: Choose Row or Column and then Hide or Unhide, respectively. 

Hiding rows is fairly straight forward, as you can select the rows or columns, and then carry out the aforementioned menu command. To unhide rows or columns, you must select rows above and below the hidden section, or columns to the left and right of the hidden section, and then carry out the menu command.

Constantly navigating the menus to hide and unhide rows or columns can put unnecessary wear-and-tear on your wrists, but there are some easier alternatives. For instance, these keyboard shortcuts work in all versions of Excel:

  • Press Ctrl-9 to hide a row or , as oppoCtrl-Shift-9 to unhide a row.
  • Press Ctrl-0 (zero) and Ctrl-Shift-0 (zero) to  hide or unhide columns.

In both cases, make sure to use the numbers at the top of your keyboardsed to the number pad at the right of your keyboard.

Many users are particularly bedeviled when they need to unhide selected rows or columns within a hidden area of a worksheet. Typically they unhide all rows and columns in the affected section, and then rehide what they don’t need. Consider this surgical approach in all versions of Excel instead:

  1. Press F5 to display the Go To dialog box.
  2. Enter the address of the cell or cells that you want to unhide, such as A1 if you want to unhide a single row or column, D1:G1 if you want to unhide several columns, or A5:A10 if you want to unhide several rows, and then click OK.
  3. Use the keyboard shortcuts or menu commands I mentioned above to unhide the desired portion of your worksheet.

If you need to frequently hide and unhide sections of a spreadsheet, try the Group and Outline feature instead. First, select one or more rows or columns, and then carry out these steps:

Excel 2007 and later: On the Data tab of the ribbon, choose Group in the Outline section.

Excel 2003 and earlier: Choose Data, Group and Outline, and then Group.

Once you do so, a button with a minus sign will appear outside the worksheet frame. Click this button to collapse (or hide) the rows or columns. The minus sign will change to a plus that allows you to expand that section. Or use the 1 and 2 buttons at the top left-hand corner of the screen to expand or collapse all grouped columns or rows in the spreadsheet. To remove the outlining, select the grouped rows or columns, and then choose the Ungroup command on the aforementioned menus.

David H. Ringstrom, CPA heads up Accounting Advisors, Inc., an Atlanta-based spreadsheet and database consulting and training firm. Contact David at david@accountingadvisors.com or visit www.accountingadvisors.com.

Updating your Microsoft Windows System

January 26, 2011

[tweetmeme source=LANSystems only_single=false]Protect your system by investing the time to update Windows. It is quick and easy.  In order to prevent attacks, you have to keep your computer updated.  Most infections are preventable and occur because of unpatched security holes.  Don’t let your system fall victim, spend a little quality-time with your computer today! 

Check your update status – Go to Microsoft Update and choose the Express option.   This works for 99% of the systems.  It will evaluate your operating system status and recommend the necessary updates. Microsoft will identify the high-priority updates needed for your system. If you haven’t updated your system recently, there may be several listed.  Be sure to apply all the recommended critical updates.  From this dashboard, you will be able to review your update history and get support. This is a good time to verify your backup or restore point. 

Turn on automatic updates – If your computer is not set to receive notifications when new updates are available, turn the feature on. You will see a screen message to “Help protect your PC” on the right-hand side of the Welcome to Microsoft Updates screen and can turn on the Automatic Update feature by clicking the box  Choose a time to install automatically or choose when you will manually install updates.  Critical updates may require a reboot so choose a time that your computer will be on but will not interrupt your work. You can also complete these actions from Control Panel. Screen shots are Windows XP, Vista and Windows 7 look a bit different.

For LAN Systems support customers, these tasks and checks are done for you but it never hurts to double-check your settings.  Updates are essential for your home system.  Most attacks are against home systems because they are more often out-of-date. 

For added protection, use Microsoft Security Essentials. Take a few minutes to update your system and if you have questions or need help, please feel free to contact us at 770 662-0312 or HelpDesk@lansystems.com.

Top IT Trends for 2011

January 11, 2011

[tweetmeme source=LANSystems only_single=false]Compiling our list of the top technology trends for 2011 was enjoyable. We got to review our 2010 predictions and look ahead with optimism. Unfortunately, economic woes continued through 2010 delaying the expected IT expenditures and slowing growth.  Again, the trends haven’t changed much year-over-year as technology is a quiet revolution. But don’t be disappointed, those same trends are driving new models that will revolutionize the way we do business.  As technology advances, the numbers continue to drive IT investments. Businesses will implement common sense infrastructure improvements and avoid the glitz. The glitz will come from consumer electronics this year as mobile devices become better, cheaper and faster.

Cloud Computing – The Application Server Provider (ASP) and Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) model is Cloud Computing.  More than ever, this is a technology in search of a moniker that will catch on and become a household name.  We all cloud compute even if we don’t quite grasp the concept. From our social media sites to our online backup to our online applications, each monthly subscription is a testament that cloud computing solutions work. This way of computing through the Internet will continue to grow offering more and improved services at competitive prices. 

Mobile Devices and Applications – SmartPhones are considered one of the hottest items for consumers.  The use of mobile applications has gained such acceptance that an explosion of development, hoping to cash in on commercial success, will bring even more mobile apps to our handhelds.  Context-aware computing which has been around for over a decade may see 2011 as its breakthrough year.

Business Analytics – The amount of electronic data is now over a zettabyte (that’s a one with twenty-one zeroes) and there is no end in sight. But data has a shelf life and it has to be processed before expiration to make sense of or profit from the analysis. With increased computing power, a terabyte of data can be processed, measured and interpreted in real-time allowing for quick business decisions. Computer programs, algorithms and models will take advantage of the processing speed to give timely information. Business strategies and marketing tactics will be altered immediately to reflect patterns revealed by the numbers.  Business acumen is essential as the numbers will continue to be governed by GIGO (Garbage In – Garbage Out).

Work from Anywhere – Fueled by the growth and availability of bandwidth and Cloud Computing, we will be able to conduct real business from anywhere.  Files and documents will be migrated into the cloud so that workers will have anytime, anywhere access. Productivity tools will aid the worker while providing efficiency measures to the employer. Communications from just about anywhere will allow us to buy, sell and converse seamlessly. Tasks considered too complicated to be mobile will be done routinely on-the-go.  Speech recognition will provide the necessary hands free environment.

Social Media – The transformation of the way we communicate, personally and professionally, will continue unabated. Social Media continues to be the darling of marketing. Certainly, the players will change as Fortuna spins her fickle wheel, but online social interaction is the future of human communications. We will find ways to make it more significant and efficient, but there will continue to be spam, scams and information overload, just like it was in the old way of communicating – remember junk mail! Demand for social media consulting will continue and the best opportunities are likely to be for small companies providing services to the Fortune 500.

Absent from the list is Green IT and Smart Grid Computing.  Green IT certainly has its place but economics have taken precedent over stewardship. Smart Grid initiatives are quickly developing but the crystal ball is too cloudy to see if it will take root this year.  We will continue to watch Smart Grid as it is a promising technology trend.

Disclaimer:  Like horoscopes, our predictions for the Top IT Trends of 2011 are general in nature and for entertainment purposes only.

If you have your own trends, send to me at mary@lansystems.com.

For more technical notes and information go to: www.lansystems.com/technotes.html