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06 Jun

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June 2013 – Private Cloud

June 6, 2013 | By | No Comments

I don’t know why, but vacation season surprises me every year.   I’m busy working along, trying to get through the to-do list, and all of a sudden no one is around to work with.  I never mind though when it is my turn (which is coming up after the 4th)!

We get kudos all the time, but there is one fresh in my mind this week.  We had a client unexpectedly evacuated from their building, and it looks like this might last awhile.  With their AltiGen system, we instantly routed the calls from that office to another location – literally as they were walking out of the building – with basically no downtime.  We had them up and running the next morning with employees working both from home and an alternate office.  At the end of the day, the client remarked “Wow, this new phone system has certainly paid for itself today!”.  If your phone system isn’t that flexible, let me show you what we can do!

Continuing our cloud discussion, this month we will discuss Private Cloud.  This is currently a very popular option to consider.  With Private Cloud, you are moving your application or data offsite to a data center.  This gains you the cloud benefits of lower up front capital costs, and easier “anywhere, any device” type access.  However, with Private Cloud, the servers remain under your control.  This negates the CONS of loss of control and security concerns.  You and your IT company do remain responsible for maintaining and supporting the infrastructure.  However, since it is not shared, you maintain the current level of flexibility and privacy.  For many firms subject to regulation such as financial institutions and healthcare organizations, this may allow them to explore cloud solutions while remaining compliant.  If you have questions about the cloud, give me a call and I’m happy to help.   Next month we will continue the discussion with Hybrid Cloud solutions.

16 May

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May 2013 – Interns, Facebook, Cloud

May 16, 2013 | By | No Comments

Help Wanted – Network Innovations is looking for a responsible, mature high school or college student to help at our office over the summer.  An applicant should be pretty computer savvy and have access to a car – interested candidates can email me at brian@netinn.com for more information.

Have you considered hiring someone like this in your business?  For one thing, employing a teenager and providing job experience is great for the community as a whole, but selfishly I’ve found it’s great for our company too.  Our employees really enjoy the chance to mentor a young person, and that change of mindset can be a great catalyst for growth.  Also, some of these kids are just phenomenal!  It’s also a great way to get some of those things done that just never seem to make it to the top of the to-do list. I highly recommend you give it a try – if you have any questions about how we do it, give me a call!

This month I’ll continue my “cloud” discussion.  Probably the biggest issue we have to address is what does cloud computing really mean?  What people generally mean when they use this term is using data or an application from shared servers outside your control versus local servers that you own.

Facebook is a great example of cloud computing – you access the application across the Internet, you have no ownership or control over the servers, you aren’t responsible for outages and you didn’t have to purchase the equipment.  Applications like Facebook, however, have spread the misconception that cloud computing is free or less expensive than local servers.  In fact, for business use, cloud computing is typically more expensive than local servers if you look at the cost over 2+ years.   PROs for cloud computing include low to no responsibility for supporting and maintaining the system, easier remote or “anywhere, any device” access, and lower capital expenses.  CONs  include no control of and in many cases no visibility into the infrastructure used, dependence on reliable Internet connections, and less flexibility due to utilizing a platform shared by many users.  In most cases today, it’s not feasible to pursue a 100% cloud strategy, however you may have many applications or services where the PROs outweigh the CONS.

It’s important to be very thorough in evaluating the benefits, risks and costs of transitioning an application to cloud computing, so you understand how it will impact your business over the next 2-5 years.  Then, it’s even more important to evaluate the potential cloud partners to ensure you are choosing a stable, redundant, financially viable partner to entrust with your data.  Give us a call and we can help with this!

Now that you have a baseline understanding of cloud computing, next month I’ll try to confuse things by discussing Private Cloud and Hybrid Cloud!  Never fear, we are here to help with  your specific environment anytime!

16 Apr

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April 2013 – Will winter end?

April 16, 2013 | By | No Comments

Wow, April is the most interesting winter we’ve had in awhile LOL.  Tomorrow is May 1 and as I sit here with a sunburn from the weekend,  snow is again in the forecast for Kansas City.  I can’t wait to turn the page on the cold weather and get the garden planted!

Probably the most common questions I get today are about the “cloud”.  I’ll cover the cloud in detail over the next few newsletters and in our upcoming summer lunch & learn.  The most important thing to know is that we understand the cloud, and we can help you figure out what parts of the cloud make sense for your business.  It’s not a one size fits all solution!  Check out this recent article from Forbes Magazine.

How are you backing up?  You’ve probably heard about our server based Business Continuity Backups, or BDRs (Backup & Disaster Recovery).   We’ve got a new model out that should put the final nail in the coffin for other methods.  If you are using tape, USB Hard Drives or some faceless website to backup, you have too much risk.  Give me a call and I’ll talk to you about the options for fully managed backups that we believe in.

16 Mar

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March 2013

March 16, 2013 | By | No Comments

Thanks to all that came out for our Seminar at Bass Pro a couple of weeks ago! We had over 40 attendees and a great discussion!

Lots of talk about tablets, cell phones, and “BYOD” or “Bring Your Own Device”, the practice of allowing employees and/or clients to use their personal devices on your network. There are LOTS of advantages to BYOD, in particular convenience and cost savings, but MANY pitfalls as well – all dealing with security. If this is a challenge you are facing, let us help! There ARE answers out there!

One item we discussed where the interest surprised me was Xerox solid ink printers. These are phenomenal devices but I was blown away by the response. All Xerox solid ink printers are fast and print phenomenal documents. One big advantage is that the consumable is literally just a block of wax – a big crayon. There are no big toner cartridges to throw away (or save in a big stockpile) and no messy toner to spill and get all over your hands. They are super efficient with a low cost per page – but in particular, the 8870 model prints COLOR for the price of Black & White! That’s about 3 cents per page. I use one in my office and we love it. We don’t print a ton of color, but with this printer we don’t care if it’s color or black and white. Most color printers cost more like 20 cents per page and some are over 50 cents per page – those costs are eating at your bottom line. Even with our small print volume, this printer was worth the investment and will pay for itself quickly in consumable savings! Let me know if you would like to learn more.

16 Feb

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February 2013 – Lunch & Learn

February 16, 2013 | By | No Comments

Please join us on March 13th for our Lunch’n’Learn!  We will have the latest info on wireless networking, network security, and the latest updates from Network Innovations!  We are way overdue and haven’t done one in quite some time.  This should be a unique experience at Bass Pro Shops in Olathe!  I’ll spend part of the session showing you all of our free tools you have at your disposal that you might not know about.  See below for more info and I hope to see you there!

There is a lot of information in this month’s newsletter about BYOD and mobility.  Do you have employees that want to attach iPads and cell phones to the company network?  Are you wondering if these tools might make some employees more productive?  Are you reeling from the effects of 4 snow days in the past two weeks – with a huge backlog of work?  Remember, this is what we do – let us help!  Contact me and I’ll be happy to meet with you to discuss.  We’ll be touching on some of these topics at our lunch’n’learn as well.

NEW AltiGen Feature:  Sometimes it’s the little things.  AltiGen just added in a new feature I’ve been wanting for quite some time!  If your phone is ringing, you can hit the release button and the call will go to voicemail and your phone will stop ringing!  This is similar to hitting decline on your cell phone.  If you are on AltiGen’s software assurance, you can have this feature now!  Send me an email, you may already have the update and if not we can schedule it asap.

16 Jan

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January 2013 – OneNote, Amy’s Book

January 16, 2013 | By | No Comments

Amy’s second book is out!  For those of you following along with her contemporary romance series, Racing To Love, Jesse’s Soul released on January 5th.  You can find her books on Amazon, and her blog has some free novellas and more information at amygregory548.com!  Look for the third installment, Eli’s Honor, this summer.

amybook

If you have Microsoft Office on your computer, you likely have an app called “OneNote”.  If you haven’t checked it out, you should.  OneNote is a well kept secret that has changed my life!

OneNote is a note-taking app.  You can easily organize all the notes in your life, but it does so much more.   You create a “notebook” for each category of notes.  For example, I have a notebook for each of our key vendors.  In each notebook you can have sections and pages.  So for AltiGen, I have a section for the onsite Dealer Council meeting for each year, and in each section, I have a page for each agenda item.  Then I add a pages for each follow-up conference call.  When a call is upcoming, I can easily and quickly review my notes from the previous calls and meetings!

Follow up is made easier due to the fact that you can insert links to documents, web pages, images, etc.  You can also highlight and star items just as you would paper notes  – but you can “tag” sections that are later searchable – noting they are questions, todo’s, important, book to read, discussion to have, etc.  VERY powerful.

To add to the power, you can email a page, section or notebook to another user, and you can even share them for collaboration.  My peer group created a shared notebook for the ultimate employee handbook.  We laid out the table of contents, and then each member pasted their content in the appropriate area.  Then we collapsed all the different versions into one comprehensive document.

My whole life is now in OneNote.  Each of the Boards I am on have a notebook, with sections for each meeting or committee.  Don’t tell my wife, but I even have a notebook for gift ideas!  Anytime I have an idea or she mentions something, it goes in the notebook for future reference!

Check out OneNote today, I think it has a place for everyone.  If you have any questions, let me know and I’ll be happy to help!

23 Nov

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Red Coaters Documentary, Email Tips and More

November 23, 2012 | By | No Comments

Happy Thanksgiving!

At Network Innovations, we have a rich culture and history of community service.  I’ve mentioned in my blog before that I’m involved with the Kansas City Chiefs Red Coaters.  This is a phenomenal organization that volunteers thousands of hours per year in our community.  In fact, the diverse members of this group average over 55 hours per year of community service, with many of us giving much more.  We help organizations such as the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation, the Trolley Run, Ronald McDonald house, Harvesters and many more.  I’ve had the privilege of being the Head Captain of the Red Coaters for the past 3 years.  Our group (and myself) were featured in a short documentary that turned out very well – check it out here:  http://bit.ly/Q0OTnu.

Last month, I promised a discussion about using email in today’s world.  E-mail dominates business communications, integral in sales, customer service, vendor management, invoicing, and pretty much every aspect of your business, as critical as power and telephones.  It can also be challenging, frustrating, aggravating.

With proper expectations, we can take some of the stress out of email.  First, let me set the stage for what email is not:

  • Email delivery is NOT guaranteed.  Your messages pass through multiple routers, servers and spam filters between you and the recipient.  Email can be delayed or lost for many reasons outside of your control.  When sending critical, time sensitive messages, request a read receipt and follow up by phone, or choose another method of communications.
  • Email is NOT a file sharing service.  While it is certainly easy to attach a file to an email, this service was not originally designed to handle file transfers.  Know that attaching a file increases the chances of delay or non-delivery.  Most spam and virus filters prohibit at least some file types and will discard your message.  The larger the message, the more likely it will fail – I recommend no larger than 5-6 meg attachments.  Our spam filter solution offers a free webshare app that will share your files easily!
  • Your corporate Email is NOT your mass marketing tool.  If you send mass messages (like this newsletter), you need a tool such as Constant Contact or MailChimp.  This will not only increase your delivery rate, but will ensure you don’t get tagged as a spammer.  These services are AWESOME, and provide statistics such as delvery rates, open rates, forwards, etc., while allowing users to unsubscribe.  This can be a very powerful marketing tool for your business.
  • Email is NOT secure!  Never send financial or personal information!  Email is very easily compromised, and we all push the limits from time to time.  Always be aware that what you’re sending can not only be captured and read by others, but forwarded or otherwise misused by the recipient – once sent, it is out of your control.  Encryption tools are typically very expensive – but our spam filter service provides this for FREE – ask if you need training!
  • Email is discoverable.  If you have concerns in your business, make sure you have given thought to retention policies, backup procedures, etc.  If certain levels of compliance are required, make sure you implement a compliance archiving tool (we can help) that will not only ensure legal compliance but also GREATLY reduce the cost and frustration of responding to record requests.

Now that we have a better understanding of what email can and can’t do, how do we manage this stuff?  Today, this is much more art form than science, as we all try to figure out how to handle the deluge.   15 years ago, I spent basically NO time out of my day managing email – now I can spend the majority of my day on it. Here are some of my tips:

  • Keep your inbox clean.  I try to have less than 100 messages in my inbox, and I refuse to allow more than 250.  When you manage your messages, respond, forward or delete it to clear up the clutter.
  • Disconnect – it is NOT efficient to respond to every message as it comes in.  Designate time throughout your day to manage email, and ignore it in between.  Turn off notifications if you have to (I have to, if I see the notification, I can’t not look).  I try to respond to messages at 9:30, lunchtime, 3:30 and 5:30.  I’ll peek in between if I’m on hold.
  • Use a good spam filter – the more you can filter out automatically, the less you have to deal with.  Ours includes a daily quarantine email, which I review for about 30 seconds each morning.
  • Use RULES – you may need help setting them up at first – but this allows you to automatically file messages that don’t need immediate attention.  You can also auto delete, forward or respond to certain types of messages.  This is a POWERFUL tool – see the article below to get started!
  • Flag messages for later action – Outlook allows you to set different flags that you can use to sort messages – so you can quickly get to work on the messages that need your attention now.

If you have questions or need help with these or any other email issues, let me know.   Improving your email management can reduce stress and add time to your day, it’s important to do it right.  What are your tips?  Send me a note and I’ll pass them on in a future newsletter!

23 Oct

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Technology at work

October 23, 2012 | By | No Comments

I got a chance to tour the Johnson County Kansas Criminalistics lab this week.  What an amazing new facility in two different ways.  First, it is a top notch, internationally accredited crime lab with amazing technology.  The CSI shows are not as much of an exaggeration as I thought.  With the sensitivity of their new equipment, they can obtain and identify “touch DNA” from just about anything.  We are very lucky in our county – our facility is a model for the country, and they are continuously bringing people in from all over the country to teach our methods and our model.

Second, the building is LEED certified at the Platinum level.  This means it is the greenest a building could be – from using sustainable materials and energy efficient design techniques to super-efficient environmental systems.  The technology in the actual building itself is as impressive as the contents!

The cutting edge equipment they have is just astounding.  An example is a laser mapping device they can take to crime scenes.  Many CSI units use a GPS “survey” type system with a system on a tripod at a known point, and a person that carries a pole to different locations to plot distances and locations.  It can take several people several hours to plot 50 data points using that system.  The new laser mapping system they have in Johnson County can map 3.7 million data points in 2 minutes!  The results are incredible, with the benefit being they have a 100% accurate map of the area, and if new evidence comes up, they don’t have to go back onsite to replot and gather more information.

I believe lessons they learn in the crime lab will have positive effects in the business world.  In the beginning, the benefit of technology was to allow us to gather more data efficiently.   Today, we are able to gather so much data, from so many different sources, that we have to come up with ways to quickly analyze and determine what’s relevant from that fire hose stream of data.  Facilities like this are leading the way and I look forward to learning more!

Next month, look for tips on how to effectively use email in today’s environment

31 Aug

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BYOD (Bring Your Own Device), Facebook Statistics

August 31, 2012 | By | No Comments

The lead article this month is about “BYOD” or allowing users to Bring Your Own Device to the company network.   Properly managed, BYOD can bring significant cost savings while allowing each user to choose the device they prefer.   AltiGen’s MaxMobile app is a key component for BYOD.  This allows an employee to use their personal cell phone, but giving your clients a company-owned phone number.   All calls go through the company phone system, so they can be re-routed, recorded, reported on, etc.  The employee has the full power of the business phone system, with the ability to transfer a call from their cell directly to another extension, conference calls, music on hold, call recording, etc.  They can also see who’s on the phone and their status, right on the smart phone.  Ask for a demo of this amazing product!

Speaking of smartphones, the chatter has increased significantly in the past few weeks about viruses targeting Android phones.  Just this week, an outbreak in China affected over 500,000 phones.  Most android attacks are still social-engineering based, meaning that the user installs the infected app.  Sometimes they are tricked, often times they are installing an app from an unreliable source.  For this reason, I’ve resisted anti-virus for my phone, but at this point it seems inevitable.  I’ve been testing an app on my phone, and it’s probably time for everyone with an Android phone to consider anti-virus.  The good news is, many AV apps include other features such as lost phone finders, remote wipe and other security measures, backup and privacy enhancements.  Let us know if you would like more information.

I’m sure you’ve seen the scams on Facebook “Find out who’s stalking your profile” and of course those apps aren’t real.  However, I have found a very insightful analytics tool from Wolfram Alpha.  This tool will analyze your friends and posts, and gives a very detailed report.  Follow the read more link for more!

To run the free app, visit wolframalpha.com and search for “Facebook Report”.  Some of my favorite information:  Word frequencies (with a cool word cloud – see below), Top Commenters, Most Liked Post, Most Commented Post, LOTS of friend demographics, etc.  If you use your Facebook profile for business, you can use this app to really tune your message.words

20 Jul

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Summer Vacations

July 20, 2012 | By | No Comments

Well we just wrapped up another strong quarter, we’ve been very busy and I hope that your business has as well.  Everyone is right in the middle of vacation mode which makes life interesting.  Have you taken a vacation yet?  Investing in yourself and your family should be a top priority!  It’s worth every penny.

I came back from our vacation recharged and ready to change the world again!  My oldest daughter competed in the Junior Olympics for Tumbling & Trampoline, so we headed out to Long Beach CA, and afterwards spent a few days sitting around Huntington Beach.

I’ve had a lot of trouble lately with eye strain and dry eyes when I work at my desk.  I’m testing out some new glasses designed to help.  Early results are good as I’ve used them for about a week now.  I’ll include a full review in next month’s newsletter.

We’re working on some exciting new things with AltiGen that I should be able to share soon.