Posts Tagged ‘IT management


Windows 10 – Upgrade or Not?

windows-10July 29, 2015 is when Windows 10 becomes available at the tempting price of “free” for pretty much any computer that can handle it.  But I wouldn’t upgrade just yet.  Personal feelings of Linux superiority aside, it is way too early to try this fledgling PC OS.  “Let the pioneers take the arrows,” as they say.

In general, check this quick list based on your Windows version to see what I think:

  • Windows 8/8.1 users: Wait until mid-August and see what other non-pundits are saying and then give it a spin since it’s free and probably what you hoped Windows 8 was already.
  • Windows 7 users: Wait until September to see if other Windows 7 users actually find value in the new interface.  Make sure you have enough RAM, since upgrades to Windows typically slow your computer down.  You have until July 2016 to take the free upgrade, so take your time and consider if getting a new PC in that timeframe is not a better decision.
  • Windows XP users: You stuck it out this long and your PC is old.  If you want a change consider Linux first, then a new computer with Windows 10 if you have to.  IF your computer is fast enough to run Windows 10, you probably would have quit this article already 😉

For a more complete look at Windows 10, this TechRadar article has great details:


Open Source Software to Liberate Your I.T.

libreofficeI became interested in open-source software in 2000, when I first learned Linux.  My passion for it now is based on improved IT operations.  Not having to worry about versions of software across an organization being out of sync because of licensing costs and management is so liberating.  So many resources are wasted on tracking licenses and keeping up to date on purchasing new ones or determining what new equipment you can buy and how it impacts the software you own versus must pay to get upgrades for.  Also, do you have to buy the new version of Microsoft software to be able to test it?  What if you want to consider another product, do you have to buy those to test them?  Licensing truly makes for a tangled web.

tuxEnter open-source “free” software.  Not all open-source software is free, but enough of it is that the terms are often used interchangeably.  Download and try the programs.  The cost is typically the time it takes you to learn them.  Most are designed using accepted operating standards to lessen the learning and adapting curve for users.  Each typically works with the data of commonly used programs, so adapting them into your environment does not typically force you to change the standards that you exchange documents with (ie docx and xlsx).

Linux is probably the best known Open Source software, but hot on its trails is Libre Office.  Where various distributions of Linux typically serve as a replacement for Windows operating systems, Libre Office replaces “Office” applications like Word and Excel.  Many successful apps like Libre Office are written with versions for Windows, Linux, and Macintosh.  So even if you don’t want to switch to Linux, you can take advantage of Libre Office.  Try downloading a copy to your computer and see what I mean

Want to give Linux a try?  Start with YUMI, a free tool that you can use in Windows to find and download different Linux versions.  You start with a simple USB thumb drive and YUMI will help you download multiple versions of Linux to try out.  It steps you through the process and you then have a tool to start-up any computer with to try out Linux.  Most versions are test-drive that you can use without impacting the existing installation of Windows with.  I use it frequently since many Linux distributions are utilities I use to fix computers with.  It can be a great tool to clean viruses off of your friends Windows computers with.

So what are you waiting for?  Give open source software a try.  Certainly you have better things to do with the money you are spending on vendors like Microsoft and Apple that try to lock you into their perpetual renewal systems that lock you in tighter every cycle.


Mapping Out IT Support

Basic business computer support starts with mapping out the territory the customer calls their computer system.  The number of computers, users, locations, and budget being key factors.  The difficulty, and art if you will, is translating what level of support and function the client is looking for with what sense of urgency and budget the vendor understands and can deliver at.  Good vendors will try to map this out early on.  Happy customers have allowed this process to happen.  My observation has been that the impatience of a customer to get anyone in to do something and/or a technician willing to try anything make anything work can lead to problems.

After a little water under the bridge, as the relationship starts to build, the following aspects of support need to be mapped out.  Covering these topics should provide clearer understanding of expectations and responsibilities for both parties.  The larger and more complex the client’s systems are, the more vast the list and complexity of topics becomes.  But these are what I would consider the key aspects of IT support to touch on as the IT support vendor becomes an increasingly integral aspect of the customer’s operations:

  1. Individual computers – an inventory and then understanding the main purpose of each
  2. Shared Data – LAN and common apps; groupings of similar computers
  3. Vertical Apps – special database or operations apps specific to their operation/industry
  4. Disaster Protection – Backups, power protection, physical security, disaster recovery and business resumption plans
  5. Mobile Data – Smartphone access and cloud services
  6. Web Resources – website, domain control, social media, …
  7. Security Audits – compliance with industry regulations, customer audits, etc.

There are more areas to be sure, but if you’ve addressed the ones above, you’ve got most of the basics out of the way.


Small-Business Part-time IT Contracting

I’ve contracted with local Pittsburgh businesses essentially since 1997. There are a large number of sole-practitioners, home office users, and even companies with more than 50 employees that need computer help on a regular, but not full time basis. The support they seek usually includes:

  • Sporadic advice on everything from purchase decisions to odd messages to email and internet access problems to website design
  • Tune-ups of existing equipment that may have spyware, virus, or even just mis-configuration issues
  • Help with efficient internet access, protection, and even remote access
  • Back-up and recovery of business-critical data
  • PDA and smart-phone configuration and access to business systems
  • Installation of new computers, servers, software applications, and accessories and migration from the old systems.
  • Strategic help with choosing the right technologies for their business’ future
  • Pricing that won’t make them afraid to call the computer guy for a simple question

While there’s no one-size fits all arrangement, I think accommodations can be made to address most of the above for any small Western PA business. Please contact me if you’d like to discuss.


Are you in Control of Your IT?

If you can’t answer these questions, you may need to do some homework to prevent problems before they occur:

Internet Issues:

  1. When does your domain registration end? (ie – when do you lose rights to “
  2. Who manages your domain? (ie – when #1 breaks, who do you call?)
  3. How can you tell if your internet stopage is in your office or caused by your ISP?
  4. When does your anti-virus licensing expire?
  5. At what points are your email and files scanned for viruses?

General Computer Issues:

  1. Did you peek at your backup and security logs today?
  2. Where are your off-site back-ups? (ie – are there any off-site or do you have them now?)
  3. Do you have spare replacements on-site (or nearby) for your critical office machines?
  4. If a critical machine was stolen/destroyed would you know what to buy to replace it?
  5. Who has your critical passwords should you unexpectedly become incapacitated?

More questions and a list of how to get the answers to come…


Small Business Network Management Principles

My objective here is to get the ball rolling on effectively planning and implementing a manageable IT strategy in a small business environment. A good IT plan addresses many components of business operations. This article main purpose is to list those components. Future posts will detail the specifics individually.

Effectively managing the IT interests of a small business requires the right mindset.

  1. The goals of the IT services must be in-line with the goals of the organization
  2. Business process gets first attention (keep the business’ revenue stream flowing)
  3. Start simple then customize as needed, within common practices.
  4. Address security; physical, personnel, back-ups, networking, intellectual property

For my purposes, I’ll describe a “typical small business” as:

  1. 3-50 computer users
  2. Operating out of one office
  3. Most computer operations are basic office applications, email, and internet access
  4. Typically one or two customized databases for core business operations
  5. Management occasionally needs remote access
  6. Not big enough to justify an internal “computer guy”

The primary IT components of such an enterprise “typically” include:

  1. Several desktop (and some laptop) computers
  2. File server(s) to organize, share, and back-up the company’s data
  3. Printers: network laser, some local
  4. Ethernet network: wiring and switches to provide communications amongst the equipment
  5. Software packages/licenses: The programs that run on the computers
  6. Internet access, typically shared broadband through a secure “gateway” (firewall)
  7. Email server

Additional/optional components to address under the IT umbrella:

  1. Website management
  2. Fax machines / copiers / scanning equipment
  3. Phone system and local phone services
  4. Company cell phones / cell phone plan
  5. Postal equipment
  6. Wireless ethernet network
  7. PDA’s
  8. Surveilance system

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