Category Archives: New Technology

Bring Your Phone Service into the 21st Century

Do you remember the days when you used your phone to actually make calls?  You dialed a sequence of numbers and you got to speak to a live person on the other end.  Cell phones, email and texting have seemingly taken over our world.  The one part of the business ‘communications system’ that hasn’t kept up is the office phone system.  It just doesn’t fit our lifestyle anymore.

We are all more mobile.  9 to 5 is a thing of the distant past.  Wouldn’t it be nice to have a phone system that adapted to our current style?  Now there is such a thing. Workspace Communications has developed a system that combines the power of Microsoft Lync with the features found in a traditional PBX system.  They are able to do this at a price small business can afford.  There is no expensive hardware to purchase, the entire system is “cloud” based.  All the functions are handled by their central servers.

All you need is an account, Lync, and internet access and your computer becomes your office phone.  You get all the features of Lync, audio / video conferencing, instant messaging, whiteboard / document / desktop collaboration.  You also get all the features of a full blown PBX system, auto attendant answering to direct the calls, voicemail, call waiting, call forwarding, etc.

So, if you are trapped at home because the kids had school cancelled again, all you do is log into Lync on your laptop or home system and your office phone rings there.  You stop at a local coffee shop in between client meetings and log into Lync on your laptop, and the phone rings there.

We liked this product so much we have adopted it ourselves! If you would like more information or a demonstration, call us at our new number, 614-310-8910.

workspacelogo

Upgrading Now Could Save Money and Pain

Every once in a great while, circumstances combine with government to actually help small business.  Right now many of you are faced with upgrading your computer hardware because Microsoft will be eliminating support for Windows XP and Office 2003 in April.  Not only will you need to upgrade your hardware but, possibly the software you use to run your business.  However, there is good news if you act before the end of the year.  It is called the Section 179 deduction.

Earlier this year, as a part of the economic stimulus package, the government adjusted the Section 179 deduction for both the tax years 2012 and 2013.  What this means to you is that you may deduct the entire purchase price of any qualifying equipment placed into service during 2013 up to $500,000.  This includes technology hardware and most software.  This means you don’t have to depreciate the cost of these items over the years.

Of course, you will need to consult your accountant for details on your own, personal tax situation.  But this deduction could take the sting out of having to spend money on the upgrades you need.  The catch is that the items must be put into service during the 2013 fiscal year.  For most of us this coincides with the calendar year, so you have less than two months to act.

The other reason to act quickly is the fact that we can still order systems configured with Windows 7.  We have found that much of the software packages written for specific industries do not support Window 8 as yet.  Even if they do, upgrading straight to Windows 8 may cause some frustration on the part of your staff.  The shifts from Windows 95 through Windows 7 were relatively easy.  Things may have a slightly different name but they were in the same place (e.g. the control panel, or windows explorer).  Windows 8 shifts to a whole new design called the Metro look.  Programs are now called apps, and are in tiles, not lists.  You can place things on a desktop, but the familiar Start button no longer functions the way it did in previous versions.

If you have a staff that may be resistant to change, or is not “tech adaptable”, act quickly and stick with Windows 7.  By making your purchases now, you can save yourself some money in taxes, and save yourself some headaches in the transition.

How to Keep Up with Technology for your Business

Technology has become an inescapable part of all our lives.  It has also become a way to differentiate your business from the competition.  It can be a tool that lets you operate more effectively, and serve your clients better than any of your rivals.  The only problem is time.  Your focus needs to be on your core business.  Keeping informed of the constant change in technology is nearly a full-time job.

There was an article published on the net that recommended that small business owners set aside time to read tech magazines, surf for new information on the internet and take online technology classes.  We have yet to run across a small business owner that has that kind of time to read about and research trends in their own industry, let alone to try to tackle the subject of technology.  So what can be done?  Collaborate!

We are quite sure you are doing this now.  You have an accountant, don’t you?  We would hope you are not only using your accountant to just keep your books and process your tax payments.  They should be ‘partnering’ with you and advising you on things like inventory levels, tax policy, benefit packages, and cash flow.  You trust your accountant with the most intimate details of your business.  You need to find someone who will ‘partner’ with you on technology.

Talk to fellow business owners and find out who they use.  Talk with a number of IT companies, interview their owners.  Here are some suggestions on what to look for:

  • Try to deal with an owner.  They are more likely to understand the challenges you are facing      and will have a better idea of how to help.  If they have been running their own business for a while, they may be able to advise you on more than technology.
  • Find someone who is willing to spend some time learning your business and its processes.  They can make better recommendations if they have knowledge of both what you are trying to accomplish and how you get there.
  • ‘Partner’ with someone willing to meet with you for at least an hour or so each month.  Come to that meeting prepared to discuss the issues that are concerning you and how technology may be able to help.  Also be prepared to listen.  You might cover things you never considered.
  • Make sure your technology ‘partner’ is interested in the success of your business, not just trying to make a sale.  A ‘partner’ will realize that your long-term success will translate into their success.
  • Find someone you can be completely honest with and will return the favor.  The more upfront you are about your situation and expectations, the better help you will receive.

Developing this type of relationship with a technology partner will have at least one ‘unintended consequence’.  It will force you to begin to think strategically (think big picture) instead of just reacting.  You will find yourself staying ahead of the curve for your industry instead of chasing it.

The Subscription Model for Software: How It Will Soon Affect You.

The subscription model for software has been receiving a lot of buzz in our industry lately.  Yet, this is not really a new thing.  You have probably been using this model without ever realizing it.  Think about the antivirus packages we have all used for years.  You purchase a package, be it Norton, McAfee, Kaspersky, AVG, etc., and you get the antivirus protection and essentially a subscription to any updates to either the program or the virus definitions they develop.  Netflix is another common example.  It has been used from the beginning, anyone remember AOL?  It was a subscription.

Now this model is being deployed for business applications, and not from companies you have never heard of.  Adobe, with their Creative Suite, and Microsoft, with Office 2013, are adding a monthly payment option.  This may help many small businesses with their cash flow.

office2013Let’s consider the example of Office 2013.  You have the option of paying $399.99 (Staples price) for the full version.  This gives you the license to install and use the product on one machine.  Or you could go with the subscription model.  For $15 per user per month, (or $12 per user per month if you pay annually), you get the full package, and license to load it onto five separate devices per user.

I know this is a little confusing, let me try to explain.  You will need a separate license for each user.  Each user can install their license on five devices.  If you have an employee who does some travelling, for instance, they can load the same Office onto their office desktop, their laptop, their home desktop, and their tablet.

There are some advantages for the consumer in this deal.  Any updates are, of course, automatically installed.  So are any version upgrades.  As long as you have the subscription, Microsoft provides the latest version of the software to you.  If they release Office 2015, you are automatically upgraded.  Your company owns the license.  If the employee quits or is fired, you can deactivate their license and you still retain it for the next employee.

The other advantage is in budgeting.  Let’s say you have 10 employees.  To upgrade them all at once would run you $4000 plus tax.  Which is why we see so many offices running two or three versions of the software.  With the subscription, you would pay $150 per month and everyone is instantly on the same version.

Now the advantages for Microsoft are fairly obvious.  You will probably pay more in the long run for the subscription than you would if you bought the package and used it as long as possible.  It will also even out their cash flow.  Right now they get a huge influx at the release of a new product and then sales dwindle until the next full version is ready.  With this model, they will have a steady income every month.

You will probably see this model extend to other products including, if the rumors are true, Windows.  There are rumblings that Microsoft is considering adopting this model for the operating system itself.  We’ll see how it goes.

Office 365

Windows 8.1: The Return of the Start button

We are sure you have all heard talk about the new version of Windows 8 that is being released soon.  It is known as Windows 8.1.  The beta version is out now, and the release version will be shipped to manufacturers next month so they can use it for the upcoming holiday season.

You are all probably wondering when and if you should start planning your own upgrades.  While it is never too early to begin planning, we would advise you to wait until the true release version is ready to begin upgrading.  The version available now is still a beta version.  It does not allow itself to be ‘uninstalled’.  The only way to get rid of it is to format your disk and start over with your original operating system.  The other reason is that Microsoft has not included an upgrade path to the full release version.  Once again you will have to format and start over.  If you are a true geek and just can’t wait, we recommend installing the beta on a separate partition, or an external drive.  Reports claim there are great difficulties installing it on a virtual machine.

Windows 8 has been quite an adventure for Microsoft.  The full version was not available for the last holiday season, so they missed that opportunity.  The developers concentrated on getting the RT version ready for their Surface tablet.  The RT version only frustrated serious users because of its limitations.  This is why you have heard so many negative opinions about Windows 8.

It is also a true shift in design for Microsoft.  It represents the greatest change in form since the shift to Windows 95 from 3.1.  (And, yes, we are old enough to remember that happening.)  Everything is different.  The design is geared toward those who are used to using smart phones.  Your programs are now “apps”.  Your media is by default played by the almost useless Xbox media player.  Worst of all, they took away our START button.

And so, less than a year since the release of Windows 8, we have the next version, 8.1, about to be launched.  Microsoft says this is because they want to speed up the life cycle of their products; going a year between versions instead of three or four.  There are many in the industry who feel this upgrade was rushed into production because of lower than projected sales and a large number of complaints.

Windows 8.1 does fix a number of features that received criticism.  The page on which all the apps are displayed is now much easier to organize the way you want it.  The Xbox media player issue has been addressed.  You will now be able to set your system to boot to your desktop view (reminiscent of Windows 7).  And, yes, they are giving us back our start button!!!  (Although it has greatly reduced functionality.)

So, who should consider upgrading?  Well, anyone whose business software will require Windows 8 or higher to run properly.  And all of you who are currently using Windows XP.  As of next April, Microsoft will stop supporting XP.  There will be no more updates, or security patches.

Does this mean that XP will suddenly stop working?   Absolutely not.  What this does mean for XP users is that now is the time to research and plan.  The main reason you will need to look at upgrading those systems involves their function.  Will the software being used on those machines need to be upgraded, and what will be the requirements for the new software?  Do you access secure websites with those systems that will require Internet Explorer 10 or higher?  (Windows 8.1 will be shipped with IE 11, XP cannot upgrade past IE 9.)  Chances are an upgrade to Windows 8.1 ( or to Windows 7 for that matter,) will require a hardware upgrade as well.

We would recommend taking a look at Windows 8 and the infinite number of websites talking about 8.1.  If you don’t want to abandon the familiar at this time, you will need to purchase copies of Windows 7, or new systems loaded with Windows 7 now.  At a time in the near future you will not be able to get your hands on them.

If you are unsure of what to do, contact your IT specialist.  We are sure they would be happy to meet with you and help you evaluate your options.  If they won’t, find one that will.

BYOD – Let the party begin!!

byodBYOD? Don’t you mean BYOB? What the heck is BYOD?

BYOD is short for Bring Your Own Device. BYOD refers to the practice of employees or clients bringing their own computing devices – such as smartphones, laptops and tablets – to the workplace for use and connectivity on the corporate network.

OH! No big deal right?

Let’s put it this way…it doesn’t have to be a big deal. But, if you don’t adapt a BYOD policy for your employees and guests, it could be! Tablets and smartphones are capable of carrying and transmitting viruses and enabling unauthorized access to your network and data, just like any PC or laptop.

BYOD Security

BYOD security starts with the company establishing (and enforcing) a BYOD security policy that clearly states the company’s position so that they can better manage these devices and ensure network security is not compromised by employees using their own devices at work.

Setting up a ‘guest’ network can allow your employees and guests to access the Internet while keeping your corporate network secure. But, if you want to allow your employees to access corporate resources via their personal devices, your BYOD security must provide detailed security requirements for each type of personal device that is used in the workplace and connected to the corporate network. You should require devices to be configured with passwords, prohibit specific types of applications from being installed on the device or require all data on the device to be encrypted. Limiting what programs or apps are permissible or requiring an approved anti-virus be installed are also recommended.

For an interesting look at how BYOD is affecting the business world, check out this infographic – http://www.biztechmagazine.com/article/2013/04/byod-growing-needs-more-support-it-infographic

We say – Join the party. It’s BYOD!
Just make sure you hold the keys.

Right now is a GREAT time to buy new technology

Increase Productivity

     If your PC or laptop is more than 3 or 4 years old you are missing out on a lot of potential time savings.

     Multi-core processors are the norm now and they make boot-up faster, your applications open faster, and those multi-taskers that have 27 apps open at the same time will notice a perkier machine.

    Solid-State hard drives (SSD) are radically different than they’re older counterparts. With no moving parts, they can reduce boot-up and application startup times by up to 50%. They’re a bit more expensive right now but, you’ll make it up by getting more done.

     With the introduction of Windows 7, 64-bit processing has hit full-tilt. Without getting too ‘geeky’, applications utilize and share system resources better and performance gets a big boost. 64-bit systems can handle more RAM, as well, which can cut more time from your work.

Uncle Sam wants YOU – to upgrade!

     The IRS has given businesses several incentives for upgrading their business equipment – including their PCs, laptops and servers.

    Businesses can write off up to $125,000 of qualifying equipment purchases in 2012. This is commonly known as the Section 179 deduction. Under current law the maximum Section 179 deduction will decrease to $25,000 in 2013.

    Businesses that have little or no profit in 2012 can still deduct the cost of new business equipment through bonus depreciation.  Unlike the Section 179 deduction, bonus depreciation can create or add to a business loss. However, bonus depreciation only applies to qualifying property purchased and put in service on or before December 31, 2012.

     Obviously, every business’ situation is different and we highly recommend you check with your accountant to make sure you can utilize these deductions.

Quality will save you money

     Businesses rely heavily on their technology. Downtime, due to equipment failure costs a lot more than the replacement of the hardware. Cheap systems will fail sooner.

    PC Geeks only sells the highest quality equipment. Our PCs and servers carry a full three year, parts and labor warranty, included! We resell only Lenovo brand laptops because they are consistently recognized as the top in quality and reliability in the industry.

    Contact us today so that we can help you get the most out of your technology!