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01/10/2014 - 12:16
The Cost of Computer Upgrades

Any business investment needs to go through a cost-benefit analysis.  Companies do this all the time with technology investments, but they often weigh the costs and benefits incorrectly. 

The typical view of IT infrastructure is that it is very expensive, rapidly depreciates, and does not directly impact the sale of goods and services.  Management may look at a yearly budget and see 20,000 units of their product shipped for $3 million with a total operating cost of $2.8 million and an annual IT budget of $50,000.  If they can hold off on replacing their oldest application server for one year and 10 of their slowest machines, they can save $20,000 from that budget.  That could increase total yearly profit from $200,000 to $220,000, a ten percent gain.  Does it really matter if they stretch the upgrades one extra year if they have been using the same equipment for four or even five years already?  It usually does.

Delaying upgrades can have a huge impact on employee productivity.  Computer performance is still increasing by huge percentages year after year.  Every time a user clicks to open a program and waits five seconds for it to start or executes a search and waits 30 seconds for the result, they are losing productive time.  A new system might open the same program in two seconds or execute the same search in 10 seconds.  Performance in old systems will decline as yearly software updates add more capability or complexity to old programs.  Hardware should be updated to match new demands and process old tasks faster.

Imagine a thought experiment where an employee who earns $12 dollars an hour spends six hours a day actively working on a computer and loses, on average, 20 minutes every day in productive time.  That 10-minute loss equals $4 a day in lost wages.  In one week, the cost is $20.  If the employee works 50 weeks in a year, the cost of the lost wages is $1000.  In an age when many business-class workstations with full software packages cost less than $1000 per system, losing wage productivity to delay a computer upgrade can’t be worth the payoff.

Any IT budget considerations should assume that savings on technology expenses will usually equate to a higher cost in payroll.  IT might be thought of as a pesky and continual drain on profits, but when compared to the cost of payroll, will be meager.  Since most companies are usually better at understanding the importance of having good people on their team, it’s better to think of technology not strictly as a cost, but as a way to put the necessary tools in the hands of their workforce, to most effectively employ their personnel investments.

11/11/2013 - 16:17
Future of Dell as a PC Leader

Michael Dell founded his build-to-order computer company 25 years ago in his college dorm room.  Fifteen years later, Dell was one of the world’s largest tech firms and dominated the global PC industry.  The company has since slid, as it was slow to adapt to the popularity of notebooks in the mid 2000s and completely missed the smartphone and tablet revolution of the last five years.  In August, Dell reported a 72 percent drop in net income over the previous year, after many similarly dramatic declines.

Where Dell is still growing and experiencing the largest profit margins is in data centers, servers, and managed enterprise solutions.  To survive the decline in the consumer PC market, Dell must reallocate more resources to research and development to support the sectors where it is currently profitable and to expand into new services.  Michael Dell recognized that incurring research and restructuring losses would be hard to swallow for shareholders looking for a rapid turn-around, and completed a deal with private equity firm, Silver Lake, to purchase the company at $24.9 billion. On Tuesday, Dell will be delisted from the Nasdaq. It will use dividend savings to service debt on the $20 billion Michael Dell and Silver Lake borrowed for the buyout.  Without a corporate board and shareholders, Dell and his team of investors believe it will be much easier to rebuild the company to provide profitable managed services.

What does all this mean for businesses and consumers?  Will Dell computers continue to be supported?  Will new business PC and server models continue to be released with the consistency the business world has expected?  Will Dell’s ordering and pricing models be maintained?  The answer to the first two questions is fairly certain.  Though Michael Dell does not anticipate the bulk of future growth to be in the PC market, business PCs will continue to be a huge source of revenue.  He has publicly stated that he hopes to build more and not less, since this is a market where Dell’s share continues to increase over its competitors.  If Dell expects to continue expanding its share of the business PC and server market, the company’s popular warranty and technical support offerings will be crucial to maintain. 

Whether Dell’s product line-up and ordering process will change is hard to know.  Dell may have to transition from a build-to-order model to an inventory-based model, where the number of model variations shrinks, but cost decreases and Dell’s profits increase.  This is the model Lenovo currently uses and it sees higher margins than Dell.  Due to the popularity of its business systems and dependence on that revenue, it is highly unlikely that Dell will neglect business computers or produce hardware that would no longer dominate in that market.  For the near and intermediate future, we can rely on Dell computers to remain the top choice for business users.

10/30/2013 - 19:35
Quick Tips and Tricks for iOS 7

If you've recently picked up Apple's newest smartphone, the iPhone 5s, or were prompted to upgrade a previous model iPhone or iPad to iOS 7, the latest mobile operating system, you've noticed a number of cosmetic and functional changes over iOS 6.

Here are some tips to get the most out of the newest changes to Apple devices:

Control Center - The biggest functional change is the addition of a central control panel to access the most commonly changed settings.  Now swipe from the bottom of the screen to the top in any view, even when the screen is locked, to toggle Airplane Mode, WiFi, Bluetooth, and Do Not Disturb.  From this screen, you can also access common apps like Camera, Calculator, Clock, and even the new LED flashlight.

Siri - Siri has some useful options to make her more user friendly.  Access the menu for Siri by opening Settings and navigating to General > Siri.  Here, you can change Siri's gender and enable automatic activation by moving the phone to your face.  If Siri ever misprounouces a word, you can tell her by saying, "That's not how you pronounce that," and following the options to change Siri's pronunciation.

Location Tracking - Go to Settings > Privacy > Location Services to toggle which apps have the ability to track your location.  This allows them to provide location based content, suggestions, broadcast your location with status updates, help with navigation, or provide relative marketing and ad content.  However, any application can be disabled from using Location Services in this window as well.  Navigate to Settings > Privacy > Location Services > System Services > Frequent Locations to see a list of recent location activity.

iTunes Radio - Access iTunes Radio in the Music app.  This is a new feature available on all Apple devices that is comparable to Pandora music streaming.  It allows you to select an artist or genre and listen to related music streamed online.  As songs are played, you'll have the ability to choose the ones you like and the ones you don't to further refine what future songs are selected and played.

Touch ID - The new iPhone 5s comes with a fingerprint scanner that can replace most of the functionality of a traditional passcode to unlock the phone and provide authentication for application logins and App Store or iTunes purchases.  To enable Touch ID, go to Settings > General > Passcode & Fingerprint > Fingerprints.  Choose to Add a Fingerprint, pick the finger you want to use for authentication, and follow the on-screen instructions to create your ID.  In the future, you'll be prompted to use your fingerprint in place of a passcode where possible.

10/10/2013 - 07:02
Serious Security Risks Coming for Businesses Still Using Windows XP

Over ninety percent of businesses users around the world rely on a computer infrastructure built on the Microsoft Windows operating system. In the past few years, IT Services Group has helped dozens of companies in the Philadelphia region update their computer systems to Microsoft Windows 7, currently the most popular software platform from Microsoft.

Before Windows 7 was released in October 2009, the most widely used Microsoft operating system was Windows XP, released all the way back in 2001. Last year, Microsoft announced that it would no longer support Windows XP, beginning on April 8, 2014. What does that mean for your business and your computer infrastructure if you’re still dependent on the retiring XP?

The most obvious change is that Microsoft technicians will no longer be able to troubleshoot software errors that occur on your computer network and will no longer provide updates for compatibility with new industry software on which your business relies. But far more importantly, security updates from Microsoft will no longer be released for Windows XP. This is a little-known, but critical issue for users who aren’t planning to migrate to Windows 7 before April.

Each month, Microsoft releases security patches for their software to address vulnerabilities in their code and to combat hackers who have found ways to exploit them to steal data or spread viruses through networked machines. Beginning on April 8, Microsoft will no longer release updates to fix newly discovered security flaws. As hackers develop ways to break into Windows XP-based networks, Microsoft will no longer be responding to the threat, instead focusing on addressing exploits in their newer systems, Windows 7 and 8. Even worse, new security patches that apply to later versions of Windows will expose those same flaws in every prior version of Windows, making it even easier for hackers to break into prior versions. Consider the following except from a blog post by Tim Rains of Microsoft:

The very first month that Microsoft releases security updates for supported versions of Windows, attackers will reverse engineer those updates, find the vulnerabilities and test Windows XP to see if it shares those vulnerabilities. If it does, attackers will attempt to develop exploit code that can take advantage of those vulnerabilities on Windows XP. Since a security update will never become available for Windows XP to address these vulnerabilities, Windows XP will essentially have a “zero day” vulnerability forever. How often could this scenario occur? Between July 2012 and July 2013 Windows XP was an affected product in 45 Microsoft security bulletins, of which 30 also affected Windows 7 and Windows 8.

This means that every time Microsoft finds a problem with Windows 7 and Windows 8 and fixes those problems, they will inadvertently be creating a guidebook for attackers to exploit those same flaws in Windows XP. Microsoft is aware of this problem and is campaigning urgently to push businesses into upgrading to a newer version of their operating system. IT Services Group will continue doing its part to make local businesses aware of the need to update, to protect the data of our clients, if not for the extra features, stability, and ease of use of Windows 7.
 

12/13/2011 - 13:17
Remove the Image Background in Bing

Do you prefer Bing over Google but like Google's sparse but fast loading page better? With this tip you can get the best of both worlds.

As users of Bing know, when you visit the home page of Bing, a page with a featured photo as the background is displayed by default, which increases the load time of the page. This can be distracting or annoyingespecially if you have a slow connection. Disable this photo from loading by simply bookmarking this URL (http://www.bing.com/?rb=0). The next time you visit Bing, the photo will not appear.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

 

12/13/2011 - 13:26
Small Firms Need Security Too

Despite the real threat of hacking and online thievery, a lot of small businesses do not consider themselves affected by it, says a report by StaySafeOnline.org. While dependent on their computer systems for data storage, few realize that all it takes is one breach to destroy a cultivated relationship with clients and the company's own financial status.

StaySafeOnline.org, a website of the National Cyber Security Alliance, has recently released a study that chronicles the cyber security practices and attitudes of small businesses. Conducted in partnership with Visa, the study shows some interesting, if not disturbing, results.

It turns out that many small businesses (about 65% of the respondents) are highly dependent on their computer / IT / data systems, where they store important information, from sensitive company financial records to personal client information such as credit card info, addresses and phone numbers, and more. However, as many as 85% believe that they will not be targeted by hackers and online thieves, and less than half have data security systems in which they are confident. In general, small businesses have, at best, a mediocre security system.

Few realize, though, that it only takes one breach to compromise a company's finances and relationships with clients. And if you have less than stellar security, stealing from you is easier. You might not have as many online assets as big businesses, but hackers can make a hefty profit by victimizing several easy marks as opposed to bigger and riskier efforts with more secure systems of larger firms.

Don't take a risk with important data, and don't compromise the relationships and reputation you've built with your clients over the years. Good security is always worth it. If you're interested in knowing more about beefing up your security through company policies, software, and user education, please don't hesitate to contact us. We'd be happy to sit down with you and discuss a security blueprint that's cost effective and custom built to meet your specific needs.

Reference: National Small Business Study

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

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