BNI so far

BNI

Since the last post on joining the BNI organisation, a lot has happened.  After about 3 months of joining, I accepted the role of Educational Coordinator.  Its been an interesting experience since.  This role has had me educating myself on material provided by the organisation.  Its also made me far more confident as a public speaker and better at communication – skills and characteristics I know I have to work on.

There’s a lot to take in from an organisation that is almost 30 years old.  As I have mentioned in my previous post, it’s a lonely road when you are on your own-some.  Muddling your way through is certainly not the best thing to do.  I’ve found a lot of support from my colleagues in The Hub Chapter.  The philosophy of ‘Giver’s Gain‘ makes all the more sense now that I’ve witnessed its workings over the past few months.  Also, the mechanisms used in BNI allow your performance as a member to be monitored over time.  It makes a lot of sense.

Business is now picking up as a result.  80% of my business now comes from referrals.  In a fiercely competitive industry with entrenched incumbents,it is an effective way to get a foot in the door. A strong referral from a person who already has gained the trust and respect of the future customer makes all the difference!  I suspect that in these tough economic times and with what the experts are predicting, this form of marketing will become more prevalent.

Referral Marketing

Referral Marketing

All good things take time to mature.  A solid reputation is built over time – there are no shortcuts. In BNI, it is the currency we trade on.  Once your fellow colleagues start to get to know you and see how you work, it becomes easier to champion each other’s business.

It works for my fellow BNI members – and for me.

Bullet proof network for business

logoA client was referred to me that needed their network sorted out.  They were connecting to a little WiFi modem that did not cover all their office space.  The network was slow and often ‘weird’ stuff would happen.  They finally had enough.

Drumroll…..

Given their requirements I recommended Ubiquiti’s Unifi Solution. It’s a really nifty solution and really rock solid.  Why?

It is enterprise grade – don’t get me started on the stuff you get from the computers stores you usually go to!

WiFi – It.Just.Works.  Period!  I monitored users carrying their laptops between floors of their building and handover to the next WiFi device was seamless.  Customer didn’t notice and nothing broke.

Locking down the network is much easier.  Configured guest network for visitors outside the company who are separated from the work network.  Bandwidth is also restricted and settings configured so that they don’t affect the work network adversely. The boardroom network connectors are on separate network as well so that presenters have access to internet but not the work network.

Here’s the Kicker! Unifi solution has a dashboard of all their components so that you can have a health view of the network.  When configured properly, this is hosted on the Unifi Platform which then gives me secure access to remotely monitor.  There’s even an App for my phone!

unifi-dashboard

Customer called and said can’t get onto WiFi.  A quick check on my phone showed everyone else on as normal, it was just him that was having a problem. This kind of information is invaluable for troubleshooting and therefore saving time.

And to round it off.  The firewall component of this solution stack allows the client to have a general overview of what’s happening on their network over time.  A great deal of time is spent on the internet these days.  Some of which may not always be productive for the company.  It was found that the majority of data being consumed was via mobile phones connecting over WiFi.  This would affect network performance over time if not action-ed on.  An overview of where data is being consumed is also provided via the dashboard. So you can see if Youtube and Facebook consumption is prevalent or movies are being downloaded.

DPI_Unifi

 

All in all, the customer has a solution which will provide them with the reliability and insights they need so that they can concentrate on running their business effectively.

I’m a fan!

Know of anyone who needs this kind of setup? Contact us for a bullet proof solution

It’s a new year – make sure you backed up the previous one!

I got a call on a referral for a laptop that was stolen over the Christmas period.  As you may have guessed, no backup was done!

Unfortunately, my new client did not backup his email and other sundry documents that had accumulated over a long period.  The extent of the loss only became apparent once we started setting up all programs again.  The loss went far beyond the inconvenience of just losing the laptop.

  1. Email over many years of business correspondence
  2. Business document templates and archived documents
  3. Browser links and history accumulated over many years of research

To prevent this happening again in future, I implemented a cloud backup solution which is monitored daily.  The first backup creates the main backup.  Thereafter only the changes are backed up.  This ensures very little bandwidth is used when backing up daily.

I get reports daily and if a backup failed too many times, I take action to ensure the next backup is successful.  Ransomware is getting increasingly sophisticated and prevalent now.  With this backup solution, my client can restore his files not affected by Ransomware.

To ensure he does not lose his browser history, passwords, bookmarks and settings again, I loaded the Chrome Browser and logged in to his Gmail account.  Chrome backs up all of this information automatically.  If he goes to another computer, all he does is login to Chrome there and gets all this information again!

What is important here, is that there are inexpensive methods and techniques that will allow you peace of mind in future.  Can you really afford to worry about your information getting lost?

Call us for a solution that fits your needs.

 

Business so far – finding BNI

Business so far…

I’ve been busy trying to grow the business over the past couple months and hit a dilemma most business founders have at the beginning.  How do you market when you are doing the work as well?  After reading business literature, I understood that the main source of business comes from referrals.  We just don’t have the time and finances to do full scale marketing.  Referrals are basically where its at.  This presented a challenge to me though as the IT space is very competitive and the customers that have been with me for a while only presented so many opportunities.

I tried the usual via business networking meetup and asking other business owners in my position.  Some referrals came through these meetings, however this seemed more happenstance.  My biggest frustrations which came from Business Networking Events was how unstructured and daunting they were.  You get yourself to the meeting but need get to introduce yourself to all the cliques you see.  I’m not a gregarious person, nor a social butterfly, so this presented a real challenge for me.

BNI LogoThen in one of these meetings, I met a guy who invited me to a BNI chapter.  The rest, as they say, is history. The concept is so simple, it just makes total sense to me.  Basically, you have a group of people who represent their respective industries.  No-one can be the competition of services to the other – ie only one representative from each industry.  The idea is that you establish trusted relationships with each member.  You get to know who they are, what they represent and what they do – so no assumptions.  BNI has policies, procedures and traditions which are very simple to understand and follow – in so doing, it facilitates the increase of referrals to your business tenfold.  The other members that make up the group are then marketing your company whenever they have the chance.  And you do the same!

So what’s the catch?  In my opinion, it’s that you have to have a long term vision – and be a decent human being.  This is encapsulated by a simple philosophy of BNI called ‘Givers Gain’.  What this means is that you first look to provide referrals to the members in your group before expecting referrals to come flying in to you.  Its a very basic tenet that spans religions and cultures.  First look to give before you get.  S0und familiar? The system is self regulated.  You will only refer business when you trust the member providing the service you are recommending.  Can’t work any other way.  So when you get to know this person, you do so with a view of establishing trust in what they do and how they do it.  Likewise.  So this can only attract a certain caliber of individual.

Your reputation is on the line when you actively refer.  The better the service provided by your fellow members, the stronger your marketing power and the more referrals are provided in the group.  The organisation’s strength lies in everyone actively referring each other and the ability for members to actively and properly service the referrals provided.

In a cynical world of dog eat dog, step over your competition, win at all costs mentality, this working concept of co-operation, goodwill and small business reputational marketing appeals to me.  It is an effective long term solution to marketing your business.  The added benefit is that you are among positive people in their respective fields, supporting each other and possibly becoming firm friends in the process.

Anyone reading this who is starting out in their business or is considering how to grow their business should check out this networking group in their area – have a look here – https://www.bni.co.za/.

It’s working for me.

Proud BNI member – BNI Profile

Company Documents Disappear and are Lost Forever

lostDocuments Lost!

A client recently decided to upgrade all equipment to Windows 10.  In the process, all important data had to be backed up. Due to traditional and old practices, it was inevitable that some documents where lost in the process. Documents were kept in places other than “My Documents” and the external hard drive which was used to do backups, suddenly did not have all the documents it was faithfully backing up.  Does this sound familiar to you?

This could have been easily avoided.  These days it is very easy to get a cloud sync client.  A cloud sync client is a tool that allows you to keep your files where you like them, and also keeps a copy online as a backup. You can also access by any other device with internet access.  The players in this space are:

Sync Clients

  1. Dropbox
  2. Onedrive/Onedrive for Business
  3. Googledrive
  4. Box

Once the sync client of choice is loaded, it needs to to be configured to sync the folders you choose to sync to the cloud storage facility.  Most of the modern clients allow you to sync selective folders. This means that once you have backed up all your documents to the cloud storage facility, you can then selectively sync only certain folders.  This allows you to save on bandwidth costs and access documents you have archived when you need to.  Day to day documents can sync more regularly.

For those who are not office bound, most of the usual suspects also have phone and tablet sync clients as well.  This is convenient for those requiring to access documents on the go.  You can do a quick edit before sending to colleagues or clients.

Privacy and security of your data

Note, however, that the free clients come at a price.  Once uploaded to a free facility, those documents are not guaranteed to be in your sole possession.  Sometimes this is OK for the small businesses just starting out.  It beats having your documents disappearing due to a bad backup and only having restricted access.  However when you need to practice good corporate governance and comply with POPI, you need to have a professional service such as Office 365 by Microsoft.  The others also have a professional secure service for file storage and access, however we have found that the package offered by Microsoft provides best of breed tools for all your needs. It is what you are familiar with.

Here is a video on how document management and sync works.  Please maximize the youtube video to full screen for clarity.

Give us a call to help you with your document management – contact us below:

 

Windows 10 Free Upgrade

Windows10Should you take advantage of the Windows 1o free upgrade?

I have been using Windows 10 since developer build from about 2 years back. It’s an occupational hazard to test things on the cutting edge, however I owe it to my profession and my customers. Plus I’m a geek at heart 🙂

If you don’t already know, the free upgrade is expiring at the end of this month – just a few days left! So…to answer the question. Yes you should.

 

Here are the reasons why you should upgrade to Windows 1o:

    *It’s free!
    *It’s stable, faster and smoother than previous versions of Windows.
    *It’s more like Windows 7 in look and feel – very little resemblance to the much maligned Windows 8.

I’ve given you 3 simple reasons to upgrade without getting into geek speak. There is another reason which I would like to touch on.  Over the past few years, Microsoft has changed radically in vision and purpose.  It appears that they have become aware that if they don’t innovate fast enough, they could go the way of Blackberry…..That’s actually not as far fetched as you may think.

So new products releases and the length of time between updates has radically decreased in release cycles.  This strategy is here to stay.  This is why Microsoft is pulling out all the stops to get you to upgrade for free.  Their ability to provide new features and better services is indelibly tied to the platform you are using.  Essentially they can’t innovate as they would like if you stay on their older systems.

I must say some of the new features are actually quite useful,Windows10

Cortana being one such innovation.

Microsoft is here to stay.  Until such time that proper internet access is fairly ubiquitous across the world, it will remain so.  So if you want to squeeze the most out of your investment(license fees which is included in new equipment), it makes sense to get the most of what Microsoft has to offer.

Now there is the other school of people beating war drums and crying foul.  They do have some valid points.  It is my opinion that until another viable alternative is provided for Small Business Users, it really does not pay for you to rail against the system.  Your IT systems should work with the least possible fuss while you go about running your business.

So.  Upgrade to Windows 10 before its too late!

Call us for assistance on your Windows 10 upgrade.

Internet Cafe Setup

internet cafeInternet Cafe Services with a twist!

A shop owner took over an internet service setup from a neighboring store that was closing down. This consisted of a computer providing internet access and an old Toshiba MFP printer.  The requirements were to get the system up and running to get feet in the door. The main business of this customer is home ware, furniture and goods.  This presented an interesting challenge on assessing the situation.  My client is not computer savvy – this would be a distinct disadvantage given the challenges inherent in providing internet services.  Your public facing computers will always get stuck with niggly issues you need to quickly troubleshoot to get going again.  Equipment was incredibly old – a raw deal there. Computer was running Windows XP!  Getting new was not in the budget.  I almost recommended cutting the loss. However, recent developments in the tech space gave me idea that I could implement a solution using old hardware and provide a somewhat bullet proof environment.

Enter my favorite networking equipment – MikroTik:

  1. This is used to separate the shop owners office network running her POS from the customers using the internet computer – security.
  2. This equipment also provides a hotspot ticketing feature so she could charge for time on the computer.
  3. Provides the means for me to securely access the network and attached equipment to provide remote support – something she will definitely need at the beginning – saving on call out costs.

Remix OS base on Android

The basic function for an internet computer is the following:

  1. Supported browser for all internet surfing requirements – email, research, banking etc
  2. Microsoft Office package for editing and printing documents.
  3. Accessing files on USB sticks and saving downloaded and edited documents to them.
  4. Printing and scanning documents.

Though currently in beta,  Remix provided a solid platform for the above requirements.

  1. Runs well on old hardware.
  2. The Browser is the latest Google Chrome – all internet standards supported.
  3. Microsoft Office in the Android app store provides all requirements to open Word, Excel and Powerpoint documents while maintaining formatting and providing all the basic functions for editing and document creation. All that’s needed is an Office 365 subscription to activate all features.
  4. The main win for me was the USB stick feature.  Any internet cafe has this as a major challenge.  The main form of disruption and downtime is from virus infection from USB sticks.  There is also the risk of spreading virus’s from an already infected computer to the user’s computer when they insert the stick in another computer. Since the customer is using Android, risk of infection is minimal if non-existent in comparison to Windows. WIN!
  5. Printing and scanning is now supported by all major printer providers using an App on Android.  Unfortunately in this case, the printer is too old.  However, using an old computer, I setup Linux for scanning to a shared folder and providing a print server function.  The Android PC would connect to the print server(this function is supported) in order to print.

All the tick boxes ticked!

Though some teething problems at the beginning, which is to be expected, the system is now working well for the client.  Some of the client’s using the Android PC do get bemused as using this system is not what they are used to.  However, it gets the job done with minimum fuss.

Customer has a bullet proof setup which she has gotten familiar with in short time.  Also proud of providing a workable solution with what was given to work with.  This also is possibly the only internet solution in the country at the moment!  If you are in the area, please go and have a look and support my client – she is located here:

https://maps.yellowpages.co.za/details/My-Home-Honeydew/SA_8430539_BUS/

Give us a call with your networking and IT requirements – we will take care of you.

 

Network Magic

network magic

Network Magic!

Just completed a good piece of work for a new client. Requirements were the following:

  • Hotspot for sit down clients that would be controlled – timed and capped.
  • Office network both wifi and cabled – Point of Sale IPAD on wifi and receipt printer on network cable. Both networks to be separate so POS is safe from Hotspot users.
  • Landline phone – operating on VOIP.
  • Reliable internet access since all services would be dependent on this.

This is what we implemented:

network magicTelkom LTE modem providing the latest LTE speed and internet quality.

The reason going for this was twofold:
1.  Installing a Telkom fixed line for internet and landline features was not a customer preference and would have been tedious. Customer preferred the pre-paid option as well.
2.  Hotpot users would get quality controlled internet access experience through speed and reliability.

Our network equipment of choice – a little Mikrotik beauty.network magic

  1. Inbuilt Hotpsot feature – client would print out vouchers every morning with different restrictions – 30 minutes with 100 Megbit Cap for example. When customers login with ticket vouchers given to them, they connect to wifi hotspot network, automatically get directed to a login page on their browsers to login via their voucher.
  2. Proper and secure separation of Office and Hotspot users – so that Hotspot users would not see the network which hosts the Customer’s POS and and business information.
  3. Fail-over of internet services.  Also installed a 3G usb modem on the Mikrotik so that should the LTE connection go down for whatever reason, the USB connection from another provider would provide temporary internet access for for just the Office network until the LTE connection came back on(regular monitoring) .  Scripts on the Mikrotik provided a little voodoo magic which makes the whole process transparent to the Customer – they don’t have to do a thing.  System just works!
  4. VOIP mobile handset with a landline number that is connected to hosted VOIP provider over the internet connection of the Mikrotik.  Since there is fail-over of internet services, the connection should be reliable.  However, for whatever reason, should the connection not be reachable, automatic forwarding to the client’s cell phone is enabled!
  5. Secure remote management and support of the setup so that we can promptly provide assistance should the need arise.

Expecting positive feedback from our client over next few weeks.

Reliable and secure internet access is definitely achievable!  Call us now to get yours sorted.

 

Access to company information

company information secureCompany Information.

What happens when you need access to company information across the company? Read an amusing and thought provoking article on one of my favorite technology sites. An administrator posted a situation where he was asked to provide password’s to everyone’s computers by the boss of the company.

https://community.spiceworks.com/topic/1629883-boss-wants-everyone-s-passwords?source=start&pos=6

Have a read on the contributions. Quite enlightening! In my experience though, this method of gaining access is not the most practical. There is a better way…

In my opinion, what is actually required would be the communication information that the company receives, generates and sends out. Typically this will be email and documents. Maybe chat as well, if the company is using this to communicate with suppliers and clients.

There is one platform which provides a unified way to audit and secure communication – Office 365!

When setup correctly, all communication are audited and kept on hold for future reference.  You even have the ability to prevent certain information from leaving the company via email and documents.  And all of this can be securely accessed at your very own computer.

Company Information SecurePractical cases:

  1. Employee is on leave and the team needs access to email for that time.
  2. Company/department announcements via email not meant for outside communication can be restricted to company/department – no forwarding, copying or printing of the email message – you can even time bomb the message!
  3. Documents needed to be secured – Management, HR, Finance sensitive documents.

The list goes on.

The electronic communications act of South Africa states that electronic communication including emails can be presented in court as legal communication.  It therefore makes sense to have some form of governance on company information generated by company employees via email, documents and chat.

Let us help you get your communications to the next level!  Contact us below.  Look forward to hearing from you.

Free Office365 for NPO’s

free

Did you know that Office 365 for NPO’s is free? As in Mahala, Zip, Nada! Just like Google Apps is free, Microsoft came on board to provide non profits the ability to have their email and documents hosted on Office 365.  See here: https://products.office.com/en-us/nonprofit/office-365-nonprofit.

What you get for free:

All of Office 365 online benefits(Up to 300 users):

Microsoft Exchange

Email platform which connects to all the features of your Outlook program.  This means email which does not run out of space, is protected from malware and viri, can be archived online and can be accessed than more than one person. Everyone in the organisation can do proper calendar sharing and scheduling.  Microsoft has also come out with free programs for your Apple and Android phones which mimic Outlook.  So you can see Email and Calendar(s) on the move and when you get back to the office, your Outlook reflects what you read and sent on your phones!

Microsoft Sharepoint and Onedrive

This is the de facto standard for Document backup and collaboration. Backup your documents on this platform.  Securely share these documents with who you need to and ensure that the format of the document remains true. Even with the free Word and Excel applications on your phones and tablets.

This really saves you time and money for a free product.  All you need to do is apply for this benefit – we can assist you with this!

Now you may ask if there are any gotcha’s here.

This is what you need to know:

In order to get yourself onto this platform, you need your domain to be configured to point to the Microsoft servers. Your old email and documents will need to be transferred to the new platform.  Your Office package will need to be configured to point to the new email server and documents automatically saved online.  There will also be a need for some hand holding in the beginning to get used to the system and start using the benefits as they should be.  As part of our efforts as good citizens, we would be willing to put in some hours for free.  So give us a call! We are here to help and be part of your mission to provide assistance.