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.

 

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.

 

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.

 

 

Document Management in Office 365

Document Generation
Document Generation

Electronic Document Generation is standard in any business now.

Documents such as letters to suppliers, quotations, budgets on excel spreadsheets and presentations on PowerPoint for the sales person.  Traditionally, a document is emailed back and forth when worked upon.  If you have a formal IT service, you may have a server in which you store documents in folders. These are shared with relevant team members.  Nowadays, it is convenient to use a service such as Dropbox to backup and share documents with staff and external contacts.

Most companies require:

  1. a reliable and secure means of backing up their documents.
  2. having a simple way of searching for relevant documents. This includes content contained in the document.
  3. document organisation that makes more sense than using traditional folder structure.
  4. security and protection of company sensitive documents.  (NOT Dropbox!)

Traditional means of working with documents wastes valuable company time. There is a cost effective solution!

Office 365 by Microsoft allows you to address all the requirements above at a reasonable price.  There a many additional features which contribute towards better teamwork and collaborative environment.

Delve:

Delve Teamwork Collaboration Documentation
Teamwork and Collaboration

This utility allows everyone on the Office 365 platform to truly collaborate with each other. You can keep in touch with any document generation in your company.  Permissions are strictly enforced – only documents which are accessible can be viewed.

Planner:

Similar in function to Microsoft Projects, Planner is a simplified version of a project management tool – think about several people working on a project requiring common documentation, tasks, calendaring and common email.

https://products.office.com/en-us/business/office-365-planner

In terms of productivity and teamwork, the Office 365 stack is a great tool to use in your organisation.  Try out Office 365 for your organisation – contact us below and we will get back to you to set up an appointment to demonstrate features and listen to your requirements.  Look forward to hearing from you!

Terminals and Office 365 for Education

More benefits for our client – Terminals and Education Pricing!

We recently implemented an updated solution at a training center for an 18 seat computer laboratory. We had to use existing infrastructure with terminals and ensure the customer’s budget was respected.

Cost savings on correct Microsoft Licensing and Terminal Setup

Most Educational Institutes, in our experience, are unaware of the benefits of using terminals vs traditional computers. Significant cost savings are also obtained from Microsoft Educational pricing.  This combination allows the organisation to obtain the benefits of running terminals with the added advantage of saving on licensing costs normally applied to such a design.  A business organisation would pay several times more for the same solution!

Multipoint Server Magic!

We licensed the client for the latest Microsoft Multipoint Server.  That is, Multipoint Server 2012 Premium, on Educational Microsoft Volume licensing. This afforded the trainer several advantages which come with Multipoint 2012:
Disk  Protection – when the server reboots, sessions go back to defaults . In a student environment, if USB sticks are allowed or the student downloads malware, all that needs to be done is reboot the server.  All issues are resolved as the server reverts back to defaults.
Control of Student Sessions – see what is happening on each students screen on a dashboard, project teacher or select student screen to every other student for teaching purposes, lock keyboard and mouse, restrict internet access, chat to one or several students at once and so much more.

We managed to get this done on hardware that was past support for latest system.  Multipoint Server 2012 with some creative fiddling on driver support allowed us have everything working as stable as can be.

Office 365 Education Terminals
Office 365 Pro Plus

The added benefit is that we licensed the school on Microsoft Office 365 Student Advantage – free Office Pro Plus software for Students. Educational institutes qualify for this if they are properly licensed on Educational Volume licensing – we made sure they are.  So Students can work on ANY terminal, log out, work on any terminal again and pick up where they left off in their Word document with the added benefit of doing the same at home!!! Students can load office on their home computers as well! Winner 🙂

At the end, the training institute saved a significant amount of money using existing infrastructure, using terminals to provide students with a computer session and using education licensing.  The school also provides the students with the latest legally licensed Microsoft Office, so that they can work from home.

Customer and students are happy.  And so are we!

Using Onenote for Shared Information and Collaboration

Our client had a typical challenge of receiving email on to their admin employee from suppliers and customers etc.  In order to get to these attachments and correspondence, you would traditionally need access to this person’s computer or open their email on your Outlook and search.  With Office 365, there’s a much better way.  Every-day scenario’s for every small business are the following:

  1. Statements. credit notes etc from Suppliers
  2. Emails sent and received on a small project
  3. Emails that need to be brainstormed using different media – audio recordings, link to internet resources, various attachments etc.

Several ways to deal with this on Office 365.

  1. Groups feature on Outlook.
  2. Forward to a shared email
  3. Onenote

Each method has pro’s and con’s.  As the customer’s requirements was a secure shared resource that included the email message, was searchable and with the added bonus of being able to collaborate on, Onenote won the day.

Basically, you use the feature in Outlook to send email to Onenote – choose the notebook and section to send to.  Onenote automatically syncs for all who are connected and authorised to do so.

This will work perfectly for small business who possibly generates a few records per day and who’s attachments are not ‘huge’. Most of us are in this position though!