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.

 

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.

 

Talk to your IT provider

talkTalk to your IT provider – good mental health and well being!

You know it. You spend so much of time on your computer doing something you have been doing the same way since you first switched it on. Its the way its been done and will be done forever more. Then, purely by chance, you have a talk with your friendly IT guy about something that has always frustrated you about the process. He utters the words “but that’s easy!”, comes round the table to your computer, fingers dance on the keyboard and a few mouse clicks – DONE! 2 hours of slogging reduced to a few minutes.  You don’t know whether to kiss him or……

There are countless tales of this in the field. Why does it have to be this way? Computer folk generally aren’t the type to stay around to chat though – there is a deep culture of putting out fires. So, we don’t do ourselves any favors.  A service provider with the right attitude and attention to customer service, however, will make the time for you.  It’s the way that support is provided which counts.

Making Time

As IT providers, its important that we provide a service which moves away from ‘break-fix’ – that is, only when things break, do we respond.  Times are changing.  There are tools which allow us to monitor your environment just like the system that monitors your engine in your car.  This means we can resolve issues before they get serious.  We can automate many processes.  This leaves more time for planning and sitting down with users and listening to issues.  It is an important shift in the way IT support is provided.

talk

When your systems are working for you instead of against you, you are saving time, increasing productivity and increasing revenue.  Music to any business owner’s ears!  So do yourself a favor – invite your IT guy or gal to a cup of coffee and donuts(yes we are that easy!) and chat about that excel sheet that needs to have some magic done.  Its worth the time!

In the spirit of the conversation, please have a look at this article – http://gizmodo.com/5908285/15-ways-to-make-yourself-a-better-computer-user. Some great tips on how to save time on your computer!

Contact Us!

Drop us a line and let us help you with your computers:

Your computers – blessing or curse(s)?

computersYour computers – blessing or curse(s)?!

So do you have a healthy regard for your computers or are you like this nice lady in the picture? hmmm?

Read a joke recently about how electronics were meant to save you time.  Haha! It just seems email and document generation takes up all your time.  Lets not get started on social media!

However take away your means to do these things and watch what happens – I suspect the picture would be a tame representation!

Surely there can be a middle ground.  As with any tool, the use of your computer systems is dependent on how it is maintained, the policies provided on its use and how it is regarded in a company.  When IT is regarded as a strategic tool, a lot more efficiency, cost savings and mental good health can be achieved.

Saving Time!

I remember my first foray in Computers and what got me started along this path.  My brother, bless him,computers got me involved in the family business in the school holidays.  I had to do the wages for a local factory which had about 400 employees.  It was a painful, manual process of paperwork.  On the third day into this, I was ready to pull my hair out.  Necessity is the mother of invention they say – believe it!  I was fiddling with excel on my brother’s computer and got the idea that the wage calculations could at least be done on a sheet.  The next challenge was working out the coinage for each employee.  This took me some time to figure out.  Managed to do this via Macro’s and it wasn’t pretty but got the job done well enough.  From 3 days to 3 hours!!! I was a HERO!  And I maintained good mental health as a result!

I have always believed that IT systems are more of a blessing than a curse.  This approach has provided direction on what solutions to recommend to client’s including how they should be maintained and supported.  Your systems should run reliably, provide you with time saving and productivity mechanisms and therefore give you a leg up over your competition. For real!

Contact Us!

Should you want this for your company, please contact us below and we will be glad to visit and show you what we can do for you.  Hope to hear from you.

 

Procedures and Documentation – Eeeeish!

Having been in this sector for a looooong time, I’ve grudgingly come to appreciate documentation.

I diligently scan articles in my company sector and came across this article: Great Way to Document Procedures and Policies

This ties into a book I read recently, The E-Myth, Revisited.  The basic principle is that if you want to scale your business and provide a predictable and comfortable experience for your customer, you must ensure that you have procedures and policies in place.  This should be in a central and easily accessible documentation repository.  This ensures that your business provides a consistent and superior service.

One of the biggest challenges in our field is understand how the environment works, what it took to get there and if the doodoo hits the fan, what to do to REMOVE THE FAN! Then see what you can do about the doodoo….

Documentation

Each customer’s environment has its quirks and special sauce.  A common occurrence is that only the Technician that fixed the problem, rarely documents the procedure taken to fix this problem.  This is endemic in our field of work – its actually cultural.  Ours is traditionally a break-fix mentality.  It if works, leave it alone and move on to the next one.  Pray that it does not break, and if the Gods have a sense of humor on the day, react the best you can.  A technician’s sole purpose is to fix the problem.  However this does not work for a Managed Services environment and for those of us that want to provide a long term valued service!

What we have started using is Onenote stored on Sharepoint for Office 365.  This ensures that we can add video’s, audio, pictures and doodles in Tech speak.  We also have the ability of sharing a Knowledge Base or Wiki with our customers so that they too can also help themselves.  Using the Office 365 platform also affords us the ability of using Rights Management (excuse spelling mistakes in this article – author explains very simply what Rights Management is) to provide secure access to sensitive content like passwords to equipment.

Over the long term, this will build a good knowledge base for new technicians to familiarize themselves with. It will also give us the edge on avoiding issues or solving them in record time.  Met EEEEISH ya….:-)

Managed Services

Constant onsite support is a thing of the past. We now have recognised industry tools which allow us to securely monitor and correct any issues you may have in your computer environment before you are even aware of them.

Computer slowing down? We can see the signs before this becomes an issue.
Someone stuck a USB stick in with a virus? We get notified of this and can manage the situation.
Computer not patching and getting the latest updates? We get notification of this and can fix remotely.
And millions of other issues affecting your computer can be handled remotely. Short of your computer blowing up, most other issues can be handled should your environment be setup properly.
This saves time, money and downtime!

Watch this video to get an idea of what we are talking about above:

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