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Archive

Archive for April, 2012

President’s Corner

April 1st, 2012 No comments

I hope everyone survived the employment tax preparation period. As many of you have noticed, we have changed over the look and feel of our billing and invoicing system. I would personally like to thank Steve Schneider, our VP of Sales and Marketing for all of the hard work and dedication that he put into this update.

I would also like to note that we have been advised by our new tax accountant that some of the services that we weren’t charging sales tax for should be considered taxable. Some of these services include off-site backup, web hosting, spam filtration and Small Business One Care. Like always, registered 501C3’s that provide the proper documentation will be exempted from sales tax on these services. If you have any questions about this change, feel free to contact me at Michael@seeus4it.com or at (262)671-4898.

I am pleased and excited to announce that we have moved our Kenosha office to a new location. We are now located at 7513 7th Ave Suite 3, Kenosha, WI 53143. This new office will allow the company to continue growing and offering the best customer service possible. Please feel free to update your payment remittance address.

In the next coming months, there will be big changes that will help us continue to provide outstanding customer service and offer more services directly to our valued customers. I would like for everyone who reads this to feel free to call in, email, or post via Facebook or Twitter, how exactly you think we are doing. We value everyone’s input and want to know how you think we can continue to improve our services.

Categories: Company News Tags:

Routers and Switches 101 – Part 1

April 1st, 2012 No comments

A router, in simple terms, is a device that forwards data between computer networks. You are probably most familiar with routers that connect a local area network to an internet service provider’s network and through that, the Internet.  Unlike routers designed for home use, routers for business networks are often required to support many users (including guests); and to make sure company data is locked down to prevent access by unauthorized users or even hackers.

If your network consists of only a few computers, network printers or Wi-Fi devices,  a simple small-business router should be sufficient.  They usually provide a minimum number of ethernet ports for wired connection computers and other devices on your network.  Optional Wi-Fi capabilities are often available on these models.  However, if you need to support more than a few computers and devices on your network, or if security is crucial to your operations, or you need to provide remote access to your network, a more sophisticated router is required.

The two most common business routers are the VPN (Virtual Private Network) router and the UTM (Unified Threat Management) gateway.  Both types of routers serve as your internet gateway and usually come with integrated firewalls.  The VPN router contains a server dedicated to remote user access, and sometimes offers advanced features such as VLAN (Virtual Local Area Network) support and multiple SSIDs (Service Set Identifiers) for wireless networks.  The UTM routers, in addition to providing a VPN server, typically also include virus and malware protection, content filtering, spam filtration functions, and network intrusion detection and prevention.  UTM routers are usually ethernet only, requiring separate access points for Wi-Fi connectivity.

The additional security features of a UTM router usually require monthly or yearly subscription fees. Virus and malware protection on each user workstation is still necessary because the routers can’t monitor local behavior on PCs or inspect encrypted data traffic.  If you have a server or another device that needs direct access to the Internet, some routers have a DMZ  (Demilitarized Zone) port to isolate the rest of your network from direct internet access. QoS (Quality of Service) support lets you prioritize network traffic, which is an important consideration on networks offering guest WiFi access.

If you require more ethernet ports than what a router, gateway, or firewall device will provide, an additional ethernet switch is required. An ethernet switch is a smart device that increases the amount of ports you have, similar in concept to a USB hub or even a cable tv splitter. As with routers, switches are also with or without advanced features and configuration options.  Unmanaged switches are the simplest, not requiring any configuration but also lacking advanced features.  They are best for small and uncomplicated networks. Smart or managed switches allow configuration of individual ports, supporting features such as VLANs, bandwidth control, user authentication, and SNMP (simple network management protocol), and are suitable for most small to midsize businesses.  PoE (power over internet) allows power required for certain connected devices such as wireless access points and VoIP telephones to be transmitted over ethernet cables. PoE can save the time and money necessary to place these devices near existing electrical outlets or to install new ones.

In our next article we will be covering some of the above “alphabet soup” topics in greater detail, including WiFi issues, VPN configurations, VLAN support, and others.  Please contact Small Business Technology Solutions to recommend the proper routers and switches to achieve your business IT goals and make sure your network is designed and configured for maximum speed and reliability.

PC’s and Windows XP – headed for the trash heap?

April 1st, 2012 No comments

Many people believe that with the advent of tablet computers and increasingly sophisticated smartphones, that the good old PC is soon to become extinct.  A survey, although quite unscientific, that was conducted by the folks at Slashdot.com, seems to say the opposite.

In response to the statement “My PC accounts for ____% of my computing time”, the following results were tallied:

  • 0 to 20% – 4% of readers
  • 20% to 40% – 5% of readers
  • 40% to 60% – 8% of readers
  • 60% to 80% – 18% of readers
  • 80% to 100% – 57% of readers
  • I don’t own a PC – 3% of readers
  • I use mine for a footstool – 2% of readers

So, it seems that at least for now, the PC remains the mainstay of the computing world. 

For devotees of the much beloved Windows XP though, the opposite may be true.  According to Net Applications, an Internet metrics firm, the use of Windows XP dropped to 45.4% of all operating systems this February, while Windows 7 has increased it’s share to 38.1%, and is on track to take the lead from XP in June of this year.  Although XP users will be able to upgrade to Windows 8, set for release this fall, it is expected that most business users will choose to upgrade to Windows 7 rather than make the jump to the new touch screen capable interface of Windows 8 and incur the cost of the additional employee training it requires.

Given that Microsoft will stop producing security updates and offering support for Windows XP in April 2014, it is highly recommended, especially for businesses, that XP users upgrade to Windows 7 this year. If you are running applications designed specifically for XP, the upgrade should be to either the Windows 7 Professional or Ultimate Editions, due to their support of XP Mode (XP running in a virtual machine). It is not guaranteed that Windows 8 will offer that capability.

For a limited time, Small Business Technology Solutions is offering a free assessment of your current workstation configurations, and a 15% discount on the installation cost of any upgrade to Windows 7.  Contact us today to schedule a visit!