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Effective IT maintenance key to minimize costs with tech support

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May 12, 2014

When it comes to computer systems and their various peripherals, some companies take the approach "if it's not wrecked, why bother fixing it." Though there is some logic in this, it overlooks the damage that can be done when a component fails.

Just like with a car, preventive maintenance can save money in the long run. Some key aspects of preventive maintenance that can save your business:

  • Cleaning your PC's hardware periodically
  • Stay updated by downloading the newest drivers
  • Check for the latest version of a computer anti-virus
  • Run disk software programs like ScanDisk and Defrag
  • Delete programs you're not using
  • When your company has some sort of IT failure, there are different types of costs associated with that. Some problems have limited scope and impact. Other issues, like your e-commerce website being down for an extended period, can have much more serious, far-ranging impacts.

    In general, there are two types of costs associated with every failure or outage. First is the cost to repair the problem. This includes the labor costs to troubleshoot the problem, determining what is wrong and how to fix it.

    It also includes the cost of replacement components, as well as the staff cost to make the changes and bring things back on line.

    The second type of cost is more difficult to calculate. If your website is down, you are probably losing customers and sales during that time period. They may go to one of your competitors' site instead.

    If your in-house computer systems are down, then you could be paying for employees who are unable to get their work done.

    By implementing a regular maintenance system, you can minimize failures and outages. This minimizes those crisis times when the system is down, and everyone is in emergency mode trying to fix it.

    It also saves the costs associated with having an outage. Here are a few things to consider.

    Replace old hardware since it is going to fail sooner or later, and this usually tends to happen at the worse possible time.

    In addition to being more reliable, new hardware is also faster and more capable. Many companies follow a 5-year replacement cycle for almost all computer hardware. Some even recommend a shorter 3-year cycle for laptops, since they get more wear and tear as they are carried around.

    Have warranties for critical hardware. You may not want to purchase an extended warranty for every laptop or printer in your office, but for the most critical components of your system-- servers, network switches, and routers, it is wise to ensure these are under warranty.

    If these go down, it can bring your entire business down, with very serious consequences. Many hardware vendors offer extended warranties of 3 to 5 years, and can provide replacement services the same day if something happens.

    Watch the overall speed of your equipment, since over time, your network may deteriorate, which is a productivity hit to everyone in your business.

    Often this is due to the fact that servers or network infrastructure were ideal for your needs when installed, but a few years later, the load may have increased significantly.

    Newer software versions often take more computing power, and as you add applications to the system, that can slow things as well. If you notice the speed declining, it can actually save you money to upgrade to newer and faster hardware.

    Finally, let's not forget the importance of having a firewall installed in your computers. That's critical. Its role it to monitor incoming and outgoing network traffic, and thus block or provide access to information based on a strict set of rules.

    Most computers already have built-in firewall capabilities, but if you're running a business with broadband connections, it's good to have a dual function modem/router with the ability to restrict unauthorized connections.

    The best way of minimizing the high cost of IT support issues your business may have is to opt for effective and regular IT maintenance.

    It's always a good idea to take precaution measures, act now and stay safe rather than be sorry later on.

    Article by Christopher Austin from Conosco.com

    In other high tech news

    Apple's smallest MacBook Air laptops now cost less as the company has dropped its pricing on all four models. Apple even now includes a faster Intel processor in the deal.

    The company has cut the prices on all preconfigured MacBook Air models. The 11.6-inch MacBook Air dropped to a starting price of $899 from $999 in the United States and from £849 to £749 in Britain, while the entry-level 13.3-inch Air dropped to $999 from $1,099 in the U.S. and from £949 to £849 in Britain.

    All models come standard with a 128 GB solid-state drive and up to 4 GB of memory. The higher-end 11.6 and 13.3-inch configurations with a 256 GB SSD also saw prices drop $100 in both countries.

    As before, Apple's most portable laptops come with non-Retina 1,366 x 768 (11.6-inch) and 1,440 x 900 (13.3-inch) screen resolution displays powered by Intel's HD 5000 graphics.

    On the CPU side of things, the Macbook Air now comes with a 1.4 GHz Core i5, upgraded from a 1.3 GHz chip. While that is a relatively minor performance upgrade, Intel has improved the chip in other ways as well, Apple says.

    For instance, newer versions of a processor typically include manufacturing improvements, which can result in better power efficiency and cooling.

    But most consumers will notice the new starting price of $899, and it's a pretty good deal when you're getting both a price drop and a processor speed increase.

    It's also worth noting that the MacBook Air hasn't seen a major redesign since the fall of 2010. But that could change later this year.

    Both NPD DisplaySearch, KGI Securities and a few others have gotten wind of an all-new, MacBook Air that's even thinner and will feature a new 12-inch Retina display, although we don't have a date for that yet.

    In other high tech news

    Using the new 'Nearby Friends' on Facebook, your location history is private to you and only you-- until the social network decides otherwise. Surprised? Don't be, after all, and in case you have forgotten, Facebook *is* in the advertising business...

    With that new feature, Facebook is collecting a log of all your travels so that it can one day pass that data along to advertisers, we can now confirm.

    Facebook launched the 'Nearby Friends' feature on April 17. The optional feature, currently rolling out to users in the U.S. of the native Facebook application for iPhone and Android, lets people turn on location-tracking to receive notifications when friends are also using the feature or are close by.

    To be sure, the Nearby Friends feature is outwardly intended to facilitate offline get-togethers, as that is meant to improve the average person's experience with Facebook.

    The social network will, at some future date, enable advertisers to target based on location histories, improving their experience as well and likely bolstering Facebook's business in the process.

    "At this time it's not being used for advertising or marketing, but in the future it will be," a Facebook spokesperson said. We confirmed with Facebook that it may use the data for advertising or marketing at some future point in time.

    When asked ahead of the release, a Facebook spokesperson said the company wasn't using data from Nearby Friends to target ads which is technically true, but for who knows how long...

    "The launch of this service doesn't impact the way advertisers can target people based on location," the spokesperson said at the time.

    Though the news may be unnerving, it shouldn't come as a surprise that the social network would want to keep tabs on where you are.

    Facebook is in the business of selling advertising and the more data it can provide to ad buyers, a group that contributed $2.34 billion in revenue to the company in the fourth quarter, the better.

    If an advertiser had access to members' location history they could, for instance, target their ads to people they knew visited a competitor's store.

    In Facebook's defense, the company has made the Nearby Friends feature optional and does allow those who have opted-in to delete their location history from their activity log.

    In other technology news

    According to some rumors in the blogosphere, Apple could be planning a radical redesign of its MacBook soon. The rumor has not been denied nor confirmed by Apple.

    A critical aspect of the redesign plan would be the elimination of the fan assembly which describes the post as coming from a reliable leaker of future Apple hardware.

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    Overall, a fanless design almost always implies an ultra-thin and light laptop. For example, the iPad Air is a fanless design as are Android and most Windows tablets.

    Even some of the newest and thinnest Windows 2-in-1s, such as the Intel Haswell processor-based HP Spectre 13 tablet that can double as a laptop, are fanless.

    The forum post also mentions that the new MacBook would have a trackpad without a mechanical button. Even Microsoft's Type Cover ultra-thin keyboard that goes with Surface Pro 2 and Surface 2 features that kind of trackpad.

    This latest rumor follows an NPD DisplaySearch report in October 2013 that forecasts a twelve inch MacBook with a Retina-class display. That report said simply that it was due sometime in 2014, but without giving any clue as to an approximate date.

    Up until today, the MacBook Air has come in two sizes-- 11.6 and 13.3-inch, both with relatively low-resolution displays, however.

    But whatever Apple ultimately decides, it seems certain that the ultra portable laptop will eventually get a physical makeover, sooner rather than later.

    In fact, the MacBook Air hasn't seen any physical redesign or display change since late 2010, when Apple introduced a new chassis and debuted the 11.6-inch MacBook Air, so there could be some fire here and not just the proverbial smoke. We'll keep you posted.

    In other high tech news

    A proposed new draft put forward to the Internet Engineering Task Force has drawn the criticism of prominent privacy activist Lauren Weinstein as one of the most alarming Internet proposals he's ever seen so far.

    The document that's upset Weinstein is out of the HTTPBis Working Group and was posted as an Internet Draft on February 14.

    The document, entitled 'Explicit Trusted Proxy in HTTP/2.0' proposes a new mechanism by which an upstream provider (say an ISP) could get permission to decrypt user traffic for the purposes of caching.

    But using proxies to cache traffic in the service provider's network is standard procedure with about 80 percent of today's ISPs, and it's been a normal practice for a very long time.

    The end user benefit is better performance. The service provider benefit is a reduction in traffic over their upstream transit network links.

    From that point of view, encryption is a pain in the neck: the ISP can't see into the encrypted traffic, which reduces the effectiveness of its caching strategy.

    The new Internet Draft proposal has this to reveal-- “To distinguish between an HTTP2 connection meant to transport "https" URIs resources and an HTTP2 connection meant to transport "http" URIs resource, the draft proposes to register a new value in the Application Layer Protocol Negotiation (ALPN) Protocol IDs registry specific to signal the usage of HTTP2 to transport "http" URIs resources: h2clr.”

    In essence, to try and protect their ability to cache, the authors of the new standard propose that providers seek their customers' permission to decrypt their traffic.

    Weinstein finds this proposal outrageous-- “The new proposal expects Internet users to provide 'informed consent' that they 'trust' intermediate sites (e.g. Verizon, AT&T, etc.) to decode their encrypted data, process it in some manner for 'presumably' innocent purposes, re-encrypt it, then pass the re-encrypted data along to its original destination,” he writes.

    We can certainly understand Weinstein's frustration. After all, if the traffic is encrypted, there has to be a valid explanation for that in the first place.

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