Author Archives: shevana

Warning Signs of Server or PC Problems

Hi everyone! Today we are exploring the Warning signs that you will observe when your server or computer is giving problems.  We will also give you some tips on how it can be prevented.  Also, our quick tip for this month, preventing auto-address complete in outlook.

We have been glancing over computer problems in our last few issues, and today, we will delve deeper into this topic.  Once you own any electrical appliance, chances are it will either be broken or need repairs after some time of usage.  The same goes for a computer, and these are problems that can come in all shapes and sizes.

When your computer system goes down, you may ultimately lose time, productivity, business and opportunities until it is repaired.  Here are some of the most common ways that you can tell that your computer or server is not working like it should:

1.  Your computer/server is slow or freezes.

2.  Sending or receiving emails is inconsistent.

3.  Printing is inconsistent.

4.  You are no longer able to do something you were able to do before.

5.  You do not have current virus definitions.

6. You are not sure you have a firewall in place.

7.  You are noticing an unusual amount of pop-up windows.

8.  You do not have current Microsoft security-related updates.

9.  You do not know the status of your current back-up situation.

10.  You have created a work around for something that is not working right.

Not that we have identified the most common signs of computer/server problems, and you have gotten them fixed by calling qualified consultants like SMB Services Limited, NOW WHAT?

The next step is knowing that prevention is better than cure.  You should have preventative maintenance performed on a regular basis by a company that specializes in server, workstation and network maintenance (SMB Services Limited).  Here are some reasons why this is important:

1.  Predictable monthly budget and support minimizes financial technical surprises.

2.  Proactive server and workstation standardization minimizes problems.

3.  Analysis of server event logs can identify issues before they create network problems.

4.  Regular optimization of servers and workstations increase speed and efficiency.

5.  Proactive maintenance provides real peace of mind that someone is regularly caring for your network.

6.  Management of hard drive resources prevents storage issues and server crashes.

7.  Management of backup status, data selected and data testing is critical to data recovery.

8.  Firewall, virus and spyware protection needs regular review and management.

9.  Daily use of servers and workstations can create random network issues.

10.  Microsoft critical security updates needs to be applied at least once a month.

Once you have repaired your server/computer, you must remember to continue maintenance and not call your IT Service Provider only when a problem crops up.  To have or adopt such an approach is not only ineffective but more expensive than regualr proactive support in the long run.

Maintenance should begin from the time a machine is turned on and is used by someone.  Whether it is new or not, it starts becoming vunerable to things going wrong.  Once the number of problems begin to add up, it could spell disaster for your company.

SMB Services Limited specializes in computer and server installations, maintenance and upgrades.  Our proactive and preventative maintenance support will ensure that you and your business will not befall the hazards described above.  We also offer monthly maintenance plans that will suit your budget.  Do not forget to enquire about our new System Monitoring Bundle aimed at eliminating the problems discussed above.

March Quick Tip

Prevent Outlook Address Auto-complete altogether

Further to our tip last month, with address auto-complete, this month we are looking at stopping Outlook for suggesting email addresses as you type:

In Outlook, Select Tools/Options from the menu

Go to the Preferences tab

Click Email Options

Now click Advanced Email Options

Make sure ‘Suggest names while completing To, Cc, and Bcc fields‘ is not checked

Click Ok

Click Ok again

Click Ok a final time.

You are now able to type email addresses without Outlook making suggestions.  This feature is important as it is a foolproof way to avoid sending sensitive emails to the wrong person.

To turn this feature back on, just follow the steps above, ensuring that you check the ‘Suggest names while completing To, Cc, and Bcc fields’.


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Notice of Office Closure

Due to traffic restrictions resulting from Carival celebrations, please be advised that our offices will be closed on February 15th and 16th.  Remote support will be available and ongoing for all our clients.  We will reopen for business as normal on February 17th.

SMB Services Limited wishes you and your loved ones a safe and enjoyable Carnival.

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TSTT Edge Service Outage

SMB Services Limited wishes to advise all our clients using Blackberry devices with a plan from TSTT, that their EDGE service has been down since yesterday evening, resulting in the inability to access the internet and the non-delivery of emails to your mobile phones.

TSTT has issued a notice advising that they are working on rectifying the problem with their international partner, RIM.  However, no indication has been given as to when this service will be restored.

12.30pm

TSTT has advised that this service is once more functional.

Rating 4.00 out of 5

ICT – Common Outsourcing Mistakes and How they can be Avoided

The best perk that comes from outsourcing in ICT is that it’s a great way to get professional services for a fraction of the price of a full time staff member.  At some point in your business’s growth cycle, outsourcing may become a possibility and may not only be limited to your ICT function.

The main reason for outsourcing, as discussed in an earlier issue, is because it allows you to focus on the expertise of your business while the ICT professionals you have outsourced focuses on theirs.

In recent years, outsourcing, especially ICT outsourcing has gained popularity, especially amongst small and medium businesses. You can choose from outsourcing your entire function, or just a specific project.  Whatever your reason for outsourcing, you must ensure that your choice of ICT professional was the right one.  Here are some tips to guide you:

1.  Price versus Practice: When you are looking for the right ICT consultant, your first instinct will be to go with the cheapest. However, this is one area where trying to save might cost you a lot more.  Before you hire someone, you should do some research, and not just hire a person but a company.

You need to ensure that your professional will always be there, or have someone available to tend to your company’s needs and that their support is 24/7.  You should want your professional to be just that, professional, complete with all the industry qualifications and experience.  You should demand quality, consistency and delivery and by choosing an ICT support provider including a support staff, you have a better chance of having your needs met in a timely fashion.

Look at the whole IT support package before you commit, ensure that the one you choose has the infrastructure of accountability, certifications, training, experience and personnel even if it costs $20-$40 more per hour to hire them.  Making the wrong decision will be costly and time consuming, distracting you from your core business and ending with you having to find another support provider.

2.  Don’t just hire someone who can speak ‘geek’: When you are experiencing problems with your network and your Support Professional discusses it with you, the finer points of the problem may just sail over your head.  Remember, IT support providers who lack the ability to communicate in a non-technical manner and that don’t have a long term strategic view of your company’s business goals will cost you time and money while frustrating you and your employees.

Remember, there are support providers that can communicate technology so that you understand.  It is important to find someone like this, and that you are comfortable with them, because you and your company will be spending significant time with them. They will also be advising you on future technology directions that your company can take, so ensure that you can communicate well together.

3.  Be Prepared: Once you have hired your IT support provider, do not think that once your existing problems are fixed, that there will be no more.  Remember that computers are machines, and as discussed earlier, will break, as all things inevitably do. Not only that, but they may fall victim to human error, become corrupted and encounter hardware or software failure.

You need to be flexible to these problems and have regular maintenance done so that you can nip any problems as they arise in the bud. You should be involved, get an understanding of what went wrong and the steps that your ICT support provider is taking to correct it.  Once the assessment of your IT network is done, be prepared, and remember that your ICT support provider is there to help you.

Formulate a plan, have a long term vision of your network to save nay disappointments and be prepared to make changes as recommendations made will be to the benefit of your business.

4.  Keep the lines of Communication open: One of the most common mistakes business owners make once they’ve found and hired their ICT support provider, is to become uninvolved in the process for which their provider is employed.  Problems arising out of this unconscious decision include a poor relationship with your support provider, your strategic goals being ignored and future technology budgets being compromised.

You must be involved in every step, stage and part of the process of having and managing a functioning ICT network and department.  Exhibit interest at every turn, schedule meetings to follow up on implementation and delivery of goals.  Share your vision and direction with them so that this is kept at the fore of each decision and recommendation being made.

If you cannot be as involved, designate an employee who will be the contact between your company and that of your support provider.  Ask your provider for a plan, so that you always know where they are in getting the job done.  Ensure that your provider has a centralized process for handling and prioritizing problems as they arise with your employees.  Know that your support provider is not infallible and there will be mistakes, even on your end as well, and be willing to apply the appropriate remedies constructively.

Get a report from your Support Provider after each visit and review.  You can use this to measure their performance based on where they are to where they are supposed to be from the plan that they supplied you.

When looking to outsource your ICT function, have a mindset that they will be an extension of your company and so avoid the mistakes discussed above.  Ensure that they are dedicated to you, with all the necessary qualifications, training, experience and infrastructure to make the process a satisfying and hassle free one.

February Quick Tip: Delete an Address from the Outlook Auto-Complete List

To remove an address from your auto-complete list:

  • Create a new email message in Outlook.
  • Start typing the name or address you want to remove.
  • Use the down arrow key to highlight the desired (undesired) entry.
  • Press Del.

Rating 3.00 out of 5

Small Business & Lower IT Costs

Introduction
Happy New Year Everyone!  In this edition, our first for 2010, we are going to take you through some money saving ventures as we  look at your Business and how you can lower your IT costs.  Also, more handy tips and tricks as well as what you can expect in the next issue.
Small Businesses and Lower IT Costs
IT for small business can be viewed as a costly endeavour, and in these times of recession, small business owners may be even more reluctant to take the plunge.  In the high paced world that is technology, it seems like the latest gadget becomes obsolete within a few months. However true this may be, long term investments are possible, once you find the right hardware and software that looks to the future and can be upgraded as time goes on.
This investment can be done gradually so that the costs are not insurmountable from the start; and with the right advice, your technology will not become obsolete a few months after purchase.
1. Have a Strategy: The first thing that you must have before you purchase an IT setup for your business, is a strategy.  You should know how this technology will be used to start and grow your business as well as how it will be used to achieve the goals of your business.  You must also have an idea of the direction that you want the technology to take – whether you want to exapnd to multiple locations with connection to your initial network or automating sytems currenlty being handlded by personnel.
Costs are substantially lowered once you have a plan, since you will be able to predict your IT investment budget and will not be surprised by big expenditures.  This also means that you will not be wasting money on hardware or software that you do not need.  Also, it means that you wil be prepared if there are changes that are legitmate and warranted and you will have a working knowledge of the technology that you need.
2. Invest money up-front on Equipment that will last: When purchasing a computer, instead of going inexpensive with a clone (custom built), it is recommended that you buy a brand name PC that come with software cds, warranty and service agreements.  Also be mindful of investing in technology hardware and software that will grow with your business.
3. Single package for telephone and internet: This will not only save you money, but time too when it comes to paying bills.  Check your local service provider and explore their bundled packages.
By paying a flat rate, you save money on a monthly basis.
4. Invest in a server: While this may be costly initially, it is a long term investment where you will, again, save on time and money.  The server will centrally locate all your documents, so they can’t fall victim to human error of overwriting, deleting or updating.
The central server will be used for daily system backups, anti-virus updates and operating system patches.  Time is saved by doing all these tasks here, rather than on each individual workstation that you own.  Money is saved by not wasting production hours doing said tasks on individual machines.
While the initial set-up cost of having a server inclusive of compatible hardware and software will be high, the long term benefits and return on investment makes it worthwhile.
5. Perform regular maintenance: By performing regular maintenance on your system, you will essentially have predictable IT expenditures and avoid high repair costs when something does go wrong.
Regular maintenance also means that you will have someone who is familiar with your network and configuration.  This means that when something breaks, as they invariably do, money is saved from having someone who is intimate with your setup who can pinpoint the problem and fix it with the least amount of time, production and cost disruption to your business over an IT professional who is unfamiliar and has to start from the beginning.
It is important to know that choosing an IT support provider who provides these types of planning services is  a good indicator of how they will approach supporting your office, that is, proactively versus reactively.
For further information, you can contact us here.
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New Year Greetings

FROM THE MANAGEMENT AND STAFF OF

new-year-2

SMB SERVICES LIMITED

As 2009 comes to an end, we would like to take a moment to share simple words of gratitude with you.  Your loyalty as a SMB client is deeply appreciated and gives us more reason to celebrate and look forward to the fresh beginnings of a New Year and the promise and potential that 2010 will bring.

From all of us at SMB Services Limited, we wish you and your loved ones a bright and prosperous 2010.  And most of all, we would like to share two more words with you…

THANK YOU!

NOTICE OF OFFICE HOURS

SMB Services Limited will re-open on its normal schedule on Monday January 4th, 2010.  We wish you and your loved ones a Bright and Prosperous New Year.

***Please note that remote support is ongoing and in case of an emergency, please call 223-4SMB

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Christmas Greetings Everyone

 

FROM THE MANAGEMENT AND STAFF OF

xmas

               SMB SERVICES LIMITED

Notice of Site Visits

Please be advised that site visits have concluded for the year and will resume on Monday January 4th, 2010.  We apologize for any inconvenience and wish you and your loved ones a safe and Merry Christmas.

PLEASE NOTE THAT REMOTE 24/7 SUPPORT WILL BE ONGOING DURING THIS TIME.  IN CASE OF AN EMERGENCY, PLEASE CALL 223-4SMB

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Six steps to future-proof your telephone system

Introduction

Seasons Greetings Everyone! In our last issue, we introduced you to VoIP technology, the history and protocol today. This month, we are going to take you through how you can Future Proof your telephone systems. For your quick tip this month, changing your New Mail Notification Sound.  Also, don’t forget to check our upcoming section for a preview of whats in store in our next edition.

 

Notice

Please be advised that site visits will be concluded on December 18, 2009 and will resume on January 4, 2010. Support will be conducted remotely, and will be available 24/7.

 

Six steps to future-proof your telephone system

The following article was written by a colleague of one of our partners – Ms. Tristan Degenhardt. We would like to share her thoughts with you as this information can prove to be invaluable to you and your business. Please read on:

In the corporate telephony world, there are choices you can make today that include features and functionality that most companies won’t see or use for years. These same systems are versatile enough to address new technologies that have yet to be developed.

This checklist of 6 ways to future-proof your organization’s phone system investment should help you make a smart decision for your organization today and as it grows.

1. Stay away from VoIP lipstick on a legacy PBX pig

Hardware-based Phone System vendors are losing market share and sales are slumping like never before. Software-based phone solutions are also feeling the pressures of the economy but fared far better than hardware-based solutions over the past quarter.

This trend will likely continue, so hardware-based PBX vendors believe the best way to compete is to start bolting on VoIP capability to their products. What this really does is extend the life of these products for a little while, but they don’t stand a chance against VoIP solutions built from the ground up. Get ahead of the game with a native VoIP system.

2. Consider open source

More and more organizations are running mission-critical parts of their business on open source. What was once thought to be the focus of a small group of uber-geeks has emerged as a viable enterprise option. The open source community boasts many developers, creating the next big breakthroughs. While large organizations may topple (read: Nortel), Open source can live on beyond the corporation. It also delivers cost-savings and avoids vendor lock-in.

3. Alleviate management headaches

Proprietary systems require fancy training and certification. As your organization grows, staff turns over or the company consolidates, you don’t want to be stuck in the constant cycle of costly and time-consuming retraining/certification or having to outsource with a pricey, certification brandishing consultant. Pick a system that offers a simple Web interface, similar to other hardware around the office such as routers, firewalls and other systems in your business.

4. Prepare for success

No one goes into business to fail, but many are not prepared for success. Scalability of your phone system is a critical consideration when making a purchase. You want to select a phone system that doesn’t penalize you for your success; this means one that doesn’t charge you and arm and a leg to add users, or is unable to expand to be as large as you require.

5. Don’t be the only one on the block without the cool technology

Analysts agree that companies are moving towards unified communications, where a single solution can provide access to things like conferencing, faxing, chat, etc. Advanced phone systems can even provide a Google map of the caller’s location, video calling, listen-in functionality (great for training and customer service quality assurance), and integration with your customer relationship management (CRM) and ERP systems, etc. Don’t be left out in the cold as new and powerful tools that can help your employees work more efficiently or communicate more effectively come online. Make sure the system you purchase can seamlessly integrate each of these technologies as well as those not even yet developed by using a widely used integration hooks, like XML.

6. It’s time to get out of here

Mobility is not only a hot buzz word in organizations throughout the world, it’s a reality that companies must face in order to remain competitive. In addition, as a company grows, it’s likely that they will want to open offices in geographically dispersed locations. Whether an employee moves across town or across the country, your organization opens an office in Binghamton or Bangladesh, or your suppliers or tech support are located in China, choose a phone system that doesn’t care where you are. Flexibility is key.

 December Quick Tip – Change the New Mail Notification Sound for Outlook

It’s nice to be informed about new incoming mail acoustically, but the standard sound in Outlook gets boring quickly. Fortunately, you can change the sound Outlook plays.  To change the new mail notification sound for Outlook:

1. Open the Windows Control Panel

2a. In Windows Vista:

        Type “sound” in the Search box.

        Click Change system sounds.

OR

2b. In Windows 98-XP:

       Open Sound

       Select the New Mail Notification sound.

       Specify the file of your choice for it.

       Click OK.

Now you can your new mail message can possibly sound like this… “New mail for you, oh my most intelligent and beautiful person!” :)

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Support Advisory

Due traffic restrictions resulting from the CHOGUM Summit, from November 26th – 27th, please be advised that only remote support  will be available to our valued clients located within Port of Spain. SMB wishes to apologize for any inconvenience resulting from this as we seek to provide you with the best possible service and support.

 

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Introduction to VoIP (Voice over Internet Protocol)

Hi everyone and welcome back. In this issue, we are taking a look at VoIP (Voice over Internet Protocol), how it began and where it is today.  Don’t forget to check out our Quick tips as well, with some handy shortcuts using the windows key.  

VoIP is probably something you have heard about if you are keen of new computer technologies.  VoIP allows telephone calls over the internet and due to the constantly improving internet connections; it has started to replace traditional phone networks.  VoIP is mainly used by businesses as they are more likely to have access to fast internet connections, needed by this type of telephony.

History

This idea dates back in 1995 and was started by an Israeli computer enthusiast who managed to establish the first phone call between two computers.  Later that year, a software package called Internet Phone Software was developed and released and it was essential for a VoIP connection.  VoIP users needed this software, a modem, sound card, microphone and speakers to be able to use Voice over Internet Protocol.

The Principles behind VoIP

voipIn order to be able to send your voice over the internet, it has to be transformed into digital data.  The digitalization process is called ‘sampling’ and involves ‘breaking’ the sound into very small pieces that can be characterized by a number value.  After this process has ended, the digital result is compressed and divided into small 1500 bytes packets that will be sent over the internet.  Packets contain not only the voice but also data regarding their order needed for a correct reconstruction and data about their origin.  Once the packets have reached the destination they will be reconstructed and the resulting digital data will be transformed back into analogue sound and played by the speakers.

A broadband connection is required due to the large amount of data that has to be transmitted over the internet in a short time to avoid noticeable delays.

The Protocol today

There are many VoIP services available today, suiting any type of needs.  While some are still computer dependent, phone-to-phone and PC-to-phone services are also available.

Although special USB compatible internet phones were developed, the computer can be completely bypassed by internet phones that link directly to a cable or DSL broadband connection via a modem.

For further information on this system, you can contact us here.

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