Putting Google to Work for your Business

We all know the Google name and the power behind the well-known search engine. But did you know that just by signing up for a Google email for you and your employees, that you have the power of cloud computing right at your fingertips? Google’s suite of applications seems to cover every angle of computer-based work including: creating presentations, spreadsheets, documents, and calendars all in a collaborative format! This is a great opportunity for start-ups to reduce costs and maintain a superior level of communications among team members.

 

The benefits of using Google’s suite of applications are far reaching especially for companies that are highly mobile and operating on a tight budget. The standard version of Google Docs, which is amazing on its own, can be beefed up for just $50 a year or more. That includes cloud-based file storage and help desk services. In addition to the affordability of this suite, Google is highly mobile, meaning users can access files via mobile phones, even the Apple iPad, and of course from desktop computers and notebooks. If your work takes you out-of-the-office often, this may be a sound choice for your small or medium sized business.

 

Google Docs, spreadsheets, and presentations have other features that are a “must” in today’s collaborative work environment. For example, Google Docs provides automated backup for documents as they are edited. Collaboration is also made simple with Google’s ability of allowing multiple users work simultaneously on the same file. This is critical when a presentation is on a deadline and multiple employees are making changes and additions up to the last minute.

 

Finally, Google takes all the stress off the business owner by taking care of maintenance and security. Google and the secondary service providers worry about power surges, failed hard drives, upgrades, and compatibility while you run your business. Google’s security track record is also excellent. Data stored with Google is probably as safe as it would be in most corporate data centers.

 

Talk to M&H Consulting if you want to put Google to work for your company. We can help train and troubleshoot for your company.

Extending your Wireless Network

We’ve guided you towards the right steps in moving or expanding your network. Now, today we’ll help you in extending your network when its wireless and you need a wider range of wifi. Before we get into the different ways to extend a wireless network, you need to take into consideration the following: your network needs to be placed in the center of your home or office and avoid placing it behind a door or near any metal walls that could prevent the wireless network from flowing through. Now, let’s get into the more technical ways in which to extend your network.

One option for extending your network is by purchasing a wireless extender in your home. The wireless extender takes the wireless signal you currently have and boosts it for greater use. When setting up the extender, make sure it is plugged in an area with a solid wireless signal. Although this may be the easiest and most affordable way of extending your network, it could be problematic in other areas. Because the connections all happen wirelessly, it is more likely to cause dropped connections and slow down your Internet speed.

The next option is getting a powerline network kit. This kit is a wired network with hidden wires. The kit usually comes together with two Ethernet cables, and two adapters. This extends your network by connecting one of the Ethernet cables to the router while taking the other Ethernet cable and plugging it into whatever other device you would like the network to extend to. Of course, you would have to plug each adapter to each device in order for them to detect each other. Although this can be effective for specific devices, it can take away from extending the wireless to other ones if they aren’t connected to a powerline.

An alternative to the powerline kit is to simply use an Ethernet with a range extender. This option extends better to multiple powerline kits as well as wireless access points (WAP). This option can also help maintain your Internet’s speed and extends coverage better than other options.

The best option, however, is connecting the Ethernet to the WAP directly. This option is best because it doesn’t connect wirelessly and it direct, which means you get fast and reliable Internet. There are many ways in which this can be done. For consultation on which way is the best option for your home or business, contact M&H.

Worst Case Scenarios of Backup Disasters

Prepare for the worst, hope for the best.

 

It is not what business leaders ever want to think about but it is a topic they must consider – worst case scenarios of backup disasters! What do we mean by worst case scenarios? Unfortunately, there is a long list of things that could go wrong and could jeopardize your technology and data in the blink of an eye. Environmental triggers such as record snowfall, hurricanes, and floods, top the list of  storm-related fears of executive and tech experts alike. Then there is the other “storm” as such that can cause just as much fear of a worst case technology failure – human error. Most disasters in IT aren’t due to bad weather, but instead attributed to human error. Common mistakes, disgruntled employees, and malicious attacks by hackers are some of the risks that plague data centers, in addition to the storms and bad weather over which we have no control. All of these events can cause what no business owner wants to consider a back up disaster!  

 

No matter the threat – humankind or Mother Nature – you need to understand your business’s risk landscape and understand how you can prevent a worst case scenario from happening at your company. The best disaster recovery plans take into account all the possibilities and look at the worst that has happened to other companies in order to learn from and prevent such occurrences in the future. What steps can you take to minimize your business’ risk and prevent the worst from happening right in your own office.

 

  • Disaster Recovery Plan – Every company should have a plan of what to do in the case of an event that can impact your tech or physical office. This Disaster Recovery Plan should be a documented process or set of procedures to recover and protect a business IT infrastructure in the event of a disaster. Such a plan, ordinarily documented in written form, specifies procedures an organization is to follow in the event of a disaster.
  • A Backup Team – Certain employees may be designated to monitor worst case scenarios in order to properly jump into action in the case of an event that stops employees from getting to work or if technology has been compromised. Some companies even have a secondary office location where work can be done, or done remotely. This group should know what the most recent backups included in order to ensure that all data and files are secure and able to be accessed.
  • Insurance Safeguards – Invest in insurance to cover your hardware and devices. Computers, printers, phones, projectors and other forms of technology can cost a ton of money to replace. If you ever face an office fire or natural disaster, you don’t want to worry about spending thousands to replace your vital business equipment.
  • Prepare Clients – Customers and Clients should be aware that there is a disaster recovery procedure well before an actual disaster occurs. Well crafted emails and preplanned documents can put clients at ease about what to expect from your business if a worst case scenario occurs.

Transition Planning – Planning for a worst case scenario also takes into account transitioning back to normalcy after the event. Your Disaster Recovery Team should be able to reasonably give information and timelines to employees about how quickly things will get back to normal.

Computer Needs – Be Proactive Rather than Reactive

We have all worked for, or dealt with companies that seem to be in a constant state of “putting out fires.” The adrenaline rush can be fun for a while but in the end it means that the focus of a business is not on the future but rather preventing a calamity from happening right at the moment.

 

What does it mean to be “proactive?”  The image we associate with “proactivity” is one of grace under stress and the ability to foresee issues and problems far into the future. Reactive, on the other hand, implies that you don’t have the initiative. You let the events set the agenda for you or your company. In short, reactive means you are at the will of the tides tossing and turning you in whatever direction it chooses. Being reactive makes it hard to stay afloat. Proactive means you anticipate the waves even when the wind is howling and the seas are rough.

 

What does this all mean for your small or medium sized business? Think of being proactive in terms of your IT department. Do you know all the security risks that could “turn the tide” so to speak in a moments notice? Do you have the most up-to-date software and password protections to guard against cyber storms? Have you completed regular backups of your data? Do you have the more advanced technology? Is your IT department ready to take on issues 24/7/365? M&H Consulting wants your company to be more proactive to safeguard you against these threats.Talk to our IT experts about what problems may lie ahead and plan accordingly. When it comes to your company’s computer needs it is always best to be proactive rather than reactive. Call M&H now.

How to Move or Expand your Network

Moving and expanding your network can be a tedious and costly process, especially if your network isn’t wireless. Here are a few tips we’ve gathered to on how to move and/or expand your network.

Physical Network:

First you want to disassemble your network and make sure your equipment is prepared for transportation, if moving.

Then, you want to organize and plan out the location of the network in the new office space. While doing this you want to ensure that the network gets placed in the center of the office with proper ventilation and cooling and that it is in a secure area with a backup system.

Next, you should consider what IT professional you should hire to do the wiring correctly in order to have a successfully running network.

Before you go on and move, you should also alert your Internet service about any change you will be making. This also goes for when attempting to expand your network. Getting successful Internet service is critical for any job, so make sure you communicate changes properly.

Lastly, when moving your network, you want to ensure that you have all updated system documentations. Collect them all before your company moves out of the office.

When taking these steps in consideration, you can see how much of a hassle and how costly it can really be when moving a physical network. Hundreds of dollars can be wasted on the moving process itself let alone in all the details of hiring professionals for wiring, paying to expand or change your Internet service, and more. It can also be difficult to keep track of all the documentation while moving; many things can get lost or misplaced. This is when wireless network should be considered.

Wireless Network:

With wireless network, moving and expanding can be easier and much more cost efficient. It cuts down rewiring and hardware moving costs instantly. Another great aspect of having wireless network is that you don’t have to spend as much downtime as you would otherwise. Setting up new employees can be done easily, with no professional wiring.

Having wireless network and access to cloud service is non-user and non-location specific. So you can make your move whenever, wherever. Plus, increasing storage capacity can be as easy as a simple phone call to your network server.

Contact M&H if you are looking for help or advice on moving your physical network, or if you want to know more information on making the switch.

Disaster No More with Cloud Computing

Remember the devastating Hurricane Sandy that struck the East Coast destroying all homes and businesses? If you were not personally affected by this disaster, imagine being the owner of one of those businesses aggressively affected by this natural disaster. Can you imagine having all of your valuable information destroyed and having to forfeit running your business in order to try and recover all lost data and rebuilding the office?

According to an article on LightReading.com, after the hurricane disaster, the cloud-based recovery market was examined in order to analyze what features would be put in place in case of another similar disaster. They also looked at geographic landscapes in order to determine what types of phenomenon they should prepare for in the next 18-24 months.

By now you have probably looked at our past posts talking about cloud computing and all of its benefits and downfalls. Here are some ways in which the cloud could help during disasters:

Off-site Backup Storage:

What would be the use of having a physical backup storage located in the premises of the disaster? If a physical backup is placed on site during a fire, robbery or flooding, chances are that it will also be destroyed along with everything else in the location. If the backup is stored in an offsite location, then imagine how much productivity would be lost in search for it. Having cloud-computing backup could help keep all your backed up data safe and easily accessible.

Consistent Backup:

Having a cloud service as disaster recovery can provide you with an easy way to schedule your backups in order to stay consistent. You could schedule it for every month, week or day. It could be done in real time if so needed.

Keeps Business Running:

Using the cloud can help prevent you from having to forfeit running your business if an onsite business location is off-limits. Because the cloud can be easily accessible to anywhere to anyone with access, your business could still run offsite.

Much Cheaper:

By having a cloud-based recovery service, you could eliminate any off site duplicate IT plan, which can be extremely costly depending on the magnitude of the disaster.

Why Backing up your Data is Critical

Think of the vast amounts of data on your home or business computer.  Financial documents, client data, projects, presentations, human resource information, and of course the massive amount of email data.  This doesn’t even scratch the surface of the data that is contained on your computer.  In short, data is probably the most important component of your computer.  While applications and operating systems can be reinstalled, data is almost impossible to recreate if it is lost. Therefore having a data backup plan is imperative for the health of your business or personal computer.

In the event of some catastrophic system failure, a hacker breaks in, a fire, or a corruption of data, having backup for your information is critical.   There are a wide number of data protection strategies that can assist your business or personal data from being lost in the data graveyard.  Just a few years ago,     the terms “disaster recovery” and “data protection” were synonymous with large budgets and an army of IT personnel to manage the process. In today’s business environment, companies and even individuals can protect themselves from data loss and other outside threats in some fairly common ways.  At M&H we can assist you with data backup options. Depending upon your business and type of data these could include:

  • NAS Device – A network attached storage device is dedicated to saving data.  It can operate either wired or wirelessly — depending on the drive and your computer – and, once configured, can display as simply another drive on your computer.
  • External or Portable Drives – These differ from NAS in that they connect to one computer at a time. They are usually wired devices, although some have wireless capabilities.
  • Cloud Storage – Online or “in the cloud” storage options are growing rapidly.  These are usually pretty affordable and are secured in a remote location.
  • Flash Drives USB Stick – These small handheld drives are small enough to fit in your pocket.  The size capabilities are rising and the cost are dropping.

Why Cloud Services are Best for Your Company

If you are not already aware, the cloud is a form of software and services that run on the Internet rather than a hardware of which you could have access to from anywhere. If you have decided to read this blog, then it is probably because you have been thinking about using a cloud service for your company.

Well, aside from “everyone else is doing it” and being able to have access to all the important data you need at all times, here are some reasons for why you should make the switch:

Proficiency:

The number one reason for making the switch is proficiency. With cloud services, your company would no longer have to suffer the long wait of reaching out to an IT professional and having them fix service issues. IT resources are available at anytime and can get the work done quickly. Maintenance delays could be wiped out completely.

Accessibility:

Like we have already mentioned, with the cloud services, everyone in the company can get access to important information they may need whenever they need it. In other words, if your company has remote workers and there are certain information and data that needs to be shared with them, this can be easily done by simply logging into the appropriate cloud service. This is especially beneficial for employees in different time zones.

Another way in which a cloud service has great accessibility is during a computer crash. If you do not have a cloud service, your important files and data could probably get destroyed during a computer crash and you may never be able to access them again. This can be avoided in the cloud because everything saved goes into the external cloud automatically and can be accessed from there.

Security:

Using a cloud service to save all your documents is one of the most secure ways to store your information. The reason for this is because identification information is required in order to get access to the materials. You could also give access of certain files to certain employees.

Cost:

Cloud computing could potentially save you a lot of money. Aside from paying for whatever fees are required, you could save money on many things like service management, storage, restoring files after a crash, and more!

If these are not good reasons to want to switch over to cloud computing, then we don’t know what is.

Cloud Options for Small Businesses

Are you an owner of a small business wondering about the best ways to keep your employees connected to important files they can access online wherever they may be? If you are, I am sure you have heard about cloud services and have wondered about which ones would be the best fit for you.

Here is a list of the top 3 cloud services to check out:

OneDrive (Microsoft):

OneDrive is a cloud service that comes built in Windows 8 and 10, but can also be downloaded onto different computer software. With this you could file photos, videos and documents that can be accessed from any computer or mobile devices.

An app is also available. With it you could download and save Microsoft Office files if you already have the Microsoft Office app available. When downloading files, OneDrive automatically organizes your files by type, and allows you to edit them directly from the drive. By signing up for this, you automatically get access to Outlook, Xbox Live, and Microsoft Office.

The downfall for this cloud service is that it limits users to only 1TB storage space and doesn’t always store your files into the correct folder.

Dropbox:

Dropbox is reliable and easy to use and set up. You can access this tool directly from the website, through the desktop app from any computer software, or a mobile device software like IOS, Android, Blackberry, and Kindle. An awesome component about it is that there’s no size limit to files uploaded. However, the larger files are, the longer it would take to download (also depends on your connection speed).

The initial storage space available is only 2GB, but the service gives you opportunities to gain extra storage through web participations (like video trainings), automatic photo uploads, and referrals to friends.

Some downfalls are that the website design is in basic format with limitations on organization. Because of this, it also doesn’t allow you much control on how to display files. However, the desktop app blends well with the computer’s file system.

Google Drive:

Google Drive is a cloud tool that combines a complete set of office tools (word processor, spreadsheet, and presentation builder) with the cloud. This service automatically comes with any of your Google accounts. It comes with 15GB of free storage space, which is shared with Gmail, photos on Google+, and files created on the drive.

With this tool, you are able to access all your files online or through a desktop app. If an important file was sent to you through Gmail, Google Drive allows you to preview the document and save it to the drive directly form your email. Files are easy to download with a quick drag and drop.

You would also be able to edit any file directly from the cloud, even if the documents were created in other programs. Unfortunately, tools created on Google Drive would need to export first in order to be edited in a different program.

 

What is the Cloud?

I’m sure that if you clicked on this blog it’s because you are trying to figure out exactly what this “cloud” thing is when it comes to the internet. Sure, you may know it exists through Apple and Google, but what is it exactly and how does it even work?

Well, according to CNN Money, the cloud is software and services that run on the Internet instead of your computer. With it you have access to any files stored on it no matter where you are. Essentially, the cloud is a network hard drive. There are many services you are probably familiar with that are cloud services. Some of the more well-known entities being iCloud, Google Drive, and Amazon Drive, but did you know that DropBox, Netflix, Flickr, and similar services are also cloud services? Well, they are.

With the cloud you can have access to many other things, like movies and shows. If your laptop was dying and you needed to continue your movie/show on a different device, without missing the spot you were left on, this can be possible through the cloud. How awesome is that?

“So, where is the cloud? Is it even an actual place?”

Yes! The cloud is a physical place. Whenever you are saving a file to the mysterious cloud, the file transfers through wires into various servers—like Apple or Google—in distant places.

“Wait, multiple servers have access to my files?”

Yes, and this is where it gets a little tricky. Because the files are sent to various servers, there are many copies being made for each one. If you wanted to delete a file forever, sometimes you can’t get all the copies deleted. In other words, they could still exist in another company’s server. That’s not all. Depending on the company’s terms and conditions, you may or may not actually own or control the data you send out.

“Does this mean hackers can get into my files through a cloud company?”

Essentially, yes they can. This is a scary thing to think about especially since many health care providers and insurance companies, among other businesses, store your personal information on the cloud. This is how celebrity pictures get hacked—through their Smartphone’s cloud, usually.

“So how do I protect my data being saved in the cloud?”

Sure enough, there is a solution for everything. Before storing your data to the cloud make sure to use encryptions for each one, this way your files’ information will be kept safe while still being able to access them.