Tech Tips - Business IT Support Tips
Posts Tagged ‘clients’
Saturday, August 13th, 2011
I recently needed to find a mobile internet solution with a good amount of bandwidth, support for a lot of users, and one that I could easily move from place to place. The most obvious solution was a 4G internet plan, but after several frustrating hours searching around on the internet one evening for a solution I came up empty handed.
I needed something that would handle 20+ clients connected simultaneously. Yet, as some of you already know, the web stores for Sprint, Verizon, etc. only sell mobile hotspot devices with their 4G plans that handle a maximum of 5 connected clients. This small number of users makes it very difficult to use the 4G device with a small room full of people, or in a small to medium sized office as a backup device for the main internet connection if it ever goes down. Verizon had the largest capacity mobile hotspot (it would connect 8 users at the same time), but even that number was too small for my needs.
The next day I stumbled upon the Cradlepoint 4G routers. It wasn’t easy to find this company through my normal search terms the night before, so they should consider an upgrade in SEO for their website! Cradlepoint sells routers and devices that greatly expand the number of clients that can connect to and use a single 3G or 4G modem. What I liked the most about their website was how easy it was to identify the product that I needed.
First of all, they have a chart the shows you exactly how many clients or users you can connect for each of their various devices. Next, on the product pages, there are technical specs that will give you a list of the hardware (modems, hotspots, phones, etc) supported broken down by cellular company.
I settled on the CTR 500 for my intended usage. This device has good reviews on the internet, can utilize most wireless devices from all carriers, and will support up to 32 wireless clients (and many more wired). I found this smoking deal on Newegg for the Cradlepoint, along with a lot of great reviews: http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16875997455
Once I knew which Cradlepoint model I needed to buy, I then used the supported devices list on the CTR 500 webpage to look at different carriers and see what was available (AT&T, Sprint, Verizon). You will find that many products listed on the Cradlepoint product page are older devices no longer being offered by the various carriers. I had to cross-reference the devices supported by the Cradlepoint with those that were actively being sold by the cell companies.
I knew that I needed 4G, so the most important thing I had to do was look over the 4G coverage maps for the cellular companies in my area. Take a look at these 4G Coverage Maps:
Verizon 4G Coverage Map
Clear 4G Coverage Map
T-Mobile 4G Coverage Map
Sprint 4G Coverage Map
AT&T 4G Coverage Map
Unfortunately, Verizon is the only cell company in my area that offers reliable 4G coverage. That alone finalized my decision and forced me to go with Verizon and to choose a compatible Verizon device for my Cradlepoint. I say unfortunately because Verizon recently stopped selling unlimited data plans, opting instead to limit their data plans to a maximum cap of either 5G or 10G per month. If you go over that purchased limit, they will charge you an additional $10 per GB. AT&T does the same thing, limits your data plans and charges you for overages. T-Mobile claims to offer unlimited data, but that’s simply not true – they just throttle (rate limit) your bandwidth after you cross a certain amount of usage each month. Since Sprint is the only carrier that sells unlimited 3G and 4G data plans I really wanted to sign on with them, but their 4G coverage is nowhere to be found in my area. If you have Sprint in your area and they provide 4G, jump on it!
End result? I had to settle for a Verizon 10GB per month plan. Watching bandwidth usage on a device like this will be critical when you have multiple users connected. Fortunately, the CTR 500 has a lot of sophisticated controls over the network and I am still playing around, creating rules and firewalls to limit what connected users are allowed to do with the network. There are calculators out there that can help you determine the amount of data you’ll need to accommodate 32 simultaneous internet users. A 4G device with a 5GB or 10GB cap can only be in use for a short amount of time before your limitations on the plan have been reached, so this solution is best for short, mobile internet use (like seminars) or as a backup internet option when the main connection fails.
So far I have been pretty happy. I did some recent speed tests with the device and found that I was getting many times greater speed than I can get on my T1 line in the office.
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Saturday, September 18th, 2010
We do work for several restaurants and retail stores here in Phoenix, Arizona. These shops are all using windows based point of sale systems. While the software and database that run on the computers to transact credit card payments and process menu items are highly customized and supported by the franchise in most cases, the underlying operating system and hardware is not.
We have learned a lot about these systems and can say with certainty that the biggest issues we have run into are lack of proper backups and lack of spare hardware. When a point of sale system goes down for a store, especially a busy store, it is NO FUN. Employees need to process payments manually by hand and write out paper receipts. As you can imagine, the slowdown at the register does a lot to aggravate customers and employees alike. But there are three things that you can do as a retail store business owner to minimize downtime in the event of a system crash.
1. Perform regular system maintenance
Hiring a firm like my PC Techs to regularly maintain your equipment each month can save you from several hours worth of headache and hundreds or thousands of dollars in lost sales. Our technicians will visit your store and examine your systems for irregular performance. System errors, faulty hardware, failing hard drives, botched OS updates, and corrupted data can, in many cases, be identified and corrected before it becomes a larger problem. Dust can be cleaned out (the largest cause of hardware failure), and parts inspected. Unnecessary programs can be removed and system performance improved. The best part of this scenario, the repairs can be performed before or after regular hours, so customers never experience delay.
2. Perform regular, complete data backups
Usually during the same time as the system maintenance, our technicians can perform a complete data backup of all of your POS systems. This is important. When a hard drive crashes, you want to get your system back online as quickly as possible. To rebuild an entire system, restore data from on off site repository, and get all the hardware and software working correctly could take many hours. With a complete system backup, it could be as simple as popping in the right piece of replacement hardware and running a 30 minute recovery.
3. Identify and build an inventory of replacement parts
When a system failure happens, recovery time can be improved considerably when the right spare parts are kept on hand. Rather than buying hard to find computer equipment online, and waiting for it to be shipped, a replacement part can be obtained from storage and quickly installed to replace the broken component. That part can later be replaced to storage, so you always have a backup on hand for the next time disaster strikes.
When you think about the security of your data and your ability to transact business, keep in mind your local computer experts and ways that they can work with you to help improve the reliability of your computer operations. For help with the maintenance and emergency support of your POS systems, contact my PC Techs today. (602) 456-0150.
Wednesday, September 8th, 2010
Can anyone name a small business, or any business for that matter, that doesn’t rely upon technology for day to day operations? Computers play such an integrated role in our lives. Much like automobiles, it is important to maintain your computers and run periodic checks on them to avoid failure.
When doing routine system maintenance, there are several different areas of the computer that should be checked for potential problems. The operating system itself, installed software, updates and patches, anti-virus definitions, the network settings, the system fans, dust levels, hard disk drives, backups, and external devices! Some are more important than others. For example, if your hard drive fails, you could face some very costly data recovery issues. Dust is another one, dust and heat are the biggest killers of electronic components. A competent computer repair firm will have a checklist of items that a technician will run through, the hard drive and dust levels being just one of those, to ensure optimal performance.
Not to get stuck on the automobile analogy, but it’s so easy to do comparisons between that and computer repair. If you forget to change your oil, over time your engine suffers. If you go long enough, eventually your engine will fail. Computer maintenance is the same way. A lot of clients have come to us with failed hard drives. Sometimes we can get their data off pretty easily and recover their systems. In the worst cases, those hard drives need to be sent off to a lab where data recovery becomes extremely costly. Client with crashed hard drives are usually surprised when we tell them that the crash could have been avoided. There are warning signs that most equipment will give when things go bad, and the signs usually begin a while before the actual crash takes place. For hard drives, it could be slow performance, errors while working, errors in system logs, or even clicking or grinding sounds. Most computer fans make noises too when they are about to fail.
Our experts service and repair machines and are experienced in the different ways you can identify computer problems. If you hire a team of professionals that know how to keep your computers working, and have them come out monthly for a quick checkup, you too will be able to keep working. For most people, computer failures usually happen at the worst possible time. Like, right before an important project deadline. If your computer suddenly crashes or the network is not working you may lose work and income. All of this could be avoided with just a couple hours of preventative maintenance per month.
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Friday, July 30th, 2010
As a business owner, you were probably quick to identify the need for a properly designed and well maintained company website, one that will provide your business with affordable marketing opportunities, help increase sales, and generate new business. You may have gone one step further, establishing a blog with the hopes that frequent posting to the blog will lead to increased exposure of your products and services to new clients. Blogs are invaluable tools for company employees, allowing them to post new articles, videos, press releases, and pages to a website. However, very few businesses are given proper advice or support when it comes to efficient ways to use a blog for business growth, sales, and lead generation.
There is a clear divide that most businesses face when it comes to internet marketing. Most companies find themselves, knowingly or not, increasing the amount of time and effort spent marketing online without generating any significant increase in relevant traffic that will result in new sales. This problem is mostly due to the fragmentation of the website services industry. When you hire a website design and development firm, there is a very good chance that the firm does not understand the importance of internet marketing. They may setup your blog in such a way that it’s practically worthless for the real power and purpose of blogging, which is website traffic and lead generation. Conversely, when employing an internet marketing solution or trying to do it internally, many of the people actually working on your online marketing lack proper website design and web development knowledge. You may, again, find yourself with blog content that does nothing more than take up space and does not result in exposure for your business.
The biggest culprits behind wasted blogging efforts are the online, free blog solutions. Many companies are either sold a free solution by improperly trained website and internet marketing companies or ask employees to establish them, not realizing the loss of productivity that will result. Free blog solutions lack several key benefits that properly developed and integrated blogs do not. Important tools, such as automatic link distribution and site cross-linking are typically not available. The bulk of your product, services, and marketing materials are generally not visible to visitors who click through to read an article on an external blog. Additionally, the majority of free blogs are hosted outside of the company domain and fail to provide fresh content associated with your website, which is extremely important and valuable for a company when it comes to search engine positioning.
Secondary blogs on free solutions, established outside of your company domain with alternative content, can be beneficial for SEO and page rank purposes. However, the primary blog for your business should always be properly hosted on your own website domain, linked correctly from your website navigation, and completely integrated into your existing website. If the URL to your website starts with a URL similar to www.azmassageforwellness.com, your main company blog should be referenced from within a sub-directory of that site, such as www.azmassageforwellness.com/blog. It should also be developed using recent, feature-rich blogging solutions such as the open source blog application WordPress. Finally, the blog should be a total integration, with blog pages sharing few differences in heading, navigation, and footer from your main website. Website developers that realize the importance of page rank, relevancy and online marketing will follow these guidelines to integrate blog solutions for your company that provide a deep set of features and support easy to use Plugins for SEO and link automation.
The reason all of this is important deals with the way search engines index and rank your website. When going through the pages on your site, a properly integrated blog appears to a search engine as part of your website. Every post that is made through the blog becomes an additional page of content for ranking purposes. Search engines love fresh content. The more fresh content you have, the more relevant your website appears to search engines and you will rank higher in search results and generate more new business as a result. It takes time, but after 100 or 200 good blog posts, your website should begin to see some significant benefit in search engines.
There are additional factors to consider when posting to a blog, outside the scope of this article, which are important to consider. A good internet marketing solution will provide you with training and will support your efforts by identifying effective keywords to use in posts. You should be provided tips that will help establish your blog in the community, giving you recognition as an expert in your field. Your website team should help you to identify ways to distribute your content and get your blog posts linked out to other websites. Finally, there should be a good level of customer support and interaction between you and the website team that designed your blog, so that you understand the most effective ways to utilize your blog and get the most value from your time invested.
A properly developed and utilized blog can be the most effective tool available for you to generate traffic and increase search engine positioning for your website. If you haven’t already, be sure to search for and consult with a comprehensive website design, development, and internet marketing firm. One that can provide a variety of effective solutions that work together to increase sales for your business.
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