How Homes for Veterans Help Our Vets

State homes for veterans are places that offer nursing home care, domiciliary or day care for adults. These facilities date back to before the Civil war era when many states made them to give shelter to disabled and homeless veterans. Veterans homes are owned, managed and operated by state governments. New Jersey homes for veterans have many wonderful benefits they offer to take care of our former soldiers.


New Jersey Veteran Memorial Homes

There comes a time when it becomes too difficult to care for our loved ones, whether they are aging, disabled or suffering mentally. For those responsible for the long-term care of a veteran in New Jersey, the right choice for them may be a New Jersey Veterans Memorial home. They are found in Menlo Park, Paramus and Vineland. The facilities offer long-term care with 24-hour nursing and medical care given by a full-time staff of doctors, RNs, nurse practitioners, LPNs and trained nursing assistants. There are many rehabilitative services available, which include speech therapy, physical and occupational therapies, and recreational activities that are supervised by licensed therapists.


Veterans Haven of New Jersey

Homeless New Jersey Veterans can take advantage of the transitional housing program in Winslow Township. Taking place in one large building on state property, there is a three-phase program: treatment, self-reclamation and community regeneration. The phases last three to six months each, and are customized to meet treatment needs of individuals and their vocational passions. Those eligible are referred from a VA Medical Center once they have been given a medical evaluation. In order to be admitted, the veteran has to agree to a long-term program that is aimed at psychological, vocational and social rehabilitation. The program is free of drugs and alcohol, with a staff made up of mental health, social work, addiction, nursing and vocational rehabilitation specialists.


New Jersey Stand Down Operations

Stand Down is a program that helps the homeless veterans of New Jersey battle life on the streets by providing many necessities: clothing, food, legal, mental and medical health assistance, job referrals and counseling, companionship and a place from the vets to socialize. Veterans and volunteers over 18 can become members of Stand Down. Volunteers must be willing to give time, effort and their resources to help in the programs for homeless vets.


New Jersey Housing and Mortgage Finance Agency (HMFA)

The New Jersey HMFA offers low rate mortgages that will give veterans and their families more buying power and savings that equal thousands of dollars in interest throughout the life of the loan. Residential mortgages are offered by HMFA to United States veterans via the Veterans Administration home buyer program. Private lenders that have been approved to take part in the programs originate most of the HMFA ownership loans.

How to Choose an Effective Mobile Device Management Program

Mobile devices in the workplace have become so commonplace that business owners typically don’t bat an eye at employees utilizing their own smartphones for work-related purposes. The inherent flexibility for people to work on-the-go, access necessary files, and always be connected to work is plenty of reason why business professionals use their own devices and why businesses allow it.

With a more mobile workforce and the BYOD attitude when it comes to smartphone usage for business purposes, there are also plenty of security risks businesses must take into consideration when figuring out what its MDM program will be – if they even plan on having one at all.

Here are some of the more pertinent questions needing to be answered by businesses that are willing to adopt the BYOD environment:

  • How do we keep track of all these devices?
  • How do we keep our employees happy while protecting our network and data?
  • How will all of these devices impact our wireless network?
  • How do we enforce security policies across mobile devices?
  • Is there an impact on compliance? If so, what is it?
  • Is adopting a BYOD environment even worth it, what’s our ROI?
  • Are we willing to support all mobile devices or just some? What about people who switch out their smartphones or tablets frequently?

These are just SOME of the questions you need to be asking yourself, or your IT team, when it comes to Mobile Device Management and how it fits into your business environment.

When deciding if it would be more effective to entrust your Mobile Device Management plan to your IT staff, or to outsource it to another technology solutions providers there are key things you’ll want to keep in mind:

  • Choose a cloud-based solution so updates are automatic and painless.
  • Ensure there is the capability for remote configuration and monitoring so you don’t have to physically handle each device for set-up and security configuration.
  • Ability to enforce passwords, blacklists, and other security policies.
  • Logging and reporting of all activity for compliance purposes.
  • The ability to remotely disconnect or disable any device for security purposes, such as unauthorized devices, applications or access.

Now that companies must plan for use of mobile devices in their business environment, infrastructure must be put in place to accommodate whatever Mobile Device Management plan created. Industry research has demonstrated there is inherent value in having a flexible and mobile workforce, but any positive ROI for a BYOD environment starts with creating a plan to handle such an environment.

Mobile devices in the workplace are definitely here to stay, so develop a plan for them before they become a problem for your business.

Facts About Backup

If your data is important to your business and you cannot afford to have your operations halted for days – even weeks – due to data loss or corruption, then you need to read this report and act on the information shared. This report will outline the most commonly made, costly mistakes that most small business owners make with their data backups.

You’ll Discover:

  • What remote, offsite, or managed backups are, and why EVERY business should have them in place.
  • 7 critical characteristics you should absolutely demand from any remote backup service; do NOT trust your data to anyone who does not meet these criteria.
  • Where tape backups fail and give you a false sense of security.
  • Frightening trends, cases, and questions every business owner should know and consider regarding data security.
  • The single most important thing to look for in a remote backup service provider.

Have you ever lost an hour of work on your computer?

Now imagine if you lost days or weeks of work – or imagine losing your client database, financial records, and all of the work files your company has ever produced or compiled.

Imagine what would happen if your network went down for days and you couldn’t access e-mail or the information on your PC. How devastating would that be?

Or, what if a major storm, flood, or fire destroyed your office and all of your files? Or if a virus wiped out your server…do you have an emergency recovery plan in place that you feel confident in?

How quickly do you think you could recover, if at all?

If you do not have good answers to the above questions or a rock-solid disaster recovery plan in place, you are quite literally playing Russian roulette with your business. With the number of threats constantly growing, it’s not a matter of if you will have a problem, but rather a matter of when.

But That Could Never Happen To Me!

(And Other Lies Business Owners Like To Believe About Their Businesses…)

After many years working with small and mid-size businesses in the NY/NJ area, we found that 6 out of 10 businesses will experience some type of major network or technology disaster that will end up costing them between $9,000 and $60,000 in repairs and restoration costs on average.

That doesn’t even include lost productivity, sales, and client goodwill that can be damaged when a company can’t operate or fulfill on its promises due to technical problems.

While it may be difficult to determine the actual financial impact data loss would have on your business, you can’t deny the fact that it would have a major negative effect.

“But I Already Back Up My Data,” You Say…

If you are like most business owners, you’ve been smart enough to set up a tape backup. But know this:

 The average failure rate for a tape backup is 100% – ALL tape backups fail at some point in time.

    Incredible, isn’t it? Most people don’t realize that ALL tape drives fail. But what’s really dangerous is that most companies don’t realize it happened until it’s too late.

That’s why history is riddled with stories of companies losing millions of dollars worth of data. In almost every case, these businesses had some type of backup system in place, but were sickened to find out it wasn’t working when they needed it most.

While you should maintain a local backup of your data, a tape backup will NOT offer you protection if…

  1. Your tape drive malfunctions rendering it useless and making it impossible to restore your data. IMPORTANT: It is very common for a tape drive to malfunction without giving any warning signs.
  2. Your office (and everything in it) gets destroyed by a fire, flood, hurricane, tornado, or other natural disaster.
  3. The physical tapes you are backing your data up to become corrupted due to heat or mishandling.
  4. A virus spoils the data stored on the tape drive. Some of the more aggressive viruses not only corrupt the data, but they don’t allow anyone to access the data on the drive.
  5. Someone in your office accidentally formats the tape, erasing everything on it.
  6. Theft – a disgruntled employee intentionally erases everything, or a thief breaks in and steals ALL of your equipment.
  7. A faulty sprinkler system “waters” all of your electronic equipment.

Bottom line: You do NOT want to find out your backup was not working when you need it most.

Frightening Trends, Cases, and Questions You Should Consider:


  • Tape drives fail on average at 100%; that means ALL tape drives fail at some point and do NOT offer complete protection for your data if a natural disaster, fire, or terrorist attack destroys your office and everything in it. Business owners who were hit by hurricanes like Katrina learned a hard lesson about keeping remote backups of their data.
  • 93% of companies that lost their data for 10 days or more filed for bankruptcy within one year of the disaster, and 50% filed for bankruptcy immediately. (Source: National Archives & Records Administration in Washington.)
  • 20% of small to medium businesses will suffer a major disaster causing loss of critical data every 5 years. (Source: Richmond House Group)
  • This year, 40% of small to medium businesses that manage their own network and use the Internet for more than e-mail will have their network accessed by a hacker, and more than 50% won’t even know they were attacked. (Source: Gartner Group)
  • About 70% of business people have experienced (or will experience) data loss due to accidental deletion, disk or system failure, viruses, fire or some other disaster (Source: Carbonite, an online backup service)
  • The first reaction of employees who lose their data is to try to recover the lost data themselves by using recovery software or either restarting or unplugging their computer — steps that can make later data recovery impossible. (Source: 2005 global survey by Minneapolis-based Ontrack Data Recovery)

Remote Backups: What They Are And Why EVERY Business Should Have Them In Place

The ONLY way to completely protect your data and guarantee that you could restore it all after a major disaster is by maintaining an up-to-date copy of your data offsite in a high-security facility.

Remote backups, also called offsite backups, online backups, or managed backups, is a service that allows you to maintain a secure copy of your data in a different location than your office.

Usually this type of backup is done automatically via the Internet after hours to a high-security facility. There is no question that every business owner should have an offsite copy of their data; however, there ARE big differences among remote backup services and it’s critical that you choose a good provider or you could end up paying a lot of money only to discover that recovering your data – the very reason why you set up remote backups in the first place – is not an easy, fast, or simple job.

 7 Critical Characteristics to Demand from Your Remote Backup Service

The biggest danger businesses have with remote backup services is lack of knowledge in what to look for.

There are literally hundreds of companies offering this service because they see it as an easy way to make a quick buck. But not all service providers are created equal and you absolutely want to make sure you choose a good, reliable vendor or you’ll get burned with hidden fees, unexpected “gotchas,” or with the horrible discovery that your data wasn’t actually backed up properly, leaving you high and dry when you need it most.

If your remote backup provider doesn’t meet all 7 of these points, then you’d be crazy to trust them to store your data:

  1. Military-level security, data transfer, and data storage. This is fairly obvious; you want to make sure the company housing your data is actually secure. After all, we are talking about your financial information, client data, and other sensitive information about your company. Never trust your data to anyone that doesn’t have the following security measures in place:
    • Ask your service provider if they are HIPAA, Sarbanes-Oxley, Gram-Leach-Bliley, and SEC NASD compliant. These are government regulations that dictate how organizations with highly sensitive data (like banks and doctor’s offices) handle, store, and transfer their data. If you are a medical or financial institution, you are required by law to work only with vendors who meet these stringent requirements. But even if you are NOT an organization that falls under one of these regulations, you still want to choose a provider who is because it’s a good sign that they have high-level security measures in place.
    • Make sure the physical location where the data is stored is secure. Ask your service provider if they have an ID system, video surveillance, and some type of card key system to allow only authorized personnel to enter the site.
    • Make sure the data transfer is encrypted with SSL protocols to prevent a hacker from accessing the data while it’s being transferred.
  2. Multiple data centers that are geographically dispersed. Anyone versed in data security knows the best way to avoid loss is to build redundancy into your operations. All that means is that your remote backup service should store multiple copies of your data in more than one location. That way, if a terrorist attack or natural disaster destroys one of their locations, they have backups of your backup in a different city where the disaster did not strike.
  3. Demand the ability to receive overnight copies of your data on DVD or some other data storage device. If your entire network gets wiped out, you do NOT want Internet download to be your only option for recovering the data because it could take days or weeks. Therefore, you should only work with a remote backup provider that will provide overnight copies of your data via some physical storage device.
  4. On that same token, ask your service provider if you have the option of having your initial backup performed through hard copy. Again, trying to transfer that amount of data online could take days or weeks. If you have a large amount of data to backup, it would be faster and more convenient to send it to them on DVD.
  5. Make sure your data can be restored to a different computer than the one it was backed up from. Amazingly, some backups can only be restored to the same computer they came from. If the original computer was burned in a fire, stolen, or destroyed in a flood, you’re left without a backup.
  6. Demand daily status reports of your backup. All backup services should send you a daily e-mail to verify if your backup actually ran AND to report failures or problems. The more professional providers should also allow you to notify more than one person (like a technician or your IT person) in addition to yourself.

Demand help from a qualified technician. Many online backup services are “self-serve.” This allows them to provide a cheaper service to you. BUT if you don’t set your system to back up correctly, the money you will save will be insignificant compared to the losses you’ll suffer. At the very least, ask your service provider to walk you through the steps on the phone or to check your settings to make sure you did the setup properly.

The Single Most Important Thing To Look For When Choosing a Remote Backup Service Provider

While the above checks are important, one of the most critical characteristics – and one that is often overlooked — is finding a company that will do regular test restores to check your backup and make sure the data is able to be recovered.

You do not want to wait until your data has been wiped out to test your backup; yet that is exactly what most people do – and they pay for it dearly.

If your data is very sensitive and you cannot afford to lose it, then test restores should be done monthly. If your situation is a little less critical, then quarterly test restores are sufficient.

Any number of things can cause your backup to become corrupt. By testing it monthly, you’ll sleep a lot easier at night knowing you have a good, solid copy of your data available in the event of an unforeseen disaster or emergency.

Scary But True Facts About Data Loss


  • The average failure rate of disk and tape drives is 100% – ALL DRIVES WILL EVENTUALLY FAIL.
  • Only 34% of companies test their tape backups and, of those who do, 77% have found failures.
  • 60% of companies that lose their data will go out of business within 6 months of the disaster.
  • Over ½ of critical corporate data resides on unprotected PC desktops and laptops.
  • Key causes for data loss are:
    • 78% Hardware or system malfunction
    • 11% Human error
    • 7% Software corruption or program malfunction
    • 2% Computer viruses
    • 1% Natural disasters
    • 1% Other
  • Only 25% of users frequently back up their files, yet 85% of those same users say they are very concerned about losing important digital data.
  • More than 22% said backing up their PCs was on their to-do list, but they seldom do it.
  • 30% of companies report that they still do not have a disaster recovery program in place, and 2 out of 3 feel their data backup and disaster recovery plans have significant vulnerabilities.
  • 1 in 25 notebooks are stolen, broken or destroyed each year.
  • Today’s hard drives store 500 times the data stored on the drives of a decade ago. This increased capacity amplifies the impact of data loss, making mechanical precision more critical.
  • You have a 30% chance of having a corrupted file within a one-year time frame.

Source: VaultLogix


What should be in a ‘Go Bag’ for business?

A ‘Go Bag’ is essentially a collection of items that will facilitate a specific task in an emergency. There are survival Go Bags, communications Go Bags and now we are seeing the emergence of the ‘Business Go Bag’.

Key functions need to occur, even during a regional disaster, in order for a business to survive. These may include production, transportation and communication. Arguably, the last one, especially communication with your customers, is of paramount importance.

So let’s talk about a Go Bag for key members of your customer service staff.

Situation: Commercial power is unavailable and communications infrastructure has been damaged in the effected area. Event duration is expected to be several days at a minimum.

Assumed: Company has an IP based PBX and company applications running in a secure data center.

A customer service Go Bag to deal with such a situation should include the following:

High-efficiency laptop with WiFi capability and Soft Phone software loaded and configured

-Headset/Microphone for laptop

-Cellular Wireless Access Point

-Cellular phone

-Standard phone-line type modem

-Temporary power supply (example)

With these items, a customer service rep has the ability to operate for extended periods in the absence of facilities that we have come to take for granted.

Customer calls will reach a rep who has the ability to take orders, answer questions about existing orders or respond to other customer inquiries.

IT Managed Services: Preventing it from becoming mid-90’s ‘Outsourcing’

This article is for those contemplating a Managed Services engagement to address all the repetitive IT headaches that take time away from strategic planning efforts. You have realized that you don’t want to use your highly-compensated IT staff to check backups, restart services or fight the myriad of fires that pop up every day. There are, however, some old ideas that need to be shed to help ensure success.

1. Named Resources

This is one of the most dangerous ideas.

“I want to know who I am dealing with!”

No, actually, you don’t.

If you have come to the conclusion that Managed Services will enhance your IT group, only the SERVICE matters. If the service is provided successfully, maintains the environment and deals with issues that arise, it shouldn’t matter if it’s being performed by lawn gnomes.

Requiring dedicated named resources removes one element of efficiency in that the resource becomes basically a replacement for a full-time employee.

The enhanced financial efficiency and technical superiority of Managed Services comes partly from the fact that it’s a shared service.

As long as end-user satisfaction stays high and all SLA figures are met, a shared service is actually a benefit. A named resource is only exposed to your issues. A shared group of qualified professionals is exposed to the issues that arise in tens, hundreds or even thousands of enterprises. This kind of technical proficiency cannot be taught.

2. The ‘Price Shopper’

Long-time technicians are all familiar with the phrase ‘Buy cheap, buy twice.’ To some extent, this applies to services too. I’m not saying that spending more than necessary is a good thing, but spending less than necessary is most definitely a bad thing.

Many of the ‘Big Box’ outsourcers have re-branded themselves as managed service providers with no real change in operating procedures. This gives them a very attractive price point. In order to maintain profitability at this price point, however, rigid, inflexible adherence to the pattern of services delivered across all their customers is paramount.

If you’re shopping for price, don’t  expect a solution that fits your business. Expect, instead, to modify your business to suit the service model.

3. Leveraging

Get some project work done without bringing on additional resources. Sounds like a great idea.

It’s not.

Managed services are designed to address repetitive but necessary support functions within an environment. Each time a project is injected into the mix, the support pattern is disrupted.

The efficiency and effectiveness of Managed Services arises mainly out of well planned, well managed and well tracked repetitive procedures.

Your Managed Service Provider will be more than happy to assign you a project resource if you really need one, and probably at a fair price. Avoid disrupting the support matrix by insisting on the ability to leverage.

4. “Get your boss!”

In the outsourcing days, often a problem arose that required escalation to a higher level of management. Once we got that person’s name and number, we often found it a time saver to go directly to this party to resolve all future issues. Senior management had the clout to issue ‘Do it now!’ orders.

Things have changed. If you have an on-site or remote Service Delivery Manager, that will be the resolution point for most issues. If you don’t have an SDM, you will have been provided with contacts intended to smooth any support turbulence that may arise.

“Do it now!” has another meaning: “Stop what you are doing”.

Going directly to a higher level can have serious impact on support. A senior manager will generally act quickly when advised of a problem. This quick action precludes in-depth analysis of the ripple effect that such a disturbance may have upon an otherwise well-ordered support structure.

I don’t mean to imply that you should never address an issue to a higher level of management. Just do it only when necessary.

5. Staff Replacement

Outsourcing was based on the notion that replacing our internal IT staff with a contracted staff would save us countless dollars. I guess we saw how that worked out…

Managed Services: NOT a staff replacement.

Managed Service Providers take away the redundant operations that keep your existing staff from reaching their potential as contributors to company profitability.

Since it is genuinely a service, and not a staff replacement, it is usually priced very attractively. Combined with the increase in effectiveness and productivity of your internal staff, you realize a net gain to your company.

 In Conclusion….

IT Managed Services are a great way to enhance your organization’s business model by removing all the repetitive but critical activities that become an overwhelming source of ‘background noise’ that prevents you from bringing real strategic change and value.

If we’re not careful, however, in both planning and execution of Managed Services implementation, we could miss out on the benefits and find ourselves stuck in the 90’s. Please keep these five points in mind as you proceed.

Jeff’s Top 5 BYOD Concerns

We’ve all heard of, and many of us experienced, the Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) wave. As users become aware that their personal devices are capable of interacting with corporate resources we are getting more and more requests to allow such interaction.

The potential increase in productivity as users employ devices that they are very familiar with, however, must be balanced with caution and careful planning if we are to maintain data security and prevent IT costs from rising uncontrollably.

Here is a list of five critical issues that must be kept in mind when considering BYOD.

Access/Loss Control

It happens every day… A sales rep forgets his or her tablet or smartphone in an airport bar. What happens next? Ideally, it would be turned in to airport security and remain there until the original owner called to claim it. This outcome is not guaranteed, however, or even expected for that matter.

Sadly, it is much more likely that the unattended device will catch the eye of some disreputable individual, never to be seen by the original owner again.

Does this device contain cached passwords to company web portals or email? Are corporate documents stored locally on the device? If so, the easily-bypassed device lock password is the only defense against unwanted disclosure or access to corporate resources.

The solution? There are several things that can be done to mitigate this threat.

  • Any device that has access to corporate resources must support remote lock and wipe. (Let’s coin an acronym… ‘RLAW’, Remote Lock And Wipe, to be pronounced ‘ARE-LAW’)
  • All employees using such devices must be made aware that loss of a device must be reported IMMEDIATELY, even if they believe they will find the device in the near future.
  • To the extent possible, corporate information must be kept OFF the device. Web mail is a good example of this. Locally running mail clients store mail on the device and it is accessible to the enterprising information thief even after the mail account has been terminated. Web mail functions inside a web browser and leaves no mail locally on the device. Microsoft’s OWA (Outlook Web Access) is a particularly good example of such a method.

Information Leakage

Many of the new breed of mobile devices have, integrated with the operating system, some sort of app store or other utility for downloading and installing applications to give the user new functionality. It has been seen in the past, however, that some programmers, when designing their apps, integrate some sort of information gathering function within. If this ‘back channel’ functionality is not detected by the security folks from the application store and is made available for download we find ourselves again at risk for unwanted disclosure.

Another avenue for information leakage is found in public Wi-Fi hotspots. Any information passing over such a network can, and often is, captured by a third party.

Oh, and here are three words that should scare the heck out of you… “Personal Cloud Storage”.

What can be done?

Only devices that allow for centralized restriction of software installations to only approved apps should be allowed to connect to the company network or resources. A list of approved apps will need to be created by your security staff.

The public Wi-Fi issue is also easily mitigated. All access to company resources must be conducted via encrypted session. For web-enabled applications, this is easy. Just make sure to only allow SSL (HTTPS) access.


What happens to the information on an old smartphone when a user wished to avail themselves to their ‘New Every Two’ privilege? In many cases it stays on the phone and is either turned in to the service provider or dropped into one of those cell phone reclamation boxes. Hardly a secure location. Additionally, some providers will transfer your contacts and other files for you from your old device to your new one. Sometimes this is done via a computer that copies all the information to its local hard drive and then copies it back up to the new device. This means that for some period of time, your information exists in a place that is beyond corporate security measures.

How do we handle this one? Simple. A secure wipe of the device must be done prior to the upgrade. Deleted files are not really deleted in most cases, so a secure wipe is the only way to permanently clear the information. Most devices have integrated functionality to perform such a wipe. Hopefully the user’s device came with software that will allow them to export contacts and other files so that they can be moved to the new device. If so, company IT staff should perform this migration for the user. If the user does it at home, on their personal computer, we have the same problem… Eventually the computer will be disposed of, and almost no home users securely destroy data on their local hard disks before getting rid of the machine.


An employee that leaves the company for whatever reason will certainly be taking all their devices with them. These devices must be ‘decommissioned’ as corporate authorized devices. Decommissioning involves removing data, documents and client software from the device. This should be performed by internal IT staff with sufficient knowledge of company security policy. If solutions mentioned earlier are already implemented and enforced, this may not be necessary. (I’m still waiting to see such an environment)

Here’s the bad part. This can be kind of hard to enforce. Remember earlier in this article when I said ‘deleted files are not really deleted’? Same goes here. Deleted documents can usually be recovered… The only sure way is, once again, the secure wipe of the device.

Unless BYOD users are educated to the need for this, and sign a document giving permission for this to occur, you will be hard pressed to enforce this. So make sure your company security policy contains a section on decommissioning and that employees are required to sign as an indication that they have read and understand this.


If there are no restrictions as to what kind of device can be used to connect to company resources, expect support costs to rise. Most IT professionals will be able to get through just about any issue a user may have, but the time needed to do so increases greatly when the tech is assisting with a completely unfamiliar OS or device.

To the extent possible, devices should be allowed only after your technical staff, whether internal or outsourced, has a degree of familiarity with the device type and its associated quirks.

In Closing…

BYOD can be seamlessly integrated into your company if these basic guidelines are properly addressed. I would advise that anyone going down this road consider each, as well as following industry standard IT and security practices. Keep your security policy updated! If you don’t presently have one, get one, and keep it updated!


Why Linux is Not Going To Replace Windows for Business Users

I would imagine that the title of this article will offend many. That being the case, I shall start by saying that I have been, and continue to be, a dedicated protagonist of Linux ever since the mid-90’s when I got a free Red Hat distro at the Computer Expo in New York City. I was hooked. Today, my personal machines are mostly various flavors of Linux. The ease of customization has made the OS perfectly suited to just about any project I had in mind.

And therein lies one of the big problems….

Customization equals expense in the business world

In order for IT, whether insourced or outsourced, to support a population of desktop or laptop computers efficiently, it is imperative that there be a ‘standard image’. Every computer must have the same OS, the same UI, and a substantially similar suite of applications. Exceptions must be made for specific cases, such as engineering or production control computers, but every deviation from the standard equals an increase in support expense.

A deskside support technician may need some time to familiarize him/herself with a non-standard machine. In large machine populations, the cumulative time required for familiarization with customized machines becomes a large, yet undocumented, expense. For remote support staff, the problem is even greater. Instructions that would remedy a situation on a standardized machine may worsen a situation on a customized machine. Now the cost of lost productivity starts to add up.

Microsoft has provided the tools to ‘lock down’ a Windows installation in a domain to ensure that the OS stays standard and supportable. With Linux, there are no such mechanisms.

This is a prime example of short-term vs. long-term gains. Any immediate savings in licensing costs realized by using open source operating systems and application suites are generally exceeded by the support costs.

Ah, there’s another point. Application suites. We’ll have to cover that in another article.


The First REAL Review of the Microsoft Surface

After reading literally hundreds of blog posts and reviews of the Microsoft Surface (not the Surface Pro), I decided that it was time to review it fairly. All the reviews I have seen seem to be judging the Surface on its ability to BE a laptop.

Examples of its alleged shortcomings:

  • It won’t run Microsoft Outlook!
  • It cannot join a Microsoft domain!
  • It’s not a full-blown desktop that I can carry around with me!

OK, I made up this last one… But still, you can see that the Surface is being judged unfairly. Judging a tablet by its ability to run Microsoft Outlook is a lot like judging a fish by its ability to climb a tree*.

“Everybody is a genius. But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid.”

― Albert Einstein

So, I went out and purchased one. (A Surface, not a fish) Here is what I found…

The Surface was never meant to BE a laptop… it was meant to be a fully functional mobility platform. Microsoft Office documents? No problem; edit, create, print in native format. The folks you forward documents to never suspect they were not edited on a laptop or desktop.

And, would you really WANT to run a full version of Outlook on something that was designed to be a mobility platform? (Translation: Do you really want to have PST files on a device that you may forget in an airport?)

Were the early Android devices criticized for not having Microsoft Outlook? No. How about the Apple iPads? Again, no. Both families of devices have attracted a sizable following and have found their way into the New Mobile Workforce.

Why, then, do so many reviews grade the Surface as if it were the latest sub-notebook or NetBook? Blame Microsoft for that one, if blame we must. The device ACTS very laptop-like. The visual similarity to laptops running Microsoft Windows 8 makes one set loftier goals than one aught for a tablet.

So, how should we judge such a device? Here’s an idea… let’s judge it against what it was meant to be: A TABLET! Here’s what reviews SHOULD be talking about:

  • Indecently long battery life. How can I bail out of long seminars claiming ‘low battery’ if the thing lasts all day? (Mine typically runs 11 hours of ordinary use.)
  • Ability to connect to Microsoft Exchange servers, as well as most other mail services
  • Ability to create/edit Microsoft Office files. I didn’t even need to purchase this separately!
  • Present your documents! Relatively inexpensive attachments exist for output to monitor, TV or projector.
  • Limited storage… OK, I’ll give you that… unless you plug in a MicroSD card or external hard drive! You can carry around (and lose in an airport) terabytes of your personal documents if you so desire!

So there you have it. We can either judge the Surface for its shortcomings as a laptop, which it isn’t, or by its myriad of superior feature as a tablet, which it actually IS.

Top 5 Reasons IT Service Engagements Fail for Manufacturing

In the manufacturing industry, CIOs have come to the awareness that cost reduction alone is simply no longer enough. Outsourcers and managed service providers almost always provide for cost reduction, but often fall short in the area of operational efficiency and overall contribution to company productivity.

In this article we will review the reasons most frequently associated with failed outsourcing engagements.

So, what is it that causes IT service engagements for manufacturing organizations to fail? Read more

Emergency Laptop Power on a Budget!

Have you lost commercial power, can’t get to the office and your laptop’s battery is fading fast?
What can be done to prevent being put in such a position? Good question! We assembled our own emergency power supply from readily available items.  If you want to try it yourself, here’s what we did (and it was easy!) Read more