Q: How can I control the amount of spam my company gets?

A: Along with strong hardware, software, or cloud-based spam filters, user training is one of the best ways to control overall company spam. Business email addresses should be separate from personal email addresses. Using “throw-away” mailboxes such as Gmail or Hotmail are great for online forms or forums that might attract spammers. Spammers can also get email addresses by installing malware through viruses and spyware, so protecting user PC’s with strong malware protection is critical. Finally, reducing requires vigilance and monitoring. Spammers constantly find new techniques, and it requires experienced IT professionals who can work to block them.

Q: Are Macs or Linux better than Windows?

A: Not necessarily. Each are fine operating systems, and depending on your needs, they might be the best solution for your company. The real question is, what will work best for your company’s business needs? Propely maintained, Windows PC’s and servers provide an outstanding combination of functionality, speed, and cost-effectiveness. Ultimately, an operating system is a tool to get your company’s work done

Q: How do I know my people are working, not surfing, downloading and You-tubing?

A: There are many excellent applications that will allow you real-time analysis of the network activity being generated by your employees. With these tools, you can have meaningful, actionable reports that give you metrics on web surfing, downloading, social networking, and other activity by your employees. These reports can help enforce existing business policies, or give you the insight needed to decide on new ones.

Q: How do I make sure my back-ups are good and being done?

A: There is an old saying in IT. Backups are always successful, until you try to restore the data. The truth is, back-ups are just more complicated than they seem, especially when dealing with the volume and complexity of today’s business data. What’s important is good quality backup hardware, adherence to industry standard practices that are performed daily, regular and vigilant monitoring of reports, and regularly scheduled restoral tests to ensure that the data you back up is usable in an emergency. All these things fall under an established disaster recovery plan that keeps you up and running.

Q: Should I upgrade to Windows Vista?

A: Vista has a lot of great things going for it. Properly configured and customized, Vista can be a great operating system to use. It is, however, expensive, requires new hardware in many cases, and can be confusing for users accustomed to Windows XP. At this time, we are recommending that customers wait until the next release of Windows expected in Fall of 2009.

Q: I hate Vista! Should I go back to XP?

A: If you hate Vista, it may be that it is not configured and customized to your liking. With the right amount of work, Vista can be made to look and smell almost like Windows XP. That being said, it is not XP and many as;pects will still be very different. Keep in mind, that moving back to XP may not be a simple process. Typically, it requires that all your data and programs must be backed up, and your entire PC rebuilt from scratch.

Q: Why do they blame Verizon when my internet is offline? I don’t use Verizon.

A: Verizon is an Internet Service Provider, and - on the US East Coast - the phone company. Verizon owns the “last mile” of every single data connection regardless of who the provider is. When your ISP has a problem and blames Verizon, it means that they need to work with Verizon to get the problem resolved in that last mile. Verizon does many things right, but being fast is not one of them. Often only an IT professional with the skills and knowledge of dealing with these vendors can get things moving for you as quickly and efficiently as possible.

Q: Are service plans really worth it?

A: For critical hardware, yes. Our recommendation is to always purchase services plans for servers, firewalls, and routers that your critical network resources run on. The manufacturers have rapid response plans and a vast network of certified technicians who can get parts and knowledge working on your problem. In addition, service plans for major PC manufacturers are very good ideas, especially if you have mobile workers who rely on their laptops for daily productivity.

Q: Is it better to lease my company’s computer equipment? Buy it outright?

A: Leasing equipment can be an affordable option that allows you to spread out the cost of your infrastructure purchases over time. In addition, it aids you to stay ahead of obsolescence as your business needs grow. Leasing can cost more money over the long run than purchasing outright, and not all plans are the same, so it is important to always read the fine print.

Q: OK. I give. So what is VoiceOver IP?

A: VOIP stands for Voice Over IP. Think of it as running voice calls over the same kind of data line used by your Internet connection. It can offer savings on your voice costs, while adding substantial new functionality. VOIP has lots of hype associated with it, so it may not always be the best option for your business.

Q: How do I secure a wireless router at home?

A: Wireless routers almost always come preconfigured with wireless network settings. While this makes it easy to set up your wireless network, typically these default settings leave your wireless network completely open. It’s possible for somebody with a laptop to sit outside your home or apartment, pick up your wireless network, and use your broadband connection for simple web surfing, or worse. Adding a strong wireless password using industry standard WPA encryption keeps them out, while giving you the access you need. You can even configure your wireless network so that it appears “invisible” accept to those machines that need to use it.

Q: Do I need a SAN?

A: SAN stands for Storage Area Network which is really just a fancy way of saying a “container with lots of hard drives.” Unlike a local hard drive, a SAN allows you storage space that can be utilized by your entire network immediately, and offers enormous flexibility with server deployment, data protection, and file access speed. For organizations that plan complex network and server deployments in the near future, a SAN can be a significant building block for making those projects a success. For smaller organizations, a SAN might be more cost than is needed, and lower-end options could be a better fit.

Q: The server works. Why would I need a new one?

A: Like all IT hardware, servers have a usable life. After a period of time, servers end up costing you money in maintenance, lost productivity when critical components fail, and inability to deploy new applications incompatible with your existing hardware. If your server is over 5 years old, you could probably by new equipment that will run faster, more efficiently, and require less upkeep for less money than you originally paid.

Q: The laptop works. Why would I need a new one?

A: See answer above. Laptops generally have a lifespan of 3 years before they become costly to maintain and inefficient for your business needs. Many companies specifically lease laptops to ensure that they plan for this obsolescence as part of their IT budgeting.

Q: So fine, I’ll upgrade my network. How do I update the old custom software to run on the new hardware?

A: In recent years, virtualization has become a cost-effective way for companies to preserve and maintain custom applications on new hardware without having to write entirely new code. Virtualization takes your existing servers, images them so that they appear to the network exactly as before, and allows you to run them on new hardware with no reconfiguration whatsoever.

Q: And how do I figure out what software licenses I own?

A: The first step is to have an extensive audit of your servers and PC’s to determine what software is running, and where. Aielron uses state-of-the-art software packages to go out on your network and locate every program, application, database, etc. in place and in use. From that, we can generate custom reports that tell you exactly what is running, and in many case, if a valid license is currently in use.

Q: What are the warning signs that I’ve got trouble in my systems?

A: Are you experiencing system shutdowns, random reboots, or extended periods of time where files are inaccessible or excessively slow to access? Are you finding out that you are unable to email certain clients and customers because you are on a “blacklist?” Are you receiving unexplained virus warning, pop-ups, or increasing amounts of spam? If you lost data today, are you certain that you could recover the data immediately? If you can answer yes to any of these questions, these are signs that you may have serious system issues that need to be addressed by qualified professionals that know IT inside and out.

Q: Should our PCs be running this slowly?

A: PC speed is, in many cases, a highly subjective opinion. For some, PC’s run amazingly fast right out of the box. For others, PC’s never run nearly fast enough. How your PC performs can be affected by the software you use, the way you use the Internet, even the size of emails you open. Of course, PC’s can, and do, slow down over time. It takes qualified IT professionals who can get the root of your PC performace problems, and give you honest recommendations on how to get the most bang for your buck.

Q: How long can I put off changes? Can I do this stuff over time?

A: Absolutely. It is not always necessary to change everything overnight. In fact, we don’t recommend it. IT needs to be in-tune with the business needs, and it makes no sense to make changes that won’t satisfy those needs. Too often, managed IT firms have existing relationships with hardware and software vendors such that they are “encouraged” to push a solution you don’t need. At Aileron, we are completely independent and maintain no partnerships with vendors. When we propose a solution, it is based on our honest appraisal of your needs, not because we get a commission.

Q: Why is IT so expensive?

A: For two reasons. One, because it is. Your network is the lifeblood of your business, and a necessity just like trucks, plant equipment, and office space. Buying only the cheapest hardware, and employing the least experienced managed IT company will ultimately yield only the worst results, and cost you more in the long run. Fortunately, the second reason is that IT doesn’t HAVE to be as expensive as it is. You need a partner to assess your requirements, give you honest opinions on how to get the most for your money, and give you options to choose from. Finally, you need a firm with the technical expertise and genuine concern for you to get the job done from conception to implementation and follow-on support. That’s the advantage that Aileron brings.

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