Tech Tips

Disaster Planning: Preparation Can Save Your Business

Dr. Mark Smith recently published an article in the Lafayette Business Journal that made the staff at EDC stop and listen. As the UL Lafayette Associate Director of Business Strategy, he knows first hand what it takes to survive in the business world, and he had some startling statistics about disaster planning for business information. These are a few from that article:

– A company that experiences a computer outage lasting more thant 10 days will never fully recover. 50% will be out of business within five years.
– An estimated 25% of businesses do no reopen following a major disaster.
– 70% of small firms that experience a major data loss go out of business within a year.
– Of the companies that experience catastrophic data loss, 43% never reopened and 51% closed within two years.

Disaster plans should be made for 2 types of senarios:
Plan A : Recover from hardware failure or software corruption
This can happen due to a variety of reasons, so you should make sure you have up to date backups. Review your backup solution yearly to ensure that it is the best one for your needs, and that you are backing up the right information. Keeping receipts and warranty paperwork for equipment, and copies of disks and license keys in a safe place can also be of great aid in quickly recovering your network. EDC does not keep copies of your license keys and disks, and we don’t keep stock of every software our clients use. We can get you up and running much sooner with the proper tools.

Plan B: Evacuation Plan
We all know what would cause evacuations, but would you know how to run your business from a secondary location if you were unable to return to your office? Katrina showed us that sometimes you may not be able to go back to the office, but you still need to go back to work. A plan should be made for what would happen in such an event. This would include what would be taken, by whom, and how you would all meet after everyone has moved to a safe place.

I will use some of EDC’s plan as an example: Every consultant knows to leave with their laptop, and their cell phones, the accounting server and paper copies of client contact information is taken by Elise, and Scott leaves with all of the software required to do business. Scott also has a master list of contact information to get everyone back to work at a temporary location if needed.

In a bind, hardware can be purchased and shipped overnight to a new location, but the data and staff cannot be so easily replaced. This is just a general guide, if you have specific questions while making your disaster plans, please call us. We can help you make a plan that works specifically for your company. We hope to never have to use these precautions, but being caught without
them could mean the end of your business.

For more information about Dr.Mark Smith, and the articled referred to above, go to www.lafbusinessjournal.com

Making the Switch to Apple

Apple computers are gaining popularity in homes and offices more than ever before. EDC has received more questions about Macs as Apple’s market share continues to grow. I have been a Mac user for over 8 years, and EDC’s entire staff uses Apple computers. They can be a great choice for home or office use depending on your needs.

Are You A Good Candidate To Switch?

As historically Windows users consider switching from Microsoft to Apple, some questions need to be answered to see if an Apple would be a good choice. Users who primarily use their workstation for web and email are usually good candidates for switching to Mac. Safari is the web browser included with OS X. While there are a few websites that have some compatibility issues with Safari, it is very similar to using Microsoft’s Internet Explorer. Firefox is also a good web browser for a Mac. It is a free program, easily downloaded, and since it is more popular than Safari it has less compatibility issues with websites. (It is available at www.getfirefox.com) Also, for general office use, there are many office software systems built for Mac, including MS Office 2008. This allows you to use Word, Excel, PowerPoint and other MS Office products just as you would on a Windows workstation.

Users who play 3D video games may not be good Mac candidates because many of the currently popular games don’t have Mac versions. Also, Mac hardware is not as customizable as PC hardware, and isn’t usually the most cost-effective way to get a solid gaming system.

Another consideration for those thinking of switching to Apple is specialized software. A lot of industry specific software and custom made programs are not available for Mac. There are programs that are made to run Windows within the Mac operating system, and the EDC staff uses both Parallels and VMware Fusion to do this at our office. This allows you to continue to use those Windows based programs, but if you spend the majority of your time in the Windows screen, an Apple may not be the most efficient choice.

Why You Should Go Apple

If your usage habits make you a good switching candidate, an Apple computer is a great option because they are very reliable computers with a stable operating system. There are essentially no spyware or viruses on a Mac. They do exist, but currently the odds of getting one on your workstation is slim to none.

Also, Time Machine is a program included in OS 10.5 and offers an easy backup solution for Mac users. Since it is built in, you just plug in an external drive and it takes care of itself. You no longer have to worry about losing your pictures or files anymore. Backups are made automatically every 10 minutes.

Installing new hardware on a Mac is also more simple than a PC. Many Mac compatible devices have their drivers pre-installed into the operating system which makes the process extremely easy. Finally, Macs tend to run longer with fewer problems. OS X does not deteriorate with age like Windows, and you can use an OS X install for years with little degradation.

Choosing The Right Apple

Choosing which Apple product is right for you can be an easy process. Apple’s iMac product line has the best balance of power and features and can be purchased within most budgets. iMacs come in a 20” and 24” models with various hardware configurations, and while you might be hesitant to buy a computer that’s built into the display, you will most likely keep and use the computer for longer than a PC. It can be reasonable expected to use an Apple computer for 4 years with little to no problems, and that’s a fairly normal life spam of most monitors. Because of the built-in design of iMacs, the space required on your desk is much less than a PC tower and monitor. Plus it definitely has a wow factor. It just looks cool.

If you prefer a laptop, a MacBook is generally more powerful than the average user will need. The main Benefits that the MacBook Pro has over the MacBook is the larger screen and a better video card. If you are doing any kind of 3D gaming, a Pro is probably necessary. Otherwise a MacBook is sufficient. A MacBook Air is a great tool for a traveler, however the limited features of the Air make it a better secondary computer, and the premium price makes it a luxury item for most users.

Although, Apple offers fewer options in their computer lines, even the least expensive model is generally more than enough power for the average user.

AppleCare Warranty

I recommend that new Apple users buy the Apple Care Warranty. This extends the 1 year warranty to 3 years, includes Apple phone support, and hardware replacement if something does become damaged. Our experience with Apple’s Warranty Service has been great. Turn around time is reasonable and phone support is patient and helpful.

Transferring from PC to Mac

Apple is currently running a promotion that offers free information transfer from your old PC to any new Apple bought at the Apple Store by one of their Mac Geniuses. If going to an Apple store isn’t and option (there aren’t any currently in Lafayette), EDC can get you setup on your new computer. The transfer usually takes a couple of tech hours to get everything you need on your new workstation.

The best news is, buying your second Mac is much easier. There is a built-in program call Migration Assistant on all new Apple computers that pulls all your information, programs, and settings from your old Mac to the new one. It’s the closest thing to plug and play you can get with new workstations.
If you feel that a Mac might be the best option for you, give us a call and we can help. After you have made the switch, you will wonder why you didn’t do it sooner. For more information check out Apple’s website www.apple.com/getamac.

Safe Internet Practices for the Office

With the ever increasing threat of viruses, spyware, malware, and spam, I have put together this document to help outline safe Internet practices, which should reduce the chance of workstations at your office becoming infected.

The first thing that needs to be addressed is the websites being visited on office computers. Sites that allow you to play online games or download programs, such as weather bug, should be avoided. These sites often install spyware and malware that allows the provider of the free game/program to track your Internet surfing habits. They use this information to create pop-ups and in web page advertising with a focus on things you have recently searched the web for.
Often times they will also sell the registration information used when you downloaded these applications to other companies, which will increase the amount of spam being sent via email. If something does have to be downloaded and it requires an email address it’s a good idea to use another email other than your work email. This also applies to any site that requires an email address that is not work related.

I would recommend that all users create a free email account on Yahoo or Gmail and use this email address when making online purchases or downloading approved content from the web. By doing this the marketers will send the spam to the Yahoo address instead of your work account. When the Yahoo email address becomes unmanageable due to the amount of spam being sent to it, the user can then create a new email address to be used and abandon the previous email address.

Sites like myspace and facebook should also be avoided. Many of the individuals with profiles on these sites use music tracks, video clips, and other types of scripts to make his or her page unique. The danger of these sites is if one of these “enhancements” are infected with a virus. When the visitor clicks the link to see the video or listen to the music the virus will be installed on his or her computer.

Most people are familiar with the forwarded joke emails, inspirational emails, or emails claiming that some major company will donate “X” amount of dollars to some charity every time the message is forwarded. These are often times used by “spammers” as a means of gathering massive amounts of legitimate email addresses for future spamming.
Finally, the best advice I can give is that the computers at your office are for work related functions and should be used for only work related activities. This is the best way to guarantee that your office computers will continue to run properly, which will avoid as many problems as possible.