IT for Small Biz, LLC.

Outsourced IT department for small businesses


  • I thought the British had better grammar

    I just found out that I’m the beneficiary of a $1.3m USD contract/inheritance/award fund. Not sure why a bank in the UK is offering US Dollars or their head of “International Remittance” is using a Yahoo email address out of Hong Kong. How much you want to bet I’m going to be asked to send a service fee in order to claim this money?

    This message got past Reflexion’s filters. Always remember that any legitimate need for contact info or banking info will not happen via e-mail; banks know better than that!

    HSBC BANK PLC. (REGISTERED NO.1026167).
    ADDRESS: 8 CANADA SQUARE LONDON , E14 5HQ ,
    UNITED KINGDOM.

    Attn: Beneficiary,

    The World Bank and United Nations Organization have officially approved to pay you part payment of your contract/inheritance/award funds.This decision was made last week.With this development,a woman by name (MRS. JANET WHITE) came to our office with an application stating that you gave her the power of attorney to be the beneficiary of your outstanding contract/Inheritance/award funds.She made us to believe that you are dead and that she is your next of kin.We got your email address and decided to send an email through this address hoping to find out if you are dead or alive and also to find out if you at any time give this woman the power of attorney to represent you.

    Please let us know also if you are aware of this development,hence we are almost ready to transfer part payment of $1.3m USD of your outstanding funds to her nominated bank account stated below:

    Bank Name:Washington Mutual Bank
    Address:1723 Palmdale Bulv.
    Palmdale Ca. 93550
    Acct # : 3573813158
    Rout # : 322271627
    Swift code # : WMSBUS66
    Beneficiary:JANET WHITE

    If you are not aware of the above instruction, do respond to this email immediately by contacting the head of the International remittance department (Mr.Michael Geoghegan).

    His contact informations are written below:
    Name:Mr.Michael Geoghegan.
    Direct Telephone Number:+44-70-45703001
    Fax Number:+44-870-9741509
    Email:hsbcmigeogan@yahoo.com.hk
    Email:hsbcmigeogan@j-mail.info

    For immediate transfer of your funds be informed that you are not allowed to correspond or contact any person or office with respect to this transfer other than this office, you are required to send to him an email with your full name,Company or Residential address and your direct Telephone number,Fax Number and your mobile phone where you can be reach at all time.

    Yours Sincerely,

    Mr.Alex Hungate.

    FOR HSBC BANK LONDON.


  • Are You Ready to Cut Monthly Phone Bills?

    Our new phone system uses all digital lines (Voice over IP) and the monthly bill is a fraction of the cost of traditional phone lines. The server runs the open source “trixbox CE” software and we use phones made by Aastra. We are using features such as:

    • Automated attendant – answers all calls and directs the calls as needed
    • Follow Me – forwards calls to our cell phone when we are out of office
    • Extensions over the Internet – our “office” is actually three separate home offices. Our phones are part of one phone system, connected to the primary server over the internet. This is a great feature for branch offices and telecommuters.
    • Call Queues – the options for the automated attended go to call queues, groups of phones that change depending on our daily schedule. In other words, on some days the “Option 1″ for tech support may ring all three of us or just one of us. We can add or remove our extension from a queue as needed by our personal or business schedule.
    • Lowest cost call routing – our digital lines come from several different companies. Some are prepaid and others bill us monthly. When we make a call either out of state or out of country, the system automatically selects the line that has the lowest per minute rate. If that line is already in use, it will select the next lowest cost. All the caller has to do is dial the number without thinking about which carrier or line to select.
    • DISA (“Direct Inward System Access”) – Because of the low international rates, if we need to make a call from our cell phone, we can call the office first, enter a password, and make the call using the phone system and its lower rates.
    • Voicemail to email – we listen to our messages from Outlook and the Sharepoint “CompanyWeb” website, we don’t have to wait until we get back to the office to check messages.
    • Individual voice mailboxes in addition to the general mailboxes.
    • Fax to email. The automated attendant listens for fax tones and receives the fax if a machine is detected.
    • DND (“Do Not Disturb”)
    • Soft-phones – Software on our laptops that allow us to make and receive calls with a Bluetooth or USB headset
    • Wake up calls
    • Intercom and paging
    • Inbound routing – different rules apply depending on the caller ID of the incoming call
    • Conference calling
    • Music on hold
    • Automated off-site backups of the voicemails and phone configuration

    Those are just the features we use. Trixbox has plenty of additional modules and features that are easily added such as Time of day routing to prevent home phones from ringing after hours or change the automated attendant greeting.

    I’m sharing all this with you because we are more than happy to offer the same system for your office. The server (or “PBX” as it was known) will generally cost around $2000, including the labor for the first day of configuration. The desk phones run about $200 each, with an additional $100 if you’d like a cordless handset to go with it. In almost all cases, this startup cost to switch to all digital phones will cost less than half of the price you paid for your analog phone system a few years ago. Our regular customers can also receive a discount for “Promo Jenn” to record your automated attendant and voicemail prompts.

    The monthly cost will vary depending on the number of simultaneous calls your office needs to be able to make, the number of phone numbers, and the type of outbound calls you make (local only, national, or international), and the type of Internet connection you have. In most cases, the digital service will cost less than the traditional analog service you are paying for now. If this sounds like something you would like for your office, please give us a call so we can go over the service providers and schedule the installation.


  • Who Does What?

    Now that there are new faces that will be visiting your company on a regular basis and answering phones, I hope this post clarifies our roles as it stands at this time.

    I have been asked a couple of times about which of our cell numbers to call when you have a need in your office. The general rule is to always call our office number and press 1. Whoever answers the phone will know who is best suited to handle your type of request and delegate accordingly.

    There may always be exceptions to these roles depending on vacations or availability. But as a general rule, I, Daniel Koster, will be handling the troubleshooting and server upgrades and issues. I will also be the primary contact for phone system changes and installations.

    Bruce Caouette’s primary role is the database development. If you have a request for a new feature or bug fix, you may dial his extension directly. He and I will still meet regularly so that we can work together and coordinate the overall project. If Bruce is in your office, he will be happy to help out with general troubleshooting or answering questions about the software on your computer, but please be understanding as he may delegate your requests to either Ted or I.

    Ted Antal’s primary role is for preventative maintenance and general workstation troubleshooting. He will be the face you see more often in your office because he will be making the on-site visits to log onto the server and test the backup systems, review server logs, and look for trouble signs on the network. He is more than qualified to handle the general issues that come up on a regular basis and can help you when your computers are running slower than normal or needs new software installed, etc.

    All three of us have experience with the same software that you have installed in your office (Outlook, Word, Excel) as well as a familiarity with the configuration of the digital phone systems that we are installing. After all, we are using the same phone system, if you need to request a change to your phone system (call forwarding or voicemail options), either of us should be able to take care of that for you right away.


  • We Have a New Phone Number

    Despite what the news people say about our economy, small businesses are still needing computer services. Some of my customers have made the upgrade to the new Small Business Server 2008 that was released last November, and even more companies have made the transition to a fully digital VoIP based phone system.

    In order to keep up with the increased demand, I am no longer working by myself. Many of you have already met Bruce Caouette who has been working with me for over a year. And recently I have additional help from Ted Antal. I know that these changes have prompted the question of who to call when your company is in need of technical support. I will try to clarify the roles, but first let me introduce our new phone system.

    My cell phone is no longer going to be the primary number for Paperless Solutions. We now have a central business number so that one number can connect you to any of the three of us (depending on availability).

    Our new number is

    404-214-2790.

    The new phone system has an automated attendant that answers all calls. The recordings were made by the talented “Promo Jenn” Schwartz and give you the following options (which you can press at any time):

    Option 1 – This is the option you will use most of the time. If you are having a problem and need to talk to one of us, dial the number and press option 1. The system will automatically select one of the three of us based on availability and we’ll make our best effort to answer. After two minutes if we haven’t been able to answer, you will get the opportunity to leave a message. Our goal is to respond to any messages within 4 business hours.

    Option 2 – This is the option for new customers. If you are interested in our services for your company or want to refer us, select option 2 to hear a recording about our services while you wait for one of us to answer. Priority will always go to our existing customers, so this may go to voicemail more often.

    Option 3 – Vendors, this is the option for the companies we partner with for follow up on orders or for accounts payable issues.

    Option # – The directory

    Extension 7911 – The emergency extension. Dialing 7911 at any time needs to be reserved for the rare cases when a server is completely inoperable or your business is completely disrupted. This option will automatically ring all extensions and cell phones and will not go to voicemail, the phones will ring indefinitely until someone answers. Remember what happened to the boy who cried, “Wolf!” so please do not dial this extension unless necessary. If this feature is abused, I may have to disable it or charge premium rates per phone call.

    You will no longer need to dial our cell phones to reach us, the specific extension numbers will automatically forward to our cell phones when we are out of the office. One number is all you need.


  • Antivirus and Antispyware recommendation

    I am often asked for advice on buying antivirus protection for home computers, and for a while I haven’t had a good answer.  For my business clients, I use Reflexion.net to screen and filter inbound e-mail (the most common source of viruses and worms), and that leaves spyware and malware to be the biggest problems, for which I use CounterSpy.

    So for the home user, I’ve been recommending CounterSpy as well, but didn’t have a good answer on how to protect e-mail as well (unless they were willing to allow me to host their e-mail).

    Finally the product I have been waiting for is finally on the market and available.  I haven’t actually tried it out myself yet, but definitely will.  But my confidence and appreciation for CounterSpy makes me trust this new addition to the family without hesitation.

    http://sunbeltblog.blogspot.com/2008/07/vipre-antivirus-antispyware-is-now.html


  • Tips for effective communication


  • Free mobile online Bible

    If you have a Windows Mobile (or any other phone with a web browser and data plan), now you have an excellent free resource available to catch up on your Bible reading or look up a passage as the need arises. Just head over to http://m.youversion.com


    Thank you LifeChurch!


  • Why I do not like selling Microsoft Office 2007

    First off, I like Office 2007 and I recommend the upgrade.  I like the Ribbon and the instant preview features.  Outlook 2007 has a large list of new features that alone make it worth the upgrade.

    But with as much knowledge and experience as I have with Microsoft’s complex licensing and different versions available, I made a mistake and gave a client wrong information.  I had incorrectly told them that they can order Office Basic edition, which is just Word, Excel, and Outlook (all that most companies need).  However, Basic is only available with the purchase of a new machine and cannot be bought off the shelf, as an upgrade, or via Open License.  So my $200 (per copy) became a $400 quote.  Who wants to go tell a client that was hesitant to purchase at $200 that the total cost doubled?

    I think I have to give up on trying to recommend a specific version and license type.  There are so many factors that it seems impossible to feel good about any given recommendation.


  • Why do I have to keep changing my password?

    For most of the servers I manage, I enable the policy to require a new password, usually every 120 days, sometimes 90 depending on the company turnover.  There’s a couple of reasons for this, not the least of which is how easy it is to hack into an office with a chocolate bar.

    The basic problem is that most people don’t really have any reservations about giving away their passwords.  They think they are protected by anonymity or that it doesn’t matter much.  In my circle of experience, passwords are almost always shared with other employees in the office.  This turns out to be a problem if a conflict arises and that employee leaves the company on bad terms.  My normal procedure is to lock that user’s account and make sure they can’t start deleting or intentionally changing data erroneously.  But in a lot of cases, I have to go through the process and change everybody’s password because so many people have shared theirs with that person while working together.

    Although changing the password doesn’t eliminate the potential immediate threat of an employee gone bad or passwords given away in exchange for chocolate, it does reduce the risk.  After all, by the time a person tries a password they thought they knew, it may have already changed.

    So I apologize for the inconvenience, but for any server with remote access enabled, it’s highly important to keep those passwords hard to guess and to yourself.  Keep these points in mind:

    • Using the same password over and over and just changing a number incrementally at the end does not make your password hard to guess.
    • Although someone you know (or someone offering you chocolate) may gain access to your password though a direct means, I think the bigger threat are random attacks coming from the Internet.  If you look at the firewall logs for any computer directly connected to the Internet, you’ll see hundreds if not thousands of attempts to get in from random sources per day.  Most of this traffic is merely looking for a computer to use to send junk mail out, so most attacks are towards the mail servers.  For those automated systems trying to guess a password, having a “complex” password usually isn’t enough anymore.  It’s how long a password is that slows down a brute-force attack (trying every possibility).  This is why all my servers have passwords that are complete sentences.  They are easy to remember and easy to type, though a bit long.  For example, “It’s a great day outside!” is a better password then “pa$$w0rd”.
    • Pending the company owner’s permission, I am willing to exempt your account from that rule if you really do keep a tight reign on your password and do not give it away to anyone for any reason.
    • You do not need a co-worker’s password to check their e-mail or use their computer while they are on vacation.  That coworker (or I) can grant you permission to open their inbox from your own account.  Likewise, with a server in place, you can log on to any computer in the office, not just the one originally assigned to you.  You will not have any additional access to information than you would from your own machine.  Owners, this means you can relax about your Quickbooks or other confidential data.  Even if an employee logs in to your computer with their own name and password, they will not be able to open any documents that have been properly secured.  Keeping files on your own computer instead of the server is not a security model, it’s a disaster waiting to happen, especially if you don’t backup that data manually.

  • Mail Server Maintenance on March 8th

    Greetings!

    We would like to give you advance notice that we will be conducting routine database maintenance on Saturday evening, March 8th, 2008, at 10 p.m. EST, which will take approximately 30-60 minutes.

    During this time, all incoming and outgoing email will be queued on our servers until the maintenance is complete, at which time all email will automatically be processed for delivery. 

    If you have any questions or concerns, please don’t hesitate to contact us!

    Best Regards,

    Scott

    __________________________

    Scott J. Barlow

    V.P. of Sales & Marketing

    Reflexion Networks, Inc.




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