Monday, April 20, 2009

If Abboott and Costello were alive today, "Who's On First' would sound like this...


ABBOTT: CMIT Solutions, your technology team, can I help you?

COSTELLO: Thanks. I'm setting up an office in my den and I'm thinking about buying a computer.


COSTELLO: No, the name's Lou.

ABBOTT: Your computer?

COSTELLO: I don't own a computer. I want to buy one.


COSTELLO: I told you, my name's Lou.

ABBOTT: What about Windows?

COSTELLO: Why? Will it get stuffy in here?

ABBOTT: Do you want a computer with Windows?

COSTELLO: I don't know. What will I see when I look at the windows?

ABBOTT: Wallpaper.

COSTELLO: Never mind the windows. I need a computer and software.

ABBOTT: Software for Windows?

COSTELLO: No. On the computer! I need something I can use to write proposals, track expenses and run my business. What do you have?

ABBOTT: Office.

COSTELLO: Yeah, for my office. Can you recommend anything?

ABBOTT: I just did.

COSTELLO: You just did what?

ABBOTT: Recommend something.

COSTELLO: You recommended something?


COSTELLO: For my office?


COSTELLO: OK, what did you recommend for my office?

ABBOTT: Office.

COSTELLO: Yes, for my office!

ABBOTT: I recommend Office with Windows.

COSTELLO: I already have an office with windows! OK, let's just say I'm sitting at my computer and I want to type a proposal. What do I need?


COSTELLO: What word?

ABBOTT: Word in Office.

COSTELLO: The only word in office is office.

ABBOTT: The Word in Office for Windows.

COSTELLO: Which word in office for windows?

ABBOTT: The Word you get when you click the blue "W".

COSTELLO: I'm going to click your blue "W" if you don't start with some straight answers. What about financial bookkeeping? You have anything I can track my money with?

ABBOTT: Money.

COSTELLO: That's right. What do you have?

ABBOTT: Money.

COSTELLO: I need money to track my money?

ABBOTT: It comes bundled with your computer.

COSTELLO: What's bundled with my computer?

ABBOTT: Money.

COSTELLO: Money comes with my computer?

ABBOTT: Yes. No extra charge.

COSTELLO: I get a bundle of money with my computer? How much?

ABBOTT: One copy.

COSTELLO: Isn't it illegal to copy money?

ABBOTT: Microsoft gave us a license to copy Money.

COSTELLO: They can give you a license to copy money?


(A few days later)

ABBOTT: Super Duper computer store. Can I help you?

COSTELLO: How do I turn my computer off?

ABBOTT: Click on "START"...

Small Biz Technology - Security: No Hardware, No Products, All Software and Service

Small Biz Technology had a great blog post on security for your desktop, laptop and network. Traditionally, when you think about security, you think about a firewall or router. Some hardware box plugged in to your network. However, there are other options. Ramon Ray interviews John Adams, the CTO of Chosen Security, about offering security as a service you subscribe to, instead of the typical approach.

Read the full article here:

Friday, April 17, 2009

The Data Storage Rule of Three

If you really want to keep your data safe and ensure that it will not be lost, destroyed, or corrupted in the event of a disaster, most storage practitioners advise keeping it in at least three locations.

A single location gives you virtually no protection against disaster. Two locations might be enough, as long as one is offsite – but even then you risk data loss if both locations fail at the same time. For example, imagine a virus corrupts your server and wipes out your CRM database. You go to a tape backup to repopulate the database, only to discover that the backup is worn out or corrupted. Or, as we’ve read about numerous times in the news, your tape backup gets stolen out of your home, car, or wherever you’re storing it.

That’s why you really need three separate locations for your data, with at least one of them offsite. While all three locations or media could theoretically fail at the same time, the chances of that happening are minimal.

So why must one location be off site? To avoid a tragedy like the following one happening to your business. (We’re not naming names here because this isn’t a story about a client – but it did happen to somebody we know. We wish they had been clients, because we could have made certain this didn’t happen!)

A long-established company had years’ worth of data to store, including a CRM system and detailed records on past projects. They knew it was important to be well covered when it came to backups, and their technician assured them the data was stored in three places.

Then disaster struck – not through any fault of the company. A fire broke out in a neighboring office, and before long the whole building was engulfed in flames. Every server, every computer, and every other piece of electronic equipment in the building was trashed.

You might think the company would be fine – after all, they had redundant storage, and surely one of their storage devices was offsite, right? Wrong. The data was indeed in three places: on the server, on a drive next to the server, and on another drive in the next room.

This story illustrates precisely why it isn’t enough to keep multiple copies of your data. One or more of those copies must be stored offsite – preferably in a geographic location that’s not prone to flooding, hurricanes, or tornadoes. (That’s why many high-security data centers are located in the desert: they’re far from major metropolitan areas that are more vulnerable to terrorist attacks and power outages, and they also tend to suffer from fewer natural disasters.)

So the next time you talk to your IT provider, you might ask them two things:

How many copies of our data are we keeping?
Where are those copies being kept?

Once you have those answers, you’ll know a lot about how well equipped your business really is to weather disaster.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Join First and Last Names in a Single Cell

Unless you're a power user or a statistician, chances are you often use Excel to manage text lists instead of numerical data. For example, you might use Excel as your source file for a mail merge.

Let's imagine that somewhere along the way you separated out first names from last names, and now you want to join them back together in a single column.

Instead of going through your list and retyping all those names, you can tell Excel to put the first name, a space, and the last name in a single cell. The formula is pretty simple:

=A3&" "&B3

The ampersand tells Excel to join one value to another, while the quotation marks tell Excel to insert a specific character (or a space, in this case). So the formula above says, in effect, “Join the first name to a space, and then join the space to the last name.

To repeat the formula, just grab the lower right hand corner of the cell and drag down.

Friday, April 3, 2009

New Innovations in Surge Protectors and Power Supplies

If you're like a lot of home-based workers or employees in a small office, you've got a single power strip with your computer and all its many peripherals plugged into it. You want to make sure that power supply is reliable, well made, and not driving up your electricity bills unnecessarily. Here are a few things to consider when you're thinking about managing your access to power:

Surge protection. Everybody knows that you need some protection against power spikes. But a surge protector won't help when it comes to power failures and fluctuations, which can cause data loss and software problems if equipment isn't allowed to shut down properly.

Backup power. A battery backup solves the problem of how to conduct a smooth shutdown. In the event of a blackout or brownout, a battery backup will automatically kick in and buy you enough time to execute an orderly shutdown of your equipment.

Energy saving. A new breed of power supply <> can actually detect when a machine is shut down after a certain period of time and will cut off power to that machine without your having to switch it off. Given that electronic devices can pull up to 40 percent of their power when they're turned off but plugged in, this can really help you reduce your electrical bills. You can also set the strip to automatically power down peripherals when you shut off the main device -- so, for example, your printer and other peripherals will shut off when you turn off your computer. You can also set your peripherals to shut down while your computer stays on, so that if you’re on a service like CMIT Marathon that requires your computer to be on for regular updates you can still reduce power waste.