5 Advantages Of A Cloud Utility Architecture For Younger, Fast-Growing Companies

by Yehuda Cagen 31. January 2011 04:12

As seen in Enterprise Features.


Until recently, many of today’s business executives saw IT as a financial sinkhole rather than as a profit center. As a result, many have opted with what, at first glance, seemed like the least expensive option. Today, many business leaders recognize that IT has become more integrated into the business process.

There are those, however, who believe that you can better control your own destiny by using in-house IT equipment. One argument contends that this option does not put the client company at the mercy of third-party vendors or tied into their long-term binding contracts.

Indeed, if you’re looking to outsource your IT function to cloud computing provider, you should always be careful about signing a long-term contract. Computer technology evolves so quickly that it’s hard to know whether your vendor has the resources to keep pace.

Security is also a great concern. It’s important for small businesses to choose their vendors wisely. The “cloud” provider should have proven skill levels, such as certifications or client references. Be certain that their services meet your standards by asking the provider to offer a trial period.

A proven vendor should have no problem offering a trial of their service or software. Be wary of those who do not. Generally, it’s important for the clients to compare the performance with their own pre-established objectives. Failure to meet the established service levels must result in a predefined penalty.

Certainly owning and managing your own equipment seems fairly innocuous for a small business. However, over time, key components - such as CPU, disk, RAM, and, to a certain extent, the network – begin to bottleneck, resulting in latency or crashing of your system. These problems grow exponentially in organization with satellite locations and remote users. All too often the typical in-house answer for these problems is to throw more money at it. Buy another server. Add more redundancy. Hire another IT support person. It can become a vicious, never-ending cycle.

Here are a few additional reasons why a cloud/utility architecture would be better suited to a younger, fast-growing company.

Better IT Budget Forecasting: IT has quietly assumed a larger portion of the corporate budget and has consequently become more integrated with the overall financial plan. Most pundits agree that the purchase cost of equipment represents only a fraction of the total IT budget. The volatile nature of IT, such as unexpected crashes, security threats and upgrades only increases budget uncertainty. Since in most cases, the cloud provider assumes virtually all capital IT and personnel costs, executives need only to forecast for a consistent per user monthly fee.

Rather than overinvest to meet demand, the organization can deploy IT resources on-demand – as the market dictates. This simplifies the task of budgeting for potential growth, particularly with complex expansion or merging projects when headcount is increased or reduced. The organization pays only for the resources it uses, and as head-count fluctuates, costs are adjusted accordingly.


Adapt More Quickly to Evolving Market Conditions: The conventional process of purchasing, installing, managing, protecting and supporting an onsite IT system has become a vicious cycle and runs contrary to management’s role to reduce recurrent expenditures. Organizations can leverage the cloud provider’s enterprise-level IT resources and deploy them as-needed. This helps break the cycle of recurrent IT expenditures and positions the organization to adapt to evolving market conditions.


Manage Risk Better: Simply put, the more IT investments, the greater the risk.  However, most organizations must over-invest in IT to meet growing demand, thus increasing expenditures and the involved risk of IT maintenance and management. Cloud providers reduce the organization’s dependence on onsite systems by assuming the costs and risks of the entire IT lifecycle: hardware, backups, security and support.  Liability no longer lies in the hands of the management to purchase, manage and upgrade equipment. Executives can allow the organization to pursue growth opportunities without incurring the risk of significant capital outlays.


Manage Rising Energy Costs: Powering, cooling, and operating PCs and servers make for huge electric bills. Since humid conditions can be detrimental to a computer system, office temperatures must be set at cool levels to keep a server running. Gartner Research estimates that the electrical bill alone per server can cost $3,700 over four years.  Going to the cloud helps companies reduce their electric bill by centralizing equipment and moving in-house IT to a safely monitored, disaster-proof data center. By centralizing computer equipment into a remote location, companies can also reduce the office utility bill.


Improve Employee Morale in Recessionary Times: IT problems such as computer downtime to due server crashes or security issues only add to an already elevated stress level. Downtime lessens employee productivity and company productivity. Cloud solutions allow employees to work from home using the same familiar desktop interface, drastically reducing commute time and costs and improving employee morale.  Remote users have ubiquitous access to the provider’s support team. Most providers have executive-focused management consoles that enable management to monitor employee activity remotely.


Even today’s multi-national enterprises have embraced cloud computing as more cost-effective, agile and efficient alternative to onsite systems. The only exception to this rule would be the use of onsite systems as a testing environment for IT projects.

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Exploring Microsoft Word 2010 (Houston Computer Services)

by Yehuda Cagen 28. January 2011 10:27


For the next few weeks we will be running a series of tech tips on the new and improved Office 2010 software programs; Word, Outlook, Excel, and PowerPoint.



There are many new features, and improvements to old features. The increase in productivity and the customization for individual users are the key benefits of the 2010 versions.


Houston IT Consulting expert, Cheryl Smith, shares of the new features along with listing some of the improved features. Next week tech tip will be focused on Outlook 2010, so stayed tuned.


The new and improved Word 2010 includes:

·         Ribbon Customization-customize the ribbon for your individual needs, increase productivity.

·         Enhanced Themes-more to choose from in 2010.

·         Quick Access Toolbar-Add any command to the QAT which allows you to use this function no matter what tab you are in.

·         Paste Preview-Amazing time saver-see what a paste will look like before pasting.

·         Document Navigation Pane-See sections of the document while you are in it.

·         More Templates-They have added many more templates for you to use, great addition.

·         Screen Capture Tool-capture part of your screen to share with others.

·         Background Removal Option-great new features for pictures, artistic enhancements are available.


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Shopping for a computer? Here's what to look for

by Yehuda Cagen 24. November 2010 08:35



Are you shopping for a new computer this Holiday Season, but not sure what to look for?


Have you spent too much time perusing ads or websites?  


Understanding the specifications of the computer can be confusing, and sometimes even a little misguiding.


Houston IT Consulting expert, Cheryl Smith, gives you a few pointers on what to look for when shopping for a new computer:


1.     AMD and Intel Processor’s are the most popular and you really can’t go wrong with either one.

2.     2GB of RAM Memory is most often offered, but 3 or 4 would be better for most users.

3.     500GB hard drive is enough for the average user and is usually included. Anything less probably isn’t going to satisfy you.


If you are a computer “gamer” or media buff, these specifications might not be sufficient. Faster processor, more memory, upgraded video card, and most likely 1Terabyte hard drive will be necessary.


Computers with remote pc support can be a worthwhile investment, but knowing what is included in the plans needs to be clear. How long does the technical support last? How do you contact your computer services consultants?


You may also want to keep an eye out for how many USB ports are included. These days, we use these ports for our printers, scanners, cameras and portable, and memory drives.


Lastly, be sure to know exactly what is included in the computer purchase prior to handing over your money. Is there a monitor, keyboard, mouse, printer, etc. included? What is the warranty?


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iPhone Battery Power Saving Tips

by Yehuda Cagen 4. November 2010 09:44


These days, we’ve become dependent on our mobile phones.  For business and personal reasons.

So when you’ve got an important conference call or even an urgent personal call, the last thing you need is your battery dying.

This week, Houston IT Consulting expert Cheryl Smith shares a few tips to save your iPhone battery:

  1. The LCD Brightness can be turned down-10% should be enough.
  2. Turn off Wi-Fi network scanning if you are not using it.
  3. Limiting the use of A-GPS tracking is a great idea, usually not necessary after getting the directions.
  4.  In games, turn off the vibrate – not always an option.
  5. Use your computer to purchase Apps, instead of your phone; downloading Applications can take a lot of battery power.
  6. Autolock should be set to 1 minute.
  7. The Push option for email is very draining on the battery. You can set this to Off and Set Fetch time to fit your personal need. Some people need it to be every 15 minutes whereas others can go 1 hour.
  8. If you are not using your phone, plug it in-whether you are in your car or at  the office, it is important to keep charging it often.


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Blackberry Battery Power Saving Tips

by Yehuda Cagen 4. November 2010 08:59

These days, we’ve become dependent on our mobile phones.  For business and personal reasons.

So when you’ve got an important conference call or even an urgent personal call, the last thing you need is your battery dying.

This week, Houston IT Consulting expert Cheryl Smith shares a few tips to save your Blackberry battery:


·         Reduce volume

·         Use headphones whenever possible

·         Avoid resizing by loading media using the BlackBerry® Desktop Manager

·         Turn off equalizer settings


·         Visit mobile sites where applicable

·         Turn Repeat Animations to a lower setting


·         Reduce Backlight Timeout

·         Reduce Backlight Brightness

·         Turn the Key Tone Off


·         Turn off flash if not necessary

·         Set picture size to Small

·         Set Picture Quality to Normal


When exiting, be sure to close the application.  Do not leave it running in the background. Close with ESC key, not red End key!


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Computer Services Guest Blog: Employee Productivity and your Internet Connection

by Yehuda Cagen 1. November 2010 05:30


If you follow this blog, you know that we’re proponents of the utility / cloud computing model.  Of course, the value of cloud computing depends greatly by the particular computer services provider. And since this model is Internet based, the way you connect to the Internet is just as important.

Puja Saraiya Abid, VP of Strategy and Operations at Mushroom Networks, shares her insight on finding the right Internet connection for your small business.

For large enterprises, making the decision on which method with which to access the Internet is easy. Pay for a dedicated T-3 line and move on with the work day. However, a small or medium sized business owner has to take much more into account.

For these businesses, having a basic Internet connection is no longer enough. Because being online is an essential part of almost every operation, a one has to consider more than simply the costs of the line. A business owner will also want to think about reliability and speed of the network. 

An employee’s time spent waiting for pages to load is time that is wasted. Additionally, if an employee has unreliable Internet service, that employee may be unable to send time-sensitive responses to customers and vendors. Employee time that is idle due to slow or unreliable internet connections is time that could be better spent elsewhere.


DSL allows high data transfer rates over regular copper phone wiring by using frequencies to send digital signals. DSL typically offers downstream rates of 1.5 to 6 Mbps and upstream rates of 128 to 768 Kbps. However, DSL is not always reliable. Service depends largely on the distance from the Internet service provider’s central office (CO). DSL is a cost effective solution if you are close to the CO, and have a very small office that needs the internet for mostly downstream traffic. 

Cable Internet

Cable often offers speeds equivalent to DSL with greater reliability. However, because cable has historically been used for residential service, it may be difficult for a business to get service in their area. Also, because you don’t usually have multiple cable providers in a given area, as with DSL, the lack of competition often drives the prices up.

Dedicated Leased Lines

Increasingly, a DSL or cable modem connection provides insufficient bandwidth, particularly in the uplink direction. Also, because business these days relies on having a reliable internet connection, it may be beneficial to consider dedicated line options. This is usually in the form of T-1 line, which is reliable and can provide speeds of 1.5 Mbps in both directions of traffic. These lines can cost anywhere from $500 to $1500 per month, depending on your location.

While dedicated T-3 lines are extremely fast and reliable, the cost can run into thousands of dollars a month.

Bandwidth Aggregation with Broadband Bonding

A new type of technology, Broadband Bonding, performs true aggregation. For even a single file transfer, all available communication resources are used.

Smaller businesses for which high monthly costs are prohibitive should consider Broadband Bonding to aggregate lower speed connections. A small business may opt to combine multiple DSL lines, which are often unreliable and too slow when used individually. Additionally, businesses that are heavy users of high bandwidth operations may combine multiple T-1 lines, or a combination of T-1 and DSL lines for greater bandwidth.

Multiple lines can be combined for increased reliability, and in the process significant benefits are realized—both in terms of Internet cost savings and increased employee productivity.

Puja Saraiya Abid is VP of Strategy and Operations at Mushroom Networks, a privately held company based in San Diego, CA, providing patent pending Broadband Bonding solutions to a range of Internet connection applications. www.mushroomnetworks.com


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Houston Computer Services Guest Blog: Tax Filing Productivity

by Yehuda Cagen 28. October 2010 11:58

We can talk forever on tech-focused topics like IT support and remote pc access,  but today, we’re going to take a quick break from IT and focus a bit on what what Deborah Sweeney, of MyCorporation Business Services, Inc. calls one of the few words in the English language that strikes fear into the hearts of grown men:


To a start-up business owner, taxes and tax liability present an unavoidable drain on profit and growth.  As a result, many entrepreneurs accept the inevitable hassle and overlook the numerous ways to make taxes more manageable and less costly.  Following these four tips for careful planning and preparation can help avoid the stress of tax season and also prevent that other dreaded phrase, tax audit.

1) Find a Tax Friendly Business Structure.  The first step in reducing tax liability is to make sure that your business is structured as a tax friendly entity.  Some forms of business entities require that the business pay taxes on the money it earns throughout the year AND that the business owner pay taxes on the income he or she receives.  This results in a double taxation scheme that costs the business twice.  Most types of business entities, however, do not have to pay double taxes, and any tax owed is paid by the owner who receives the income.  This is beneficial because it keeps money in the company and the business owner pays no more tax than would have been paid originally.  When structuring your business then, make sure you choose a form of business that will avoid double taxation and help you meet your tax saving goals.     

2) Plan Ahead.  After structuring your entity, the next step is to build a staff of business professionals.  Hiring an accountant to manage your taxes is a great idea and helps you itemize your expenses into the most tax efficient filing.  Accountants are trained in tax preparation and are knowledgeable about little deductions that may make a big difference when it comes time to file your return.  If you can’t afford an accountant, look into tax preparation software.  The software will do many of the same things an accountant would and will keep you on track for a lower tax bill.  Also consider hiring a bookkeeper to manage your financial statements and the budget.  A bookkeeper with bookkeeping experience will help you budget appropriately, understand financial lingo, and generally relieve some of the anxiety that money usually brings.  Having someone with financial experience on your team allows you to focus on running other areas of the business, like earning a profit.

3) Become an Excellent Bookkeeper and Learn your Deductions.  Whether or not you have an accountant or a bookkeeper, maintaining extremely accurate records and learning the potential business deductions is key to paying lower taxes and avoiding a tax audit.  There are many deductions for small business owners that the average entrepreneur may not know about it.  For example, did you know that you can deduct car and gas payments for the time you use your car for work?  Keeping tabs on the daily driving you do to visit clients or suppliers allows you to put a percentage on the part of your payments that go to work purposes, resulting in a deduction for your car.  Learn the list of deductions and after that, write everything down.  The combination of knowing what deductions are allowable and meticulous record keeping will make tax returns easier to manage.

4) Be on Time and Accurate.  Finally, make sure your taxes are done properly and on time.  As mentioned before, an accountant or tax preparation software can be good tools to ensure that you deduct what you can and pay what you must, all in a timely fashion.  If for some reason you can’t have your taxes done by the deadline, filing an extension as soon as possible, and before the deadline, avoids any potential problems with the IRS.  Making estimated tax payments too will reduce the burden when it comes time to pay the whole bill and will help guarantee that when that day comes, you will have the money available.  If after all of your preparation, you don’t have money to pay your taxes, the IRS offers a variety of programs to help you out, including payment and settlement plans.

Paying your taxes can be a challenging task but it doesn’t have to be impossible.  With a little preparation and planning, handling your start-up business’s tax liability can be a simplified, and less costly, process.

Guest blog submitted by Deborah Sweeney, of MyCorporation Business Services, Inc.

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Accidentally sent the wrong email? Here's how to recall it

by Yehuda Cagen 28. October 2010 09:17


Have you ever sent an email and immediately after clicking the Send button, realized you made a mistake? Either within the contents or recipients, or even just a grammar error you were going to fix prior to sending?

Don’t waste your time sending another email explaining the mistake!

Microsoft Exchange lets you recall those types of messages quickly and without much effort.

How to recall your email in Outlook:

  1. Open Sent Email
  2. Click on the Action tab (Outlook 2007-Other Actions tab)
  3. Find Recall this message, and click
  4. Decide which delete function you prefer and click ok

That’s it! You should receive an email in your Inbox stating whether the recall was successful or was a failure. 

 (*This tip may not work for Blackberry & Iphone users or emails not within your organization.)

Recall This Message





Report: Message Recall Success


Report: Message Recall Failure

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Making Sense of IT Upgrades: Is Your Business System Holding Your Small Business Back?

by Yehuda Cagen 21. October 2010 08:21


Houston IT consulting Guest Blog:

Nothing contributes more to organizational inefficiencies in a small business than cumbersome, out-of-date business systems, according to Jeff Stern, Senior Project Manager of Quantum Software.

Hundreds of hours can be wasted by duplicating data entry, searching for data in multiple places and constantly rebooting a system that crashes. I always recommend companies do a gap analysis, which is a great way to determine if an IT upgrade would fill the gaps between their needs and current capabilities. The time spent conducting this analysis will save countless hours of lost productivity in the future.

Small business owners should consider the following four needs when conducting a gap analysis: operational efficiencies, quality and regulatory compliance, decision making and business growth.

For example, if you find that employees are continually waiting for screen changes or double entering information, you have an issue with operational efficiencies. When it comes to examining business growth during a gap analysis, make sure your system is scalable in terms of sales, customer service and inventory. If you find that there are major gaps in these areas, upgrading your system is something that will make your business operate much more efficiently.

Making Sure the Implementation Process Runs Smoothly

Once an analysis of your system has shown that a new business system, such as ERP (Enterprise Resource Planning), will improve productivity and efficiencies, it is important to make sure it is implemented properly. Talk to your IT consultant and figure out if your company’s way of doing business will fit within a standard package. Changing business processes to accommodate software often leads to a competitive advantage because systems, such as ERP, are designed to take advantage of “best practices”.

To avoid a long installation process that can bog down the business operations you were trying to improve in the first place, make sure key modules that will fix the major problems your business is facing are installed first. New modules can be installed and employees can be trained in 30-60 days, allowing for a gradual adoption of the new system. For most companies, implementing an entirely new business system will change the way the staff does their jobs, thus changing the way business is done. That’s why it’s so important to test the entire system before “going live”. A good IT consultant working with you on the project will create a test system that allows your employees to learn and critique the system before it’s launched.

Jeff Stern is Senior Project Manager for Quantum Software (www.quantumsoftwarellc.com) where he oversees systems evaluations, customized SAP® Business One software integration and long-term support for small-to-midsize companies in the manufacturing and wholesale distribution industries. During his 30-year career, he worked extensively in requirements planning, realization, test and application maintenance of enterprise IT and ERP systems.

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Expert Tips for Increasing Productivity & Efficiency

by Yehuda Cagen 21. October 2010 07:46


OK. We admit it.

IT isn’t always the only answer.

As a Houston IT consulting firm, we tend to lean towards technology and super-reliable IT support as the greatest motivators of office productivity.

But there are many other ways organizations can use to increase office productivity.

We’re fortunate to have guest-blogger, Deborah Osgood, co-founder and CKO of Knowledge Institute offer her insights on increasing productivity and efficiency.  

Tips for Increasing Productivity & Efficiency

While the current economic downturn has its challenges, it is also a great motivator for looking for ways to work smarter. Here are five easy tips for increasing productivity and efficiency.

1.       Get Organized: Too often, small business owners fly by the seat of their pants. Not having a time management tool to track objectives against actual results can be a costly mistake. While there are many automated systems for managing such objectives, a simple and tangible approach can be useful, such as a Time Planning Schedule.

2.       Leverage Free Help: There are thousands of government and public programs funded by our tax dollars that exist to specifically drive small business creation and growth. Visit BUZGate.org, a nonprofit online community, to select the state that your business operates in and then FREE HELP in the menu to navigate such programs by type of need including funding, marketing, counseling, import/export and more. There are also no-cost consultants available to discuss exploring business ownership options if you're looking to get into business. Also, don't underestimate quality blogs. For example, IsUtility, a Houston computer services blog offers great tips in leveraging information technology, and IBM and The World Bank offer a Blog to support women and minority entrepreneurs.

3.       Leverage SaaS Applications: Save time, money and hassle by using robust online solutions for such core operational systems as sales, marketing and accounting. A program like myBrainshark.com is free and allows a small business to incorporate PowerPoint slides, images, audio and documents to create compelling online, on-demand messages that can be used to influence prospects, suppliers, investors, staff, sales personnel and others. An application like MySalesHero.com offers cost-effective lead generation to support sales and customer retention.

4.       Minimize Overhead Costs: If you don't need brick and mortar to do business, consider taking advantage of virtual office solutions on-demand. A company like Regus, leaders in office solutions, offer business owners a professional office address, meeting space, staff and access to technology when they need it, where they need it. Taking advantage of free contests can also keep cost down, such as the ShowUsYourOffice.com  contest that offers ten lucky winners different levels of professional workplace solutions.

5.       Focus on Revenues First: It's easy to update a web site, improve a customer database or hold a staff meeting to exchange ideas, but none of these things are directly associated with closing a sale. Each and every day, a small business owner must establish and follow through on a specific number of activities that directly support closing a sale before doing any administrative or operational support tasks. Without revenues, there is no need for operational efficiency.

Deborah Osgood is co-founder and CKO of Knowledge Institute, internationally recognized experts in entrepreneurial education and development. Deborah is a speaker, author, consultant and mentor and has been featured on New York's WPIX morning news, Boston WCVB-TV Chronicle and WBZ-TV Evening Magazine. She has been named Women in Business Champion by the U.S. Small Business Administration, and has received awards for Excellence in Business Services, Enterprising Woman of the Year, and Women's Entrepreneurial Spirit Award.

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