Glen, Julie and I have all suffered from muscle strains as a result of our work and I know of at least two customers who have suffered RSI problems. With the popularity of smartphones, iPads and touchscreens such problems have increased, so I thought you might find this a useful blog. I am an IT professional not an expert in ergonomics, so I have shamelessly surfed the net. Please note that we are not certified medical professionals. We have done our best to gather information on Repetitive Strain Injury (RSI) from good sources on the Internet. You should consult a medical professional to get medical advice on RSI. ...continue reading "How to Prevent RSI when using Computers"
With the increasing prevalence of Apple products in use (iPhones, iPads, iMacs, etc.) we get frequent enquiries from home and business users asking us whether an iMac may be more suitable for their needs. The Windows vs Mac enquiry is often prompted by a family member who is already an Apple convert. Or it maybe because the aesthetics of a beautiful 27” iMac appeal! Deciding which is best for you can be tricky, so here are some questions.
1. What software do you need to use?
Although the cheapest option, do ask yourself if free anti-virus software safe to use at least once a year
Any free anti-virus software can initially be brilliant but not so effective a few years later. The efficiency of anti-virus software programs can vary year on year. So we would recommend that you don’t assume that the free anti-virus software you installed years ago is still the best option. It may well be, but it is worthwhile spending five minutes checking out your options every two or three years. ...continue reading "Is free anti-virus software safe to use"
We know lots of people struggle to know what they should consider before they buy a new computer. Whether it is a computer, laptop or tablet, at this time of year it can be daunting. Hopefully the following questions may help. ...continue reading "What should you consider when buying a new computer"
We have noticed that some customers have love/hate relationships with their Inbox. Some tell us that the constant stream of emails is one of the biggest causes of stress. This is being made worse by Smartphones, which mean that customers have no escape from e-mails at home or when on holiday. So, in the hope that it may help, here are some tips to help you manage your emails. Tips that might make life a little less pressured. ...continue reading "Tips to Help You Manage Your Emails"
Here are my tips on upgrading Micr0soft Exchange
As you are no doubt aware, various Microsoft products go end of life soon. These include Windows Server 2003, Windows 2003 SBS and Exchange Server 2003. TTL have now begun the upgrade/replacement process with many of our customers and so I thought I would share with you some of my recent experiences with Microsoft Exchange Server.
This product is available as both a standalone purchase and bundled as part of Small Business Server. For those environments running Exchange Server 2003 as part of Small Business Server, where you are replacing the server hardware, Microsoft produce useful migration guides to help with the process, such as the following:
Using Existing Hardware
In a scenario where you wish to re-use the existing hardware, life becomes a bit more complicated! There is no in-place upgrade option for Exchange Server so you may find you have to set-up a temporary server onto which the existing mailboxes and public folders can be moved, then rebuild the original server, install the new version of Exchange Server and move everything back. This is the way we approached it at one of our schools, using 3 temporary servers to host the mailboxes and public folders. We did get caught out with log files consuming all available disk space on some of the temporary servers, as no backups were configured for the temporary servers as they were only going to be needed for a short time!
Tips if you are upgrading yourself
If you are going to handle the upgrade yourself, rather than enlist the services of specialists, here are some tips:
Record the Information First
There is no tool I have yet found to easily and accurately record all the information for an Exchange Server environment to help set-up a new server. This is partly because in addition to Exchange Server, you also need configuration details from I.I.S., certificate details, etc.
Allow sufficient time for the process
If you are moving mailboxes from one server to another, this can take hours, as the server will only move a few at any one time, with the rest held as “pending”. Some of our recent school email server upgrades have taken 4 days to complete.
Think about certificate types
Depending on the versions of Exchange you are migrating from/to you may need a different type of certificate for your email domain. For example, for Exchange Server 2010, for the auto-discover service to work correctly, you need a certificate with Subject Alternate Names (SAN) to include the internal server name.
Unlike with mailboxes you cannot simply move Public Folders from one server to another. Instead, you must enable replication. If you are doing this to a temporary server, you will also need to set up Receive Connectors at each end to enable the public folder data to replicate.
Configure your backup at the beginning
As soon as the new server is operational, even if you have yet to move all the mailboxes and public folders, configure and schedule a full backup to avoid the transaction log files from decimating the available disk space.
Remember that there are alternatives to Exchange Server which may suit your business better. I often see small businesses with very basic email requirements struggling with the complexities of the Exchange Server that is part of Small Business Server. Instead, a better solution may be to deploy a standard Windows Server and use a product such as VPOP3.
If you are planning to upgrade Microsoft Exchange and want advice or assistance we are happy to help.
Is your WiFi too slow? What can you do?
More and more people and businesses use WiFi and get frustrated with its speed. There can be many things that make WiFi too slow, and many possible solutions:
Are your phones, iPads and tablets connecting to your WiFi?
A few years ago, all that connected to a home/company WiFi was the computers. Now it is often computers, tablets, iPads, smartphones, and wireless printers. We have customers where everyone has both a computer and a phone. The result is that they have potentially doubled the number of devices that connect to the WiFi. Many people using modern Smartphones are constantly connecting to social media to get updates on what their friends are doing – often via the WiFi.
Ok let’s assume you had a router that was 108 Mbps (Megabits per second). If one device is connected it has the whole 108 Mbps. Whereas if two connect they get 54 Mbps each. Consider that if ten connected then you are down to 10.8 Mbps each.
A typical wired connection will provide at least 10 times this speed. Now, firstly let me say that this is a gross simplification. In truth it is rare for all devices to connect to the WiFi at exactly the same moment. Plus modern WiFi routers often have more than one ‘stream’ and ways to handle multiple connections. Having made that caveat, the fact remains - the more devices you have connected, the slower your WiFi will be.
Does everything have to be Wireless?
I know lots of people that think of Wired versus Wireless as an either/or. There is nothing to stop you identifying the heaviest users of bandwidth and connecting those via a wired connection. You can leave the rest wireless for flexibility. As you have seen from the maths above, removing a few computers from the WiFi system can make a big difference.
Not all office work is equal
We all know that downloading a big video is going to slow the network down, but do you think of large accounts packages and databases in the same way. Opening, closing and saving a large Sage accounts package or a large database is going to use up more bandwidth than saving a one page Word document. So, see if the problem is less when your accounts person is absent. If it is, then it might be worth connecting them via a wired network solution. And don’t forget that streaming radio through a computer is using this same bandwidth!
How old is your Wireless Router?
Wireless technology gets better every year. As an example 802.11g bandwidth is about 54 Mbps whereas 802.11n has varying bandwidth depending on how many streams but can be up 600 Mbps with 4 streams. If your router is several years old it would be worth checking the bandwidth it can handle. You may find purchasing a new router may make a big difference.
Where is your Wireless Router located?
Lots of materials can interfere with wireless signals. Signals can bounce off reflective surfaces such as mirrors, metal filing cabinets and thick walls can degrade the signal. Ensure the Wireless router is not located near to another device giving off wireless signals that may interfere, such as microwave ovens, cordless telephones.
A simple test is to take a laptop or phone and wander around the building checking the strength of the signal. If there is a problem you may find installing a second Wireless Access Point or a booster/repeater will make a difference. Sometimes all you need to do is relocate the router.
Is the problem WiFi or Broadband?
We often get asked to look at computers because the ‘WiFi is slow’ to discover that the problem is not the WiFi at all, but that the Internet connection is slow. The broadband speed that is available to homes and businesses is highly dependent upon location, and how much you are willing to pay.
A good place to start is BT. Their speedtest will give you an idea of what BT thinks is achievable based upon your telephone number – see link below. You can compare this with what you are actually achieving via speedchecker sites – again see links below. I would recommend turning all but one computer off, and then running the test on that one computer with nothing downloading or uploading. Try more than one speed checker site and hopefully they will all come in around the same speed. Ideally, connect to the router via a wired connection so you can be sure the problem is the broadband, not your WiFi router.
Often speed can be improved by paying for a connection with a lower contention ratio (less people accessing the line), fibre optic lines, dedicated lines, SDSL (as opposed to ADSL), etc. If you are in a rural area it is worth checking to see if there are alternate local providers – often there is. The Government has committed to improving rural broadband though, so contact your County Council to check whether they have plans for improving broadband in your area.
Not all internet usage is equal
Normally it is internet traffic across wireless that causes most problems. Remember that copying folders and saving to large databases can cause speed issues but internet is normally the biggest cause of slowness. Particularly uploading and downloading files. Things to consider include:
- Streaming video is going to take up more bandwidth than receiving an e-mail. Obvious I know, but is anyone in your business constantly connecting to streaming media sites, such as Netflix, YouTube, and MetaCafe? Remember this can be done by their computer, tablet or phone. The occasional YouTube video won’t cause problems, but if content is being streamed throughout the day…
- Are you backing up to the cloud – or moving files to the cloud, regularly throughout the day? Small Word and Excel files are unlikely to cause problems. Large videos, photos will take up more bandwidth.
- Do you use Voice over IP? Many smaller companies use VoIP without upgrading their Internet connection, forgetting that it takes up bandwidth. With extensive use of VoIP a high speed internet connection is recommended.
- Don’t ignore malware on any computers. A lot of malware is constantly using the internet to communicate, taking up your bandwidth.
- Finally, different browsers such as Mozilla Firefox and Google Chrome can improve performance.
There are lots of other things that can contribute to WiFi problems, so if you have a problem and would like advice or help, don’t hesitate to contact me or Glen on 01787 881475 or e-mail me at email@example.com.