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Newsletter 14 – December 2005

In this Newsletter… Windows® Small Business Server 2003 – why it’ may be time to move to this platform and Small Business and VoIP

Thank you for making 2005 a great year! This brings to a close my 3rd year in business and your ongoing support has made it interesting, technologically challenging and gratifying. So much so that my newsletters have not been as regular as I’d like. I’ll do better in 2006. Your support and referrals are greatly appreciated – I look forward to serving you in whichever way I can in the year ahead.

I would also like to wish you Happy Holidays and a Healthy, Happy and Successful New Year. With Hanukkah and Christmas right next to each other this year – Hanukkah on the 26th it might be apropos to wish everyone a Happy Chrismukkah?

Winter Humour… with the snow we’ve had to far these Calvin cartoons seem to bring a touch of humour to what can be a frustrating time, as some experienced here in Toronto last Thursday (15th) afternoon and into the wee hours of Friday…

Microsoft Windows Small Business Server 2003:
This past year has seen some of my clients move to a secure Windows Server based environment. I have been fortunate to have assisted them in the installation and deployment of Microsoft Small Business Server 2003.

The major advantage of Windows SBS 2003 is that it brings an enterprise type server environment to Small Business with an affordable cost and upgradeability congruent with business growth. SBS comes with an initial 5 User License. What’s more important to know is that it comes with all the things that we, in Small Business would really like to have… Microsoft Exchange, giving you all the features of Outlook 2003 plus things like Shared Calendar, Shared Folders, Intranet Web Server for running your own internal web site, and many other features used in much larger environments. Ask us to tell you more about it. Also, see the SBS web site.

According to a recent study, customers using Windows Small Business Server 2003 experienced an average 946 percent ROI.* *From “Out of the Box ROI for Small Businesses” by

USB 2.0 versus USB 1.1 versus Firewire:
Recently, I’ve had calls to add additional (or new) USB ports to systems. Most USB (universal Serial Bus) devices today have the added performance that enable data transfer between the computer and peripherals 40 times faster than original USB port speed. High Speed USB technology offers transfer rates up to 480Mbps (megabits per second) compared to USB 1.1 devices, which transfer at speeds of 12Mbps. To put this in easily understood terms, it would take around 70 seconds to download a 100 MB file with USB 1.1 under optimal conditions, while with USB 2.0 it only takes a little over 1.5 seconds to transfer the same file. When it comes to printing this is less important, but when you have to download your picture files from your digital camera, it makes a huge difference in time! What about Firewire? Optimally, Firewire (IEEE1394) will transfer data at speeds up to 400Mbps (megabits per second). USB 2.0 is marginally faster. Firewire nonetheless is the the standard for Digital Video Camera (like Sony), so in certain instances, you may need both types of ports. The cost of PCI based USB Interface Cards run around $30.00 whereas Firewire or Dual PCI Cards run around $50.00.

VoIP Anyone?
Voice Over Internet Protocol is technology whose time has come for Small Business. Plans seem to be priced around $40.00 per month. VoIP allows you to make telephone calls using a computer network, over a data network like the Internet. VoIP converts the voice (analogue) signal from your telephone into a digital signal that travels across the Internet. On the other end, it converts it back (to analogue) so you can speak to anyone with a regular phone number. When placing a VoIP call using a phone with an adapter, you’ll hear a dial tone and dial just as you always have. VoIP may also allow you to make a call directly from a computer using a conventional telephone (with the appropriate interface) or a microphone. For your $40.00 (or so) you get a whole bunch of options (choices) like… Voicemail, Caller ID with Name, Call Waiting, Call Forwarding, 3-Way Calling, and when available from your Service Provider, the ability to Transfer Calls within their network. What I do like about VoIP is the flexibility to have calls automatically directed (forwarded) to more than one number. For example, when a call comes in to your VoIP number, you can program it (remember it’s computer driven) to ring your cell phone or another number simultaneously. You pickup the the phone that’s most convenient for you. Very neat stuff. One cautionary note… you must have an active Internet connection to use the VoIP service.

Improve System Performance without Breaking the Bank
How do your improve sluggish performance without replacing your computer? I get this question frequently, so let me share some tips with you… Here are the steps to take:

  • Run Disk Cleanup. This will get rid of the temporary files stored on your hard disk when you install programs, surf the Internet and when your system occasionally hangs or crashes.
  • Run Disk Defragmenter. This process arranges the blocks of data that comprise your programs and data, in contiguous order. This speeds up disk reads so the system accesses the data faster.
  • Clean up Internet Explorer cached files. Open Internet Explorer, click on Tools, Internet Options, then Delete Cookies and Delete Files. The above three steps can make a good improvement in performance at not cost, beyond your time.


Now for a few recommendations that some may view as contentious, or even disagree with, but my experience has shown that they work. I have come to dislike the “all in one” Internet security software that is offered. They tend to be cumbersome and bog the system down while doing their “protective tasks”. On my systems that are connected to the Internet, I use Grisoft AVG AntiVirus. I also use Microsoft AntiSpyware and make sure that my Firewall (in Windows XP Service Pack 2) is active. That’s it… and have not had the misfortune of getting a virus or spyware into my system. I also use the Google Toolbar as my primary search tool and enable the Pop-Up Blocker that comes with the Toolbar. By the way, the cost of AVG is a mere $38.95US for a 2 year subscription.

Remote Support
I will be evaluation a remote support tool that will enable you to connect to a web site address. This will in turn permit me to gain access to your system and see your desktop as if I were in front of your system. Why would this help me… and you? Very often, I need to “see” the issue you’re experiencing and get a feel for what is happening that could be causing the problem you are experiencing. The neat part about this tool is that you see what I’m doing (and perhaps even uncover some of my secrets and magic)! The question that I will need to answer and this is where your help would be appreciated, is what I could charge for the service. It’s quite expensive for me on a monthly basis (and I need to pay the subscription whether I use it or not). I would be looking at charging an annual fee and/or a per incident fee. My question is, “what’s it worth to you to get the remote support? The cost benefit is the speed of “getting to you” and cost associated, given that I may not need to travel to you. Something to ponder while sipping on that EggNog?

Until next year then… a Safe and Happy Festive Season… and Happy New Year.

As always, safe computing!

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