Lunes, Abril 17, 2017

Does My Small Business Need a Firewall?

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In the I.T. industry, we get this question quite frequently.  A small-business owner will ask, “Do we need a firewall?”  From a security standpoint, the answer is almost always “yes.”

First, what is a firewall?  Put simply, a firewall is a device that inspects the information coming into and (in some cases) out of your office computers.  The firewall examines the information, compares it to a set of pre-established rules, and either allows the information to continue flowing or stops any data that violate the rules.  Firewalls can be either software based or hardware based.

Software Firewalls

A software firewall is a program that runs on your computer similar to an antivirus or anti-malware program.  The firewall software looks at the data being sent and received by the computer on which it’s installed and makes the “good / bad” determination right there at the computer level.

The benefit of a software firewall is that it can adapt to your specific computer, your specific usage patterns, and the specific program that’s running on your computer at this moment.  For example, you may need different firewall rules when you’re playing a computer game versus when you’re doing research on some shady internet topic.

The downside of software firewalls are that they have to run on each and every computer on a network—they each have to be individually purchased, configured, and maintained.  Also, a user could disable the software firewall if he or she knew what they were doing.  Additionally, software firewalls cannot be installed on network attached devices such as printers, security cameras, and other potentially vulnerable devices.

Hardware Firewalls

A hardware firewall is a physical computer-like device that is plugged in and sits between your internal office network and the outside internet.  In your home, you might have a wireless router attached in this manner.  In fact, many consumer grade wireless routers have a built-in firewall application.  The consumer grade version is far less capable and robust than that needed for a business application, however.

The benefit of a hardware firewall is that there is only one device to buy and configure…and it protects everything on the network all at once.  Also, a hardware firewall can examine much more data much more quickly because it is a dedicated unit and is not competing for computer resources like a software based solution would have to do.

The downside of a hardware firewall is the technical expertise required to install and maintain it.  Hardware firewalls can be much more robust units and therefore require some level of I.T. skill to properly configure.  Also, the firewall will require regular updates to the firmware (the software running inside the firewall) to patch security holes and take advantage of the latest technologies.  Unlike your computer, a hardware firewall will not notify you when it requires an upgrade.  Fortunately, there are many companies that specialize in managed network security that will gladly assist with this part.

Do We Need a Firewall?

If your company processes credit cards or in any other way collects customer information then yes, absolutely, without a doubt you need a robust firewall solution—it’s the #1 rule in the PCI compliance requirements.  If your company has proprietary internal data that you do not want getting out in the open then, yes, you need a firewall.  In fact, the only company I can think of that doesn’t need a firewall is one which has no secrets, no confidential or proprietary information, and stores absolutely no client data…and I can’t think of a single company that fits into that category.

Miyerkules, Abril 27, 2016

Tools to Help Electricians Reduce Time Spent Managing Their Business

In today's competitive market, it's important for electrical contractors to spend more time on the job site and less on the administrative tasks required to run their business. Fortunately there are a number of software tools available that help contractors with tasks such as bidding jobs, scheduling both the people and materials needed on the project, tracking costs and, preparing and managing invoices, supplier payments and payroll. Many of these are available on both computers and mobile devices so they can be brought to the job site and updated in real time.

The general categories of the software electical contractors should have in their tool box are listed below with examples of some of the best-of-breed solutions. Each product includes a link to the provider's web site.

Job Bidding and Quoting

  • JobFLEX Easy to use mobile app with modules for bidding jobs, presenting quotes to clients, scheduling resources for the job site and tracking the project. 
  • Vision InfoSoft Similar to Job Flex but with a limited number of modules 

Technical Drawing and Schematic Creation

  • SmartDraw ‎CAD results without the CAD hassles. Creates electrical designs within minutes. 
  • Edraw Powerful but easy-to-use electrical drawing software to create professional looking wiring diagrams using pre-drawn templates and examples. 

Project Management

  • FieldAware Top-Rated mobile filed services management software for scheduling and dispatching workers and assigning jobs. 
  • TrackSmart Includes functions for scheduling, traking attendance and time clock. Allows for creating recurring work schedules which can be used over and over again. 


  • Quickbooks The leader in small business accounting software. Powerful, yet easy to set up and use. Available as an online application for easy access. 
  • Zoho Easy to use online accounting software for small businesses to managed their finances and stay on top of their cash flow. 
Feel free to try out this list of tools and there's a good chance you'll spend less time managing your contracting business and more time growing it.

Linggo, Pebrero 14, 2016

What is a GIS System?

A GIS system allows users to create interactive queries, analyze spatial information, edit data in maps, and make a final presentation. Since its creation by Roger Tomlinson in 1968, many businesses have learned to rely on this technology. Some of the possibilities that businesses can enjoy through using GIS include better fleet management, optimization of maintenance schedules, site selection, defining routes, conservation of natural resources, improved communication within and between teams, better and more efficient record keeping and making informed decisions.


While Tomlinson did not have the advantage of computerized GIS systems, business owners today are blessed with computerized systems that easily lead them through a five-step process allowing them to create their final presentation effectively. The first question that the system will guide the user to ask is to define the problem and its geographical location. As leaders create their query, it becomes clear what data they need to analyze and what format the final presentation should take. Possible questions that can be queried include:
  • Where are facilities that provide services currently located?
  • What is the population distribution?
  • Do people within the highest population density have the most access?
  • Are there people who lack access to service?
The second step is to acquire the needed data. Several different choices are available including vector files, digitized files, survey data, remotely sensed data, miniature unmanned aerial vehicle data or satellite remote sensing data. Once that information is entered, then the user needs to check the accuracy of the information. Users should make sure that the data is organized and note the source of the data.

The next step is to perform geographical analysis of the data. There are several possible ways to perform this analysis depending on the query chosen. Often times, it is helpful to draw a map to show the completed steps to arrive at the analysis. The final step is to present the data along with your analysis. These presentations can be done using several different formats including reports, maps, tables, and charts and delivered through printed media or through the Internet.

Miyerkules, Marso 26, 2014

Adding Up the Costs of Magazine Printing

One of the greatest hurdles to launching your own magazine is the cost of printing. Many journalists and editors are taking to the web for magazine layouts, cutting out that cost altogether, but there is something about the feel of glossy pages that just can't be replicated online. For purists who simply must have a traditional magazine, here is a breakdown of the decisions that affect your printing costs, and how you can save major money.

Paper Quality

The paper you choose for printing has a huge affect on your costs. There are three choices you make for your paper- the weight, grade, and stock.
  • Paper weight refers to the thickness of the paper, and ranges from 38-100 for text pages and 60-140 for covers. Thicker paper is more durable and professional, but is also significantly more expensive.
  • Paper grade measures the "whiteness" of the paper, and ranges from 1 to 5 (1 being the whitest). Most magazines are printed on paper grade 3, but you can save by going down to 4 or 5.
  • Paper stock can be glossy, dull, or matte. Magazines tend to choose glossy paper, but at a significant expense. 
There are also coatings you can use to finish the publication which affect the paper quality. Gloss UV and Matte UV provide different finishes as well as protection from fading. Varnish is a slightly less glossy finish that can save you a bit, although pages are more likely to fade than when finished with Gloss UV.


Choosing the right printer can be the biggest cost savings of all. Some printers offer you a low cost but cut corners on quality, while others can save you money in other ways. Talk to your printer and see samples before deciding. Modern Litho is a great example of a publisher that works with small magazines to print affordably.


The typical magazine-style binding is perfect-bound, which creates a square edge on the side of the magazine. Other bindings include saddle-bound (stapled) and spiral-bound, which can save you some money as compared to perfect-bound.

Trim Size

Trim size refers to the finished size of the magazine. Larger paper obviously costs more money than standard size, but smaller is not always cheaper. Be sure to choose standard sizes that are regularly available, because an irregular size may require special ordering or additional cutting costs.


The advertisers that you get are the most significant way to offset printing costs. Remember that cutting corners on things like paper quality may affect the advertisers you get, so be sure to appeal to advertisers and readers at the same time as you save money. This article helps to find advertisers for a first time printing.

Biyernes, Mayo 10, 2013

What Type Of Customer Service Solution Is Right For My Business

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In order to ensure customer loyalty to your business you need to practice good customer service methods. There are many different ways that a business can provide professional assistance to their customers. Communicating with customers through a call center, email messages, online chat, or through social media websites allows the business owners to have an up close and personal relationship with their target audience. This allows the company to understand what the most current needs and demands are for the people who purchase their products and services the most.

In order to find out what type of customer service solution would work best for your own personal business, you need to first analyze the type of business that you own. If you own a small business that sells products through an online marketplace, then you would probably benefit more from online customer service solutions than by using a call center. Since your customers are already using the internet while they are browsing your website or placing an order, it would only be convenient for them to be able to ask questions or file a complaint in the same area. Adding access to a live chat window or a simple email form to your company’s website will help you to stay informed on what your customer’s think about your products and your quality of service.

Call centers are good customer service options for businesses that can afford the extra cost to pay representatives to answer calls. While most consumers these days own a personal computer or have access to the internet on their phone or other device, there are still some individuals who do not, or those who do not wish to use their computer for business transactions. Call centers allow you to reach out to these customers. It is a method that many consumers prefer even if other customer service solutions are available to them because they have the opportunity to speak one on one with a live person.

Social media websites such as Facebook and Twitter have changed the way that small and large businesses conduct their marketing strategies. They have also changed the relationship between businesses and consumers. Companies that have Facebook accounts are able to post new information about their products and other related topics on their page. Customers who have liked their page have the ability to comment and join in on a conversation with a business representative. This method of customer service greatly benefits both the business and the customer because they are able to converse in a casual way that doesn't seem as much like a sales pitch.

Linggo, Marso 31, 2013

Nikon D2Xs SLR Camera

Buying the right digital camera can often be a very daunting task. First you want to make sure that you’re buying a quality name, and a camera that fits your experience and expertise.

With the Nikon D2Xs SLR, you’re getting a camera that’s completely powerful and dynamic enough to impress the most fanatic digitalphotographers.

Of course one of the most important aspects of this camera is the fact that you get a whopping 12.4 megapixels, letting you get huge prints that will be so impressive you’ll wonder in amazement how in the world that you took the pictures yourself. Your pictures will be sharp in detail and contain potently vibrant colors. The 12.4 megapixels also comes with the coveted and highly intelligent DX Format CMOS Sensor for even more crystal clear clarity.

To enhance photo quality even more the D2Xs offers an 11 area TTL Auto Focus System – which includes Single Area setting (or manual setting), Dynamic Area, Group Dynamic, and Dynamic Area with Closest Subject Priority. Having all of these choices, in your auto focus feature, means that you’ll no longer have any excuse for being out of focus on a shot again.

Let’s not forget about the 1,005-pixel 3D Color Matrix Metering II where your camera uses in-camera sensors to get the best focus on the shot as possible, and bringing out all of the true colors of your subjects in high detail and true to life brilliance.

Naturally, you’ll love checking out all of your images on the large 2.5 inch LCD Display screen on your D2Xs. This is where you’ll be able to review all of your photos as well as zip through all of your menu functions quickly and easily, while at the same time being able to read the text quite simply because of the large text.

This LCD Screen also has a wide 170 degree angle viewing angle which has also been factory calibrated to have consistent coloring.

Are you someone who likes to shoot action photography? You won’t have to worry about missing the action one bit because of the five frames per second shooting capacity, as well as the ability to amp up your shooting speed even more – at up to eight frames per second – when you switch to the lower resolution 6.8 megapixel setting.

This is amazingly fast and will capture just about any action that you wish to capture. You’ll be able to capture the first track meet as your child comes across the finish line, or the first touch down right on the line. It’s tremendous what you can do with this camera.

When it comes down to color, the Nikon D2Xs has got you covered in a grand way. With the Next Generation Color Reproduction Engine within this camera, it gives this camera the ability to create images that are accurate and completely natural looking. This means that you get realistic color reproduction where the transitions from color to color are completely true to life, and not manufactured looking.

Fundamentally, when you invest in a Nikon camera you know that you’re getting a high quality camera backed by a great name in the industry. When you invest in a Nikon D2Xs SLR Digital Camera you’re getting a tremendous value with tons of great features that will have you taking professional grade photos in no time flat. Everything you’ll need is within this camera right now.

Miyerkules, Marso 13, 2013

Wishlist for Google Reader

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Google Reader is the most popular feed reader available today, and while this is true, unfortunately, it does not reflect perfection. With the quality of Google’s search and Gmail, I expect more effort with Google Reader. The following are a few suggestions, and most of these ideas can be added with relative ease.  It is only a question of when Google will do it.

Folders or Tags? Why Must This Be So Ridiculous?

Google, please clarify what method of organization you are using within Google Reader. There are many odd references to “tags” and “folders” within the application. A storage scheme based on folders would allow you to place a feed inside of a folder, but tags offer the ability to assign multiple identifiers to any particular feed. That being said, obviously Google Reader has gone with the latter choice. Take five to ten minutes of your time to fix this already as this is a pretty silly issue to begin with.

Arduous Tag Management

Regardless of what Google calls them, the management of tags can be a pain at times. The interface for managing them is a something that could be a bit more intuitive. It requires too many clicks to accomplish things in its current state.

Here are some issues I have with the the way it is done now:
  • It is not possible to delete a tag without going into the settings menu
  • The task of reassigning tags to multiple items is somewhat time consuming
  • Creating a tag requires you to actually have a feed item selected or imported

Google, take a day or two, create some fancy Ajax code, and implement a way to better manage those tags. It is so bad at times that I actually export all my feeds to another application, rearrange them as I see fit, and import them back into Google Reader.  It is an unnecessary amount of work.  I do understand that this is a feature that, perhaps, only the more hardcore users would understand and utilize, but it is still important.

Quasi Content

There are too many times when I am looking through my subscriptions and end up noticing items that are very similar–i.e. the same story being reported multiple times. For someone who subscribes to many news, tech, and web 2.0 sources, it can get really messy at times.

Gizmodo might have just broke an important news story about an iPhone update to version 1.1.4. Naturally, Engadget, Crave, PC World, and others would end up writing about it within a few hours. Gizmodo broke the story, and I would appreciate it if only that particular item appeared as a result with the others given less priority. The more feeds that a person is subscribed to, the more he or she would appreciate a feature like this.

A simple implementation of this feature would look for keywords within the title and content to determine what is being discussed. When similar keywords are present–e.g. Apple, iPhone, smartphone apps, update, 1.1.4, release date, etc.–within multiple feed items, Google Reader should know that this content is just being reported over and over again by different sources. By placing emphasis on which source had written the story first, it help keep things clean.

Sure, it is an ambitious project to add this feature, but if I was working at Google and managing the Google Reader project, something like this would be right up my alley. Google should thrive on features like this. It should be created, labeled as experimental, and placed under the “view settings” menu. Besides, beyond search being added late last year, what has the company done for Google Reader lately?

Supplemental “Mark As Read” Options

Several fellow bloggers I follow, including Jeff and Amit Agarwalm, enjoy using FeedDemon, and I should mention that it is now completely free as of last month. I end up bouncing back and forth between that and Google Reader.  One of the great feature about FeedDemon is the ability to mark items that are older than a certain time period as read.

I tend to pass on those items that are older than 24 hours, and with FeedDemon, it requires only a few clicks to mark everything older than 24 hours, 48 hours or 5 days as read. With Google Reader, items tend to load up pretty fast, and this is especially true if you miss a day or two of checking feeds. I end up sometimes accidentally skipping recent items while using the “mark all as read” feature with Google Reader. This would be something that all users would appreciate.

Final Thoughts

Besides my suggestion for filtering items that are similar, it should only require a day or two of programming to implement these ideas. Google has been slacking off with Google Reader. It is obviously because Google Reader does not generate money for the company, so why would they be bothered with dedicating resources to it? This is simply a request, and if you get around to it, Google, please find a way to make some of these ideas a reality in the future.