The Troubles of Delayed Maintenance – An I.T. Horror Story

The Troubles of Delayed Maintenance – An I.T. Horror Story

We are celebrating spooky season with a horror story of IT done wrong, a cautionary tale warning about the perils involved when a company does not consider their IT infrastructure a priority.  Hear the tale of a company that decided to do business without a Managed IT Service Plan in place.

It is no secret that Allegiance Technology Solutions is a Managed IT Service Provider.  For those unfamiliar with that term, Managed IT Service refers to outsourcing your IT support and maintenance, rather than hiring internal IT employees.  Depending on the size of your business, Managed IT Service plans provide a cost-efficient technology support system that makes sense from a financial standpoint.  With a good Managed IT Service Provider, you can have peace of mind that the technology your employees rely on will be supported and maintained, so you can focus on growing your business.

However, there are companies out there that can’t justify the monthly overhead costs associated with a Managed Service Plan.  They believe they can’t afford the monthly cost, or they don’t see the value or benefits of having a Managed Service Plan in place.  So they put off such things as required maintenance or scheduled updates.  Although a company can ride for some time without proper maintenance, eventually their luck will catch up with them, and problems occur.  A mission critical application crashes, or hardware starts to fail.  Eventually, something is going to fail.  And it usually happens at the worst time possible, right when you need it to work the most!

The Case of the Reluctant Accountant

Case in point: XYZ Accounting Services, a fictitious name for a real Certified Public Accountant company, recently experienced such a problem.  XYZ prepares taxes for many clients, and heavily relies on a specific application to process, record and file tax documentation on behalf of their clients.  The application was running on a very old server running Microsoft Windows Server 2012.

Yeah, the Windows Server version that was based on the horrid, unbeloved Microsoft Windows 8.  Shivers!

Microsoft Windows Server 2012 without a Managed IT Service Plan

Remember this interface?  The one that Microsoft wants us to forget?

XYZ had contracted our services many times over the years to fix one-off technical problems, choosing to pay our emergency support rate rather than agree to a monthly contract.  Despite several conversations about the benefits of a Managed IT Service contract, XYZ stubbornly refused our monthly service, thinking it was cheaper to pay the emergency fee on an as needed basis.

On a recent emergency support call, it was discovered that the hard drives in their aging server were starting to fail.  After several hours of work, we set up a band-aid solution for them so they could continue to work.  We warned the head of XYZ Accounting Services that their server was beginning to fail, data might become corrupted, and the hardware needed to be replaced ASAP.  He asked for a quote to replace the server.

After receiving the quote, XYZ decided the cost was going to be too much to handle.  And the aging server continued to limp along.  Until one day, a few months later, it could limp no more.

Again, Allegiance Technology Solutions was called upon to provide emergency support.  But the server had served its last record.  It had computed its last calculation.  It was time to release that old server to the great junkyard in the sky.

The server had to be replaced, there was no band-aid solution that was going to work this time.  After lengthy discussions, and a quick turnaround from our support team, a new server was being built while the data from the old server was being recovered.  And a new Managed IT Service contract with Allegiance Technology Solutions was born.

Finally, the new server was in place.  The application was installed and the data had been restored.  But after working for a few days, XYZ employees realized that not all of the data they were expecting to see was there.

Duh! Duh Duhhhhh!

Gasp!  Our horrors were confirmed!  The data was corrupted!

Our team went back to work, doing a deep scan of the failing hard drives.  We were able to use advanced data recovery tools on a Linux computer to recover more data, which was eventually restored to the new server.  XYZ was finally back up and running!  And they will be able to run for many years with a new maintenance agreement in place.

If Only…

If only XYZ Accounting Services had chosen to use us as their Managed IT Service Provider BEFORE there was a problem.  We would have had daily backups ready to restore their data.  We would have performed proactive hardware and software maintenance, increasing the reliability and longevity of the system.  We would have been able to advise XYZ about upcoming hardware replacements way before there was a failure.  And their emergency and weeks of downtime would have been completely avoided.

Life After Death

We are happy to say that XYZ is now a Managed IT Service client.  XYZ has learned a valuable lesson in technology maintenance, that it is something that should not be ignored.  Now their emergencies are no longer emergencies, as they have the service and expertise of Allegiance Technology Solutions just a phone call away.

Now, XYZ’s computers are protected by world-class antivirus software.  Server data is now being backed up daily.  We have remote access tools installed in case their staff needs quick access to tech support.  We have 24-hour security monitoring in place to alert us of security issues and real-time server health.    And now they have a proper network with professionally installed Ethernet cabling, enterprise class wi-fi access points, and internet protected by industry standard firewalls.

What About Your Business?

If you own a business and are interested in protecting your technology assets, increasing security, or just want to avoid a catastrophe like the one above, contact us today and we can discuss a Managed Service Plan that fits your business needs.  Until then, stay safe out there!

 

 

 

Determining Optimal Viewing Distance

Determining Optimal Viewing Distance

Have you ever bought a new TV, only to find out that it was too small or too big for your viewing space?  Or maybe you have a room in your home and you want to know what size TV you should get for the space.  If you want an easy way to calculate the optimal viewing distance from your TV, look no further than this handy tool by Omni Calculator.

Optimal TV Viewing Distance Calculator

For the home theater enthusiast, figuring out screen placement and optimal viewing distance is crucial to maximizing the enjoyment of your investment.  You spent good money on a good device and want to enjoy the best picture quality possible.  This tool may help you estimate how far you should place seating from the screen.

All you have to do is type in your screen size and select the screen resolution from the drop down list.  Your optimal and minimal viewing distances are instantly calculated and displayed.  It’s just as easy as that!

But what if you don’t know what your screen size or resolution is?  You can gather that information from a variety of places.  Your TV might have a sticker on it, or if you still have the original box or instruction manual, it might be listed there.  And of course, you could look up the TV model online.  Sometimes, the model number itself will give you a clue to its screen size and/or resolution.  If you are interested in learning the secrets to decoding TV model numbers, check out this article posted by PC Magazine.

How to measure TV screen size

The size of a screen is the length of its diagonal measurement.  If you were to draw and measure an imaginary line from a bottom corner to the opposite upper corner, you would discover the screen’s size.  Screen size is always expressed in inches. For example, a 32″ screen has a diagonal length of 32″. If it has a regular aspect ratio of 16:9, then the sides of this screen are 27.9″ and 15.7″, respectively.  You can check our math with Omni Calculator’s Pythagorean theorem calculator.

A 32" TV screen with an aspect ratio of 16:9.
A 32″ TV screen with an aspect ratio of 16:9.

Naturally, the longer the diagonal measurement, the larger the screen. But does bigger mean better when talking about TVs?  Not necessarily!  To determine which TVs are the best, we also have to take into account screen resolution.

 

So what does TV resolution actually refer to?

By now, you may have seen or heard of marketing terms such as “HD” or “4K” used to describe the features of TV model.  These terms are often used in describing screen resolution – or rather, the number of pixels on the screen.  A pixel is the smallest “dot” on the screen can accurately display color information. If you look really closely at your TV, you will discover that the lines are a bit jagged because they actually consist of tiny squares.  What you are seeing are individual pixels of the screen.

Screen resolution is a measurement of the number of horizontal pixels times the number of vertical pixels along the edge of the screen.  A screen is really just a grid of tiny pixels, similar to the multiplication tables they used to teach students in elementary school.  Screen resolutions are typically denoted by the number of horizontal pixels across the edge of the screen.  Typical screen sizes are defined in the table below.

 

  • 480p – 720 pixels by 480 pixels
  • 720p – 1280 pixels by 720 pixels
  • 1080p or HD– 1920 pixels by 1080 pixels
  • Ultra HD – 3840 pixels by 2160 pixels
  • 4K – 4096 pixels by 2160 pixels
  • 8K – 7680 pixels by 4320 pixels

It is important to note that screen resolution has nothing to do with screen size.  There are 70-inch televisions with 4K resolution monitors as well as smartphones outfitted with 4K resolution screens.  So those high-end smartphones have screens with very tiny pixels, while the pixels on a 70-inch screen are much bigger.  The Jumbotron screen installed at the Dallas Cowboys‘ AT&T Stadium, measures 160 feet wide by 72 feet tall (49 m x 22 m), made to display HD resolution video viewable from the stands, has pixels that are roughly 1 inch wide!

 

Calculating the ideal TV distance

If you want to calculate the optimal distance between you and the TV, you should know that a typical viewing angle θ lies in the range between 30° and 40°, as depicted in the image below.

Viewing angle when watching TV.
Viewing angle when watching TV.

Armed with this knowledge, you can start setting up a room and the furniture within it to take advantage of optimal viewing distance.  Although optimal viewing distances can be quickly estimated, there is a science to it all, which involves some pretty involved trigonometry.  If you really want to learn the math and science behind proper viewing distance, read the full article by Omni Calculator.  Or you can just use the calculator at the beginning of this article and save yourself a bunch of time.

Or just ask the professionals!

Our installation technicians are experienced in mounting TVs and optimizing viewing distances in all kinds of room sizes.  Whether you just need a single TV mounted to a wall or want to design a home theater in a bonus room, contact us to learn about all the ways we can help you.  Headquartered in Pembroke, GA, we service Savannah, GA and the surrounding areas, including Skidaway IslandTybee IslandStatesboroPoolerRichmond Hill and Hilton Head SC, we install technology for both business and residential customers.

 

Integrating Home Security Systems into Control4

Integrating Home Security Systems into Control4

Many homes nowadays are equipped with security alarm systems.  These modern security systems feature sensors for fire, smoke, heat as well as break-in detection.  Security cameras are another common feature that can be included in modern security systems.  A standalone security system provides its owners with peace of mind, but doesn’t offer much in terms of functionality.

Smart home enthusiasts outfit their homes with powerful smart home systems such as Control4Control4 takes different aspects of your home, such as lighting, motorized door locks, audio, thermostats and more, and allows them to work in concert with each other.  This networked automation provides new levels of convenience, such as one button control, scheduled interactions and remote access, while providing increased power savings.

But did you know that home security systems can be fully integrated into a Control4 smart home setup?

Integrating Home Security Systems into Control4Integrating Home Security Systems into Control4

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Above:  Action shots of Jesse integrating a home security system into a Control4 smart home setup.

Control4 is a convenient way to control all the smart devices in your home.  The real power of Control4 lies in its ability to integrate security with other smart home functions. You can set up custom “scenes” that simultaneously adjust your security settings, lighting, and temperature based on certain triggers.  For example, you could create a scene called “Away” that locks all entrances, sets the alarm, turns off all lights and sets the thermostat to an eco-friendly temperature, all with one button press on your mobile phone.

Control4 interface - security system option  Control4 interface - displaying security camera feeds

Most likely, your alarm system will come with its own control panel that allows you to enter your pin code, enable and disable the alarm, and check for faults in the system.  However, all those functions can also be accessed from any Control4 interface installed in your home, increasing the availability and flexibility of the system.  The pictures above demonstrate security system functions fully integrated into a Control4 interface, to include views of the security cameras on the premises.

Integrating Home Security Systems into Control4

By integrating your security system with Control4, you’re not just enhancing security; you’re enhancing the overall functionality of the entire smart home system.  With Control4’s seamless integration, you can tie together various devices and systems, creating a truly intelligent and responsive home environment that works exactly the way you want it.

If you value both convenience and security, integrating your home security system with Control4 is the way to go. Experience the power of real-time monitoring, remote control, and a unified interface that puts you in charge of your home’s security. Whether you’re just getting started with smart home technology or looking to expand your existing setup, Control4 opens up a world of possibilities.  Contact us to learn about all the installation options available.  Headquartered in Pembroke, GA, we service Savannah, GA and the surrounding areas, including Skidaway IslandTybee IslandStatesboroPoolerRichmond Hill and Hilton Head SC.

 

Enhancing Outdoor Spaces with Smart Home Technology

Enhancing Outdoor Spaces with Smart Home Technology

Are you looking for ways to enhance your outdoor living space?  As we are finishing up another smart home project for one of our clients, we wanted to show some examples of our work and some ways that you can upgrade your outdoor space with smart home technology.  Our client has graciously allowed us to take some pictures and video of their beautiful 3 story home in Downtown Savannah.

Possibly the most breathtaking aspect of this home is actually outside the structure itself.  This house was designed with amazing use of its outdoor spaces, including a private courtyard and a rooftop area, granting its owners and guests a fantastic panoramic view of the surrounding area.

Starting with the rooftop area, there is a 50-inch LG flatscreen television that had been weatherproofed by Sealoc.  The proprietary weatherization process can take an off the shelf television and shield the internal electronics from weather, adverse elements and corrosive environments, increasing the television’s lifespan and usefulness.  Although you can’t really tell from the video above, the television is comfortably viewable in partial sunlight.  However, on the bright sunny day that we recorded this video, the onscreen images were a bit hard to see, especially with the glare.  In those instances, the owners have a retractable sunshade that completely covers the television viewing area.

Most of the smart lighting, as well as the outdoor speaker system has been seamlessly integrated in and around the rooftop vegetation.  This keeps the rooftop area beautiful without being visually cluttered with unnecessary technology.  The outdoor speaker system is integrated into the rest of the whole home audio via Control4, so the family and guests can comfortably listen to the television or enjoy the music that is being piped all throughout the house.

The downstairs courtyard area, as well as the entire home itself, is monitored by security cameras that discreetly blend into the environment.  Every entryway and window is protected by alarm sensors.  The entire security system, including the camera feeds, smoke, fire and entry alarms are all integrated and controllable by the Control4 panels installed throughout the home.

The courtyard features smart lighting and outdoor speakers, discreetly nestled amongst the trees and bushes of this picturesque garden.  Just like the rooftop area, every aspect of this outdoor system is controllable and integrated into the rest of the home.  Even the water fountain control is integrated can be turned on and off with a simple click of a button.  This courtyard garden this exudes classic old Savannah charm while providing state of the art safety and enjoyment for its owners and guests.

If you have an outdoor area that is in need of a smart home upgrade, connect with one of our professional installation consultants at Allegiance Technology Solutions.  We love to take our client’s vision and make it reality.  We are always researching the newest technology advances and we will be able to intelligently suggest the best components to build the smart home system of your dreams.

 

How Does the Dark Web Impact Small Businesses?

How Does the Dark Web Impact Small Businesses?

Identity theft is an unfortunate occurrence that is all too familiar with most business owners, but do those individuals know where the compromised data will end up? Often, these business owners are unaware of the virtual marketplace where stolen data is purchased and sold by cybercriminals; a place known as the “Dark Web”.  An article on Lexology explores what the Dark Web is, what information is available for purchase there and how it impacts small businesses.

What is the Dark Web?

The Dark Web, which is not accessible through traditional search engines is often associated with a place used for illegal criminal activity. While cybercriminals tend to use the Dark Web as a place to buy and sell stolen information, there are also sites within it that do not engage in criminal activity. For many, the most appealing aspect of the Dark Web is its anonymity.  Our previous article, Shining Light on the Dark Web describes this little-known section of the internet in greater detail.

What is for sale on the Dark Web?

Information sold on the Dark Web varies, and includes items such as stolen credit cards, stolen account information from financial institutions, forged real-estate documents, stolen credentials and compromised medical records. Even more alarming, the Dark Web contains subcategories allowing a criminal to search for a specific brand of credit card as well a specific location associated with that card. Not only can these criminals find individual stolen items on the Dark Web, but in some cases, entire “wallets” of compromised information are available for purchase, containing items such as a driver’s license, social security number, birth certificate and credit card information.

What is stolen personal information used for?

When stolen information is obtained by criminals, it can be used for countless activities like securing credit, mortgages, loans and tax refunds. It is also possible that a criminal could create a “synthetic identity” using stolen information and combining it with fictitious information, thus creating a new, difficult to discover identity.

Why are stolen credentials so valuable?

Stolen user names and passwords are becoming increasing popular among cybercriminals, but why? Identity thieves will often hire “account checkers” who take stolen credentials and attempt to break into various accounts across the web using those user names and passwords. The idea here is that many individuals have poor password practices and are using the same user name and password across various accounts, including business account such as banking and eCommerce. If the “account checker” is successful, the identity thief suddenly has access to multiple accounts, in some cases allowing them the opportunity to open additional accounts across financial and other services. 

Why should small businesses be concerned about the Dark Web?

Since the Dark Web is a marketplace for stolen data, most personal information stolen from small businesses will end up there, creating major cause for concern. With the media so often publicizing large-scale corporate data breaches, small businesses often think they are not a target for cybercriminals, however that is not the case. Cybercriminals are far less concerned about the size of a business than they are with how vulnerable their target is. Small businesses often lack resources to effectively mitigate the risks of a cyberattack, making them a prime target for identity theft as well as other cybercrimes.

At a recent Federal Trade Commission (FTC) conference, privacy specialists noted that information available for purchase on the Dark Web was up to twenty times more likely to come from a company who suffered a data breach that was not reported to the media. The FTC also announced at the conference that the majority of breaches investigated by the U.S. Secret Service involved small businesses rather than large corporations.

How can you reduce the risk for your small business?

To reduce the risks of a cybercriminal gaining access to your company’s information or network, you must ensure you have proper security measures in place. The FTC has a webpage that can assist with security options for businesses of any size.  In addition, it is crucial that your employees are properly trained on security, including appropriate password practices.

Allegiance Technology Solutions provides 24-7 Cybersecurity Monitoring services for our Managed IT Service clients. Our service will proactively monitor the Dark Web for you and notify you immediately when your data is found to be compromised.  There is minimal effort needed to protect your business when you partner with us.  We will automatically monitor for your organization’s email domain on the Dark Web. If we find anything floating around out there, you can rest assured that you will be notified, and we will be there to help protect your personal and company data.  When it comes to the security of your company data, we want to provide you peace of mind so you can focus on other areas of your business.