FAQs

How long of a contract do you require?

We don’t require contracts at all! We want you to stick with us because you like our service, not because you’re locked into some long-term contract. If you’re unhappy, we’d like the chance first to make it right, and if we can’t manage that for some reason, we’ll be happy to give you the names of some competitors that might be able to serve you better, and work with whomever necessary to transition you smoothly to another provider.

Should I upgrade to Windows 10?

Microsoft has worked most of the bugs out of Windows 10 now, and it’s shaping up to be a great OS.  We’re now recommending that people with relatively new machines (2-3 years old or newer) go ahead and upgrade. If you’re getting new PC hardware, you won’t really have a choice anyway. Just double-check and make sure that all of your software is compatible with Windows 10 before you buy new equipment or do the upgrade.

Do you support Macs?

You bet! When we say we support Macs, we don’t mean “we will grumble and complain about them and hack around until we make it work – sort of“. While we support predominately Windows networks, some of our technicians use Macs as their primary computers, and many of our customers have at least a couple of Macs on their network. We can move comfortably between both platforms, and integrate them fairly well. That being said, however, we don’t support Mac servers, which aren’t terribly popular anyway.

How about iPads/iPhones/Android devices?

Absolutely. We have these devices ourselves, and we make sure that we’re comfortable with configuring them in the various ways our customers need.

Blackberries?

Sorry, that ship already sailed…

Do you have references?

Of course! We don’t want you to trust us because we have slick marketing materials. Give us a call – we’ll be happy to connect you with customers that are similar to you and ask them to give you an honest assessment of our service. We have nothing to hide.

When I call for help, am I just going to be a number or have to dial through a complicated phone tree?

Absolutely not. We started this business because we like helping people. Unlike many of our competitors, we only serve small businesses. We’re a small business ourselves. You will always get a human on the phone when you call between 8-5, and outside of those times you press 0 to get the on-call technician for an emergency.

Why buy our hardware from you?

We can ensure you get the right thing for your needs the first time, and we’ll usually save you money (or break even) compared to buying it yourself. Really.

The reality is that there is virtually no margin in the computer hardware business – companies have to cut on tech-support, which means talking to technicians overseas that want to talk you through a long series of steps to solve a simple problem. Because we do a higher volume of business with our vendors, we can lean on our distributors, who can in turn lean on the manufacturer to get a problem resolved.

While we don’t have any big alliances with a particular vendor (HP, Dell, Lenovo, etc.), by buying through us, you help give us the volume we need to have the clout to get problems resolved.

Also, by buying in volume, we can get better deals for our clients, and it usually means that we have spare equipment on the shelf ready to go when a machine fails. Even more importantly, we can take a spare machine with us to your site, and swap out components in order to quickly identify which one is the problem and get you back up and running. This gets your issue solved quickly, and then we can go back to the office and deal with getting replacement equipment without interrupting your operations any further.

All technology has idiosyncrasies. By servicing the same hardware time and time again, we can apply our knowledge to a much wider customer base, saving you time and money.

What’s your hourly rate?

We don’t usually work on an hourly basis – we find that leads to band-aid solutions that don’t really solve the underlying problems. We’d rather bring you on as a customer, fix the problem correctly to begin with, and have a stable environment for the long-term. If you must hire us on an hourly rate for some reason, we charge $150/hour, including travel time one way to your location (if an onsite visit is necessary). Outside of normal business hours, we reserve the right to charge 1.5x normal rates, and 2x on Sundays.

How much is your managed care plan?

A minimum managed care plan for our smallest customers is only $350/month, which can be a lot for small businesses to handle, but because most of our work is done on servers, the rates per user or per computer go up slowly from there, making our services very cost-effective for customers with 15+ computers.

When you talk to our existing customers, they’ll tell you how fast we are at responding to issues, how easy we are to work with, and how they can’t imagine going back to living without us. They’ll tell you how poorly they’ve been serviced in the past while spending even more money. We only provide one level of service – excellent. It takes time and money to provide that level of service, and once you experience it, we think you’ll agree we’re a good value.

On top of unlimited tech support, our managed care plan includes a lot of ongoing services that are “behind the scenes”, but no less important:

On site visits when necessary (depending on your distance and contract)
Remote monitoring of all of your equipment to make sure it is running properly
Remote access to your computers (for our technicians, but also for you and your employees)
Cloud-based data backups
Web filtering / virus / malware protection
Windows security updates
3rd party security updates (Java, Adobe Reader, Chrome, etc.)
Asset Management / Budgeting worksheets
Desktop faxing / Email to fax
Continuous security scanning
Web site hosting

If everything gets set up right to begin with, why would I need ongoing service?

We agree – if networks were static and nothing were changing, you wouldn’t need much ongoing service. If you think about it, though, today’s networks are constantly changing. Think of the number of updates you apply to your computer each month. Microsoft usually releases anywhere from 10-20 updates each month. Add in Adobe Flash, Java, Chrome, Firefox, and other software updates, and each computer sees quite a bit of change even in 1 month’s time. Those computers all have to communicate with one another. Add in users that come and go over time, and wireless devices coming and going from them every day and you soon realize that the number of changes that occur on a network are just increase over time. Dealing with those changes is where our ongoing services come in handy.

How am I going to pay for all of this?

Good question. Only you can really answer that, but we believe you should ask yourself a couple of questions:

1. What would it cost me in lost time/revenue/reputation if my laptop hard drive / server hard drive / super important piece of equipment died or was stolen?

2. What would it cost me to hire a company to come in once every few years and overhaul everything at once rather than do it gradually over time? Can I budget properly for this? Can I deal with the disruption?

What is the cloud? Is it secure?

The “cloud” is just another name for the Internet. It’s become a kitschy way of saying that the service provider manages all of the servers, software, data, backups, security, etc., and you just access the service via an Internet browser.  Cloud-based services are neither inherently secure nor insecure.  Security is all about the implementation. We can help you evaluate that to make sure your data remains secure.

Is the credit card/patient/confidential business data/protected health information (PHI) I store on my network secure?

That’s hard to say – let us come in and do a security assessment of your network. I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised by the results. It’s rare that our customers need to spend a lot of money to properly secure their network. If it’s necessary, most changes can be made on your existing equipment, and those changes are all included as part of our service.

Can you remove a virus or malware from my computer?

Yes, but quite frankly we’re not as good at it (or as cheap!) as the local “$50 computer cleanup” shops, because we rarely do it. Our customers have multiple layers of security that almost always prevent viruses from ever getting through in the first place. We manage hundreds of computers, and rarely get calls about viruses or malware.

What antivirus software do you recommend?

We get this one a lot. The answer is that we don’t. Technically, viruses have mostly been supplanted by malware, though most security solutions try to cover both. The antivirus industry is mostly a holdover from the 90’s, where everything had to be handled on a machine-by-machine basis. Just like most people don’t see anymore that 98%+ of the email traffic on the Internet is spam, there is a huge amount of malware out there that can usually be filtered via better solutions than antivirus.

Antivirus & security solutions have some value, but the biggest reason we remove them from the computers we manage is that they require “hooks” into low-level parts of your computer system, and they frequently interfere with other software packages. What happens if your business-critical software package becomes crippled by your antivirus software? Whose fault is that? How are you going to resolve it?

We’ve been recommending not using antivirus for several years now, but don’t take our word for it – here is an article on forbes.com about why more prominent companies (like Netflix) are dumping traditional antivirus solutions.

Can you describe the 7-layered approach you take to security?

1. Email – many malware threats come in via malicious web links in email. Filtering your email via a cloud-based provider like Google Apps or Office 365 is far more effective than client-side solutions. In addition, you don’t need spam clogging up your network bandwidth and processor cycles.
2. Web Filtering – most people associate this with blocking porn and gambling sites, and it does that well, but most web filters, including Umbrella Security by OpenDNS filter out malicious web links as well.
3. Antivirus – Microsoft Security Essentials is free and actually does a pretty good job if malware makes it past #1 & #2.
4. “Least privilege” principle – Users only have the minimum rights they need to get their jobs done, which typically does not need to include administrative rights to install programs on their system. If malware makes it past #1-#3, it can only be executed within the user’s “context”, which means that cleanup is easy because we can log in as an administrative user and cleanup that account since the malware doesn’t have the rights to “hook” into the deepest levels of the system.
5. Firewall – All networks should have a firewall of some sort between them and the Internet, and almost all PC’s (both Windows and Mac) come with built-in firewalls that can be configured to provide an additional layer of security against external threats.
6. Guest Wireless Network – your “corporate” network should consist only of “corporately managed” machines.  In this day and age, there is almost always a need for outside users to share your Internet access on occasion, but this should be done on an isolated “guest network”, to protect your “corporate machines” against viruses and malware that could be introduced onto your network unwittingly.
7. USB Autorun disabled – This seems trivial, but infections can spread easily in organizations that use USB sticks, particularly from the outside.

Why do we need you guys - we do everything in the cloud?

That’s precisely why you need us. Cloud-based services are great when they work, but what happens when your Internet goes down? Cloud-based services are great for functionality and offloading the maintenance of local software updates, but they introduce more pieces that have to be working properly (and many of them are out of your control). We can get you set up with a backup Internet solution, and help you troubleshoot local problems so we can definitively say that a problem/outage is upstream for you (and we’ll contact the appropriate provider for you and prove it to them, too).

Why do you require customers to have a server? Isn't everything moving to the cloud these days?

Yes, everything is moving to the cloud, but unfortunately, servers serve a variety of purposes that haven’t been completely replaced yet by the cloud:

1. Servers host a lot of files for your network. If you move those files to the cloud, you can end up choking down your Internet connection. Even worse, if your Internet connection goes down, you lose all access to these files. High-bandwidth, high uptime connections cost far more over a few months than a small server whose useful life should be measured in years.

2. Servers provide a centralized point of backup.

3. Servers give us an “always-on” machine that we can use for remote access and configuration changes. This is especially important for security.

4. Servers push “system policies” out to all of your workstations to keep your operating system and other programs up to date, and configured consistently. If anything happens to a given workstation, you can replace that machine, reconnect it to the server, and (in theory), be back up and running quickly with no loss of data.

5. Servers provide centralized authentication so that each user doesn’t have to have a user account on every machine, with potentially a different password on each one.

We already have an IT provider, we only need a new telephone system. Can you help us?

Probably not. Our experience has been that the only way we can serve you well is by managing your entire environment. There are generally two kinds of companies out there – ones that do “project work” (a.k.a “break/fix” or hourly work) and those that invest in an ongoing service relationship.

How can I safely dispose of my old computers?

For security and environmental reasons, we recommend our monthly maintenance customers give us their computers for disposal when they are done with them. We will make sure that the hard drive is securely erased before disposing of them in an environmentally-friendly manner. We do not recommend that you keep old computers around very long – get everything moved, and get them gone.

Are there systems you won’t service?

Absolutely. We’re not experts on software/hardware/businesses that don’t line up well with our other customers’ needs. We want to be good at a limited number of things, rather than mediocre at a lot of things.

Things we usually choose not to service:

Microsoft Exchange
Microsoft SharePoint
Microsoft IIS (Internet Information Server)
Web sites or services hosted on customer equipment.
Mac Servers
Linux servers (generally, but this varies)

How can I be sure my data is safe in the cloud?

Nobody can assure you your data is 100% safe in the cloud. By the same token, however, nobody can assure you that your data is safe on the server in your office, either.

Here are some things to consider:

1. Email is a no-brainer for cloud storage. Most email traverses the Internet anyway, so there are many points other than the storage location at which it could be potentially intercepted. A bigger concern is that 95% of email traffic actually gets filtered out as spam. By blocking this at a cloud provider, you’re not consuming valuable bandwidth with extraneous traffic.

2. Cloud companies have invested millions of dollars into infrastructure to store your data in the cloud. Their companies entire reputation (and therefore business model) depends on keeping that data secure. We certainly are confident that we can keep the data on your server secure, but when it comes down to it, would you rather trust your data’s security to a large company with entire teams of security people, or a small company serving the diverse needs of many small businesses.

3. Most data breaches come down to a balance of risk and reward. Think like a hacker – how much money can they make off of your data? It’s no surprise that most of the breaches we hear about are from retailers losing credit card data out of old point-of-sale systems. Those are easy to turn into untraceable cash. Do you think there’s much money to be made off of your financial statements from 5 years ago, or that letter you sent to a customer last fall? Even if you have a little bit of data that you would hate to have breached, would a hacker really break into your system and sift through everything to find it?

Why do you require us to replace our perfectly functioning router, firewall, access points or switches?

This is always a struggle for us. We’re the first ones to try to help you save a few bucks by not buying unnecessary equipment, but that always has to be balanced with manageability. It’s easy to think that “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it”, but what happens when it DOES break? Every piece of equipment will fail at some point or another, and inevitably, it’s at a very inconvenient time.

We’re experts at a lot of things, but we can’t possibly be experts at every type of equipment out there. They all have different interfaces, different capabilities, and this type of infrastructure is crucial to your business.

Here are 3 reasons we will recommend (and sometimes require) these type of equipment changes:

1. Reliability – we want you using professional-level equipment, not consumer grade equipment.
2. Manageability – we want to be able to manage your equipment effectively to prevent problems and avoid outages
3. Fixability – when something breaks, we want equipment we know how to manage and fix quickly. We don’t want to have to call tech support, or start Googling how to use the equipment, etc.
4. Security – the security of your network starts at the infrastructure level. We can provide the best security when the equipment is something we manage every day.
5. Cost – many firewalls require relatively expensive maintenance contracts for firmware and rule updates. Those costs are already included with the routers we use.

Should I buy a laptop or a desktop?

We always recommend desktop machines unless you absolutely must have the portability that a laptop can give you.  Desktops are far more reliable, cheaper both to purchase and to maintain, usually last longer than laptops, and are faster and easier to repair when you experience a failure.  

What printers do you service?

We don’t work on printers – we will help you with basic troubleshooting and connectivity, but printer issues are generally outside the scope of our contract.
Printers shared from individual workstations are not supported. For simplicity, we require that all printers be connected to a local machine, or connected via IP through the server. If you have a few printers that are currently shared, we will provide up to 5 USB to Ethernet adapters at our expense. Printers that are not new enough to have Windows 7 drivers will not be supported by us at all.

Why do you recommend a wired device? Isn't everything moving to wireless?

We always recommend a wired connection first and foremost, with wireless as a backup for laptops when you need to be mobile. This is for multiple reasons:

1. Lower bandwidth – wireless is much slower than a wired connection, and it’s shared among all users on that access point.
2. Single point of failure – if an access point dies, we need something to fall back to.
3. It’s much harder to troubleshoot wireless if something IS wrong. Falling back to a wired connection allows us to confirm or eliminate the wireless piece as the culprit when problems arise.
4. Some devices don’t do wireless at all. Higher-end printers and phones, for example. It is possible to get wireless phones, but they are more expensive and we do not recommend it. It’s a recipe for unreliability, and phones are the LAST thing you want to be unreliable. Similarly, you want printers to always work – they typically don’t need the mobility that wireless provides.
5. Interference – it’s easy for devices we don’t control to conflict with a wireless network, and it’s even quite possible (likely in fact) that multiple access points in the same building can conflict and reduce performance.

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