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Posts from September, 2016


Overloaded, Weak Signals: Alleviating Common Wi-Fi Bottlenecks

Wednesday, September 28th, 2016

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If your staff is complaining about slow Internet access at your office, it’s time to consider how well the Wi-Fi network is configured. Slow Wi-Fi is best known, after all, for transforming an otherwise ideal work environment into a slow-boiling pot of aggravation.

To increase productivity (and decrease stress), minimize your SMB network’s load times ASAP by addressing any and all problems with Wi-Fi infrastructure.

It’s Getting Crowded in Here

Slow Wi-Fi can have many causes. Maybe your network is starting to buckle under the pressure of employee smartphones, tablets, and laptops added to the regular load. Maybe your once solitary office is now competing for the same airspace as several other nearby businesses. For whatever reason, your network is either internally or externally overcrowded—or both. Unfortunately, upgrading to a faster, newer network standard won’t necessarily improve Wi-Fi range or reception for a quick fix.

Expanding Assets

Not enough room? Make more. Managed services providers can give networks stuck on the old 2.4GHz range a huge capacity boost by enabling the 5GHz range. When used in tandem with 2.4GHz, 5GHz moves a share of the traffic to a second wireless network. Your MSP may also suggest splitting devices across multiple networks: one network hosts all employee computers, another handles printers and IoT devices, and a third handles BYOD equipment. Splitting traffic across multiple frequencies and channels will greatly expand capacity and eliminate performance bottlenecks.

Working Around Interference

If that’s not enough of a reason to share, it’s worth noting that 2.4GHz networks compete not only with traffic from other nearby businesses, but also with other office devices that operate at 2.4GHzincluding wireless landline phones and the break room microwave. MSPs can help configure your networks to utilize the non-overlapping 1, 6, and 11 channels to minimize radio wave competition, and configure the network to use the slim 20MHz channel mode to handle competing traffic. Businesses with minimal Wi-Fi competition can utilize the 40MHz channel for better reception.

Location, Location, Location

Poorly located routers and access points can amplify problems stemming from network congestion. For example, if your SMB places its primary access point near a wall shared with another business that’s doing the same thing, both access points will interfere with each other—which degrades performance. An MSP can help develop a Wi-Fi heatmap to determine the best access point locations and implement directional antennas to accommodate unique office layouts.

The IT consulting experts at MPA Networks are ready to help your SMB establish a better networking environment. Not only will your staff get work done faster with a more stable network, but they’re also going to feel a lot less stress in the process.

IoT Devices to Make Your Office More Efficient

Wednesday, September 21st, 2016

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IoT devices have incredible potential to make your office more efficient. Previously we’ve discussed the caveats IoT devices bring to the workplace a few times, but today we’re going to focus on how these devices can increase productivity.

It’s easy to fall back on the old mentality “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it”—but many smart devices can streamline processes and save money in the long run.

Smart Fridge

At first glance it might seem overloaded with bells and whistles, but the staff at Forbes insists the smart fridge is a great idea. The primary function of the smart fridge is the ability to replace food when it’s running low directly from the device itself. Reporting when something is low and streamlining the replacement process can cut down on time spent on fridge inventory and the waste of infrequently used products.

The biggest advantage, though comes from the smart fridge’s energy savings potential. Simply put, it’s more efficient than that old clunker sitting in your break room.

Smart Thermostat

Smart thermostats make it easier to control the office temperature and cut down on climate control expenses. Quartz recommends the devices for office settings on a diplomatic level as well: They can be used to crowd source the temperature setting during the work day. A famous study by the Campbell Soup Company found that thermostat temperatures have a correlative effect on employee productivity.

Smart Locks

Smart locks are one of those devices that add features you never want to have to use, but will be happy to have if the need arises. These devices connect to the office’s Wi-Fi network and can be used with smartphones for mobile access. Primarily, smart locks can be combined with electronic pins that are opened with a smartphone app instead of a physical key or 4-digit combo for tighter security.

In a pinch, you can use the application to unlock the door to let people in the office without actually being there. This can be helpful in situations where the “keyholder” is running late or off sick, or you need to allow weekend maintenance staff in remotely.

Smart Cameras

Smart cameras are a straightforward upgrade to your office’s existing security system (assuming you already have one). They’re relatively inexpensive, starting around $100 each, and offer fantastic protection against intruders. Some smart cameras can be programmed to recognize employees’ faces and alert you if someone unrecognized enters the office. You can also use the cameras to remotely check in on the office while away.

If you’re looking to make your office run “smarter,” contact the experts at MPA Networks to explore all the exciting possibilities of IoT devices. We’ll help you secure the devices on isolated secondary networks to keep your business protected now and in the future. That way, your staff can enjoy all the perks of IoT without worrying about the vulnerabilities.

Water-Resistant Smartphones Are Here: What You Need to Know

Tuesday, September 13th, 2016

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Water-resistance probably isn’t on the feature checklist for your employee smartphones—but judging by how many of these devices meet an untimely end via liquid damage, it should be.

It probably doesn’t come as a surprise that dropping the device is the number one cause of smartphone damage at 30 percent; however, liquid damage makes up a substantial 18 percent.

Your business can purchase a range of affordable fitted bumpers, cases, and screen protectors as a line of defense, but waterproof cases like this one are much more expensive and bulky.

It’s “Water-Resistant,” Not “Waterproof”

First and foremost, keep in mind that water-resistant smartphones are not waterproof. If you throw the phone in the ocean or a 12-foot-deep wave pool and leave it there for a few hours, it’s going to break. These devices are built to survive the accidental drop in the bathtub or dinner table spill. Water-resistant devices also have different performance ratings. For example, the Samsung Galaxy S7 can survive being submerged under five feet of water for half an hour.

Why Go Water-resistant?

Water-resistant smartphones can help increase productivity by allowing employees more free use of their devices by lessening water-resistant concerns. For example, an employee with a water-resistant phone will have no qualms about answering a call in the rain. Many smartphones also suffer water damage from sweat seeping in during a workout—not a problem with water-resistant devices. Additionally, a versatile phone can help reduce downtime, data loss, and replacement costs when it continues to function even after being dropped in a pool, submerged in spilled beer, or soaked in a bag in the rain.

Current and Upcoming Models

The water-resistant phone is not an especially new concept; the Sony Xperia Z released in early 2013 is considered the first slim-designed water-resistant smartphone. As of mid-2016, CNET recommends the following water-resistant phones:

  • Samsung Galaxy S7 (Edge and Active)
  • Sony Xperia X Performance
  • Motorola Moto G4

While the iPhone 6S doesn’t have a “water-resistant” designation, Engadget reports that the device holds up surprisingly well against liquid damage, even when being submerged. CNN found that while a dunk test still broke the iPhone 6S, it held up for much longer than the iPhone 5. Additionally, ZDNet reports that the iPhone 6S can alert the user if the lightning port is wet, which hints at future water-resistance.

Your business’s smartphone needs can vary, and depending on partnerships, you may be limited to specific devices on a single carrier. IT consulting services can help find the right water-resistant phones for your staff’s needs. Contact us today for more information on how you can keep the rain from coming down on your smartphone parade.

Are Chromebooks Right for YOUR Business?

Wednesday, September 7th, 2016

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Google’s Chromebook platform has the potential to replace traditional laptops and increase productivity for businesses, much like it has in the consumer market at large. For the uninitiated,

Chromebooks are Cloud-oriented laptops that run most operations through the Google Chrome web browser instead of traditional desktop applications.

And, while lacking the raw horsepower and feature range found in Windows and Mac computers, Chromebooks manage to pack a ton of functionality in a secure, zippy, and affordable package.

Extremely Capable Machines

According to TechRadar, the Chromebook is an ideal device for workers who rely mostly, if not exclusively, on Cloud data storage and web applications. Employees that work mostly through Google Apps already will find the device a natural fit. If it runs in Chrome, it runs on the Chromebook.

Other employees who primarily use desktop computers may find a Chromebook a much more powerful productivity booster for a secondary mobile device compared with smartphones and tablets. While the devices may have slower CPUs than comparable laptops, they’re running an OS with little overhead bloat, so they tend to offer a smooth user experience.

Cloud-Based Advantages

The Cloud-based nature of Chromebooks makes them a great asset for malware prevention and simplified disaster recovery. According to Google, Chromebooks “are designed from the ground up to defend against malware and viruses.” Additionally, all files saved in web applications are stored in the Cloud, which means the disaster recovery process amounts to simply reloading the operating system. Moreover, Chromebooks are highly secure in the event of theft since they don’t store confidential data on the device itself.

Low Cost

Chromebooks are a cost-effective option for many companies, but small startups may have the most to gain. Don’t use—or can’t afford—costly management tools, server hardware, and other infrastructure? Chromebooks start as low as $150, with more capable models in the $200-250 range; high-end Chromebooks hit the cost ceiling at $500. These are much cheaper than typical enterprise laptops, making them an affordable alternative. Chromebooks are also a great option for business trips, considering three-day laptop rentals can cost between $70 and $150 per employee.

Results May Vary

Chromebooks aren’t for everyone, so make sure the device fits seamlessly into your workflow before making a company-wide commitment. If, for example, your employees need powerful systems with proprietary software for intense applications like video editing, rendering 3D models, or financial modeling, and these tasks are not offloaded into the Cloud, then Chromebooks are not for you. Also, it’s worth keeping in mind that Chromebooks lose most of their functionality when working in areas without an Internet connection, and that configuring a Chromebook to print isn’t as easy as on a PC or Mac.

That said, many of the Chromebook’s shortcomings could see improvements soon: Google is planning to add Android application support in the near future. If your workflow can adapt well to Chromebooks, the pros may outweigh the cons and then some.