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Posts from October, 2016


Low Battery Life: Bringing Productivity to a Halt

Wednesday, October 26th, 2016

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Work-disrupting messages like “please connect charger” and “plug in or find another power source” can be a huge source of frustration—not to mention a major productivity killer—for employees on the go. Nobody wants to see their phone battery go belly-up on their commute to the office, or while waiting on a call from a client.

With these situations in mind, laptop and smartphone manufacturers are working hard to keep that battery gauge away from zero for as long as possible. The average laptop battery lasted around 225 minutes in 2012, and then increased to a respectable 375 minutes by 2015.

However, even with improved battery duration, those low-power alerts can be anxiety-provoking for employees who spend long hours away from the comfort of an electrical socket.

While you always have the option of waiting around for improved manufacturing to extend the average battery lifespan, there’s a lot your staff can do in the meantime to stay powered on.

Adjusting the Settings

With a little know-how and diligence, your employees can squeeze more life out of their existing devices. For example, iPhone and iPad users can manually enable the “Low Power Mode” feature, sacrificing speed for longevity, starting at 20 percent battery life (or sooner, for even greater benefits).

Android devices offer a similar option, usually called “Battery Saver” or “Power Saving” mode. Mobile users can also turn off features like Wi-Fi, mobile data, and Bluetooth while not in use to prolong battery life. Employees who haul around their laptops should look into Windows 10’s “Power Saver” power plan or Mac OS X’s “Energy Saver.” These modes vary between devices, but can often add several hours of use to a mobile device.

Bringing Backup

Power users can keep the lights on longer, of course, by bringing along a secondary, fully-charged battery or a mobile device charger. However, this isn’t always a viable option, since some devices (including the iPhone) can’t swap batteries at all. Laptop batteries can be cumbersome (and heavy!) to lug around.

In these cases, backup chargers can keep devices up and running even when there’s nowhere to plug them in. Some portable chargers even feature multi-level energy capacities. Advise your team to store one in a briefcase or backpack to breathe new life into a dying smartphone in emergency situations.

Tech on the Horizon

While smart power management practices will always be a part of the mobile experience, improvements in battery technology could minimize this nuisance considerably. According to NetworkWorld, a startup called SolidEnergy is working with batteries that feature an ultra-thin lithium metal charge storage that replaces the currently used lithium ion counterpart. These batteries last twice as long as current ones.

Contact the IT experts at MPA Networks if you’re looking to keep your employees connected on the go. Finding the right tech tools for the job and knowing how to use them means fewer disruptions in the workplace—so you can keep going and going.

Think Manually Running Hard Drive Defragmentation Is a Big Deal? Think Again

Wednesday, October 19th, 2016

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Good news: Your IT staff can stop running regular hard drive defragmentation on your office computers. Improvements in technology have rendered this decade-old practice largely irrelevant. One less thing to worry about, as far as we’re concerned.

Hard drive defragmentation is a process in which files that have been split apart across a storage device are reassembled as contiguous, individual files.

This adjustment improves load times and reduces wear on the storage device because the hard drive only needs to “seek” or relocate the reader arm once to load an individual file. Regular hard drive defragmentation has long been considered an easy way to increase productivity by decreasing computer load times.

Modern File and Operating System Changes

That old Windows XP system you’re running in the back corner of the office still probably needs to be defragmented—but the rest don’t. From Windows 7 onward, Microsoft implemented changes that streamlined the defragmentation process. Modern Windows computers are better at keeping files together, automatically waiting for the computer to go idle to run defragging processes in the background.

Mac OS X uses a process called “Hot File Adaptive Clustering” in the HFS format that automates the defragging process when writing new data to the hard drive. You can see for yourself how jumbled the hard drive is by opening the defragmentation tool and checking the “Current Status.” Unless the drive is 10 percent fragmented or higher, there’s no need to run the tool.

Modern HDD Changes

Modern HDD technology unintentionally resolved many of the problems with fragmentation simply by expanding capacity. When saving a file, the computer searches for the largest available contiguous space to store it—and if it can’t find a space big enough, it breaks up the file into the fewest possible pieces. Less contiguous free space means those files get split up more and the situation worsens. Larger storage devices can save more data before having to split files, and they’re more likely to have contiguous available space to store a file in the first place.

The SSD Clause

Defragmenting an SSD can actually wear down the device faster. Additionally, SSDs do not need to move a physical part to seek data, so file fragmentation does not impact performance. For these reasons (and more), it’s widely recommended that SSD storage devices should not be defragmented.

Attn: Large File Power Users

Despite all the improvements in technology, power users that work with large numbers of massive data files can run into problems with file fragmentation. According to OSX Daily, this is more of an issue for pro users who work with multimedia files. Fragmentation can also be an issue on shared storage servers where many users are constantly saving and editing work. These computers and servers may need regular defragmentation.

Get in touch with MPA Networks to take advantage of reliable IT managed services that help you make the most of your time. Old habits, including good ones, may become obsolete over time. Let us help you create better ones in their place.

Troubleshooting Step 1: Reboot

Wednesday, October 12th, 2016

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While modern computers are much more stable than their ancestors, trying to get work done on a slow, malfunctioning computer is still a business world rite of passage. Troubleshooting bad behavior on your work computer can, of course, be a tedious process—so wouldn’t it be nice if there was one magic button that could solve around 90 percent of your IT problems?

Good news: There is! It’s called the restart button, and your computer already has one.

We know you’re probably not excited to close every open window and application each time something goes wrong, but the truth is that restarting or rebooting resolves the vast majority of performance problems.

Here’s the how and the why:

Rebooting: Always the First Step

Whenever there’s a problem, try rebooting your computer before anything else. Face it: You’re better off not leaving this as a last resort, since your IT support is going to recommend it as soon as you call. What you’ll find is that, more often than not, a simple reboot solves the problem.

Consider the alternative: Your IT staff could spend hours digging in to an isolated problem that’s causing your computer to malfunction—hours of lost productivity, all to gain insight into an issue that may never come up again. Instead, take a shortcut and simply restart.

Why Rebooting Works

According to consumer technology expert Kim Komando, rebooting helps resolve computer issues because it allows the system to start from scratch and reset active glitches that have built up during program use. She describes it like the computer losing its “train of thought” while running software. Rebooting, then, lets the device return to a known functional state.

This makes regular reboots a great way to increase (or, at the very least, maintain) productivity. The more opportunities you give your computer to start fresh, the less time you’ll spend waiting for programs to load—and to recover after a crash.

Not Just for Computers

Restarting your device isn’t just “one of the most powerful methods for troubleshooting” computers; this method works for all electronics. Smartphones and tablets benefit from a reboot just as much as laptops and desktops. Handheld devices are just as likely to experience problems with background apps stealing resources from active apps, for example—but these issues don’t always manifest in obvious ways. Network hardware like routers, Wi-Fi access points, and modems can gradually slow down over time as they encounter problems. Restarting these devices occasionally is a good place to start in finding a solution.

While rebooting resolves a massive share of potential hardware problems, that other 10 percent requires substantially more IT expertise. Whether your business is looking for IT consulting or a managed service provider to help with troubleshooting, contact the experts at MPA Networks today to help keep your office running smoothly.