alt tag

Posts Tagged ‘storage’


The Benefits of Laptop Docks and At-Desk Peripherals

Tuesday, March 21st, 2017

macbook-926121_640

With a little bit of effort, your staff can reap all the benefits of a laptop, and many of the perks of a desktop, with a little bit of planning and some additional hardware. It’s a common perception that laptops lead in portability, while desktops specialize in expandability. But improvements in peripheral device connection standards including USB 3.0, eSATA, and Thunderbolt have reduced (if not eliminated) the performance differences between external and internal devices. The main caveats of using external devices to enhance laptop capabilities include the need to physically haul extra pieces of hardware around, which defeats the portability perks.

If your business is looking to boost productivity and improve business continuity, it’s worth looking at configuring employee desks to work as laptop extension environments through docking stations and peripheral hubs.

Docking Stations

Docking stations are devices that connect to laptop computers to convert them (more or less) into desktop computers.

Docks feature a wide range of ports and may include built-in augmentation components like extra storage. The user can connect all their peripheral devices to the dock in advance and utilize them simultaneously just by connecting the laptop to the dock. This supports business continuity for employees who are often in and out of the office, eliminating the need to use two different devices for the same tasks.

USB and Thunderbolt Hubs

Advances in peripheral port bandwidth have made devices like USB and Thunderbolt hubs viable alternatives to docking stations that function as a “choose-your-features” option.

Hubs are essentially a collection of ports that can be used to connect several devices to computer through a single port.

This means utilizing all the hub devices is as easy as connecting a single cable to the laptop. Hubs can also be self-powered so the laptop is no longer limited by powering external devices.

Peripheral Rundown

  • External Monitors: One or more external monitors can be added to docks or hubs to suit employee needs. The worker may prefer a singular, larger monitor, using multiple external screens or using an external display as an extended desktop. Employees may find having more viewable space than a laptop offers a productivity booster.
  • Additional Storage: Attaching external storage devices to the dock or hub serves two primary purposes: It acts as a backup solution for the “three copies” strategy, and it lets employees store extra data that would be a burden on the laptop’s built-in storage. This is a big help when it comes to disaster recovery; in the event that the laptop is damaged, destroyed, or stolen, you’ll have a recent backup on hand.
  • Keyboard and Mouse: Adding a keyboard and mouse to the dock or hub not only helps boost productivity, but also improves ergonomics by allowing employees to position devices where they are most comfortable. Employees who prefer a mouse over a touchpad and want to add a number pad to a laptop that doesn’t carry one will find this solution helpful.
  • Wired Network Connection: Hubs and docks can be configured to connect to the local network via Ethernet. This is a great option for offices already wired for connections that have inconsistent Wi-Fi.
  • Speakers, Webcams, and Microphones: Docks and hubs can also connect to external versions of the laptop’s audio/video devices for an enhanced experience.

The IT and productivity assessment experts at MPA Networks are ready to help your business find a hardware configuration that works best for you. Contact us today.

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

Wednesday, October 19th, 2016

hard-drive-607461_640

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.

Looking at Data Storage Longevity

Tuesday, August 2nd, 2016

hard-159264_640

Not all storage devices were built to stand the test of time, so it’s important for every business to ensure its data is backed up on a reliable platform.

If you’ve ever needed to reference financial records or court cases from a decade ago, you’ll know how much easy, reliable access to data can boost productivity.

All the work that goes into your storage solution could turn out to be a waste if that 17-year-old CD-R no longer works. But don’t worry—we’re here to help you decide which storage medium is right for you.

USB Flash Drives

Flash drives can last for decades. Their lifespan is determined in read/write cycles instead of in years since manufacturing. If someone backs up data to the USB drive once, stores the device in a safe location, and uses the drive ten years later, the data will still be there. However, it is important to note that flash drives are not a viable storage option when exposed to extreme temperatures, humidity, dust, contaminants, frequent re-writing, and/or improper disconnection.

Optical Discs (CD, DVD, and Blu-Ray)

Optical disc-based storage can be a mixed bag because manufacturing quality varies wildly. Cheaper, off-brand discs are notorious for degrading over just a few years—so, in big picture terms, you’re looking at a lifespan range of between 2 and 50 years. (Not very helpful, to say the least.)

Higher-quality discs made with gold or silver instead of aluminum are much more resistant to corrosion, and can last as long as 300 years. If your business has important data stored on aging, lower-quality optical discs, it’s a worthwhile investment to move that information to a more reliable medium. According to NPR, leaving discs in climate-hostile environments (like in a car over the summer) can contribute to significant wear and tear, so it’s important to keep the discs stored in a cool, dry room away from intense light exposure.

Hard Disk Drives and Solid State Drives

HDD and SSD lifespans are measured in usage versus time since manufacturing, so the devices work well indefinitely for long-term storage as long as they are not used too frequently. According to a widely referenced BlackBlaze study, around 26 percent of HDDs fail within a four-year high-use testing period. Using a server or NAS-based drive to perform constant backups can wear down the device, but both formats work well for periodic backups. One option is to save backup data to an external HDD until it’s full, then put that device into storage until you need to access the data.

No matter which platform you use to back up data, multi-site redundancy remains important. Many businesses opt to use both a Cloud backup and a local, physical backup. Reliable long-term data backups are an important part of the disaster recovery process—and the experts at MPA Networks can help your business devise a long-term data backup strategy that caters to your unique needs.