Thursday, August 30, 2012

Favorite Apps For Your Android Phone?

Here's a list of cell phone apps that help you be more productive, are helpful while on the road, are entertaining, or are just down right cool. This isn't meant to be an all inclusive ... so feel free to suggest your own favorites by leaving a comment.

QuickOffice Pro (Office Suite also PDF reader)

Evernote (notes app and also use it with the Skitch app too)

Google Docs (Office Suite in the cloud)

Google Maps (maps and navigation)

Dropbox (Cloud storage and public file sharing)

Google Goggles (great for QR/Barcodes)

AppGarden (replaces dozens of tools)

Realcalc (a better calculator)

Google Voice (Primarily for the free text messaging)

Google Talk (IM to communicate with)

Key Ring (stores customer value cards)

Shopper (shopping list creator)

CameraZoom FX (The best camera app IMO)

Google Reader (RSS reader)

ReadItLater (for off line web article reading)

BeFunky Pro (photo effects editor)

PicSay Pro (looks like it is stupid but it's great for marking up photos)

DoggCatcher (podcast player)

TuneIn Pro (Radio app)

Google Play Music (cloud music player)

PowerAmp (local music player)

Google Play Books (eBook reader for Google books)

Kindle Reader App (eBook reader for Amazon books)

Wunderlist (cloud based list maker)

CamScanner (scans and converts docs to PDF)

You should find many of these apps liste phone section of this website ... as well as a tool to do a search and compare of cell phones (model and vendor) - -

Cell Phone Apps

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Monday, August 27, 2012

Is The Smart Phone Becoming A Business Necessity?

Here's some thoughts on smartphones (or mobile devices in general) for today's business world ...

Information workers today are increasingly tech-savvy and self-empowered. The typical employee owns an assortment of laptops, smartphones, tablets and PCs that are often more advanced than what most information technology departments can offer. Not surprisingly, many employees prefer to access corporate resources using their own technology because it is familiar, powerful and already an integral part of their everyday lives.

Mundane communications, like instant messaging, downloading and responding to business email and working on documents is actually considered to be confidential information.

Mobile devices are a convenient way to do business when employees are away from their desks, but employers need to understand the risks of using unsecured devices for conducting sensitive business communications.

In my opinion, smartphones will take-over the desktop/laptop user base in the next five years and smartphones will be the device of choice. The most important consideration every manufacturer should consider going forward is device security.

Many years ago I carried a Daytimer for notes and appointments, an address book for contact information and used a wired phone to make calls. I switched to a Palm Pilot for the notes, appointments, time keeping and address book and a cell phone plus a laptop. All a smart phone dose (or was ever intended to do) is to combine all those functions into one device, not two or three.

One thing that should not be overlooked is that smartphones are a convergent technology; they are not really phones, so much as mobile computers. The reason we call them "smartphones" is because we are in a transition phase and most people haven't accepted the ideas that (1) just because you can make calls on something doesn't make it a phone, and (2) you don't have to own a "phone".

I think this can best be seen with the Samsung Galaxy Note which was initially marketed as being both a tablet and a smartphone, while really being neither. In essence, it's a PalmPilot with a touchscreen that can make calls. But they had to market it as a phone because phones are seen as a necessity; people will buy a phone that acts like a tablet, but not a tablet that acts like a phone.

Also, I think another thing that is often overlooked is the reason that smartphones are sold on features such as processing or screen size. This is because of their true nature as mobile computers - that's really the only thing that sets different models apart. The reason they don't sell on things like call quality or rollover minutes is because those things are determined by the phone service provider and not the model of the phone itself. Typically, people choose the provider before they choose the phone, so once they've locked into that decision, the only thing smartphone manufacturers can compete on are their computing features. This is why you hear about how many apps you can buy on the iPhone, or the Galaxy SII having a huge screen, but nothing about their ability to make calls - they can't sell based on that point, because there's no difference.

In summary there's 2 important points to consider:

(1) "Smartphones" are technically mobile computers that can make calls; we only call them "phones" because society hasn't adjusted to the idea of not owning a "phone" yet.

(2) Smartphones are marketed based on processing power, screen size, etc. because things like call quality are tied to the phone service provider, which is picked (almost) independently from the phone itself.

So to answer the question, yes smartphones are becoming a necessity for business today. Their feature advantages a definitely a benefit to every business increasing both efficiency and effectiveness. They represent a trend of convergence of technology in society.

If you're looking for a smart phone I suggest using the search and compare feature here ....

Smart Phones

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Thursday, August 23, 2012

Comparing T1 Bandwidth To DSL

I was recently asked the following question comparing T1 bandwidth to DSL.

"...isn't a T1 a better value per achieved throughput than DSL?"

My answer ... not necessarily. It depends on what you are trying to accomplish. If you are dealing with pure throughput, DSL has the advantage because you can get higher speeds on DSL than with T1. But, there are pros and cons to each that should also be weighed.

DSL is distance sensitive. If you can't see your local CO, then your speeds could be reduced below that of a T1. T1 speed is constant and not distance sensitive.

DSL is considered "shared" bandwidth in that you merge your traffic at the DSLAM with other DSL users. T1 is dedicated bandwidth.

DSL can be synchronous (SDSL) or asynchronous (ADSL). T1 is synchronous.

DSL usually has a much lower service level agreement with regard to uptime and repair time vs. T1.

DSL is usually much less expensive than T1.

T1 is a bigger line capable of sending larger amounts of data than the DSL line; therefore, the amount of data transfer on a T1 is faster and throughput is increased from better productivity and resource.

Beware comparing T1 and DSL purely on cost and throughput. Last time I checked, US regulations required the owner of "the last mile" of wire to respond to failures within 4 hours for T1, but allowed a much longer response window (I think 24 hours ... maybe longer) for DSL.

Find out what the response window currently is for each. Then consider how much it would hurt your business to lose its broadband (and telephone if you use VOIP) for that long. You may decide cost per megabyte of throughput is not as important as potential downtime.

If you're interested in finding out what your options are for T1 ... including a comparison of over 40 providers ... simply request a free quote here - -

T1 Bandwidth

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Monday, August 20, 2012

A Short Rant On Cell Phone Etiquette

I think we make this more complex than it needs to be. Your mobile device shouldn't interfere with the interaction of the human you're conversing with or with other humans. Out of common courtesy and respect give your attention to the people and space around you. Given the social norms of today this probably isn't always practical. So, the next step is to be mindful of what you're doing. Texting heads down while your walking through a parking lot is affecting the movement of people around you. Talking loudly in line on your bluetooth headset is annoying and unsettling to those standing right next to you. Surfing the web, Facebook or playing games during a meeting is purely rude. We lose nothing by politely excusing ourselves to take a call, or standing out of the way while texting our spouse from the grocery store. In fact we become the example of what we'd like from others.

My growing suspicion is that we feel entitled to use our mobile devices whenever and wherever we want to and will happily justify every interaction. But this is slowly chipping away at our social bonds and connection to the world in which we live.

Here's a few more "pet peeves" ...

- I think it's an unspoken "ok" to text people a hair later/earlier than you'd phone them, or at certain other off-hours. I don't mind receiving quick, off-hours texts from colleagues about small things, and they don't seem to mind, either. It saves time and means we don't all have to feel as tied to our email, actually.

-It's generally not okay to text people in the middle of the night or to inundate people w/follow-up texts if they don't respond to your first text.

-While it's generally impolite to take calls in the middle of meeting with someone else, it's polite if you realize that your meeting-mate's phone is ringing off the hook, to ask with aplomb if s/he needs to take the call.

-It's okay to ask people not to contact you by some mobile method, or another. If you don't like to be texted, it's okay to express your preference, and others should respect it.

-If you don't know someone well but you have their email and their mobile number, don't text them. Email them.

-If I don't want to take someone's call, I never press the button that sends the call to VM immediately. I'd feel rude "telling" them I didn't want to answer. Instead, I just press the button that stops the ringing.

-It is not enough to turn off your ringer during live performances. I can tell you as a performer that it is extremely distracting to look out from the stage into a darkened audience and see the one jerk in the back whose glasses and face are lit up, and kind of flashing, by the light from his/her mobile device. So, so rude! Do they really think we don't notice?

-Don't run your family members' devices down and not charge them back up!

I would've finished this post earlier but I was typing this while walking down the street and walked directly into a telephone pole.

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Thursday, August 16, 2012

What Does VoIP Mean .... And Other Tips

VoIP just means part of the call uses IP (TCP(UDP)/IP) as a transport, it doesn't mean anything specific.

It could mean you are using SIP (IP delivery of the call) from a carrier to a PBX, and then using traditional digital or analog phones in house (much less expensive if they already exist, and may save money on local loop charges) - it could mean you are using tradition TDM (T1, PRI...) to a PBX and then using (Vo) IP phones in house (much less expensive to pull cable for a new run – and then users can use company phones/soft-phones over public Internet). It could mean you are getting phone service from the cable, or an internet based, company ((Vo)IP to a box which supports an analog phone).

If the call travels over public Internet - the further it travels, the higher the risk and lower the quality. Using IP to connect an office PBX to remote users to save money, and provide flexibility is a good practice – in real life though, it fails now and then. You wouldn’t want the primary connection for an office to be VoIP over public Internet.

VOIP systems have come a long way in their development and implementation. The biggest factor in its performance is having quality of service (QoS) over your connection. Many providers can offer you their connection which provides you with a private connection for all applications including voice, fax and other mission critical applications that are web based.

The flexibility and scalability when you are looking at a hosted PBX is amazing. When having people working from home, in different cities or countries, VoIP is a definite advantage. There is no long distance between these locations no matter where you are. For your situation where you may have trucks all over the country you can connect with them through a VOIP SIP client on their mobile device. This would impact your cell bills in a great way. And you could reach them by dialing a three or four digit extension from the office or another extension.

When you have a high season you can add in more extensions or lines and when you have a low season you can remove them. This really helps in keeping your finances in order.

Something to consider if you have people that like to work from different locations is a soft client. This is an application that resides on a laptop or some tablets that you can place and receive calls. Instead of having a phone on your desk or that you have to carry around, it goes with you. All you need is a headset or a good speakerphone.

Your success with VoIP will largely depend on the equipment you purchase and the state of the network that will be handling calls.

For medium business and larger, you should stick with the bigger equipment vendors in the industry (Avaya, Mitel, and others). In terms of stability, quality, and scalability I've been impressed.

Where things tend to go wrong with VoIP is the network. VoIP requires a certain level of network performance to deliver good call quality. If you have issues on your network in terms of performance, you should do an assessment to see if you can minimize network delay and jitter before implementing VoIP. This goes doubly if you need to route calls over WAN links (between offices, for example). A typical internet connection is usually not desirable for this purpose and you should look into dedicated links with guaranteed performance characteristics. I've seen both sides of the equation here, and a poor network can determine the success or failure of a VoIP deployment.

For help designing just the right VoIP system to meet your specific requirements, including a comparison of available providers, simply request a free quote here ....

Business Voip

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Tuesday, August 14, 2012

August Telecom Provider News ... Zayo, Level 3, Windstream & More

Here's some of the latest news from Telecom providers for August. Covering fiber, cloud based services, data center services, and more.

* Zayo - is adopting the AboveNet channel program virtually as-is now that its acquisition of the big bandwidth company is complete.

* EarthLink - announced the launch of its new National Master Program, which seeks to facilitate collaboration among EarthLink's channel managers, master agents and their subagents to drive sales.

* CenturyLink - announced an expansion of its fiber in the Charlotte metro area, adding a ring with connectivity into five data centers.

* AT&T - board of directors have given the green light to repurchase as much as $11.1 billion in stock, upping a share-buyback program the service provider launched in late 2010.

* Verizon - has closed its $612 million acquisition of HUGHES Telematics Inc., which the carrier says sets it on a course to speed up growth through the delivery of advanced automotive and fleet telematics and machine-to-machine (M2M) services.

* Windstream - Hosted Solutions has entered into an agreement with Nexcom under which Nexcom will use Windstream's line of cloud-based services to target small- and mid-sized companies with mobile workforces.

* Level 3 - is bringing its Dynamic Enterprise Computing, a new data center service, to Latin America.

To take advantage of any of the Telecom services listed above simply request a free quote here ...

DS3 Bandwidth, Business Ethernet, & More

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Monday, August 13, 2012

Is VoIP All It's Cracked Up To Be?

Some VOIP solutions are horrible, and some are great. For a small deployment I would recommend They have a hosted voip pbx solution that is amazing.

If you're doing a larger deployment, or just really don't trust VOIP, I suggest switchvox. It's a pbx that resides in your office. The phones connect via voip on your lan, and the server can hand off calls to a traditional E1/T1 connection. So you get the reliability of traditional phone network connections while enjoying the benefits of a VOIP system internally. You can also connect the server to an internet connection and use SIP trunks if you decide you want true VOIP.

From my own experience, the biggest factor in VOIP quality is the quality (not speed) of your internet connection. For instance in an east coast metro area you can get great internet quality for VOIP use, however in the Midwest, like Chicago, quality is poor and makes VOIP inconsistent. So in the Midwest I would use switchvox with a T1 hand-off, but in NY or Philadelphia I would use

VoIP is the future and other than maybe a tiny amount of very small systems, almost all phone system vendors are selling nothing but VoIP based system.

VoIP has the advantage because the phone set is essentially a computer that runs software. Therefore with software upgrades you get more features or fixes that TDM based systems would require hardware changes for.

Typically VoIP based systems get bad reviews from bad installs and quality issues. The network is key and properly setting up Quality of Service (QoS) it critical. Without QoS setup properly, VoIP will be miserable. If your network is setup properly you will generally not have issues so that will depend on your network team (in-house or external vendor) knowing how to setup and tune QoS.

One of my friends switched from older ISDN technology to newer VoIP technology for 800 phones on one network. They did their homework and ran many tests on the network before buying the solution and even did some tweaking after installation to fine tune the QoS properly. They have no issues or network slow downs.

VoIP is used in large companies and hospitals because the technology is the future and when properly installed works great while cutting costs and allows far greater flexibility for multiple network locations (Campus environments or even geographical environments).

Many users report that the calls seemed clearer even though the older ISDN technology was also digital. Many also have some customization specifically for them that would have been difficult to implement on older technology. One downfall of VoIP is it does depend on your network and if your network goes down, so do your phone capabilities. Something to consider when designing your network.

To find a suitable VoIP provider for small deployments (including residential) I suggest using the search and compare feature here ....

VoIP Comparison

For larger VoIP deployments including most businesses you can request a comparison of available providers including free quotes here ....

Business VoIP

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Thursday, August 09, 2012

The Bottom Line Of Moving To Hosted Services In The Cloud

The bottom line in all new or proposed service deployments - whether to a cloud service or not - are

a] the requirements specification and

b] the outcomes of the risk and impacts analyses.

Moving to hosted services in a/the cloud just because one can, or just because it's fashionable, or for any other reason than directly quantifiable need when measured against the potential risks and impacts of doing so is, quite simply, idiocy.

This is not to say that there are no benefits in such services, but too many businesses make such decisions for the wrong reasons and without adequate information about the alternatives or options and the constraints or limitations of each of those options informing their eventual decisions. This is very bad business practice and even worse IT practice.

Your IT expenditures are probably going to be reduced which is a good thing. Your overall perceived value might seem better. But beware of the new and very interesting single points of failure that are created.

More specifically if you outsource your IT, will your network links be able to cope with it?

What happens if your provider goes bankrupt, will you follow suit?

Can you get desktop support from a team that has never seen a windows client?

Can you get desktop support at all?

Does your server and work disappear if you power it off by accident? Can you get a local copy for your data easily ? Can someone else get a copy of your data?

If your accountant leaves do you still have access to your financial data ?

If your HR leaves , do you still ....

etc. etc. ad nauseam.

Before jumping in, review and test the waters.

Will it improve your business? Not really, IT does not improve business any more, it is people, processes, and culture that improve businesses. Swapping providers will at best give you fractional overall savings.

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Monday, August 06, 2012

Comcast Business Class vs. Comcast Metro Ethernet

A friend just attended a cloud computing seminar, sponsored by Comcast, and they talked about their dedicated ethernet, a symmetrical dedicated line that provides speeds from 10 MB/s up & down to 10 GB/s up and down.

Unlike their Business Class service, Metro has a Service Level Agreement... which is a big deal to my friend as Business class service at one of his locations goes down at least twice a month, with no notice to him and with no ramifications for them. He has to call and tell them he is down, they send a tech 2 - 4 hours later, and then he has to call billing to get a credit. This is a bad use of his I.T. department's time and infuriating to the entire staff. It has put such a bad taste in his mouth that he has thought about buying out their contract and switching ISP's.

Metro versus Business class

The SLA makes metro par with the major T1 service providers and is better than Business class. But I don't really see any process difference here in any case. Even on managed T1 services, you still have to call in and open tickets for local site repairs. The only thing that is automated on any of these SLA services are area or core outages.

When your local site is the only one affected, none of the carriers are going to call or dispatch to you. They will basically assume this is a local site power issue until you open the ticket. And when you do open the ticket they basicly ask for this confirmation of local power and physical access times.

Metro costs

Location is a big issue. Metro for Comcast is a new infrastructure separate from everything else. This is great if your building is already inside their foot print. But even if your are on the right street there is still a cost to get the service inside your space. Comcast does not have a price list because they are very up front about incorporating the cost of the install into your contract term. In short, the farther you are from the fiber and the harder your building to penetrate the higher your cost at the end of the day. One site I was looking at had enormous install costs due to a historic building in a restored district.

Metro Technology

The major difference here is ethernet based fiber interconnects instead of copper. This essentially means that scaling bandwidth is a matter of software down the road so growth is easier.

This also then allows vlan integration across physical sites. You can pump tagged frames and mix vlans across buildings. You can choose to centralize internet access with no speed penalty and have a single proxy control point. Or you can easily bridge two physically separated data center racks for disaster recovery or redundancy.

Metro ethernet is a newer class of service that many companies are getting into. So if you like the architecture, you may also have options depending on the area.

To explore your metro ethernet options including Comcast and over 40 other providers simply request a free quote from here ....

Business Ethernet

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Thursday, August 02, 2012

The Biggest Challenge For Cloud Computing In 2012

Security always appears top of the list, coupled with what I interpret as confusion over how and what is needed to make best use of the cloud. So in short, for me, a lack of understanding remains the challenge. Whilst security is critical, I feel the need to provide some counter points.

Any computer connected to the Internet is at risk from hackers, whether it is in the cloud or in a private data centre. Would it be true to say that an SME, with necessarily limited resources, is able to better secure its data than say, Amazon? In addition, who says everything needs to be in the cloud? Adopting a cloud computing strategy isn’t an ‘all or nothing’ decision. Data can remain within a data centre or on premise, whilst applications that need to access such data can be based in the cloud. That’s the whole principle behind the different cloud types – private, public or hybrid.

I think that anyone considering a move to the cloud needs to carefully consider their motivations and objectives for doing so, and to question what data and workflows they and their customers will feel happy placing in the cloud. Most importantly, select a vendor that can accommodate your cloud migration strategy, now and in the future. The challenge in 2012 isn’t that of cloud computing, the challenge for cloud vendors or providers of Cloud 'services' is that they need to not only advocate the benefits of their particular offering, but also educate the market on the benefits of cloud, full stop.

Another major challenge will be Bandwidth. It's probably the case that the majority of SME/Bs have 'plenty' of local network bandwidth with which to conduct their in-house operations/business, however, it's also probably the case that they don't have the same bandwidth in their pipe(s) into the 'Cloud' and that could be an awkward bottleneck if you swallowed the cloud philosophy without adequate preparation - which, of course, you'd never do.

For the pessimists amongst you, despite Moore’s Law and Nielson’s Law, there’s always Parkinson’s Law, which prevails: “Usage expands so as to fill all available bandwidth.”

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