Replacement Equipment And Workstation Data Storage

Scott Blake is a Senior Network Engineer with Tech Experts.

Have you ever found yourself in the middle of a huge project or in the height of your busy season, then suddenly, a key piece of equipment breaks? You have orders that need processed. Deadlines to meet. Stress starts to roll in. You start to wonder how long the downtime is going to last or what this is going to cost your business.

One way to reduce the stress levels and temporarily resolve the situation is to maintain a stock of replacement workstations and essential equipment.

Being able to switch out a workstation or any other critical piece of equipment and be back up and running sooner not only reduces stress levels, but also saves your business countless dollars in lost revenue.

Example: your company designs and prints graphics for billboards. An employee says their workstation has crashed while they were working on a project for your largest client that’s due in two days. What do you do?

You try to contact the manufacturer of the workstation, only to find out your warranty does not cover on-site service and the soonest they could be on location is in two to four days. That’s not the answer you wanted to hear.

If you had a replacement workstation on hand, you could reduce your downtime dramatically. But let’s say you do have one. So you switch out the workstations and your employees is back to work…

Until they realize all of their work is stored on the crashed workstation. Stress levels start to climb once again.

One easy way to avoid losing data would be to migrate the user’s data to a storage device located on your network. Network attached storage is much more reliable than the storage within your workstation. They can also be configured for redundancy.

This entire migration will be transparent to the user as the workstations libraries will still remain intact, just relocated to a different device. As far as the user is concerned, all of their data is saved to the workstation.

The general rule of thumb is to maintain a 10% replacement stock level of workstations or essential pieces of equipment (and always have at least 1). Replacement switches, as well as firewalls, should always be on hand or able to be purchased locally. Being able to replace a switch or firewall to bring your VOIP phone system back online or restore network connectivity to your entire business in minutes is critical.

If your business is unable to maintain replacement inventory, make sure you have (and fully understand) support contracts either from equipment manufacturers or from a local network support company.

Depending on the manufacturer or support company, support contracts can range from 24×7 to 8×5 to “whenever we can get there.” That’s why it’s very important to understand your support agreements. Never get taken by surprise.

Manufactures, depending on the piece of equipment, will offer warranties or support contracts. Be warned the contract may not include next day equipment replacement, data recovery, or installation of the equipment.

They may be able to offer remote assistance, but in most cases, you end up in a long call that does nothing to resolve your issue.

The best option, if available to your business, is to have a managed service plan with a local network support company. Most local support companies will offer same day service including weekends.

Local service companies can act as your business IT support department and/or work with your existing IT department to maintain your business equipment and resolve any issues that arise.

Most local service companies will have replacement equipment and repair parts on hand, thus reducing downtime.

A local service company will also be able to assist your business in less stressful times by offering remote support services and preventive maintenance visits to spot any potential issues before they become larger problems.

They will also work to ensure your business’ network is safe and secure and offer suggestions for upgrades to your infrastructure.

While no one can predict when a workstation may go down or a firewall will fail, the best thing you can do is be prepared.

IT Policies Companies Under HIPAA Regulations Must Have

Thomas Fox is president of Tech Experts, southeast Michigan’s leading small business computer support company.

HIPAA (the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act) and HITECH (the Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health act) have been around for quite some time. Even so, many companies covered by these laws are way behind when it comes to implementation. When you really think about it, even companies not covered by these laws should have the requisite policies and procedures in place.

Access Control Policy
How are users granted access to programs, client data and equipment? Also includes how administrators are notified to disable accounts.

Security Awareness Training
Organizations must ensure regular training of employees regarding security updates and what to be aware of. You must also keep an audit trail of reminders and communications in case you’re audited.

[Read more…]

What To Do With Electronic Waste – E-Waste

Scott Blake is a Senior Network Engineer with Tech Experts.

One of the biggest decisions a company or home user has to make after making the decision to upgrade their electronic devices is what to do with the old outdated equipment.

There are still many people and companies out there who are not aware of why it is so important that you recycle your old electronics. I wanted to go over some of the main reasons why all of us should be joining in.

The Federal government requires that companies producing over 220 pounds of electronic waste tested hazardous be disposed of in proper manners.

There are currently no federal regulations for organizations producing less than 220 pounds of hazardous electronic waste, however many states have become more stringent in the proper disposal of e-waste for both businesses and households.

It is estimated that of the approximately 201 million tons of solid waste generated annually in the United States, at least one percent is classified as computer and/or electronic equipment. Of this nearly 2.1 million tons, only an estimated 134,000 tons is actually recycled.  Even though e-waste accounts for a small percentage of all municipal waste, it still accounts for about 70% of heavy metals ending up in our landfills.

Some of the toxic materials you can find in old electronics are lead, mercury, arsenic, cadmium, selenium, and more. Computer monitors alone can contain as much as 8 pounds of lead. When these products are just discarded, the harmful toxins will leak out, which is harmful to both the environment and us.

Despite good intentions, much of this nation’s e-waste is exported to developing countries, where processing is done under unsafe conditions and endangers workers and nearby communities. Some progress has been made to end this practice through certification programs. One such program is e-Stewards.

Researcher’s estimate that between 50 and 80 percent of electronic waste from the industrialized world that winds up in the hands of “recyclers” actually goes to a few developing countries: China, India, Pakistan, Vietnam and the Philippines.

PrintThere, the unregulated materials are crudely handled in acid baths and burn pits, releasing into the air and soil heavy metals and chemicals that are used to make flexible plastics and flame retardants.

Studies of individual scrapping facilities in Ghana and China have measured contaminants and toxic metals like lead present in soil at more than 100 times typical background levels.

According to e-Stewards, recyclers who meet their certification requirements don’t export to developing nations. They follow safe practices for the handling of electronic waste, and adhere to other standards. Many will also reuse and refurbish equipment.

Lastly, when you choose to recycle your electronic equipment; make sure to choose a certified electronics recycler, that way you are ensuring that any data stored on your device is completely removed.

When you just toss an old computer in the trash, you risk having the right hacker find his or her way to your sensitive information. With so many reasons why you should recycle, it is hard to believe that some people could still put their old laptops in the trash.

If you have questions on how to properly recycle your electronic equipment; give us a call and we will answer all of your questions.

(Image Source: iCLIPART)

3 Easy Ways to Green-up Your Small Business

E-waste contains all kinds of nasty stuff, including lead, mercury and cadmium. Sadly, much of this waste gets shipped to landfills and smelters in developing countries, exposing tens of thousands of people to harm.

Your first question when seeking to get rid of office equipment should be this: Can someone still use this stuff? If yes, post it on Craigslist or eBay. It’ll be gone in a New York minute.

If it’s beyond repair, you’ve got a few options.

The best is to find a recycler that’s involved in the Basel Action Network’s e-Stewards program, a group of companies that have vowed not to export hazardous waste to poor countries.

Another option is to give it back to the manufacturer. The problem with this approach is you can’t be sure they’ll use a morally sound recycler.

To sum up, here are your options:

Best: If the device is still operational, sell or donate it.

Second best: Find an electronics recycler near you that is an e-Steward member.

Third best: Use the manufacturer’s take back program.

Resources

Craigslist.org: Sell or donate your unwanted (but functional) electronics. http://craigslist.org/

E-stewards.org: Lists recyclers that have pledged not to dispose of hazardous e-waste in developing countries. http://www.e-stewards.org/local_estewards.html

Epa.gov: Find local recyclers. View a list of manufacturer take back programs. http://www.epa.gov/waste/inforesources/news/2009news/08-r2.htm

Buy a water cooler
These aren’t just for idle chitchat! By quenching your thirst at the water cooler you avoid having to buy plastic water bottles—the scourge of Earth.

According to this story in Outside Magazine, there is a flotilla of plastic crap the size Texas in the Pacific Ocean – wait, scratch that: the “Eastern Garbage Patch” is actually twice the size of Texas. http://outside.away.com/outside/culture/200912/david-de-rothschildplastiki-1.html

Don’t go to work
Skype, Google Wave, GoToMeeting. The technology required for telecommuting is cheap and readily available.

And there’s no better way to lower your carbon footprint than to reduce your highway time. If your boss wants you in the office, consider carpooling a day or two per week with a coworker.

Or just build a crack case for telecommuting:a quick Google search will give you all the material you need.

Assemble a PowerPoint presentation and channel your inner Al Gore. Just promise us that when you start telecommuting you won’t be that guy in his pajamas jabbering into his cell phone at Starbucks.

Safely Dispose Of Old Computers

Protect The Environment & Your Personal Information

With the new year upon us, many of you may have upgraded your old PCs for shiny new ones. So what should you do about that old PC left over?

Whatever you do, don’t just throw it into a dumpster! Not only is it an environmental hazard you could be fined for, but you also don’t want complete strangers getting access to your old files, passwords, financial information, and e-mails.

First, keep your old PC around for a few months until you are absolutely certain that you transferred all of the files and programs you needed to your new PC.

Next, you need to make sure the hard drive is wiped clean of any data you had stored on it — and simply deleting the files is not enough. We recommend you seek professional help in clearing the hard drive from any old PCs you are disposing of.

Finally, you may consider donating your old PCs to a charity such as Youth for Technology (www.youthfortechnology.org) or Computers With Causes (www.computerswithcauses.org). Many of these organizations will clean your hard drive to prevent identity theft, and you can write off the donation on your taxes!

Need a Large Monitor?

We have several large-sized CRT monitors, ranging from 19 to 21 inches, that came in from a client on a recent upgrade.

Normally, we dispose of old equipment for our clients by listing it on eBay.

Unfortunately, with the size and weight of these screens, it doesn’t make economic sense to try and ship them.

So, if you need a large sized screen, and would be interested in a “gently used” model, give us a call – we can make you a great deal!