Are IT Issues Ruining Your Workplace Productivity?

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

Studies conducted by CareerBuilder Harris Poll in the US showed that at least 22 minutes a day are wasted by an average worker dealing with IT-related issues.

According to the poll, the leading cause of time wasted in the workplace is related to cell phone use, which ranked the highest at 50%, gossip which followed at 42%, and closely behind was internet use at 39%. This article will briefly outline how companies can work through IT issues so that they can save on time. And time is money.

How Much Time Is 22 Minutes Really?
Going by the average time in a 40-hour workweek, 22 minutes a day is close to two hours of work time lost each week. Imagine what that equals for a full year or 52 weeks. It comes out to be over 95 hours per year. When translated into days, that is close to two weeks spent dealing with IT-related problems. [Read more…]

RAM And You: How Much Memory Do You Need?

Jason Cooley is Support Services Manager for Tech Experts.

Is there anything as frustrating as experiencing issues with your computer? There are many different performance issues that can affect your experience as a user.

If your computer is running slower than normal (or slower than it should), there are so many things that can factor in. One of the more common causes is system memory being over utilized.

First, we have to understand the different types of “slow” your computer expresses.

If Internet pages are slow to load but programs like Microsoft Word are quick and responsive, your speed issue is Internet related.

If programs are slow, lag out, or won’t respond, you are dealing with a system issue.

In these cases, a restart can be your best friend. If a restart doesn’t help your system, take a look at your resource usage. The task manager will show in real time the usage of your CPU and memory (RAM).

Let’s say your RAM usage is high, even after a restart. This is a problem and you just don’t have enough system memory to support your daily tasks.

How does this affect your system? What can you do about it? How much is enough?

A shortage of RAM on your computer wreaks havoc on the system performance. It not only limits the work that the RAM is capable of handling, but it also affects the CPU and the hard drive performance.

When applications need more than the available RAM, they use virtual memory from the hard drive. The amount of virtual RAM can be increased in your system by increasing the size of your paging file.

While this may help to run your programs, your system performance will suffer greatly.

The virtual RAM your system will use is much slower than physical RAM, causing a bottleneck where you are now reliant on the speed of your virtual memory. This limits the speed of data traveling between the CPU and RAM as well.

We know the RAM is limiting our performance. While the paging file allows you to run the programs you need to work, your system performance will make multi-tasking nearly impossible.

The best thing at this point is to upgrade to more physical memory.

There are some limitations to upgrading your RAM. Operating systems have a maximum supported amount of RAM. This varies from operating system versions, from year to year, as well as 32-bit versus 64-bit.

Your motherboard and CPU could also have a maximum amount of RAM.

RAM sticks come in different memory quantities as well and each slot in your computer may have a maximum, as well as an overall system maximum as well. A single stick of RAM can be 512mb or 8gb and anywhere in between.

RAM also comes in many types that can vary based on your specific motherboard. Upgrading your RAM can make your system run better, but there are many things to factor in when you upgrade your RAM.

So how much RAM do you need? It varies for everyone, but the more programs you use, the more RAM you need.

If you are buying a new computer for modern business, a minimum, of 8gb is strongly recommended and 16gb is even better. If you run many programs, especially things like graphic and video editing software, you may want more. If you are upgrading your current system RAM, similar rules apply.

Your tasks and usage dictate your needs; don’t be afraid to give yourself one of the best performance upgrades out there by adding more memory to your system.

Mobile Efficiency: Laptop Versus Tablet

Jason Cooley is Support Services Manager for Tech Experts.

We are an increasingly mobile society. Whether for work or personal, you’d be hard-pressed to find too many people without an Internet-connected device somewhere nearby. Smart phones are everywhere and basic Internet usage is at your fingertips.

When you need to work on the go or work while actually moving, there are device options that can help you really increase your productivity.

There are obviously many factors that can come into play when talking about meeting your mobile and professional needs.

What kind of tasks do you need to perform? What sort of software do you need access to? Are you going to be switching between applications and run multiple tasks at once? How frequently and how far are you moving?

I know, so many questions! So where can we even begin?

Just like any other job in the world, having the right tools can make things so much easier. If you work at a restaurant as a server for instance, using a laptop is very impractical. Carrying it around typing orders on a keyboard would prove to be difficult, just as writing a novel on a tablet touchscreen keyboard would be. These are some clear-cut scenarios, but most of us fall somewhere in the middle.

So let’s talk about some of those questions.

What kind of tasks do you need to run? If you are just replying to email, stick to your smart phone. That is where you’ll end up anyway.

For everyone else? What kind of programs and applications are you using? The first thing you should check, if you don’t already know, is if there are mobile versions of the programs you use. Some programs may not be user friendly on a touchscreen if you use the standard version.

Use your smartphone to see if these applications are user friendly in a new setting. The app may not perform as well as it would on a tablet, but maybe you can decide if it’s something you can work with. If the programs are available and you are comfortable using them with a touchscreen interface, you may be ready to use a tablet for work.

When it comes to laptops specifically, the first thing I would consider is how much you’ll be moving around. If you travel from place to place, but typically sit to work at different locations, a laptop is always going to be an option.

The difference is the limitations of the device. A laptop has more capability when compared to a tablet. After all, it is a computer.

If you are switching between many programs and applications frequently and use multiple programs at one time, then a laptop will have more capable processing power to allow you to work unbothered by slow system response time.

The best summary I can give is, if you move around while working, get a tablet. If you sit, just in different locations, you’ll be happier with a laptop.

If you can’t find yourself leaning one way or another, the third option would be a Surface type of machine. With the processing power and speed of a laptop but the mobility of a tablet, you will spend more money for the ultimate solution in mobile versatility and efficiency, but won’t feel the constraints of either other option.

It’s all about you and how you want to get your work done.

Improve Your Staff’s Productivity Using These Five Tips

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

Increasing employee productivity is a positive approach for companies, regardless of the industry; however, the concept can be rather vague.

Productivity means more than just working to meet a given quality standard, therefore, it isn’t always immediately clear how to achieve optimum outcomes while maintaining standards and keeping your employees happy.

Here are a few concrete methods that can help your staff be more productive:

Block Certain Internet Sites

With the rise of social media, online gaming, and entertainment websites, there are many potential distractions on the web. Even if an employee is well-intentioned, there are plenty of well-designed trappings to keep them there, wasting your company’s time, Internet bandwidth, and, ultimately, money. [Read more…]

Working From Home: Can You Still Be Productive?

“There’s no place like home” rings very true for a lot of people. There is just a level of comfort at home that you can’t find anywhere else.

For me, some comfort is needed to really be efficient and most people probably work better when they are at least moderately comfortable, but is there such a thing as too much? I don’t mean only physical conveniences.

Don’t get me wrong, working from home sounds really great some days. You can multi-task and throw in a load of laundry, do some dishes, or work on something else to break up the day. Sounds good, doesn’t it? You are being really productive!

How much work are you getting done, though? These little side tasks add up. It’s just one of many distractions that can really impede your productivity.

Noise, household tasks, or maybe even other people being home while you are trying to work can make your ability to get things done a real challenge. When considering working at home myself, I have come to the conclusion that it just isn’t for me in most circumstances.

If you are putting in a traditional eight hour work day or 40 hour week at home, how much of that time is actually spent focused on your work? Personally, with a set task (or tasks) that need to be completed, success working at home would come much easier. While you are almost certain to run in to some distractions, having a set task to work on, even if it takes longer than it should, means you’re still being productive.

Let’s say you lose about five minutes an hour being distracted. Even those five minutes can easily add up to a ton of wasted time.

Over the course of a week, losing five minutes an hour adds up to two hours and 20 minutes a week.

Factor in that load of laundry, the 30 minute nap you took, or even just spending a little more time making lunch — we now have HOURS over the course of the week that are just lost time. If you struggle with working at home, there are a few methods of staying focused that help you change your brain from home mode to work mode.

For instance, fight the urge to work in your PJ’s and get dressed like you normally would for work. Also, designate a work space while at home, but change your surroundings every so often if possible to get out of the house, such as working from a café or the library.

Building a to-do list and developing strict work hours (if possible) and sticking to them helps as well. If you have children or a partner at home, you may also want to think about creating a “Do Not Disturb” sign for yourself to let them know that you should be left alone.

Not everyone falls into this category of losing time to distractions and, sure, some people can be very successful while working from home.

Others would be shocked to see how fast the five minutes here and there really add up. Just like every other aspect of life, there are all types of people, and you are all free to make your own decision about working from home.

Some of us (myself included) will stick to keeping our work at work and home at home.

Double Your Screens, Double Your Productivity

Ron Cochran is a help desk technician for Tech Experts.

When you think of a computer with more than one screen, you tend to think of a gaming computer or command center, but adding a second monitor can save money and improve productivity throughout the day. Having more than one monitor can save each employee several minutes to a couple hours each day, depending on the type of work.

Let’s break it down. It takes a few seconds to move the mouse and click a window or document; if you have to open that document, there is delay while waiting for it to load. Multiply that by how many times documents, programs, and windows are utilized throughout the day — then multiply that figure by the day, month, and then year. You could be saving thousands of dollars with just one employee.

You can add a second monitor to a laptop or desktop computer for a relatively cheap price. There are even monitors and stands on the market that will let you rotate into portrait mode (but don’t forget to change your display settings in your operating system as well).

There are a number of recreational and business reasons to consider getting a second monitor. One example is utilizing two or more screens for editing different types of publications, video, or still images. With dual monitors, you can edit and make changes to an image while comparing it against the original one on a separate monitor. That way, you can see in real time what you’re changing and with more workspace.

With many operating systems, you can have the monitors in a wide range of configurations. You could have: both in landscape mode (the way the typical user has a monitor — wider than it is tall), both in portrait mode (taller than it is wide), or one of each orientation (one landscape, one portrait).  You could also have one screen on top of another.

There are a couple drawbacks to adding a second monitor, but they can be lessened or resolved by getting one of several different mounting solutions. You can just set the monitors on your desk with the supplied stands or you can purchase a larger stand for both monitors. They also make a clamp style mount that would clamp or mount to the backside of your desk or desktop, which would frees up more desk space.

Some may think that having two screens may force the user to focus on too many things at once or clutter up their workspace, but the effect is typically the opposite. It has a staggering effect on productivity by making more resources readily available — to the point that some find it hard to go back to one monitor after using two or more. Utilizing more than one monitor has many benefits and a very few negative points and is something that should be seriously considered, especially for a business.

Don’t let the initial investment scare you off; you’ll immediately find yourself (or your employees) less frustrated and more productive… and dreading ever going back to one monitor again.

Six Tips For Making 2017 Your Most Productive Year Yet

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

Want to up your game in 2017? Ready to hit the ground running? Here are some great tips for making 2017 your most productive year yet.

Squeeze everything you can out of your day
Get to work on the tasks that are hanging over your head at every opportunity. Long commute? Catch up on the latest industry news, draft a few emails or start to plan your tasks for the day ahead. Work remotely? Use any downtime you have, like waiting on hold to speak to the doctor or standing in line at the bank, to tackle the tasks you haven’t yet found time to accomplish.

Become more efficient at completing routine activities
It’s highly likely that you spend a significant proportion of your time on unproductive tasks that do nothing to enhance your achievements. Take a look at your weekly tasks and identify which of them add no value, which can be better managed, and which you can delegate. Make sure you are spending your time on the tasks that really matter. [Read more…]

Why Technology Is Important For Your Small Business

Anthony Glover is Tech Expert’s network engineer.

In modern computing, it is very important that you have a technological solution in place to allow smooth function at your small business. Here are 5 reasons why it’s important to do so.

Business Growth
As your business grows, you’re going to need a plan for expansion if you expect to grow. Technology changes every day and it’s important to stay up to speed with the latest and greatest tech in order to move forward in the growth direction. In today’s tech, there are even data growth solutions that will grow with your business automatically.

This not only saves time with expansion, but allows your business to save money in the long run. Technology is very important and should not be taken for granted in order for your business to thrive effectively.

On-The-Move Tech
As your business grows and you begin to move forward, you will need to be able to run your business from several locations. Technology allows you to do this from one central location. Utilizing tech makes certain that you’re not only monitoring your business at all locations, but that it’s more secure than ever.

From mobile devices to laptops to networking equipment, an IT professional will provide you with the best care needed to keep your business with you at all times.

Fewer Headaches With A Managed Plan
With a managed plan (such as the ones Tech Experts offer), your computer problems are monitored and are taken care of by a tech professional.

This cleans your hands of computer problems and allows you to run your business more effectively — minus the technology headache — and keeps your business running much more efficiently.

All workstations will be managed and up-to-date, along with programs that normally would fall behind due to user awareness.

Our tech team can and will make sure that your workstations servers and network equipment will have the latest firmware and software updates available.

Automate Computation
In today’s tech there are many ways to automate normally manual tasks. Such as automated password or online form completion.

Technology is designed to complete tasks for you while you sit back and save time and save money. Take advantage of a solution that is going to improve your everyday small business life on a colossal scale. Automation is domination in the computer world and should not be taken lightly.

Reduce Redundancy
Your data is a vital component to your business and it is very important that your data does not get overlooked.

When functioning in a business environment, the best practice is to not only have a backup of your data but prevent your data from being lost to begin with. This is when redundancy comes in.

Your server for your business should be monitored, verified, and managed by an IT professional. This will allow you to function throughout the day without worrying about your data being safe and secure, keep an increased outlook on productivity, and allow for a guaranteed solution for data retrieval.

Using Technology to Improve Your Business

In this day and age, small businesses are facing a serious question: keep doing business as usual or try to adopt and incorporate a more relevant way of doing things.

Keeping the status quo may be one of the reasons the business has remained so successful, but it may also be one of the reasons it starts to falter in the future. There is a certain loyalty to small, local businesses, but speed, convenience, and consistence overrules loyalty after a while.

With a few simple changes, it’s possible to keep the business running as usual (on the outside), while streamlining the way it operates from the inside. Ultimately, this provides the customers with the speed, convenience, and consistency they require to remain loyal.

The first change a business can make is to ensure a fast, easy way to accept credit cards as tender. A lot of small business still don’t accept credit cards or debit cards because they simply don’t have the means. Or, they accept these forms of payment, but rely on outdated, and time consuming methods, such as phone lines.

The solution to this is to utilize mobile devices to scan and authorize payments. More and more businesses are using this method and the trend doesn’t seem to be slowing.

The second improvement that can be made is with accounting and bookkeeping. Using an accounting program that is not based in the cloud or using a program that the company has used for a decade may have worked in the past. However, as the business grows and taxes, payroll, and the bottom line increases, the business is going to be better off using a program that is constantly updated, constantly backed up, and that can be accessed from anywhere.

You move around a lot — and being able to access these important aspects of your business whenever you want and wherever you go becomes an important tool for managing your business on the go. The third and most important aspect of managing your business is providing your employees and customers with ways to contribute and feel valued.

A great way to do this is to keep an open line of communication with them. Implementing ways to communicate their ideas, thoughts, and feelings about their job and experience is becoming an important variable in employee and customer satisfaction.

In office settings, it can be very helpful to implement an instant messaging program between employees. This provides a way for everyone to communicate easily. In retail settings, employee text messaging groups can be utilized or social media groups can be used to let them feel a part of the team. Feeling a part of the team is crucial and feeling valued is even more important.

Social media can be huge when it’s used to interact with customers. Asking a customer to share their experience on Google or Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc. will always result in more and more people becoming aware of the services and experiences your business can provide.

These three changes can improve the way your business operates on a day to day basis, without having too much overhead costs, and without having to overhaul major aspects of the business. They can improve employee and customer satisfaction, as well as make them all feel included. In the end, the general sense from the customers will be one of “Whatever they changed, I like it, and it works.”

Should Your Small Business Use A Domain Network?

Luke Gruden is a help desk technician for Tech Experts.

If you have 5 or more computers that are sharing files and are constantly being worked with, a domain network would be in your best interest.

A domain network using a server has many benefits to a work area, a work building, or even multiple buildings using VPN. The flexibility, security, and convenience of a domain is, in most companies, invaluable. Sign into your account from any computer that is a part of the domain and you no longer need to use only your personal computer to access files.

If something were to happen to your computer, you could just use another computer to sign into your account and continue working without much downtime. This is also a far more secure way for users to access other computers as they have to use their credentials and only have the permissions that their credentials provide, not those of the computer itself. As long as users are not sharing passwords, you can have every user accounted for, policies implemented, and control what they can and cannot access when it comes to Internet, files, and programs.

Secure file-sharing is an easy and basic function of a domain server with Active Directory, which all the computers connected to the domain have access to. If you wanted only certain users to have access to certain files, you can have folders set up that prevent unauthorized editing, but still could be read — or even not be seen at all.

Having 5+ workers able to access the same set of files to edit as needed is an amazing way to save time and improve project efficiency. Everyone can see the file as it is saved or changed and they can continue to edit records as necessary without ever having to go on the Internet or transfer the file. Just get on any computer on the domain and you have instant access to the files that you need without a second thought.

Active Directory is your IT department’s best friend when it comes to handling large or small groups of computers as IT can access the domain server to make adjustments to other computers without ever stopping the work flow.

Forgot your password? Your IT can very easily use the server and reset your password for you without having to go to your computer. Setting up a new computer that needs certain printers and drivers installed? IT can set up the server to push those standard programs and drivers without having to install each individual program. Need to set up a new user account? It’s created on the server and the user can be accessed on all computers. There are so many possibilities that open up when you have a server domain available for your workstations.

We have only scratched the surface of what’s possible with a domain server and the amount of time and effort it can save for everyone in the company. I believe every business that is looking to grow should have a domain server early on as it will be easier to set up and can evolve to your needs as your company grows.

If your company needs help setting up a domain network, you can count on Tech Experts to take care of it.