Autotask - Issues Resolved

By Dan Ballard, in , posted: 21-Mar-2012 15:53

Last year at around September I signed up to Autotask as I thought it would be good for systemising my business.  I signed up for the Go plan which costs $30/month for basic functionality.  It was ok but I wanted to try some of the other features so I upgraded to pro plan for $130/month or so.
Autotask was ok however it did not integrate with Xero my accounting system.  So I would have to enter content into Autotask and then re-enter it to Xero effectively doubling admin as I had to maintain two financial systems.  Now I hate admin on the best days so after a week or so I decided paying $130 to double my admin was not for me.

I got in touch with the guy at Autotask and asked for my account to be changed from the Pro plan back to Go as I would not be using Autotask for financial side of things.  Then here is where it gets interesting.  My account manager at Autotask told me ahh don’t worry we can’t downgrade your account because of limitations on our system so you can just have the Pro account for $30/month.  I agreed and went from there.

Next month rolls around and my credit card gets charged for the full amount, so I call my Account manager at Autotask, he tells me now that he can’t give me the cheaper price and that I will just have to pay the full amount but that is ok as they are working on a Xero connector and it will be ready soon.
I then promptly advise my Account manager that I do not want to use Autotask at all as it was not worth $130/month to me and I was pissed that the guy lied to me.  I heard nothing and assume that it was taken care of.

Next month rolls around and my credit card get charged again, ok so now I am getting really annoyed at Autotask so I get in touch with them to find out what is going on.  They advised me that in the small print (which I was not aware of). That I had a 6 month termination clause – what?  No one told me that and it was not on any of the material that I read. 

At this stage I was really upset, as Autotask did not work for my business, I had been lied to and now I find out that they had a 6 month termination clause in the small print.  So I posted on Geekzone forum about my negative experience, the next day I get a call from my Autotask account manager and he told me that they will end my account as at when I cancelled and he would make sure the outstanding bill would go away.  I was happy.  This was November last year and I thought that my pain with Autotask had ended.

Then yesterday I get a nasty letter from Autotask advising that they are going to send my bill to debt collectors.  I called the accounts lady at Autotask and explained my situation and she advised me that she did not care and was going to send my account debt collectors within 7 days if it was not paid.
So my experience with Autotask is that I was mislead, lied to twice and now I am getting harassed by them with threats of debt collectors.  There is not much I can do about this so I am simply warning others about my experience with this organisation.

What has been your experience with them?



Cloud Brief - MHA and Express Data Event

By Dan Ballard, in , posted: 8-Jun-2011 23:07

This 1 hour presentation is a joint event with MHA Cloud Computing and Express Data.  You will be updated with what Hosted Microsoft products are available to sell and how you can increase your monthly income from your clients while providing them with services that they want. This session is aimed at IT companies interested in selling Microsoft’s Cloud services and want to know about the options available, you will find this presentation will be interesting, to the point and morning tea and coffee will be provided.

Seating is limited to the first 20 participants.

Dan Ballard the Channel Manager from MHA Cloud Computing and Joanne Livingston will be presenting from Express Data.

Joanne Livingston will be presenting Microsoft’s Office 365 and how reseller can sell this product to their users.  Dan Ballard will be presenting MHA’s Microsoft Cloud Computing products which are available to resell and will also be demoing Microsoft Lync with the Polycom CX600 Lync phone which is available to resell from MHA.

Pre-registration is required.

Fees – FREE !!

Location  – Express Data, 1 Carmont Place, Mount Wellington

Length – Registration 9:30am Wednesday the 15th of June Presentation begin at 10am 2 x 20 minutes presentations plus questions

For questions or more information regarding this offered by MHA Cloud Computing and Express Data, please contact:

Dan Ballard

09 550 5232

To register go to Cloud Brief with MHA and Express Data



Microsoft Lync – A Communications Game Changer

By Dan Ballard, in , posted: 3-Jun-2011 11:56

For those of you that have used Microsoft Office Communications Server you would know that although it does the job, it is rather like it’s name and a bit clumsy.  It is not the most logical to navigate, functions are hard to find and you needed to have your PC on for it to work.  By all accounts it felt like MSN Messenger got VoIP bolted onto it.

Microsoft can be forgiven as this was their first attempt at getting a voice solution to the market and it did integrate with Outlook and if you were persistent you would find the feature you were looking for eventually.
In December 2010, Microsoft released the latest incarnation of their Unified Communications solution – Lync.  Just like the new name, Lync is a well designed and slick.  Microsoft have obviously put a lot of time and effort into this new product and in my opinion it has certainly paid off.  Lync really is a joy to use and it does everything I have ever wanted plus more.

Polycom CX600 Lync Phone
I have a Polycom CX600 Lync phone setup with Lync.  Apart from the PC not needing to be turned on to make a call with the device you now get some really cool functionality that makes the geek in me happy.  The CX600 has a colour screen that shows your Exchange calendar and displays when your next appointment is, you can search all your Exchange contacts and call them and my absolutely favourite feature is you can type the name of a person that you want to call from your Lync client on the PC and it will call the person on the phone.  Also for the technophobes you can pick up the handset and dial a number, which makes it very user friendly right from the IT geeks to the CEO.

Other cool CX600 Features
  • You can see the presence of your internal staff from screen
  • There are two Ethernet ports on the back so you don’t need to rewire the office to plug it in
  • If you don’t like wires you can get a POE (Power over Ethernet) switch so you don’t need power supplies to the phone
  • You have a list of all your messages left by people
  • There is a headset plugin for it those that use the phone a lot
Lync Replaces Your PABX
Not only does Lync blur the line of where your phone system starts and your IT system ends it completely obliterates it.  When you have Exchange and Lync with external calling it is your emails, calendar, calling, video calling, conferencing and more.  There are some really neat advanced PABX functionality you get from Lync such as smart call routing, hunt groups, voice activated IVR and simultaneous calling.  You are not limited by location either, so sales people can have their Polycom Lync phone on their  work desk but if they go on a sales trip they can take their laptop with a USB headset and can email and call anywhere in the world with an internet connection. 

This is also very handy if you have multiple offices as you can transfer calls seamlessly between people in different locations as well has having smart call routing send calls to different location based on rules.

Real Voicemail
What most people call voicemail these days is not voicemail at all, it is simply an answer phone.  With Lync and Exchange you get real voicemail whereby you call your voicemail number and your voicemail will read to you your email messages, play any answer phone messages to you, tell you what your next appointment is and with voice recognition enables you to respond to change appointments and respond to requests.  This feature is really handy for the person that has a car kit and spend a lot of time in the car.

How To Get Lync with External Calling?
Up until now the only way to get Lync with external calling is to setup a Lync server and connect phone lines (traditional or IP) to this server.  This is actually really quite a big undertaking and the cost of this part of the exercise has kept this product in the domain of enterprise and large companies.

Of course most IT people would of heard of Microsoft’s offer of getting Lync with the Office365 bundle which they are shouting from the roof tops about but there is no external calling with this offer as the Office365 product is hosted out of Singapore.  Which means you have to have a separate phone system as well as Lync which kinda defeats the point of it.

(shameless plug time) Recently MHA Cloud Computing announced that they have released a hosted Lync solution with external calling and as of writing this article they are the only provider of this product in New Zealand.  MHA Cloud Computing are a cloud computing wholesaler so IT companies can resell this product to their end users.  Because it is hosted the price to setup has dropped significantly and it is also now easy to setup, which makes Lync a viable option for small and medium businesses.

On summary it is obvious to me that Microsoft has spent a lot of time and effort on Lync to make it easy to use and pack in a lot of functionality, (some of which I have not included) in my opinion I think that Lync is a real game changer and enables businesses to communicate more effectively internally and externally.
Dan Ballard
Channel Manager
MHA Cloud Computing

Youtube Lync Video - Work From Anywhere



Is VoIP Suitable For Your Business?

By Dan Ballard, in , posted: 22-Nov-2010 17:35

I know that in the future VoIP will be the way everyone communicates.  I think that everyone will have one number for home, work or mobile and when someone calls you all your phones will ring and you can take the call where ever you are.  Actually this technology is here right now but not many people use it.

As a technology I think VoIP is in it's awkward adolescent stage of growth.  It’s starting to be a big boy and is getting good at it’s job but occasionally it’s voice breaks.  The image of that pimple faced teenager on the Simpsons serving at a fast food joint that says in his breaking voice “Do you want fries with that” comes to mind.

One of the biggest issues with VoIP is that it is relying on usually at least two additional pieces of technology that never used to be required to have a telephone before.

1, Your broadband connection

2, VoIP hardware : IP phone, VoIP router or a PAP2 device

This is fine if you are a technical person but if you are not, this becomes a major issue if your VoIP stops working.

Here is a list of issues that can take your VoIP down or affect call quality.


  • Broadband failure – multiple causes of broadband not working
  • Interleavering
  • Hardware failure – multiple possible points of failure
  • VoIP provider failure
  • User error
  • Power spike
  • Lowered call quality – usually caused by someone downloading or uploading on your connection
  • Slow broadband connection
With a traditional phone system if your phone stopped working you called up your phone provider and they fixed it, with VoIP you have really know what you are doing to sort it out.  If you don’t, you will have no idea where to start and no phone lines.

If a businesses main phone line is VoIP and is down or is not a good quality connection this looks really bad on the business.

So in my opinion, if your business reliant on it's phone lines and you are not a technical person, I would suggest sticking with traditional phone lines to keep your hassles to a minimum, alternatively you can pay a technical person to setup and maintain a VoIP system like this for you, however you would want to make sure that they are available at the drop of a hat if you do ever have any issues.

By the way I use VoIP for my business and it works well but occasionally a person asks me if I am on VoIP because of the lowered call quality if I happen to be downloading or uploading something at the time.



Fibre To The ______?

By Dan Ballard, in , posted: 11-May-2010 16:46

In the not too distant future most homes and businesses in major towns and cities in New Zealand will have access to ultra-fast broadband.  Thanks in large to the latest initial by the New Zealand government to invest 1.5 billion dollars into catching New Zealand up with the rest of the OECD nations in terms of national broadband speed.

My business is IT so having a bigger, faster and more secure internet connections is always a good thing for me and my clients.  However I can’t help but be a bit sceptical about Vectors latest advertising campaign around the issue. One of their statement says “Fibre to the door will help Auckland become a competitive global city, delivering huge leaps in business productivity, education, health and even lifestyle.”

Huge leaps in business productivity and even lifestyle – will it really? For a minority that come up with really innovative ways to make use of these super fast connections and can afford to pay a premium for it, they will no doubt make a killing but for the vast majority we will be able to watch that cat fall off the garbage bin in high definition on YouTube and check our emails faster.

Vectors main push is to deliver fibre to the door of 450,000 people around Auckland in 3 years, this is a very wise move for them as Auckland has the most people therefore is the most profitable area to focus on.  What about the rest of the country? And how many people are going to be willing to pay a premium for fibre? 

Only recently Telecom announced that they will be providing the newest version of DSL which is between 2 and 10 times faster than currently broadband speeds called VDSL2.  Telecom wanted to charge an additional $20 per connection and both Orcon and Vodafone had a whinge about customers having to pay this small premium for a faster service stating “people could not afford it in this economic climate”.  Fibre is going to be much more expensive than $20/month!

Telecommuting and video conferencing are technologies that Vector is stating that fibre will bring but anyone that is only vaguely familiar with current technology knows that these technologies exist now and they are mostly transported over the humble copper wire which Vector hopes to replace.

What really is wrong with Copper you may ask?  Well compared with fibre it is slower to transmit data over.  However it has a huge advantage over fibre which everyone seems to be over looking and that is the fact that it is in the ground right now connecting every single business and home together in New Zealand.

Another key point that appears lost with people is that Telecom currently has fibre running to most suburbs in New Zealand, a quick look on the New Zealand broadband map confirms this.  Now we all know that if Telecom becomes the monopoly on this technology the price will remain high but the other side of the argument is, is there much point in duplicating this resource?

One of the downsides to VDSL2 is the fact that to get the full speed you must be within 1km of the exchange or cabinet, which seems to fit nicely with Telecom having fibre to most populated suburbs around the country.  What this is called is ‘fibre to the node’ or in English ‘fibre to the neighbourhood’ and the last part is connecting to the consumer through copper using current ADSL technologies or VDSL2.

So Telecom have, at their own expense built a network that is capable delivering what the government are wanting or at least closer to what they are wanting and I am prepared to lay money down on the fact that it will be much cheaper than fibre to the door.

The last part of the puzzle is the cost of international bandwidth.  Currently there is only two cables supplying New Zealand broadband (small satellite operators excluded) and they are both owned by the Southern Cross Cables Limited with Telecom being the majority 50% shareholder.  The pricing is currently pegged off the Australia to US data rates but still that is higher than it would be if there were some competition in this market, like the rest of the world.

Fortunately our friends that brought us The Warehouse, Trade Me and Xero are working on that issue with one of their latest ventures - Pacific Fibre.  There has been talk over the last few year that Kordia was going to be building another cable and they have gone quiet on the issue.  Now that Sir Stephen Tindall, Sam Morgan and Rod Drury have taken up the mantle I am sure there will be some action.  These are the type of guys that make things happen, so watch this space. 

As soon as there is some competition in the international bandwidth arena coupled with the governments initiative and with Telecoms already built fibre to the node network, I believe this will help increase the overall speed of broadband in New Zealand and drive down the cost for the humble consumer.

Dan Ballard is the Managing Director of CyberHub and Auckland based IT company.

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How To Speed Up Your PC

By Dan Ballard, in , posted: 30-Mar-2010 00:04

Lets set the scene, your old XP machine that you have been running for the last 4-5 years has gotten old and it is now time to upgrade.  You have saved up and now you decide to purchase brand new Windows 7 PC.  You wisely decided to skip the whole Vista episode and you are looking forward to a speedier machine to work with. You take your brand new machine out of the box and boot it up with a smile on your face like it is Christmas and what the… What is all this?  Your brand new PC has been filled up with software that you did not ask for slowing down that dual core processor that promised to speed your PC up.
Welcome to the world of bloatware, essentially what happens is these third party software companies pay computer manufacturers to pre load their PC’s with software which actually make your PC a bit cheaper than what it would be in the first place.  So it is a blessing in disguise.  All the manufacturers are guilty of this Acer, Compaq, HP, Dell, Sony, Toshiba and Gateway and even Mac.
Some of the most common bloatware programs include preloaded anti-virus programs, some have said that these anti virus programs are in fact worst than viruses as they are difficult to remove and become a burden on your system, at times slowing your PC’s to such a painfully slow grind that the PC becomes useless to use.  However at CyberHub we would recommend installing a lightweight anti-virus rather than running one of these preloaded anti-virus programs which seem intent on slowing your PC down.
Here are three free programs you can use to remove these unwanted programs and speed your PC up.
The PC Decrapifier
This is a great free program that automates the un-installation process.
1-      Simply download from http://www.pcdecrapifier.com/download
2-      Choose what programs to remove, if you click on the “What it Removes” menu item on the pcdecrapifier website, it will give you a list of bloatware that you can safely remove from your system without any adverse effects.
3-      Start the un-installation process, other than clicking confirmation requests the whole process is automated which makes it a much quicker than removing one by one.
Nortons Removal Tool
If you accidently installed Nortons the above un-installation process won’t work for you, so you will have to download a program that is specifically designed to remove Norton anti virus.  You can get it from the Nortons website although there is a list of about 8 versions of Nortons, it has been my experience that Nortons is not very good at telling you what version of Nortons you are running, so choose one that you think sounds right and download it, run it, follow the prompts and that normally does the job.  After you have removed Nortons it is really important to find another light weight anti-virus to protect your PC, make sure you install something and don’t leave your PC without protection.
CCleaner
CCleaner is a great program which does four things. 1, It cleans up most of the temporary files on your PC freeing up space 2, It enables you to uninstall programs 3, It easily enables you to stop programs from loading on your PC from start-up 4, it enables you to clean up the computers registry after uninstalling all those programs.  You can download from the CCleaner link
Now that you have done run these two or three programs you will find that your PC has more free space and should run noticeably faster, the way it should be when you purchased it.
Please Note: If you chose to run these programs you do so at your own risk and CyberHub is in no way affiliates with these programs or brands.  I have simply used these programs and they have done a great job.  Also you have the opportunity to donate to the creators of these free programs, so if you have gotten some value out of them you may want to consider donating $5 to the creators.
Dan Ballard
Managing Director
CyberHub – IT Made Simple

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Free Webinars About Hosted IT Services For Businesses

By Dan Ballard, in , posted: 18-Dec-2009 05:10

CyberHub is running a series of free webinars about how Hosted IT Services or Cloud Computing can assist your organisation in reducing IT costs and infrastructure while increasing functionality, utilisation and collaboration.

Topics Being Covered Include:

The webinars will be aiming to be around 20-30 minutes long with question and answer time afterwards.

To Sign Up
- Choose which webinar you would like to attend
- Click on link in the list above
- This will take you to the CyberHub website with more information about that service
- Scroll to the bottom of the page to the webinar sign up form that has times and dates
- Simply enter your details and you will be enrolled in the webinar
- Once you have signed up you can invite others to the webinar by clicking on share widget link


CyberHub - IT Made Simple







Easy Google Docs

By Dan Ballard, in , posted: 25-Sep-2009 17:13

Come and listen to a presentation about Google Docs and how your business/organisation can benefit from it.

Easier to share documents quickly, and they are never on the wrong hard drive.

Dan Ballard of CyberHub will talk about how to set up and realise the benefits of this aspect of cloud computing.

Come along to see the essentials of Google Docs so you can make your own mind up.

Call Holly on 4996360 to RSVP, please note that there are only 12 spaces so RSVP now to ensure your spot.

Agenda

12:00 Introductions and networking (15 mins)
12:15 Light lunch & presentation (30 mins)
12:45 Coffee & Social (15 mins)

Menu

A five-star new menu from Hotel Intercontinental:

- Smoked salmon & cream cheese on mini bagels
- Selection of finger sandwiches
- Assorted fruit muffins
- Fresh strawberry, kiwi & orange fruit tartlets
- Organic Juice

Date:

Wednesday, 30 September 2009
Time: 12:00 - 13:00
Location: The 360 Training Boardroom, Level 4
Street: 26 Brandon Street
Town/City: Wellington, New Zealand
Phone:  4996360
Email: [email protected]



How to Outsource Your Exchange Server

By Dan Ballard, in , posted: 10-Aug-2009 17:10

When considering outsourcing any of your business infrastructure the first two things to ascertain is, will the services be better than what is currently provided and do the figures stack up for such a change.

When an exchange server is hosted locally there are a surprisingly high amount of hidden costs which are generally not considered in the initial offering.  Some of the hidden costs of having a local exchange server include:

• Backups & Restores $5,000-$10,000 (1Hr/week either you or your staff time charged at $100/hr)
• Server SLA/server maintenance $500-$2,000
• Fixed IP Address $240
• Power $300-$400
• Spam Protection $600-$2000

Of course the costs above are estimates so will naturally vary.  The approximate hidden yearly cost can vary wildly from $500-$14,000 per year and this is not even factoring in server replacement costs every 3-5 years, software upgrades, hardware failure or lost productivity from hardware failure.  So as you see the costs of having a local exchange server are not fixed and can very quickly spiral out of control.

The two main reasons businesses and organisation are moving to a hosted exchange solutions is because of increased uptime and reducing or fixing the exchange email costs.  You can achieve increased uptime because the hosted exchange server is in a data centre which generally has a dual high speed broadband connections and dual power connections with backup generators.  Costs are fixed because the business pays a fixed cost for how many email addresses are required at any one time.  Email addresses can be added and removed when required and range from $20-$25 per user/month.

Once you have decided to move to a hosted exchange solution it is a relatively painless and simple process:

• Provide your exchange host with your domain name details
• Provide your exchange host with the list of emails and passwords required
• Make a changeover date
• Migrate the email data to the new exchange host
• Get technicians to setup new email details for the end users
• Setup your new signature in the new hosted exchange email system

Now you can enjoy the fact that your costs are fixed and it is someone else’s problem to make sure your emails work and are backed up.
 
Dan Ballard
CyberHub



Can You Trust Your IT Advisor?

By Dan Ballard, in , posted: 30-Jul-2009 17:49

Is Your IT Advisor A Cowboy
This is an important question to ask, let me relate this story to you so you understand what I mean. 

A couple of months ago I meet up with the owner of a small consultancy company because they experienced data loss on their laptop.  I explained the best way to prevent this happening in the future is to go for an online automated backup solution, the cost was $49 to setup and $19 per month and the backup would happen every day as long as the laptop was connected to the internet.  I left them with my proposal. 

About a month after that, I get a call from this particular customer saying that they have lost their data again and that they would like assistance to get it back.  Upon further probing I found out that a friend of theirs that “knew some stuff about IT” had setup a hard drive that was meant to backup the laptops data on a regular basis.  Needless to say they were calling us because the laptop had failed again and their free/cheap backup did not work and their data was lost again.  After the second failure they decided to use the online automated backup solution that I suggested.  I estimate that these data failures cost the company upwards of over $5000 in lost time, money and effort.

The reason I relate this story to you is so I can ask you, who are you taking your IT advice from? 

IT in this day and age everything is done on computers, business systems, payroll, your accounting system and a large percentage of your communication with your customers through email is all part of your IT and Technology setup.  If you don’t have effective IT system and backups in place you are at a serious risk of losing time, data and possibly your entire business. See my article Is Your Business Data At Risk.  When you require advice about law you go and see a Lawyer, when you need advice about your tax and accounting you go and see an Accountant so it would make perfect sense that when you require advice about your IT and Technology, you would go and see a technology professional.

You will notice above that I used the term professional, I used this word specifically as not all people who are in IT are professional.  Let me give you two examples of what to look out for. 

The first one is your stereotypical IT technician, this is the sort of guy that knows a lot of stuff about really technical things and they are kind of like mechanics, they really like to tinker and try stuff out and generally wear scruffy clothes and still live at home with they are 30+.  They came onsite to setup your email signature and for some reason they are now part way through virtualizing your server.  These guys are interesting characters and generally have to be really well managed and quite often end up running their own one or two man break fix IT businesses.  If you watch IT crowd, think of Moss.

The other one is the opposite, this is your stereotypical IT sales guy, smooth with the girls and drives a sports car.  They are going to set you up with an ultra fast quadruple speed ADSL6+ connection and run multiple virtual VPNs with VoIP and video conferencing to the moon and then they are going to build you a business system that is going to half your expenses and double your profits.  Probably about a quarter of what these guys say is true and these type of guys prey on people and organisation that know very little about IT.

When looking for an IT professional to give you advice on your IT and Technology for your business or organisation you want someone that is down to earth, knows the technical stuff but also knows how to translate it to English.  They have to be up to date with the latest technologies and know how to deliver it to your business.  Most importantly they have to be able to give you good honest advice and know how to solve your IT problems before they happen.  When you find someone like this make sure you make them one of your trusted business advisers and involve them in every technology decision that you make.  Generally this caliber of IT professional is worth every cent that they charge.

Dan Ballard
CyberHub



cyberhub's profile

Dan Ballard
Auckland
New Zealand


Regular advice for business owners about their IT.