Avoid the Web Design Lock in

By Dan Ballard, in , posted: 14-Jul-2014 16:58

If I was to ask you who owns your website, your initial reaction to that question may be “Well I do, I paid a design company thousands of dollars for it”. This is the answer that most people may give but there are a lot of web design companies that are using proprietary systems to make websites which means that you are locked into their system whether you like it or not.
Tell me, what would you think if you had a friend that was going to rent some land off a certain landlord and then that friend was going to pay that same landlord a large amount of money to build them a house on that land which could not be moved. Then your friend would continue to pay a rental to that landlord.


The Webdesign Lock in

If you were a good friend you should say “wait a minute” you are paying a landlord to build a house on land that the landlord owns and that house can’t be moved – you would be at the mercy of that landlord, that landlord could lock out anyone from making changes that you want on the house as it is their land and after you have the house built the landlord can charge you whatever he wants and you won’t be able to move.
Every single day this situation happens with people purchasing webdesign services from web designers that make websites on their proprietary systems, which mean the website can not be moved. So you can’t get any other person to work on your website – because the web designer does not allow it and you can not move the website to another hosting provider if you see fit. These people get locked into these proprietary systems and are forced to stay.
The problem is these webdesign companies have slick presentations and slick sales people which sell websites and webdesign systems to people that run businesses and organisations that don’t know any better. Don’t get me wrong these web design companies most of the times make ok websites that do what they say that they are going to do, it is just the lock in which is deceptive and typically the business owner is not aware of any problem until one day they decide make a change to the website and get a whopping big bill for a simple edit or decide that they would like to host elsewhere and are told that they can’t move.


How to avoid the webdesign Lock in

The best way to avoid the webdesign Lock in is to make sure you get your website made on an open source CMS such as WordPress, Drupal or Joomla. Because they are open source that means the base code is free and you can find plenty of designers that can do updates for you and you can easily move your website if you see fit.
When you get a website made that is based on an open source CMS you can host with any webhosting provider that you want and you can get anyone to work on the website when you want and you have the ability to update the website yourself.
If you are one of the unlucky ones that have been trapped in a web design lock in, never fear – any half decent open source web designer can make you a new website based on WordPress (or another open source system) that looks the same or similar to what you currently have.
Dan Ballard



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



Can VoIP Save Your Business Money?

By Dan Ballard, in , posted: 20-Jul-2009 10:46

VoIP stands for "Voice over Internet Protocol" traditionally when you pick up the phone to make a phone call, that call travels through the copper phone lines to the exchange and is routed to the phone that you dialed. VoIP enables you do make that same phone call however instead of going through the copper phone lines, the call is sent over your broadband connection.  A consumer grade example of this that many people are familiar with is Skype.

With VoIP  the monthly phone line cost is much cheaper than copper lines and the calls to different destinations are cheaper and in most cases local business calls are free and if the call is placed to someone with the same VoIP provider the call is also free.  Which is certainly an advantage if your business makes lots of inter office calls.  However these cost savings have to weighed up with the potential risks!

Risks With VoIP
Because VoIP calls travel over your internet connection if your internet connection goes down for whatever reason, so too do your VoIP lines.  This is a major risk for businesses as customers put up with a delay in email if your internet is down, however if they can't call you they quickly get very frustrated and this can lead to lost business.  These risks can be mitigated in several ways;

- Have high quality hardware to lessen the likelihood of a hardware failure

- Have a high quality internet connection

- You can keep one or two traditional copper lines and have them setup as backup

- In the event of a broadband failure your VoIP lines can automatically forward to a mobile phone number
Another factor that businesses have to take into account when changing over to VoIP is the experience of the provider, let me explain.  With the recent advent of number portability and numerous wholesale VoIP providers in the market, the barriers to entry for a small company or even a one man band to become a VoIP Telco provider are surprisingly low.  The result is every little IT company rushing to supply VoIP to their customers without proper testing, training or a viable billing systems.  So the way to avoid getting tangled up with such IT cowboys is to request a referral from your provider so you can ask another company how their VoIP experience has been and ask to see an example of the VoIP phone bill before accepting any proposals for a VoIP migration.

Because failure of broadband is a relatively rare event and even though these risks exist many businesses believe that the cost savings (anywhere from 20%-50% off telecommunication costs) and the additional functionality are well worth changing over to an IP based phone system.

Dan Ballard
CyberHub



Is Your Business Data At Risk?

By Dan Ballard, in , posted: 13-Jul-2009 14:22

“How important is your data?”  This is one of the key questions that I ask business owners when I meet with them to discuss their IT.  If I get a wishy washy answer I then ask “If that computer’s hard drive failed or if you had a fire and lost all the data on that PC, how would it affect your business?”.  Generally this gets the answers that I am after, as the look of horror starts to spread across the business owners or IT managers face.  Answers start to come forward like “I would lose my job” or “I could go out of business” or “that would cost me thousands to get that data back”.


Studies have shown that 70% of business that suffer a critical data loss go out of business within 12 months. Contingency Planning, Strategic Research Corp and DTI/Price Waterhouse Coopers (2004)

These days business is becoming close to, if not 100% computerised, almost all parts of the business are done on a computer now!  Accounts, contacts with customers, advertising, systems and processors, reports and the creation of computer documents.  If your business data gets destroyed there is a high chance it could cost you thousands of dollars to get it back or it could potentially put you out of business.

With the advent of affordable, online automated backup there really is no reason why you can’t protect all your business data today.
Dan Ballard
CyberHub



Is Your Server Ripping You Off?

By Dan Ballard, in , posted: 6-Jul-2009 15:25

In the 80’s if an organisation with multiple branches wanted computers available to their staff the only option available was to have dumb terminals linking to a server which ran the programs, stored data and did all the processing.  The main reason being is that to get any decent computing power out of computers at that time they had to be huge, sometimes taking up whole floors of buildings.  However there were other advantages to this type of setup, some of which include; data was centralized and backed up, the dumb terminals were setup so the end users could not wreck anything and there was economies of scale.

Then in the late 90’s PC’s (personal computers) begun getting more and more powerful with the XT, AT/286, 386, 486 etc.  Not only were they getting faster but PC’s begun getting more affordable and user friendly with the advent of Microsoft Windows.  Point and click made computers easy for any computer novice to be able to use a computer. 

Because computers got powerful and affordable enough so almost any program a business required could now be run on the PC.  Spreadsheets for Accountants, Word processors for writers, drawing programs for drafters etc almost any program for any purpose has been made.  It then made sense for medium to large sized organisations to have local servers, so they could manage, share and backup their data.  So the 90’s and 00’s became the two decades of the PC and local server.

The world has now become hugely interconnected with high speed connections available in every country of the world, admittedly New Zealand compared to the other OECD countries is a bit behind on this one, see my article Broadband In New Zealand.  However every day this is improving with faster connections available to businesses of the likes of ADSL2+, VDSL, high speed wireless and fiber connections.  This has opened the door to the next generation of services available to businesses SaaS (Software as a Service) or hosted solutions.

Hosted solutions is when a provider hosts the service that you require for you on their servers generally in a data center.  The next question you or any other business owner would ask themselves now is “Why on earth would I do that?”  Well the short answer is that it is easier, secure,
cheaper and is more flexible for you.  See article Local vs Hosed Servers to see the true cost of having a local server

Let me give you an example.  Hosted Terminal Services is a service where all your programs and files are available to you and your staff from any computer in the world with an internet connection.  It is a virtual desktop which you or your staff log into and it is hosted on servers in a secure data centre and it is a hassle free solution as you and your staff do not have to worry about backups, licensing, server maintenance, hardware failure or any of the problems or cost that come with having a local server. 

One of my clients is an Accountant in New Zealand and one of his staff members went to China to visit family, while she was away she was able to log into the hosted server and continue working from China.  Giving the staff member job satisfaction and giving the business owner added productivity.

The main point which always gets business owners attention is most of the time when all the costs are added up a hosted terminal services solution is cheaper and more flexible solution than having your own local server setup because of virtualization and economies of scale.

Dan Ballard
CyberHub



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Dan Ballard
Auckland
New Zealand




CyberHub is a hosting company based in Auckland, we specialise in Hosting WordPress websites and VPS, Dedicated Servers and Domain Name Hosting.
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