New ‘Cable Modem POTS Lines’ Threatens Fire Alarms

I love technology, with all its newness and the new capabilities. At times, I even love the smell. Once in a while, we all have one of those “what the heck?” moments when we question the logic behind a technology change. In the end we usually don’t have a choice, but changes in one area often dictate changes in another.

First and foremost, I want to be clear. In today’s world, internet is being delivered via fiber or cable modem, depending on the need. At Roundbrix, we deploy more fiber than cable to businesses to have fully appreciable symmetrical and guaranteed bandwidth.

sipPhone lines on the other hand, are delivered in a variety of forms. From the newer SIP (Session Initiation Protocol), to its predecessor PRI (Primary Rate Interface or Voice T-1) to the original POTS (Plain Old Telephone Service) lines, which are the analog predecessor commonly utilized for older or smaller phone systems. More importantly, these analog lines have always been used for both burglar and fire alarm lines due to their reliability and non-susceptibility to power outages. The legacy POTS lines always used to be powered by the Central Office, also called a CO. Here, a copper pair of 24 AWG with 48VDC running through it 24 x 7 makes it RELIABLE. It’s also one of the reasons you never wanted a phone near a bathtub as dropping a permanently powered DC electric source could lead to electrocution. But for a fire or burglar alarm, it was perfect. No matter what happened, including a localized power outage for days on end, these central offices always had power and backup power so you could rest assured these important lines would always be able to dial out should there be a fire or burglar-related emergency. For those of us ‘slightly older folks’ remember that the power might go out at our house, but we were always able to use our land lines regardless. This was built into the design on purpose.

Now for the bad news. In a move to be more efficient, and in also considering superseding aging copper, it appears they have made a major blunder. You see, the power backup on a cable modem is only good for a couple hours, four at the most. What this means is if power goes out and no one is at facility beyond the few hours the cable modem might hold it, your fire alarm cannot dial out! Then it’s up to who sees the fire and calls 9-1-1, meaning a lot more property damage could occur, not to mention possible loss of life as a result. In my opinion, these lines from the service provider should be deployed with a clear understanding of the risk with a way to hedge the risk, which is my next point.fire

Here’s the best solution. Purchase an external UPS unit, typically a 1500 VA system. This unit could add another day or so of power to the POTS lines provisioned through the cable modem. If you need more time, then bump up to a 2200 VA system. This is extremely important for businesses that do not occupy the building during nights and weekends, short of mentioning those three or four days for longer weekends like Thanksgiving and Christmas. Here is a link to an APC 1500 for $200 and a link to an APC2200 for $900. In keeping with best practice for UPS units when installed, put a ‘born on’ date on the top and replace it after three years, or more frequently if power outages are more frequent.

Getting one of these units would be a small price to pay to get to greatly mitigate property damage and you may just save a life!

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Next Big Thing is Here – SIP trunks for Voice!

Having been in the Telecom field for well over twenty years, we were always saddled with certain decisions when it came to trunks to PSTN (Public Switch Telephone Network).  If you could live with marginal voice quality or didn’t have the budget to pop for a T-1 voice circuit, you had few options.  Your choices were between using POTS lines, CO (Central Office) trunks, or tie trunks if multi-location. These were typically analog with a snap, crackle, pop reminiscent of Rice Krispies1

The other choice was a voice T-1 or PRI flavor, both of which we were more expensive, but as it was digital, it was crystal clear and the bonus was it only used four wires for 24 phone lines or 23 for PRI (ISDN Primary Rate Interface). Heck, even I paid for PRI though I did not have a need for all the lines as I could not accept sacrificing call quality.

Fast-forward to today and Session Initiation Protocol, aka SIP. There are a lot of cool things about it, but it’s important to understand its current form of implementation.  It can also be implemented in a couple different manners. It can be delivered by your carrier over Ethernet, but don’t think that it will conflict and turn into a VoIP chattering, as it comes in on its own circuit. Alternately, as it is a protocol, it can also be delivered over existing MPLS circuits for multi-location businesses as long as QoS is enabled.  Important to note is that the SIP connection provided by your carrier is from your phone system/PBX to the carrier. The calls to the outside world are still carried through PSTN so the quality will remain acceptable.Print

What is so cool about SIP? First off, it handles both voice and video. But here is the really neat thing, much like a SuperTrunk of days gone by or the PRI of today, if you need less that 20-some lines, but want the robust DID (Direct Inward Dial) functionality, SIP trunks are for you.  Here’s a real scenario. I pay $250 per month for a PRI, but I can get 5 each SIP trunks (at $12 each for 3-year commitment) for $60 a month!  This will save me $190 per month and that’s a good thing – a real good thing!

SIP trunks may not be for everyone and may not even be available in your area, but if considering a new phone system or a new carrier, you should at least consider SIP trunks. If you’re simply changing telecom carrier and want to entertain SIP trunks, you will need to check to see if your phone system is SIP-trunk ready and capable.  Those pesky details!

If you want to know more or if you area or phone system is SIP-trunk ready, feel free to give us a call. We’re here to help!

EdSignature

The True Power of Power over Ethernet (PoE)

FACT: Today, PoE ports represent one quarter of all enterprise Ethernet ports. As with any evolving technology, its true worth to business must be weighed as it ultimately determines its long term success. Not being a spring chicken myself, this is not unlike the days of Frame Relay. Though it was slow to be adopted, it became a big hit until newer technology offerings became available- like MPLS (Multi Protocol Label Switching). I digress.

PoE is very much the same thing, but with much farther reaching potential. In a nutshell, PoE is where low voltage DC power is pushed over a CAT5E or better Ethernet cable. As many of you know, pins 1, 2, 3, & 6 are used for Ethernet data transmission. Pins 4 & 5 are blank so as to not conflict with someone plugging in a legacy phone line RJ11 plug into an RJ45 jack and blowing up an expensive network switch. Power of PoE goes over pins 7 & 8, aka THE BROWN PAIR .This prevents you from having to run electrical outlets to every device, as the power comes over the Ethernet cable. The costs savings here can be quite substantial.

Understanding the standards and options is key here as you may already have some PoE switches, but they may be older. It is important to know their capability before buying equipment. Older switches simply cannot power the newer and higher demand PoE devices due to their lower wattage restriction.

802.3af is the original 2003 standard that supplies up to 15. Watts of DC power, though only about 12.5 watts is assured.

802.3at aka PoE+ is the current standard and takes it up to 30W (25 adjusted for power loss). With the greater power, many more applications are possible!

As with any Ethernet cable run, the standard 300 foot distance limitation applies here as well.

PoE Devices. Although the most common uses for PoE today are for IP phones and wireless access points, this this is a rapidly expanding field. There is significant growth in the areas of surveillance, which includes encompassing video up to HD standards and building access control. Rounding off some of the current PoE device offerings includes digital signage, IP paging, school clock systems, video phones and many others. New devices will emerge being able to utilize PoE power thus creating a more powerful and useful network. Simply put, this is where were headed. So, when looking to move and re-cable, you may want to rethink where to add cable drops as to ensure you don’t fall short and have to end up paying for expensive  piecemeal cabling to fill your needs.

PoE switches. A number of outfits make these switches, including the likes of Juniper, HP, Cisco and many others. Our favorite switch is Juniper’s EX3300 series for a number of reasons. First, the price point is attractive. Second, it has “virtual chassis technology”. What this means is that the virtual switch (made up of many physical switches) only uses one IP address and all switches within the virtual switch can be viewed in a single interface, greatly simplifying management. Another benefit here is that individually, these are all 1U (1.75”) units that will make it simple to swap out old switches and put in new switches without having to re-manage patch cables. Finally, we love the DAC cable because for $100, it gives you a sweet 10Gb interface to other switches that are close and to servers that adhere to the SFP DAC standard so you don’t have to use fiber to get 10Gb within the same room. It’s a win-win as the DAC cable saves cost and is less fragile than fiber.

In summary, if you’re changing out your data switches, consider popping for a few extra dollars to go for PoE to future-proof your dollars and being to save even more downstream.

 

Christmas Tablet Technology Guide

With every passing year, the electronic gizmos are finding themselves under the tree more often. This year, we figured we would help you with the many tablet options. The tablet field is rapidly becoming a crowded one and we now we have sizes from 7 to 12 inches. I also think it’s important to understand that a relationship with buying a tablet is likely a two to three year relationship. One consistent finding is that smaller units typically support 720p and the larger units tend to support the 1080p standard, but we were surprised by two exceptions here.  It also makes practical sense but bear in mind you can take the ‘HDMI out’ to a larger screen and there is no upgrading a device from 720p to 1080p. There’s also what might fit in your wife’s purse (hint hint).

Apple iPad Mini
At 8”, it might hit a sweet spot as most are either larger or smaller. It supports 720p video on the display, yet supports 1080p video recording.  It is available in either black or white and prices range from $329 for a 16GB version up to $529 for a 64GB version. Important to note here is that it does not have the same Retina display as the regular iPad.

iPad
Retails  at $499 for 16GB to $699 for the 64GB version and is also available in black or white and the display supports 1080p video. Additionally, it’s a few more dollars for the 4G option as well.

Windows Surface
Microsoft recently introduced the 10.6” Surface, a new player to the field that is called ‘live tiles’. It is found in Windows 8 and this particular variant, called Windows 8 RT. In short, live tiles means that those items on the main menu desktop change content based on variables. This also marks the first time in my memory that Microsoft is selling direct to the public via web site. Windows is including the SkyDrive, which is similar to Apple’s iCloud. At $499 for a 32GB model, it has double the RAM of the iPad 3 that retails for the same price. Windows also has a neat touch cover for an extra $100 that integrates a keyboard for faster everything and comes in five different colors!  There is also a 64GB version, which only comes with a touch cover for $699, which is the same price as the Apple IPad 3 with 64GB of memory.  The Surface falls short on the display as for its size- it should support full 1080p. Then again, as they state that Windows 8 comes to Surface in Early 2013 starting at $899, they have now lost me as a Windows 8RT Surface buyer as the Windows 8 RT does not appear to be upgradeable to Windows 8 Pro though it appears it’s the only way you’ll ever see 1080p on the Surface.

Samsung Series 7 Slate
At 11.6”, it starts at $1,099 and goes to a whopping $1,349. It weighs in about two pounds, but will run Windows 8 Pro and comes with an Intel  i5 processor. This reminds me of the day when someone said PCs would cost less than $1,000; but I would not have imagined that tablets are getting both heavier and more expensive. I will be interested to see how this plays in the market but in my opinion, it’s a pretty high price point, especially if you consider it only supports 720p.That’s right, $1,349 and no 1080p!

Kindle Fire HD
If the full-blown tablets seem a bit pricey, Amazon’s feature-rich Kindle Fire HD and Barnes and Noble’s Nook HD are superb options. The Kindle Fire is available in four versions but for the sake of HD, we’ll stick to three of them. A  7” HD version for $199 that supports 720p and a 9” version for $299 that does the full 1080p. If you want 4G connectivity, it bumps up considerably to $499.

Nook HD
A 7” tablet that comes in either white or smoke colors and starts at $199 for an 8GB versions and bumps to $229 for the 16GB version and support 720p HD.

Nook HD+
This is a 9” tablet and is priced at $269 for the 16GB version and $299 for the 32GB version and supports 1080p full HD.

To reward you for bearing with me, here’s something FUN AND FREE at Christmas for all. What you ask? The Amtrak Holiday Express Train

It’s 450 tons of fun !

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Upgrading Apple Mobile Devices to IOS6 – “A How To”



Oh yes, the buzz and downloads are in the air. It’s time when Apple shares are up past $700 giving us the “I wish I had bought them at $600” feeling. I see them getting to $800 by February due to the iPad mini release (expected next month) and Christmas sales- not to mention the iTV replacement device.  And let’s not forget the rumored iPhone 6 spring release.

Major new features. The new features include Apple’s own maps, which wholly replace Google maps including turn-by-turn GPS navigation. Siri (hyperlink) got smarter and has more current data on movies, open apps by saying “Open Angry Birds” and commands like “Launch Flight Tracker”. Passbook (hyperlink) helps you with boarding passes, movie passes or redeeming coupons. Also, if you’re at the wrong airplane terminal, Siri will remind you so you don’t miss your flight. How cool is that!

Facetime now goes over cellular where it was previously only over Wifi, but remember to watch that data usage! The new IOS 6 also has the ability to flag the more important e-mail senders so you’re not having to wade through ‘everything’ to  find if something is from a more important sender. I can only hope I am on that list for many folks!

What devices can be upgraded? Onto the IOS upgrade for those of us not ready to pony up for new hardware again. This upgrade will work on iPhone 3GS, 4 and 4S, iPad2 and iPad3 and the fourth generation iPod Touch as well. A good idea is to upgrade it on the computer you connect to most often where you don’t mind the data being shared.  For instance, don’t upgrade your personal IOS device on a company PC as the data will be there subject to discovery by your employer. Keeping work and personal info separate is a best practice.

How do I do it? There are basically four easy steps here. What’s important is to expect it to take 30-45 minutes and ensure your device is mostly charged before beginning. Also, it can be done over the air using your 3G/4G, but it is much preferred to connect to a computer so it can be backed up locally prior to upgrading. If you wish to perform the upgrade without connecting to a PC or Mac, you’ll need to have at least 2.5 GB free to do it.

  1. Ensure you have the latest version of iTunes installed. Most important item. You don’t get to second base without passing first base. For some, this iTunes upgrade may require a reboot. After iTunes is up to date, connect your iOS device. Then ‘Transfer Purchases’ to not lose those items that you have paid for previously.
  2. Perform a backup of the device using iTunes. A little common sense here will go a long way if it does not go ‘according to plan’. In iTunes, click on your iOS device and the click on ‘Check for Updates’.

  3. Select ‘Download and Update’. This starts the upgrade process in earnest. Some folks have reported that this did not work for them, but when they only asked for “download” then selected “update” separately, it worked for them. A little Plan B here for you.
  4. Be patient. Do not interrupt the upgrade process. There will be activity and status bars on the device during the upgrade. After the upgrade is completed, a screen will prompt for action on the iOS device. You may also want to use the App Store on your iOS device to update any existing apps that have new features unique to IOS 6.  

A Few Tips to Maximize Battery Life. In short, Apple has a history of the upgrades going pretty darn smoothly and the new features are many. The greatest shortcoming here is battery life, so it’s important that you turn off features you don’t use. Here are four easy areas to review.

  1. See what is currently running. To do this, double-click on the round “home” button. You can then hold down an icon until they start wiggling. Shut down the ones you’re not currently using. You’re not deleting anything, just freeing up a little memory. The less memory you use, the longer the battery lasts!
  2. Location Services. This one relates to both security and battery usage. Every program wants to know where you are so it can ‘help you more’. Thing is, I am not sure I want all programs to know where I am as it also tells folks like would-be-burglars that I may not be at home or be able to get there before they can ransack my house or worse. I don’t allow social media apps to access my location, but the Find Friends I allow- my wife or children may need to know where I am. Siri on Apple is infinitely more useful if it know your location as you ask for the “nearest Bank of America’ but if you don’t use Siri, you’d be well-advised to turn it off as well.  Also, as maps can pinpoint your current location if you’re lost, it’s great to know where you are at the current moment.
  3. Turn of Cellular Data when not in use. Although it’s tough to remember, when traveling and a power plug is not always close, you may want to turn off one or the other. If a fast WiFi connection is handy, turn off ‘Cellular Data’ (General, Network, Cellular Data). It keeps your phone from seeking and using cellular 3G/4G connections, but does not prevent you from receiving phone calls.
  4. Turn off WiFi when not in use. The same theory applies here as well. If your ‘Cellular Data’  is ‘On’ and you’re not looking to connect to a WiFi, understand that your phone is constantly seeking a new WiFi connection. This takes its toll on the battery as well.

In a rather large nutshell, that’s how to upgrade and how to save energy to maximize battery life on the Apple IOS devices.

Windows 8 – Worth the Wait!

After finding great stability with Windows 7, I had some reflecting to do before forming an opinion on Windows 8. I had to be realistic as to the past experience and open to the future. After all, it is about the future and its possibilities. It always has been and it will continue to be.  And the new logo also speaks of a new era for Microsoft.

I am also a firm believer in not leaping to something simply because it’s new, but because it brings something to the table that has business value. Things like reducing operating costs, or gaining a strategic advantage over competition, or bringing something new that will benefit education, medicine and other disciplines that have a return, but it may be of a longer term and part of a future vision.

I had to really think back. You see, at fifty-something, I have pretty much seen it all from the start. The relevance comes into play when making comparisons of Microsoft desktop and server operating systems. You see, we may all remember Windows 3.1 as not being so great, but remember XP as being rock solid. That all may be true, but what you may have forgotten is that XP was not truly ‘loved’ until Service Pack 2. That’s right, it’s Windows XP SP2 that became the basis for stability comparisons even though it had a couple more service packs to come.

And who can forget Vista that was like that one uncle you didn’t quite understand then and still don’t to this day.  Being a Microsoft Gold Partner I had three major issues with Vista. First is that it was slower. Second, it was relatively unstable. The third question begged even more explanation. Why create this User Access Control (not so affectionately known as UAC) that incessantly needed my permission and other interfaces that slowed us down. The familiar ‘Select All’ was hidden under ‘Organize’. Not sure what the two have to with each other to this day.  And I digress.

So now we love Windows 7 as much as we probably can, and are fairly pleased with its ease and performance. Now, the wheel appears to have needed some reinventing. After all, if Apple comes out with a new animal-themed operating system annually, shouldn’t Microsoft as well to ‘keep up with the Joneses’? Nothing could be further from the truth. In fact, if you look at Apple’s Lion versus Mountain Lion, it’s really no more than a service pack-equivalent upgrade. It’s not all new, it’s just got some new features.


Windows 8 promises new features with the stability on Windows 7 and a new Graphical User Interface (GUI), that although will take some getting used to, appears to be worthwhile and will tie Microsoft desktops and mobile devices together nicely. In our first tests, we found it easy to install and use. We loaded a number of programs and all loaded quickly and easily.

To further simplify, there are only two PC versions, Windows 8 and Windows 8 Pro for businesses that require better security and domain integration. Once it’s released on October 26th, upgrades will be $40 until the end of January in an effort to get folks to get an affordable upgrade. Also, a third version, Windows 8 RT, will be available for the tablet market. From experience, I would think you would be able to order Windows 7 or opt for Windows 8 until at least summer and a Service Pack 1 gets it a bit more dialed in. After that, you will need to seriously consider this platform.

As with any business, testing with a couple computers for a spell before a large deployment also makes sense. Also, checking with key software vendors, like your ERP software vendor, is always good idea to ensure you remain on a supported platform.  A little due diligence goes a long way!

 

 

 

Making Sense of IT

I vividly remember the song “If I Had a Hammer” from Peter, Paul & Mary. Having been in IT for some 30 years, a hammer was not always the furthest thing from my mind. A hammer actually has a use in IT, but you’ll need to read a bit further before I tell you what for and why. The point I want to make is that technology is huge, not only in pushing the production possibilities curve and increasing efficiency, but in adding complexity as well. This complexity can become a source of frustration, but being careful not to add unnecessary complexity is a key factor in not only implementation, but also in keeping support costs down.

Understanding the Iceberg.
Take a close look at the drawing to the left. Take special notice that the vast majority of the iceberg is under water. The point here is that the entire iceberg represents TCO, or Total Cost of Ownership. First, there are tangible items, like cost of hardware, software, some labor, and the like. Taking a closer look, there’s the cost of maintaining, administering, training, shortened useful life, replacement strategy, annual support costs, downtime or slowness affecting productivity. In other words, before embarking on this voyage, perform a thorough analysis to understand all aspect and most importantly, understand useful life.

You end up with two product prospects. Solution A has cost of $100,000 and Solution B is $125,000. Solution A has 30% headroom in capacity and Solution B for $125,000 has 100% headroom.

You may try to save money and opt for the item costing $100,000. Say it costs $25,000 to deploy and it won’t include any other costs for the sake of simplicity. So if the item lasts 5 years, your cost is $100,000 + $25,000 for a total of $125,000. Dividing this into 5 years it will cost you $25,000 per year.


By far the biggest mistake folks make is in under buying which ends up affecting useful life.
That is, they sign up for a solution, thinking they are getting a bargain and not considering the needs won’t be met based on current company growth. Folks, a 5-year lease payment will always be infinitely more attractive than a 3-year payment, but it’s important to understand the true TCO. Let’s review this from a 10-year business cycle perspective.

Alas, Solution A was undersized and it only lasted 3-years and had to be replaced prematurely, then replaced a second time for 5 years, and a third time within the ten year period. Costs were $100,000 x 3 = $300,000 for the equipment plus 25,000 X 3 = $75,000 for the deployments. TOTAL COST $375,000 over ten years or $37,500 annually.

Had Solution B been selected, you could have saved some serious coin as it was replaced twice in the same ten-year period. Costs would have been $125,000 x 2 = $250,000 for the equipment plus $25,000 x 2 for the deployments. TOTAL COST $300,000 or $30,000 annually.

In the end, Solution B wins out, as there were only two implementations in the ten-year period. It happens more often than you know. We’re not including support costs and the business disruptions, disposal costs, and other associated costs, so the real TCO is likely somewhat higher.

Now, about that hammer reference at the beginning of the eNewsletter. Once upon a time yours truly worked for a company called Yamaha Corporation of America. I was largely responsible for IT Operations in North America. When reviewing the operations of the PC group, I found a guy that was running a routine on hard drives. He would sit and monitor this program for hours to ensure all data had been written over. I came over and showed that him that with a couple swipes of the hammer (with safety goggles of course) he could do 60 of these hard drive destructions per hour.

CEO’s Quick Reference Guide!

As the person running the company, you need to know a few things about IT. Things like containing costs, knowing when to pull triggers, and knowing when to hold tight for something better coming around the corner.

First off, let’s look at costs. To be in line with industry norms, your costs should be somewhere between 2% at the low end and 5% at the high end of gross sales. The lower number is used when you have more basic needs such as e-mail, phones, a small web site presence, and maybe a server or two. In short, you’re not using an e-commerce model as your lifeblood. The higher number indicates that technology is not only key to your business, but you must continue to make strategic investments to not only sustain, but grow. In short, it’s your competitive lifeblood.

On the basic end, that is closer to 2% and sometimes even less, the real concern is whether you are under spending and not leveraging technology enough. Web sites need a refresh every two to three years, and the search engine optimization (SEO) must put your top twenty phrases on the first page of a Google search. Server and other infrastructure items like firewalls and switches have a useful life of about five years. Laptops and PC as well, but don’t try to save money by not replacing monitors as it’s a small price to pay to ensure you’re folks eyes work well! In short, as long as you’re keeping your equipment fairly current and on a plan to replace 20% of the items per year, it should be a pretty steady cash flow. Keeping software and hardware maintenance contracts is nearly always worth the money with few exceptions.

On the higher end of the spectrum, the question becomes not so much as to whether you need what you are buying, but more so about what you are investing in. Are your investments providing either a) significant savings or b) higher returns in your technology dollar investment than other technology spending? For instance, VMware saves a lot of outfits a lot of money. It involves using less hardware, less electricity, less cooling, with more disaster recovery (DR) ability. It’s a win from every angle possible. The harder decisions lie in weighing the benefit of more strategic items, like upgrading or changing an ERP system or swapping a large data center to 240V to save money on electricity which always increases in cost. This is where strategic planning takes place, and it’s what we do at Roundbrix. We look at the entire picture, but what exactly is that?

The entire picture consists of all the components and needs to be the basis for any metrics and improvements. Included are hardware purchases and leases, support costs, software costs, hardware/software support costs, telephony costs, annual technology-related contracts, ERP costs and others. If you can negotiate multi-year contracts for foreseeable expenses like ERP support, as long as you have the cash and the return is greater than most other investment vehicles, it may make sense to prepay for a few years. Let’s not forget the bills for phone circuit/usage and internet circuits, both of with should be reviewed as often times there are savings to be had there as well. For good measure, if you incur downtime, that too is a cost. We’re strong believers in understanding and planning software and hardware cycles to create the largest win possible. For instance, if you are moving to a different version of ERP application software that is newer, but a large change, buying a server creates a relatively inexpensive, yet strong fallback position. Another example might be that you’re moving. Do you spend $10-$20k out-of-pocket to move that 4-year old phone system? Another option is to buy new or possibly lease it, and only have a payment of $600 or so, saving you $10k-$20k for those larger out-of-pocket items as moves get pricey fast!

At Roundbrix, we’re in our 11th year and have a “been there, done that” set of skills through simply having managed the ship well through many a stormy sea. We know how to keep things afloat and can help you safely to shore!

Roundbrix SEO – Being #1 on Google has its Perks !

Ever since the beginning of the search engine, the coveted prize is in being ranked at the top or very close to it. You see, when folks search for something, more often than not, they won’t scroll down three to five pages to see Google results numbered 30 through 50. Today’s searcher really wants to know how close they can get to what they are looking for without having to go to another page or scrolling down as well! Realistically, I find that folks are a little challenged – as I too had to do some soul searching to figure out what makes sense for my business. So here’s what we have learned:

Select Terms that are not overpopulated. If I search for ‘wine’, I have to wade through 910 million results. If I select ‘red wine’ I pared the field down to a mere 294 million. Wow, that’s a two-thirds reduction!  Now I type in ‘Tempranillo’ (the noble grape of Spain equivalent to the Cabernet Sauvignon grape) and I am down to 7 million results. If I now ask for what I am really looking for ‘tempranillo match‘, I am down to a mere 311 thousand results. Here, I find a site called winematch.com rated #1 that is displaying a number of Tempranillo wines, which was really my end goal.

Here’s the lesson. People are thinking more and typing in more words than ever into search engines in an attempt to narrow their field of search as much as possible. They are looking to find what they can on the first Google results page visible to them. Finding things on the first page greatly reduces our time and frustration factor when looking for stuff. After all, it’s far easier to search through 311 thousand results rather than 910 million.

You can use Google’s Keyword Tool to plug in all the common terms you think people will use to find a business like yours. The tool will show you all the keyword phrases and what kind of traffic in general each receives. Also, it will suggest other phrases along with their traffic and competitiveness on which you might want to also focus.

Page optimization is critical. How each page is optimized is important, but it needs to be built that way. Are those important keywords sprinkled on each page generously without it looking like you intentionally planted them to cater to the search engines?  Remember, you have two audiences here – the people that read them and the search engines. Your site needs to have links that go down to page levels that reinforce what you’re all about. It is allowable to have some redundancy. From a best practice standpoint, mention of a keyword three times on each page brings search engine benefits.

Roundbrix made the decision to build our website based on SEO perspective from the ground up. This enables the website to show up #1 on google for about 20 different phrases because the website was built specifically to get high on the search engines. For example, we did not use any tables. It is recommended to use CSS only so that the search engines have a lot less html code to look through when spidering your website. Also, we enable quite a bit of cross-linking. As an example, from the home page you can access our HP Partner page while at the same time you can also access it under our DATA page and several other pages.

Title importance is most often overlooked. I go to so many sites, and the title is just plain wrong or worst yet empty. A web designer is not a search engine optimization specialist! Remember this – the first sixty (60) characters of the title is what search engines care about the most. Also, the more important keyword phrases should be on the left part of the title. So pull up your web site, highlight over your favicon in the toolbar and see if that agrees with what you believe folks will type into a search bar to find your business. We also find that adding location, like ‘Irvine’ or ‘Orange County’ also helps quite a bit.

Getting a potential new client to your site as an initial introduction is the most important thing. Some websites use something more unique in their title that allows someone to find you, like perhaps an item or service more unique to your business than to others. This increases your odds of being found whereas just using a keyword that is too widely used in your area of product line or service expertise might make the competition a bit too great.

 

Summer Power and San Onofre’s Shutdown

You’ve certainly heard about San Onofre’s shutdown and the reactivation of the Newland Huntington Beach facility. Much like you, I’m wondering what all that might mean to us as the temperature heats up. Applying simple logic and a measure of safety to protect your business is just plain smart. We can be of assistance here!

The Issue
We fully understand that San Onofre’s Nuclear Generating Station capacity serves 1.2 million customers in San Diego and Southern Orange County. I first thought that taking SONGS off-line might affect us, but then, I am reminded that we’re all on one big power grid. After all, how could we forget when we were all down last year when someone in Arizona flipped the wrong switch? Now, this reminds me of how human and how delicate things really are; so, here is my take on the consequences.

If there is not enough power to server the grid, then some things start to kick in, like where the thermostats that are remotely controlled by the power companies, followed by rolling residential (we hope)  blackouts during peak usage hours. This is supposed to help alleviate the load a bit. But what if it’s not enough? Now you have to think through this one.

At the end of the day, if you don’t have power, it’s pretty hard to conduct business. But mitigating extenuating circumstances that can result from a power glitch or shutdown is very important. What I am talking about here is a server, computers or other equipment going down hard – and not coming up!  If it’s a server, that’s going to be expensive. This could easily be your worst nightmare realized!

When Power is Out
Understand the items that do stay up or work when power is out. Laptops have their own battery so that is always a winner, but unless your network is on a battery backup, you may just have to either work locally or ‘tether’ to a  3G or 4G device, like a Smartphone or Tablet. Heck, even auto manufacturers like Audi are turning cars into hot spots so don’t forget this option! Having a couple devices set up with a ‘tether’ before an outage makes sense as scrambling when power is down puts you in line with everyone else. Cell phones and Smartphones will be up as long as you battery will carry you.  Single line telephone lines like a fax or alarm will be up, but unless your phone system is on battery backup, it will go down as well. Do remember that you likely don’t need a very large or expensive UPS (battery backup) to keep a phone system powered and the lines themselves are backed up by the phone company as that is mandated as it is considered a lifeline service. In short, the phone lines don’t go down, but the items connected to it are usually do, creating phone downtime.

When Power comes back on
When power is out, you’ll want to unplug sensitive and expensive devices, like copiers. This is beneficial because when power has been restored, for a few minutes the power fluctuatates from so much equipment coming up at one time. This places an excessive load on the grid and may under or overcompensate, creating surges or worse yet, low voltage conditions. These two types of events cause the most damage. We recommend that you wait for power to have been restored for about ten minutes before starting to turn items to ensure that the power will stay up .

How to Mitigate your Risk
Here’s hindsight in a nutshell. Your computers and printers should have surge protectors at the minimum. If there are very critical computers, spend the $60 and get them a UPS. Servers should have a battery backup that has shutdown intelligence. This means that when the battery begins to be depleted, say 25% remaining, it should be able to tell the server to shut down as it does not know if it will be able to sustain the server until the power returns. It is far better to shut servers down in an orderly manner, and simply have to reboot them when the power has been restored, then to have to call us in and perform a rebuild at significant cost; not to mention the impact of being down for an undefined amount of time on your business .

If you’re not sure how well protected you are, or want to confirm your belief that you are protected, give us a call.

We’ve been down this road before, so you don’t have to!