Dusting ourselves off!

Now that we have taken this ‘virtual beating’ with COVID-19, much like falling off the horse and having it rollover on you, we need to dust ourselves and carry on. It’s in the American blood. We are truly a resilient people with great resolve. WW1, WW2, 9/11 and on. So take a good look at this video and we’ll talk about what happened next, which is the real story.

I was filming this and when it happened, I ran into the arena with my daughter down, and watched her slowly stand up. I did not panic, I waited to see the outcome. Her face had been pushed into the dirt and darker lines were coming down from her eyes where my little one, then 12, fought back the tears. She seemed to be ok, and the FIRST THING she did was check on the horse, Toby, to make certain he was ok and structurally sound from the fall. A selfless act. The dirt had been a little damp and deep and Tennessee Walkers aren’t famous for barrel racing for good reason, but this was truly unexpected, much like COVID-19.

I had someone else hold my horse and ran out there, still filming, quite by accident. The arena judge looked at me and asked if I wanted control of the arena at that point as she knew it was my daughter, as I too am a Gymkhana Judge (CGA). I said  ‘yes’, and she said “Your Arena, Judge”, at which point I knew what had to happen. I looked at my daughter, and said “Rider, what would you like to do?”. Without hesitation she answered, “I came here to ride and I’d like to finish the course”. “Rider Up” and she then mounted Toby, and with determination and grit, not only got back on, but finished the course fast and well, to a standing ovation of over 150 folks. The “higher up” girl riders that snubbed her as she was younger and less experienced, gathered around her as if she was a pot of gold, praising her courage. It is with that same courage we need to face the changes that are now in front of us as a people, as a world. Yes, things will change, but it truly doesn’t ruin everything any more that this event ruined her life. Yes it had the potential, but the point is it didn’t, and for that I remain thankful. We as Americans, have so much to be thankful for, we can’t let this situation “ruin everything”. In fact, it’s not capable of running everything unless we let it. It’s that simple.

That day will forever be etched in my mind, as I am not so foolish to think there could not have been a different outcome. But I also realized that she became a different person that day. A stronger person, yet with a cautious component. Fortunately, the horse also realized he was falling and did what he could to cushion the fall as he used her as a soft doorstop, like a soggy newspaper. Comparatively, we won’t forget the COVID-19 and the havoc it wreaked on lives, our way of life and roiled the markets. But hey, things could be a LOT worse folks. We could have TRUE food shortages, or a tainted water supply. We’re going to be OK and it will certainly take a while to restore our nerve endings. IMG_3302

I also learned of human determination, not mine – hers, and what we are capable of after having taken a fall. She’s American and by default, that makes her strong, I hope this has provided some small amount of inspiration so when the time comes that our lives return to some level of normalcy, we’re not shy about getting back in the arena, even if we’re not quite 100%. Yes, that’s a cast on her arm!

Safe and Sane? Enter COVID-19….

I first heard the ‘Safe and Sane’  phrase back when fireworks were legal in my hometown of Huntington Beach, California. It seems that right now that we don’t feel either safe nor sane. It’s just plain craziness. Separating action from reaction and overreaction are simply blurred lines. We need to do something but don’t always know exactly what. Surely they’ll be some movies out after this calms down. Truth told, we won’t need to see it as we lived it. Maybe something for the next generation.

Are you prepared? Are you safe? These days, it’s like saying are you prepared for having the roof fall on you while you’re fast asleep? Or being unexpectedly served divorce papers? Maybe being hit by a car? Or Revelation if you’re a believer like me?

WITH COVID-19, OF COURSE WE’RE NOT PREPARED. THING IS, NOBODY IS!

But it also does not mean panic should ensue! I am blessed to work with horses and they are one of my main passions. What I learned EARLY on is when a trash bag flies in the face of your equine and it starts to lose it, you CANNOT,  or you are on the ground and your horse is off and running off probably to a bad ending for both of you. Think ER. You need to be in control and a calming force, words that are not often used together. Control is key as shown below.

Toby KH1

With all the information on COVID-19 coming out, a gathering of truly sanitized and verified information, a little calm (sky is not falling, but yeah, it’s raining pretty hard) and acting in the best interest of those we love should carve the path in figuring out what we need to do from here. The amount of misinformation is appalling and a major contributing factor to panic. We’re going to survive this, but will need an industrial strength umbrella on this one, metaphorically speaking. The data we receive  may need more scrubbing than the surfaces we wipe.

I’m no longer a ‘young man’ by any stretch of the imagination, but I know a thing or two as I’ve seen a thing or two. No, this is not a Farmer’s Insurance commercial, even though I hear it playing in my head right now. As much as I’ve seen, I’ve not seen caca like this since birth. Yet even in this unprecedented scenario, certain things remain true.

  • My loved ones love me and I love them. No force on earth is capable of changing that!
  • We’re all hurting, some more than others. Perfect time to go into ‘kindness’ mode!
  • People with really serious illnesses like cancer, leukemia, ALS, MD, EDS suffer more than most. Many will not get better and they know it.
  • People will act, react and overreact. It’s a fight or flight instinct built into each of us. Be patient with one another.
  • This won’t last forever. Might not feel that way today, but we’ll get there!
  • We need to believe things will get better. The mind is a very powerful force.
  • Never has kindness to fellow man counted more. Speaks for itself.

Faith is truly believing in something that is worth believing in, even though some evidence might appear be to the contrary. I say ‘appear’ as things are not always what they ‘appear’ to be. For example, it appeared Hillary was going to beat Donald in the 2016 presidential election. It also appeared that toilet paper disappeared in MY Costco (ok, maybe it did, but it’s back!). It appears I have far less retirement than I had a month, though that one might just also be true. But hey, its only money and we need to remember that. It is really about our family, those we love and embrace and those we let out in the morning and protect our precious IT resources this day in age. Firewall plus some “my, what large teeth you have”  gets it done!

IMG_8681

I am proud of our federal government for doing what it can, as it’s decisive action. There’s no script for how to do this correctly as it’s never happened before. We’ll look back and see how we could have done it better, but that’s all hindsight 2020, how ironic. We didn’t create this mess, but we have to react to it, clean it up and lick our wounds. To look back and say we weren’t prepared for anything like this I find a bit silly. How much would ‘we the people’ have wanted to spend to prepare for what might never happen in this magnitude when we are $23T in debt? No one would had voted for it.

This is what is called a “best effort” and this is exactly what is happening. It’s what you do at home when making dinner. Or consoling your kid when they fall and skin their knee. It’s how you raise your kids. It’s how you run your business. It’s how you make wine. It’s what you do when the toilet backs up. We’re all doing our best and kudos to so many for having their hearts in the right place.

I find the unity during these time to be humbling wish it would last forever.

 

 

Costco Member since 1988-and a request!

My name is Ed Leard. Back in the day when I was a young warthog, there was Gemco, Fedco, and Fedmart. My dad loved Fedmart as they had generic beer. White can, light blue stripe and the word ‘beer’. Those stores were ok, but then came the day the Price Club opened up in Fullerton, California. Now that became a game changer and I had to lay eyes upon the wonderment. I researched it. Yes, a guy named Sol Price who had started Fedmart, started Price Club. Cool stuff, some in bulk like toilet paper, that you’ll use eventually. With this model, there were only two challenges. First was “Do I have the extra monies as I know in the end I will save?” and “where do I put this stuff until I use it?” . Solve those two questions and you’re there!

Then it became Costco and I had to make certain it was a good thing, which it was. Trust and Value are the two things I take away from Costco from Day 1 to this day, some 32 years later. I trust they will always do the right thing and they will always provide the best value out there. And then their produce and fresh meat game improved. Was this shopping Nirvana?

At some point, maybe twenty years ago, it became not just a ‘big box’ store, but my corner grocery store. I had to walk more to get to it from the parking lot, but “I could use the exercise” I told myself. As the world has shifted from eating a lot of beef, I find chicken and fish are on my menu more often. So I went to my local Heather Ridge Costco in Laguna Niguel and spoke to the meat guys. They told me that the fresh fish arrives Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday mornings. Roger that! I love fish, but it’s got to be fresh. I can go there to pick up lettuce, rotisserie chicken, or a good bottle of red, with many if them branded Kirkland, like Gigondas in the south of France to Napa Cabernet Sauvignon. Yeah, I’m a real wine guy and the best wine buys are there,  without a doubt! Right now it’s the NAPA CAB for $15 that is outstanding and will see me through these tough times!

And then,  as if value wasn’t enough, they brought us cheaper gasoline and started a rebate program with American Express where I got money for doing nothing differently. I was elated at them upping the ante, even though it was not necessary. They made things better without being asked – how often does that happen in your life?  It was then I felt that they really care. And now with the Citibank, I get even more. And 30 years later, the hot dog and a drink are still $1.50, though I lament the loss of the polish sausage.

See the source image

Now with this COVID-19 thing, my Costco looks a bit like a war zone. I feel like “my Costco” has been invaded by aliens that need far more toilet paper than us humans. Yeah, I take it personally. So where once I would spend more time than I should browsing aisles to see what’s new, knowing if I don’t buy it now, there are zero guarantees it would be there tomorrow. Sadly, I am avoiding my home away from home, my weekly adventure of seeing what’s new, awaiting the day normalcy returns to my Costco.

Who I really feel for are the people I’ve gotten to know that work there, like Marcela and Angie, Bob, and Chris at the door while leaving, Mark at the photo department who treats people wonderfully, Michael at Customer service, whose grand stature might make you think twice about being unreasonable and Mallory, who recently had a baby. And let’s not forget Bata at the wine section, giving me endless tips and he’s pretty ‘Johhny on the spot’ on his wine recommendations. Millard, ALWAYS there with a smile and kindness. And you cannot tell the bosses from the non-bosses as they work just as hard as one another! I could probably name 80% of the folks at my Costco, but I’ll stop here. The point is, even with this rush and the messes people leave behind during this craze, THEY REMAIN THE NICEST PEOPLE.

About 15 years ago, I invested in Costco stock. It was a direct result of my Dad telling me they treat their people well in a survey. How can we not invest in those that lead in making this a better place for the working man or woman?  I then researched the CEO Jim Sinegal. I found he was among the lesser paid CEOs of a larger corporation. That sat well with me then and still does to this day. In 2012, the reigns changed from Jim to Craig Jelinek, who has been with Costco since 1984.  No one of us is worth 1,000 times than the other, I thought, and there is nothing like ‘walking the walk’ or ‘working as hard as the guy or gal next to you’.

So here’s my request. I ask you treat the people at Costco with the utmost kindness and respect as I think falling short of actually having COVID-19, they have it the toughest at this point in trying to please us all, the rational, the irrational and the plain crazies.

I won’t tell you the category I fall into. I’ll let them tell you!

TO ALL COSTCO PEOPLE – WE LOVE YOU!

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!

The “Every Other Upgrade” Methodology

Keeping up with technology has to be one of the hardest things to do. There is a point of diminishing return, that is to say, when the cost of a project far outweighs both the benefit and the need. Here are a few cases in point, and how we work to keep your dollars working for you.

In reviewing this methodology, these are the components to consider:

Evaluate the useful life of the hardware platform. We see server hardware lasting from five to seven years on average. A little extra RAM. CPU and disk may make the difference between an ‘early retirement’ and a full life.

Look at the number of major software releases in the useful life of the hardware platform. What we mean by major is fairly intuitive to us, but not to all. Here are a few examples:

In employing the ‘Every Other Upgrade’ methodology, just follow either the Orange or Blue tracks, but not both.

Common Sense Factor. We now apply some serious common sense.
Reasons to upgrade are as follows:

  • I need the new version because it will help my business andit is worth the cost
  • I am replacing the hardware and it only makes sense to bite off the upgrade as the old hardware gives me a great fallback position for transition
  • IMPORTANT NOTE 1: If we are talking PC operating systems, you MUST make certain that ALL necessary applicationsare supported
  • IMPORTANT NOTE 2: If we are talking Server Operating systems or SQL versions, you need to ensure that the applications and databases will support the newer versions.

The ‘other’ costs to always consider are the business interruption time, new software relicensing costs, and the labor – both in house and outsourced. In other words, there may be a ‘better’ time to do this from the cash flow and business cycle (slower time) that may make more business sense.

If you need any help in your decision-making, give us a call!

 

Roundbrix – Disaster Recovery Site and Private Cloud Services!

As we have grown in size and in our abilities and skills, we have also increased our prowess to serve. Specifically with virtualization, complete managed hosting and high availability, we not only are able to host web site and database servers as we do currently, but we can also support real-time and offline database replication and private cloud services. Yep, more capability and functionality is the name of this game.

What this means to you is simply being able to do more and sleep better for less. More peace of mind is gained by knowing that folks that have been around more than ten years in the technology sphere with over 100 years of experience collectively have your back. At the end of the day, better value and data protection is what the advancing technology brings. This Plan B thinking also raises a few questions to you which you need to have the answers and be quite comfortable with those answers.

      • What would happen if a fire consumed your current location?
      • What would you wish you had access to, like e-mail, database, files, programs?
      • Where are your backups and how current are they?
      • What if you had to recover from backups – what’s your confidence level?
      • How long can you go without access to systems before losing clients?
      • Are you working with technology folks that are seasoned and will have your back?

Answering these questions will likely help you identify possible gaps in your business continuity plan. It’s also about ensuring that the business is well-protected, no matter what! Protecting the business also means to protect those loyal folks that you employ, and trust in me when I say; these folks are your best asset. Long ago, I used to think that getting customers was the hardest thing. It’s not easy, but it pales in comparison of finding great folks that will carry out business execution consistent with the vision that is laid out, as it’s the only way a business can scale.

Description: http://www.mytravelingstory.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/02/low-cost.jpgNow you’re probably wondering about what all this must cost. The good news is that it’s probably not as expensive as you might think. What’s key in any business enterprise is economy of scale and this is no different. At Roundbrix, we accomplish this by buying bandwidth in greater quantity and leveraging physical hardware using virtualization with all devices arranged in a high availability (HA) array. The true beauty of this solution is in the simplicity of mature technology. It couldn’t be more logical!

So whether you need to securely host an entire front and back end web solution, want to replicate a database or web presence to limit your data loss exposure, or are in need of a private managed cloud, we can be that solution for you!

Leverage newer proven technology. It’s just smart, plain smart.

 

 

Six Keys to Avoiding Data Loss

At Roundbrix, we take data very seriously. After all, it’s the only thing we really cannot replace. Given that, there’s a few safeguards that we recommend so your data sleeps as well as you do!

1. Know Where Your Data Lives. This may sound silly, but what if you had nightly backups running, lost something, and went to restore the data only to find out you weren’t backing it up? Folks, this happens more than you would ever want to know. Often times data is on desktops when it should really be on a server where it gets backed up. Good company policy and procedures with occasional QA here is best practice.

And remember, if you install a new program on the server, create a new volume on a server or a new database, know that it has to be selected to be backed up. Just because it’s on the server doesn’t mean it’s backed up!

2. Backup Nightly with a Verify Pass. This is key to ensure that your data is restorable from the media. We used to call this “read after write” as it simply verifies that what is believed it wrote is indeed what can be read back. A simple check box verifies that all is well come ‘restore‘ time!

3. Take a Backup Offsite at Least Weekly. This is where you have to think through your pain threshold for data loss. In other words, if you’re building burned down, would losing a week’s worth of data make it even more painful? If the answer is an emphatic ‘YES’, then that means you need to take a tape offsite more frequently than weekly. Do remember a couple of things about taking tapes offsite. First rule is they don’t survive well in heat or moisture so get a proper transport and storage container. Second rule is ensure it is secure as the tape includes all your company information and if misplaced, creates a liability. You’ll want to account for your tapes periodically to ensure one didn’t ‘fly the coup’. If you’re a Roundbrix client, you can use our secure biometric-secured facility to store your backup data as frequently as you would like.

4. Periodic Reviews of What is Being Backed Up. This little step that we like to do every quarter to catch new areas created. Face it, we get busy and things fall through the cracks as we’re only human. Also, we occasionally find new databases that not only aren’t being backed up, but not set up properly for maintenance, safety and controlling growth. To know how to set up a database maintenance plan, see the article we previously wrote here.

5. Redirect My Document Folder to Server using Group Policy. Desktops and laptops will fail, but what’s important is that it does not take sensitive company data with it. Also, if it gets stolen or misplaced, has this just put your entire company at risk? Folks, keeping autonomy between the company data and the desktop/laptop device any more than absolutely required is simply good business. One of these failing should not send dangerous ripples through an organization like “Oh, Ed had all the company financials and client lists on his computer and now they are gone!”

6. Know How You Would Restore From Scratch. In a crisis situation, this is not the time to “figure things out”. We have “been there and done that” so rest assured we can get you back to where you need to be is short time. After all, the name of the game is first prevention, and secondly restoration. If the restorations took a month, what would be the point?

Current Projects

  • Access to SQL Database Conversion
  • Server upgrades
  • High Availability Firewall upgrades
  • Network Engineering and Performance Monitoring
  • – MAS Migrations

SQL Database Best Practices!

SQL MAINTENANCE PROGRAM:

Having a good solid maintenance strategy as part of your SQL Server database is a necessity for any company with a business critical application. It can be the difference of being down for a few minutes vs. being down for an entire day or several days. It can also manage space on the server better and if done correctly, can improve performance of the database dramatically.

The first part of a good database management strategy is to plan your backups. For a database that is frequently used and important to the company we recommend the following standard maintenance plan. In general it’s a good idea to do a full backup twice a day and transaction log backups hourly so you can easily restore the database up to the hour within minutes.

1. Back Up Full Databases Twice Daily

There are three Recovery Models

a. Full Recovery Model   –   What Roundbrix mostly uses. Safest mode of operation for production systems.

b. Bulk-Logged Recovery Model   –   Has minimum logging for bulk import operations. Space allocation and deallocation is only logged for bulk import operations. Basically a few limitations.

c. Simple Recovery Model   –   No transaction log maintenance needed. Recoverability of the database is very limited to a specific time frame.

If a database doesn’t change often, Simple Recovery Model may be an option. (i.e. a database that imports all the data from Quickbooks from previous day, etc.). The data is only used for reporting, so the Simple Recovery Model would work fine if timed properly. (after data is inputted from QB).

2. Back Up Transaction Log Files Hourly

A database has two components, data file(s) and transaction logs. A transaction log captures the modifications made to the database. A SQL server must have at least one transaction file.

With the Full Recovery Model, it is important to backup the transaction logs frequently so the database can be restored up to the point in time when the problem occurred. A transaction log backup will truncate the inactive portion of the transaction log.

The transaction log can get large and the file size will not be reduced when it is truncated after a transaction log backup. This simply shifts the pointer within the existing file as to where the space is to be freed up.

3. Rebuild Indexes Weekly

Rebuilding indexes should be done weekly during off-hours as this can sometimes be intensive and slow down the database. It is important to rebuild the indexes to optimize performance of the database. You can think of this like defragmenting your hard drive. After it is completed, everything runs just a little smoother and faster because space is optimized properly (doesn’t take as long to figure out where a record goes during an insert or update).

4. Update Statistics Daily

It is also a good idea to create a maintenance plan to update statistics daily. This optimizes space in the tables and can have an impact on improving performance of the database. If this never gets done (which sometimes happens in databases that are not maintained) performance can slowly degrade until it becomes a serious problem, adversely affecting application performance.

TYPICAL BACKUP PLAN FOR A DATABASE THAT IS BUSINESS-CRITICAL:

PROPER AND OPTIMAL DATABASE DESIGN:

One of the most common problems we’ve seen is applications where a query takes over 30 seconds only to find that one of the fields in that query has not been indexed. Beyond looking at the queries in your application to make sure the fields that are in your “WHERE” clauses are all indexed, there are some tools that can help. Using Microsoft SQL Server Profiler in combination with Database Engine Tuning Advisor is the easiest way to find slow queries and see what indexes may be missing, which could help improve the performance of your application.

For SQL Server Profiler first, select “Tuning”. Next, select the “Events Selection” tab, and then the “Column Filters…” option and “Duration”. Select the Greater than or equal to 3000, as we want to see queries taking over 3 seconds.

After about an hour of running the profiler, stop it. You should save the file to one that can be imported into a “Database Engine Tuning Advisor”. Run it to have the tool point out what can be optimized. Usually you can accept most of the suggestions from Database Engine Tuning Advisor and see a dramatic increase in performance.

The other important thing to look at in a database is how well normalized it is. Normalization is important so that information is not duplicated. One example is a company we worked with used 12 different excel sheets to keep track of similar information. However data that was supposed to be consistent throughout the different excel files was spelled differently and listed multiple times where it should have referenced by a table with a unique ID and one consistent value. We moved these 12 excel sheets into one database and created separate tables for the columns so information was normalized. This allowed the customer to do more sophisticated and accurate queries on their data.

The information above, when properly normalized, should be put into three tables as shown below. This way, “Hardy Boys” only needs to be updated once.

PROPER NAMING CONVENTION IS ALSO IMPORTANT:

Naming a foreign key differently from the primary key that it references can be very confusing to programmers. If the fields are named properly and referenced properly, it can save countless hours of confusion. I typically name the primary key as the table name with “ID” after it. So if Book is the table, BookID is the primary key. This is a pretty common way to name primary keys which will make it easier for programmers to understand more quickly.

It is also important to make sure you keep an ER (Entity-Relationship) Diagram. This is very easy with SQL Server by right clicking on Database Diagrams and selecting “New Database Diagram”. Then you can link the primary/foreign keys here and also add/update fields to the database-making database management tool very easily. Make sure all the tables are in the diagram and connected properly to the other tables that they should be connected to.

By following the tips above, you should have a solid robust database that will allow your company to grow without having to worry about database issues. For a free database analysis call the experts at roundbrix at 949.273.5200.

Ed

Ten Ways to Slash IT Costs!

Internet Circuit – Important to know is which carriers provide service to your building and their transport offerings. For reliability, fiber rules the roost. But some areas have more than one carrier so you need to compare offerings. Also realize that you don’t have to wait for one contract to expire to re-up at a better rate, if you plan on staying with the same carrier. Additionally, know what offerings are available as a change in architecture may make doing business more cost effective. For example, using offerings like Cox’s Metro-E offering which connects one site to another via Layer 2 Ethernet.

Unused phone lines – Go through the bills and call every number on there. Remember you’ll have a few lines that may be dedicated to your burglar alarm, elevator, or fire notification system. Other than that, you need to know where they all go and lose the ones that are not in use.

SIP Trunks or Voice PRI versus CO Lines – On the telephony side, if you have more than 10 lines, you may want to compare the cost to see what SIP trunks or a dedicated PRI may cost. If you have to add a piece of equipment, often times the carrier has a promotion and will chip in here. Remember, their goal is to get you off of analog lines as we move to the all-digital world.

Server Warranties – Deciding out of the gate when purchasing a server how long you will keep it will always benefit you, as opposed to extending at a higher price a couple years down the line. Face it, when cutting the initial deal to get the server, it’s more aggressive discounting. But once you’re on it, you lose the leverage on price negotiation as they know it would always be less expensive to renew a contract for server maintenance then bite-off another server deployment.

Deployment Turns – Getting these reduced makes a ton of sense. Let’s look at a 10-year period. If you replace servers every 3 years, it’s three turns in that ten-year period, but every 5 years, it’s only two turns. If you push a server to seven years, it’s only one turn every ten years for the first couple decades. Exchange servers, as one example, are typically goof for 5-7 years.

Printer Consumables – Face it, the cost of the printer is rarely an issue. This day in age, with paper reduction a strategic initiative, it makes sense. The goal should be have fewer, strategically-placed printers going forward and limit color. And it’s not just the cost of the paper and paper-handling printers, it’s the ink and the time for finding that one piece of a paper in our paper jungle. Time to kick this paper habit.

Multi-Year Domain and SSL Renewals – Instead of doing this every year, do it every so many. You not only get a break for multi-year, you’re not revisiting the same task every year. SSL certificates should only be extended until the end of the useful life of your Exchange server.

Buy Second Hand Equipment – Yep, you heard me right. Often times, we run into situations on two-to- three-year old hardware. We had an APC environment monitoring system that crapped out. We probably spent $1,500 on the unit, $500 on different probes for water detection, humidity, and others, plus programmed it meticulously, saving the configuration file of course. It simply crapped out. To replace it would cost me about $2k plus the time to learn a new system, and reprogram/fine tune it. Instead, I found a used one on eBay for $100 and voila, the out-of-pocket cost to get back to where I was came to a couple hundred bucks, labor included and we simply had to reload the our configuration. Also, try the folks at MetrolineDirect.com for used phone equipment.

ElectricityAll the newer UPS and Servers can run on 208VAC. This will save about 15-20% on your electric bill as it pulls down half the amps or less. Also, if PC’s can be turned off, especially on weekends when interior air conditioning may not be operating and interior office temperatures can soar, causing PC failures. Printer and copying machines nearly all have a sleep mode as well that can save a bit.

Labor Smart – Often times, I see a high-end IT tech pulling cables, or doing more menial tasks, even though their backlog is huge. This just does not make business sense. Reviewing to ensure you have your most cost-effective resource, even if that means getting someone outside to perform the task. Face it – you don’t use a pickup truck when a Prius will do!

We also hope you will all enjoy a great Fourth of July weekend!

Ed