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.


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!

Seven Ways to Reduce IT Costs

We at Roundbrix see this as a new economy. A recalibrated economy, examining every dollar and ensuring the best use of that dollar. In a word, true value must exist.

From our years in the field and in the finance offices, we assembled a few tips to help you control the Total Cost of Ownership (TCO) for your shop. Without further adieu, here is the list.

Deploy PCs in Quantities of two or more. Whether you are using in house resources or outsource your IT, this is a winning strategy. Let’s say to assemble from out of boxes, build, load software, deploy, migrate data, and QA with the user takes three hours for a single unit. For two units, it would take about 4 hours, reducing the cost to two hours per unit built and deployed. Three units would take maybe 5 hours. The cost per unit goes down until you deploy 5, then it stays the same unless you start imaging, then the cost goes down anew.

Deploy Servers in Quantities. The same methodology applies here, but not to the same extent nor the same economy of scale, unless they fulfill the same purpose. If a server build and deployment cycle takes 20 hours, two might take 30-35 hours, but still some savings here, unless they are domain controllers, then all bets are off as these are always a bit more complex.

Group Policy (GPO) Usage. This one item is incredibly multi-faceted. This really leverages the benefit of having a domain. This is where you can manage items in total or in groups of computers or user types. Say for instance you have twenty people in marketing that use a Xerox machine. The machine craps out, and you need to redirect all their print jobs to the Xerox on the second floor, but it’s a different model. With Group Policy, it would take a few minutes, if that, whereas without Group Policy you would need to visit all 20 desktops. Using Group Policy will save money, time after time.

Use Cox for Internet and Voice PRI circuits. Right now, these folks are the best game in town, bar none. This includes cost, quality of services, reliability (up time), communication, and you actually talk to the same folks, time and time again. We see Cox as the Costco of voice and data services. They have also extended their reach into new territory and continue to do so at a rapid rate. If they didn’t service you area a year ago, they very well may now.

Buy HP G7 Servers. When it comes to rapid deployment and ease of maintaining current firmware, HP has the edge. The cost is not only cheaper than Dell a lot of times, but they offer this incredible package called ICE. ICE stands for Insight Control Environment and includes a set of tools like Craftsman for a mere $300! From being able to rapidly deploy multiple servers, to having full troubleshooting via ILO-3 (Integrated Lights Out) which reports consolidated multiple HP server statuses to the System Insight Manager (SIM), which in turn, sends out notifications. So if a fan, power supply, or hard drive fails, you know about it the second it happens. An additional neat thing about the G7 is it’s built in SAS port on the outside. Adding a tape drive or additional storage has never been easier. No more SCSI cards!

Review Phone Bill in Detail. We can only begin to tell you what we see. When you get a phone bill, you go on auto-pilot and may just pay it. This might warrant a review once or twice a year. Three things that drive up costs typically go wrong here. The first item is as lines are not used, they are typically not disconnected, so you pay every month for facilities you no longer use. The second item is falling out of contract with some carriers, like Verizon, resulting in immediate large rate hikes. The third thing is to pay attention not only for the cost per minute, but the billing increments as well. It seems that folks are pretty good for domestic toll-free and long distance (you should not be paying more than $.03 per minute for either of these), but a lot of money is made in the local market, that is Zones 1,2, and 3. Some carriers, like Cox, will include all local traffic for a flat fee. If you do a lot here, say more than $100 per month, it’s worth jumping on this offer.

Pre-Purchase Maintenance Contracts for full useful life of hardware. If you buy a server or PC and plan to keep it for 5 years, it is far cheaper to buy the maintenance up front, than to buy a 3-year, and then renew for two more. According to what we have seen, 50% or more can be saved here. Face it, when it comes to servers, you want to maximize their useful life to minimize the number of technology turns (redeployments) so you minimize your IT labor costs over the long haul. We have bought a server from Dell a few years back and bought it with 3 years maintenance, as that was all they offered back then. The initial cost was about $800 for 3 years. When we went to renew for two more, it was $1,200 more. So we have $2,000 out-of-pocket here. Today, you can get 5-year contracts that are much more cost-effective and protect your investment without the hassle or cost of having to renew.

In short, these are some great ways to save a few dollars that can be better used for other purposes. We have more ways to save money as well and would be glad to set up a time to discuss cost-saving opportunities with you. To start the New Year off right, why not give us a call and make saving money your New Year’s resolution.

Happy 2011!

Ed Leard