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21 Jul

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Summer – Vacation Time!

July 21, 2011 | By | No Comments

In Kansas City, there’s no way to miss the fact that summer is here.  100 degree days with high humidity zap your energy and make the office warm in the afternoon.  It’s also vacation time!

I strongly encourage you to find time to unwind and recharge this summer.  Burnout affects us all, and a short break will lead you back into the office with renewed energy and a better attitude.  A friend posted a quote on Facebook yesterday “The world is full of people who will go through their whole lives and not actually LIVE one day”.  A vacation is an investment that will generate great returns.

Last month, my family took a roadtrip vacation to Nashville and Memphis, with a day trip to Space Camp in Huntsville, AL.  (Space Geek side notes:  In the past 3 years we have been to Space Camp, the Smithsonian Air & Space, Kansas Cosmosphere, Kennedy and Johnson.  My wife will probably put her foot down next summer!  First trip back to Space Camp since I attended for 2 weeks in 1989.  It’s an amazing place that has only gotten better over the years.)   During normal life at home, our family of five is going all different directions with friends, practices and games, so it’s refreshing to spend extended time with all of us together.  When we get back home, we actually miss each other for a few days!  I actually left my cell phone behind most days (gasp!) and survived!  It’s easy to overlook how pervasive technology has become over the past 10 years – make sure your vacation includes not just a physical break from work, but a mental one as well.  Even just a couple of days will make a difference, and it WILL be ok!

23 May

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Learning Opportunity, teleworking in the future

May 23, 2011 | By | No Comments

Have you seen KhanAcademy.com?  This website claims you can watch and learn almost anything, for free.  It seems to be true, with over 2100 videos ranging from algebra, chemistry & physics to the banking bailout and Fed policy, there is something for everyone to learn.   The videos are pretty informative and broken up into nice 10-20 minute chunks.  Check it out on a rainy day and learn something new!

I caught a great article on working remotely by Greg Lindsay in the Southwest Airlines Spirit magazine this month.   I especially like his theory he calls the Law of Connectivity – every technology meant to circumvent distances electronically has only stoked our desire to traverse the distances ourselves.

These technologies, from the telegraph and telephone to the Internet and video conferencing, have allowed us to expand our social and business networks exponentially.   But rather than replace our need to meet face to face, we have even more dreams to meet in person – today along with business meetings, we have “tweetups” and trips to meet our Facebook and LinkedIn friends, many for the first time in person.  As a result, the number of air passengers has doubled in the Internet era.

For many, this ever increasing nomadic lifestyle means they don’t need a “real” office.   Most of the IT vendors I work with on a daily basis are highly virtual.  Over 40% of IBM’s employees work from home or a client office, and 33% of AT&T’s managers also work remotely.

The benefits to the company are huge – lower physical costs such as rent and utilities, and a distributed workforce that can more quickly respond to client needs.  Certainly, the right person also enjoys some benefits of working remotely, and many are more productive than they would be in a large office.   This demographic works from home, airports, coffee shops and executive suites.

This movement is leading to new developments such as Mesa del Sol in Albuquerque, NM (btw – one of my favorite destinations).  Located right near the airport, Mesa del Sol is a new, planned community aimed at the remote worker.  The community will be small, walkable and self-contained.  The homes will all sport a purpose built home office, equipped for the teleworker and separated from the rest of the house.  Scattered throughout will be shared meeting rooms and on-call support staff.   What a fun trend to watch!  Check out the full article here: http://www.spiritmag.com/click_this/article/the_corporate_latter/.

23 May

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20 Years, Four Plans

May 23, 2011 | By | No Comments

May 2011 marks the 20th anniversary for Network Innovations!  When reaching an important milestone like this, many choose to focus on statistics:  it is true that over the past 20 years, we have served hundreds of small business customers, generated millions in revenue and supported many families through our employees.  But I believe the real legacy of our company is much more than facts and figures.  It is in the people – the relationships that have been built, the companies we have helped grow and reach their goals – the people that we have walked alongside as they struggled with life issues, and celebrated life successes.  The truth is, the technology stuff is really irrelevant.  Sure, that is the platform we use to serve our clients, but I can assure you not one of our clients from 1991 is still using their Lantastic peer to peer network.  In fact, you probably aren’t using much of anything we installed more than five or six years ago.  What people remember and love about our company is in the interaction of people – not the mechanics of business.

We have to make money to pay the bills and keep the lights on. It is important to have enough profit to make payroll so our employees keep coming to work.  But the critical component of what we do is in the serving – not the selling. It is in meeting the needs of people – in being a true part of your team.  If we take care of people, I believe good things happen. That is the legacy of Network Innovations.    THANK YOU for being a part of it.

Another thing milestones are good for is reminding use to take time for assessments and planning.  Yes, I just groaned right along with you.  Planning is hard, it’s not fun, it’s not fast.  However, it’s simply mandatory if you intend to be successful.  One of my favorite quotes from President Dwight Eisenhower sums it up well “In preparing for battle I have always found that plans are useless, but planning is indispensable”.

You might recall that I am an active member of an IT Peer Group – I meet quarterly with 11 peers that own IT businesses around the US.  Our goal is not just to be successful in business, but to be successful in life.  With that in mind, we prepare four plans, and we choose one each quarter to review and revise.  Many (certainly not all) business owners have a Business Plan – but have you thought about these other plans?

Leadership Plan  – Answers the questions:

  • What will you do specifically to lead your company to achievement and success?
  • What will you do specifically to lead your family to achievement and success?
  • How will you achieve your commitments?  Key milestones, priorities and dependencies for success

Life Plan  – Answers the questions:

  • Why do I get up each morning and do what I do?
  • How will you battle the balance between life and work?
  • What important life priorities do you intend to accomplish over the next 12 months?
  • Should involve the most important people in your life, should include your “bucket list”

Legacy Plan – Answers the questions:

  • How will you live?
  • What will the impact of my life be after I am gone?
  • What is my PERSONAL mission statement?
  • Should include:  Will & Estate plans, a spreadsheet of key information necessary to manage your life if you are impacted by illness or death
  • Reduce stress, difficult decisions and family conflict

Preparing my four plans helped me to define who I am, and who I want to be when I grow up.  I use the plans for guidance when making difficult decisions, and they allow me to be confident that I am on the road to success in life.  If you are interested in preparing “The Four Plans that change Everything” for yourself, contact me and I’ll be happy to get you started!

27 Apr

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Video Conferencing, Spam, Typewriters!

April 27, 2011 | By | No Comments

video2Does your phone system also provide Chat and Video Conferencing?  How about cell phones?  Ask me about our new solution from Zultys!  Not only do you receive secure, corporate Instant Messaging (to cell phones as well), but desktop video conferencing with up to 4 parties, full cell phone client and integration, and VERY powerful rules to control how your calls are handled in different scenarios – WITH Outlook calendar integration!  I would love to show you how Zultys could benefit your company.

What a crazy month!  In mid-March, a spam “botnet” called Rustock was identified and taken offiline.  Immediately, spam levels dropped by 30%, from a starting average of 168 billion messages per day, to 119 billion messages per day.  We thought this was great news, but someone out there was very unhappy about this.  Two weeks after Rustock was taken down, the amount of malware sent as an email attachment increased over 400%!  Please be careful, and make sure you never open an attachment that is unknown or unexpected – these days you should still be wary even if you know the source.    Some recent spam trend notes:

  • In the first quarter, The most popular spam topic was pharmacy ads, representing 28% of ALL emails sent.
  • Mass mailings of “parcel tracking information” appearing to come from DHL and UPS accounted for 30% of all spam messages
  • Hacked Facebook accounts lead to the creation of harmful Facebook applications and ultimately viruses
  • PDF Files with embedded scripts (malware) were distributed
  • In April, Spam levels averaged 149 billion spam messages per day, compared to 142 billion in Q4 2010 and 198 billion in Q3 2010.

Protecting yourself againts these threats requires a multi-pronged approach:  a hosted spam/virus filter solution, a firewall with “UTM” capabilities (a second spam/virus filter), local spam & spyware software on the desktop, and attentive, vigilant users.   A single virus outbreak can cost more than all of those items combined!  Let me know how we can help.

The last typewriter factory in the world closed its doors on Monday, 4/25.  Convergence today is speeding up obsolecence for sure – cell phones will eventually replace point and shoot cameras, ipods and portable gaming devices.    What’s next in the office world?  A company like ours has very little need for a fax machine these days, but many industries still rely heavily on them.  I’d love to hear your thoughts – send me an email at brian@netinn.com

24 Mar

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Thinkpads in Space!

March 24, 2011 | By | No Comments

The Space Shuttle Discovery lifted off today for the last time. A liftoff always brings out the space geek in me – I attended a 10 day session of Space Camp in Huntsville, AL when I was 14 years old, just a couple of years after the movie was released. I hate to see the shuttle program winding down. Many important lifestyle advances we enjoy came directly out of the space program. For example, things such as kidney dialysis and the new artificial heart have been based on technology found in space shuttles. These items have saved many lives. Of course we have enjoyed immeasurable benefits from improved weather prediction, environmental monitoring, communication, and other technological advances. I’m not sure I could find my way from home to the office anymore without GPS!
On board the shuttle today are a host of Lenovo ThinkPad notebooks. In fact, ThinkPad notebooks have been involved in every NASA Shuttle space flight since STS-67 in 1995 beginning with the ThinkPad 755. ThinkPad notebooks have also been utilized onboard the International Space Station (ISS) since the 2A mission in 1998 (to present day). In fact, Lenovo ThinkPads are the only laptop certified for use on the shuttle or space station!
I’ve long believed that Lenovo Thinkpads were the most rugged, best performing business laptops available, and I’m glad to see that NASA agrees. Yesterday, Lenovo announced a new series of laptops that will be available in March. Lenovo is always the innovator, and these new models are no disappointment. We’re talking 30 hour battery life, instant boot and Turbo Boost! The new T420s will be my new laptop the day they are available (under 4 pounds, 14” wide screen, DVD-RW, 6 hour battery life, fastest notebook available).
If you haven’t checked out Lenovo, give us a call!thinkpads

16 Feb

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February 2011 – Lenovo

February 16, 2011 | By | No Comments

The Space Shuttle Discovery lifted off today for the last time. A liftoff always brings out the space geek in me – I attended a 10 day session of Space Camp in Huntsville, AL when I was 14 years old, just a couple of years after the movie was released. I hate to see the shuttle program winding down. Many important lifestyle advances we enjoy came directly out of the space program. For example, things such as kidney dialysis and the new artificial heart have been based on technology found in space shuttles. These items have saved many lives. Of course we have enjoyed immeasurable benefits from improved weather prediction, environmental monitoring, communication, and other technological advances. I’m not sure I could find my way from home to the office anymore without GPS!

On board the shuttle today are a host of Lenovo ThinkPad notebooks. In fact, ThinkPad notebooks have been involved in every NASA Shuttle space flight since STS-67 in 1995 beginning with the ThinkPad 755. ThinkPad notebooks have also been utilized onboard the International Space Station (ISS) since the 2A mission in 1998 (to present day). In fact, Lenovo ThinkPads are the only laptop certified for use on the shuttle or space station! Follow the jump for more information and a picture!

I’ve long believed that Lenovo Thinkpads were the most rugged, best performing business laptops available, and I’m glad to see that NASA agrees. Yesterday, Lenovo announced a new series of laptops that will be available in March. Lenovo is always the innovator, and these new models are no disappointment. We’re talking 30 hour battery life, instant boot and Turbo Boost! The new T420s will be my new laptop the day they are available (under 4 pounds, 14” wide screen, DVD-RW, 6 hour battery life, fastest notebook available).

If you haven’t checked out Lenovo, give us a call!

31 Jan

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The Storm of the Century

January 31, 2011 | By | No Comments

The storm of the century is coming!   As I write this blog entry, ice is accumulating, and Kansas City is in the bullseye of a major snowstorm, a blizzard with 12” of snow projected for our office and up to 20” nearby.  The weather people are coming on TV every 15 minutes in breathless anticipation.

Is your office prepared?  Winter storms are a huge drain on office productivity, with employees unable to make it to work due to bad roads, traffic snarls, and kids home from school.  However, with the appropriate technology in place, essential employees can be very productive working from home.

At Network Innovations, our AltiGen phone system allows our employees to have full access to the office phone system from our cell phones.  When you call our office, we can seamlessly answer the call, and even transfer it directly to another employee’s extension, all from our smart phones.  Clients don’t know we’re not at the office, they just know we are always available to help.

We also have a firewall and remote access server setup, that allow our laptops to connect from home.  This allows full, normal access to the company network.  With these two solutions tied together, our employees can operate identically from home or on the road.  Therefore, on bad weather days, we can close the office early, come in late, or work from home the entire day.

It’s a win-win-win – our office doesn’t suffer productivity hits during these bad storms, our employees aren’t stuck in traffic for hours at a time, they are home safe and sound with their families, and our clients still receive the world-class service they love!  Contact me today to ensure your office is ready!

A few other tips:
For myself, I have a cellular Internet connection for my laptop as a backup – if the power goes out in my home, I can usually still connect to the Internet via the cellular option.  This also allows me pull over to the side of the road and send an email in a pinch, or avoid $10/day Internet charges in a hotel.

Bad storms can also bring major power outages.  Make sure you have sufficient battery backup units at the office and at home.  The batteries in these units do go bad over time, just like any other battery – it’s important to ensure that they are tested regularly.  It may be appropriate for some businesses to invest in a generator powerful enough to run your back-end servers during extended outages.

We can also provide a Business Continuity server – this is a backup server that can “virtualize” or emulate any or all of your office servers.   This would allow you to quickly and easily setup a temporary office in another location if necessary.

22 Nov

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Happy Thanksgiving

November 22, 2010 | By | No Comments

We are excited this month to welcome Amy Grandon, our Service Coordinator, back to the office from her maternity leave. Jade Jolee was born on xx and weighed xx. Congratulations and welcome back Amy!

This month I would like to take a minute to count our blessings here at Network Innovations. We are very lucky that we get to work in an exciting industry that we are all passionate about. It’s fun and exciting to come to work most days. We love helping our clients deploy solutions that make your business more efficient and more profitable. Of course, none of this would be possible without you, our loyal client. It’s been fun growing and improving our businesses together over the past year. THANKS for being on our team!

Along with that theme, the lead article in our newsletter this month is about using what you already have. Often times, we simply replace old technology with new, or during periods of change in your business we add technology to accommodate. However, the true value of this investment is never realized if we never go deeper. It’s important that we not only discuss technology issues and challenges, but also business issues and challenges. If we document your workflow, there are many small tweaks we can make, leveraging your existing technology, that can create exponential improvements in service level and efficiency. Give me a call and I would be happy to come out and help with this process.

Happy Thanksgiving!

28 Oct

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GET RID OF THAT PHONE ON YOUR DESK!

October 28, 2010 | By | No Comments

Most people I know today are frustrated with communication overload.  Not only do we have different phone numbers and voicemail boxes to manage, but we have to keep track of multiple numbers for all of our contacts as well.  Most people also believe in the “Star-Trek” future – ultimately we will all have one mobile device for all communication.  Well with AltiGen, the future is now!

Our MaxMobile smartphone application enables your iPhone, Blackberry or Android phone to become your office extension, either at will, or FULL TIME!  That’s right, no more phone on your desk.  On the app, you can place calls on hold, transfer to another extension, record the call, conference call, etc.  All of your business features on your cell!  You can see what extensions are busy or available, and their “presence” such as Out to Lunch, Personal Time Off, Sick Day, Meeting, etc.   This app has been available for several months and has been well received by our clients.  We have just deployed our first phone system that is entirely virtual – ALL extensions are cell phones, no hard phones anywhere!  Imagine the cost savings on a new phone system if you eliminate all the phones – and leverage the investment you have already made in smartphones for your mobile employees.

Imagine the productivity boost for your mobile employees, who can now be available from anywhere, anytime with no hassles!  Don’t want your phone to ring at 8 pm on Friday night?  Simply hit the DND button or log out and calls will go to voicemail.   Further, when you make a call using the app, the caller ID is sent from your company –the cell phone number is not exposed.  Directing callers to your office number or DID will ensure that all calls are logged in our call detail reporting (CDR) database.  Calls can easily be re-routed to another employee during vacations, sick leave, or termination.

Because we know that you will still want access to a full duplex speaker phone, and need to be able to charge your phone easily, AltiGen has just announced our smart phone docking stations.  These docking stations will be available early next year.  Along with the speaker phone and charging, you will have access to headset ports and USB connections.  Another model will add a traditional display and dialpad as well (see below).

AltiGen is the leader by a mile right now in mobility in our industry.   While other systems offer “twinning” or “call forwarding”, just as AltiGen has done in the past, you have to configure and manage this function, and it’s just not the same.  Further, those features still require a traditional phone on your desk.  Only AltiGen can provide a fully capable business extension directly on your cell phone.  If your company is not ready to replace your entire phone system, in most cases we can connect to your existing PBX an extend our mobile capabilities to your system.   Please call for more information and a hands-on demonstration!

devices

20 Aug

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National Preparedness Month

August 20, 2010 | By | No Comments

September is National Preparedness Month, so I thought this would be a good time to talk about Backup, Disaster Recovery and Business Continuity.

First, it’s important to define these terms and understand how they fit together:

Backup, ensuring that a copy of your data is available for retrieval both onsite and offsite, is an IT function and is only part of a disaster recovery plan.

Disaster Recovery is a process and set of procedures that prepare for recovery or continuation of your technology infrastructure after a natural or human-induced disaster.  A Disaster Recovery plan is also typically an IT function, and it is one element of a larger business continuity plan.  Disaster Recovery plans typically assume that your facility will not be available.

Business Continuity is an ongoing exercise performed by an organization to ensure that critical business functions will be available to customers, suppliers, regulators, and other entities that must have access to those functions.   Business Continuity Planning (BCP) is a management function that involves all aspects of a business, from personnel to facilities to IT.   Health & Safety issues, power supply, transportation, food, and facilities issues all fall within business continuity.

Every business should put at least some effort towards creating a Business Continuity Plan (BCP).  Give me a call and I would be glad to help you with your plans.  In the meantime, let me share a few tips that can jumpstart your plans:

  • Backup:  A revolution in backup, a Backup & Disaster Recovery (BDR) device is now available for a small monthly fee.  This solution entails installing a “backup” server at your office.  It backs up all of your servers as often as every 15 minutes throughout the day.  You can recovery files quickly at anytime.  However, if one of your servers crashes, we can “virtualize” the most recent backup on the backup server, and have it back up and running in about an hour.  The crashed server can then be repaired under normal rather than emergency circumstances.  The BDR continues backing up even while standing in for your crashed server, so once your server is repaired, we simply restore the most recent backup and you are back to normal operation.  Further, the BDR sends your data offsite nightly to two secure locations.  In the event of a disaster,  a new BDR will be overnighted with your data already loaded.  We can virtualize your server(s) and have you running in a new location as soon as the delivery is received.
  • Disaster Recovery:  We partner with a national disaster recovery service that can address the 4 primary disaster related issues:  Power, Technology, Space & Connectivity, with facilities and equipment staged throughout the US.  For only $295 per month, you are prepared to recover from any disaster, small or large.  For example, if a critical server crashes, we can provide a loaner.  If your Internet connection is cut, we can provide high speed satellite backup.  During an ice storm, you may simply need a generator.  In case of a large scale disaster, we can provide a fully running office with servers, 48 desks equipped with PCs and telephones, full power and connectivity within 48 hours, guaranteed.
  • Business Continuity:  Lack of communication will cripple any business.  Create an emergency communication plan today:  Designate a person in another geographic region to serve as your emergency communication point of contact (POC).  This could be a friend, relative or partner – we use a vendor based in California.  Print business cards with full POC contact information and distribute to all employees to carry in their wallet.  In case of an emergency, if employees can not make contact with the office, they are to contact the emergency POC to check in, report their situation, and receive further instructions (could be check back in 12 hours, report to the office at noon, etc).  Want to show your key clients that you are a step ahead of the competition?  Provide them with your emergency POC information as well, and they will know they can count on you when they are in trouble.