Tuesday, February 19, 2013

One Install per Microsoft Office 2013 License

If you buy a copy of Microsoft Office 2013 you will only be able to install it on ONE machine. You will not be able to transfer it to another system, even it is lost, stolen, or damaged, Microsoft has confirmed.

This is Microsoft's way of encouraging customers to opt for the Office 365 version of the software. The subscription based model offers the ability to transfer your software on up to five machines. This does not mean you can put one copy on five machines at once. As the service is cloud based, it pings your machine to ensure that the machine you registered with it is in fact the machine you have on file.

The subscription is $9.99 a month, or $99.99 annually. So it's like buying office every year. However, you get ALL the office programs for the price. Currently to get ALL the programs you're going to be paying roughly $400 or MORE retail. So if you're using all the programs you're really only buying Office every four or so years, and that's not so bad.

Adobe rolled out with their subscription based software as well. The Adobe Creative Cloud Subscription is set up much the same way. At $50 a month you get a license to EVERY Adobe CS6 product that is available  and publishing space. I'm a member and I love it.

So time will tell if these subscription based software applications will stick. The Adobe CS6 Master Collection is $2600, so that's like 4.3 years of use. I'm sure by then there will be CS7...so it's a win win I think. Same probably goes for Office 2013. The last version was 2010, so in 2016 when the new Office version comes out, all the subscribers will have access, while those that just bought licenses will have to buy new ones. It is nice that you can decide.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Our interview with the Idaho Business Review

1. What sets your company apart from the rest? In what ways are you unique, different, better?

There are a lot of people who can fix a computer or a network. Defining a niche' is such a competitive marketplace isn't easy. It has taken year and years of really listening to out customers, both the good and the bad. What we have found, is that people want someone they can truly trust. Price isn't the number 1 deciding factor when it comes to choosing an IT professional  When a computer or network is down, it's a stressful situation and downtime can be costly, so people just want someone who is not only trustworthy , but knowledgeable and RESPONSIVE. Most folks can't afford to wait around for hours or sometimes days, for a vendor to return their call or come back from vacation to get them up and running. We take that very seriously. That's why we are available 24x7x365. We answer the phone. We respond to your messages and emails. We follow through. YOU are who keeps our doors open!

2. Company Story (history, background, mission statement, company values, slogan):

Treasure Valley IT was founded in 2006 by Michael Lukes, Rebecca Yeager, and Brian Stogsdill. The basis for it? We knew we could provide this trustworthy and responsive support that none of us had experienced with other vendors. We knew we could speak to you in a language that you could actually understand. We knew you wanted someone that could just handle everything and not pass the buck. And we knew we could provide it at a reasonable rate. Fast forward 6 years. We joined forces with the 12 year old company Cutting Edge Networks in January of 2012, along with the majority of it's staff and clientele. The founder, Shawn Schnitker, is now a partner with TVIT. The partners all have the same fundamental values that drives our business - our employees and our customers.

3. Community Involvement: 

TVIT is actively in the business community in the Treasure Valley. We participate in numerous events each year. We are proud accredited members of the Better Business Bureau. 

4. Recent Success Stories (awards, milestones, achievements):

Anytime a customer is dissatisfied to the point they leave us, I assure you we want to know what went wrong  and how to best avoid it in the future. One of our business customers replaced us with another local IT provider because they though they might get better service for a better price. They quickly, within 4 weeks, realized the level of dedication we at TVIT provided them. It's never a fun experience but it is humbling and an inevitable part of doing business. We define success by customer satisfaction and their overall experience with us. We know people have choices when it comes to IT, and we recognize how important new and existing customers are. 

5. Plans for the future:

We are in a hiring frenzy for the last quarter of 2012. Our explosive growth since the merger with Cutting Edge Networks has afforded us the opportunity to expand not only in the Treasure Valley, but into other markets such as Twin Falls. We are simultaneously growing the sales development team, and technical engineering team. We are also excited to bring on 2 full time help desk technicians to offer instantaneous support when customers call in.

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Tech Upgrades for a more Effecient Small Business

Being effective with your time and effort is crucial for a small business (big business too, really). So one way to help is to optimize your technology. Work easier, not harder.

So here are some simple and fairly inexpensive ways to optimize your office!

Dual Monitors! -

I couldn't imagine life without them. I personally do all sorts of work with computers from purchasing for TVIT, to Graphics and Web Design at home. I will generally have information on one monitor and my quote/purchase order/or website back end, up on the other monitor. It saves so much time not having to flip back and forth between windows or panels. This gets especially slow when you have several windows open at once, which I generally do. The set up can be fast and easy. You may need a dual monitor capable video card but they are very affordable. Monitors too have dropped in price considerably. The setup on your system takes a couple tweaks once you've got all the hardware, and we can help you with that quickly!

In fact here's an article that details just how great multiple monitors can be!

Upgrade your RAM -
If you can upgrade your RAM that is. If your computer is older than 4-5 years old, you may be maxed out. Ram gives you a snappier performance. I like snappy! A funny thing about RAM however, is that the older and more out of date the type you need, the more expensive it is going to be. Also there are lots of different aspects to making sure you are getting the RIGHT RAM. So give us a call to help you with that! (367-1000)

Upgrade to SSD's, or Solid State Drives -

This is a bit more pricey depending on how many machines you want to upgrade, and if you don't know how to switch out hard drives (it can be tricky) then consider the labor cost involved as well.

Cost aside, there are a LOT of benefits to solid state drives. Hard disk drives, which are the ones you are probably using now, have a spinning disk inside. Anything with moving parts has a finite life span and finite speed. Well a solid state drive is, well, solid. As far as we can tell they have no definite life span, and a failed hard drive is a VERY common reason to get an entirely  people get an entirely new system.

They are also super fast. You can boot up your system faster, access information faster, and run programs faster. The immediate noticeable effect of upgrading to a SSD is even more substantial to that of upgrading your RAM. But remember, there is a bit more cost involved. It can take several hours for a technician to get it switched out.

Upgrade your internet - 

Are you sitting at your desk twinning your thumbs waiting for a page to load? Well that's not time spent very productively! Ask your internet provider if you are utilizing the fastest connection available to you. Better yet, ask SEVERAL internet providers what they offer. You'll be informed on the going rates across the board and the companies may even haggle for your business. 

The speed also relies on your equipment being up to date. I had a residential client call me a couple months ago with internet speed problems. They had just upgraded their service to a higher speed package, but with little noticeable increase. Turns out they had an older version modem and router that could only support lower speeds. Their equipment was essentially bottle necking their speed. I suggested they call their ISP (internet service provider) and see if that equipment was theirs or on lease. Turns out they were leasing it and were available for a free upgrade with no additional cost to them. So the lesson here is that it doesn't hurt to ask. If you've been using your service providers equipment for as long as you can remember it may be time to trade up!


Is your internet and equipment is up-to-date but you're STILL not getting adequate speeds? There could be some simple reasons why. How many people in the office are listening to music at their desks? Let's say you have three people out of ten people listening to a streaming music service, like Pandora, from their work internet connection. Well that is roughly 50mb an HOUR per user. That can add up. More importantly, that's 50mb of bandwidth that is being used for music and not actual internet speed. Additionally, if your internet plan gives you X amount of GB of bandwidth monthly, you will get charged for every GB that goes over. One full day of Pandora for ONE user is half of a GB. If that person is full time that will equal almost 10GB a month. Now if you have multiple people using that service, you can see how that adds up quickly.

We have a NO-STREAMING music rule here in our office. I get to cheat and play Pandora off my phone because I have an unlimited data plan with my phone carrier. If you do to, just plug your speaker jack into your phone and stream away. But just like internet, if you DON'T have unlimited data on your phone, the overage charges can be high.

Same rules go for Youtube, Hulu, Netflix, Torrent....it all adds up.

Another thing that could be slowing you down is malicious infections. Viruses and Malware could be running things on your system that are taking up bandwidth that you are completely unaware of. If it can happen to me it can happen to you. I recently moved into a new house and had my internet service moved over as well. Same equipment, same setup. I got an infection somehow and my monthly bill shot up $50 because my usage DOUBLED! Well I knew that wasn't true. I looked at my day to day usage charts from my ISP's web page and I was using roughly 5-10 GB a DAY! I am generally gone on the weekends and was not home AT ALL over Christmas. I ran full scans with my virus and malware protection software and sure enough, I had gotten infected somehow. The problem is now fixed, but that was an expensive lesson.

Friday, February 1, 2013

January a productive month for Viruses

It's only barely 2013 but cyber criminals are already hard at work.

The most popular viruses known so far this year are called Ransomware. It infects your system and literally takes control or your computer, blocking your access to most of it's functions. They like to disguise themselves often time by giving itself a government name. We've had a handful of clients calling us with suspicious "FBI Warnings". If the FBI is asking you for money via a pop-up....don't call them! Call US!

So here's the million dollar question.....How to you protect yourself? make sure that you are keeping everything up to date. Run your updates when they come in. Even better have them set up to run automatically. And even better than THAT is to sign up with our managed services and we'll make sure they're running FOR you! Also make sure that you're scanning your computer every couple weeks with your antivirus. Just having it installed on your computer doesn't completely protect you, you have to actually USE it!

So this year may be productive for malware and viruses, but you don't have to be a victim. Be diligent, and double think before you double click!

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Microsoft Office Mixes it up AGAIN

There's a new Microsoft operating system (Microsoft 8), and now there's a new version of Microsoft Office as well. Microsoft is calling it.....drum roll.....Microsoft Office 2013! But it's also called Microsoft Office 365 for the yearly subscription option. Let me explain....

If you have a new machine and you needed Microsoft Office installed, you bought the version you needed, and that was that. Now they are leaning consumers toward a yearly subscription and will be charging a yearly fee. Hence the Microsoft Office 365 nomenclature.

Home Premium 365 includes the line up of programs that were included in Office Professional 2010. This includes: Word, Excel, PowerPoint, OneNote, Outlook, Publisher, and Access. The one year subscription will be $100 dollars for up to five PC's.

Small Business Premium has everything Office Professionalism Plus 2010 included. This has everything listed above plus InfoPath, Access, InfoPath, Communicator, and Sharepoint. This will run you $150 a year PER user.

Both subscription versions come with some extra swag:

Home Premium gives you 60 Skype minutes a month and 20 GB of extra SkyDrive storage in addition to the free 7GB already included.

Small Business Premium customers will get get Exchange Hosting through Office 365, with a 25 GB mailbox and shared calendars. There is also 10GB of Sharepoint storage for your organization and an additional 500 MB of Sharepoint storage per user. The Lync software also gives you free video conferencing and screen sharing.

If you don't like the subscription model you can still buy the more traditional software style of Office 2013, but you'll notice a significant price hike. And like 2010, are only available to install on one machine.

Like always, give us a ring or shoot us an email with any questions!

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Maximizing your Router

Nine times out of ten, your router is just fine as is, but there are ways to ensure that you are maximizing your router's capabilities.

The first rule seems counter productive, but use wires whenever possible. A wired Ethernet connection will always be your fastest option. This means that if your computer is sitting three feet away from your wireless router, just connect them via an Ethernet cable, and save the wireless for your laptops and tablets.

Next, you will want to choose the best wireless channel. The biggest thing that slows down a wifi signal is OTHER wifi signals from other routers in your area. Most routers will default to channel 6 or channel 11. So those channels can get easily crowded. There's an easy way to check this if you have a wireless smart phone or tablet. Or I guess I should say, "There's an app for that".

 Wifi Stumbler

Simply pick the channel with the least traffic. You don't have to fully understand why picking channels likes this changes the strength of your signal, only that you want the least congested highway. You can change the channel in the administration page like we went over in the last post.

Another thing you can do is tweak your routers power Also in the admin page is a selection called "TX Power". Boosting it too much can have adverse effects so keep it around 70 mW. Going much higher can cause your router to overheat and even die. Some routers don't have this option at all.

Make sure to turn off all wifi devices while not in use. Those devices just sitting there doing there thing, running updates, calibrating with GPS, keeping you up to date on the weather, whatever, is still a transfer of information that is taking up a piece of your wifi highway.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Understanding Your Router's Admin Page

OK, so in our last router lesson we went over the basics of the hardware. Now we are going to take a look at the settings. You won't necessarily need to change ALL the sections of your admin page, but it is helpful to understand them and what they do.

The first thing we have to do is GET to the admin page. You will need to know your router's IP. It is 9 times out of 10 printed on a sticker on the back or the bottom of the router. It will be something like: You will need to connect it to a computer via a wire for this set up process. Then open up your web browser; Firefox, Chrome, Safari, Internet Explorer, etc. In the address bar type in the IP that we found on the router. You don't need to type www or anything like that. Just type the IP. It will then ask you for the user name and password. A lot of routers will have a default one that hopefully you know. If you don't try googling it. I had to look up mine and it was Admin/Motorola. Once you get into the setup pages, you can change the username and password.

First things first and it's a fun one!

Naming Your Router

That's right you get to name it. This is technically it's "SSID" or service set identifier. Have you ever searched for a network and seen all kinds of interesting options like "New Kids on the Block" "Rosco's Rocking Hot Spot"? Well those are SSID's that people designated. Mine is called "Sarah_The_Dinosaur". Why? Well because my favorite stuffed animal is Sarah and she is a dinosaur.

Choose Your Broadcast Mode

Like we mentioned in our speed test blog post, wireless N is the fastest. You can choose to broadcast both N and G but this will slow your speeds over all. If you can just broadcast N do that. But make sure that your devices are N compatible. All new devices will be. If you're not sure, just choose N and G. It might be called "mixed".


This is an important one for obvious reasons. This is where you enter your password. Mine is a combination of letters and numbers. I use numbers for some of the letters. Like this:

S33 Jan3 4un f457 (make sense? It says: See Jane run fast)

 You'll have an option to choose what type of encryption. Generally the options are WEP, WPA, WPA2. WEP tends to be the easier setting to crack. Choose WPA2 if it's an option, choose WPA if 2 is not available.

So there's the basics. There's a lot more in there as you can see but this will get you in there and running safely with encrypted password protection! Call us if you would like our help and show you all the settings.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Is your internet fast enough?

With internet speeds as fast as you are these days, it may be difficult to tell if your getting optimal performance. Connection speed really is a quality of life issue, your virtual life that is. Many of our day to day applications depend on the speed of your connection. Applications like Netflix, Youtube, and Pandora, are all reliant on the speed of your internet. On the flip side you may not need blazing fast speeds. No one needs to drive a Ferrari to the grocery store. If you're watching Netflix in the living room while you have a couple kids in their rooms streaming music, and also watching some business tutorials...and things are getting slow....you have a problem.

The first thing to determine is how fast your speed really is. This is fairly easy to do as there are several on line sites that will test your connectivity. I like to use THIS SITE.  Just hit the go button and it does the rest.
But how do interpreted the results? You don't want less then around 2 megabytes per second if your streaming ANYTHING. This would be considered light usage. Moderate usage would be around three simultaneous users using high definition media. Suggested speeds for this would be 6Mbps to 12Mbps. Heavy usage would be four or more people using HD streaming of movies, videos or large files. For this type of usage you would want around 15Mbps.

There's also different TYPES of connections; Dial-up, DSL, Cable, and Fiber-optic. That list in order of speed with Fiber-optic connection only available in very select areas. Cable internet is available all throughout the Treasure Valley and is recommended if you want to do any streaming.

You want to make sure that you are getting the speeds that you are paying for. Ask your internet service provider for the speeds in your internet package, then perform the speed test that we went over. It is best to connect to your modem with a wire instead of wirelessly when conducting the test as the test will show results of your router's speed and not your actual connection which often times will be slower. Connecting directly to the modem with a wire will give you the best speeds. If you need to rely on a wireless connection make sure that you are keeping the software up-to-date. Also look for the term "802.11.n". 802.11 means  it is a wifi product, and the N is the fastest version of hardware currently available.

Just like you want a current router, you will also need a current modem. If you have been using the same modem with your internet service provider for years then it's probably time to upgrade. If your connection speeds are fast but your hardware is out-of-date, you won't be properly utilizing your internet.

There are other things that can slow your speeds as well. Viruses and Spyware can dramatically slow your browsing speeds. So make sure you have antivirus and malware installed and are using it properly. Installing protection is NOT enough, you have to run scans and make sure it is staying updated.

So to answer the question just ask yourself if you get frustrated with your connection speed? If you do run a speed test, check the age of your hardware, and find out what type of connection you have. There are tons of upgrading options if you know what you need. And remember, you can always ask for us to come and audit your set up and determine if an upgrade would be a good idea for you!

Friday, January 11, 2013

The Future is here and Google is driving!

Video chat, commercial space flight, robotic surgery, self-driving cars….have you noticed that the future is here? It interesting that as a child it seemed everyone thought that once we had video chat we had really moved forward as a society. Now that’s here, turns out no one really cares. It’s more trouble than it’s worth, especially considering you should probably put on pants and act like you’re really listening.

Commercial space flight is awesome and all, but still not a lot of people can afford it. Robotic surgery has sent us leaps forward in terms of precision and keeping wounds clean reducing accounts of post surgery infection.

But how in the world are there self-driving cars? You know the one; Google’s street view car is completely self-propelled and navigated. The fleet of Priuses has logged nearly 200,000 miles. These miles include everything from inner cities to mountain trails.

The car’s computer is programmed with all the appropriate traffic laws. There is a “Velodyne 64-beam laser” mounted on the roof that creates a detailed 3D map of the cars surroundings allowing it to interpret it’s path and avoid obstacles. This is made even smooth with other sensors including: four radars, a camera that interprets traffic lights, a GPS, an internal measuring device, and wheel encoder. All these different sensors are essential as relying on GPS alone could result in several meters of error.

The car knows to yield when appropriate but has also been programmed to be aggressive when necessary. For instance at a four way stop if the other cars are not allowing the Google mobile to proceed, the car will begin to advance to show the other cars it’s intention. Without a more aggressive approach around human drivers the car would never make it in the real world.

This could lead to a convenient service of automated rides throughout cities and towns. Just tap on your smart phone app and a self-driving car would appear and take you where you needed to go while you caught up on your email or applied your makeup.

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Router Hardware: 101

Your router is what connects your home and office network to each other and the web. (Most of the time, but we won't be getting into all that right now).

A router is NOT a modem. These two pieces of hardware do two different things. There are modems that double also broadcast a wireless signal, but they still have different functions.

The modem is your house or offices connection to the internet. Your router connects all your computers and your modem together. The router enables data to be transferred from point to point. This data can include the internet connection that the modem provides. So by connecting the modem to the router and then multiple computers to the router, they are able to share a data connection.

Most modems can only direct data to a single computer. A router can connect to several computers, but cannot connect to the internet alone.

Anything that gets data from the router, like your computer, a tablet, a printer, etc., is referred to as a client. Each client gets their own IP address that is like it's ID. Your modem gets a GLOBAL IP, while your clients get LOCAL IP's. Think of it like this: Your modem is the street, and the global IP is the street name, while your clients local IP's are like the individual house numbers.

Now there are wired and wireless routers. This is pretty straight forward. Wired connections are going to befaster, and generally more reliable, so if you can hard wire computers that aren't moving around a lot do that. For your mobile devices like your tablet, phone, and laptop, or even a computer at the far end of the house, connect via the wireless connection. Most people have a mixture of both.

Throughput is the speed of the data transfer. The speed of the data transfer depends on what "standard" the wireless router uses. The most common are 802.11g and 802.11n, (or commonly known as wireless G or Wireless N). Wireless N is faster, but also more expensive.

Another aspect that determines speed is the wireless card in your client. Older laptops will only have a wireless G, so updating your router won't make the speed any faster. If you have a mix of wireless G and N in your home or office, you have set your routers to "Mixed Mode" which will support both. This will compromise the speed of the N clients, so if you can have everything on your network run N, that's the way to go.

Wired Throughput's have two speeds: 10/100 or 10/100/1000 (or gigabit). If all you're connecting to a router is one computer, the 10/100 should be fine. If you are transferring data from computer to computer however, you'll want the faster router.

Range is another thing to consider with your routers. If you have a large house or office and the router is at one side it may not reach the other side. Wireless N has a larger range than wireless G. There are ways to extend the range. You can purchase a wireless extender, or wireless repeater. You also have the option of using a power line adapter which uses the electrical wiring to connect to the router via an ethernet cable. A little trickier but that's what we're here for!

And for a big one: SECURITY!

You should ALWAYS protect your wireless network with a password. WPA2 is currently the most secure  type. Some of the older devices will only have WEP. Some routers also offer a "guest network" which will give people (like customers or guests) access to the internet without access to your computers or data.

If you think you need a router, or need to upgrade yours be wary of on line reviews. There are a lot of factors involved with the effectiveness of a router. It depends of its environment, how it's used, or even what kind of interference is in the area. Please don't hesitate to let us help pick the best option for you!