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Review of Blackberry Z10

If you haven’t heard already, Blackberry (formally known as RIM) has released their latest product, the Blackberry Z10 running on the new Blackberry 10 operating system (OS).  As many of you know, I love my toys and was at the store the first day to get my hands on this new phone.

I am impressed with what the Z10 has to offer.  This is one of the biggest changes and improvement to come to Blackberry’s since entering the smartphone race.  They took a lot of what they had learned from the Torch and what they’ve seen trending in the industry to come out with a truly solid product.

So what’s new in the Blackberry Z10 and Blackberry 10 OS?


The Blackberry 10 introduces this concept of the “HUB”.  Basically it’s a central gathering place for critical information that sits quietly on the left side.   Whenever you need to take a look at what’s going on, you can simply swipe across and see without having to leave your current application.  In my HUB, I have my emails, BBMs, text messages, Facebook, LinkedIN, and Twitter accounts.  Thus in a second I can tell exactly which has activity, how many and can click into the application from the HUB.

Intuitive Typing that works!

One thing that smartphones are notorious for is poor intuitive typing.  Anyone who has ever tried to use iPhones or Android devices find themselves either turning off or constantly correcting the auto-correct phrases.  Just Google “bad iPhone text messages” and you’ll find countless examples.

Blackberry did an intelligent change to the whole intuitive typing.  It still tries to guess what you’re typing but it does not automatically place the word into the text for you.  Instead, you have the option to swipe a letter on the screen to select which word you would like.  This takes a bit of getting used to but a definite improvement.  And if you don’t like the swipe method, just keep typing.  When Blackberry is fairly certain it knows your selection, the word will appear in place of the spacebar.  So just hit spacebar and it will complete the word for you.

Easy navigation

Navigation is far smoother than in previous versions of Blackberry.  The screen models much of what they introduced already with the Torch but goes the next step to make it even easier.  In many ways, they model it after a normal computer screen with the ability to see the open applications one a single screen.

Massively improved camera

One of the biggest sore points of many older Blackberry users is the lack of a decent camera.  Even at its best version, pictures came out noisy and hard to use in any situation.  Comparatively, I’ve used my Galaxy to capture videos that rival the best HD cameras out there.  Blackberry’s excuse has always been that its focus is more about business than taking pictures.  But carrying around more than one phone at a time is cumbersome and frustrating, especially when the ONLY reason you have the other phone is to take pictures.

With this release, Blackberry really listened.  They not only improved the quality of the camera, they added a new “time-lapse” picture feature.  This has to be one of the BEST features for cameras and I highly expect to see iPhones and Android’s following suit shortly.

The “time-lapse” picture allows you to take a series of 10 pictures rather than just one.  Now, you no longer have to struggle with the painful delay of waiting for the phone to “click” and take the picture.  No more blurry pictures of kids as you try to capture them at the right moment.  Just use the time-lapse picture feature and pick which image you like best.

Voice activation/integration

Out of the box, Blackberry features some very slick voice integration.  You can command the phone to, say, BBM a person on your contact and record what you say into a text message.  While not perfect, especially if you’re in a noisy situation or have a thick accent, it definitely expands the functionality of the phone as a hands-free device.

Better microphone

One of the major issues of the touch-screen versions of earlier Blackberry versions is that you had to press your face against the screen to ever hope to hear or speak to the person you’re calling.  And for some odd reason, when that happens everyone ends up hitting the MUTE button.  The new phone has a much better microphone that doesn’t require you hold the device as close to your face in order to pick up what you’re saying.  In addition, they redesigned the phone interface to prevent accidental MUTE or key presses.

No more BES Plan needed

Before Blackberry 10, you had to purchase a special Blackberry Enterprise Service (BES) plan in order to add full wireless synchronization and activation.  With Blackberry 10, however, you will be using Microsoft Active Sync, thus requiring only a standard data plan.

Other slick Out-of-the-Box Features That Make Business Possible

True to its roots, Blackberry hasn’t forgotten that first and foremost their most loyal customers are business people.  Out of the box, you have connections to Docs to Go for access to your Word, PowerPoint, and Excel files.  You’re given a connection to Dropbox, which allows you to easily transfer large files.  The video BBM is also a very handy tool for one to one video conferencing. You can also share the desktop of the phone to another person over BBM.

With Blackberry Balance, you have the ability to setup your screen that allows you to separate your personal and business data.  Blackberry is also the ONLY mobile solution to have received FIPS 140-2 security certification.  So you have a level of security with your critical business information.

What’s lacking?

Not much.

No keyboard… yet

The first release of the new Blackberry line is their fully touch-screen model.  As such, there is no keyboard for those diehard keyboard users.  I must admit, I’m one of those that would have preferred a keyboard.  I can type way faster with my old Blackberry.  It’s a small sacrifice for now and they are set to bring about a keyboard version of the phone in April.

Poor low-light video

Supposedly some reports have stated that under low-light conditions, the Z10 camera could use a lot of improvements.  As I haven’t had a fireworks show yet since the Z10 release, I can’t say for certain if this is true.  But you can guarantee I will be testing it out very shortly and comparing the results to my Galaxy.  So far in daylight or lighted room situations, the camera captures perfectly and looks crisp and clear.


So overall, am I happy with my newest toy?

You bet!  This is a great phone and a great OS upgrade.  If you’d like to see the phone in action, just ask me next time I’m in your office and I’d be happy to show it off.

Picking the Right Backup Strategy

As part of our backup series, we will be continuing our discussion on backing up your most valuable business asset, your data.

Having a great backup application, like the StaySafe Protection Program, isn’t enough if you don’t have a good backup plan.

A good backup plan includes three components:

  • schedule and frequency
  • retention
  • recovery

Schedule and frequency

When considering your backup strategy, you need to know how often and what time you want your backup to be performed.

Most businesses simply default their programs to nightly because that is what they were told. There was a time when that was the prevalent strategy because of technology limitations. Backups would take all night, clog bandwidth and cause any day time work to come to a screeching halt.

However, times have changed. Newer “smart” programs like StaySafe Protection Program can send data incrementally, thus reducing the network load. They can also detect what has changed and only update those files that have been altered.

Good backup strategy goes beyond technology. Businesses need to consider how they are using their data to properly devise a schedule and frequency.

For instance, let’s say you have an accounting program that is only run once a month after payroll. It would be a wasted effort then to perform daily checks and backup of the data since it only changes every month. Alternatively, there might be a program that collects critical information every second, such as a highly regulated environment. This data may require more frequent backup but only during office hours.

All data shouldn’t be treated the same. Some of your information is more critical for your operation than others. Correctly identifying this information and isolating it will help ensure your backup plan protects your business at the right levels.


Now that you’ve backed up your data, how long do you keep it?

In a hypothetical world, we’d love to keep the data forever and never risk losing anything. In the real world however, storing data takes up valuable space. Be it a local storage device or remote cloud service, that space is finite and costs your business to increase thus you can’t consider your retained copies as an infinite storage.

So what is the right retention policy?

In many ways it comes down to:

  • schedule and frequency of backup
  • size and type of data

If your backup schedule is only monthly and you only retain a month of data, then you will only be as good as the last copy of events. This is hardly any protection from loss or corruption. If you store large files, such as graphic images or videos, the space you require per file increases drastically. The biggest consideration is – how much are you willing to spend on something you may never look at again?

As you can imagine, there is much to consider in this space before you start any backup plan


Most business owners are knowledgeable when thinking in terms of backup but many never really spend any time to think about recovery. They assume that as long as the data is “backed up” it must be recoverable.

Unfortunately, that is not always the case. In some situations, the process of backing up changes the data format, making it unreadable by the original application.

Alternatively, the process of recovery could take hours if not days to become operational once more.  Having the appropriate Business Continuity Device, such as the devices by Cornerstone Backup, a partner, can ensure your operation is back in a short period of time.

In still other situations, such as email, newer information may be lost if the backup were to be restored. A decision and procedure needs to be in place to ensure important new information isn’t erased by the recovery procedure.

In still other situations, the business has not set up the right schedule/frequency and retention for backup and the necessary copy of the information is not available for recovery.

The worst situation is when there is an emergency occurs and the necessary people can’t be contacted to get the recovery started.

In all situations, it is advised that after the business has devised a backup plan, including recovery procedures, they include the plan as part of their Business Continuity Plan. At scheduled times this plan is reviewed and tested to ensure it works. Consider it as a “fire drill” for all components including your backup recovery.

Without considering all 3 aspects of recovery, the best backup program in the world cannot properly safeguard your data.

If you need help coming up with a properly developed plan or would like a demo of our StaySafe Protection Program, call us at 905-388-2597 or send an email or contact us directly and we will be happy to work through a plan with you.


Safeguarding Your Laptop

In today’s fast paced world, business is always on the move. If you are like many businesses today, this means more than just some glossy metaphor. With lighter, more powerful laptops, your office can travel with you. You don’t have to be out of touch with your critical information simply because you’re “on the road”. With cloud computing and virtual desktops, every aspect of your business can be available to you at the tips of your fingers.

But what happens when you lose the ability to use that laptop? What happens when you have information stored on your laptop that you just can’t afford to lose? Perhaps it’s that latest details of your next major project or the start of a presentation you’re planning on delivering. Perhaps it’s a copy of an agreement or revision notes you’ve taken while you were speaking with a client. Can you afford to lose that work?

As we’ve discussed before, information is one of the most valuable assets of your business. Losing it can cost you and your business a lot.

There are many ways you could lose your laptop, including but not limited to:

  • theft
  • hardware failure
  • damage or dropping your device
  • hard drive corruption

Is the information on your laptop safe from these situations?

According to FBI’s Computer Crime Survey, the estimated cost of computer security incidents is $67.2 billion annually. And based on a recent study by Ponemon Institute, organizations lose up to $7.2 million each data breach and an average of $49,246 of data per lost laptop.

If you are concerned at all, consider the StaySafe Protection program. The Protection program is the newest member of our StaySafe suite of services all designed to help keep your most valuable asset, your data, safe. What makes StaySafe Protection unique is that is has a laptop specific component, Mobile Vault, designed for the “on-the-go” business person.  Mobile Vault provides your laptop will receive industry leading business-class backup service, fully encrypted data transfers, IP tracing and remote data removal. Compare this with traditional backup strategies.

Traditional Backup Plans StaySafe Protection Mobile Vault
Business-class backup of data
AES 256-bit encryption of data ?
Load balance/silent data transfer ?
IP Tracing of devices
Remote data destruction

Business-class backup of data

Let’s face it, not all backups are created equal. Business-class backup comes with a level of integrity that you can’t get from at home versions of backup. Business-class backup includes:

  • redundant systems to ensure optimal uptimes
  • professional level software enabling greater level of control over data
  • ability to apply policies and create procedures the increase compliance of data

AES 256-bit encryption of data

One of the greatest dangers of working with data over the Internet these days is the fear the information can be stolen. Without proper encryption, your business intelligence and competitive advantage is just floating out there for someone to pick up and steal. AES 256-bit encryption is the latest and greatest in industry techniques.

Load balancing and silent transfer of data

Most traditional backup plans will require you set a time to “run” the backup. It utilizes all of your system’s resources to upload the computer’s information into a remote location. This process can take hours to complete and tie up critical systems, slowing down the internet and any other operations on that system. As such, most businesses schedule traditional backup plans to run late at night, when they expect low traffic on their network.

But with remote systems, you can’t always predict when you’ll be hooked up to the internet and available to do this backup. Under the traditional backup plans, that could mean your computer will miss these critical backups. Or worse, your already slow remote connection will move even slower because you’re trying to share the bandwidth with your backup process. Many times, you’re not connected to these remote internet services long enough to truly perform a full backup, thus potentially corrupting your backups and losing your critical data.

Under Mobile Vault, the service is intelligent enough to perform data transfer in increments, transferring small packets so it not only using less bandwidth but can optimize on your limited remote access. If you lose connection to the internet, it will simply resume where it left off and thus prevent data corruption.

IP Tracing and Remote data destruction

One of the scariest things that can happen to any business person is losing their laptop. Not only is it a physical asset loss, it could also mean the loss of critical information and compromise of the business. With Mobile Vault, businesses are now able to track and remove critical information even if the computer is physically lost.

Using the administrative interface, Mobile Vault can put a listener out on the Internet. As soon as the computer tries to connect to the internet again (which is a standard process triggered when most computers turn on), the system will retrieve the location of the computer via IP address. From here, the lost device can be located and any critical information removed remotely from the system.

Interested to learn more about what StaySafe Protection or any services under the StaySafe line can offer your computer? Just give us a call or email today. We’d be happy to assist you further and help evaluate if this service is right for your business.

Location Matters Even in the Cloud

The idea of going to a Cloud system (aka remote computing) for businesses can either be scary, exhilarating or a mix of both. If you’re moving your business to a clouded solution, there are many things to consider to make sure your most valuable business asset, your data, is safeguarded.

With that in mind, one of the most overlooked but critical criteria that business owners review when considering a clouded solution is the data location.

Here at, we ran into just such a situation while working with a client.

What is Data Location?

When we speak of data location, we’re now moving out of the “cloud” world and into the real world.  We’re talking about the actual physical location where the servers that hold your data sit.  When you deal with a virtual environment, your data could sit literally anywhere in the world.  With most clouded servers you buy these days, that data will probably sit to the south of us in the United States.

Why does physical location matter?

Because most of these remote servers actually sit in the US, we have a unique situation here in Canada that our southern counterparts don’t necessarily consider.  Whenever we store data in a virtual environment where the physical server is located in the US, we are sending our data out of the country.  Depending on the type of data and level of privacy it falls under, legally, the information should not cross the border without the person’s consent.

Furthermore, because the server resides in a different city, province, and country, the data falls under the jurisdiction of the local municipality of that server.  Thus, if there are additional rules or regulations that are applied at the local level, the data must comply with those standards as well.

To further make the situation difficult, Internet laws are becoming more complicated because data actually can pass through multiple countries and locations as it “jumps” from server to server to its final location. Certain countries are putting in regulations that govern data that passes through their countries.  For instance, Canada will be implementing CASL (Canadian Anti-Spam Legislation), which governs the use of certain personal data for business anywhere online.

The Situation

We were approached from a client to resolve this very complicated situation.  Because this client retained medical information which needs to stay within this country, we had to investigate solutions from a higher level of consideration.

We worked with many companies and server solutions, questioning them on their server location, backup locations, mirrors and safeguards such as firewalls that they had in place. Using our understanding of remote desktop support and ability to delve deeper into the technical details of the provider’s systems, we found a provider that meets all security requirements AND all their servers are located in Canada.


In today’s technological world advances such as cloud computing are ideal for helping small businesses expand at a pace that is reasonable to them without a large initial investment.  Tackling cloud computing for business is different than simply utilizing iCloud or SkyDrive or the like for your personal needs.

When done correctly and with the right level of technical considerations, cloud computing can be the solution that propels your business to the next level.

Are you ready to take the next step?  Need help?  Give us a call here at and let our experts assist you in picking the right solution to fit your business and industry needs.

Get Your Data in Order

In today’s business world, information is your most precious commodity.  Data you keep on your computers can make or break your company.  That is why it is so critical to safeguard the data you store on your network.

There are many solutions these days for you to consider such as remote and local backup systems, ghosting, cloud storage.  Before you can consider any of these options, you really need to take a moment and consider the most critical non-technical decision you will need to make:

How is my data organized?

Organizing your data on your computer is about having a system and sticking to it.  It is the filing system of today and should be taken with as much integrity and seriousness as maintaining critical business records in any other form.

When we talk about data organization on the computer, obviously we’re talking about files.  All too often, I find people putting files everywhere, mixing types and using names that aren’t Windows friendly.  These all lead to complications down the line, difficulty in backing up and recovery, and increased storage costs.

The best organized data has the following characteristics:

  • Information is easy to identify and locate
  • Files are all consolidated into one main area/folder
  • Different types of files are separated where appropriate
  • Files names do not exceed 256 characters (this includes the folder tree and filename itself)

Information is easy to identify and locate

The best test for a good system is when you’re out of the office and you need to send someone instructions on how to find the files to a particular project.  If you can direct someone to locate the necessary file within a sentence or two, your structure is probably good.  If you have to hunt and peck, trying to pick different folders across the network, then you may want to consider spending some time in harmonizing your file structure.

Consolidate files into one folder

Often, people are in a rush and decide to put something up on their desktop so they can access it quickly.  This is fine for the one-off solution but if it’s a file that you need to retain, you should have a designated location for this file.  Having everything in one folder, such as “My Documents”, makes it easier to locate and easier to establish a backup procedure.

Separate file types

In some businesses, projects are run with a large number of different types of files, such as music, video, and images.  These types of files tend to be very large and can be costly in terms of storage and backup.  But if you can isolate them to specific folders, it becomes easier to identify these files and isolate them for different, less expensive forms of backup.

The other key is to separate personal files from business files.  Many people maintain personal data, such as iPod music, downloaded pictures, and personal documents.  While these may be important to the individual, they have no place on your business’ network.  If they are mixed in with business data, you’ll be wasting backup space to these “other” types of information.

Smart file names

When Microsoft allowed the use of long file names they created an annoying “Catch 22”. This was a great boost for many companies who wanted a more descriptive file name.  Unfortunately, one item that many businesses are not aware of is that most backup applications (and other operational programs) don’t like these logical file names.  They end up truncating the filesnames and folder paths making it a challenge to restore.  Best case, they cause you to have to restart the application. In the worst case scenario, they can corrupt your information, making it unreadable and unrecoverable by any program.

Rather than trying to fit everything in the file name, use detailed file structures.  If you’re working in Microsoft Office, you can also use file attributes such as title or subject instead to extend the information you have on the document.

Choosing a good file structure before you move on to implementing a backup solution will save your company a great deal of time and money.

Green Computing IS possible and Good Business

Anyone who knows me knows that I’m the furthest from being green that could possibly exist.  If I could install more light bulbs and electrical gizmos in my backyard I would and, yes, I proudly use power tools, especially those that are gas-powered, all the time.

The reality is most “green” solutions out there are a bunch of hype by marketers to make you pay more for their product.  They work half as effectively as their non-green solutions and you end up doing twice as much work.

So why am I talking about green computing being good here?

Well, oddly enough, in some cases there are “green” solutions that do make sense.  They make business sense and end up providing greener answers to common computer issues.

Virtualization of Desktops and Servers

This one is probably the biggest in terms of being a “green” solution.  Virtualization is a technology that has been around for ages but only recently has it really started to come to a stage where it’s more than just a toy.

Virtualization of the desktop involves things like Cloud computing, where the actual desktop sits physically in another location.  There are several green advantages to this solution:

  1. Reduced commuting.  Everyone talks about getting a hybrid car for better mileage and less emissions.  What better way to generate less smog and get better mileage than to not driving at all?  Being able to support remote work can help with employee retention and provide an appealing job benefit.
  2. Better connected organization.  If you have any personnel who need to be on the road, having the ability to access the company remotely can solve many urgent issues and cut down on undue stress if someone were to be on vacation or away at a particular client’s site.
  3. Better utilization of hardware and licenses.  In many companies, employees aren’t physically at their computers all day.  They may not need their computer on a regular basis.  In particular, if you’re working in a plant, you may find your employees on the floor more than in the office.  Providing virtualized workstations allows them the flexibility of using centralized computers. You do not need to provide each employee with their own station.  Obviously, one computer uses a lot less energy than hundreds, so not only  are you saving in expensive hardware and licenses, you’re also saving in electricity and floor space.

Virtualization of a server has a far more technical advantage that you may not immediately see.  By having your servers virtualized, you can:

  • Save on physical space needed for additional hardware
  • Save on electrical expense for maintaining a server, a server room, and the appropriate conditions to keeping the server healthy
  • Save on having to purchase additional hardware and save on potential software expenses as well
  • Reduce maintenance costs

 Regularly update and properly size equipment

There’s nothing worse than seeing people struggle to work with antiquated equipment.  Many companies believe that if they don’t upgrade their computer systems, they are saving the company money.

Unfortunately, having old or wrong equipment installed can waste your employee’s valuable time.  That’s time you’re paying for as a business owner.  While it may not be as tangible as the cost of having new equipment, I’m sure the cost of a new computer is far less than the time an employee will waste in any given year.

Having older equipment is also environmentally unfriendly.  As the years have progressed, computer companies have developed more efficient hardware that perform better with less power.  They generate less heat, thus requiring less cooling. Equipment, such a monitors, no longer emit as much harmful radiation.

Having a computer work beyond what it is physically capable of doing will cost in terms of both employee time and higher failure rate.

Regularly scheduled maintenance

A regularly scheduled maintenance  contract  will  keep your equipment performing with the latest patches helping to safe guard one of your most expense purchases for your business.  In addition to keeping your data safe, many of these patches include changes, such as battery utilization on laptops that can make energy and environmental differences.

So I may not be jumping on the “green” bandwagon, but there are many things that can be done that make green sense and good business sense.  If you’re interested in what options may apply to your company, please give us a call at

Do you fear the Cloud?

Whenever I speak to people about the Cloud, I get mixed reactions that border anywhere from fear to skepticism.  If you’re one of those people, rest assured that:  a) you’re not alone  and b) it’s not as scary as it seems.

First, let’s get through the basics.

What is the Cloud?

Simply put:  it’s the marketer’s way of explaining virtualization.

There are a few more bells and whistles but essentially it is making whatever component “virtual”.  It means you don’t have to have physical devices located around your office to hold information.  In most cases, it means you won’t have to maintain licensing or worry about upgrades as the “Cloud” will take care of that.

Is there just one Cloud?

Like its namesake, there are many clouds that exist out there and, likewise, they can overlap and integrate with one another.

The term “Cloud” is like calling a car ” an automatic”.    Is there just one type of automatic car out there?  No.    Look at all the dealerships who have various brands, makes and models.    They’re different but they all operate under the same generic principles.

So too with the Cloud.  There are many out there from a variety of sources.  Some are big, some are small.  Some offer certain features that others may not have.  What you use is dependent upon what you need.

Is the Cloud dangerous?

It can be.  Whenever you expose your data or information outside there are risks involved.  Equally, there are risks to keeping your data within your walls too.  Fire, theft, or any number of hardware failures can cost you valuable information on your business.

The best way to proceed is to review the systems you have and provide a proactive plan which ensures critical information and processes, like email and financial data, are properly secured.

What can go into the Cloud?

These days just about anything.  You can set up Cloud for:

  • Email
  • archiving and backup
  • collaboration tools (like Sharepoint)
  • communication devices (like Windows Communicator or WebEX)
  • Microsoft Office programs
  • accounting systems

…just to name a few…

The only things that generally can’t go on the Cloud are physical products like machines or things your business creates.   The trick behind getting on the Cloud is knowing the technology and understanding your business.  Some items make more sense to place on the Cloud than others.  Depending on a number of factors such as the size of the organization, usage, performance, etc., certain Cloud solutions may work better for you than others.   The only way to really find out what you need to place on the Cloud is to speak with your IT professional who understands both your business and the technology out there.

If you need assistance, please contact our Cloud specialist  at  We service businesses in Southeastern Ontario for all their computer and technology needs.

The Nasty 5-letter Word

In the business world, the term “audit” is a nasty 5-letter word.  It often refers to financial auditing and is wrought with anxiety and countless lost hours of production.

Did you know that when it comes to technology, auditing can actually save you money and, in some cases, help you propel your business to the next level?

Not many people think about auditing their IT systems.  Computers tend to be a “put it in place and forget about it until it breaks” component of business.  The reality is you could be wasting a great deal of money by not regularly performing audits on your IT environment.

We equate this leakage to the same as a bad sealant on a window.  Sure, the window is in place and is functioning (for the most part).  On the surface, unless there’s a major crack, you don’t really see any issues but over time, you will notice your heating or cooling bills rise.  You may find water seeping in during bad storms and causing damage to the building structure.  Eventually it will cost you more to keep your current windows than to have them properly switched out and replaced.

So too is the slow leakage that comes with a business IT infrastructure that doesn’t have a proper monitoring and auditing system behind it.

The slow leak of your hard-earned profit…

As mentioned previously, it isn’t immediately apparent how you can lose money from an improperly maintained IT system but here are some common issues we run into that can easily be caught by a proper audit.

  • Outdated software that requires patches or upgrades
  • Equipment on the verge of failing and degrading in performance
  • Holes in your security that have allowed malicious software to enter
  • Loss of productivity from employees spending time on unauthorized websites
  • Missing or incorrect license keys which put your company at legal risk

Ignoring the issue…

Over time, the infrastructure can break down around you and suddenly you find yourself in an emergency situation.  Your hardware or software is failing.  You don’t know how or what to replace the equipment with.  You scramble to stop the incoming “seepage of water” that can cause permanent damage to the infrastructure of your business.

Audits to the rescue

Luckily, you can avoid a lot of this pain by having an IT audit performed.  Unlike its financial counterpart, IT audits can be relatively painless and cost you minimal time.

A well run audit

Obviously, there are many programs and people out there who claim they can perform IT audits.  If the audit is to be of value, it must contain some key points:

  • Inventory of all hardware and software connected to your IT system
  • Detailed listing of licenses for each critical application and serial numbers for hardware
  • Information around warranty status on each piece of hardware
  • Listing of firewall or security measures and ports open
  • Information on users and mail accounts (if hosted internally)
  • Information on server utilization and storage device space

How long does an audit take?

Normally, an initial audit should take no more than a couple of hours.  There is minimal involvement from your staff.  Rather, the IT technician should be able to perform the investigation with just access to your system.

How often should it be done?

The frequency of audits depends upon if you have another monitoring system in place to watch day-to-day activity.  With a monitoring system, you should only have to perform or update your audit when major system changes like across-the-board upgrades or new servers go into place.  Without a monitoring system to watch day-to-day traffic, you may want to consider a minimum of a yearly review of your systems to ensure all is still operating as expected.

Need help?

If you need more help or have further questions about IT audits, please don’t hesitate to give us a call here at  We’d be happy to answer your questions and work with you to provide you the best solutions to maximize your IT budget

Lenovo ThinkPad Tablet Review 2012

Tablets are the “in” thing these days. Ever since the iPad broke onto the scene, it revolutionized how we treated these amalgamations between a laptop and a large phone.

I have to admit, I wasn’t excited by the idea of the iPad when it first came out. In fact, I didn’t even invest in tablet technology until I was stumped as to what to get my wife for the birth of our newborn. The iPad was a neat toy… and that was about it.

Now, I’ve gone through several generations of tablets. I’m still very attached to my Blackberry Playbook (though that might have a bit to do with Fergie). The Playbook is great if you have a real mobile phone, *cough*, I mean a Blackberry, because it bridges to your phone and allows you to use your existing phone plan to connect to the Internet. I had one client who was even able to use his phone like an antenna to get a signal and walk around with his Playbook to access his email.

The latest product to finally be released in Canada is the Lenovo ThinkPad. This sexy little device has got a real shot at being a contender to the iPad, especially for those who want a tablet which is actually functional. These are the top 5 features my clients have been most impressed with so far:

  1. Includes a stylus. I get frustrated with all this “touch” technology. I’m sorry but my fingers just aren’t as thin as they want it to be sometimes. The ThinkPad gives you the option to both use touch AND use a stylus that comes included. When you don’t want to use the stylus, there’s a nice compartment at the side to snap it away so it isn’t lost.
  2. Notes Mobile. This program alone has sold several of these devices for me. Notes Mobile has handwriting recognition. Coupled with the stylus, it makes note-taking a breeze. We tested the recognition program with several different people and the program was able to adapt to the differences with little issue. With a tap, you can switch to freehand mode and draw to your heart’s content. In addition, you could take a picture and then draw directly on the picture in the note.
  3. A real keyboard. For just a bit more, you can purchase the keyboard addition. Unlike other keyboards I’ve seen, this keyboard actually “felt” like a real keyboard. There was a certain spring when you typed with the keys and the actual keys were standard sized, making it so much easier to type with. The keyboard is built into a folder that holds the tablet and provides a protective leather cover. It makes the tablet then look like a neat little notebook.
  4. Android apps. The backend of the Lenovo ThinkPad is built on Android technology. That means that all the great apps which are available on the Android are also available on this device. There are some limitations at the moment, such as certain programs aren’t “free” as they might be with other devices. But I had no problem finding applications that I needed. Being on Android technology means you aren’t limited like the iPad to non-Flash sites and other restrictions.
  5. Docs to go. Another great application that comes installed on your ThinkPad right out of the box, Docs To Go gives you access to major document types such as view & edit Microsoft Word, Excel, and Powerpoint and view Adobe PDF. Having this program immediately available emphasizes the work functionality of this tablet over other “toys” out there that focus more on music and movies.

The size of the screen and weight are comparable to others on the market. You also aren’t able to really use the camera if it is docked with the keyboard. Battery life is about 8-hours. Initial setup requires you to have a Google account associated with the system to control purchases from the Lenovo app store. The biggest limitation is that all apps need to be certified through the Lenovo app store to be able to download them. They are intentionally restricting applications to those that are tested and certified by Levono. I am contacting my rep to make sure I get my Sonos, rdio and a couple of others qualified. (Great to be a partner sometimes!)

The price tag on this device is in line with the equivalent on the market. As a bonus you get a one year’s manufacturer’s warranty. That’s the benefit of buying Think technology.

When you’re looking for a real, functioning tablet that’s more than just a toy you use for work, you may want to consider one of these new Lenovo ThinkPad tablets. If you’d like to schedule a demo and you’re in the Hamilton/Burlington area, give me a call or email me here at and we’ll see if we can setup something.

Should you virtualize your business

Virtualization seems to be the latest trend for business (and personal) these days. Everywhere you turn, people are talking about the “cloud” and utilizing their “online services”. But how realistic is this move for businesses? And is this just a passing fad?

First off, let’s be clear the concept of virtualization for computers isn’t as new as Microsoft or other big contenders would have you believe. In fact, the original computing world was completely “virtual”. Back then, we called them mainframes. All data and applications were in a central location; the only thing the user had was a terminal in which to log into the main servers.

Mainframes were powerful but the architecture had quite a few drawbacks. Limitations, such as capacity of simultaneous users and distance from the mainframe servers, directed companies more towards personal computers and stand-alone devices.

The idea of virtualization has risen again because of many advancements which makes the concept and technology far more accessible. In today’s world, virtualization refers to a diverse array of solutions and possibilities. Understanding the differences and possibilities are key to gaining the benefit of the technology.

Small companies (< 50 desktops)

Smaller companies can see real cost benefits from virtualizing their support or auxiliary systems. When we speak about virtualization for smaller businesses, we are talking primarily about utilizing the services of another company to eliminate the need of locally maintaining hardware and software.

Example: A mid-sized manufacturing company with roughly 15 employees was getting bombarded with spam in their email box. The spam was causing important emails from clients to be delayed and even rejected.

The cost for purchasing a local spam filtering software was a flat server rate plus individual cost per user. Divided across 15 boxes, it worked out to over $200/year/user. recommended they move to a virtualized spam filter, where they were able to reduce the cost of spam filtering to just a few dollars a month per user, or < $100/year/user. There was no compromise in service and in fact they gained message queuing, mail archiving and the ability to reply to emails in the queue in the event of a server outage.

Larger companies (> 50 desktops)

In larger companies, they can benefit from the same shared services as small businesses. But there are other opportunities available, such as Hyper-V, a Microsoft technology which allows for a single server to act like multiple.

Example: A large pharmaceutical company had at one time maintained close to 27 servers to store all their critical clinical trials data. This large number of servers was starting to impede the space allotted for computers and thus the ability for the company to continue to grow.

Rather than simply place more servers into the room, worked out a new architecture for the environment that reduced the 27 servers down to 7 and allowed for additional growth within the existing environment. In addition to saving floor space, this allowed the company to retire the other 20 servers and save on maintenance time, reduce their carbon footprint and experience a utilities cost saving.

So what’s the right virtualization solution?

Virtualizing a company’s IT has to be done with a lot of care and forethought. Without the proper planning, critical systems can go down and data can be lost.

It is also not a “one-size-fits-all” environment. The solution has to fit with the company’s needs. For instance, a lawyer firm recently worked with had legal requirements to maintain all data within Canada. Thus, it was critical for us to work with them and find the right solution to meet their needs and not compromise their data.

Are you interested in virtualizing your environment? Curious what options may be available to you?

Give us a call and book some Discovery time with We’ll be able to review your existing setup and provide our assessment on what architecture would make the most sense for your business.