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Common Pitfalls

We see computer and technology problems every day. These are the greatest hits and they're in heavy rotation. Do us a favor -- avoid these common problems and give us more interesting problems to solve.


Backing up data is important. Hard drives are machines that break. When they do it can be very expensive if not impossible to recover the data they contain. Fortunately, it is possible and affordable to make exact copies of digital information. The question is not whether you can afford to back up, it's why you think you can afford not to.

Square Peg, Square Hole

Computers use different connectors for different purposed. Displays are connected via VGA or DVI, Keyboards and mice via PS/2 and USB, and copper ethernet networks are connected via RJ-45. Unfortunately IT is not a realm in which it is safe to adopt an “if the shoe fits, wear it,” or “if the connector fits, plug it” mentality. It's common for both ends of one wire to end up plugged into a switch or hub, which creates a loopback on the network and generates infinite traffic and breaking the network. It's also common for multiple routers to be connected to a network via their LAN ports, often with identical IP information, defeating the network's ability to properly route traffic to the internet. Improperly connected network hardware and cables is a big cause of network downtime and can be extremely difficult to track down.

Reset Button

Reset =/= Restart. Restarting or rebooting a network device is a common troubleshooting technique. Routers and switches and wireless access points are actually little computers. They sometimes crash too, especially less robust models. In that case, rebooting can be a quick and easy and effective fix. Resetting the device, however, reloads the factory default configuration, which is probably not appropriate for your network.

Email and Scope

Email is the first indicator. There are many problems with the same symptom that people notice before anything else. When email stops flowing, our phones start ringing. These problems can exist at any step along a long chain. The local computer, local network, network perimeter, ISP, and the mail server itself are all required for email to flow, and a hitch in any one of them can cause the same symptom. Some of these problems might require professional help to solve, some you might be able to handle yourself. To determine where the problem lies, or at least a likely candidate, run down this list:

  1. Does rebooting my computer solve this problem? If yes, it's probably something on my computer that's acting up.

  2. Can I print to a network printer or see file servers on my local network? If yes, the local network is probably healthy.

  3. Do I get a response from my router if I type its IP address into my browser? If yes, the perimeter is probably OK.

  4. Can I open web pages? If yes, the ISP is probably in good shape.

  5. Can I access my email via the webmail login? If yes, the mail server probably isn't broken.

Knowing the answers to these questions might not fix your problem, but it will certainly help us fix your problem.


Businesses are internet addicts. Financial information, email, research, data shared with customers, data shared with vendors, business web presence, instant messages and more all require a working internet connection. It's relatively inexpensive to upgrade your office to a dual-WAN configuration with automatic failover. Save yourself the worry and hassle of internet downtime in your office and make this small investment.

Preventative Medicine

One client insisted that their server's hard drive was being backed up. It turns out that it was not. Data was recovered, but at a cost of $2,400. Another ignored our recommendations for managed switches. Network downtime cost three-quarters of a day of productivity. Both of these problems could have been identified and mitigated in advance for much less money than the eventual cost of cleaning up after a disaster. Rebuilding the levee is cheaper than rebuilding the city.

A Blog to Call your Own

Both one of my friends and my mother asked me about blogging this weekend. This is a topic that's been beat to death on the internet, and this probably won't be the most thorough report on what it takes to get a blog started, but it should be among the most succinct.

  1. Visit

  2. Fill out the form.

  3. Start blogging.

That's it - that's all you need to get your feet wet. It's free to start, cheap to upgrade to custom features like control over ads and your own domain name, and easy to migrate to your own server should you decide you need added flexibility down the road. Jump in, the water's fine!

Google / Desktop Integration

Most of us are used to software that runs locally - we use Mail or Outlook for our email, Office for our word processing and spreadsheets, and iCal or Outlook for our calendars. Google Apps, Gmail, and the Google Calendar duplicate much of the functionality of these desktop programs, but they require an internet connection to work. The engineers at Google and some enterprising independent developers have come up with a few tools we can use to more closely replicate the desktop application experience even when NOT online.

Top Tools and Software

We use a variety of software and services to keep our business and our lives up and running. These are the heavy hitters in our list - the software that we use daily. In the web 2.0 world, not all software is installed and run on the desktop. The majority of this software is accessed via a web browser. There are several players in each of these fields, but these are the choices that work best for us. Get in touch with us and we can find the right matches for you.

Cloud Computing Pitfalls

Outsourcing software and services can be a great boon to efficiency and productivity. The trend toward Web 2.0 SaaS (Software as a Service) and cloud computing is simplifying once complex software and licensing issues. Your business is only a few clicks away from implementing a secure intranet, online accounting software, or a unified office, calendar, and email suite.

There are, however, things that can go wrong. It's the responsibility of every business and business owner to mitigate risks that threaten business continuity and integrity. Responsibility and accountability cannot be outsourced. If your business relies heavily on cloud computing, there are a few things you can do to reduce the damage done by outages and problems in the cloud. I'll use Google Apps as an example, but these principals apply to any hosted software.

Backstage with Email

Email. It's become one of the most important personal and business communication tools. When my customers email stops working, for whatever reason, they very quickly move from concern, to worry, to distress, to panic. As with most computer problems, a lack of knowledge about the system only increases the intensity of the panic - not only are they unable to access their email, they have no idea how it works. Hopefully after reading this article, you'll have a better understanding of the multitude of systems that have to coordinate for your email to make it to you.