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Protect Your Computer with a Battery Backup (UPS)

Most owners of a desktop computer understand that they need to protect their investment by connecting their computer to a surge protector.

However, surge protectors only addresses one type of damage that can be caused by electrical disruption (surges) and completely fail to protect you and your computer against far more frequent (and harmful) disruptions like complete power loss (black outs), under voltage (brown outs), or line noise.

These types of power problems can damage your computer and can result in damage to your system (or cause complete system failure).

Protect your computer with a UPS to protect against power disturbances and damage caused by surges, dips, and blackouts.

Basic Computer Maintenance: Protect Your Investment

A simple Uninterrupted Power Supply or UPS is a cheap investment that helps keep your computer running throughout all of these electrical disruptions, and is a must have when considering your basic computer maintenance.

A UPS is essentially a surge bar with a battery built inside of it. They have two sides of electrical outlets.

One side offers Surge Protection only and is meant for your desktop printer, your lamp, and your adding machine (i.e. stuff that doesn’t need to run during a power outage).

The other side offers Surge Protection + Battery Backup and is meant for your computer, monitor, and any other mission critical systems like your external backup drive.

In the event of a power outage or under voltage, the UPS quietly and instantly switches to battery power, supplying your critical systems with a seamless transition to alternative power.

When the power gets restored or the power disturbance stabilizes to within a safe threshold, they switch back to house power and begin charging the reserve battery.

We also recommend these for places with a backup generator. Often the generator takes 10 to 30 seconds to kick in, by which time the computers have long since shutdown (possibly with damage).

With a UPS in place, you can safely and smoothly transition from house power to backup battery to backup generator.

UPS Cost and RunTime

We like the UPS from a company called American Power Coversion: http://www.apc.com/

A residential model like the APC 750 costs about $90 and a more robust, longer running unit for businesses machines like the APC 1300 cost about $200.

The more expensive the unit, the longer it can run on battery and the higher total volt amps (VA) it can support.

In reality these units really only run for 10 to 30 minutes, which is enough time for you to safely save your data and shut down your system.

If you are not in attendance, these units work with your computer to attempt a safe shutdown (via a cable that connects to your computer and a bit of monitoring software) when the battery reaches ~10%.

These units are designed to be, and should be considered, sacrificial. That is, they will fail before your computer gets the shock of its life.

Don’t forget, this isn’t just about protecting your physical machine from damage from electrical damage, this is about saving yourself the headache and cost of resetting up your computer, software, and workflow, should it get fried.

It is a small price to pay when you know what it can save you in lost time and money.

I Have a Laptop

If you have a laptop then you already have a battery built into your machine so you don’t need a UPS to provide power in the event of a power outage.

Your laptop is rated for 220 V (which covers a lot of over voltage situations for us here in 120 V land) but you may consider just using a reputable laptop surge protector.

I have been in stores and have overheard sales people telling people to keep their laptop batteries out of the machine to help keep it “fresh” and the number of “cycles” down.

Hogwash. Your laptop is only going to last ~3 years, use it and use it up. Because I can guarantee you that you aren’t going to be too happy when your dead laptop is staring up at you, but you have a fresh battery in the drawer!

Put the battery in and protect your investment.

Free Backup for Those on a Budget

While I strongly recommend utilizing backup services like BackBlaze or KineticD, there are situations where you can cheat a little bit when it comes to your backups.

If you have a small amount of data (less than 5 GB) you can utilize free online storage solutions like DropBox or Google Drive to store your data safely, free, online.

These services allow you to sign up for a free account (DropBox = 2.5 GB, Google Drive = 5.0 GB).

You then download and install the respective desktop software for your PC or Mac.

Any files you store in the folders that are created by the desktop software are automatically uploaded and synced with your online account.

While technically these are file synchronization services, the result is that your files are backed up to an offsite server (the “cloud”) and your files are retrievable should your hard drive crash.

If all you have are Word Documents, Excel Spreadsheets, or your QuickBooks Backups, this is a great, simple, and free solution.

If you have your photo or music collection, this isn’t really the right solution for you (although you may want to check out Google Play feature which allows you to store some 25 000 songs for free).

If your computer were to be lost, stolen, or broken, you can simply log into your account from any new computer or your mobile device, and all of your stored content is instantly available to you.

This is backup on the cheap, and it works.


For those that have >5GB of data and are more technically savvy, you may want to check out CrashPlan, which allows you to back up your data from a computer at location A to another computer at location B.

This is also great for sites that require secure backup, but are still on the fence about storing their data in a 3rd party’s data center.

Email Options: POP, IMAP, and Exchange & What is Right for You

In order to help our customers understand their email, I’ve decided to summarize the three most common email options that exist in modern computing.

This article also tries to help guide you towards deciding which email system is best suited to you and your business.

Although I’ve written about it in the past, some of the rules have changed, so I’ve decided to create a new, up-to-date version.

POP Email (Post Office Protocol)

POP access is the simplest form of retrieving email from your mailbox.

It works best when used with a single device (i.e., retrieving email on a single computer).

POP Advantages

  • Simple fetching of email from server
  • All internet service providers support POP

POP Disadvantages

  • Only works well with a single device
  • Very limited useability on mobile devices
    • You can usually receive email, but not send email (especially when you leave your wireless connection at home and try to send while on vacation etc.)

IMAP (Internet Message Access Protocol)

IMAP allows for multiple devices to synchronize email.

Email is stored on the server and each device gets an updated copy of emails.

As you read, move, forward, reply and delete emails these changes are reflected on all your devices.

DCCNET.com does not support IMAP.

Eastlink.ca does support IMAP and provides a reasonable 2 GB mailbox.

Telus does support IMAP, just not very well.  Telus provides a meager 100 MB of space, and only supports one device accessing the account at a time (thereby completely negating one of the biggest advantages of using a mailbox synchronization system like IMAP.

IMAP Advantages

  • Email Synchronization between devices is powerful and minimizes repeat efforts of having to keep inbox’s in sync
  • Migrating to a new computer or adding a new device is easy: just enter your credentials and all of your email will start flowing in
  • Business accountability: emails sent on a mobile device are now captured and stored in your sent box
  • Reduce backup time / cost / stress: since email is stored on the server, you no longer need to worry about backing up that content

IMAP Disadvantages

  • Emails stored on the server consume space; not all providers give sufficient space
  • Email provided by your Internet Service Provider has vast differences in available space: Eastlink: 2 GB; Telus: 150 MB; Rogers: unlimited; Bell: unlimited
  • Email provided by 3rd parties are usually more forgiving in space allotments: GMail: 10 GB; Yahoo: unlimited; Hotmail: 5GB; iCloud: 5 GB
  • IMAP only synchronizes email and does not synchronize contacts, or calendar events.

Hosted Exchange

Hosted Exchange is meant for businesses that want a professional email system that works on an enterprise level across all devices and all platforms.

Exchange synchronizes email, contacts, and calendar events. It also allows for shared contacts and shared calendars. It also allows for email delegation so that team members can be granted permission to see specific folders in your email account.

All important considerations for a business that uses email as a central pillar of their communication infrastructure.

Hosted Exchange Advantages

  • Full synchronization of all email, contacts, and calendar events across all modern mobile computing devices
  • Migrating to a new computer or adding a new device is easy: just enter your credentials and all of your email, contacts, calendar events, email rules, and signature will start flowing in
  • Business accountability: emails sent on a mobile device are now captured and stored in your sent box
  • You finally get to use that “out of office” option in Outlook
  • Reduce backup time / cost / stress: since email is stored on the server, you no longer need to worry about backing up that content
  • Industry proven Microsoft technology, with fully knowledgeable IT professionals a phone call away, should you have problems
  • $8 / user / month for 25GB; a pittance compared to running a server in-house

Hosted Exchange Disadvantages

  • Rare instance of non-professional platforms (Outlook Express, Mac Mail) unable to view attachments sent through Exchange

What is right for me? What should I do?

 

Residential User

If you only have a single device and don’t mind backing up your email data yourself, then POP access is OK for you.

If you have multiple devices or would like to take advantage of easy migration to new devices then you need IMAP.

If your ISP provides IMAP access and a reasonable mailbox size (2GB or greater) then you should be just fine.

If your ISP does not provide IMAP access or it is very small and limited (like Telus) then switch to a hosted solution: Hotmail, Yahoo, iCloud, or GMail.

The downside is that you will have a new email address that ends in @hotmail.com or @yahoo.com or @gmail.com. This isn’t an issue for most residential users.

What do you do with all of your contacts that are sending email to your old address? Simple, you log into your account and configure your account to forward all email to your new account.

Eastlink: Navigate to webmail.eastlink.com, enter your credentials, on the left-hand side choose options and forwarding.

Telus: Navigate to mytelus.com, enter your credentials, choose your email, and set your forwarding options.

iCloud.com does support many of the features of Exchange; contact syncing, calendar syncing, etc. This is a nice solution for residential users who are looking to share their calendar with their family. However, iCloud is not business-ready and should not be employed in a business environment.

 

Business User

You have more options to help keep the branding of your business name. For instance “matthew@mainstaycomputing.com” is much more meaningful than “mainstaycomp@eastlink.ca”. Not only is this far more professional, but it helps reinforce my company name and to inform a customer that I have a website that they might want to check out.

Email is sent directly to and from my mainstaycomputing.com account and is delivered quickly. There are no complicated redirects where the email is bouncing through multiple hosts/servers, where each one could filter out a legitimate email because it considers it spam.

For business users, you may want to read Guide to Creating a Professional Email Signature

OPTION ONE: Use Your Host

If you don’t have a website or a domain, purchase one. They are a whopping $10 / year.

Register with GoDaddy and secure your name. Then setup email. You don’t actually even need to have a website, you just need the domain name.

If you already have your website, check with your host and see if they provide IMAP accounts with a minimum of 5 GB of space (each). If so, make the switch.

If you are in the process of setting up a website, you may want to read Web Site Requirements & Why You Should Never Use a Reseller Account.

OPTION TWO: Use Google Apps

So, you’re host doesn’t offer IMAP email and you still want to have a company branded email address.

Simple, you sign up for Google Apps ($5 / user / month for 25GB / account) and setup your accounts and users.

Then log into your Registrar and point your Mail Exchange (MX) records to the Google Apps servers.

You now have an Enterprise Class Email system at your disposal.

Google Apps also offer access to the entire Google Suite of collaborative computing such as shared calendars, contacts, and much more.

OPTION THREE: Use Exchange

Beyond a doubt, the ultimate experience for your business is Microsoft Exchange Servers.

I use and strongly recommend using a Hosted Exchange: Sherweb Exchange. For $8 / user / month you get full synchronization of your email, contacts, and calendar (and 25GB of space / account).

This allows for the most flexibility and productivity between yourself and your office.

Capilano University: ManagingYour Digital Photos with Picasa

Capilano University: ManagingYour Digital Photos with Picasa

Managing Your Digital Photos With Picasa

This is a last call for all those interested in learning how to take control of their digital photo collection in a completely stress free environment.

The course is a short, 5 hour workshop with 15 students at the Capilano University Campus in Sechelt, that are keen on learning how to wrangle their photo libraries.

You can be a PC or a Mac user.  You can be novice, enthusiast, or professional photographer.

This is a short, fun, enthusiastic look at how you can maximize your photo management experience.

The class is set for April 20, only 2 weeks away, so call now to reserve your seat (604 885 9310).

This five-hour workshop covers everything you need to know to get the most out of your digital pictures.

Using the immensely popular [free] program Picasa, you will learn easy, sure-fire methods of transferring your photos to your computer, organizing them into convenient collections, editing them to perfection, and sharing them with friends and family.

Bring your own digital camera and transfer cable, or a photo CD so you have meaningful material to work with. This workshop is both Mac and PC friendly.

See the official listing at Capilano University.

NB: Although this course discusses many photographic concepts, it is not designed to teach you how to use your digital camera.

You should also be familiar with basic computer operations and terminology to take this course. This course includes a ½ hour lunch break; please bring lunch.

1 Sat Apr 20
10 am – 3 pm M. Lehmann
91190 $75

Register now by calling 604 885 9310

NBK Mining Engineering: UBC

NBK Mining Engineering: UBC

We’ve recently completed a redesign of The NBK Institute of Mining Engineering at UBC.

Originally built in 2000, the mining.ubc.ca website was long overdue for an overhaul.

UBC’s Department of Mining Engineering is known for being a small, close-knit family.

Our Department is exemplified by the dedication of the faculty and staff who provide a dynamic, hands-on learning experience for both undergraduate and graduate students.

This new, lightweight Content Management System:

  • allows staff and faculty to update their own unique profiles
  • flexible CMS controls allow for dynamic content to be generated with little effort
  • follows UBC’s Common Look and Feel criteria
  • is fully integrated with UBC’s Applied Science IT infrastructure
  • takes advantage of powerful Search Engine Optimization techniques
  • has a fresh, modern look that drastically improves the Department’s image

In addition, the site has a powerful hosting platform which allows for significant improvements in the Department’s teaching and research resources.

While there is still a lot of information and fine tuning to be done on the site, the Department has opted to push the site live as it is a drastic improvement on the old site.

The new site can be viewed at mining.ubc.ca.

Live View

[browsershot url=”http://mining.ubc.ca” width=”550px”]

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