ComTech: IT Support Stirling
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Where do you work?

Working outdoors

I was having a meeting with someone (lets call him Jeff) over coffee last week when the topic got onto where we actually do our work. Jeff is your typical office worker who has an office with 2 PC’s, 2 printers and is in the office at 9am on the dot and does not leave until 6pm at the earliest. For 90% of his time he is bound to his desk as he thinks he is more productive that way. If that works for him I am not going to knock it but then we got talking about me.

My style of working is completely different to Jeff’s. I have set up ComTech to be a mobile business (just look at the top picture) which means I am not tied to a desk all day unless I choose to be. I have an office setup with my lovely iMac and multiple monitors but I also have a mobile setup which allows me to work from anywhere when the weather is nice or I just fancy a change of scenery. “But how can you help your clients if you are half way up a hill somewhere?” was Jeff’s response to this.

My mobile setup consists of the following:

  1. EE myfi (4G) and Three myfi (3G) which covers my internet needs.
  2. Lenovo 10 inch Android tablet and Acer Chromebook for actually doing the work.
  3. Teamviewer for remote access and Pulseway for remote monitoring of my clients systems
  4. Ankar powerpack for tablet and myfi (Chromebook has 12 hours of battery life)

This setup has proved it’s worth time and again and multiple clients have been helpt when I am out and about. It is a standing joke with a lot of my clients that they ask “Where are you today then?” before they tell me what their problem is!!

I am not saying this approach works for everything and yes there are times when I have to sit at a desk to finish a piece of work or project but it gives me the flexibility to choose how and where I do my work. In almost 7 years of business I have never failed to respond to a client with the SLA of 4 hours and I am usually much quicker than this. For those times when boots are required on the ground the car is never that far away either.

Like I said earlier this approach works for me and makes my work / life balance more enjoyable but it may not work for everyone so lets start the conversation. What works for you?

About the Author

P1020114

Hi I’m Chris Wakefield the owner of ComTech IT Support. I provide Cisco, Windows, OS X and Linux based IT Support to small businesses throughout Scotland.

Follow @Comtech247 on Twitter

Life doesn’t end with no internet

I had a strange experience this weekend whilst camping with the family down in Kirkcudbright. Let me explain.

Recently I have noticed on my travels around Scotland that the mobile network is gradually improving to such a point that I now get 4G in so many more places than just 12 months ago. This is great for mobile working as I can now login to my clients systems much easier and much quicker without the need to park up and “find some signal”.

At the weekend though I had nothing. No bars on the phone (EE) and no internet whatsoever. I even tried by backup (Three) who are getting progressively better in Scotland and absolutely nothing there either. Here I was on a campsite in Dumfries and Galloway with absolutely no signal and for once this didn’t bother me. It was my reaction of “whatever I’m on hols” which surprised me if I am honest. I am so used to being online 247 checking the news, Facebook, Linkedin, Twitter, emails and general browsing that I had forgotten how satisfying it was just to relax and get away from it all. With no signal on my phone I didn’t have the chance to check my online stuff which made it even more satisfying.

We are so used to being “connected” online 247 that the thought of missing something important is too much for some people to bear. Going around with our heads in our phones checking our Facebook status’ and the like detaches us from what is actually going on around us.

Turn your phone off once in a while and lift your head up and see what is around you. You may find you like it!!

About the Author

P1020114

Hi I’m Chris Wakefield the owner of ComTech IT Support. I provide Cisco, Windows, OS X and Linux based IT Support to small businesses throughout Scotland.

Follow @Comtech247 on Twitter

Mobile working from a tablet

Mobile working is great.  The ability to work from anywhere without needing an office and all the distractions it brings is priceless.  More and more people are jumping on the bandwagon and starting to use tablets specifically for this purpose.  They offer excellent portability, battery life and in the case of Windows  10 a “proper” operating system to run all your programs on.  One big drawback though is lack of storage space as most tablets are in the 16 GB – 64 GB range which for some people is fine and others not so.

This is where cloud storage helps.  You can store all your files on Dropbox, Box, Google Drive, Onedrive etc and access them when required so long as you have wifi.  In Scotland though 3G coverage (and 4G) can be sporadic outside of the main population centres so accessing online data can be a problem.

So how do you cover all your options?

To increase your chances of actually getting online in the first place go for mobile broadband from either EE or Three (this applies to Scotland only) as these seem to have the best coverage.  I have used Vodafone and O2 in the past and really struggled to get online in large areas of Scotland.

For instant access to your files purchase an SD card for your tablet and in the case of Windows 10 install Dropbox on it which is exactly what I did for a client last week.  The new Windows 10 tablets are actually pretty good and run the full version of Windows.  My client now has all their Dropbox files synced to the SD card meaning they can access their files whether they have internet access or not. There were some teething troubles but this article should help anyone out who wants to set this up.

Sorry iOS and Android lovers (me included here) we have to make do with needing internet to access our files.  Boo hoo!!

About the Author

P1020114

Hi I’m Chris Wakefield the owner of ComTech IT Support. I provide Cisco, Windows, OS X and Linux based IT Support to small businesses throughout Scotland.

Follow @Comtech247 on Twitter

My mobile working strategy review

Anyone who follows my usual ramblings will know that I cover all of Scotland for work.  Most of the jobs outside of the central belt tend to be in “rural” locations (aka sheep and mountains for company) which means access to the internet can be limited.  This provides a challenge when it comes to supporting my regular clients who tend to work in the cities and towns in the central belt.  For this reason I purchased mobile broadband (myfi) through T-Mobile 18 months ago and it has worked pretty well.  18 months is a long time in IT though so I thought it was time for a little review.

The network with the largest coverage in Scotland at the moment is EE so it would be daft not to have mobile broadband through them. I scoured the internet and found some cracking deals on 24 month contracts and opted for 15GB for £15 per month.  The device can connect 10 simultaneous devices too which is nice.  One problem though is backup.  What happens when EE has no coverage in a certain area?  In the past I would rely on my HTC One X which runs on O2 but even so I would like a third option.

Back to the internet and checking coverage maps.  Vodafone was out as their coverage in Scotland is appalling.  I install a lot of GSM modems which are tethered to Vodafone and a lot of the time the signal is so bad they basically don’t work.  This leaves Three which I have had bad coverage with in the past, however after checking their coverage maps they seam to be a lot better so I purchased 5GB for £15 per month.

So I now have EE, O2 and Three as my mobile broadband options which should cover most bases but what to use them with?

My trusty 10 inch Lenovo Android tablet is still going strong and allows me to use Teamviewer to remote into into my clients systems easily.  I firmly believe in “If it isn’t broke don’t fix it” and since the tablet still has 9 hours of battery life I see no reason to change it.

Speaking of battery life I also have an Ankar portable battery pack which holds enough charge to charge my phone and tablet twice or the phone 4 times.  Since my phone battery is appalling this comes in very handy!!

So that is the networks in place, the device to use and power in place but even with all this there will still be times when I have no signal whatsoever.  When that happens I ring a nice man who sits next to a PC who remotes in for me!!

About the Author

P1020114

Hi I’m Chris Wakefield the owner of ComTech IT Support. I provide Cisco, Windows, OS X and Linux based IT Support to small businesses throughout Scotland.

Follow @Comtech247 on Twitter

 

 

Is mobile banking safe?

Is mobile banking secure? I get asked this question more times than I can remember and the answer is always the same.  It can be!!

Let me explain. My personal banking is through Barclays and I must say, for me, their online banking is superb and their mobile app (Android) is even better.  I can very easily transfer money between my accounts and even pay my bills without leaving the comfort of my living room. I can also contact Barclays through the app which basically by-passes security as it is assumed I am making the call, which I must admit is a bit scary. There is a woft of “convenience” about the whole mobile banking thing which I like, however I am fully aware of the dangers.  I have a passcode on my phone and another (different) code to access my banking app.  There are also various other passcodes to apps such as Dropbox and finally I have the ability to wipe my phone using BitDefender.  If my phone gets lost or stolen I am not really that worried about data theft.  A lot of people however are not so security conscious.

The biggest concern for me is where I use my mobile banking.  Public wifi is a non starter as you don’t know who else is on the same network and, for me, 3 or 4G is also out for the same reason.  I tend to use wifi networks I trust so that is home, friends and maybe some clients.  If you can’t trust the network you are using don’t bother using mobile banking.

So is it safe? I would say mobile banking is along the lines of crossing the road.  If you take sensible precautions (like looking both ways) and don’t use it everywhere (crossing a motorway anyone?) then you will be safe.  Yes it is convenient but treat it with respect.

About the Author

P1020114

Hi I’m Chris Wakefield the owner of ComTech IT Support. I provide Cisco, Windows, OS X and Linux based IT Support to small businesses throughout Scotland.

Follow @Comtech247 on Twitter

 

 

 

The mobile revolution is here to stay


I have been thinking a lot lately about the systems I use on a daily basis to carry out my work and if there is a better or more efficient way to do it.

My current setup is as follows.  In the office I have a Debian Linux system running Oracle Virtualbox which allows access to my virtual machines which I use for testing different software.  In the field I carry a 7 inch Android tablet along with my trusty Asus Eeepc 701 which is used for configuring routers. All my files are stored on Dropbox which allows instant access from anywhere, while for internet access I have either my HTC Desire smartphone or T-Mobile myfi along with my broadband in the office.  I would say that most bases are covered.

One small problem though.  I find that I am trying to use my Debian system less (basically to use less electric) and am more and more drawn to using something like a Chromebook. A Chromebook along with Dropbox would allow me to be fully mobile and relying less on the main system in the office (tablets are good but do have their limitations).

This is a pattern I am seeing more and more with my clients too. Most have either a laptop or PC and would like to become more mobile.  Most are looking towards tablets, Surface Pro hybrids and in some cases Chromebooks along with some kind of online storage for their files.  Even the laptop which is a mobile device of sorts (can be a bit heavy and cumbersome) is slowly starting to make way as people want  smaller and more mobile gadgets.

I am not saying that you should ditch the laptop and go out and buy a tablet as there are still things which are better accomplished using a laptop (word processing for example) but tablets have their uses, and these uses are becoming more widespread.  Take my 7″ Android tablet as an example.  I use it for monitoring my clients systems (mobilepcmonitor software), checking emails, social media for work, calendar, editing documents from my Dropbox account and so on.  The only reason I am looking at a Chromebook is the screen size and keyboard if I am honest.

Some people can truely use tablets, online storage and smartphones and work from anywhere while others would prefer their trusty laptop to accomplish the same thing. Neither way is right or wrong but one thing is for certain – the mobile revolution is here to stay.

About the Author

P1020114

Hi I’m Chris Wakefield the owner of ComTech IT Support. I provide Windows and Linux based IT Support, laptop repairs and computer repairs to both business and personal clients in Stirling and Falkirk.

Follow @Comtech247 on Twitter

Where does Microsoft go from here?


Last week Steve Ballmer the CEO of Microsoft, the man everyone seams to loathe, told the world he will be stepping down within 12 months. This is the man who oversaw the catastrophe that was Windows Vista, brought us Windows 7 and the yet to be proven Windows 8 while at the same time also increased Microsoft’s profits.  Whatever you think of Ballmer he did line the pockets of his shareholders.

The question though is what happens now? As good as Microsoft’s profits are they are a company who desperately needs leadership. Are they now a hardware, software or services company as at the moment even Microsoft doesn’t seam to know.

Microsoft built up its empire based solely on the Windows software and for years this worked for them.

Times however are changing.  Consumers are buying less PC’s and laptops and turning instead to tablets and smartphones. Microsoft was late to the mobile party and at the moment doesn’t seam to have a coherent mobile strategy.  Instead of trying to put Windows 8 on everything they should position Windows RT as THE mobile platform.  Coupled with a strong Windows store they could start to make inroads in the same way that Apple has done with iOS and the App store. Windows RT was never meant to run traditional windows applications but the marketing people at Microsoft failed to convey this to consumers.  Windows 8 should be a desktop OS for PC’s and laptops.  Forget trying to get everyone onto tablets that run a full version of Windows and instead concentrate on your core market.  Leave tablets to Windows RT as no one asked for tablets or touchscreen laptops with Windows 8 on them.

The market is also turning towards cloud based services and it is here that Microsoft has a strong  basis with its Windows Azure and Hyper V platforms.  If they keep developing these then they could start to take market share away from the likes of VMWare and AWS.

Then you have Windows Phone 8.  While slowly starting to gain market share it should be more closely developed alongside Windows RT (the same as Apple does with iOS). It couldn’t hurt to sign up more manufacturers either.

All of the above are issues that the incoming CEO needs to sort and quickly to keep Microsoft relevant in todays tech world while also keeping profits coming in.  Personally I would n’t want that job. Would you?

About the Author

P1020114

Hi I’m Chris Wakefield the owner of ComTech IT Support. I provide Windows and Linux based IT Support, laptop repairs and computer repairs to both business and personal clients in Stirling, Falkirk and Clackmannanshire.

Follow @Comtech247 on Twitter

 

Is there a place for a third mobile operating system?


Third place.  Usually people and companies want to be first and not third but in the mobile industry third place, behind both Android and Apple, is what a lot of companies (inc both Blackberry and Microsoft) are aiming for.

At the moment ‘the big two’ have almost all of the market share between them (about 91% at present) but a lot of the carriers would like a viable third option so they are less reliant on selling Android and Apple Devices.  But what about consumers, do they really care?  I would hazard a guess and say no and I shall explain why.

Most businesses use Microsoft Office in the workplace because they are used to it and more importantly they need Outlook.  If you suggested to them they could switch to a new piece of software that did exactly the same as Office they would probably say no.  They would be so used to using Office on a daily basis that the thought of learning something else would not be very appealing.  It is the same with mobile phones.  If you have gone out and purchased an Android phone, and all the apps you require, you are not going to want to switch over to Windows Phone, Apple or Blackberry and basically start from scratch again (even if the same apps are available).  Humans are creatures of habit and once we get set in our ways it takes a lot for us to change.

This then is the biggest problem facing anyone who wants to be the ‘third mobile operating system’.  There are some good options (Firefox OS, Ubuntu Touch, Windows Phone and Blackberry to name a few) but unless they capture the publics imagination, and secure the backing of the carriers, they are going to fail.

This is just my take on ‘the third OS question’ but you might have a different view and if so please let me know!!

About the Author

P1020114

Hi I am Chris Wakefield the owner of ComTech IT Support. I provide Windows and Linux based IT Support, laptop repairs and computer repairs to both business and personal clients throughout Stirling, Falkirk and Clackmannanshire.

For a list of what I can offer you why not visit my website www.comtech247.net where you will find a list of my services, testimonials, blog and much more!!

 

 

 

Do you actually need that office?

Here is an interesting thought for you.  With mobile technology advancing as fast as it is and the onset of ‘the cloud’ do you still need that office to do your work in?


Now bear with me and I shall explain further.  Lets take the internet first.

If your laptop / tablet / smartphone has wireless capability (and they all do) then you can access the internet from anywhere there is wifi (e.g coffee shop, own house and even MacDonalds if you so wish!!).

Now lets take your documents.

There are now products like Google Apps or Office 365 which allow you to access and work on your documents from anywhere with an internet connection.  You edit your files and save them online.  They also allow multiple people to collaborate on a document at the same time.  All this comes secure too.

If you don’t like the idea of Google Apps or Office 365 then you could go down the online storage route with something like Dropbox.  All your files are stored online and can be downloaded at any time, edited and then uploaded to the internet.  Anyone with access to your Dropbox account is able to see all the documents too.

Then there is email.  How many small companies actually host their own email server? Using the companies I work with as a reference (1-15 employees) not that many which means that their emails are already hosted online.

So with your documents and emails available from anywhere what is there holding you back? Meetings? These can be arranged to take place in a coffee shop in a relaxing atmosphere (I do this all the time).

Maybe you need to access a central piece of business critical software?  I can see how this might become an issue but using products like Amazon Web Services (AWS) you can now host all your critical business software on a virtual server online and only pay for what you use.

What about the need to look professional and have the business address? This is very important however this can be solved by using virtual offices.  You pay a company (usually on a monthly basis) for an address and telephone number in an existing building (if you’re lucky you might even get a receptionist too!!).  In the Stirling area I can recommend Ceteris for this.

I totally understand that depending on the size and nature of your business the ‘No Office’ solution might not be practicable however if you are a small business with less than 5 employees (or even a sole trader) I would seriously think about it because if nothing else you would save on your office rental costs.

Has anyone already done this?

About the Author

P1020114

Hi I’m Chris Wakefield the owner of ComTech IT Support. I provide Windows, Mac and Linux based IT Support to small businesses in Stirling, Alloa and Falkirk.

Follow @Comtech247 on Twitter

 

 

Going Mobile


With the onslaught of mobile computing I thought it was time to take ComTech into the fold.  The website was designed for desktop viewing and didn’t cater for smaller mobile screens.  So it was time to have a look at the available plugins for WordPress to see if anything could be done.

Enter stage left MobilePress.  This little beauty detects when your website is being viewed by a mobile device and adjusts the page accordingly.  Voila ComTech is mobile!!!

Next on the list was to sort out an App.  Most mobile users I have spoken to would rather use an app than go online and browse through a webpage.  So it was time to get one.  One big problem.  I can’t write code.  I can fix a computer, build one from scratch and sort out software and hardware issues but write code – not a chance!!

Then I came across Conduit Mobile.  Without having any programming skills you can design and publish a simple app for your business.  You can also submit it to the Android Market and App Store (you will have to pay registration fees) if you so wish.  I decided to go down the Blog feed route and the app is called ComTech News.  Hopefully this will complement the traditional blog and drive more traffic to my site.  I have already tried it on a Blackberry Bold 9780 and it works lovely (even if I do say so myself!!).

Here’s to going mobile!!!  Anyone else going to join me?

About the Author

Hi I am Chris the owner of ComTech. I provide IT Support, Laptop repairs and Computer repairs to both personal and business clients in and around Stirling. For a list of what I can offer you why not visit my website www.comtech247.net where you will find my blog, testimonials, services and much more.  Start supporting a local business today so I can start supporting you.

If you found this blog useful then why not sign up to my RSS Feed for news, tutorials, views and general techie stuff!!

 

 

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