About Sure Systems

A leading provider of IT solutions and Technical Consulting.

Born in 2003.  We keep IT Simple and Reliable

Specializing in small to medium businesses we help our clients understand the importance of reliable technology in order to keep their businesses running as efficiently as possible. We work with small businesses needing basic support all the way up to national corporations who need an extra set of hands with big projects, and everything in between.

Our Values

Simplicity

IT should be simple.  The less complex the system, the easier it is to maintain and the less likely it is to break down. The easier it is to maintain, the more reliable it is.

Trust

What makes us stand out from the crowd is the fact that our ethics stand first and foremost with our trusted IT services. ‘Ethical’ was the common thread of all our staff when coming up with words that describe our business. We have always worked to earn and maintain the trust of our clients – and that is something that will never change.

Knowledge

IT should know their stuff!  Sure Systems goes above and beyond to make sure that all of our staff are well trained experts. We have a great team with a vast skill set – and we work as a team to always ensure you get the utmost support for your business.

Our Services

IT Support

We provide proactive business IT support on a time and materials basis or on a Service Plan for an affordable, fixed monthly cost. Now you can focus on your business, and trust that your IT is in capable hands!

Backups and Disaster Recovery

It is important to be sure that your business’ data is protected at all times. Let us help give you back your peace of mind

Cloud

Curious about how the cloud can help your business succeed? We can help you find if moving to the cloud is a good option.

Hardware & Software

Your business needs hardware & software in order to run. With our relationships, we can ensure you get the best value.

Our Support Plans

Simple

Your company is fairly stable, but you don’t currently have proper IT support. If you’re simply looking for access to reliable IT support on an as needed basis then this plan is for you.

Supreme

Your company is thriving, but unpredictable IT costs make it hard to manage expenses. This plan is all inclusive, and allows you to budget effectively

Sophisticated

Your business is growing, and you need more day to day IT and system reliability. This plan is great for maintaining the technology you already have efficiently.

Co-Managed

Your business is well established, and you currently have an IT department. This plan allows them to access our tools, strategy sessions, and technician backfill

IT Words of Wisdom

  • IT Support Performance Checklist

    [vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]Not sure how to tell if you are receiving poor or substandard IT service?

    First, ask yourself: do you know if your computer company is doing everything possible to secure your network from downtime, viruses, data loss, or other frustrating and expensive disasters?

    Below are a series of questions to help determine if your company is getting the IT support it deserves.

    1. Does your technician respond to emergencies in 1 hour or less?
    2. Is your technician easy to reach and responsive when you need them for non-emergencies?
    3. Does your technician offer an ongoing maintenance program to keep critical security settings and patches up-to-date?
    4. Does your technician offer a monitoring system to watch over your network for developing problems?
    5. Does your technician proactively offer new ways to improve your network’s performance?
    6. Does your technician only suggest solutions when you have a problem?
    7. Are your invoices detailed and clearly explain what you are paying for?
    8. Does your technician explain what they are doing and answer your questions in terms that you can understand?
    9. Are projects completed on time?
    10. Are your requests followed up on quickly?
    11. Does your technician offer any guarantees on their services?
    12. Does your technician arrive on time and dress professionally?
    13. Are there other technicians on your IT company’s staff who are familiar with your network in case your regular technician goes on vacation or gets sick?
    14. Do you feel as though they are learning on your time?
    15. Is your technician focused solely on your project while working for you, without being distracted?
    16. If your technician is on a call while working on your project, is it solely for the purpose of your project?
    17. Does your technician take the time to listen to you?
    18. Are they adamant about backing up your network and having a disaster recovery plan in place?
    19. Does your IT Company offer to meet with you regularly to review your business plans, your network status, and their own performance in supporting your company?
    20. Does your technician provide frequent updates, status reports, and follow-up calls and e-mails without being prompted by you?
    21. Are projects completed in a timely manner and for the cost you were expecting?
    If you answered no to any of these questions you are unfortunately paying for substandard support. Contact our team today, we do all of the above and more.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row]
  • Bring-Your-Own-Device Pro & Con’s

    Bring-Your-Own-Device Pro & Con’s

    The BYOD (Bring-Your-Own-Device) trend has seen a dramatic spike in popularity as employers seek new ways to save money on tech costs and improve employee satisfaction by offering flexibility to work remotely and use the hardware or operating system they’re most comfortable with.

    While BYOD can effectively reduce costs, and in many situations has been shown to improve overall staff satisfaction, it’s not without risk. There are pros and cons of a BYOD policy which should be carefully considered before making the switch. In order to mitigate risks or challenges, it’s important to have a clearly defined policy, well-executed roll out plan and minimum security requirements.

    Today, we’re taking a look at a few of the benefits of BYOD and highlighting some things to consider to mitigate risk and maximize reward if you think BYOD is right for your company. 

    BENEFITS:

    • COST SAVINGS:  A BYOD policy can dramatically reduce tech costs by eliminating the need to purchase mobile devices for employees, and reduces data and cellular costs by shifting the costs to the individual user. Even when subsidizing an employees’ cell and data plans, a company will spend less than if they purchase devices and cover all the monthly costs.
    • IMPROVED USABILITY: When employees are able to use the device they’re most comfortable or familiar with, they are often better versed in the capabilities, functions, and features and therefore more productive and efficient than they might be if they’re switching between from work device to personal device, operating system to operating system.
    • INCREASED EMPLOYEE SATISFACTION: Everyone knows the value of retaining good employees and that it can be a challenge these days. When employees use the devices they know and love and are able to achieve success or higher productivity as a result, they may feel higher job satisfaction.
    • NEWER TECHNOLOGY & FEATURES: Individual users generally upgrade personal devices to the latest greatest hardware far more frequently companies do, which means when employees provide their own devices, they are often the newest, fastest, and most well-equipped devices.

    CONSIDERATIONS:

    • POSITIVELY FRAMING TRANSITION OF COSTS TO EMPLOYEES: Passing on the cost to an employee can be met with initial resistance if they’re in roles where they’re used to having a device provided and perceive that as a benefit that being removed. Implementing a BYOD program that considers this response and mitigates risk with provisions like a clearly communicated program for providing monthly data and cellular allowances, or letting the employee retain their current company provided device can help to ensure a smooth transition to a BYOD program.
    • SECURITY: Security is an unavoidable challenge when it comes to BYOD but it isn’t insurmountable. From platforms, apps and services that help separate work from personal information to mandatory password protection requirement, to antivirus programs, there are a number of systems, policies, and procedures that can help mitigate security challenges.
    • CUSTOMIZED IT SUPPORT REQUIREMENTS: When everyone is working on different devices, and platforms, it may be more challenging for internal IT teams to manage issues and provide support for all systems and issues that may arise. Being aware of potential issues and knowing where to direct employees for appropriate support or providing well IT support solutions to them.
    • REPLACING AN ACCEPTABLE USE POLICY WITH A BYOD POLICY: Allowing employees to use their own personal devices ultimately results in reduced some control over what uses are acceptable or unacceptable, as well as the ability to monitor use. Replacing traditional Acceptable Use policies with a comprehensive BYOD policy to set reasonable expectations is an important shift that should accompany any BYOD program.
    • DATA RETRIEVAL POLICY AND SYSTEMS: A comprehensive BYOD policy also needs address what happens when an employee leaves your company. What is the process for revoking access to company data and shared files? How can you prevent the loss of important files or information? Who owns the phone number? And so on and so forth. There are important things to consider in mitigating risk when an employee leaves.

    If you think BYOD is a solution that could be right for your company, our experts would be happy to help you assess the pros and cons and ultimately plan for and implement the IT system that’s right for your company.  Contact us today.

  • Why a Business Continuity Plan

    Why a Business Continuity Plan

    Manage risk and ensure your organization comes out of the rubble with a solid footing should you become exposed to a cyber, natural or weather related disaster. Without a business continuity plan in place, at the time a potential disaster strikes it will already be too late to identify and recover your most critical assets.

    What is a continuity plan?

    Protecting your company’s bottom line also means protecting its cyber, complex networks and databases by preparing an effective response plan. The plan allows you to understand what products and services are critical to your business, where you are most vulnerable and how to recover quickly in the event of disruption.

    Why does your business need one?

    Your customers rely on your products and services. If these suddenly became unavailable, then you risk them going elsewhere. A business continuity plan helps you retain customers and remain competitive by staying in business. It minimizes financial loss, shows your investors, partners and insurers that you are prepared, and most important of all, it keeps your staff and customers safe.

    How to create your business continuity plan

    Business continuity is a proactive plan that outlines the steps to be taken before, during and after an event to mitigate and avoid risks as a result of a disruption of operations.

    Below is an 8-step process to get you started on creating a continuity plan:

    1. Determine what’s important to your business

    1. Assess what your business would need to do in a disaster to recover
    2. Look at your financials to determine how soon you need to be back in business
    3. Who are the key people you need to communicate with in the event of a crisis?
    4. What medium will you use to communicate with these groups?
    5. Evaluate all potential risks, vulnerabilities and threats your business is susceptible to
    6. Create a set of strategies to deal with the identified risks
    7. Keep your business continuity plan somewhere safe and accessible

    There is no single, reliable solution to protect your business 100% from a cyber attack or disruption. The time spent understanding, developing and maintaining a business continuity plan is an investment in your company. It assures key stakeholders that you are prepared to bounce back swiftly.

    Looking to start your companies Continuity Plan? Give us a call and we will walk you through the whole thing. Contact us now.

  • Back it Up: Top 5 Reasons why you should backup ALL of your data

    Back it Up: Top 5 Reasons why you should backup ALL of your data

    Whether you’re a successful business or a budding entrepreneur, chances are you have plans in place from inception to your daily operations. But do you have a recovery plan for your most important data and information systems? Data backup (making a copy of your most important files) is one of the most important, yet often ignored, areas of IT. Creating a backup plan will get you thinking about what kind of information you should be backing up, how often, and where to locate it.

    Here are our top five reasons on why you should implement a back up plan so you can rest easy knowing your information and important work is readily accessible should the unthinkable happen to it.

    1. Data Loss: Yes it CAN happen to you

    Your computer operates fine - it doesn’t even freeze up when you run multiple programs! Of course, physical failure of your operating system would be the most likely cause of data loss, but never underestimate the power of human error. That morning coffee will not be so hot after it gives your laptop a bath (it does, and it can happen). Theft, disaster and accidentals can happen. Without an offsite or cloud-based backup, you could risk losing a lot more than the expense of trying to replace it. Make sure you do continual backups to ensure you’ve captured the most recent updates and files to ensure you haven’t missed anything important.

    2. Simple Recovery = Less Downtime

    Cyber attacks and emails containing viruses are becoming increasingly more sneaky, blending into the hundreds of emails we receive every day. It takes one wrong click of a button for a virus to attack, one failed fire wall for an entire website to crash; deleting important information from your hard drive or causing an entire website to be shut down. Backing up your data is more than just saving files; this includes taking regular and incremental snapshots of your system before an attack or deletion occurs. Recovering the data is step one; make sure you also copies of the program(s) you need in order to run or access your data once it has been recovered. Simple, low-stress recovery will get you back to where you started a lot quicker than hitting the drawing board after the fact.

    3. Your customers want on-demand access

    Just because your IT system crashed, doesn’t mean your customers will be understanding (or forgiving). Their business still needs to carry on, which means if your organization isn’t well-equipped to resume operations right away after an IT disaster, then their anxiousness to get things done (right here, right now) may lead them to jump ship to a competitor, and no one wants to see that happen. With a full backup you have options on how to restore your files and programs, whereas partial backups can be a lot riskier, making it difficult to know for certain what can be restored and how long it will take when you’re pulling data from multiple sources or reinstalling software. 

    4. Lost time and revenue does not make for a successful business plan

    Data loss in your organization can create a negative effect on the efficiency of your operations. Not knowing where to find missing files and the inability to access crucial information impedes your employees from having everything they need in order to perform their job to the best of their ability. This can create chaos and cause major disruption to workflows. When you’re spending all of your time recreating past work, that’s less time your employees could be spending on creating new work. Data loss most often results in revenue loss due to the downtime and cost to try to retrieve it.

    5. Mother Nature has a mind of her own

    It’s no surprise that mother nature leads her own charge. A disaster can hit at any time, and as we all know too well, she doesn’t discriminate. Many businesses without a recovery plan have difficulty picking up the pieces after a disaster hits. Ensuring your most important information systems are safe and accessible post-incident can be the key to what makes or breaks a business. If you take your backups offsite, your system can survive almost anything.

    Every business, and even personal technology user, is susceptible to data loss or hardware malfunction. It’s a heart sinking feeling to have your system take a hit unexpectedly. Having a backup plan is the only way to ensure your business can mitigate the negative impact that data loss has on workflow.  Contact us to learn more about data backup and recovery solutions. We are more than happy to come and assess your backups without any obligation to purchase our services. If you’d like more information about backups, email or call us at info@suresystems.ca or 587.774.9378

  • 5 Questions you should be asking about your backups

    5 Questions you should be asking about your backups

    For those who loathe the technical side of business, backing up your data can be confusing, time consuming and a total headache. This can leave your back up plan as last priority, until a disaster happens. Although it can feel like a daunting task, there are a few easy steps that will make the process seem easier! Make sure your backup system is working properly and you have a recovery process in place – to avoid an even bigger headache. There is nothing worse than losing important data, especially when it is your most important asset.

    Click here to read about the 5 questions to check if your data is being properly protected!

       
    If you have an IT company in place already doing the backups for you, ask them the details so you can be aware of the process. If you have no IT in place, ask us for more information on backups for your system. We are more than happy to come and assess your backups without any obligation to purchase our services. Want more information about backups, email us or call us at info@suresystems.ca or 403.5393.9688.
  • Windows 10:  Fear and Loading in Las Windows

    Windows 10: Fear and Loading in Las Windows

    I’m sure you’ve heard about Windows 10 by now – launched globally on July 29th, 2015 with Windows 7, 8 and 8.1 users receiving their free upgrade. Well, it’s free at least if you upgrade within the 1st year. Over 75 million devices have installed Windows 10 within a month of the release, according to Microsoft. This is the last Windows version ever and will be deemed the “most popular version of Windows”. I personally vowed to not move away from Windows 7 until I was forced to when support for Windows 7 is discontinued in 2020, but then again, I vowed to do the same for Windows XP. Follow me on my journey through the Windows 10 experience in this 3 part blog series, starting with “The Upgrade”.  

    Windows 10: The Upgrade

    The First Step: Getting your cyber hands on Windows 10

    For home versions and computers outside of a domain-attached network, you will receive the “Get Windows 10” notification in the bottom-right of your screen after you have received the required Windows Updates (also available for download to USB or DVD). Otherwise, if you are using a domain-attached computer like myself, you will have to complete your upgrade using the download to USB or DVD or create an ISO with the Media Creation Tool available here. The “Get Windows 10” notification will not appear for domain-attached computers, which is great news for the IT Department as there won’t be any users downloading and installing the upgrade as easily as the Windows 8.1 upgrade – killing their company bandwidth. So anyway, I was lucky enough to have the ISO accessible on our network from one of our technicians here whom had already upgraded to Windows 10 – brilliant! The perks of having a proactive IT Team on hand.

    The Second Step: The installation process

    So I officially started the upgrade on my Lenovo X1 Carbon (i5, 4GB RAM, 120GB SSD, Windows 7 SP1 for the geeks out there) at exactly and conveniently 7:30am, after taking a backup using Arcserve UDP Workstation – Free Edition. The whole process took just over 2 hours. Luckily though, you can skip through the slideshow below by clicking as fast as your tiny heart desires! [URIS id=2980]  

    Windows 10: At first glance

    Okay, so the 2 hour upgrade didn’t impress me. But there were a few good and bad things once I was actually logged into Windows 10. These are what I noticed first. See below for the quick slideshow. These are just the tip of the iceberg. [URIS id=3023]  

    Windows 10: The Upgrade – Conclusion

    Now, this all comes down to one question. Should you upgrade? If it’s your home PC – sure, why not? Just be careful to backup first and check the prerequisites. For businesses? Not just yet. Why not just yet? Here’s why not: A lot of Software isn’t supported – a lot of Software Manufacturers report that their Software may work but is not Supported yet – let them catch up and Support Windows 10. Let us make sure that all of your software will function – the Software Manufacturer may state that it’s now supported, but it hasn’t been long enough yet to know for sure. We can upgrade just one PC in your environment and let it run for a week or so and see how it goes first. Let the major bugs be fixed by Windows Updates – like all major updates, there will be a few bugs. Let the majority of these bugs be flushed out and fixed with patches before upgrading. Why is it even called Windows 10 instead of Windows 9, you ask? Because 7, 8, 9 – duh!  
  • Making an Impact: Why IT for Non-profit is essential

    Making an Impact: Why IT for Non-profit is essential

    Any Non-profit organization requires quality IT services just as any other business. It is a crucial factor in keeping the business running and creating an impact in today’s society. IT for Non-profit companies should be a priority for the following reasons:

    Keeping the Dream Alive

    IT is an essential element in running any business. In order to keep a successful business running, you need the right tools to keep up in today’s market. IT for Non-profit companies is essential in order to keep their business alive and thriving.

    Keeping Information Safe

    Non-profits, like any business, often retain a large amount of data from their clients. Sometimes, this data can be personal and require extra care in keeping and maintaining its safety. A good IT for Non-profit company can help with keeping this information safe, as well as providing disaster recovery in case of emergency.

    Maintaining Costs

    Many Non-profit businesses have smaller budgets and less disposable income. Finding the right IT service company that can maintain a service plan can be very cost effective. It can eliminate the need for internal IT services that can be costly for smaller companies.

    Spreading the Impact

    Many Non-profit companies have a big impact in our society. They are often founded on a purpose and a dream. Most of the profits that are made are reinvested into the company for its expansion. IT is crucial in order to keep a company that is expanding working efficiently and effectively.   Just like any business, IT is important in the Non-profit sector. It can help the company uphold the impact that was intended from the beginning. In either a big company or a small business, the right IT services will make all the difference in maintaining a well-run organization. For more information on Sure Systems service plans and how they can benefit your Non-profit visit http://suresystems.ca/our-services/.
  • The Ultimate Disaster Recovery

    The Ultimate Disaster Recovery

    Sure Systems takes business disaster preparedness very seriously.  So much so that last year I decided that it would be a great idea to better understand Disaster Preparedness by learning from the disaster expects about the ultimate disaster recovery.  So, in June of 2014 I joined Canada Task Force 2 as a Logistics Specialist.

    In February 2015, the Alberta Provincial Government held a three-day province wide emergency disaster exercise called “EMX15” to better prepare for future disasters.  Canada Task Force 2 was deployed to Thorhild, Alberta where there was a simulated structural collapse.  A decommissioned school was the site of the hypothetical disaster where 17 victims, all volunteers from the local high school’s drama class lay trapped.  The school was scheduled for demolition in the coming weeks and it had been prepared for our arrival by having floors and walls collapsed - it was such a surreal experience!

    Taskforce2

    We knew there was going to be an exercise but didn’t know exactly when and where.  Well, early morning on February 24th, I received a call to report to Canada Task Force 2 base where we would receive a medical pre-screen and then begin loading equipment onto semi trailers for the trip up to Thorhild!  The next three days were easily some of the most thrilling days of my life and I learnt some extremely valuable lessons - both personally, and for my business.

    1.      Be Prepared! 

    You need to have an idea of what you will do before a disaster hits.  It is imperative to have the right tools and the right people in place.  For my businesses and for my customers I will:

    • Not only ensure I have the right tools for the job, but I will ensure they are in proper working order and that I know where to find them in a moments notice.
    • Know how to get ahold of the right people when disaster hits.  You need to know who’s responsible for what.

    2.       Expect the Unexpected.

    You can't think of of every possible contingency beforehand, so  you need to be prepared that something you didn't address could happen. That’s why it is so important to:

    • Have a good plan.
    • Have the right people assigned to the plan.
    • Have some flexibility built into the plan for the unexpected.

    3.       People Matter.

    • You need the right people on your team before disaster hits to make sure you are prepared.
    • You need to have them assigned to the right jobs. They should focus on their strength and people placement should be very specific.

    4.       Keep It Sweet And Simple.

    If something is too complicated, it’s likely not to work in a disaster recovery situation.  If it is to work well, it needs to be easy to understand and well documented. The simpler, the better.

    5.       Test, test, test!

     I left the exercise amazed at how well things ran, but I also left with a long list of items that my team could improve upon. That is why it is good to run through the plan multiple times to test it - you'll become more efficient and significantly decrease the amount of unexpected situations that come your way.

    Taskforce4

    Overall, the most valuable lesson I walked away with was the importance of teamwork.   I was amazed at how well this team, with such varying skills sets and disciplines, worked so seamlessly together.   Everyone worked hard, long hours with no pay, yet there was not a single complaint.  I think I know why.  Everyone on that team was there for the same reason.  Not for recognition, but for the knowledge that if there were a disaster, that they would make a difference with the ultimate disaster recovery.  Coolest team ever.

    If you have any questions on making sure your companies IT infrastructure is prepared for a future disaster - give us a call (403) 539-9688, it's one of our passions. We can make sure that you have a solid, tested plan in place - and you can have peace of mind that you and your business are protected. 

  • So, Why Sure Systems?

    So, Why Sure Systems?

    Every year around this time, we always like to reflect on how the last year has been, both the successes & the hiccups, and begin to envision what the next year will hold for us. An important thing for us, in our almost 12 years of business, has been to always remember why we do what we do, and why our customers choose us over other IT companies. So we got to thinking - why does our staff choose to work for Sure Systems? They likely have good insight as to what makes us unique and that that would have some correlation on why customers trust us with their businesses. We did a quick exercise and asked all of our employees to brainstorm words that they think accurately describe us as a company - and the results were amazing! As we put together the list of words, we instantly felt proud in discussing the 'So, Why Sure Systems?". We all seemed to have similar feelings as to why we work here, and why we want to make a difference to other small businesses here in Calgary. Our words were so empowering, that we decided to make a Word Jumble out of it and hang it in the office so that we can remember why it is we do what we do - it is now referred to as our Brand Guide. Interestingly enough, the one common adjective that every single staff member had mentioned, was the word 'Ethical' - which is a philosophy that means a lot to us here at Sure Systems. SureSystemsBrandPNG
    Our Word Jumble - The bigger the word, the higher the frequency. 

     

    So, Why Sure Systems?

    In building our Brand Guide we were able to extract a couple of core values that help to set us apart from other IT companies. These are principles that make us who we are and drive all of our decisions that we make as a company. They will always guide the 'Sure Systems' way of providing service.

    Simplicity. 

    Our standing principle is that IT should be as simple as possible. The less complex the system, the easier it is to maintain. The easier it is to maintain, the more reliable it is. We only make recommendations and suggestions that we know will increase your businesses productivity.

    Trustworthy.

    What makes us stand out from the crowd is the fact that our ethics stand first and foremost. ‘Ethical’ was the common thread of all our staff when coming up with words that describe our business. We have always worked to earn and maintain the trust of our clients – and that is something that will never change.

    Knowlegeable. 

    It goes without saying that it is important that the people looking after your businesses IT should be knowledgeable in the field. Sure Systems goes above and beyond to make sure that all of our staff are trained in their field of expertise. We have a great team with a vast skill set – and we work as a team to always ensure you get the utmost support for your business.   We'd love to hear - what are your business' Core Values? Engage in the conversation on LinkedIn.
  • The End as We Know It…with Windows XP Support

    The End as We Know It…with Windows XP Support

    Of Windows XP Support that is. Officially on April 8th, 2014 Microsoft will stop offering any support for the Windows XP and Office 2003. Now, you might ask yourself, "What exactly does this mean for me and my business?" Good question. Let us tell you. 1. Security Risk. There will be no more patches or software updates to address critical security concerns. This means you will no longer be protectedfrom potential threats. Cybercriminals are aware that after April 8th – businesses on Windows XP Support will be more vulnerable. This is a great opportunity for them to attack the helpless. 2. Software Issues. Applications that ran on XP will no longer be supported and there will be no updates. You might also have software compatibility issues in the future. For example, the new versions of Office will not run on Windows XP at all. 3. Increased Downtime. As technology increases with age, there is always a greater risk of system failures. This in turn means that there will likely be an increase to your overall business disruption. Time and money will be an increased expense to your business because of this. Now this might sound a bit scary – sorry, we don't mean to alarm you (well maybe just a bit). Our main intention is to simply inform you of what could potentially happen and how to combat it. So what can you do to prepare yourself and the security of your business? Another great question, here are some of our professional suggestions: 1. Upgrade your software. The older the system, the more expensive it is to support almost a hundred percent of the time. Upgrading your software is a small investment when you look at the money you will save in productivity, less frustrations, and overall business up-time. 2. Upgrade your hardware (and thus, your software as well). From a strategic standpoint – sometimes it is better to step back and take a look at the entire picture. The cost of upgrading software, in a lot of cases, is only marginally cheaper in the short term than just replacing the entire system. If your system is 3 to 5 years of age, it will be time to look at replacing it in the near future anyways – so why not kill two birds with one stone. For more information on updating your operating software from Windows XP – please don’t hesitate to reach out to us. We will gladly provide you with some expert advice on hardware & software compatibility, and make sure you are on the right track to protecting your business. Check out our website for more information, www.suresystems.ca. You can also contact us directly if you have any questions, either via email info@suresystems.ca or via phone (403) 539-9688.
  • How to Create and Maintain Secure Passwords

    How to Create and Maintain Secure Passwords

      Passwords are often the first and sometimes online line of defense for your data.  A secure password can make a big difference.  Here are some tips on how to create a good one. Pick a password you can remember.  Passwords that are too complicated tend to be forgotten or written down.  Use these tips: 1.  Start with a sentence or two.  For example “Complex passwords are safer” 2.  Turn words into shorthand or intentionally misspell a word.  For example “ComplekpasswordsRsafer.” 3.  Add length with numbers.  Put numbers that are meaningful to you in the sentence.  For example “ComplekpasswordsRsafe2014” 4.  Variety.  Don’t use the same password for everything.  Cyber criminals can steal passwords from websites that have poor security, and then use those same passwords to target more secure environments. Don’t share your password.   Anyone that has your secure passwords can impersonate you on the network.  If you believe someone else may know your password, change it. Avoid these common password pitfalls.  Cyber criminals use sophisticated tools that can rapidly decipher passwords.  Avoid creating passwords that use: 1.  Dictionary words in any language. 2.  Words spelled backwards, common misspellings, and abbreviations 3.  Common letter-to-symbol conversions, such as changing "and" to "&" or "to" to "2". 4.  Sequences or repeated characters. Examples: 12345678, 222222, abcdefg, or adjacent letters on your keyboard (qwerty). 5.  Personal information that could be guessed or easily discovered. Your name, birthday, driver's license number, passport number, or similar information.   Be Safe!  
  • 7 Technical Tips to Increase Workplace Productivity

    7 Technical Tips to Increase Workplace Productivity

    iStock_000009905028Large

    It’s not only what technology we use at the workplace but it’s also how we use it that greatly effects our everyday workplace productivity. I am sure all of us have struggled or have witnessed a co-worker struggle at some point – technology can be a frustrating thing. In these technical tips, we will walk you through some easy ways to avoid some of these common issues.

    1)      Start the day fresh – Power Off.                               Log off and/or shut down your computer every night (or at least once a week) as a best practice. Shutting down your computer means that Windows closes all running programs and completely shuts off your machine, giving it a fresh start when you power it on the next morning. This will help to ensure that no work gets lost, as it will prompt you to save everything before shutting down as well as saving electricity.  Rebooting will help release Memory and often sort out little ‘bugs’ before they become an issue.  Just think of it as a ‘power nap’. Check with your Technical Team first for scheduled maintenance times.  Also, keep in mind that you will not be able to remote into your PC from home if it is powered off. 2)      Keep browsing tabs to a minimum. The more browser tabs you have open at a time, the slower and more unstable your computer is likely to be. People often forget that you can actually use your Brower History as a better alternative to this. Your computer tracks where you have been, so if there was an interesting article you read and wanted to go back to - simply check your history. There are also apps out there that can help manage tabs. For example, ‘TooManyTabs’ or ‘The Great Suspender’ will actually suspend your tabs, so that they are not active, but you still have access to them. 3)      Always save to the network. You should always save your work onto your network drive – not your personal C: drive. This will ensure that all of your documents are getting backed up properly, and in most cases will let you jump back to previous versions of your documents. It also allows you to have access to these documents from any computer in your network, and makes file sharing with colleagues much quicker and easier. 4)      Battery life. It is a best practice to let your battery completely drain every once and a while. I know, sounds backwards right? It is actually healthy for a battery to drain completely and then charge fully every so often to help prolong its life. Other tips: turn your screen brightness down and use your ‘sleep’ or ‘hibernation’ settings rather than ‘standby’ mode when your computer is not in use. 5)      Dual (or triple!) monitors. If you use more than one application at a time, dual monitors can be a life saver. They allow you to expand your desktop, getting more screen real estate for your open programs. They are especially helpful when doing data entry tasks – it is surprising the number of human errors that can be decreased simply by being able to see the information side by side. If you are using Windows 8 there are also some cool screen splitting features that you should be aware of – click here for more information. 6)      Education on certain programs. If you are noticing that there are multiple people in your organization that are using a program ineffectively or are easily frustrated by a program, it might be worth it to get some training on that program. At Sure Systems we offer lunch time training for many different programs and applications. It might be worth it to get some additional training on these programs and have a technician show you some short cuts on how to use the program most efficiently. 7)      Communicate with your technician. It is important to reach out to your technical support system for advice on how to use programs most efficiently. There are often shortcuts and tricks that users are not aware of that can greatly increase the effectiveness of how a program is used. If you have regular on-site visits with your technician that is a great time to ask questions about these programs – you’ll be surprised how much you can learn in a 10 minute conversation with your technician! If you would like more information on any of the points mentioned above, please don’t hesitate to reach out to us – batman@suresystems.ca. If you would like to schedule a lunch & learn for your staff or one-on-one time with a technician to help increase staff efficiency and workplace productivity please feel free to contact us as well.
  • Calgary Region Business Recovery Expo

    Calgary Region Business Recovery Expo

    What do you do when a natural disaster leaves your business under water?   Over the last month, Alberta has been through some of the most devastating floods ever seen in Canada. Individuals, families, and businesses were drastically affected -- but in true Western form we have bound together to help one another and create an even stronger province. The Calgary Chamber of Commerce has taken this opportunity to create a FREE event to help business do just that - learn from leading experts on how to make sure that your business is prepared for the future. On Wednesday, July 31st, business leaders from all over our city will be gathering at the Telus Convention Centre to help businesses who were impacted from the flood to get back to pre-flood levels of business. If you are a business owner you will not want to miss this event for business recovery! This session will be an all day event, starting at 7:30am and going through to 4:30pm. Naheed Nenshi, the mayor of Calgary will be there showing his dedicated support, as well as our very own, Alexander McGillivray who will be speaking about the importance of having a disaster business recovery plan for the technology of your business, amongst many other affluent business leaders. To register for the event or for more information, please click on the link below: http://www.calgarychamber.com/interact/events/chamber-event/calgary-region-business-recovery-expo We hope to see you there! -The Sure Systems Team
  • Wild West visits Ronald McDonald Southern Alberta House!

    Wild West visits Ronald McDonald Southern Alberta House!

     

    RonaldMcDonald2

    Earlier this week a part of our very own Sure Systems team was lucky enough to have the opportunity to join some of Ingram Mircro's Venture Tech Network (VTN) - Wild West chapter members in touring around the Southern Alberta Ronald McDonald House. We were honored to be able to see first hand how Ronald McDonald Houses provide a home away from home for families who aren't from Calgary, but whose children are receiving medical attention from Calgary Hospitals. It was touching to hear all of the stories of the children and families who have come to know the Ronald McDonald house as home over the years, especially since so many of us in the Wild West Chapter have been connected to the house on a personal level. The Southern Alberta House has seen over 18,000 family visits since it opened 1985 and is one of 14 Houses located across Canada. Ronald McDonald houses don't just stop there though - they are a global community with over 300 homes around the world helping families who are in need during these difficult times in their lives. IngramMicro VTN   Earlier on in the year the Wild West VTN Chapter was privileged enough to participate in a competition amongst the different chapters, in which we had won, awarding our chapter with a $5,000 donation from Ingram Micro to give to a charity of our choice. Believing strongly in what the Ronald McDonald House does & the immense amount of support that they provide to families within Western Canada, it was an easy decision for the entire chapter to agree upon. On behalf of the Wild West Chapter we want to send a huge Thank You to everyone at the Ronald McDonald House Southern Alberta who opened up their home to us and shared a piece of their experiences with us. It was very touching & allowed us to experience first hand the great things that you all do on a daily basis. We also want to send a huge Thank You to Ingram Micro and the entire VTN team, as this opportunity wouldn't have been possible without you.

    RonaldMcDonaldhouse

    See you all soon 🙂

    @SureSystems

         
  • Maintaining Your UPS (Note: Not the shipping company!

    Maintaining Your UPS (Note: Not the shipping company!

    What is a UPS? Within every server room there is one thing that is a staple. The UPS, also known as the Uninterruptible Power Supply. The UPS is basically a large backup battery and surge protector, for servers and other systems within your IT infrastructure. Without this vital piece of technology your data and hardware is at risk of power related failures like a blackout or power surge. Anything that is connected to it relies on it, it is their lifeline. In the event of a power outage the UPS will either last the duration of the power outage or it will properly shutdown your equipment to prevent data loss and damage. Unfortunately these systems, while low maintenance, aren't "set it and forget it." Over time, like any battery, they lose their charge and may begin to leak acid or even swell. If a power outage does happen there is the risk that there won't be enough time to shut down the systems properly or last the duration of the failure. Any time that your servers don't have power is money lost out of your pocket. It simply isn't the cost of no power that should be the concern for your business; it is the cost of the potential data loss and recovery time. This is assuming the power failure doesn't wreck any hardware in the meantime. Why should I maintain it? Quick scenario; its payroll, the power goes out and you haven't been maintaining your UPS. All of the data is on the server (which does not get the opportunity to shutdown properly), and is corrupted. Imagine the financial impact, impact on the employees, and on the corporate image. The small price to maintain the UPS pales in comparison. Without giving systems the proper opportunity to shutdown you run the risk of even ruining your servers and as we all know, those are not cheap! Below is an example of a UPS that needed some love -- it was starting to bulge and was on the verge of a major acid leak! If your UPS looks like it has some similar symptoms of the below photographs, it would be a good idea to get it checked out by professionals.     You need to maintain UPSs; they are the extra line of defense, the extra layer of redundancy needed should any form of power failure occur. Maintaining a UPS At least once a year, a UPS needs to be checked. It is a small price to pay should anything happen. These checks usually take only a few minutes and the majority of the time, require no downtime. Should the battery need to be replaced, it is a quick swap and you'll be up and running in an hour or less. If this article has got you thinking, feel free to give Sure Systems a call! We can help ensure your UPS doesn't fail and doesn't take any data or hardware with it!
  • Network Inventory

    Network Inventory

    Feel like your Network Environment is a scattered mess and have no idea what you actually own? We can help you track everything in your entire Network with our quick and painless Network Inventory! With our Network Inventory you will get access to the ins and outs of what software and hardware you own, what the current value of these items are, as well as a snapshot of the overall health of all of these items. Our Network Inventory will help you prioritize what will need replacing in the near future as well as warn you about the status of your anti-virus, anti-spy, firewall, or PC capacity of you entire environment all within the hour! Includes:
    • PC Value Report - evaluates the RAM, age, value & more of all PC's
    • PC Health Report - Anti-virus, anti-spyware, firewall & space status of all PC's
    • Software Tracking & OS Product Key Report & More
    • One-hour on-site Consultation with one of our Network Experts
    • Includes travel to one site in Calgary or surrounding area only*
    Considerations
    • Maximum of 10 Servers and Workstations [Windows Only]
    • Must be on a Windows domain
    • Network Administration Credentials required
    • All PC’s must be accessible via the Network*
    • Any al a carte options must be purchased prior to the Audit is completed*
    Al a carte add-ons:
    MAC PC 5 Pack $100
    Linux PC 5 Pack $100
    Windows   PC 5 Pack $75
    Windows   PC 20 Pack $250
    Custom Reporting $75/hour
    Custom Software Package Report Windows Only & must be installed via MSI $50
     

    *Some restrictions may apply, contact us for details

  • Network Assessment

    Are you unsure about the current health of your Network Environment- consider our Network Assessment? Let us take the guess work out of prioritizing the pressing issues that are affecting your business with our Network Assessment! This invaluable tool will ensure that all critical and potential issues within your environment will be uncovered immediately. A complete count of Hardware and Software allows us to identify any out of date equipment and understand key application problems that could be a potential threat to your business, all within the hour! Worried about security? Our Network Assessment is a quick install on one computer, so there is no need to install agents or other software on your network allowing for an unobtrusive assessment with no need for access to any business data or passwords. Considerations
    • Maximum of 50 Servers and Workstations [Windows Only]
    • Must be on a Windows domain
    • Network Administration Credentials required
    • All PC’s must be accessible via the Network

    *Machines that are not available on the Network could face additional costs

    *Some restrictions may apply, contact us for details on the Network Assessment!

     
  • The Sleek Samsung Series 9.

    The Sleek Samsung Series 9.

    If you were to go shopping for a new laptop today one word you would defiantly hear is, “Ultrabook”. It is Intel’s new classification of ultra-thin and lightweight systems. These systems are fairly standard and are solid performers for daily tasks, but yet still leave something to be desired. Majority of Ultrabooks are simply a set of the same parts, packaged into a slightly different case. The construction in most cases is decent but still doesn’t take our breath away. This is where the Samsung Series 9 shines. With an all metal body, backlight keyboard, and a solid screen, it reeks of premium. It is something you’ll definitely want to show off to your friends and everyone else around you. Body When you first pick up the system one thing you will notice is how light the weight of it is. If you’re a heavy commuter who always needs a computer, then this is a perfect laptop for you. In most situations your water bottle will weigh the same if not more than the Series 9. Despite how light it is, it still feels solid. There is almost no flex in the body or on the lid. Flip over the Series 9 and you’ll discover a flat bottom with no user serviceable areas, but instead there are fairly large rubber pads to ensure its not going to run away from you while you’re using it. Opening the lid comes with relative ease, as it is entirely magnetic; however, those of us with bigger hands will have a bit of a tough time. When tilting the screen backwards the hinge seems as if it’s a bit loose, but nonetheless the hinge still feels smooth and silky. Screen The screen isn’t the shining star of this system (That honor goes to the all-metal body), nor is it anything to overlook. Colors are extremely vivid, text is crystal clear, the viewing angles are phenomenal, and its bright (400nits to be exact). While the graphic buffs out there will be disappointed by the 1600 x 900 resolution, in daily use I wasn’t running back to plug in a secondary monitor just so I could enjoy the system. One of the best features of this device is the auto dim. Just like a smart phone, the Samsung Series 9 can dynamically adjust its screen brightness to better fit its environment. Using this device in a well lit room is a breeze, so there is no need to shut the blinds and close yourself off into a cold, dark, dreary room. Keyboard and Trackpad For a 13 inch laptop they keyboard is roomy and very usable, and for your added comfort is also backlit. In fact this entire review was written on the Series 9! The keys are large, but there isn’t enough travel for it to truly be a typing machine. It is your usual affair of keys, along with some function keys on the top row that can be easily used by pressing the FN key.The track pad on the Series 9 is roomy and large. Performing multi-touch gestures (such as pinch to zoom) are effortless and smooth. Also, the click buttons are integrated into the pad, providing you with a larger area to work with, and one less area for dirt to build up, awesome! A wireless mouse is one thing you could leave out of your bag and defiantly not miss with this device. Performance Boot time on the system is quick, so there’s no need to walk away and get a coffee while you wait for it to boot. Even faster yet was resuming from sleep mode, from the moment I opened the lid the screen was on and it as ready to go.  Everyday tasks were performed with ease, but upon running some heavier programs the Series 9 did show some signs of fatigue. Occasionally the palm rests did get a bit warm (thanks to the all-metal construction), though it didn’t impede the use. Given what is packed into such a small space I do give Samsung credit for the performance and the battery life. The Series 9 is solid performer all together.   Series 9 – Quick notes: Pros: -          Slim and sturdy body. -          Vivid, crystal clear screen. -          Solid performer. -          Spacious keyboard. -          Large track pad, multi-touch. Cons: -          Poor heat conduction. -          Loose hinge. Wrap up If you’re looking for a thin and light laptop this is most likely the one for you. The Samsung Series 9 can handle your everyday tasks with ease, is a breeze to use and is a piece of hardware you’ll want to show off. There is soon to be a flood of Windows 8 based devices, but the Series 9 is a smart buy that can be upgraded to Windows 8 (at little to no cost, depending on purchase time) and is a strong performer that will meet most user’s needs. Alongside the all metal body and great build, this device should last a long time.
  • Windows 8: A Big Step Forward.

    Windows 8: A Big Step Forward.

    Geeks4Sure is a montly blog segment where one of our very own brilliant techs, Andrew McGillivray, shares his thoughts on a hot new gadget. He gives you the inside scoop on all the pros & cons as well as recommendations of why the feature product might be a good fit for you. His opinions are his own, and he doesn't hold back! Check back every month to see how well the newest technology innovations are holding up! Also, if there's something you would like Andrew to test out, simply comment below and well make sure its reviewed in the coming months! Enjoy!   Until recently it seemed as if Microsoft had stopped trying in the innovation & development of their operating systems. They were no longer pushing the envelope; every new version of Windows was simply just a natural progression. There was no real advancement... until recently that is. Meet Windows 8. Radically different than its predecessors, from the user experience to the core framework.  True innovation is happening at Microsoft headquarters, this isn’t anywhere near that Windows XP computer that’s (hopefully) collecting dust in a corner somewhere. User Interface At first glance you’re greeted with a clean, simple and beautiful start screen, which got its roots from Microsoft’s own Window’s Phone platform. All of the “tiles” are laid out in a grid allowing you to move them around to your liking. Many of these tiles are constantly changing and displaying relevant information on them (Email tile displays new messages, Weather tiles displays current temperature) this saves you from opening the app to check for new items. The interface is perfect for touch screens, but still very usable on desktop machines. Digging deeper into the settings you can change the color scheme of the system, your lock screen photo and your account photo. From the start screen you can change the size of each tile (full size or half), turn on/off the live tile functionality, and rearrange tiles to your liking. This may seem like a dramatic change from the interface that everyone has grown used to, it really isn’t. Clicking the Desktop tile brings you to that familiar desktop that everyone is accustomed to. Although there is no start button, all the same functions can be accomplished from the start screen, which will allow Windows 7 users to feel right at home.  Windows will still act and feel the same as it did in Window’s 7 which is a great relief for many power users. The user interface is the best of both worlds. Simple to use, yet if you dig deeper there are all of the power features that make our lives easier (Window snapping, keyboard shortcuts, etc.). Performance People will be glad to know that Windows 8 actually requires the same minimum hardware as its older brother; Windows 7, yet it uses its resources more efficiently. On my machine, which hasn’t been rebooted in a week (roughly), and which currently has three office programs running (Lync, Word, and Outlook) and a slew of other applications running, for the fact I simply don’t like to close stuff, it has yet to slow down. Even when it’s bogged down opening an application or the start screen the animations are still fluid and crystal clear and the applications open instantly. If you have a machine that runs Windows 7 sufficiently then you should have no worries upgrading to Windows 8. You can either erase everything and start fresh or simply upgrade your system while maintaining all of your files. I’ve done the upgrade both ways and both have offered the same performance. This is a huge benefit for existing users who want to upgrade but don’t want to go through the hassle of performing a complete overhaul of their device to maintain performance levels. For the IT Professionals This is where I put on my techie hat. For years the concept of BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) has baffled many IT professionals. How do you lock down a device to allow it to be safely used in your network, while permitting them to take the device home and maintaining the ability to keep it personal? Well Microsoft has come up with the solution, Windows to Go. Windows to Go, is sure to make a lot of IT professionals happy. A self-contained system image that allows the whole operating system to run on any Windows computer (even XP) and still be secure. This is perfect for many users that are on the go and where a dedicated hardware purchase cannot be justified or simply just prefer their own personal laptop.  You’re still able to control your users via group policy and active directory, so IT admins can rest easy. Your users aren’t leaving your grip. Windows 8 also introduces a revamped task manager, providing more information than ever. By default the view is relatively simple (less to worry about for end users) but once the view is expanded you’re greeted with a whole slew of features. Processes are grouped together, which means no more searching for multiple instances of a process. Even the startup can be edited! Secure boot is also sure to make system admins sleep happy. Blocking any unsigned code from running at start up. Quite simply if the code hasn’t been signed by Microsoft or an OEM it’s not going to get executed. Linux fans need not fret as this can be disabled to install a third party operating system.   Pricing and Upgrades Got a PC since June 1st 2012? Well you have an upgrade sitting there for you. At only $15 it is a steal. Any existing PC purchased before this time frame (Running XP, Vista, and 7) can be upgraded for $50. The upgrade is a painless process. You don’t have to be an IT nerd to do it. Pop the disc in, or run the installer, and just follow the instructions on screen. In about 40 minutes you’ll have a drastically new computer, and for the first time ever the upgrade won’t slow your computer down (Windows 8 is very efficient). Wrap-up Although there are many die-hard Windows fans out there will go to great lengths to convince you never to touch Windows 8, everyone simply needs to try it. Change can be both good and bad, but Windows 8 in my opinion is a great change. A fresh new interface, a new backend and a slew of new features make it a really great product. Best part of all? You can download it for free to test! There is no reason not to try it for yourself; I guarantee that you’ll find something about it that you love. If you have any questions about the Windows 8 product, feel free to comment below and I will do my best to fill you in with all of my Windows knowledge. Also, don’t forget to come by next month to see what my next Gadget obsession will be!
  • Thriving in Uncertainty: Economic IT Solutions

    Thriving in Uncertainty: Economic IT Solutions

    On November 10th I presented at the Calgary Chamber of Commerce for their Small Business Workshop Series - Thriving in Uncertainty.  Watch to discover some inside tips and tricks of the trade to help implement economical ways of looking at IT Solutions. Part I- Thriving in Uncertainty: Economic IT Solutions  [youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pYAs8VcCmTI[/youtube] Part II- Thriving in Uncertainty: Economic IT Solutions  [youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=T-RjdpkIbx4[/youtube]
  • Managed Services Agreement

    Managed Services Agreement

    Businesses are continually focused on the following three key objectives in supporting their own futures:
    1. Optimizing revenue opportunities;
    2. Minimizing their capital and operating expenditures; and
    3. Maximizing returns on their investments.
    Therefore aligning with these objectives and this focus is what can be done to improve your company’s positioning in the context of the competition and your markets as a whole.  This can range from your marketing mix (product and pricing considerations, promotional activities, and additional distribution channels) to improving business efficiencies to improving the skill level of your staff to upgrading your businesses infrastructure. All these moving parts can be related back to how they support these key objectives. In today’s article we have chosen to examine how an IT Services Provider (ITSP) can support these objectives through Managed Services Agreements (MSA) in overseeing your business planning process and business infrastructure. We are going to discuss the following as to how this relates to your IT infrastructure servicing for your business:
    • What is an MSA;
    • Components of a MSA’s; and
    • What are the benefits of MSA’s?
    What is an MSA (Managed Services Agreement)? MSA is a collaborative agreement between you and your ITSP that describes the level of IT service offered to your business and documents the understanding regarding the following in relation to your IT infrastructure:
    • Responsibilities;
    • Priorities;
    • Operation;
    • Guarantees;
    • Availability;
    • Performance;
    • Response; and
    • Resolution.
    A Managed Services Agreement offers businesses the flexibility of partnering with ITSP to manage all aspects of their information technology resources (software and hardware) and processes for a fixed monthly fee. Components of a MSA’s With an MSA consideration needs to be given to the following:
    1. Terms of the agreement as to what is provided and how it will be supported;
    2. Termination clause; and
    3. Fees and payment schedule.
    In taking this further the terms of agreement should also clearly detail what services, equipment and software applications are included, what is excluded from support, and document the minimum standards the environment must meet in order to qualify for services. The MSA should identify prioritization processes, response times, a definition of support tiers and a service desk escalation process. What are the benefits of MSA’s? Relating this back to the earlier purposes identified, what are the benefits to your business of an Managed Services Agreement?
    • Reduction in the total cost of ownership – the critical technical support required to maximize infrastructure speed, performance, and stability.
    • Fixed IT Management and Support Costs - fixed IT costs, allowing for accurate budgeting. Services are structured on a per device basis, allowing for pricing transparency and accurate growth forecasting.
    • Guaranteed Service Levels - guaranteed response times and priority onsite support to ensure IT infrastructure is operating at maximum performance at all times.
    • Continuing Infrastructure Assessment and Auditing - initial and on-going IT infrastructure audits. These audits provide information about your technology based resources utilized within your business and highlights any potential risks or compliance issues.
    • Proactive Monitoring and Servicing - proactive monitoring and servicing of your businesses IT infrastructure allows you to focus on key strategic issues for your business.
    • Professional Infrastructure Management - ensures that your businesses IT infrastructure are online and performing at peak performance levels when needed and that they are being proactively managed by a professional and qualified technology partners.
    • Third Party Technical Support Management – as a trusted business partner, ITSP assumes the role of in-house technical support and will directly interface to third party technology providers to co-ordinate services and act as a single point of contact for the resolution of any technological related issue that is covered in the MSA.
    • Dedicated Helpdesk - provides a single point of contact for IT infrastructure support needs and is available by providing services that suit the time frame that are important to your day-to-day operations.
    • Proactive Partnership - under this arrangement you are provided with a dedicated IT resource along with semi-annual reviews of your businesses IT infrastructure based upon current and future technology utilization, risks and future requirements.  The focus is to ensure less unproductive downtime supporting continuity, stability and efficiency for your business into the future
    Concluding Remarks With this we believe that it is important to have a discussion with your ITSP to ensure what is covered and what is not covered under your arrangement.  We believe that the advantage of an MSA is that is that it supports the following:
    1. Quantifying how you are being supported each and every day from infrastructure through to support;
    2. It quantifies your cost in a fixed fee schedule that allows you understand the impact of growth and expansion for your business; and
    3. Most importantly allows you to focus on your businesses future.
  • Congrats to the Small Business Award Winners of 2011!

    Congrats to the Small Business Award Winners of 2011!

    I just wanted to say congratulations to all of the winners who received a small business award at the Small Business Week Awards Gala held earlier on this week. The Sure Systems team was so grateful to be a part of such an amazing event and surrounded by so many talented Small Businesses. As an IT company focusing on the Small Business sector, we greatly support all the nominees and attendees as this sector is an integral part of all of our successes. We also want to thank Sean Durfy for an inspirational speech on positive leadership skills; it was amazing to hear such an engaging speaker. We especially want to take this time to extend a warm, and well deserved congratulations to the big winner of the night, TRECC Electric, the Small Business of 2011! It was amazing to see the support of your team for winning this small business award and the strength of your leadership! Thanks again for making such a memorable night for all of us here at Sure Systems!
  • Small Business Week 2011 Finalists!

    Small Business Week 2011 Finalists!

    We received some exciting news last week that we couldn't wait to share! We have been selected as one of the finalists for Small Business Week 2011 here in Calgary! *wooot wooot* This is truly an honor and we are so happy to be a part of such a wonderful experience! Calgary Small Business Week is a celebration of entrepreneurship that provides a one-stop shop event for starting and growing small business. We cannot wait to be surrounded by & get the chance to network with all this local talent, and share with everyone our Sure Systems story! Small Business Week runs from October 17th - 21st, starting with an Awards Reception on October 17th at the Eckhardt-Gramatte Concert Hall in the Rozsa Centre on the University of Calgary campus, where we have been nominated for the overall RBC Small Business of the Year Award as well as the TD Environmental Stewardship Award. Later on in the week, on Thursday, October 20th we will be participating in the Small Business Week After Hours Tradeshow being held at the Metropolitan Centre. Here we look forward to further getting to know our YYC Small Business Community, as well as answer any questions or inquiries about anything IT related. Another exciting thing to look forward to at our booth is our draw for 10 complimentary block hours for your small businesses IT needs, so make sure you take advantage of this and come by to enter to win! In preparation for this exciting week we have had the opportunity to have a brief interview with the Calgary Herald, this will be released in the October 19th issue, so be sure to watch for it! As well, this week we will be making a short video clip with CityTV to showcase a little bit of who we are and what we do here at Sure Systems. This will be posted on our Website as well as our social media outlets once it is finalized! We just wanted to share our enthusiasm and thank everyone for their support during this exciting time for us! We will be sure to keep you posted in regards to all of the upcoming events for Small Business Week Calgary 2011.
  • Server Room Salvage!

    Server Room Salvage!

    Here is a prime example of how one of our clients benefited greatly from some simple server consolidation and moving to the cloud! I noticed that our client had three main issues that were very easy to fix. First, they had some very ancient hardware, which provides for a higher chance of hardware failure. They also had four physical servers, which is more than anyone would need! This creates an inefficient use of both resources and power, and also isn't very eco-friendly. Also, I recommended that some of their email services could be moved into the cloud, giving them the option to expand their services without having to use more physical space. In this photo you can see just how simple the fix was. I simply combined the two old terminal servers, and replaced them with a new one running on a VMWare ESX server. Then the legacy database server was also virtualized to that same ESX server. Finally, their exchange email was moved to BPOS in the cloud. Some of the benefits received (besides the obvious space saving and eye catchy-ness of their new server room) are less hardware, which means far less power consumption and more environmental consciousness. In having multiple virtual machines sharing the same hardware it allows for a more efficient use of their physical resources. Also, with exchange moving to the cloud it allows them to cut out their hardware costs completely, as well as eliminating all their maintenance and patching needs, and this significantly lowers their overall support costs. Yep, just another day in the life of an IT Analyst. But seriously, it's important to have this conversation with your current IT provider in order to see if you and your organization could reap some of the benefits of consolidation and moving over to the cloud. It doesn't hurt to be aware of your options, and see where you could be saving significant costs and erasing your energy consuming footprint. Jay Peterson
  • Personal Mobile Devices on the Corporate Network

    Personal Mobile Devices on the Corporate Network

    Keeping your Organization Safe, One Mobile Device at a Time In this week’s article we address yet another budding security and safety concern. Our clients are always asking us to give them advice on whether personal mobile devices should be permitted on their Corporate Network. Although there is no simple answer to the question, we feel it necessary to bring to their attention many of the growing concerns that come alongside this personal freedom. Caution! Be Aware! Among the top concerns from employers are the risk of consumer devices being lost that pack vast amounts of corporate secrets, forwarding of corporate email to personal accounts, or the simply worry that employees might be using their personal devices to access unsafe websites. According an MIT survey, “37% of office workers in Great Britain already use their personal technologies for work without company permission”. It is these contributing factors that all put corporate networks at risk. Increased Productivity? Lowered Costs? However, in this day and age it seems almost primitive to be carrying around a laptop and have to connect to a private network just to read email. Mobility is the new wave of technology, and it is inevitable that taking office work on the go will soon become standard. When allowing employees to connect their personal devices to the corporate network, not only is productivity throughout times of travel and commute increased but it could also save your organization a significant amount of money. Devices employees use will have already been paid for by the consumer, and even more so there would be a considerable amount of money saved on licensing fees. Possible Solutions. It is important to make sure that your organization has set a policy in place requiring users to contact your IT department for permission to enable Exchange ActiveSync on their personal device. Unless your IT department has visibility into which devices are connecting to the network, then it is impossible to ensure security. EAS security policies also need to be put into place where users are forced to enter a security password to unlock their device. Analysts predict that within three years nearly all companies will be supporting programs of this kind. A study by Aberdeen Group confirms that nearly 72% of firms allow their employees to use their own smart phones and tablets for work, which is four times as many as in 2008. Users must also be able to wipe the data on their own device if it gets lost or stolen. Often times employees delay reporting these incidents and every second of delay increases the chance of losing sensitive corporate data. The key points to keep in mind are that both control and visibility are paramount when allowing personal devices access to your corporate network. Standards and policies around these issues need to be put in place and remain a top priority in order to maintain your businesses security and confidentiality.
  • Why do an IT Infrastructure Audit?

    Why do an IT Infrastructure Audit?

    In our latest feature we explore the value and importance for small to medium enterprise businesses of doing an IT Infrastructure Audit. A few years ago I was approached by COO of a financial services company to respond to a RFP to do an IT Infrastructure Audit for his business.  He had been appointed to his role 6 months earlier and he had inherited an IT environment that was supported by another IT Services Provider. He had been advised prior to his appointment that the company had made a significant investment in their IT infrastructure to support their plans for growth and expansion.  However, since his appointment he had noticed several servicing, performance and productivity issues related to the company’s investment in this area. In the following fiscal year the COO was planning to replace the company’s current CRM technology with an alternative solution that would be based “in-house” at the time to accommodate the preferences of the clients and direction of the industry as a whole. As my case point my clients concerns were twofold:
    1. Business productivity; and
    2. The security of his company’s IT environment.
    So there are a number of reasons to conduct an audit:
    • The servers installed are properly configured for both security and efficiency;
    • Identifying hardware and software that are impacting upon productivity;
    • Identifying reasons as to why outages and downtime are occurring;
    • Efficacy of back-ups and confirmation as to the adequacy as to how these are managed and monitored;
    • Adequacy of security measures in dealing with viruses, spyware, firewalls, encryption, and internet intrusions; and
    • The appropriate of the software licensing installed. [1]
    The age of the hardware and software in your business can have a definite impact upon your businesses own productivity.  Recently I caught two of my technical resources discussing the need to upgrade video cards on some older desktops on a client site.  The time involved in assessing performance of a desktop, ordering the part, and installing it would have been more wisely spent on purchasing a new desktop. This is just an example where sometimes it does not make sense to stay with older technology.  This being said it can affect your competitive context and positioning in the market place. It is important to have your infrastructure configured according to the hardware and software specifications.  Has this been done correctly for you?  The aim of IT infrastructure audit is to compare your current network architecture to the industry standard.  This process allows us to identify deficiencies in business productivity and potential risks for your business. What do we recommend? In essence an audit is snapshot of the current capabilities of your network at a point in time that may be effecting the performance of IT infrastructure and your business as a whole. Therefore an IT Infrastructure Audit should cover the following:
    1. Asset listing of your hardware to support budgeting, planning and management;
    2. A list of software installed on each machine;
    3. Appropriateness of hardware in each machine and how this impacts upon performance;
    4. The version of operating system, security, and patching done;
    5. Analysis of the network design;
    6. Server hardware: appropriateness, performance, and levels of redundancy;
    7. Analysis of the security environment (software, policies and procedures); and
    8. Back-up systems: hardware, software, data management, and disaster recovery planning. [2]
    These are important considerations to ensure that your businesses IT infrastructure  improves productivity and minimizes risks for your business.

    [1] http://itleaders.com.au/it-infrastructure-audit.html?action=print
    [2] http://itleaders.com.au/it-infrastructure-audit.html?action=print
  • Hackers and Dealing with Corporate Espionage

    Hackers and Dealing with Corporate Espionage

    In today’s article we have directed our attention to hackers and the potential for electronic break-ins and corporate espionage.  We now live in a corporate environment “where we cannot survive without access to computer networks and we’re totally enslaved to the technological innovations and breakthroughs of today.” In zimbio.com one blog suggested that the incidence of cyber crime had risen by more than 400% in the last few years, as security violations now plague the business world. Businesses are always processing confidential, proprietary and/or financial information on behalf of their clients and customers, and with this they are relying upon their staff and clients to support this through the use of different technologies both internal and external to the organization. However, before dealing with the issues surrounding hacking it is important to take a step back first and consider the issue of security as a whole.  In an article titled “Tips for Preventing Business Espionage” research has found that 75% of business espionage occurs from obtaining physical documents or electronic files, rather than just hacking.  Businesses need to introduce some initial security safeguards to protect their assets, intellectual property and clients. Some recommendations include:
    1. Shred all company documents before they are discarded.
    2. Do not print sensitive company or client information that can be easily copied or stolen.
    3. Secure all physical client and company files in locked filing cabinets.
    4. Use copy proof technologies like Adobe Acrobat or Pagemaker, allowing you to protect your documents from duplication.
    5. Set access controls for your business applications to limit the documents that can be viewed and/or printed.
    6. Use print encryption to protect sensitive company and client information, so only those that have authority can view necessary information.
    Beyond this we are dealing with computer espionage where faceless criminals want to hack into your network. These faceless criminals or “hackers” will have different agendas:
    • Sourcing information from corporate individuals to either provide information directly to a competitor or requiring the company to purchase software to prevent future attacks.
    • Disgruntled employees may be candidates trying to source copyrights, trademarks, patents and other intellectual property to support their future endeavours.
    • Accessing client information such as identification and banking details as a means to support other forms of espionage aimed at individual and personal gains.
    As technology advances it provides opportunities for hackers to find new ways to attack your businesses technological infrastructure. As large and multi-national companies are investing more and more in security, hackers are turning their attention to individuals and small to medium enterprise businesses for their personal and selfish gains. What do we recommend? There are a number of ways to tackle this problem and to protect your business, clients and staff:
    1. A strong firewall is important to prevent hackers and viruses from entering your network and your businesses other technologies;
    2. Ensure that you have the latest and best antivirus solution where the subscription is active and it is continually updated;
    3. Set internal company policies regarding on-line activities that are acceptable, such as appropriate websites. In larger organizations, intranets are used to support staff. With SME’s attention needs to be given to the type of websites accessed, rather than providing “unlimited” access to all websites;
    4. Policies need to be developed for passwords, where they are changed every 60 to 90 days, and the convention used such as alphanumeric and other type of characters and formats that are acceptable. For instance, best practice suggests that passwords need to be at least 14 characters long;
    5. If you are using an IT Service Provider to support your business you need to understand their role in supporting your company’s security needs here; and
    6. Be prepared to change your business policies and processes to accommodate changes in regulatory, technological, and competitive environments, in order to minimize business risks.
    These are important considerations to ensure that your business is more secure and business productivity is maintained and overall risks are minimized.  We encourage that you have these discussions with your employees and with your IT Services Provider to ensure that your policies in this area are relevant and are supporting the evolution of the environments in your industry and your business community overall.
  • The Microsoft Cloud: Keeping us on our Toes!

    The Microsoft Cloud: Keeping us on our Toes!

    Over the past year there has been growing concern with respect to the reliability of Microsoft’s Business Productivity Online Services (BPOS). This reliability issue of the Microsoft cloud has centered on the number of outages they have experienced with their Exchange email service, the most recent of which occurring on May 10th 2011. On this occasion BPOS experienced an issue with one of the hub components due to abnormal email traffic on their service, which led to a substantial back log of email and downtime for customers with delays experienced of up to nine hours. Later in that week, on May 14th another issue of abnormal email traffic again impacted upon Microsoft’s Exchange Online. However, this time Microsoft was able to address the issue for BPOS email users within an hour. The Concern Uptime has always been a critical consideration for any organization that uses Software as a Service (SaaS) applications, as this is a key part in supporting “day-to-day” operational activities. In comparison to the traditional “on-premise” solution, the cloud relies upon the internet to fulfill their objectives.  This reliance on the internet to support performance has the potential for companies to reconsider the value of the cloud in supporting their business.  To alleviate these concerns Microsoft has created performance requirement within their Service Level Agreement (SLA) of 99% “up-time”, however, these incidences on May 10th and 14th saw their “up-time” performance numbers drop to 98%. The Solution Upon review Microsoft identified that these performance issues could have been communicated more effectively with their clients.  The result is that Microsoft quickly updated their communications procedures on their client-specific “Service Health Dashboard” to ensure clients are informed more effectively and promptly. Also utilizing various social media tools such as Facebook & Twitter has helped to open these lines of communication to Microsoft clients. Another direct result of these email outages have been the issue of credit services in “good faith” to all clients of the Microsoft cloud who were affected by the delays here, as per the SLA. The Next Step Many clients of Microsoft are now looking at the recent launch of Office 365 as an improved, next generation offering of BPOS. Microsoft Office 365 brings a lot more capabilities and flexibility to BPOS, and is supporting the re-positioning of their brand in the on-line market.  Office 365 has also been designed to be more reliable, available and scalable than BPOS. Weighing the Positives against the Negatives When looking at cases such as this, it’s easy to ask yourself “Should I be putting my trust in the Cloud?” It’s important for us to remember that even with web applications with which you have a reliance on access to the internet, there are many positives that the Cloud is able to bring to you and your business that outweigh these rare occurrences.  These include cost savings on labour, licensing and hardware, easy access to business critical applications for remote workers, and always having the most up to date versions of software – which includes better security through patches and updates applied immediately without downtime.
  • Microsoft Office 365 Team Training!

    Microsoft Office 365 Team Training!

    Early on this month two of our talented technicians, Diana Wong and Hosam Sayed, had the opportunity to attend the informative Microsoft Office 365 Ignite Training Session. As a partner with Microsoft we enjoy attending these events, not only to stay ahead of the market but also for the opportunity to listen to and meet some of the knowledgeable people behind these new online services. “This Event was the first of this sort of thing in a little while, so I wasn't sure what to expect. Overall, it was a good learning environment - the instructors, Richard Luckett and Randy Muller - were very knowledgeable in Office 365 and were a fun bunch of guys to be around. Having the lab environment set up for us and being able to get some hands-on experience setting up Office 365 was awesome! Hosam and I were able to get through the labs without too much trouble, but we could see where some hiccups might crop up. Hope to be able to use this experience soon!” Diana Wong The following week, some of the (slightly ;)) less technical side of the Sure Team got to experience a different Microsoft training session, with the official launching Event for Office 365 at the Calgary Exhibition & Stampede. Team members Katie Brown and Alyssa Tilston not only got to enjoy the wonderful assortment of breakfast goods, but learned a lot about the cloud programming capabilities that Office 365 has to offer. “It was a great event! Although while not always understanding the technical aspects of the presentation there was a useful demonstration of how extremely easy Office 365 is to use and some of the cool new features that are being presented with this latest online service. Not only that, it also helped to further my knowledge (and in a language that I could relate to) of the importance & relevance of Cloud Computing for the near future. I also thoroughly enjoyed the video that was presented at the end, that gave us a glimpse into what the future of technology in collaboration with the Cloud might look like – neat stuff this Cloud!” Alyssa Tilston
  • Happy 100th Birthday IBM

    Happy 100th Birthday IBM

    IBM turned 100 years old on June 16th, 2011.   Originally incorporated as Computing Tabulating Recording Corporation, IBM has an impressive history of innovation.  From creating time clocks and typerwriters, to inventing modern UPC codes and working with the US Space Program, IBM has been there.  Sure Systems is proud to be an IBM Business Partner and looks forward to another 100 years of innovation! http://blogs.wsj.com/digits/2011/06/16/happy-100th-birthday-ibm/
  • What is Virtualization?

    What is Virtualization?

    We are often asked to explain to our clients what virtualization means for their business.   So what is virtualization? In webopedia they define virtualization as a way “to create a virtual version of a device or resource, such as a server, storage device, network or even an operating system where the framework divides the resource into one or more execution environments.” In this article today we will explore the following areas:
    • How does virtualization support my business?
    • What are the benefits of virtualization?
    • What are the challenges of virtualization?
    How does it support my business? Firstly, what is important to know is that there are three types of virtualization options:
    • Server – this hides the physical nature of server resources, including the number and identity of individual servers, processors and operating systems, from the software running on them.
    • Storage – this combines physical storage from multiple network storage devices onto one storage device; and
    • Network - combines computing resources in a network by splitting the available bandwidth into independent channels that can be assigned to a particular server or device in real-time; and server virtualization.
    In this area the most common form within the small to medium enterprise market is server virtualization.  For companies it provides an opportunity to save money by reducing the number of servers that support their business applications.  This is combined with more efficient use of computing resources and energy savings that translate into improved profit margins. For businesses, virtualization allows owners to run multiple applications, pooling computing resources and eventually workload balancing and increasing disaster recovery. What are the benefits? As we discussed earlier, pooling of computing resources ensure better efficiencies for business owners.  In CIO an “analysts estimate that the average enterprise utilizes somewhere between 5% and 25% of its server capacity.“ Benefits identified earlier in this article included a reduction in hardware, thereby reducing energy consumption for the company.  The virtualization of servers can create and lead to more valuable rack space, thereby supporting the company’s expansion, and improving the deployment of administrators in managing this virtualized environment. This flexibility is another benefit as it now becomes easier to move things around and to scale things up and down as necessary. Application environments stored on a virtual disk can be easily duplicated and archived. In summary, a survey conducted by Forrester Consulting in the July 2009 issue, a report titled “The Business Value of Virtualization” confirmed that the top three reasons as to why businesses invested in server virtualization was to:
    • Cut hardware costs;
    • Improve business continuity and disaster recovery; and
    • Reclaim data center capacity (space and power).
    Once virtualization was introduced into businesses what Forrester Consulting identified in their research was that major gains were achieved in the following areas:
    1. Faster application recovery;
    2. Improved predictability of Business Continuity and Disaster Recovery; and
    3. Reduction in outages and downtime.
    What are the challenges? With virtualization the traditional coupling of hardware and software is separated.  Therefore this decoupling creates the potential for performance conflicts. Some applications may have cyclical performance profiles, so when overlapping occurs between applications during peak times you may see a slowing in performance. Understanding performance routines for the business applications that support the company becomes important for administrators. IDC White Paper “Business Value of Virtualization: Realizing the Benefits of Integrated Solutions” in July 2008 was quoted as saying that “moving to advanced virtualization infrastructure mandates ensuring a high level of consistency in the virtual servers that run on the infrastructure.  This goal, as attractive as it sounds, contrasts starkly with the typical deployment at most companies.” Typically virtualization vendors provide resourcing and training to support their solutions. Each environment is different, so it is up to the system administrators to know their systems.   SureSystems was one of the first partners in Calgary to introduce VMWare, a virtualized solution to their clients’ IT environment.  Providing solutions that optimize our client infrastructure environment is important to SureSystems.  
  • The Economics of Business and the “Cloud”

    The Economics of Business and the “Cloud”

    The Economics of Business and the “Cloud”
    We have seen the lessons over time where changing business models, practices and approaches have provided companies with an opportunity to either leap ahead of the competition or to get back in the game. It is well known that Henry Ford did not invent the automobile or the assembly line, but he did develop a production process that allowed motor vehicles to be produced in the most cost effective way.  In actual fact Henry Ford’s strategy was relatively simple; reduce production costs and take a lower profit margin per motor vehicle.  The end result was that it made the Model T more affordable, and in exchange this significantly increased sales. “In 1914 Ford produced 308,162 cars, which was more than all 299 other auto manufacturers combined.  By the time the last Model T was built in 1927, the company was producing an automobile every 24 seconds.” We have seen this with Dell in the PC Industry as they have continually re-invented themselves to take advantage of inefficiencies and opportunities in the market whether that has either been streamlining products, introducing new distribution channels or targeting new segments of the market.  The premise was based upon how could Dell take advantage of an industry’s inefficiencies, be more strategic and more effective than the competition. We saw this with Steve Jobs when he returned to Apple in 1997.  As a strategy he reduced the number of PC and Notebook models from 40 to 4.  This allowed Apple to channel their vital financial resources into these models thereby striving to improve the innovation and quality within these existing products. In each of these cases these companies have used their perspectives and insights to take advantage of their precious capital to re-cast the direction of their company to better support their markets. We now see this with the true emergence of cloud computing in the enterprise market, and that this will provide organizations with significant opportunities to re-direct their precious resources into other areas of the business.  This direction is fundamentally shifting the economics of IT, and providing business with a great opportunity here. Therefore what we do understand from this is that economics is a powerful force in shaping industry transformations. In today’s article we want to examine the economics of the cloud for business.    So what does “cloud computing” do to IT resourcing and management as we know it today?  Well simply put it does the following:
    1. Standardizes and groups IT resources and automates many of the functions that are done manually today, i.e. software upgrades, changes to server capacity, and overall maintenance; and
    2. Allows for variable consumption and self-servicing in supporting evolving and changing business needs.
    So where are the improved economies of scale for your business?  Well under “cloud computing” your business applications and supporting data now reside not on your local servers but in large data centers provided by your Cloud Provider. In Microsoft’s article “Economics of the Cloud” in November 2010 they identified three areas:
    1. Supply-side savings;
    2. Demand-side aggregation; and
    3. Multi-tenancy efficiency.
    Supply-side savings The creation of large data centers by cloud computing is not taking us back to the days of the mainframe. Today in our world there is far greater scalability and agility in business and personal computing.  Therefore “cloud computing” provides savings in the following areas:
    1. Energy costs per server;
    2. IT costs involved in maintenance and with upgrades;
    3. Expertise of the cloud computing provider as a specialist supports security and reliability;
    4. Cloud computing providers have greater buying power in sourcing hardware to support this environment.
    These will directly and indirectly pass on all important savings to your business. Demand-side aggregation This is not just about savings, but it also about how to deal with vagaries of utilization, capacity management, which can increase your IT costs.  In business there will be peak times and there will be quiet times throughout the day, month and year.    If a business is not in the cloud it has to make investments in infrastructure to address the issues:
    1. Time of the day, industry, differing computing needs and general randomness – variability of users needs and access patterns; and
    2. The overall growth pattern of your company.
    Cloud providers address this through the pooling of resources, be it hardware, software and personnel across multiple clients, across multiple geographies and time zones. Multi-tenancy efficiency Rather than operating an application for each business as an “on-premise” solution does, multi-tenant applications allow multiple businesses to use a single and common application, like Office 365, on a shared basis.  For your business this has two important benefits:
    1. The labor cost associated with managing this on-site is now allocated across your business and others; and
    2. The server costs are also allocated across your business and others as well.
    The greater use of multi-tenancy the greater the opportunity to generate real economies of scale for your business. Key take-aways As a business owner capturing these savings and benefits is not as simple task.  Demand-side aggregation and multi-tenancy are difficult to implement on their own, so it is important to remember that the economics of the cloud is different for packaged applications as opposed to customized applications. As identified in Microsoft’s article “Economics of the Cloud” in November 2010 they identified three important economies of scale: To discuss the issues and opportunities of shifting into the cloud please make time to meet with your IT Services Manager to discuss this in more detail as to how it relates to your business.
  • Perspective from those early to Cloud Computing

    Perspective from those early to Cloud Computing

    As part of the evolution, or sometimes referred to as the revolution, that takes place in the technology industry, “the field of dreams” we thought it opportune to identify some of the “learnings” and experiences had by those corporations who have shifted to “cloud computing” early.
    In our previous issues on “cloud computing” we defined it and discussed both the implications and the opportunities for your business.  Today we want to move onto the impact of “cloud computing” environment in the following areas: downtime; security; your client and your compliance; managing costs; and IT Resourcing. Over time large corporations have shifted their IT infrastructure to third parties, as part of their overall strategy to outsource functions that are not “core” to their business.  This has provided opportunities for small to medium enterprises in North America and around the globe. For larger corporations migration to “cloud computing” has lead to the following:
    1. Provisioning cycle time: access to new servers and software is reduced from weeks to minutes;
    2. The cost of hardware, software and support has been lowered; and
    3. Improved the ability of corporations to collaborate around product development.  Thereby improving innovation, responsiveness and overall competitiveness of their business.
    In the small to medium enterprise market leveraging “cloud computing” has allowed them to reduce CAPEX associated with establishing “in house” storage and data management capabilities through locally installed servers and system racking.  The elimination of this need has reduced “up front” investments, and has moved these enterprises to variable costs, in order to support scalability and growth. This direction has allowed businesses in this market to focus on their “core” offering and to invest in those parts of their business that will support future growth and prosperity. From here we have taken the opportunity to examine the points of key learning so far. What about downtime?  Experience has shown that downtime is greatly reduced in a “cloud” environment.  The flexibility to source more space in the “cloud” can be done quickly and effectively.  Thereby overcoming the time involved in sourcing new hardware, software and integrating this into your business through scheduled outages.  In dealing with your “Cloud Computing Provider” you need to understand how this will be managed. What about security?  The expectation is that “Cloud Computing Providers” will manage the security of your environment.  This is not true you need to find out what they will support and what will be your responsibility here for your business. This is good discussion point when you meet and you review your Cloud Computing Providers SLA.  Your client your compliance Understanding your businesses regulatory environment and the expectations of your clients is very important here.  You need to confirm where the data centers are based for your proposed “Cloud Computing Providers” and whether there is a regulatory requirements, industry practice and/or client expectation as to where your business can store, retrieve and update data.  How about managing costs? This can then become a “double edged” sword for your business.  The ability to mobilize your business quickly in the “cloud” by increasing server capacity, increasing or decreasing seats, and upgrading software across the business is a great advantage.  However, the warning is that the savings can decline as bandwidth starts to increase.  So you need to get clarification from your prospective “Cloud Computing Provider” as to how the bandwidth is priced, measured and monitored. IT Resourcing With the removal of hardware and software upgrades IT Resources typically shift their focus to those technology changes that improve client retention, productivity and job satisfaction of your staff.  IT Resources become more strategic and less tactical in supporting your businesses needs.
  • Big Data meets Small Business?

    Big Data meets Small Business?

    I just returned from EMC World 2011 in Las Vegas. 'Big Data meets Cloud' was the tagline on all EMC marketing materials. This was by far the largest conference that I have ever attended with over 10,000 attendees and 3,000 EMC employees. EMC typically deals with large storage systems and owns a majority of VMware which deals with virtualization. My purpose of attending this conference was to see what EMC had in store of small and medium business and how do they perceive the cloud changing the way that Information Technology is delivered. Here are my observations:
    • Storage Attached Networks (SANs) and Network Attached Storage (NASs) are getting better and better. These are products that are no longer the domain of large enterprises whom can afford expensive storage and expensive storage administrators to support them. It is now entirely possible to get a very capable entry level SAN for less than 10,000. One of my favourite comments from one of the EMC engineers was that the Unisphere software on their VNXe SANs was so simple that a grade 5 kid could do it. I've used Unisphere and I can't say I disagree. It is very simple to use, and is leaps and bounds superior to the Navisphere software we were using only a few short years ago.
    • Private Clouds. EMC had a lot of information on how to build your own 'private cloud'
    • It is often very difficult for the business to understand or quantify the costs of Information Technology. Private Clouds will allow IT departments in large organizations to better show costs to their businesses. This will also allow for charge backs to the appropriate business units.
    • Large IT departments are starting to think of themselves as service providers out of necessity. This will only improve the level of service that IT provides to it's customers whether that customer is internal or external.  The bar is being raised.
    • The 'Cloud' is not a fad or a flash in the pan. Many of us in the IT industry are secretly hoping that 'cloud' will go away and we can get back to business as usual. This is simply not the case. The cloud is here to stay and it is revolutionizing how Information Technology is delivered. All the large vendors have realized this and are on board.
    Ultimately it was an interesting conferenfce in a facinating city. Kudos to EMC for holding a great event.    
  • The Economics of the Cloud

    The Economics of the Cloud

    Every CIO, IT Director and IT Manager that’s interested in improving their bottom line should read the whitepaper titled The Economics of the Cloud. Authors Rolf Harms and Michael explain why the Cloud is important and why it will transform the economics of Information Technology.
    The authors further explain that the cloud brings economies of scale in:
    • Supply-Side Savings.  Large-scale data centers (DCs) lower the costs per server
    • Demand-side aggregation.  Aggregating demand for computing smooth overall variability, allowing server utilization rates to increase.
    • Multi-Tenancy efficiency.  When changing to a multitenant application model, increasing the number of tenants (i.e., customers or users) lowers the application management and server cost per tenant.
    Let me break it down for you!
    The cloud allows for a profound change to the IT Budget.  Under the present on-premise client/server model 51% of the average IT Budget is spent on Infrastructure, 36% is spent on application maintenance costs such as update and patching labor, end-user support, and license fees paid to vendors.  This leaves only 11% of the IT budget to be spent on innovation.  89% of the budget is spent on maintenance!
    The cloud will enable business to lower their operating costs, spending far less time and money on maintenance and more on innovation.
  • Meeting with Partners and Evaluating Cloud Vendors at VTN 2011

    Meeting with Partners and Evaluating Cloud Vendors at VTN 2011

    We've spent the week a the VTN conference in Chicago.  It's been great catching up with our peers from other IT companies from across the continent and we've had some fantastic conversations regarding the cloud.  We've also had representation from many of the larger cloud vendors whom have been showing us their wares.  So far I've been impressed.  The situation has even improved since the last VTN conference in October and the quality of the products are getting better and better.  As we continue to do our due dilligence on these products I will blog about them.
  • Cloud Implications and Considerations

    Cloud Implications and Considerations

    In our last post we discussed the following for our readers:
    1. What is “Cloud Computing”;
    2. The key differences between today and your business potential future in the “cloud”;
    3. What does this mean for being in a “cloud” based environment; and
    4. What are the different “Cloud Computing” offering available to the business community.
    In our second article we now explore two key areas for you, as one of our readers:
    1. What are the cloud implications for you NOT considering the “cloud”; and
    2. What are important areas to discuss with your IT Services Provider when considering the “cloud” as an alternative infrastructure solution.
    What are the implications for NOT considering the cloud? By not investing in the “cloud” what are the potential concerns for your business going forward:
    1. Increased risks;
    2. Decreased productivity; and
    3. Implications for your business.
    Increased risks – remaining with an ageing infrastructure opposed to the “cloud”:
    • Increases security and privacy concerns;
    • Potentially compromises compliance and risk management; and
    • In the end reliability around information sourced, stored and provided to your clients and staff.
    Decreased productivity – this can happen in a number of areas:
    • Response times can suffer for a number of reasons due the inability of current software to operate effectively on more dated hardware;
    • Incompatible hardware and software environments leads to more outages; and
    • More business time and cost is invested in dealing with risk management issues associated with a fragmented and an ageing infrastructure.
     Cloud Implications for businesses – is that this can lead to the following:
    • Increased costs to maintain your IT infrastructure;
    • An inability to invest and provide the latest technologies can affect staff morale and performance; and
    • The inability to lower costs and   leverage your infrastructure fails to optimize your businesses competencies and capabilities.
    What is important to discuss with your own IT Services Provider? Some items here to consider are:
    • Steps being taken to understand both your business and information technology environments?
    • What business software applications could be and should be shifted to the “cloud”?
    • How do they manage relationships with their panel or group of “cloud” providers?
    • What changes has your IT Service Providers made to accommodate the introduction of the “cloud” into your business?
    • What SLA’s are in place to optimize your businesses performance?
    • How do you now financially manage this part of your business going forward?
    • What is the responsibility of your IT Services Provider in sourcing and managing a “cloud” solution for your business:
      • Verify the financial health of the “cloud” provider?
      • Confirm how the “cloud” offering supports your business?
      • What experience and business applications do they support in their “cloud” solution today?
      • How do they support your security and privacy requirements here?
      • How easy is it to migrate from one “cloud” provider to another?
    These are important considerations to ensure that your business maximize the benefits of the “cloud” and this change in how you are supported today.
  • So Exactly What is Cloud Computing?

    So Exactly What is Cloud Computing?

    Many business leaders and decision makers within organizations “year-in year-out” have to grapple with the investment required to support their infrastructure and information technology (IT) investment.   The aim is to provide an environment that supports their clients, staff, company owners and society.
    Technology has always been seen as an enabler for businesses:
    1. Other ways to secure clients and to reach-out their markets;
    2. To improve business productivity;
    3. To further reduce overall business costs.
    The emergence of “cloud computing” is presenting another opportunity to further support all of the above. So what is “Cloud Computing”? Cloud computing allows businesses to access computing resources that are owned and operated by a third-party provider on a consolidated basis in one, or usually more, data center locations. For business it changes the face of technology as internal “to the company” infrastructure decision to an “on-demand” and “pay-as-you go” model.  This reduces “up-front” investment and provides way to gain the latest computing capabilities in a cost-effective way.  In the end it provides opportunities for greater collaboration, minimize capital expenditure, and improve business productivity due to the latest technology. In this new world technology as a financial consideration moves from a capital investment to an operational expense.  The upside is that you have access to the latest in technology and thereby vastly improving your infrastructure. So what are the key differences? Well as a business:
    • You are no longer responsible for your IT infrastructure;
    • It is a “pay-as-you-go” model, simplifies scaling up and scaling down;
    • Lowers the Total Cost of Ownership (TCO) than an on-premise solution;
    • Business applications reside in the cloud, simplifying business continuity planning; and
    • Supports greater up-time, thereby improving business productivity.
    What does this mean for you being in the “Cloud”? As a business owner and/or major stakeholder in your business it means the following for you:
    • Change of focus from managing servers and infrastructure to leveraging your business applications.
    • Maximizing the latest version of your business applications.
    • Ensuring that objectives set within your Service Level Agreements (SLA) regarding uptime, recovery time and scalability are met.
    • How you can further reduce your total cost of ownership and simplifying your business continuity and disaster recovery plans.
    What are the different “Cloud” offerings? In reading about the “Cloud” you may heard the phrases IaaS, PaaS and SaaS.  What do they mean? Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) – is a group server(s) that are provided in Data Centers and are managed by the client(s), sometimes referred to as a private cloud.  Examples of this are Amazon with their EC2 service and Citrix with their C3 service. Platform as a Service (PaaS) – this is similar as IaaS, but the provider shares management with the client, being you. Software as a Service (SaaS) – this solution is typically multi-tenant, and is referred to as the public cloud.  The server(s) and data resides in the providers data center and they are responsible for the solution.  So everyday SaaS examples that we are exposed to include hotmail, gmail, google docs, NetFlix, and the social media tools: FaceBook, twitter, LinkedIn.  
  • How To Recognize Spoofed Web sites

    How To Recognize Spoofed Web sites

    http://www.microsoft.com/protect/fraud/phishing/spoof.aspx Some cyber criminals use phishing scams to set up convincing spoofs of legitimate Web sites. They then try to trick you into visiting these Web sites and disclosing personal information, such as your credit card number. Fortunately, there are several steps you can take to help protect yourself from these and other types of attacks.

    What is a spoofed Web site?

    Spoofed Web sites are commonly used in conjunction with phishing scams. The spoofed site is usually designed to look like the legitimate site, sometimes using components from the legitimate site. Do not rely on the text in the address bar as an indication that you are at the site you think you are. There are several ways to get the address bar in a browser to display something other than the site you are on.

    Use Internet Explorer 8

    Internet Explorer 8 is designed to help you avoid fraud, phishing scams, viruses, and other malware. Avoid phishing scams. In Internet Explorer 8, the SmartScreen Filter helps detect unsafe and potentially unsafe Web sites as you browse. It alerts you if a site you are trying to open has been reported as unsafe, and allows you to report unsafe sites yourself. For more information, see SmartScreen Filter: Frequently Asked Questions. Identify fake Web addresses. Internet Explorer 8 helps you avoid deceptive Web sites that are designed to trick you with misleading addresses. The domain name in the address bar is highlighted in black and the remainder of the address is highlighted in gray to make it easy to identify a Web site's true identity. Identify fake Web addresses

    Typo scamming

    Cyber criminals also use Web addresses that resemble the name of a well-known company but are slightly altered by adding, omitting, or transposing letters. For example, the address "www.microsoft.com" could appear instead as:
    • www.micosoft.com
    • www.mircosoft.com
    • www.verify-microsoft.com
    This is called "typo-squatting" or "cybersquatting." Scammers register these domain names in order to compete with the popular site or to earn money through advertisements. If you enter the wrong URL you might be taken to a site where you'll see an ad for the site you really wanted. If you click on that ad, you might get to where you want to go: You've made an extra click and the scammer has earned some money. Typo-squatters and cybersquatters can also create more insidious scams, such as downloading malicious software applications and spyware onto unprotected computers that connect to their sites. The United States and other countries have passed legislation to help challenge cybersquatting registrations, and the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) has worked to remedy the situation, but cybersquatters are still out there.
  • 10 tips for safe instant messaging

    10 tips for safe instant messaging

    http://www.microsoft.com/protect/fraud/spam/imsafety.aspx Communicating by using an instant messaging (IM) program has some of the same security and privacy risks as e-mail, but there are a few dangers that are unique to IM. Practice safe instant messaging, by being aware of the risks.
    1. Never open pictures, download files, or click links in messages from people you don't know. If they come from someone you do know, confirm with the sender that the message (and its attachments) is trustworthy. If it's not, close the instant message.
    2. Be careful when you create a screen name. Each IM program asks you to create a screen name, which is similar to an e-mail address. Your screen name should not provide or allude to personal information. For example, use a nickname such as FootballFan instead of BaltimoreJenny.
    3. Create a barrier against unwanted instant messaging. Do not list your screen name or e-mail address in public areas (such as large Internet directories or online community profiles) or give them to strangers.Some IM services link your screen name to your e-mail address when you register. The easy availability of your e-mail address can result in an increased number of spam and phishing attacks.
    4. Never provide sensitive personal information, such as your credit card numbers or passwords, in an IM conversation.
    5. Block unwanted messages. Most IM programs allow you to build a contact list (also known as a "buddy list"), which is similar to the address book in your e-mail program.You can choose to allow anyone to add you to their contact list or you can restrict your contact list to people you want to hear from. You can also choose to block all incoming messages from everyone except the people on your contact list.
    6. If you decide to meet a stranger that you know only from IM communication, take appropriate safety precautions. For example, do not meet that person alone, (take a friend or parent with you), and always meet and stay in a public place, such as a cafe.
    7. Don't send personal or private instant messages at work. Your employer might have a right to view those messages.
    8. If you use a public computer, do not log on automatically. If you do, people who use that computer after you can see and use your screen name to log on.
    9. Monitor and limit your children's use of IM.
    10. When you're not available to receive messages, be careful how you display this information to other users. For example, you might not want everyone on your contact list to know that you're "Out to Lunch."
  • 4 safety tips for using Wi-Fi

    4 safety tips for using Wi-Fi

    http://www.microsoft.com/protect/mobile/public/publicwireless.aspx
    If you have a laptop computer with wireless connectivity, you can access the Internet using Wi-Fi, or wireless networks, often in public places such as coffee shops, airports, hotels, and other spaces. Here are four quick safety tips for using wifi to enjoy the convenience and help to protect your privacy.

    1. Use a firewall

    If your computer uses Windows 7, Windows Vista or Windows XP and you've installed Service Pack 2, you have a built-in firewall that's turned on by default. You can configure Windows Firewall to provide better protection when you're using a public wireless network. For more information, see Windows Firewall.

    2. Hide your files

    When you use public Wi-Fi, network encryption is often out of your control. Check the privacy statement on the network's Web site to learn about the type of encryption they use. (If they don't have a privacy statement, you'd be better off not using the network.) If you keep personal or financial information on your computer, consider investing in an operating system, such as Windows 7, that includes the tools to protect your information through encryption. To learn more, see Encrypt or decrypt a folder or file.

    3. Don't type in credit card numbers or passwords

    These measures provide some protection against casual hackers and identity thieves who prey on wireless networks. But if criminals are determined enough, they will eventually find a way to get around any security system. If you want to be safe, avoid typing any sensitive information, such as your credit card number or any other financial information, while you use a public wireless network. Tip Tip: If you must enter credit card numbers while using a public wireless network, make sure there is a locked padlock icon at the bottom right corner of the browser window, and make sure the Web address begins with https: (the "s" stands for secure).

    4. Turn off your wireless network when you're not using it

    If you're not surfing the Internet or sending e-mail, but still using your computer in an area where there is a public wireless network, disable your wireless connection. If you're using an external Wi-Fi card you can remove it. If you're using an internal WiFi card, right-click the connection and click Disable.
  • How to create strong passwords

    How to create strong passwords

    Strong passwords are important protections to help you have safer online transactions.

    Keys to password strength: length and complexity

    An ideal password is long and has letters, punctuation, symbols, and numbers.
    • Whenever possible, use at least 14 characters or more.
    • The greater the variety of characters in your password, the better.
    • Use the entire keyboard, not just the letters and characters you use or see most often.

    Create a strong password you can remember

    There are many ways to create a long, complex password. Here is one way that may make remembering it easier:
    What to do Suggestion Example
    Start with a sentence or two (about 10 words total). Think of something meaningful to you. Long and complex passwords are safest. I keep mine secret. (10 words)
    Turn your sentences into a row of letters. Use the first letter of each word. lacpasikms (10 characters)
    Add complexity. Make only the letters in the first half of the alphabet uppercase. lACpAsIKMs (10 characters)
    Add length with numbers. Put two numbers that are meaningful to you between the two sentences. lACpAs56IKMs (12 characters)
    Add length with punctuation. Put a punctuation mark at the beginning. ?lACpAs56IKMs (13 characters)
    Add length with symbols. Put a symbol at the end. ?lACpAs56IKMs" (14 characters)

    Test your password with a password checker

    A password checker evaluates your password's strength automatically. Try Microsoft's secure password checker.

    Protect your passwords from prying eyes

    Common password pitfalls to avoid

    Cyber criminals use sophisticated tools that can rapidly decipher passwords.

    Avoid creating passwords using:

    • Dictionary words in any language. Words in all languages are vulnerable.
    • Words spelled backwards, common misspellings, and abbreviations. Words in all languages are vulnerable.
    • Sequences or repeated characters. Examples: 12345678, 222222, abcdefg, or adjacent letters on your keyboard (qwerty).
    • Personal information. Your name, birthday, driver's license, passport number, or similar information.
  • 4 Tips for Successful Server Upgrades

    4 Tips for Successful Server Upgrades

    As your business grows and changes, your IT infrastructure will surely need to evolve, too. And when it does, you need to be prepared to upgrade accordingly. Server upgrades are a necessary part of ensuring your business has the resources available to handle demand, and in turn you’ll need to do some planning – and follow a few simple rules – to make sure your upgrade proceeds smoothly and with minimal disruption. Here are our top 4 tips to ensure a successful upgrade:
    1. Do your research Don’t assume that your new server or hardware will play nicely with the rest of your system. Even if the device claims to be plug-and-play, it’s best to avoid any nasty surprises by doing a bit of research. Whenever you install something new, even if the manufacturer claims the component is compatible with your system, do a bit of legwork to make sure. Check out online forums to find out about any issues you might possibly encounter, and thoroughly read the manufacturer’s website and other materials. The HP server resource forum is a good place to start.
    2. Invest in quality hardware and components Your servers are the heart of your business. So why gamble on purchasing “bargains”? If you’re considering buying a new server or other related components or software, investing in high-quality solutions is always preferable. While the upfront costs may be higher, in the long term you’re going to save significantly, thanks to the improved performance and uptime.
    3. Only make one change at a time It’s tempting to knock out a bunch of changes at once and reduce time spent performing multiple tasks. But it’s best to perform each task or installation separately, so that if problems occur at some point, it’s far easier to isolate which change was responsible for the error.
    4. Document all changes In addition to making one change at a time, you should also document each change you make. Taking the time to update your documentation with the change you made or component you upgraded – including noting that component’s vital details (manufacturer, serial numbers, warranty and support information) – will make it much simpler to address and repair future problems.
  • 3 ways to protect your laptop on the road

    3 ways to protect your laptop on the road

    http://www.microsoft.com/protect/mobile/laptop/travel.aspx The newest laptops and external drives are powerful, light, and thin enough to fit easily into the slenderest of carry-on baggage. This makes them easy to travel with, but also easier to lose or have stolen. It pays to be extra vigilant at airport security checkpoints where thieves know people can be flustered. You should also store your laptop in the seat in front of you, instead of in the overhead compartment when you fly. Here are our top tips to help you secure the information on your laptop.

    1. Protect your information

    If you keep personal or financial information on your computer, invest in an operating system that includes file protection. Windows 7, Vista and Windows XP Professional have the tools to protect your information through a process called encryption. To learn more, see Encrypt or decrypt a folder or a file (for Windows Vista) or Encrypt Your Data to Keep It Safe (for Windows XP).

    2. Protect your laptop with a strong password

    If you travel with your laptop frequently, you should secure it with a strong password. Check your computer's Help and Support service to learn how to add or change your system password. To find out how to create passwords that are tough for hackers to crack, but easy for you to remember, see Strong passwords: How to create and use them.

    3. Back up before you go

    Always back up your information before you take your laptop on a trip. You can't always avoid the financial loss of your equipment, but you can avoid losing all your information in the process.

    4. Be careful what you store on your thumb drives

    With the growing popularity and increasing memory capabilities of small flash drives (known as "thumb drives" or "USB drives") comes a greater risk of information theft. If you travel with a thumb drive, try not to store sensitive information on it. If you lose the drive or if the drive is stolen it's easy for anyone to access that information. Thumb drives can also carry viruses, so remember to update the antivirus software on your computer.
  • What is Win32/FakeRean?

    http://blogs.msdn.com/b/securitytipstalk/archive/2010/05/25/what-is-win32-fakerean.aspx Our friends on the Microsoft support team tell us that they’ve heard a lot of complaints lately about Win32/FakeRean, a rogue antivirus program that claims to scan your computer for viruses and spyware and displays fake warnings. Win32/FakeRean isn’t new. According to the Microsoft Malware Protection Center (MMPC) blog, this nasty little rogue has been around since at least August of last year. The MMPC also reports that Win32/FakeRean goes by different names and different looking interfaces and can customize itself according to which operating system you’re running. Here are some of the fake names that Win32/FakeRean uses:
    • Antispyware Vista
    • Desktop Defender 2010
    • PC Security 2009
    • Security Central
    • XP Antispyware 2009 or 2010
      For more information, including a long list of other names for this rogue software, see Malware Protection Center: Win32/FakeRean. If you have accidentally downloaded this software, you might see a warning that looks like this: For a list of the most widespread threats to computers right now, see View active malware. If you suspect that you've downloaded rogue security software onto your computer, run a scan with the Windows Live Safety Scanner and make sure that you have updated antivirus and antispyware software (like Microsoft Security Essentials) running on your computer. For more information and to watch videos on how to protect yourself against these threats, see Watch out for fake virus alerts.
  • 24 Hours Support – Now Toll Free!

    24 Hours Support – Now Toll Free!

    Sure Systems has always offered 24/7 emergency support to all our Calgary customers. We are proud to announce that Sure Systems now has a Toll Free number! Existing customers can call 1-877-577-2720 anytime for support during urgent systems emergencies!