December 19, 2013
Windows 8 is stable, secure and ready for business use! If your organization is contemplating a hardware lifecycle refresh, Windows 8.1 Pro should be first on the list of operating systems to consider. There are several reasons to upgrade; here are a few of the key benefits:
1. Windows 8 is backward compatible with software designed for Windows 7; no need to replace everything at once. (Note that individual software suites should be kept up to date regardless of operating system compatibility).
2. Windows 8 provides an interface that works well with a traditional computer controllers (mouse and keyboard), but truly excels with touch screen devices. This suggests that deploying Windows–based hardware can help reduce learning curves and costs associated with training and security testing during new deployments. Think phones and tablets.
3. The dashboard is a great place to quickly access important programs and information a user may require on a daily basis. In the coming years, we anticipate more custom apps designed by the company to help with employee efficiency.
4. Better support for multiscreen environments. While this might sound like a nice-to-have, Windows 8 truly improved my personal day to day computing. For instance, the menu bar spans across both screens and duplicates shortcuts (now called pinned items) on either the start bar or start screen. It also duplicates the reintroduce start button. After all, the reason for two screens is to work twice as much; right?
Creating a familiar, but better, experience was a top consideration for Microsoft when developing Windows 8. After testing the software within our own organization for several months, we are happy to give it the green light for general deployment.
Windows 8 is an evolution, not a revolution, but this is just fine with us. It helps users work in a modern way and allows hardware vendors to be creative when designing the next generation if intuitive products.
If your business is interested in learning more about Windows 8, please contact our business development team at firstname.lastname@example.org or by calling 604.628.6970 extension 1.
- Sea to Sky Team
September 9, 2013
On September 5th Vancouver experienced a powerful lightning storm. The system was short lived, but caused damage to property and trees throughout the lower mainland. Below is a story, and some advice, about events that occurred on that day.
We are all familiar with power surges, but we might not be familiar with network surges. A network surge still requires a power spike to cause damage, but affects a different part of an electronic device; the network card. A network surge usually infiltrates a network at the weakest point, which is usually a consumer grade piece of hardware without a properly grounded plug. While rare, they can cause hundreds or even thousands of dollars in damage, depending on what is connected at the other end.
Unfortunately one of our staff members fell victim to a network surge at his home on that fateful day. Most if his computers and media devices were physically connected via a home grade switch with only a two prong power cord. This type of plug does not provide proper grounding for power and; therefore, is a weak link in a network’s chain. When the surge occurred, it damaged a TV, two Apple TV devices, the router and the switch itself, which was hot to the touch. Network cards are integrated into most devices and cannot be replaced very easily. This fact can render the device useless if the network card’s board gets fried.
How to Protect the Network in a Business:
It is simple; deploy business grade hardware when setting up the network. Sea to Sky is adamant about this because we know what happens when cheap hardware is installed (see above). Business hardware is made to last and is designed with better components to manage large amounts of traffic from multiple users all day long. When purchasing hardware for your business it is best to consult with an IT provider, such as Sea to Sky Network Solutions, with experience building and managing a network infrastructure.
A point of interest:
It is not commonly known that a network cable can also power some devices. This technology is becoming more mainstream as businesses demand additional features from their electronics. Common electronic devices that utilize this ‘Power over Ethernet’ (PoE) feature are digital security cameras, wireless access points and other low voltage electronic monitoring devices that may not be close to a power outlet. As technology moves forward, we will find that more and more devices receive power this way. Considering this, it is ever more important to make sure a network, especially a business’ network, is protected appropriately.
The victim in this case will have to replace all of the hardware that failed, but life will go on. It will not be for nothing so long as the lesson from his misfortune is heeded by the rest of us.
Sea to Sky is dedicated to managing networks in an efficient and cost effective manner. Our client relationships are meant to be long-term and we work hard to provide solutions that make sense for today and tomorrow. If your business is interested in learning more about how we can help, contact a Sea to Sky Team Member by email at email@example.com or by phone at 604.628.6970, ext.#1.
- Sea to Sky Team
July 19, 2013
The only purpose of an offsite backup service is to protect a business’s data in a last resort. Given the singular purpose of this service it is very important to make sure the solution is setup correctly. Ask these key questions when setting up a server’s offsite backups because not all backup solutions are created equal:
- How often are document changes saved? (hourly, daily or weekly)?
- How far back can I go if I need to retrieve a file or email? (weekly, monthly, annually, or forever)?
- How long will it take to retrieve the file (minutes, hours, days… longer)?
Managing our client’s data is the most important aspect of what we do and planning for the unexpected is a big part of this. Sea to Sky’s BDR backup solution is comprised of two key components; an onsite hardware device to manage the processor-intensive task of backing up on an hourly basis, and an offsite component to keep that data safe and accessible in the event of a localized disaster. While our clients do not necessarily need to use the service every day, it is a huge time/money/headache-saver when they do.
Before the BDR most businesses used a tape backup system – if your business used a server 3 or more years ago you know what I am talking about. The tapes were meant to be swapped daily, required human intervention, and typically provided a weeks’ worth of backups, if they worked at all. The new server-based BDR solution provides the ability to take that default week time frame and extend it as far back as the client requires. It also automates the process and allows a Managed Service Provider, such as Sea to Sky, to check for backup completion on a more regular basis.
For most businesses a week is typically enough time to realize a file is missing, but for others this is not the case. Sea to Sky’s technical staff will work with your business to make sure the backup retention period properly reflects your business’s requirements. This is not a complicated process, but must be addressed in advance of an emergency data retrieval scenario.
Finally, Sea to Sky supports organizations located throughout the province of British Columbia and beyond. Furthermore, our client list includes organizations which are regulated to maintain offsite data repositories in BC. Because of this fact, we provide all of our clients with a BC-based backup solution. Besides the legal implications, this geographical advantage allows our technical staff to maintain full physical control over our client’s offsite data repository if need be.
If your organization can not answer the questions listed above contact a Sea to Sky Network Solutions team member to learn more about the BDR solution with offsite data storage in British Columbia. We can be reached by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org or calling 604.628.6965.
- Sea to Sky Team
July 2, 2013
The devastating floods of June 2013 in Calgary are a grim reminder of how unforgiving Mother Nature can be. The losses inflicted on Calgarians are very unfortunate and we wish everyone affected all the best in their recovery.
While these events are rare, they do provide technology managers with valuable insight into which backup and disaster recovery protocols work and which do not. At the end of the day, insurance will replace physical goods, but intellectual property and other data cannot be replaced as easily if appropriate precautions are not taken.
As an IT support provider for businesses, Sea to Sky Network Solutions is constantly reviewing how events like these were handled. We consider the effectiveness of different disaster recovery plans by collecting data and producing timelines illustrating the true impact on IT systems and the business they serve. We identify what worked, what did not work, and how we can modify our offsite backup solution accordingly.
We are happy to report that our current backup and disaster recovery offering can protect our client’s data when a similar disaster, such as an earthquake, strikes in British Columbia. Key considerations for this include:
1. Automate the backup system; human intervention is no longer required to facilitate offsite backups. Software now allows for complete automation of incremental backups on an hourly basis.
2. Schedule backup testing (weekly); an image of a server’s operating system is the only way to test that a backup actually works. Booting up the image on a virtualized server is the only way to test for true functionality. We include this service with our Managed Service Agreements.
3. Store images of the server in geographically unique locations; make sure data is stored in more than one secure location, even if this is on the server in the office and in a colocation several kilometers away. Ideally multiple offsite data repositories around the country should be implemented, but this cost can be unreasonable for some. Sea to Sky will work with you to maximize your offsite storage capabilities, based on budget.
4. Know how quickly a server image can be restored (time is money); consider how quickly the business can gain access to the data (physically or over the internet). Furthermore, make sure the backup image is able to boot off of different server hardware when power is restored. Backing up data in a useable form, especially if only new hardware configurations are available at the time, is a commonly overlooked concern. Sea to Sky’s backup solution is not dependent on the exact same hardware configuration allowing for a faster restore time. Our goal is to get our clients back to business as quickly as possible.
We recently completed a video case study with the Village of Queen Charlottes detailing the earthquake they experienced in October 2012. The video discusses how Sea to Sky Network Solutions configured a server and BDR (Backup and Disaster Recovery device) with offsite data storage to help the staff maintain access to their critical data during the disaster. The video can be viewed here: www.vimeo.com/seatosky
If you would like to learn more about our backup solution for your business’ server infrastructure contact a team member by emailing email@example.com or calling 604.628.6970 Ext. 1
- Sea to Sky Team
May 16, 2013
We are very excited to announce our new street signage!
May 15, 2013
Earlier this month we published an article entitled “Be Proactive: A Network Audit is a Great Way to Mitigate Risk”. In the same way that article outlined the importance of having appropriate information before choosing a new IT support provider, this article will focus on how Sea to Sky uses 24/7 monitoring tools to provide ongoing reporting for our Managed Service clients located in British Columbia and around the world.
The reason organizations outsource is to achieve economies of scale with the ultimate goal of 100% uptime. Feeding off of our experience, Sea to Sky invests in industry specific software and hardware solutions designed to maximize efficiency for our clients. We are often asked explain how exactly we do this; therefore, we authored this article clarifying how the 24/7 monitoring service works and why we bundle it into our Managed Service plan.
On a Managed Service Plan, the monitoring tool integrates with our ticketing system. This reporting system allows our technical solutions team to check the status of a client’s network, receive instant alerts for critical issues 24/7, and review a timeline of the events leading up to the resolution. This information is instrumental in maximizing productivity for today and tomorrow because it uses algorithms to detect issues before they cost the client unexpected downtime.
To use an analogy, our monitoring service can be compared to that of a modern vehicle’s maintenance computer. Now-a-days, new vehicles can alert the driver to a pending issue on the inside of the engine using advanced sensors that report to a central computer. Some vehicles will even calculate how the car was driven and adjust maintenance interval alerts based on this data.
A network monitoring system works the same way by identifying how many users are on the system, how much of the resource (usually consisting of a server) they are consuming, and will event alert a Sea to Sky technician of an imminent failure, such as a bad hard drive. This provides our team with enough time to communicate the issue, order a new part, and fix the problem in a timely fashion.
Being able to identify an issue before it takes down the network is critically important in today’s world because organizations rely so heavily on accessing data all the time. In the past, reactive IT support meant that productivity is greatly affected; bringing business to a standstill. That is why Sea to Sky bundles this service into its Managed Service plan. All of the sudden, 24/7 monitoring creates a predictable, reportable and proactive solution for the client when coupled with an appropriate Backup and Disaster Recovery BDR plan.
It is an exciting time in business information technology management. Sea to Sky Network Solutions is happy to share more information about this solution with anyone who is interested in a managed IT solution. Simply contact our client services team at 604.628.6970 or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org to learn how!
- Sea to Sky Team
May 3, 2013
We typically receive calls from prospective clients when something bad has occurred. Sometimes the issue is small; a basic hardware failure resulting in downtime. However, in a worst case scenario it could be the result of a more serious security problem whereby a hacker finds a vulnerability; it happens and could lead to a substantial financial loss. If proper security measures are not implemented and maintained, it can leave your data open to the world and susceptible to attack. Sea to Sky understands the importance of a healthy and secure IT infrastructure – including proper cabling, switching, and up to date servers/workstations to mitigate the risk of downtime. After all, an organization’s technology is as strong as its weakest link. Considering this, what steps can one take to mitigate risk?
The first step is to identify the problem(s) by completing a thorough Network Audit, complemented by written documentation outlining the areas of concern. A Network Audit acts as the baseline for where the organization is now and where is should be. At this stage we consider our client’s business requirements and base our information technology recommendations to match their needs.
We investigate items, such as:
- Is there a proper hard-wired network cabling for each user’s computer, phone, printer…?
- Is the firewall setup properly?
- Does the organization’s internet plan appropriately represent the connectivity requirements?
- What password policies are in place?
- Is the server setup on a domain?
- What warranty is available for hardware issues?
- When was the last successful backup completed?
- Has the backup been tested?
- Is there an offsite copy of data in the event of fire, flood or theft?
- Is it up to date on all devices, including the server?
- Is it centrally managed, or are the licenses scattered about?
- How old are the machines?
- Do they have proper software licensing for business?
- When does the warranty expire?
- Is it onsite or hosted and should it be changed?
- Who manages email/spam filtering when a problem occurs?
- How is email data retained during a period of staff turnover?
- Is it running on an Exchange, POP or IMAP protocol?
This is just a sampling of what a Network Audit includes. Our custom report allows any organization get a clear picture of their IT difficulties, and provides recommendations moving forward. This process helps make sure every IT dollar is allocated appropriately; helping to reduce the cost per user and increasing productivity.
A Network Audit is a great way for a business with up to 200 users to get back on track and up to date with their information technology. If your organization is interested in learning more about a Network Audit with Sea to Sky Network Solutions contact a team member by email: email@example.com, or by phone: 604.628.6970.
April 8, 2013
Sea to Sky is currently looking for a network support technician to join our growing team! If you think you have what it takes, and you want to join our fantastic organization, check out the posting below and get in touch!
Resumes can be forwarded to firstname.lastname@example.org as per the requirements below:
Sea to Sky Network Solutions is a dynamic, fast-growing managed services and IT solutions provider in Vancouver BC. We’re currently looking for a talented support technician to join our team.
You will be supporting multiple customers, and be responsible for taking accountability for seeing issues through from beginning to completion. The successful candidate will be providing frontline support for our extensive customer base, and needs to be motivated and able to adapt a variety of client environments and problem scenarios. This position consists of approximately 60% in-office and 40% onsite work, within the Greater Vancouver area.
Some of your responsibilities will include — but are definitely not limited to:
- Responding to support requests submitted via phone, e-mail, or our customer support portal within timelines defined by our SLA.
- Performing trouble ticket ‘triage’ to determine severity of issue and escalating as appropriate.
- Performing routine server and infrastructure maintenance, as defined by our Managed Services contracts.
- Working with our Technical Lead to ensure problems are addressed by the appropriate resource.
- Being accountable for time management, and hitting billable time targets as defined by management.
- Keeping extremely accurate documentation of client environments, problem resolution, and internal systems.
- Keeping Customer Service First — being polite, friendly, and approachable at all times.
- Managing time effectively — often handling dozens of open tickets at various stages of resolution.
- Keeping up with current industry standards and product releases.
- Providing guidance and instruction to end users on new systems, software, etc.
- Providing sales support when dealing with customers who are in a position to require new hardware or software — product guidance and recommendations included.
A valid BC driver’s license is required — as is a car in safe and drivable condition.
Some valuable experience would include:
- 2+ years in the IT consulting industry, or a helpdesk role
- Microsoft certifications (ie. MCSE, MCTS, MCSM etc)
- CompTIA certifications (A+, Network+, etc)
Thorough understanding of, and experience with:
- Windows XP, Vista, 7, 8
- Mac OS X
- Windows Server 2003, 2008, 2012, SBS 2008, SBS 2011
- Exchange 2007, 2010
- SQL 2005, 2008
- Active Directory
- Terminal Services
- Enterprise Antivirus (GFI, Symantec)
- Enterprise Backup (AppAssure, Symantec)
- Firewalls/Routing/Switching/VPN/SSL-VPN (Juniper, SonicWall, Meraki knowledge an asset)
- Hardware Troubleshooting
- MS Office 2007, 2010, 2013
- Virtualization (Xen Server, Hyper V & VMWare)
- EqualLogic an Asset
- Fibre Channel Storage (EMC) an Asset
- Communications Cabling Knowledge an Asset
The successful candidate will be willing to certify for multiple vendors, including Dell, MS, etc.
Excellent communication and interpersonal skills, in English, in both verbal and written forms, are required in order to provide a high level of service to our customers.
You will be working both independently and on a team for different projects — throughout the day you’ll have constant communication with teammates regarding the status of different issues. During team meetings, you’ll be expected to report on the status of your different tasks and projects, and be willing to meet with customers as required to resolve issues.
Please submit a cover letter detailing your work experience, your technical history, why you want this job and your expected compensation. A detailed resumé is also required.
January 28, 2013
There are many great resources out there to help business owners in BC understand the transition of the tax system from HST to PST/GST. One of the most useful websites I have found is: www.pstinbc.com. This site provides an abundance of constantly updated information. While some taxable goods will benefit from a reduction (i.e. restaurant meal purchases) other tax incentives to businesses will be lost. Those losses are the reason for this article and have been explained below.
On April 1, 2013 British Columbia is reverting to the PST/GST tax system; no joke! If your organization is considering new business technology hardware or software you have until March 31st to get your order processed! Make sure to talk to your accountant to verify your organization’s eligibility.
What is happening?
HST provides businesses with an input tax credit; effectively eliminating any tax costs on technology hardware or software purchased by a business for business purposes. With the loss of HST, this input tax credit will be reduced to only cover GST at 5%. This suggests, that all other variables the same, businesses will be required to pay the extra 7% PST on any purchases moving forward.
With this information in mind, think about how much your organization spends on hardware and software in a given lifecycle – this is typically 3 -5 years for the average organization – now add 7% to that cost!
What should I do about it?
If you are close to making an IT upgrade decision, and want to make sure you are making the right decision, give the Sea to Sky team a call; we would be happy to help your organization build a solution that will allow you to maximize your IT dollars; as long as you order before the change to PST.
If you have questions about the change to PST in BC, talk to your accountant, or visit www.pstinbc.com. If you have questions about upgrading or maintaining your IT systems, talk to us; we are happy to help. Inquiries can be made to 604.628.6970 or email email@example.com.
- Sea to Sky Team
Article Disclaimer: as outlined above, Sea to Sky is not an accounting firm, but we do like to stay on top of the latest changes in policy that could adversely affect our clients. If you haven’t already, get the tax conversation going with your accountant, then give our team a call to see how we can help your company become more productive.
January 24, 2013
The Sea to Sky team is on an everlasting mission to provide our clients with the best IT experience possible. For this reason we are excited to announce our partnership with Shaw’s Business Services division. Shaw recently restructured their business offerings to include:
- Business Phone services for small to medium sized businesses
- PRI and SIP Trunk services
- Hosted & Managed PBX
- Cable and Fiber Internet services – Canada’s fastest!
- Data connectivity: Including Layer 2 VPLS, Metro Ethernet, and Private Line
- Business TV and Broadcast Video services
Sea to Sky has worked with almost every communications provider in Vancouver. While each provider has their strengths, we find that the majority of our users benefit most from a Shaw solution. The simple fact is most businesses do not require anything more than a reliable connection and a phone system that has worthwhile features, which are easy to use.
Why a Partner?
Sea to Sky Network Solutions is proud to offer our clients one number to call (604.628.6970) when they have an IT question, concern or request. A big part of our service offering is being the voice for any issues related to a vendor’s product or service. Becoming a Shaw partner allows us to streamline support requests related to these services and reduce resolution times even further. This partnership is going to save time, and time is money.
This announcement is exciting, but we understand each client has unique needs, and a Shaw solution may not be the right fit. That is why we will continue consider all options before making a final recommendation.
If you have questions about our Shaw Business partnership, or would like to learn more about how we can help your business streamline communication services, give us a call at 604.628.6970 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
- Sea to Sky Team
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