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Most businesses wage a constant battle against both time and space. There’s never enough time to DO everything and there’s never enough places to PUT everything. Especially when it comes to the forest of paperwork in any accounting department.

At The Network Support Company, we’ve transitioned from 40 file cabinets to a grand total of one in just a few months’ time, by scanning and electronically saving all of our vendor invoices and original documents. In the process, we’ve created less work, more space, reduced our accounting department staffing, AND we’ve helped the environment by going green/paperless.

We’re bringing awareness to this today because it’s entirely possible – probable, even – that smaller companies just aren’t aware of how easy and simple it is to implement the transition to paperless. There are a myriad of excellent programs on the market; virtually any company can find one that serves its specific needs. Not even sure what you might require, or how to start the process? This is something that TNSC can easily do for our customers.

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When it comes to the way we service our Managed Service customers, The Network Support Company talks a lot about documentation. So we wanted to explore that a little more deeply and talk about why it is so important.

If everyone used the same model computer with the same applications and the same versions of those applications, and the same network equipment, and the same printers and the same mobile devices, all configured the same way, and if every user of computers was exactly the same and used the equipment in exactly the same way, then documentation would not be very important. But things are not all the same and, in fact, there are an infinite number of combinations of these items with each variation, creating unique inter-dependencies that require different approaches.

For some companies a malfunctioning printer evokes a yawn, at others, it’s a reason to panic. Some computer users want their applications to behave one way and others another way. Some clients like to be called by their first names and others by their last. Some companies just want their computers to work and don’t care what it costs; others want to do as much as they can by themselves to save money. Some companies have 15 different types of workstation setups and others just a few – but in all cases the expectation is that, when a computer gets replaced, it works flawlessly with every application configured perfectly.

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All it takes is one grouchy employee to inject bad mojo into your otherwise good day. And provide a stunning lesson in how NOT to serve your customers.

It was a gorgeous sunny morning when I dropped my car off, like many times before, to get the oil changed and tires rotated. The service technician who was at the desk barely grunted to acknowledge my presence, and it didn’t get any better from there. He was surly and made me feel like I was intruding on him as he stewed in his bad mood. And he did absolutely nothing to show that he appreciated my business.

To be honest, I wanted to take my car keys back. Did I really want this cranky guy working on my car? Would whatever was causing his sour disposition distract him from tightening the bolts on my tires, or using the right kind of oil in my engine? Was I confident in the job he would do?

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Like many people who end up working in the technology field, I haven’t learned everything I know from a textbook.

There’s a lot to be said for real world experience, and that’s especially true in the current world of Information Technology. These days, technology is in a constant state of flux, with new software releases driving hardware advances; with constant demand for gathering more and better information; and with new malicious software outbreaks around every corner. Clearly, if you don’t keep up, you’re going to be left behind.

That being the case, though tech school and book learning are essential to provide a good grasp of the fundamentals and to give context for solving problems, it’s never REALLY going to prepare you for the real-world experiences of being a technician in 2015. The world of IT is a vast ocean of subject matter and the tech school curriculum is only a short cruise in an outdated vessel; it doesn’t have the capacity to dive into the 20,000 leagues beneath you.

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I joined The Network Support Company shortly after graduating from high school in 1996. I was only 18, but having grown up with computers, I’d already developed some skills in this area. Fortunately for me, knowing ones way around a computer was a skill that was coming into demand. At the time, TNSC was a new business with a mission to provide IT services to its clients. I didn’t really pay a lot of attention to the business at the time, but I loved working with the technology and the clients. I thought it to be gratifying to solve someone’s technical issue. It’s important to note that, for many small and mid-sized businesses in the late ‘90s, computers served mostly to automate some processes; because the machines were often unreliable and frustrating, the nuts & bolts of a business’s day-to-day operations weren’t completely reliant on them.

Fast forward about 10 years - the landscape changed with the meteoric rise of the Internet and connectivity. The business impact for a computer failure had multiplied exponentially. Computers were no longer just a convenience, they were vital to virtually every process and task. Computers held all of the data employees needed to service their customers, so when the technology didn’t work, work would grind to a crawl, if not a halt. Further complicating matters, employees were no longer trained how to do their jobs without relying on computers! The result: when a network was down, waiting until the next day or when a technician was in the area was simply not an option. The business’s bottom line was impacted, in most cases, immediately.

Companies recognized their dependence on technology and often tapped a tech-savvy person from their staff to serve as technician when things went sour. Just as often, as the technology and associated needs (i.e. cybersecurity) got more complicated, that approach didn’t work for the long haul. So, if they didn’t already have a relationship with an IT provider, they established one. As the criticality of their computer systems continued to grow, IT service companies were faced with finding ways to be both more pro-active and more responsive, but less costly. So highly proactive services, assisted by automation platforms that both monitor and help maintain systems, were developed. IT providers that offer these highly proactive services are called Managed Service Providers (MSP). Businesses who use managed services experience systems that perform better, are more secure, and fail less often.

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Patch Released for Microsoft Security Flaw

Posted: July 23, 2015    

Another chink in the internet’s armor was uncovered this week, prompting Microsoft to release a critical patch to protect as many as one billion Windows users from hackers, who potentially have the capability to take complete control of a user’s computer.

While it’s not out of the ordinary for software companies to release patches to combat exploits used by viruses or other malware, this most recent security incident was classified as a “critical vulnerability,” Microsoft’s highest rated threat. Without the fix, “an attacker could then install programs, view, change, or delete data, or create new accounts with full user rights,” according to the company.

Basically, the breach happens if a user – running Windows Vista, Windows 7, Windows 8 or 8.1, or Windows RT - opens an infected document or goes to a website with vulnerable OpenType fonts – which are a font file type created by Adobe and Microsoft.

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Today I want to share another example of the transformation that can happen when a business leader swims against the tide and employs the “soft values” of love, compassion and kindness in the workplace.

Let’s go back to 1972, to the Pittron Steel mill in Glassport PA, a massive foundry that covered seven blocks along the shores of the Monongahela River. This was well before business analysts started measuring “employee engagement,” when workers toiled in an authority-driven management structure.

That year, Pittron was racked by labor strikes, fueled by generations of deeply engrained disdain between management and labor unions. It was ugly and there was no end in sight. A man named Wayne Alderson – a decorated WWII veteran who was badly injured in the war – worked in the mill’s finance department until he became VP of Operations and was called to lead the organization during an 84-day bitter strike.

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It’s not news that technology – reliable technology, I might add - has become the very foundation on which we operate virtually every business on the planet these days, regardless of its size and function.

It becomes news, though, when the normally dependable technology fails us, AND affects not one but three icons of American commerce, AND happens on the same day. In a world where the new boogeyman is a cyber-thug, capable of taking down the entire economic infrastructure by infiltrating a few key networks, such an event tends to put us on edge.

So we were very much on edge for a while this past Wednesday when both United Airlines and the New York Stock Exchange were each forced out of commission for a few hours when their respective systems failed. While United Airlines cited a connectivity issue, the NYSE blamed their malfunction on a misconfiguration in a system update that took place the night before. A third major company, The Wall Street Journal, became part of the news story when its website was simply unavailable for some time, although that crash was probably influenced by a throng of users looking for answers relating to the other two events.

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The Cloud - Public Cloud, Private Cloud, My Cloud, Your Cloud. Why is computing so cloudy lately?

The Term “cloud” is a loosely defined term used to describe any internet-enabled computing technology. When you snap a picture or listen to music on your smart phone, chances are pretty good that file is stored in a cloud somewhere. Conversely, when you sit down to work at your office computer, there’s also a good chance it’s using cloud computing services, whether you know it or not.

The answer, then, to “do you have the best cloud for you?” is really dependent on what type of cloud you have and how you’re using it. There are typically three primary types of clouds structures; Public, Private, and Hybrid Clouds.

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I start to anticipate my “Head Start day” even before it arrives each Wednesday. I really look forward to getting to the classroom full of 3 to 5 year-olds, sitting them down in front of me, and filling their little minds with wonderful stories.

Whether it’s Dr. Seuss, Fancy Nancy or Good Night, Moon, reading to kids is a great way to spark their imaginations and stimulate their learning - so I am so grateful to work at a place where the leadership gives me the opportunity to take an hour from my workweek, every week, to invest in the lives of children.

I’m in my second year as a volunteer reader for Head Start in Danbury, a non-profit agency that provides health, nutrition, education and mental health services to families. I really enjoy going because I get to interact with kids, which I love. And they seem to be having a good time too! I spent nine years in the Bethel School system, working with special education kids there, so this allows me to continue to give back to the community by doing something that I really enjoy.

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