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Staying connected on vacation

Monday, May 20th, 2013

Well, the vacation season is right around the bend. As we know, the purpose of a vacation is to relax and put the minutiae of your work life on the back burner. Sometimes the latter is not possible. Perhaps there is a client emergency that only you can handle or an important proposal that needs finishing.

Travel to most parts of the US would not pose a problem when attempting to connect to office, cloud or home.

Wifi is widely available so use of your laptop, tablet or cell phone makes contact with the outside world a breeze.

In a 2012 hotel.com survey, hotel guests would prefer Wi-Fi access over all other high end amenities by a wide margin. More than a third of those survey said free Wi-Fi is a must.

And hotels are offering it in increasingly higher numbers.

The InterContinental Hotel chain (Crowne Plaza, Holiday Inn, and others) will be providing free Wi-Fi in all their hotels starting in 2014.

English: Out of season beach of São Vicente, S...

This decision was the result of a survey they conducted about Internet access in March, 2013.  The survey found that 43% of adults surveyed said that they would choose not to stay in a hotel that charged for Internet and 23% of respondents said that free Internet in rooms is the most important amenity a hotel can offer especially for business travel. Paying for Wi-Fi was just behind noisy guests as the most annoying thing when staying at a hotel.

All this is well and good for mostUS travel, but satisfactory connectivity may not be the norm in the paradise you have chosen for your R&R. In fact, a nearby popular vacation destination, Martha’s Vineyard is notorious for its poor cell phone reception. So bad in fact that temporary cell towers had to be erected to guarantee suitable coverage for the presidential entourage during President Obama’s Martha’s Vineyard vacation.

Here are some hints to stay connected:

  1. Find a public internet access point or cybercafé – websites like www.cybercafes.com and www.wififreespot.com can help you pinpoint a location. Of course, you will have to do your homework ahead of time by jotting down sites of public Wi-Fi near your vacation destination. Please Note: Not all public Wi-Fi is free. You can expect to pay up to a few dollars per hour at many of these sites.

 

  1. If you can’t access your existing email account remotely, sign up for a web based email account like Yahoo, Gmail or Hotmail. You can set up a ‘rule’ to forward your Outlook email to one of these accounts. http://www.howcast.com/videos/395621-How-to-Redirect-Email-From-Outlook-to-Gmail-or-Hotmail

 

  1. If you wish to use a cell phone on your overseas vacation, there are a few things you should check into before you leave.
    1. Contact your service provider to find out whether you will be able to use your  current devices at your vacation target. For example, my provider, Verizon Wireless has a handy trip planner http://www.verizonwireless.com/b2c/tripplanner/tripplannercontroller that allows you to enter your destination(s), how you wish to communicate (web, voice, etc) and your device then you are given options for voice rates, global plans, text rates and more. I’m sure Verizon’s major competitors have a similar feature on their websites.
    2. If your device is not compatible with international travel, look into renting a phone. Verizon and AT&T both offer this service for their customers. There are other websites that offer rentals including: cellularabroad.com and travelcell.com. Rates vary according to the device and your destination.
    3. Whether using your own phone or a rental, take time to type frequently called numbers into the memory. These may include emergency contacts, hotels and airlines. Be sure the telephone numbers conform to the international dialing format. Calls to the U.S. should be entered with the prefix “001″ followed by the area code and telephone number. Phone calls made abroad will initiate from the local cell provider. For specific information on how to dial to/from any country, check this website: www.howtocallabroad.com .
    4. If you are using a smartphone, turn off the automatic updating and checking email features in order to reduce roaming charges. Instead, update manually when connect to free Wi-fi hotspots.
    5. Be sure to have a power converter if necessary. Not being able to charge your device would be a disappointment.
    6. Stay in touch with Skype. Unlimited North America plans cost only 7.99/month and a Skype Unlimited World subscription costs only 13.99/month and allows unlimited calling to over 60 countries.

 

  1. 4.       Most cruise ships are well-appointed with Internet cafes and Wi-Fi hotspots. But be aware that not all cruise lines are similarly wired. For specifics re: your cruise line visit: www.cruisecritic.com/articles.cfm?ID=45

Be aware that the speed of Internet connections on cruise ships cannot compete with those on land. Also, Internet speeds can vary significantly subject to factors like location and weather conditions. Connection fees can be pricey – from 35 cents and up per minute however most cruise lines offer bulk rate packages for those who need it.

However you decide to stay in touch, make sure you take some time for yourself. Put down or turn off your devices so you can enjoy your vacation, relax and recharge.  That way you come back happier and ready to face the working world head on again! 

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Happy Thanksgiving!

Tuesday, November 20th, 2012

Early Closing due to Sandy

Monday, October 29th, 2012

Micro Support Group will be closing today (10/29/12) at 3pm due to the impending storm. Should you have any questions or concerns, please call our 24 hour support line at (978) 778-4218. Stay safe!

Important Message Re: Hurricane Sandy

Monday, October 29th, 2012

To our hosted clients:

We are monitoring the path of the hurricane which is predicted to travel south and west of the Boston area.  At our hosting site we are expecting 1-2 inches of rain and winds gusting up to 60 mph.  We have experienced hurricanes and other severe weather conditions in the past and have not had an outage in service, so we do not expect any issues with Sandy.

The hosting facility where your equipment and data are located has multiple, redundant paths to the Internet and the ability to generate its own power sufficient to support the servers, communications equipment, and cooling systems in the event of a power outage.  Should a power outage in the area of the hosting facility be of significant length the facility has contracts for fuel delivery which will keep the generators running indefinitely.

We have monitoring systems in place so we will learn quickly of any problems at the facility.  We also receive periodic bulletins from the Massachusetts Emergency Management Agency so that we will be informed of any changes in the weather forecast.  We will also be in contact with the hosting facility staff if conditions change.

We are expecting to conduct business as usual tomorrow.  Should you have power problems in your facility please contact us and we will do everything possible to help re-route you to your applications and data.

Announcing MSG’s new Cloud Services Hosting Facility

Tuesday, August 28th, 2012

Micro Support Group, Inc. (MSG) would like to announce the opening of its second hosting facility.  This additional facility has an initial purpose to provide geographic diversity and redundancy to MSG’s existing major hosting facility located in Massachusetts.  MSG has been providing “cloud services” for over 10 years for its clients.  This new facility, located in the Rochester New York area, is designed to grow as MSG’s “cloud services” grow providing additional security, bandwidth, and disaster recovery options for its clients.

Cloud Computing – What You Need to Know to Improve Your Business

Friday, August 6th, 2010

There is a growing awareness and interest in the business community, from small enterprises to fortune 500 companies, in the concept of “cloud computing”.  Put simply, it’s a style of computing where software (applications), information technology infrastructure, and computing “platforms” are delivered to an organization as a service.  Using this model, organizations that use technology can better balance their technology needs and costs.  They can purchase only the amount of computing capacity required to run their operation, saving money and personnel resources.  Cloud computing facilitates the outsourcing of hardware, infrastructure, software, and management so that the organization can concentrate on its core business strategy.  Information technology then becomes an operational expense as opposed to a capital expense.

The movement to cloud computing has been made possible by the ever increasing power of computers and servers and the increasing speed and ubiquity of the Internet.  Most areas of the country are now able to purchase bandwidth in the range of 10 to 50 megabits (mb) for less than $200 per month.  Contrast that with the old reliable T1, which was the gold standard of Internet access just a few years ago, that has a speed of just 1.544 mb and costs around $500.00 per month.  Cloud computing would not have the advantages and popularity at that rate of data transfer and cost.

Similarly, computers that act as servers are now significantly more powerful than their predecessors.  With the capabilities of these servers and the emergence and stability of virtualization, a single server computer can host several virtual servers.  This one piece of hardware can now do the job which used to require many machines.  A single virtual server might hold a company’s SQL engine, its applications, its email server and even its “file and print” server.  In the past that would require four physical machines.  In addition, these virtual servers resemble files in a traditional server environment so they are easily moved from one physical server to another allowing for increased portability and redundancy.  This technology, therefore, has the ability to significantly improve reliability and reduce cost.  Were an organization to move this virtual server to a hosting facility (think “cloud”) energy consumption and hardware maintenance costs could also be reduced.

The implementation of the corporate cloud can come in many forms, from a completely corporate- owned private cloud to a model where the organization owns none of its infrastructure and is computing on outsourced, public resources.  The implementation of the private cloud is simply an aggregation of computing resources into a single privately managed data center.   The other extreme occurs when the organization outsources applications, data, backup, and support to companies specializing in the cloud.  There are many hybrid versions which are now the most common implementations.

Micro Support Group has been offering cloud solutions for more than 5 years, is fully committed to the concept, and is very experienced in moving organizations to the cloud.  In upcoming posts I will discuss various forms of cloud computing and how organizations can avail themselves of resources and savings.

Bruce Billingham