What is the difference between a proxy server and a VPN?

At their cores, both a proxy server and a VPN connects you to a remote server, hides your IP address, and allows you to surf the web anonymously. So, are they the same thing? Definitely not. At the end of this article you’ll gain a simple understanding of just how different a proxy and a VPN are. 

In our previous article on VPN’s we went in depth on what a VPN is so let’s take a look at what a proxy server is. 

What is a Proxy Server?

As the name suggests, a proxy server acts as a middle man between you and the Internet retrieving information from content servers or websites on your behalf. In doing so, proxy servers mask your actual IP address allowing you to maintain some sort of anonymity while you browse the web. 

Proxy servers allow you to access geolocked content only available in certain regions on streaming services such as Netflix and Hulu.

How is a Proxy Server different from a VPN?

There are a couple main differences that set a proxy server apart from a VPN that we’ll discuss today.

Encryption. While proxy servers do hide your IP address they do not encrypt your connection through a secure tunnel like a VPN does. This means that any data you send back and forth on the internet while connected to a proxy is completely exposed and open to anyone with access to your connection, i.e. your ISP, the government, or even the guy sitting in the corner at the Starbucks you’re at. 

Difference between a proxy server and a vpn

Price is another big differentiator between a proxy server and a VPN. While VPN prices have come down quite a lot in recent years they’re still relatively more expensive than proxy servers which can even found for free. Although as with anything free, you should exercise extreme caution when pursuing these options. 

Conclusion

We hope this short article helped you gain somewhat of an understanding of what a proxy server is and how it compares and contrasts to a VPN. Thanks for reading!

Want To Know What a VPN Is? Read This Article.

If you want to know what a VPN is you’re in the right place. We’ll help guide you to the understanding you’re looking for.

Chances are, if you’ve watched any videos on YouTube in the last few years you’ve probably seen an advertisement for a VPN service. VPN stands for Virtual Private Network. In broad terms, a VPN is an easy and affordable way to secure your privacy online.

To further understand what that means, we need to know what an IP address is. Think of an IP address like the return address on a package. No matter where that package is shipped throughout the world anyone can look at the return address and know where it came from. A VPN masks your IP address which essentially erases that return address, so that your browsing data can’t be traced back to you.

How Does a VPN Work?

To connect to a VPN your device needs to connect to a VPN client, the VPN client then connects to a VPN server through a secure tunnel, and finally to the Internet. The secure tunnel encrypts all of your data and hides your IP address, keeping you safe from prying eyes.

As illustrated below, without a VPN your connection to the Internet through your Internet Service Provider (ISP) is open and unsecure. However, through the use of a VPN your IP Address and browsing data are encrypted and secured.

what is a vpn
How a VPN Works

Why Do I Need to Keep My Browsing Data Private?

There are many entities on the web that create unique profiles specific to your IP address to track everywhere you go online. Some companies then sell this information to other companies that serve you very specific targeted ads. Remember that ad you got on Instagram for those shoes you looked at that one time? That’s just exactly what we’re talking about. There are also malicious actors that use that same data for nefarious purposes, such as identity theft and cyber attacks. 

What is a VPN?

In conclusion, VPN stands for Virtual Private Network. A VPN works by creating a secure tunnel from your device to their VPN server which encrypts your browsing data and masks your IP address keeping your online privacy secure. 

It’s worth mentioning that everything we’ve talked about is also true for mobile devices, like smart phones and tablets. VPN services are widely available on these devices making Internet security easier than ever. 

Recommended VPN Services

Express VPN

Nord VPN

Private Internet Access

5 Critical IT Services For 3PL Organizations

As an IT company for Utah and Idaho small businesses, we specialize in providing IT Services for 3PL organizations (Supply Chain Logistics & Fulfillment Center). For the past four years, we have managed Elite OPS‘s network and have identified 5 critical IT services that every successful 3PL company should have.

  1. API integration to offer 100% customization
  2. Experienced personalized network management
  3. Clear WiFi coverage throughout warehouse
  4. Strategic network configuration for times of growth
  5. Business to business cybersecurity

“We are a supply chain management business in the Greater Salt Lake area and offer outsourced logistics. We would highly recommend [Integrinet IT] to any company in need of IT services.”

Elite ops

1: API integration – 100% customizable

Firstly, API Integration is one of the most critical services 3PLs should have. Elite OPS seeks to be 100% customizable to their customers. Every one of their clients has customized branding, software, and business operations. In order for their customers to manage business finances, operations, and customer relations, they use a variety of software and services. For example – their CRM software: some use Amazon Prime Seller Fulfilled, others use Magento, and still others use Oracle NetSuite to name a few. Elite OPS manages these integrations with a state-of-the-art warehouse management system. It translates the orders coming from each of these CRMs so that Elite OPS can efficiently process them.

That is to say, it takes a lot of strategy behind the scenes to allow the different network configurations and software packages to play nicely together. Incompatibilities between unique businesses with unique computer networks are inevitable. API, or Application Programming Interface, is a tool that connects two or more applications and allows them to exchange data. In other words, it enables Elite OPS and other fulfillment centers to organize the multitude of incoming orders and outgoing shipments. And that increases their productivity. If you haven’t yet taken advantage of these technology tools and want to learn more about them, here are 2 videos and one article:

“One of the greatest benefits of using API technology in a 3PL business is that APIs are capable of transmitting data back and forth across the supply chain in milliseconds, making real-time supply chain management a reality.”

Elite Ops

2: IT services for 3PL organizations require experienced personalized network management

Secondly, like most logistics companies, Elite OPS has a complex network with many moving parts:

  • 450,000 sq ft warehouse
  • Wireless Internet network (warehouse-wide)
  • Warehouse management system
  • Data center with several servers
  • Internet and WiFi
  • Switches
  • Firewall
  • Printers
  • Scales
  • Hand-held Scanners
  • Mobile devices
  • 150+ Workstations (computers, keyboards, mice, monitors)

In order for Elite OPS to get the most out of their infrastructure and warehouse management system, they need all of these components to work together seamlessly. They need them to be consistently up and running. For this reason, Integrinet IT’s service engineers work behind the scenes to manage their network. They know downtime is revenue lost and work hard to prevent it from happening.

Our engineers monitor their systems 24/7, provide onsite and remote helpdesk services, ensure their WiFi coverage is clear and consistent, back up their data regularly, and tighten their security. When we first started taking care of Elite OPS, our engineers spent months getting to know the ins and outs of their infrastructure. They created network maps to document their extensive configurations. So, when something happens (and it always will), they can more efficiently troubleshoot it.

We Provide Elite OPS with:

  • IT Consultancy
  • Onsite & Remote Services
  • Hardware Care & Procurement
  • Cybersecurity Protection
  • Email Health & Maintenance
  • Data Backup & Business Continuity
  • Personalized & Professional Pro-Action Team

If you don’t have an IT company with expert service engineers that get to know your computer network personally, you most likely are experiencing a lot of unnecessary pain.

Check out our Managed IT Services

Read about our Customized IT Solutions

3: IT services for 3PL organizations must include clear WiFi coverage throughout their entire warehouse

Thirdly, most supply chain organizations have huge warehouses to manage their customers’ inventory. Elite OPS has a 450,000 sq ft warehouse with 60 ft Ceilings. They also have huge 30 ft shelves to safely store their customers’ goods. But these shelves end up blocking WiFi signals generated from low-level access points. And while large spaces and shelving units are perfect for their fulfillment services, they always present a challenge for WiFi coverage.

When we first began services for Elite OPS a few years ago, they didn’t have WiFi coverage at all. So one of our first major projects with them was designing and building a powerful wireless network. It provides them with Internet access at every square foot of their space. Mounting several access points from the 60 ft. ceilings has enabled their teams to stay in continuous communication with their customers, their management system, and each other. We implemented tools to remotely monitor the hardware on the ceiling to keep it fine-tuned, ensuring it works with all devices. Rarely do our technical engineers need to physically get up there to service them.

If you don’t already have a powerful wireless network that reaches every square foot of your fulfillment center warehouse, you need to find a good IT company to design and build it for you.

Read more about Integrinet IT’s WiFi/Internet Solutions:

WiFi solutions for a Boise manufacturing company

Customized High-Speed Internet For Your Unique Business: Case Study

4: Strategic network configuration for times of growth

Fourthly, with the E-commerce, logistics, and distribution boom over the last year, 3PLs have experienced an intense spike in growth. While this has been an exciting journey for Elite OPS, it has given them a lot to manage. Our service engineers worked long hours to assist them with their rapid expansion of services. They recommended and installed new hardware, software, cabling, security, and WiFi system in their new Georgia warehouse.

“Since we have been with Integrinet our business has quadrupled in size and we have expanded into another state – we added an additional warehouse in Georgia. Integrinet has been with us throughout our journey and has facilitated our growth with innovative solutions every step of the way.”

Elite OPS

So, if your 3PL business is expanding exponentially, you need an experienced managed IT service provider that has already set up the infrastructure for other businesses like yours. Choosing an IT company that is familiar with your specific industry’s needs and has actual experience taking care of 3PL organizations will reduce the time it takes to set up your network and thus your costs.

Free Crash course in Office 365: How it can help you grow your business

5: IT services for 3PL organizations & business-to-business cybersecurity

And last but definitely not least is cybersecurity. As a large 3PL company, Elite OPS interacts with countless businesses. They have the responsibility to keep their confidential and proprietary data safe. With ransomware attacks on the rise, it is more important than ever to fortify your network to safeguard your business as well as your clients’ and partners’ businesses. Integrinet IT’s service engineers and remote tools are working 24/7 to secure Elite OPS’s network. We monitor their servers 24/7, ensure they have a strong backup and disaster recovery plan in place, and administer employee security training.

Additionally, we perform security patches, operating system updates, hardware drive/firmware updates, and server monitoring. Server monitoring includes weekly checks of event logs. We ensure their hard drives have plenty of disc space to store data and data backups. Our service engineers watch for alerts that signal it’s time for equipment replacement. They make recommendations to purchase new equipment before the old fails or warranties expire. This minimizes downtime and cost. In the event of a crash or hard drive failure, they are covered by their warranties and backups.

Because you do business with other businesses, you need to keep your network cyber secure. Cyber gangs are working 24/7 to hack into large and small businesses. Don’t make it easy for them. Did you know that if you are hacked, they can potentially hack into your customers’ networks through your portal as well?

If you don’t have a strong defensive cybersecurity strategy that consists of multiple layers of protection, make the move now to reach out to an experienced IT company to help you get started.

Backup Solutions Decrease the Severity of a Ransomware Attack

IT Services For 3PL Organizations

In conclusion, while we haven’t been the reason Elite OPS has been exponentially growing, we have been behind the scenes supporting and securing their network so that they can.

“It’s important that our IT network runs at peak efficiency at all times so we can keep up with the demanding process this industry requires. Integrinet IT does that for us. They have been our managed service provider since 2017. Our service engineers are the best that we have ever had. They keep us at the top of our game.”

Elite OPS

If you are a Supply Chain Logistics & Fulfillment Center and in need of IT Services, give us a call.

Utah (385) 316-7202

Idaho (208) 510-0967

What is RAM? Choosing the Right Amount for Your Needs

RAM stands for Random Access Memory. This is the short-term memory your computer uses to store all the information it is actively using. So, if you are a multitasker with several applications open at once, your RAM enables you to quickly switch between them. You don’t have to restart every application anew when you come back to it.

RAM allows your applications to run smoothly. Your applications include your email, browsers (Chrome, Safari, Opera, etc.), word processing (Microsoft Word, Apple Pages, etc.), data entry (Microsoft Excel, Apple Numbers, etc.), and many other programs and tools you use that make your job easier. So if you are alternating between writing a document, creating a spreadsheet, and browsing the Internet during a normal workday, your RAM streamlines these processes to make your workflow efficient.

Because RAM determines the performance and speed of your computer, it is one of the most important variables to consider when shopping for computers.

The Classic RAM Metaphor

A common metaphor may help you to remember what Random Access Memory is. Most companies still work with paper and file cabinets even though they predominantly work with and store data on computers. On your physical desk, you may have a number of projects you’re currently working on. This is like your computer’s RAM. You can’t have everything in your file cabinet there. That would be confusing and overwhelming. You just have what you’re working on this week. So, your file cabinet is like your computer’s long-term memory. This is your hard drive or SSD (Solid State Drive). When you are finished with a project or filling out a form, you file it away in your file cabinet for easy retrieval when you need it again.

The Goldilocks Principle

  • Too little RAM causes your computer to run sluggishly.
  • Too much RAM for your computing needs is overkill and isn’t cost-effective.
  • Just the right amount of RAM for the way that you use your computer is what you need.

How much RAM do you need?

If your workflow includes running a number of programs at the same time, you will need a greater amount of RAM. For most users, 8GB is enough. The more programs you have open at the same time on your computer, the more RAM you need. Additionally, the more complex your programs are (i.e., graphic software applications like Adobe Photoshop, Illustrator, or Premiere), the more RAM you need. 16GB is usually plenty for graphic designers, web developers, videographers, gamers, and other users of programs at that complexity level. Any more is overkill.

If you are running a large database, Vendor Management System (VMS), or using a RAMdisk, you need more than 16GB. Extremely large amounts of RAM (I’m talking TB) are possible for 64-bit processors, but they will cost you.

One common sign that you need more RAM is a sluggish computer. Are you are pulling your hair out waiting for it to complete tasks? Or are you sitting there, chin in hand, watching the spinning beach ball (pinwheel, flipping hourglass, etc.) more often than not when you have major deadlines to meet? If so, it may be time for that upgrade.

Upgrading Memory vs. Upgrading Your Whole Computer

You can upgrade your memory on your current computer or buy a new computer with more short-term memory. The amount of RAM you get should be compatible with your other computer components. Since tech is always evolving in speed and efficiency, upgrading just your RAM on an older computer may not be the best way to solve the problem. Without that compatibility, adding more RAM may not give you any substantial improvement. You may have to purchase a new computer.

I know buying new computers isn’t always fun. It’s expensive. And we remember all too well how much we paid for our current computers. We want to put to good use, for a good long time, the investment we have already made in our current technology. This is why we don’t need to buy too much RAM but instead, we can use the Goldilocks principle of finding just the right amount for our needs.

For more on when to upgrade your computers and other devices, see: Why Do We Resist Updating Our Technology?

A Handy Tool: Crucial System Scanner

If you are going to upgrade the RAM on your current computer, you can use Micron’s Crucial System Scanner to determine what is compatible. If you don’t feel comfortable having an application from the Internet scan your computer, ask your IT Company to safely and securely walk through this process with you.

Customized High-Speed Internet For Your Unique Business: Case Study

The Need: Faster Internet Speeds

High-Speed Internet is constantly evolving. What was once cutting-edge speeds have now gone the way of all dinosaur technology. Newer technology gives businesses the highest speeds and the most reliable connections. But integrating the new solutions with your business’s infrastructure can be tricky.

One of our clients wanted faster Internet speeds to handle synchronous off-site backups and other cloud processes for three separate locations. One of their locations is in the middle of a desert. Another is in a small rural town and the last is close to a large city. Their Internet Service Provider (ISP) was a global media and technology company. They had been providing them with Broadband Internet services with maximum speeds of 150 Mbps. A few years ago these speeds were at the high end but with advancements in Broadband and Fiber Optic cabling technology, it’s now possible to get up to 1,000 to 2,000 Mbps. There are even some companies offering, on a very limited basis, up to 10,000 Mbps and more (Fastest Internet Providers 2021).

The ISP’s Proposed Solution

The ISP promised they could provide Fiber Optic Internet to all three of our client’s locations. They also included in the plan the promise of:

  • Personalized and customized project management
  • VPN tunnel between all three locations
  • Guarantee of Higher Speed Internet
  • VoIP phone system
  • Backup Internet solution during their wait-time

Problems With Setting Up High-Speed Internet

There were many problems with these proposed solutions, but our client didn’t spot them right away because they are not IT professionals. The first was bringing Fiber Optic Internet to a location in the middle of the desert. It’s starting to become more widely available but it is not yet available in such remote locations.

Additionally, their ISP’s progress in implementing any of their solutions was incredibly slow. They were unresponsive and their project management was nonexistent. Eighteen months into the project, they told our client that they couldn’t do many of the things they had promised:

  • Upgrading their desert location to Fiber Optics Internet was not a viable option.
  • They never provided the VPN tunnel.
  • VoIP phones were never installed.
  • The backup Internet solution was provided but never discontinued even after it was no longer needed so our client was paying for services they didn’t need.

Integrinet IT’s Solution

As a service engineer for Integrinet IT, I was asked to take over the management of the entire project. Because I was personally familiar with our client’s complete network and knew the ins and outs of Internet services, I understood what they needed versus what they didn’t and I understood what was possible versus what was impossible.

Discovering that many of the solutions the ISP had proposed were not attainable, I worked with them and our client to develop customized and cost-effection solutions that were.

High-Speed Internet Services In Remote Locations

Because it was impossible to get Fiber Optic Internet in the middle of the desert, I came up with a viable solution that would speed up their Internet. I upgraded their satellite Internet to faster speeds. I also discontinued their DSL connections which were costing the company an exorbitant $3K a month.

Additionally, their satellite Internet provider has its dishes on top of a couple of local mountains. A hawk made its nest on one of the dishes. Because the hawk is a protected bird, moving the nest was out of the question. It took two weeks for the provider to install another dish up there. Meanwhile, our client’s Internet was incredibly sluggish.

Consequently, I consulted with our client about backup Internet solutions for future protection. We ended up deciding to pre-order Elon Musk’s Starlink Satellite Internet. Elon Musk has been launching Starlink satellites for the last 3 years with his company SpaceX. They have nearly 1,500 satellites in orbit. It’s just starting to go live this year (SpaceX continues Starlink deployment with latest launch).

Fiber Optic Internet Services

Fiber Optic Internet was available through our client’s global ISP for their city location. I worked with them to get it set up, which was time-consuming because they were slow to respond. But now that it is up and running, our client enjoys speeds of up to 1 Gbps. There was also Fiber available in the small town but through a local provider. Instead of paying higher fees to their global ISP to piggyback on the local provider, we were able to acquire Fiber Internet directly from the local provider at a significantly lower cost.

VoIP Phone Systems

I brought in our VoIP provider who we partner with. They came in and installed everything needed in a timely manner. I also worked with our client to consolidate various redundant services. Discovering that certain lines, connections, and services were not even needed, I advised them on what was needed and what wasn’t. These efforts resulted in a savings of roughly $1K in their monthly bills.

Duplicate Charges Refunded

In regard to the backup Internet solution, I worked with their accounting department to evaluate the plethora of bills and communications from their ISP. I unearthed some costly duplicate charges. Our client had been receiving five different monthly bills, each with a different account number. These totaled over $6K a month!

I then navigated a consolidated solution, which reduced their number of bills to only two. Their total monthly cost was reduced from $6K to $2K. On top of that, they had been paying over $3K a month in duplicate Internet charges. And for that, I negotiated a refund of over $13K for the backup Internet services that should have been discontinued sooner.

IT Managed Services: Viable, Cost-Effective, Time-Saving Solutions for High-Speed Internet

In order to manage major projects like acquiring High-Speed Internet, it is much more cost-effective and time-saving to hire an IT Managed Services company that assigns your business a team of service engineers. These service engineers should oversee your entire infrastructure. They should understand the ins and outs of computer networks in general. And they should personally come to know the uniqueness of your specific network and how everything works together. It is not wise to leave the management of it up to an ISP or any other vendor because the software and hardware of various vendors are interwoven and interdependent on each other. They also may not be aware of your locations and specific limitations.

It has been a pleasure to become part of our client’s team. I have seriously enjoyed the opportunity to use my experience and education in computer technology to bring solutions that saved them time and money. Even though they have to pay for our IT Services (which, by the way, ends up being much less than hiring in-house IT staff), they ended up saving more than $24K with the elimination or consolidation of redundant and unnecessary charges, equipment, and services. And not only did they save that much money, but they also have much faster Internet connections at all of their locations and a more streamlined, secure system to boot.

Learn more about Fiber Optic Internet: What Is Fiber Optic Internet?

What is Fiber Optic Internet?

What is Fiber Optic Internet? You are a business owner and you have heard of Fiber Optic Communication. But you don’t know exactly what it is or how it compares to your current way of accessing the Internet. If you’re in a hurry and don’t have time to read the full article, here is the short description:

Fiber Optic Internet* is a new way of connecting to the Internet via laser light signals. These signals propagate through cables filled with glass filament. This amounts to speeds 100 times faster than the original copper wire Internet. But availability is still limited. You may or may not be able to get it. It’s mainly in big cities on the East Coast. But a few other startup companies also offer it in other places. And even though the overall long-term bill is lower than traditional cable, the upfront costs can be pricey.

*Note: You may have heard of Fiber Optic Internet referred to as Fiber Internet, Fiber Optic Network or Fiber Optic Communication. It’s all the same thing.

Fiber Optic Internet vs. Broadband vs. DSL Points of Comparison

How Internet Cables Work

We can access the Internet through telephone wires (DSL), through coaxial cables (Broadband or traditional High-Speed Internet), and now through fiber optic cables. DSL and Broadband both use copper wires, through which electricity passes to transmit signals to and from the Internet. But fiber optic cables are filled with glass filaments through which light is propagated to transfer signals to and from the Internet.

DSL uses the same wires that your telephone service uses. Broadband uses separate copper cables with a larger bandwidth. The larger the bandwidth, the larger the capacity to download and upload your favorite websites as well as other valuable data and images. With fiber optic cables, specialized technicians install two concurrent thinner and delicate cables. Your computer sends data out through one and receives it through the other.

Fiber Optic Internet Speed

Fiber Optic Internet speeds can get up to 1 to 2 gigabit per second (1000-2000 Mbps). Broadband speeds are usually between 100 Mbps and 1 Gbps. And DSL speeds are usually between 25 and 100 Mbps. Higher speeds translate into faster load times, higher-quality streaming, and less time wasted watching the spinning beach ball on your screen.

Reliability

There are a number of variables that affect the strength and consistency of copper-wire Internet signals, which don’t affect the strength and consistency of Fiber Optic Internet signals. Three of those variables are:

  • Distance from your local node and your ISP (Internet Service Provider)
  • Your data download/upload speed
  • Electromagnetic Interference

Distance from your local node and your ISP

The longer the copper-wire cables for DSL and Broadband, the higher the distortion and attenuation of the signal. That means that the further your business is located from your local node and your ISP, the lower your signal strength. Attenuation is the reduction of the force of your Internet signal or electrical current. You want that force to be strong and consistent.

Your data download/upload speed

Additionally, the data download/upload speed affects the quality of your Internet connection. The faster the speed combined with limited bandwidth, the more distortion to the signal.

Electromagnetic Interference

Lastly, anything that carries an electrical current has the potential to interfere with a copper-wire cable Internet signal. Electromagnetic interference can come from power lines, radiation, or even the sun.

None of these variables affect the strength and consistency of Fiber Optic Internet signals, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t other things that do. For example, if imperfections in the glass filament cables receive an overload of light energy, the fibers can fuse together. This is known as fiber fuse. If this happens, it can ruin long strips of cable before the problem is even detected, which will subsequently have to be replaced.

The bottom line is that Broadband and Fiber are both reliable and fast, but Fiber is the most reliable and the fastest.

Upfront vs. Long-term maintenance Costs

The installation of Fiber Optic Internet is more expensive upfront than broadband or DSL. This is because the technology is new and those who service it have to be specially trained on how to set up and maintain the equipment. Furthermore, the equipment itself requires specialized equipment for monitoring and troubleshooting.

However, the long-term maintenance of Fiber Optic Internet is less expensive. The overall costs of maintaining and scaling Fiber are less than those for DSL and Broadband. Additionally, costs are projected to reduce over time as the technology becomes more widely available (Fiber Optic Market by Cable Type).

My family and I live in an area where Fiber Optic Internet is available (UTOPIA – Utah Telecommunication Open Infrastructure Agency) so we opted in for residential service. The upfront cost for us was not bad because our city is part of an 11-city co-op that joined together to build, deploy, and operate the infrastructure. We pay $30/month to rent our portion of the infrastructure and then $39/month to our ISP. We chose this service over Broadband because we were sick of their yearly plans ending and rates going sky high until we noticed and called in to get their next special offer.

Conclusion

If Fiber Optic Internet is already available in your city, the upfront costs are manageable. So that is most likely your company’s best option. Because it is not yet widely available, you may need to choose high-speed Broadband, which still offers premium speeds and services. DSL is outdated. If you have it, know that you have superior options available at reasonable rates.

Read a case study about how we helped one of our clients increase their Internet speeds at three locations: Customized High-Speed Internet For Your Unique Business: Case Study

Why Do We Resist Updating Technology?

Updating technology is a major concern for today’s businesses. Technology has rapidly developed over the last 40 years. And these days, it seems like tech companies are coming out with a new hardware or software version before we’ve even learned how to use the previous one. It sometimes feels like we are being manipulated into buying the newest fandangled devices and software features even though we don’t really need them. While it’s true that some of the new features solve real workflow issues, there are others that don’t seem to make any significant improvements.

On top of that, software updates usually outpace the need for hardware updates. There always seems to be a tradeoff when it comes to updating: If I update now, will my desktop computer, laptop, mobile phone, or tablet be able to handle it, or will I have to buy a new one?

And even with all the tech companies now offering monthly plans with “free” software updates, replacing hardware can get pretty expensive. This is why most of us resist updating our technology.

  • We don’t want to spend money on something before we actually need it.
  • We want to put to good use, for a good long time, the investment we have already made in our current technology.
  • We remember all too well how much we shelled out for it.

Plus, we like to stick with processes we know. And it’s usually not just us that have to learn the new system. Our entire staff needs to learn it too. Learning a new way of doing things initially slows down our productivity even if it later improves it. So, long story short, there are many opportunity costs to taking the time to retrain everyone.

The real reason for updating technology

The truth of the matter is, there is a balance between hanging on to the old and buying the new. That balance amounts to 3-5 years. Holding onto devices longer than five years means significantly increased issues, repairs and patches, and security vulnerabilities. This basically adds up to increased costs and slower, clunkier workflows

Here is why this is the case: Software applications are meant to interact with other software applications and hardware. And computers are designed to interact with other computers and devices. When there are incompatibilities between them, things get messed up. The result: Network Vulnerabilities. And cybercriminals are always searching for these vulnerabilities. That’s how and where they hack into our network to steal our valuable data.

Computers keep us connected

Computers connect us with the rest of the world – our clients, customers, partners, wholesalers, resources, and every other person we interact with and do business with. Because this is true, we have to keep our computer network compatible with the computer networks that belong to those people.

It is also the hard truth that if our competitors are updating technology, and it increases their speed and decreases their delivery time, our potential customers get used to being treated that well. They will come to expect that of businesses in our industry. And they usually come to expect it of businesses in every industry. This may not be a pretty picture, but it is the way it is. We all know it because we also play the consumer role in many of our relationships.

So, the bottom line is that we all are reliant on each other for personal and business relationships. We do a lot of interacting and communicating through technology. This is especially true in business. We conduct most business transactions over computers, phones, email, and the Internet. Speed and quality of communication and delivery are highly dependent on our level of technology. To achieve a high level of efficiency, it’s important that our hardware and software remain compatible with each other’s. Incompatibilities slow and break down the lines of communication. They also create vulnerabilities in networks.

Read about how communication increases net profit: Business Communication Increases Net Profit

Signs: Is it time to update technology?

Many of us (myself included – proud owner of an iPhone 7) avoid updating because we like to keep it simple and we don’t like to make purchasing decisions based on the latest craze. But now that we know that updating isn’t about that, we can make smarter decisions. (After writing this, I think I’m going to update to the iPhone 12 or maybe wait for the 13 coming out in September.)

There are actually signs we can watch for that indicate it is time to update technology. Three to five years is still a sizeable window. And four to five years is usually pushing it. Within this window of time, it would be good to know when our hardware is getting to what they call “End-of-Life” or EOL. When hardware or software reaches EOL, it means that the companies that design them stop making the parts and security patches for them. And again, most software companies now offer monthly plans which provide automated updates. So, our real concern is when to replace our desktop computers, laptops, tablets, smartphones, and other network devices.

The signs to watch for

  • The device is regularly running out of storage.
  • Updates cause your computer to have increasingly more issues (e.g., white, black, blue, green screens of death, colored stripes in places they shouldn’t be).
  • There are strange lovely noises coming from your computer.
  • You can’t even install the updates for your critical software.

Because we’re all on this ride together, we need to keep our technology current. So, hang on to your technology for the full three years before replacing it if everything is working fine. In years four through five, be extra vigilant in watching for the signs. Incorporate the necessary technology updates into your budget. One idea is to replace a percentage of your devices each year so you don’t have to replace everything at once.

If you need help with monitoring your software and hardware, choosing good machines, and keeping them fully functional within their life spans, give us a call: Idaho (208) 510-0967 or Utah (385) 316-7202.

Read more about the signs you need to watch out for: How Long Do Computers Last? 10 Signs You Need a New One

What Is A Computer Network?

You don’t have to be an IT expert to understand the basics of your business’s computer network. In fact, the more you know about it, the smarter the decisions you will make on how to care for it.

A computer network is a collection of computers and other devices connected together to communicate and share resources. For example, several computers often share the same printer. And shared resources reduce business costs. A small to medium-sized business usually has a variety of devices connected to one another. That may include:

  • one or more servers
  • desktop computers
  • laptops
  • printers
  • tablets
  • phones (landlines and mobile)
  • other specialized industry-related devices

Additionally, there are devices on a network specifically designed to facilitate the connection between devices as well as the connection to the Internet. These devices are called switches, routers, and modems.

What is a Switch?

Technicians use switches to connect computers and other devices within a network. Switches enable communication and data sharing between devices. So, even if your computer workstation is in a different office than another team member’s, you can still communicate with her via computers and send her information. In short, everything in a network links together through switches.

What is a Router?

While switches connect devices within a single network, routers connect multiple switches (and thus multiple networks) together. Technicians connect two or more networks using a router to form a larger network. Metaphorically, each network is a solar system. Multiple solar systems combine to form a galaxy.

What is the difference between a Router and a Modem?

It is easy to confuse a router with a modem. Let’s look at the differences between them. While routers connect multiple switches and their respective networks together, a modem connects your network to the Internet. Modems give you the power to connect with other networks connected to the Internet. The modem connects to your network through your router and switches.

Smaller businesses can use routers that have built-in switches. They play a dual role by connecting your devices to each other and to the modem. And even more convenient, wireless routers enable laptops, tablets, and mobile phones to connect to your computer network as well as the Internet.

However, if your business only has one device that needs to connect to the Internet, you don’t need a router or a switch. You can connect directly with the modem to access the Internet.

Modems connect to the Internet in two different ways:

  • Coaxial Cable (think Comcast and other providers of cable television)
  • DSL (phone lines like CenturyLink)

There are modem/router/switch combination devices.

Business computer networks usually connect to the Internet through a coaxial cable modem and a business router. If your router doesn’t have enough ports (places to plug the connecting cables into), then you can add a switch to give you more.

We’re here to partner with you

We hope that after reading this article you know a little more about your computer network and feel more confident about this part of your business. We’re here to partner with you in caring for it. We know your business is unique and requires a customized setup. We have experienced and friendly service engineers who can work with you to design and care for your computer network.

The following videos offer fantastic visual explanations of switches, routers, and modems:
Modem vs Router – What’s the difference?

Hub, Switch, & Router Explained – What’s the difference?

Learn more about Servers:
What Is A Server?

What Is A Server?

You own or manage a business that uses technology to function optimally. You have a network, workstations, a server, and various devices. But what is a Server? Have you ever wanted a down-to-earth non-techy explanation? Well, here it is!

Your server gives you the ability to store your company’s software and valuable data. It also allows you and your computers to communicate with other computers and people within your network and externally over the Internet. In short, servers pass data from one computer to another. Without them, we wouldn’t have our business networks or the Internet.

A server is a big computer that stores information and “serves” it to other computers via your company’s network or the Internet. It captures data from one device and delivers it to another that is on the same network or is connected to the Internet.

What are the differences and similarities between desktop computers and servers?

Servers are more powerful than desktop computers

Servers are similar to desktop computers but they are way more powerful. Compared to your personal computer, servers have a lot more space and speed, which means they have a higher processing capacity. Physically, desktop computers are smaller devices while servers are large machines.

Servers have different operating systems than desktop computers

Desktop Computers have operating systems. Servers have special server operating systems.

Servers have larger storage capacities than desktop computers

Your desktop computers store personal files. A server stores all the files for your business as well as your larger company-wide programs like your email and browser clients.

Servers run 24/7 while we regularly power on and off desktop computers

You might power on and off your computer regularly, but you want to keep your server on all the time.

Microsoft Teams Video Conferencing

Desktop Computers

Computer to human communication

Integrinet IT monitors and maintains servers

Servers

Computer to computer communication

Computer geeks design home computers with a nice and friendly user interface. You can visually see how all the files are arranged and easily navigate in between apps like Outlook, Word, Excel, Google Chrome, Adobe Acrobat, or Zoom. Personal computer designers build this happy environment for us because they want us to develop long and lasting compatible relationships with our computers. But server designers have created machines to communicate with other machines. These server machines don’t need different fancy windows, screens, pictures, icons, and pretty colors for their happiness (optimal functionality).

Now that you know a little bit more about servers, you understand why they are so important to your business. They need to be monitored 24/7 to make sure they are in good health. This helps keep your entire network and thus your business in good shape.

If you need help with taking care of your server, give us a call. (844) 400-0616

Learn more about our onsite computer support: Onsite Computer Support

Find the answers to the following questions and more fun facts about servers in this article: Little-Known Facts About Servers and Data Storage

  • What county in the US does 70% of the world’s internet traffic travel through?
  • Why did Facebook build its data center (a place which stores multiple servers – think cloud) in a very cold place?
  • Can servers be recycled?

Customized IT Solutions for Unique Businesses

Every business requires Customized IT Solutions because everybody’s business is different. The way people run their business and the layout of their buildings is different.

Industry Specific Tools

Everybody has different needs and different IT solutions. When you have this uniqueness between clients you can’t just use cut-and-paste solutions. My goal is to help tailor the IT solutions to the client’s needs.

Every business has industry-specific tools that integrate with their network in unique ways. We have clients who run equipment from imaging machines for x-rays to CNC machines (a computer-controlled cutting device). With each business, I have to consider the best, customized solution.

Customized IT Solutions: updating hardware & software is an investment

Another thing we run into a lot is that many of our clients invested a lot of money several years ago into their IT hardware and software when Windows 7 was still around. This makes it a challenge to come in and clean up their network. When a business has old equipment, there are a lot of things that need to be upgraded for it to run smoothly. I know it’s an expense for a company and it seems like it doesn’t directly profit them. It takes a portion of their budget and it’s hard to see the benefit of the investment.

Updating hardware & software is like maintaining the tires on a pickup

Their investment is kind of like the tires on a pickup. You can spend time with flats, downtime, and low traction. You can spend a lot of time and effort constantly fixing flat tires. Or you can invest in some new tires which don’t slow you down and keep your workflow optimized.

The tires on the truck don’t make the truck money but they are a crucial part of the truck that allows it to function optimally. They are vital for the truck to run, whether it’s coming or going.

Wi-Fi stability & connectivity issues at a school with a large campus

Recently, I assisted with restructuring a large network to improve Wi-Fi stability and connectivity speeds across a school’s large campus up in Idaho City. The students at this school constantly rely on assigned laptops. They have to carry them from class to class. And they reported that they were having nothing but headaches with their connectivity. Their speeds were slow. The signal was constantly dropping off.

Customized IT Solutions: the handoff

Because the structures of businesses’ buildings are always different, the way we have to run cable for Wi-Fi connectivity is also different. But, I’m constantly trying to apply the knowledge that I learn from one client to issues that another client has. When I troubleshoot, I’m always looking for something out of place and something that needs to be improved.

I recently worked on optimizing connectivity for another one of our clients who was having similar issues in their large warehouse. I applied the same solutions to the school district in Idaho City. When I went out to look at their campus, I noticed that a lot of their network was not optimized. So, I took a map of the school and mapped out the location of all the access points. I then restructured the way that their controller was set up in order to make the handoff smoother.

Handoff is when students with laptops walk outside of the bubble that the access point (AP) is capable of listening and talking on.

I corrected the handoff issues they were having by adjusting what’s called the RSSI or Received Signal Strength Indication. When the performance level goes down, the laptop knows that it needs to look for another access point.

Tailored IT Solutions: access points and laptops need to communicate

With the RSSI adjusted, the access points and laptops could communicate with each other. Now, when a student walks to the edge of a bubble and the laptop gets to that threshold of performance, the AP says, “Hey you’re out of my limit. You need to start looking for another access point because I’m going to drop.” The device will then respond, “Okay, is there another access point that I can connect to that I’m getting closer to?” The laptop searches for a closer access point and switches over to it with barely even a hiccup.

Monitoring outages mitigates major issues

I also wiped out and rebuilt their controller on the server, so it was easier for us to manage and monitor outages. After setting up remote alerts for their network, I could see their outages ahead of time. We are able to mitigate major issues because I call the school every time a switch or an access point goes down.

The outcome of our Customized IT Solution

Before, the students would avoid using the wireless because it was just too unreliable. After I implemented these solutions, the students are using the Wi-Fi and are more confident that it will work. Now, it’s actually helping students with their education and learning. They can actually complete assignments. The Wi-Fi is being used for what it was intended for.

Read more about Wi-Fi Connectivity: Wi-Fi Extenders for Business

“Thank you so much for your article about David Rucker.  Although, we have gotten to know him fairly well over the time that he has been our technician, it is always nice to know more.  He is very professional in all that he undertakes and is also a wonderful guy!!”

Debbi Mills-Havey
Cathedral Administrator
St. Michael’s Episcopal Cathedral

WiFi Extenders for Businesses

Situation 

A large manufacturer in Boise needed WiFi extenders. They needed them because they were adding a new ERP* system to assist with tracking and in-production job costing for their manufacturing line. They planned to use iPads in multiple buildings and throughout the property to update where they were in production.

*“Enterprise resource planning (ERP) refers to a type of software that organizations use to manage day-to-day business activities such as accounting, procurement, project management, risk management, and compliance, and supply chain operations.” –Oracle

The Problem 

Wireless Internet

The company had wireless internet in their business office and in their main building. But they did not have it in their other facilities throughout their property. To run multiple underground cables to different buildings would have been extremely expensive. It would have also disrupted their business’ production processes. In their day to day workflow, materials needed to be continuously shuttled around the property. And a major underground cable install would have considerably slowed this process down. So, their CIO asked our sales engineer if Integrinet IT could help with a solution to solve the issue.

Our Solution: WiFi Extenders

As a wireless solution partner with Ingram Micro, we leveraged their expertise with ours. After providing our clients with a map and their property dimensions, we put together a Point-to-Point solution to beam Internet to the other facilities on their property. We did this by mounting WiFi extenders–strong exterior wireless access points throughout their propert–which gave them WiFi coverage everywhere.

Impact 

The cost savings for the project were considerable. Because they didn’t have to trench to multiple areas of the property and run conduit and cable throughout the entire area, they saved thousands of dollars. The project came in at less than $2,500 and the underground cabling system would have come in at ten times that.

With WiFi extension throughout the property, the company can now easily update inventory and track production line stages. These improvements have significantly increased efficiency in their overall production tracking process.

Conclusion 

To conclude, if your business is experiencing similar problems, schedule a free consultation. Joe (Utah) and Fred (Idaho) specialize in learning about your specific business needs. They are excited to help you find solutions that are right for your business. 

Read another case study: End of Life (EOL) Server – Server Consolidation

End of Life (EOL) Server – Server Consolidation

SCENARIO: END OF LIFE (EOL) SERVER

A leading accounting firm in Treasure Valley, Idaho had been relying on six physical servers to run their daily business operations. Because many businesses rely on their services, a high level of productivity is crucial.

But their servers were reaching end-of-life (EOL) status. This meant that slow server performance was decreasing the firm’s productivity. It also meant that upgraded software was no longer compatible with the server hardware. Something needed to change.

THE PROBLEM

When we met with the accounting firm, we discussed the following problems:

  1. Their Servers had in fact reached End of Life (EOL).
  2. The company from which they had originally purchased the servers had not given them a warranty or support.
  3. Running six servers with six applications was very inefficient.
  4. The expense to maintain six servers was not economical.
  5. The servers took up a lot of closet space, consumed a lot of power, and generated a lot of heat.

OUR SOLUTION: SERVER VIRTUALIZATION

After meeting with them, we designed a plan that upgraded them to a more efficient system. Instead of running and maintaining six physical servers, we proposed that they consolidate the six into one. We did that by setting them up with server virtualization — converting five of their physical servers into software servers.

A software server is a virtual machine. Each one acts like a unique physical machine capable of running its own operating system and application.

IMPACT

After implementing this solution, we were able to improve our client’s position by:

Saving our client money.

In simplifying their infrastructure, we freed up resources they could use for other business projects.

Conserving physical space and energy.

Because they now have only one server generating heat, the firm disconnected one of their two air conditioners in their server room. They no longer need it. They are now saving on their energy bill and decreasing their carbon footprint on the earth.

Decreasing server maintenance costs dramatically.

In the end, they only had one physical server to maintain. They no longer had to pay for replacing old server hardware on the other five. And battery backup was greatly simplified, which will save them thousands of dollars when it comes time to replace it.

Increasing the performance of their system.

With upgraded processors and more memory, their new system is superior to the old, which has significantly improved their productivity

Completing the project during off-hours.

Our service engineer worked over a weekend so that he did not disrupt this company’s service and workflow. Because of this, their transition was seamless. When they returned to work Monday morning, they were able to hit the ground running.

Higher Performance & Lower Costs – Can’t Beat That!

Learn more about Cloud Solutions & Data Backup

Learn more about how Server Virtualization works

Comments from the Principal of the Firm

We are happy with the service we receive from you all, and our network upgrade was seamless. We appreciate our working relationship with you.

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