The Value of VOIP for Small Business – Part Two.

In today’s blog, we continue our look at VOIP, and how it can help Small Business.

The cost of VOIP:

Third party cost analysis has proven that VOIP is easily the most cost-effective phone solution for small business.  The reasons are simple: rather than a complex infrastructure, all phones run over the Internet, and are easily scaled up or down.  The ease of VOIP solutions also means there are not big personnel costs during the installation, maintenance or upgrades of the phone systems.

ShoreTel, in their marketing materials, report that most of their customers see return on investment in the first year of the purchase.

VOIP and reliability:

Many small business owners who don’t utilize VOIP cite reliability as a factor: If the Internet goes down, their perception is that your phones go down too – which would be catastrophic for any business.

While it’s true that Internet software solutions like Skype are vulnerable to outages, we’re glad to report that this perception is not reality with many VOIP providers.

For instance, ShoreTel’s systems offer 99.999% availability.  Furthermore, in the case of Internet failure, the phone system simply switches over to a regular Public Switched Telephone Network (PSTN) – the transfer is seamless, and business does not suffer.

In Conclusion:

VOIP has come a long way since its roots in the early 2000s.  Adoption is becoming very broad, and modern VOIP solutions are lauded by businesses for their flexibility, power, reliability – and impact on the bottom line.

The Value of VOIP for Small Business – Part One.

VOIP (or “Voice over Internet Protocol”) is a well-used buzzword, but many small businesses are left asking some basic questions: What EXACTLY is VOIP, and what impact can it make on my business?

What is VOIP?

VOIP, as we mentioned earlier, is short for “Voice over Internet Protocol”.  Put simply, it’s a telephone system that goes over the Internet, rather than traditional phone lines (a public switched telephone network or PSTN).

VOIP made its first big breakthroughs in 2004, as High Speed Internet became more prevalent.  Today, it is used in a number of different applications, from IP Phones (which are like regular phones, but work through the Internet rather than traditional phone lines), Software VoIP (programs like Skype which allow real-time calls over the Internet) and Mobile and Integrated VoIP (which allows mobile phones to make calls outside of the regular mobile network).

VOIP’s next step:

Now that VOIP has become a presence in the business world, companies are moving to consolidate business services under the banner of VOIP.  For instance, telecommunications company ShoreTel offers solutions designed to bring together many aspects of small business communication on one platform, such as:

  • Phone systems
  • Conferencing systems
  • Calendar systems
  • Workflow
  • Enterprise applications
  • And much more

Check back next week for part two of our article!

What To Expect From Windows 8 – Part Two

Here is part two of our report on the upcoming Windows 8.

Back It Up!

The Apple operating systems feature a program named “Time Machine”, which is a fully integrated solution to backup computer data.  Microsoft has taken some strides on this front, but most experts agree that serious backing-up requires a more robust third-party solution than what’s found in the current versions of Windows.

This is set to change with Microsoft’s new “History Vault” program in Windows 8.  Little is known about the program at this point, however its functionality is expected to be very similar to that of Time Machine.

The Microsoft Store:

Apple has received a lot of attention for its App Store, which is an online store where users can purchase applications for immediate download.

Microsoft is expected to debut a similar type of online store, however details, and how closely it can be expected to mirror the App Store, are currently sketchy.

In Conclusion:

Microsoft is well known for their constantly evolving products.  While these are the current innovations that are known, you can expect to see a lot more information unveiled over the next year as we get closer to launch.

We will keep you updated as new details emerge!

A Look At The Major Cloud Computing Players – Rackspace

Today we complete our look at Cloud Computing with Rackspace, a lesser-known but very important company in the Cloud realm.


Rackspace is similar to Amazon Web Services – they offer specific cloud based solutions aimed at the technical side of your business (the IT department).  Like Amazon Web Services, they offer flexible pricing plans and server space that can be expanded or contracted in a matter of minutes.

In Conclusion:

Cloud Computing is an exciting area of growth for the technology sector, and we hope these snapshots of the major players have allowed you to get a better handle on what exists currently in Cloud Computing – and a hint of what you can expect in the future!

A Look At The Major Cloud Computing Players – Google

In this week’s blog post, we’re continuing our look at the major Cloud Computing players by focusing on a titan in the industry, Google.

Google has been working in the cloud space for some time, and is primarily known for their Google Apps programs, which include: Gmail, Google Calendar, Google Docs, Google Sites and much more.

Google argues that cloud computing is the way of the future for a variety of different reasons.  Google Docs, for instance, offers a level of online collaboration not seen in standard software-based solutions.

Google also highlights the big impact that Cloud Computing can have in terms of tweaks to programs.  Quoting from their online blog, “In 2009 alone, we launched over 100 improvements [to our online applications], and customers didn’t need to manage any upgrades or patches”.  The easy-to-update, always evolving approach means that users don’t have to consistently re-learn new software every few years – instead, their knowledge grows slowly and consistently, as the software does.

In Conclusion:

Google has been a major leader in the cloud space, and their leadership is likely to continue as cloud applications continue to become more dominant.

Stay tuned next week for a look at Rackspace, and a perspective on where Cloud Computing is heading.

A Look At The Major Cloud Computing Players – Amazon Web Services

We continue our look at the major players in Cloud Computing this week with one of its innovators – Amazon Web Services.

As grew, it built powerful cloud-based hardware solutions to grow with them.  Amazon Web Services takes this cloud architecture and offers it to businesses across the world.

Amazon Web Services encompasses a number of very specific offerings, and while Microsoft’s cloud solutions are aimed at the consumer level, Amazon Web Services is targeted primarily at the IT provider level.

Like many other cloud providers, Amazon Web Services prides itself on the unique pricing structure of Cloud Computing – subscribers to their services only pay for the capacity that is actually used.

In Conclusion:

If you’re looking at a solid DIY solution to your Cloud needs, Amazon can be a great provider.  However, if you’re looking for a solution that’s ready “out of the box”, you may want to look at a few of our other featured players.

Stay tuned to our blog for more perspectives on other Cloud players like Google and Rackspace.

A Look At The Major Cloud Computing Players – Microsoft

Cloud Computing is a hot topic in technology circles – the technology is consistently getting better and better, and more and more companies are coming into the cloud computing fold.

With so much going on in the cloud space, we wanted to provide a few blog entries designed to help you recognize some of the major players in the industry, and understand what they have to offer.

In this blog entry, we’ll focus on Microsoft.


Microsoft primarily focuses on two areas in Cloud Computing:

– Microsoft Office 365:

This is the cloud version of Microsoft’s widely used Office suite.  In the cloud version of Office, users are able to access Office from anywhere and on a variety of devices – from smart phones to a work computer to a home laptop.

Office 365 also brings advances to collaboration tools – for instance, 365 users can see each other’s availability for scheduling, or work together through social networking.

– Windows Azure:

Windows Azure is Microsoft’s cloud platform, which provides a wide variety of services.  IT specialists can move a company’s existing applications into the Azure cloud, or develop new web applications using Azure’s proven technology.

In Conclusion:

Microsoft is bringing some of its staple products to the Cloud, and it will be interesting to see how companies move to adopt the new offerings over the next year.

Stay tuned to our blog for more perspectives on other Cloud players like Amazon Web Services, Google and Rackspace.

How to close ports using Windows Firewall for Windows Vista/7

If you’re reading this, then you’ve probably just finished the port scan from and have open ports you want to close. Closing ports on your system is relatively easy, and I’ll be walking you through the steps you need to take in order to close them. You will need to make sure that you have administrator privileges before you attempt to do this. If you are not comfortable working with firewalls or are unsure of what it is you’re exactly doing, feel free to give us a call or send us a message.

I’m going to assume you’re running Windows and have Windows Firewall turned on. First, open Windows Firewall. Depending on your operating system, the location to open it at can vary. Generally, it can be accessed through the Control Panel by double clicking on “Windows Firewall”.

After you have Windows Firewall open, click on “Inbound Rules” on the left hand side. Now, right click on “Inbound Rules” again and choose “New Rule”. It will ask you what type of rule you would like to create. In this case, you will want to select “Port”. Clicking next brings up more options for you to choose from. It asks you if the rule applies to TCP or UDP, and you want to make sure you select TCP. Below, make sure you have “Specific local ports” selected and enter in the open ports that you want closed into the textbox.

The next screen presents you with the actual option of blocking the connection or not. If you want the port closed, you will want to select “Block the connection”. If you are on Windows Vista or Windows 7, you will be asked if the rule should apply to Private, Public, or Domain networks. If you’re closing a port, you generally want it closed everywhere, so make sure all types of networks are checked.

The last step will ask you to give the rule a name and description. You may name it whatever you like. Most people tend to name a rule they’re creating something that’s memorable to them, like “Block port 445”. The description is entirely optional and is only to help you remember what this rule does if you come back to edit it in the future and have forgotten why you have created the rule.

That’s it! You’ve just successfully closed a port on your machine. The only other thing you need to make sure of is that Windows Firewall is on and running.