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The challenge we face as small business owners is knowing all the moving parts in our business and how each component can impact the top and bottom line. Developing metrics around the business model is extremely important so we can make decisions based on the numbers and not necessarily on the feelings we get. If we zoom out and look at an I.T. company from a 30,000ft perspective we have many factors to consider when calculating metrics such as the operations, revenue, expenses, profit, the organization, sales, etc. We could spend days diving into all the different facets of an I.T. company and would love to do that, but today we want to go a few layers deep into the operations division. The nuts and bolts of an operations team in an I.T. company consists of 6 core delivery areas and it’s possible that each delivery area can have more than one person. For example, we have support desk coordinators, network administrators, virtual chief information officers, technology managers, project managers and the on-boarding crew. We have to understand how each role is performing by reviewing all their different levers and how much each role costs in a per month per seat format or else we truly don’t understand the noise behind the numbers, the hole in the bucket, or any unrealized profitability and that unfortunately can lead to challenging problems when it’s already too late to bounce back quickly from. As mentioned above when we calculate our operations metrics, we must understand per month per seat cost and the de facto leverage guidelines and how we compare to them in all 6 delivery areas or else we cannot see gross margin metrics which is very important in the grand scheme of things. If we focus just on the support desk coordinator role we can shed some light on how this roll can impact the entire company in a good or bad way. If our cost per month per seat for our support desk coordinator role was calculated at $2.41 in an example we came up with, here is how we would arrive at that result: How We Improve Using Metrics SupportDeskGrossMargin Other metrics we review for our support desk coordinator role to improve our business is our average response and resolution times. We gather the metrics each week and have it generate a monthly and yearly summary. Example: How We Improve Using Metrics SDMetrics We also keep a real time support desk dashboard active: How We Improve Using Metrics SDDashboard1 By having these granular metrics across the different divisions in our business, especially the 6 core delivery areas in operations, we can forecast change, improve our best practices and processes and ultimately provide better support to our customers. In our support desk example we want to demonstrate that we have the ability to understand what is happening in all the other 5 delivery areas based on how the numbers fluctuate. Long story short, we strive to improve and become world class every day and knowing our numbers is a small part to that promise.
In our 3rd newsletter article we published back in Feb of 2013 on disaster recovery planning we talked about how managed service providers (MSP’s) structure their business with a technology consulting role to help small businesses understand their technology options when planning for a disaster.
here: A few months later we published another newsletter article titled “Backup & Recovery Strategies” where we explained our perspective on backups and how this aligns with a disaster recovery plan.
here:   For part II, we created a “gut check list” for you with 8 different questions to go over below to outline some specific things to consider when aligning technology with your disaster recovery planning process:
  1. Do we have the proper insurance in place to cover unexpected costs in the event a disaster occurs? For example: cyber liability, business interruption, and business interruption off premise insurance.
  2. Have you defined what it means to declare a disaster? What is a disaster to your small business and what is the process to declare a disaster?
  3. Do you have all of your software and licenses either “digitized” and saved offsite via a backup and or do you have the physical discs for your software copied and saved offsite?
  4. Do you share all your vendor’s contact information with your I.T. provider so they can communicate properly and efficiently in the event a disaster exists? For example: Internet provider, phone provider, building manager, etc.?
  5. Do you have spare equipment purchased and pre-configured in the event a critical piece of technology fails that will grind your employees to a halt? For example: network router, network switch, a spare printer, and even failover Internet?
  6. Do you have backups of your servers, workstations, firewalls, etc.?
  7. Have you verified your I.T. provider has specific processes and best practices to deal with emergency related issues like a server failure?
  8. Do you have uninterruptible power supplies (UPS’s) protecting your critical systems and networking equipment?
To request more information please feel free to email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. Thanks again for being a loyal reader of our Predictably Better newsletter. We’ll be back next month!  
For the past 12+ years Digux has met with numerous business owners to try and help educate them about the different choices they have when buying I.T. support. Within this article we are hoping to teach those who are considering a change and or perhaps help someone who is in the process of meeting with us and trying to decide which direction to go to give them the ability to make a sound decision. None the less, whatever situation you are in, the buying process definitely gives a person a lot to think about so our goal is to help readers see the ‘forest for the trees’ per say and make it simple to understand because really at the end of the day most business owner’s just want to enjoy their business, make more money, be successful, and spend more time doing the things they love. Before we jump into the meat of things we want to share a few observations our company has made over the years to set the stage a little better during the buying process. On one side of the spectrum we have observed some business owners complicate the buying process and end up wrapping themselves around the axel so tight they paralyze their decision leaving them with no option except to stay with the same results and suffer. Whereas on the other end of the spectrum very intelligent CEO’s purchase the right kind of I.T. support because they understand the value in properly functioning technology and the correlation between this and how it drives better profit margins, more productive employees, and an overall better work culture. The point we are trying to make is: It’s really not that complicated to buy I.T. support when you paint the picture in broad strokes. You may have easier things on your to-do list but this is one that should not be overlooked. Below, we have broken down a few things to consider when changing I.T. vendors:
  • Some of the most successful companies ever built in the world for example General Electric, IBM, Nordstrom, Ford, Boeing, Johnson & Johnson all have several key similarities. It’s not that they all outperformed their competition, they simply great people and cultivated world class best practices & processes. If you hear an I.T. support company talking about best practices & processes then make sure to dive deep and learn what those mean.  This is what differentiates one I.T. company from another and is the main reason why you should buy from them.
  • Make sure to spend some extra time explaining what your business does, why you are successful, what your goals are, why people or businesses buy your products or services. Not only are you trying to buy I.T. support, but your potential new I.T. vendor is interviewing you as well. Remember, one of your core business decisions may be to consistently improve your I.T. over a long term relationship. These conversations are important as they forge the beginning to great relationships.
  • If you have major problems now, take a moment and think about why these problems exist? You may come up with a giant list and be surprised and think they are all good problems to talk about. They could be anything from the backup never working, the Internet going down all the time, the server is being rebooted once per day. We have heard all the reasons. The thing is: All of your reasons are not the reason you should switch. We call these tip of the iceberg problems because the main source of the problem in this analogy is under the water where the main part of the iceberg lives. What we are saying is: The issue is not the issue. The issue is a result of the issue. The existing I.T. support vendor does not have the correct best practices and processes to solve your problems or is not willing to continuously try to improve and create them.
  • When you think about the money aspect of the I.T. plan do you tell yourself you are spending too much? Well, the problem with I.T. support is you are probably not spending enough. Technology is brutally demanding and requires constant attention that is constantly evolving. If the managed service provider you meet with quotes you for double of what you are currently spending at the moment, then most likely you are under investing in your I.T. support by half. In other words, managed service companies have extremely organized operations and cannot charge companies any less to give them the end result they need. They are already saving you money by outsourcing rather than hiring an employee. So take that amount we talked about above (Remember, you are investing less than half) and multiply it by the amount of months/years you have been running your business. If that number is high which it most likely will be, then this is probably how much risk you currently have in your business that you didn’t know about. When companies tell us they are spending less than half of what we would charge, we raise an eyebrow and immediately know there is some serious problems to be done dealt with to get them up-and-running aligned with our company way.
  • If you think your existing I.T. vendor has the keys to the castle in regards to having all the passwords and knowing all the systems, you don’t have to believe this anymore. They don’t and moving in another direction is not that complicated. In the long run, it will be less expensive to change even if you’re spending more on the new I.T. support plan. Why not achieve better end results? There is that old saying “Fire fast, hire slow”. We all have let that one person go and a week later we were so much happier with the replacement. The process is not that painful. We have a great way to securely manage passwords and centrally manage all processes and best practices for your company that we share with approved end users.
  • Run your P/L report and add up your payroll for the month. If you want to really understand costs then add up all your fixed and variable expenses too. Compare this to the amount you pay to your I.T. vendor. Now with some quick math you can see how much it costs to have inefficient employees when a system is down for an hour. Typically, the I.T. support is a very small percentage vs. the payroll. However, I.T. has a large impact on employee productivity so it makes sense to invest in this area rather than let it suffer. For example, if you pay an I.T. guy by the hour to service your business and all he does is projects and reacts to problems, then you’re probably losing fists full of money. Essentially, every time you pick up the phone to call your I.T. support, not only are you paying for payroll but you are also paying for I.T. support with no work product being completed which is a double whammy. We call this the reactive cycle of death.
  • When going through the process of buying I.T. support, make sure all the decision makers get involved and go to all the meetings. Even if members of the company have nothing to do with I.T., they will understand the value and it will make the process go smoothly which will ultimately help the company get things under control faster. Plus when decisions are made together they usually turn out much better.
When interviewing, learn the I.T. support company's business planning process. This will tell you a lot about how they accomplish their own goals and get a sense of their culture and how fast things will change. Remember, this is technology so they should be versed in how to plan and deal with this question. This topic is so complex we could have gone on for pages and pages about some of the thought processes when buying I.T. Support. So to be respectful of your time, we picked the top 8 to make it simple.
The answer is obvious to us because we eat, sleep, and drink our outsourced proactive I.T. service, but the idea from our experience for some small business owners to commit to a new solution that costs more each month and requires a change from what they already know in terms of how they buy I.T. services brings up a lot of questions and can be a scary concept. Note: Go to our web-site and click on the WHAT WE DO link and read "How can I.T. be Proactive". This includes some additional information. Typically when a person thinks of I.T. services they think of ‘technology’ which is a natural thought process of course. However, our goal is to change your thinking to move away from purely a technology standpoint into how I.T. can help your business so it can increase your top and bottom line – this is the reason why we are in business! We want to turn the age old I.T. expense into a viable investment. The big leering question is: how can the bill/invoice a small business pays to the proactive I.T. provider every month make a small business more money? Before we give away the answer we want to break down a few things. Typically when a small business owner or office manager meets with a proactive I.T. company they will point out a whole slew of pain that exists around the technology. For example, it could be the server has to be re-booted once a week and it takes all the employees offline for 30-60 minutes. Or it could be a printer issue, issues with QuickBooks, or ongoing issues with the line-of-business applications and all of these seem to never go away. Whatever the issue is we (we as in the proactive I.T. provider) will tell them all of those reasons are not good enough to switch and start paying more for an outsourced proactive I.T. provider.  All of those issues the small business is having is actually not the issue. Those issues are a result of the issue which is caused by the existing I.T. vendor. We call these the tip of the ice-berg issues. OK, so why would we blame this on the existing I.T. vendor that seems like an easy finger to point. Well, the reason is that existing I.T. vendor has not established the proper best practices and processes to properly solve the issues permanently otherwise they wouldn’t be happening. Proactive I.T. services focuses on the entire ice-berg. Yes, there will be issues that pop-up out of the water, but we mostly focus on what is underneath the water which is the foundation to the I.T. infrastructure. The key to success with proactive I.T. services is having the ability to accomplish defined goals each and every month. We attribute this to our planning, communication, roles, rhythm, standardization, documentation, people, best practices, processes and technology consulting. The biggest expense a small business incurs each month is the employee’s payroll. Everyone knows the payroll typically is the most important and most expensive cost so why impact that in a negative way? Outsourced proactive I.T. support removes the chaos from the environment and empowers all staff members to be productive which ultimately makes the business more money – a lot more money. Why Should Small Businesses Use Proactive I.T.?
  • Better work/life balance.
  • Reduced risk.
  • Peace of mind.
  • Better morale.
  • More productive employees.
  • Increased functionality.
  • Enhanced security.
  • Lower overall technology costs.
  • Increased profit margins.
Cyber Security attacks dominated the news in 2014 involving Home Depot, Sony, Target, and JPMorgan Chase along with the various vulnerabilities that rattled I.T. departments such as the OpenSSL Heartbleed, SSL 3.0 Poodle, and Shellshock to name a few. We mostly hear about these larger scale attacks because they impact big business, but this trend is slowly changing as cybercriminals are finding it easier to attack small businesses. In the past, attackers had the tendency to follow the big money as the financial payoff is greater, but with the explosion of Internet connected devices and online related purchases cybercrime is becoming much more prevalent in today’s society targeting the average Joe. With that being said, the purpose of our article is to point out some of the security threats that will emerge in 2015 and what we can do to stop them. Before we jump in we want to say this: People are the weakest link when it comes to allowing security issues into our networks. So our advice and request is that we educate ourselves, peers, friends, boss(s), etc. about this topic so we can prevent a disaster from striking. Trust us, no one wants to get hit with some sort of security vulnerability and create a monster I.T. issue. These issues are time consuming and expensive – especially if a crucial deadline is unexpectedly delayed. Security threats to be aware of and avoid in 2015: •Malicious messages that really look like the real thing. Cybercriminals trick victims with messages that appear to be legitimate. These criminals have built advanced “toolkits” that help them create realistic looking messages and malware that can be essentially pointed at let’s say your bank and it scrapes all the logos, language, and everything making it look real so when you get the email without hesitation you will login giving them your password. If you’re unsure about an email, call your bank and verify the validity of the message. •Ransomware that holds your data hostage. Hopefully you didn’t experience the infamous Cryptolocker. In the past, this would typically only happen on your PC, but now it’s happening on servers, cloud services, and smart phones. If you ever experience a program requesting that you pay to unlock your data immediately contact your I.T. department. Do not pay anything and hopefully you have a backup of your data so you can restore to a previous point in time. •Point of sale attacks like the one that hit Target which affected more than 40 million people are on the rise even though industry professionals are upgrading equipment to the chip-and-pin technology. The problem with these is it’s hard to inoculate yourself from these attacks unless you go away from using a credit or debit card altogether. There is ways to help with this situation which you can
about below. •Mobile threats are an attractive target due to the plethora of personal information as people are buying more and more things online with a smart phone. We recommend not purchasing over public WiFi and running the latest versions of your mobile operating system. You can even purchase Antivirus for your smart phone. •Small businesses not having a “Bring Your Own Device” (BYOD) policy in place coupled with the lack of employee awareness in regards to social engineering attacks is a very high concern. Social media services typically ask for permission to access your personal information and even your contact list sometimes which as you know can expose many risks. Advice to improve security in 2015: •Make sure your I.T. department regularly reviews your systems and advises decision makers on ways to stay secure. •Buy cyber liability insurance. •Perform backups on all of your computers and servers every 24 hours at minimum. •Protect all computers and servers with Antivirus and Antimalware software. We recommend AVG and Malwarebytes. •Protect inbound/outbound email with a 3rd party security service. •Protect your office and home office networks with Cisco or WatchGuard firewalls. •Change all system passwords at least every 90-120 days. •Use a complex password. The key to a strong password is length and complexity. For example, the password should be at minimum of 8 characters, have numbers, capital letters, symbols, and not a word in the dictionary. •Don’t allow anyone to plug in external USB drives into your computers. We recommend disabling storage devices from functioning when connecting them to a USB port and only allowing this when authorized. •Disable all un-used ports on your firewall, servers, and computers. For example, if you are not using email or FTP then turn off SMTP port 25 and FTP port 21. •Do not purchase anything what-so-ever on public WiFi connections. •Enable BitLocker on your PC so if it gets stolen the data cannot be extracted. •Monitor credit/debit card statements closely and flag charges that look suspicious. Alternatively, you can use one credit card primarily for retail purchases and move small amounts of money to this card before shopping. That way if a retail vendor’s network is breached and your bank suddenly decides to cancel your card, you won’t be dead in the water until your new card is issued which can takes weeks sometimes.
Since the very beginning of Digux we have created a business plan. Each year our business planning process has improved dramatically (This is an understatement). For 2015’s business plan we spent triple the amount of time and the result of this effort has made our vision for the future far more attainable and realistic than before. To be respectful of everyone’s time today we will not outline all of the steps we take to develop our business plan, but we will share several important aspects to give our readers a basic idea of our process then share some of the initiatives we have set for 2015. Before we start creating our 2015 plan we will dive into the prior year’s plan (2014) and compare it to our actual results on a monthly and quarterly basis. Then we look into our operational/financial metrics and smart numbers to gauge how the year changed over time. Then we evaluate our gross margins for each particular role such as our support desk coordinator, network administrator, internal tools manager, project managers, virtual CIO, etc. so we can see how much it costs to deliver each role based on a per-seat basis. More importantly we calculate our leverage and current run rate which is our current monthly reoccurring revenue plus the average of all other revenue to get a general idea of our financial situation which helps us make assumptions quickly for the New Year. The next phase of our planning process is creating our 2015 budget. We use our 1 year run-rate and look at revenue, expenses, profitability, and head count by month (example: Jan 2015, Feb, 2015, etc.). Then we do this for our 3 year plan as well. This forecasting process helps us translate our goals into what actions need to be taken with our sales/operations team. Essentially, we now have the ability to figure out how many dials, emails, appointments, contacts, etc. (All the sales stuff we do) we need to complete based on our overall close ratio to achieve our financial goals. As a way to describe the full scope of the process from a 30,000ft vantage point we create a 10, 3, and 1 year plan to measure where we want to be financially. For example, if in 10 years we wanted to be generating 10 million in annual revenue at a 20-30% profit margin we would then work backwards to figure out what we need to do to get there. We essentially break things down all the way into quarters so we can focus on specific initiatives. Other things we keep in mind when performing our business planning process is our personal goals and vision. Our company vision, our core values, purpose, and our culture; and most importantly -- our customers. Creating a business plan is time consuming and has many different components to consider, but we have learned to make it fun and appreciate the results we get out of putting in all the hard work in advance. There is nothing more rewarding each year when we start our planning process again and look back over the prior year and we achieved our goals. Our 2015 Initiatives: • Continue to stay sales focused. We will spend another year in the trenches and improve our inside/outside sales process, warm lead generation, center of influences (COI), and add more MRR each quarter at the right price! We have spent hours on end everyday working on this goal and we are all fired up about our new goals this quarter. • Continue to improve the hiring process. We need to keep learning awesome ways on to how to attract and bring on A players. We also build Aptitude tests for each role and labs to perform a “working” interview. • Continue to focus on the traits of becoming a world class MSP. These are known as business planning, know what we sell, sales focus, be process driven, and command! • Improve our strategy process by using our awesome health assessment tool each week & improving our baseline requirements. We need to keep creating reports and communicating with our customers in addition to driving more documentation, best practices, and processes in our knowledge-base. • Continue to improve our knowledge-base, best practices, and processes to support our SUPER POWER! Our SUPER POWER is our network administration role which helps our customers improve their I.T. environment every month. That is powerful!
The time has finally come in our opinion where technology has advanced far enough along for us to feel confident in having one computer to accomplish all of our goals in a versatile way weather we are at our home, office, or local coffee shop. The common thought or response we typically get from people after reading our above comment is: “We use a laptop! Those have been around for 20 years and a laptop is not new ground breaking technology!” Well yes. That answer is correct -- people have been traveling around using a laptop in many different ways. What we are trying to convey is that the Microsoft Surface Pro 3 is not an ordinary laptop and has many differentiating factors by itself compared to many other OEM’s and when you start adding all the accessories to it, the device blossoms into something that is a game changer for many people who take productivity seriously. Surface Pro 3 (Office)Another tidbit we want to divulge before proceeding is that our article is not like the other million articles published about the Microsoft Surface Pro 3. We are not going to regurgitate the specs, screen resolution, pen, keyboard, etc. We are going to share the reason why we purchased it and how it solved several interesting problems. Surface Pro 3 (Conference Room)Our situation may be similar to yours in regards to how we use the computer. We have a home office, a corporate office, and we take field trips to the city and attend meetings at coffee shops, restaurants, etc. Essentially we own 3 computers; a home desktop, office desktop, and a laptop for the field trips. The home & office computers are great as they connect to 2-3 screens, wireless keyboard & mouse, and have the right amount of horsepower to keep up with the workload. The laptop is ok too as the screen is nice (Not touch) and has respectable horsepower and peripherals to connect devices as well. The problem with this setup is data becomes scattered across all of the computers even if you have cloud storage and more importantly you have to pay for 3 computers and all the software upgrades and maintenance that come along with owning them. Surface Pro 3 (Home Office)What we did is ditched the 2 desktops and laptop and replaced it with a 1 Microsoft Surface Pro 3. I bet you didn’t see that one coming (ha!).  We purchased two docks, two video adapters (These enabled multi-monitor support) and now our problem is solved. Ok, we purchased several other accessories that enhanced our experience. The thing is we can take our Surface with us wherever we go, and once we get home or to the office we simply plop the device into the dock, and we are back to the original highly productive workspace environment we experienced when owning the desktops. Overall our choice to completely change our environment and purchase the Microsoft Surface Pro 3 will save us money and make us more productive. The other neat thing we figured out is the Surface remembers your display settings. For example, if you have (3) 26” monitors at the office and (2) 28” inch monitors at home the Surface will remember when you plop it into the dock. Additionally, if everyone has this setup it doesn’t matter which office you work in anymore...Only if everyone had a Surface dock we could plop into and get to work done the world would be a more productive place! SHOPPING LIST: Microsoft Surface Pro 3 (Starting @ $799) Microsoft Surface Pro 3 Extended Service Plan ($149.00) Microsoft Surface Pro 3 Docking Station ($149.00) Microsoft Surface Pro 3 Keyboard a.k.a Type Cover ($129.99) Microsoft Surface Pro 3 Mini DisplayPort to HDMI Adapter ($39.99) Note: This is useful to connect your Surface to your TV in the conference room. Incipio Leather Portfolio Case ($39.99) StartTech Multi-Monitor Display Hub ($144.99): Note: If you have 3 monitors, make sure they support Display Port and you have 3 display port cables. Thank you for reading our article. If you have any questions please email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. and we will be happy to engage in the conversation with you.
Experimenting with new technologies in our lab is one of the most enjoyable activities we do at Digux. We are always on the hunt for new technologies that can potentially improve our customers business. We also spent time thinking about what is happening in the future so we can adjust our offering if necessary. One of our ongoing goals is to monitor external change such as social, technology, economic, or political so we can adapt responsibly. None the less, we listed a handful of our favorite online blogs so you can read about technology with us. Ars Technica: Geek Wire: Engadget: Tech Crunch: Wired: ZDNet: Gizmodo: Mashable: GigaOM: The Verge: MSP Mentor: Life Hacker: Popular Mechanics:
Way back in the early 1980’s the IPv4 protocol was defined and routes most traffic on the Internet today. If your computer is connected to the Internet, you are most likely using IPv4 along with 4.3 billion other people/devices. None the less, as years passed and the growth of the Internet exploded address exhaustion of IPv4 occurred only 30 years later. This stimulated the development of IPv6 which has been in commercial deployment since 2006. The question is why is IPv6 so important? Does this have an impact on your business? The answer is absolutely. The following table shows how quickly the address space was consumed: IPv4Table Consider this: An IPv4 to IPv6 migration requires upgrading, reconfiguring, and testing all hardware and software. This includes the I.T. infrastructure such as firewalls, routers, switches, servers and storage arrays; end user devices as well like laptops, tablets, desktops and smartphones. Network operations as well as architecture, engineering policies, processes & best practices will need to be updated. IPv6 is necessary for business growth as technological innovation has become the driving factor to business success in the 21st century. Businesses rely on IT’s ability to deliver new services to end users and customers as our competition increases. With that being said, the infrastructure and services used to support all of this require IP addresses. The businesses who choose not to perform an IPv4 to IPv6 migration risk limiting their ability to innovate and drive business growth. Why may this be the case? This is due to all major hardware, software, Internet, and cloud providers switching to IPv6 which will require everyone to adopt this technology. As scary as an IPv6 migration sounds, IPv6 does offers more efficient routing. The design of IPv6 reduces the size of the routing tables. In IPv4 the fragmentation is handled by the router whereas the device handles the fragmentation in an IPV6 network. IP-level checksum or the need of the error-control feature is not included in the IPv6 protocol whereas this bogged down IPv4. None the less, the “new” Internet protocol can handle packets more efficiently and deliver better performance. Routers previously spent time checking packet integrity but now can be used to process data packets. As we dive deeper into the technology the main advantage is that IPv6 provides directed data flows. Multicast which was an add-on to IPv4 as it was needed later on was used to deliver multimedia and make things a little more efficient. In IPv6, multicast replaces broadcast. The benefit is that multicast saves network bandwidth by allowing packet flows to be sent to multiple destinations at the same time. Also, a new field has been added to the IPv6 header. Flow label identifies packets belonging to the same flow. This allows routers to cache these packets in memory and route data more efficiently. ipv4-ipv6-header Another value added feature to IPv6 is that it has client side IP address assignment built-in eliminating the need of a DHCP server as you would use in IPv4 to dynamically assign IP’s to client devices. Now what happens is the client device generates its own IP address by appending its MAC address converted into a Extended Universal Identifier (EUI) format to the local link prefix. Not to fear, IT admins can still statically configure an IP with IPv6 or assign addressing via DHCPv6 if needed. Additionally, Network address translation (NAT) is no longer supported at all. NAT is used on IPv4 networks to allow multiple devices to share the same global IP address. IPv6 has so many IP addresses it doesn’t need to NAT anymore.   This is ok because IPv6 provides built-in security and end-to-end connectivity at the IP layer.  IPv6 has IPsec security built into the protocol for standard Internet traffic by encrypting traffic and checking packet integrity therefore making it more secure than IPv4. Now that we have discussed the history, business purpose, and technology of IPv6 our recommendation is that you start planning your IPv6 migration within the next 18-24 months. Most new devices come with the IPv6 implementation but it will be worthwhile to check and make sure the new protocol is supported. In terms of the discovery, planning, and implementation process, please feel free to contact us and we will be happy to discuss this topic further.
Over the past 12 years we have conducted business with many local vendors in our community from small Mom and Pop shops to some of the largest companies in the world. Several of our experiences were horrible while others demonstrated top notch service. In this month’s newsletter we wanted to share the great experiences from our journey and recommend that you give this short list of local Pacific Northwest vendors a try. Image Source: Image Source is a one stop shop for sweet swag. We have purchased shirts, pens, mouse pads, etc. from Image Source and worked with Greta Dawson for several years. Outsource Marketing: We all need to give our web-site, brochures, business cards, branding, etc. a facelift. Patrick Byers with Outsource Marketing has exemplified success in this area and is an expert in social media. Integra Telecom: Do you need Internet, phones, or a boat load of data? Nick Vanderlinden with Integra has been awesome to work with and always follows through with his responsibilities. Snapdone/TheFormTool: Snapdone is a phenomenal tool that integrates with MS Word and helps you find and edit documents easy. The Form Tool allows for fast n easy document assembly. Scott Campbell has been great to work with and is an expert in this field. Hard Drives Northwest: HDNW has provided new computer/server hardware with great service. Mark Smith has done an excellent job to give us and our customers a great experience. Warrick & Associates: They will tell you every dollar counts and make sure you pay the minimum tax required under law. Jim Warrick has helped us in so many ways over the years and made sure our T’s were crossed and our I’s are dotted. Mr. Detail: Located in the Columbia Center Garage or Westin Seattle Hotel Garage Mr. Detail can make your vehicle look brand new. They also have a mobile service too. Mike Rafael has made sure all of our vehicles get a makeover every year. Studio 150 Salon: Excellent service and amazing haircuts. Teresa Carolan is always available or can link you up with another seasoned stylist. Microsoft: Headquartered right in our backyard one of the largest and most successful companies in the world has employed 10’s of thousands of people in our community and provided technology to millions. Without Microsoft’s existence, Digux probably wouldn’t exist. Gabe Frost who is a key player in Digux has been with the company for over 10 years and has been one of the most influential people to helping us plan and innovate. Quosal: Quosal has been a great online quoting tool that integrates directly with our main line of business application. They have live chat support that is always helpful when needed. Stephen Yu has helped us and enabled us to succeed with our quoting process. Pacific Capital Resource Group: Whether you are planning for your business, retirement, investment, etc. PCRG has been an excellent solution. Mike Floyd has been great to work with and has allowed us to plan and execute on our goals to better our future. If you would like to request more information please feel free to email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. Thanks again for being a loyal reader of our Predictably Better newsletter. We’ll be back in next month!
Companies in the Pacific Northwest have several different Internet providers to choose from when purchasing Internet ranging from Comcast Xfinity, CenturyLink, Integra Telecom, Verizon FIOS, etc. to name a few. However, not all Internet options are the same with different criteria to consider varying from availability, speed, quality, and bundled packages. Due to the different criteria, the process requires a bit more knowledge about the service to make a thorough decision. The purpose of this newsletter article is not necessarily geared to break down the differences in offerings as providers change prices monthly, rather this is to give readers a few examples to help them buy the right Internet option based on several requirements as every business is somewhat different in terms of how they use the Internet. If your business utilizes cloud hosted services or has Internet connected phones (a.k.a VOIP phones) then you should make quality your number one focus to consider when purchasing the Internet. Line of business applications or services that require sustained Internet need quality and reliability to deliver the proper end result for your business. For example, a slower more reliable connection such as a T1, bonded T1, or T3 for example is better suited for this result. In other words, you need a dedicated business class Internet connection (other options exist than mentioned previously). Yes they are slower than modern connections, but they always work and give you the necessary uptime. We are not suggesting cable, DSL, or fiber will not work, we are simply divulging our experience dealing with Internet issues over the past 20 years. What we are trying to avoid is downtime or low quality connections that will eventually impact the end user ultimately costing your business money. Cloud apps will hiccup and voice conversations will be choppy if there is any latency in the connection. A basic cheap $100-$200 Internet connection will not be suitable if the business requires no downtime or hiccups in the service. Buy a dedicated business class Internet connection. More on quality. If you have a cloud based application or VOIP phones, you can buy more than one Internet connection to accomplish a specific purpose. Router and Internet technology deliver the ability to support multiple Internet connections and has become a best practice in the past 10 years as Internet has become a commodity. If you’re in the market for a bundled package that includes TV, phone, and Internet and emphasize download speed over quality then we would recommend spending $100-$300 on service and forgo the dedicated solution. You may see your speed slow down on occasions and even have downtime if that is ok, but you will get to experience all the different services and pay one bill each month. Availability is another issue we must consider. Some businesses are plagued with only being able to buy services from one provider. Time after time we perform research and figured out that the customer could either upgrade to better services with the existing provider for little or no cost, or another provider in the area who is capable of delivering the service is available and the customer simply didn’t know about them. Don’t hesitate to call and ask for a site survey. Someone from the Internet Company will come out and physically determine if Internet is available. Alternatively, you can determine if 4G cellular service or WiFi services are available as wireless Internet technology is more widely available in the past 5-10 years. Lastly, if you need a boat load of Internet bandwidth, you may consider outsourcing the requirement to a cloud hosting facility where they can handle all the finite details around the complexity of high available systems and connections. Some other things to consider when purchasing Internet is determining if you need static IP addresses. These are helpful to enable remote access services or other services such as email, web, or VPN. Fast speeds are not always the best and dig a little deeper when it comes to availability. You will be surprised that other providers may be in the area. Thanks again for being a loyal reader of our Predictably Better newsletter. We’ll be back in September as next month we are taking a summer vacation break!
Every year hosts an event in Philadelphia Pennsylvania called Schnizzfest. TruMethods is a company led by Gary Pica who specializes in enabling Managed Service Providers (MSP’s) to become world class in business planning, command, sales focus, process, and packaging & pricing. MSP’s from across the world travel to this 3 day event seeking answers to overcome challenges and to improve their business along with networking with people and vendors in our industry. This will be Digux’s 4th Schnizzfest and 5th year with TruMethods which has resulted in a large reason why we are able to take care of our customers at such a high level. This year’s Schnizzfest was jammed packed with awesome keynotes, workshops, sales role plays, vendor introductions, great idea contest, operational improvement ideas, a Schnizz party and much more. To sum it up in several words, the event was fun, informative, and absolutely necessary. Being able to get out of your business every year and spend a few days observing what the rest of your industry is doing successfully is therapeutic to say the least and gets you fired up for another year. One concept Gary Pica and the TruMethods team exposed was their big secret leading up to the event which was known as discovering your MSP Superpower. Every company cultivates different processes and best practices over the years (Your company way) to ultimately gain world class results. The Superpower in our business is our network admin role. Honing in and perfecting this role will inevitably allow you to achieve sustainable growth. Our Superpower at Digux is the culmination of 11+ years in business and is something we have to continuously improve on. We learned 12 new concepts at the event about our Superpower which will allow us to be even more inquisitive by asking ourselves questions to learn what changes need to be made in our business to reach an even higher level of success. Charlie Wonderlic spoke to everyone at the event and educated us on his famous Wonderlic test and why the hiring process is such an important element to small businesses. You may have heard about the Wonderlic test from the National Football League (NFL) as this test is administered on all athletes at the combine each year. We learned to view hiring as a funnel and that multiple factors are important such as knowledge, personality, intelligence, aptitude, skills, abilities, attitude, writing, and communications are equally important. A specific process needs to be put in place at your company, and after you have all the facts, you then and only then use a gut check as a final step before making the hire (Hold out for the best!). As a small company, we agree with Charlie’s advice and will spend time working on improving our hiring process over the next several quarters. Our favorite part of the event was learning about new ways to improve roles, culture, and people in our company. Our company has several roles such as network administration, vCIO, support desk coordinator, sales, etc. and we went through a role evaluation matrix that was very helpful to understand what we have documented, what our team is aware and trained in, and if we have the specific requirement in place and being used. This exposed some weak areas in our business that we will need to improve on. We also went through a force ranking exercise to evaluate each employee and see how they stack up in terms of A, B, C, D, and F players. The criteria was based on Job performance, cultural fit, and technical aptitude. We left the event with specific quarterly action plans and future action items that will help us improve our business ultimately helping our customers which is the reason we started Digux. The event had many more interesting aspects such as the sales role-play, great idea contest, and the Schnizz party and wish we could share them with you today, but unfortunately we will not be sharing them to be respectful of your time. Thanks again for being a loyal reader of our Predictably Better newsletter. We’ll be back next month!
Today we are interviewing Gabe Frost who is a lead program manager for the Media Platform team in the Operating System Group that Microsoft calls OSG for short. The team is about 40 engineers, comprised of Program Managers, Developers and Quality Engineers. We plan, design and build all the video and audio playback and streaming capabilities in the Windows operating system. This includes PCs, tablets, phones and Xbox. Interview: Question: Gabe, What are some of the most interesting technologies Microsoft has introduced since adding XBOX One, Windows Phone, and the Surface tablet into the market in terms of video/audio? Answer: One of the coolest things is the work we’ve done for Universal apps – developers can create an app using the same code that works on Windows phones, PCs, tablets and Xbox. What’s especially cool is these apps can be created entirely using web technologies – HTML5, CSS and JavaScript. As it relates to media, apps like Netflix can stream commercial, HD video using the HTML5 video tag. My team makes all that happen. Q: We have been reading about new emerging video technologies such as 4K. Tell us a little bit about this and when consumers can expect this high definition video shift to occur? A: The 4K screen resolution is equivalent to four 1080p videos in a 2x2 grid. If existing H.264 encoding tech were used for 4K video, the bitrate would be about 45Mbps. For comparison, a high-quality 1080p video is between 8-10Mbps. Obviously, streaming 4K over the web wouldn’t work very well at 45Mbps given most people don’t have fast enough broadband, so a new codec is needed for widespread use. This is called High Efficiency Video Coding, or HEVC, and was recently adopted as the H.265 standard. HEVC is significantly more efficient than the previous generation H.264 video codec, also known as Advanced Video Coding, or AVC. HEVC offers the same quality at greatly reduced (30-50%) bandwidth and storage, or much higher quality at similar bandwidths. Said more simply, when using HEVC, you can stream 1080p video at half the bandwidth previously needed, and 4K video at the current bandwidth you use for 1080p. That’s game changing. There’s other benefits to HEVC like richer colors. If you’re thinking of buying a 4K TV today, make sure it has two both HDMI version 2.0 and HDCP 2.2. Trust me. TVs are just starting to become available that meet the 4K requirements, and Netflix is already streaming 4K content using HEVC. So the shift is occurring right now, but we’re in the very early days. Q: What are some of the best file formats to use in terms of music and video on our devices and what are some things to think about when making a choice? A: Media codecs and formats are pretty confusing. Most of the time, it’s not something that your typical consumer would care about. Most people don’t understand the difference between formats and codecs because the terms are often used interchangeably. Different file formats support specific types of audio and video. Let’s take an MP4 file that has a .m4v or .mp4 file extension. This file uses the MP4 file format and is also called a media “container.” This container holds compressed video and audio streams. The video is encoded with H.264 and the audio is encoded with AAC, or Advanced Video Coding. The MP4 format was just recently updated to support H.265/HEVC video, but companies like Microsoft and Apple will need to update their MP4 implementations to support H.265/HEVC as defined by the standard. For music, consider an MP3 file that has a .mp3 file extension. This is an example of why the difference between a file format and codec are hard to distinguish. MP3 is both a file format and an audio codec. There are different levels of fidelity for both the video and the audio. For video, most people are familiar with the resolution such as 480p, 720p or 1080p, but there is also a frame rate which is the number of video frames that are shown every second. This is most commonly 30 frames-per-second (fps) or 60fps. Motion pictures are almost always 24fps. It would take much longer to explain why there are different frame rates – perhaps during another interview. A good measure that people would be most familiar with is a Blue-Ray movie. These movies are almost always use the MP4 container with H.264 video with 1080p resolution and 24fps. For audio, most people are familiar with the bitrate such as 128Kbps, 192Kbps or higher. iTunes for example encodes their MP3 files at 192Kbps, but that’s not the whole story. The more interesting question to ask is at what rate (how many times per-second, which is also called Hertz or Hz) did the audio get sampled, and for each audio sample, how many bits of information get stored? A good measure that people would be most familiar with is a CD. The audio on a CD is uncompressed and sampled at 44.1Khz (that’s 44,100 times per-second) with each sample using 16bits of data, resulting in a bitrate of about 1Mbps. Because the standard for CD audio is 44.1KHz/16bit, nearly all ubiquitous digital files use this, but compress the audio so the files are much smaller. iTunes MP3 files are 44.1KHz/16bit, but the bitrate is so much lower (192Kbps) because the audio is compressed with MP3, and MP3 gets that compression at the expense of fidelity. As I’m sure most of your readers would attest, CD audio sounds better than an MP3 downloaded from iTunes. Dolby Digital HD audio is sampled at 96KHz/24bit, which is much higher fidelity than CD. If you could find digital audio files with higher fidelity like 96KHz/24bit, you wouldn’t be able to hear that difference on an iPod – you would need a higher end system that has the right digital components. Q: What are some interesting ways to use the “Play To” feature in Windows? A: My favorite use is to watch videos from the web on my Xbox. From my laptop or tablet with Windows 8.1, whenever I’m watching a web video, I swipe out the Charms bar from the right edge of the screen (or use Windows key + C), tap Devices, then Play. Here you’ll see your Xbox 360 or Xbox One. When you choose your Xbox, the video plays on the big screen. You can then use your laptop or tablet like a remote control. [Editorial note – there is a video of this in action here: scroll down to the Devices charm.] We want to thank Gabe for taking time out of his busy scheduled to meet with us and share his insight into his role at Microsoft. We hope this interview provided insight into Microsoft’s Media & Devices. Thanks again for being a loyal reader of our Predictably Better newsletter. We’ll be back next month!

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