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Bringing Those Services Back Home

Ben Erickson  June 28 2022 10:52:04 AM
Ben Erickson
Do you have services running in the cloud? Sure, almost everyone does nowadays. Sometimes it even makes sense. One example is for your "second backup" where you have your critical data backed up on-site and to a cloud service for your off-site backup so a disaster can't wipe all of them out in one swipe.

However, the industry trend to put everything (except maybe for the kitchen sink... but time will tell!) into the cloud is deeply concerning. As a Value Added Reseller for many hardware and software products, I get this marketing all the time from my vendors and distributors. Several times a year, I see products that used to be a one-time purchase turned into a subscription. The "current" of that "river" is very strong because their accounting people love that recurring subscription revenue.

However, what's best for the vendors is not always what's best for my clients. So I often swim upstream. It's a challenge, but it's also very rewarding! Because what's good for my clients is what's good for us as a business. Up here, people seem to get the importance of truly owning their infrastructure more than in other places. But the discontinuing of established products in favor of subscription services and their continual marketing can take its toll.

So let I want to tell the other side of the story. A couple of weeks ago, a client contacted me about their security camera system. Like many other cloud services, the ability to view their cameras stopped working because the vendor discontinued that cloud service.


Image:Bringing Those Services Back Home

The client had put a lot of money into that camera system, but because of a decision made by some C-level person far away, they were no longer able to view their camera footage. This actually happens pretty frequently these days, where cloud services stop making financial sense for the vendor so they are discontinued. But what about what makes financial sense for the customers? The investment and data of the subscribers are sacrificed.

What happened? I was able to salvage my client's investment by disconnecting it from the cloud and re-configuring the cameras and the digital recorder to instead function through a direct network connection. Now they can continue to use their equipment they purchased into the future as long as it makes sense for them to do that.

So many times people feel like there is no choice. But there is always a choice, and there are alternatives out there. Don't be bullied into renting when you want to own. Don't be bullied into giving up your control and housing your private data with a company that just wants to mine and sell it- until it's no longer profitable for them to do so. Let us help you bring those services back home.
Give us a call, we would love to help!

Our Partnership with APC

Ben Erickson  June 15 2022 02:56:08 PM
Ben Erickson
One of the most important things you can do to protect and and enhance your IT equipment is to protect it from electrical utility surges, sags, voltage fluctuations, and unexpected outages. We have over 19 years of experience with different vendors in this area. Every circumstance is different and supply chain issues sometimes dictate what's available.

However, the industry gold standard and our preferred recommendation is the APC by Schneider Electric lines of surge protectors and uninterruptible power supplies (a.k.a. UPS). We can help you protect your investment in computers, network equipment, security cameras, printers, fax machines, etc from losing power causing data corruption on the one hand and getting damaged or outright fried on the other. We are trained, certified, and experienced in selling and implementing these products for our customers. We are an APC Select Partner (find us
here on their website). Give us a call for your power protection needs!

Image:Our Partnership with APC

    Bonners Ferry Chamber of Commerce

    Ben Erickson  May 20 2022 11:28:23 AM
    Ben Erickson
    Trusted Computer Consulting, LLC is now a member of the Bonners Ferry Chamber of Commerce! I'm looking forward to the upcoming Meet & Greet next Thursday. See you there!

    Image:Bonners Ferry Chamber of Commerce

      Happy New Year 2022!

      Ben Erickson  January 1 2022 02:29:31 PM
      Ben Erickson
      Image:Happy New Year 2022!

      Windows 11 First Impressions- and a Brief History of Microsoft OS’s

      Ben Erickson  October 21 2021 01:13:11 PM
      Ben Erickson
      Tech people tend to be aggressive upgraders. There's a reason for that- we know how to fix stuff if the upgrade goes sideways. That means the normal stress/fear/problem aversion response is lessened and the potential pros outweigh the potential cons. Business owners and people who are  "Getting Things Done®" (big fan here) tend to be more conservative because productivity is more important than following trends. As someone running a tech business, I often feel the tug in both directions. Usually what happens is I end up leaning on my experience of knowing which software companies are more likely to put out quality products out of the box and make a judgement call based on that. Having said that, I probably lean more heavily on my business instincts than my techy instincts on the balance.

      Image:Windows 11 First Impressions- and a Brief History of Microsoft OS’s

      Windows 11 is here. It's not coming in preview, it's not beta, it's Released to Manufacturing (RTM), Generally Available (GA) software. The last few years, Microsoft releases have been sketchy, but in this case, here we go anyway- the tech side of me wins. I've written about this aspect before, but if you're noticing many similarities on first glance with MacOS 11 (a.k.a. Big Sur), you're not far off the mark. In true Microsoft fashion, and true to their roots, they have copied some great aspects of MacOS from their primary competitor in the Desktop OS space, Apple Inc. That may sound like a criticism, but it's not really. If I wanted to write a criticism of Microsoft's business practices (don't tempt me, haha!) that would be a completely different kind of article. Instead, I want to write a positive article about some of the changes they've made for the better and some gotchas to know about. But first some history.

      Windows XP (and it's server-side cousin, Windows Server 2003) was probably the best Windows OS (for its time) that Microsoft has made in terms of functionality, ease of use, and esthetics (and yes, esthetics are important). It was a big improvement from Windows 2000 in almost every way. Users were happy. Admins were happy. Then came the Vista/Windows Server 2008 debacle. This was a major disaster for Microsoft, mostly due to app, hardware, and driver compatibility issues- not to mention the introduction of user account control (UAC). Look, as a big security guy, I'm not going to bash UAC too much. It's a basic security speed bump that was needed. Yes, it can be bypassed but it takes a lot of work. But its main problem was constantly asking for permission to do things people were used to doing without being asked, "Are you sure?", and people hated it. Microsoft wants to forget about Vista, and they want you to forget about it, too.


      Then came Windows 7 / Windows Server 2008 R2. They re-branded Vista and made the UAC feature a little less annoying. People hated Vista so much, they ran into Windows 7's arms full-speed not noticing it was basically a re-branding effort. People still love Windows 7. There are a lot of Windows 7 hold-outs buying Extended Security Updates (ESU's)- talk to us if you need them- running Windows 7 safely is still a reality in 2021. After Windows 7 came Windows 8 (naturally) and it's server-side cousin Windows Server 2012. Windows 8 was another disaster for Microsoft- and for good reason. They took the start menu away and introduced a flat, tiled square style of apps (called Metro apps). Colorful, 3-D curved windows became lifeless, drab boxes. Windows 8 became another OS MS wanted to drop down the memory hole. It was so bad they had to release a Windows 8.1 (first time since Windows 3.1) just to bring the start menu back.


      Then, in 2015 they released Windows 9. What? They didn't? Why wouldn't they? That's how bad Windows 8 was, folks. They had to skip a version number for marketing reasons. They needed more distance from the monstrosity that was Windows 8. So like I was saying, in 2015 they released Windows 10 and Windows Server 2016. Was it very different from Windows 8? Did they change much under the hood? No. They just gave it a new paint job and skipped a version number. But even the paint job was a meagre effort. Truthfully, Windows 10 was really Windows 8.2. Yes, there were some under-the-hood changes that were begun at that time. The control panel began slowly to be replaced with the Settings app. More apps got metro-ized. But marketing can overcome all problems, seemingly.

      Back to the present
      - the Windows 11 roll out began about two weeks ago. I've recently began to use it as my daily driver. My first impressions are surprisingly positive. As someone who uses MacOS regularly along with Linux and Windows, the similarities I alluded to are glaringly obvious, but at the same time a big improvement. What I think they've got here is a Microsoft OS people can live with again, not unlike Windows XP and Windows 7 were. It looks nice on today's modern monitors with more thought and attention given to high-DPI display scenarios. Application windows are curved once again. They finally killed tiles (good riddance!). And they also fixed two of my main criticisms of the Windows 10 Settings metro app- (1) it finally feels as if it's feature complete- I don't have to go to the control panel much anymore; and (2) it's not that terribly ugly anymore. In short, beautiful is back.


      Image:Windows 11 First Impressions- and a Brief History of Microsoft OS’s

      Microsoft has finally killed the Snipping Tool, as they have threatened to for a few years. They did it by renaming the new metro-ized Snip & Sketch to... Snipping Tool! If you want the old one back, after the upgrade, you can copy the old files, SnippingTool.exe and SnippingTool.exe.mui from their Windows.old folder back to where they used to be, but please don't do this unless you know what you're doing, nor without a backup. Other than that, the entire user interface has been greatly improved. Right-click context menus, folder icons, application icons, the taskbar, the start menu, widgets, the aforementioned Settings app- they're all vastly improved in look & feel (including shadowing and transparency) and responsiveness.

      Microsoft Windows- for businesses it's often a "can't live with it, can't live without it" situation. But in this case, they've walked back many of the bad design decisions of the past, bringing back a comfortable user experience. If your business is ready for a desktop refresh, this could be a great time for that because additionally- from a
      security perspective, Desktop hardware has now reached a point where AMD's Zen 2 processors are well available to the hardware manufacturers. We have active relationships with three excellent distributors, so we can get what you need fast. Whether you need the expertise to keep what you have running smoothly or navigate these uncertain winds and waters of change- we would be honored to serve you. Give us a call today- we'll answer it!

        We Are Now Officially an Idaho LLC

        Ben Erickson  September 15 2021 10:29:35 AM
        Ben Erickson
        I am pleased to announce that Trusted Computer Consulting, LLC is now a domesticated LLC in Idaho! We moved our home here earlier this year from Oregon and have an office at The Plaza Downtown in Bonners Ferry. We're very excited to be living in this great part of the country, getting to know all of the wonderful folks here, and doing business here now as well. And as of this morning, the Idaho Secretary of State search says we're official! =)

        Image:We Are Now Officially an Idaho LLC

        I look forward to meeting fellow business owners and professionals in person and having a proper face-to-face introduction. Here and now, I can tell you that I've been involved with computers since I was 6 or 7 years old, when I was playing text-based computer games (
        Zork!) on the family Commodore 64 and writing some games too. I've been working in the field professionally since 2003. I got my Associates Degree in Computer Networking from Empire College in 2004 and my Bachelors Degree in Information Technology from University of Phoenix in 2010. Also in 2010, I started Trusted Computer Consulting with my wife, Anni, who handles scheduling and other back office functions.

        Throughout the years, we've focused on providing professional IT services for small and medium-size businesses. We provide hardware and software support on Windows PCs and servers, Macs, Unix and Linux servers, and all of the routers, switches, wireless access points, printers, etc. they are connected to. We love and promote free and open source software, but as a business ourselves, we understand the need to integrate commercial solutions and have a lot of experience supporting them. I hold certifications from Microsoft, Apple, CompTIA, Cisco, VMware, and Acronis and resell their products. We have relationships with multiple distributors so we can get you the equipment you need quickly and we have the know-how to get you off of the planned obsolescence treadmill.

        What are our defining characteristics?

        We are professional.
        We treat our clients with respect.
        We answer our phones.
        We are prompt.
        We are responsive.
        We care.

        To get in touch with us, just
        give us a call. We look forward to serving you!

        Windows 11: Wiindows 10 Is Not The Last Version of Windows Anymore

        Ben Erickson  July 7 2021 07:12:31 AM
        Ben Erickson
        Wasn't Windows 10 supposed to be the "last version of Windows"?

        Image:Windows 11: Wiindows 10 Is Not The Last Version of Windows Anymore

        This idea was always kind of funny to me because even in any sense that this was ever  true, it  was really just an exercise in branding and changing how the versioning worked. Since 2015, new "versions" (or really what we used to call Service Packs) of Windows still came at a regular cadence but they were renamed to "builds" and "feature updates" such as "Windows 10 1909".

        But seriously, what was meant by this? Lots of the articles you may be reading are spinning this as a reference to how Windows software is now being delivered "as a service", or SaaS. But really it was even less significant than that.

        Well the original comment that the tech media grabbed onto was kind of a throwaway, segue statement at the Microsoft Ignite conference in 2015. The speaker was Jerry Nixon, a "developer evangelist". Not a CEO, product manager, or any kind of corporate spokesman.

        He said, "Right now we're releasing Windows 10, and because Windows 10 is the last version of Windows, we're all still working on Windows 10."  You can catch the comment in the recording of his talk
        here (for the context, listen from 14:52 to 15:52 of the video). If you listen to his comment in context, it's clear what Nixon meant was that Windows 10 was the latest (current) version of Windows, not the "last version of windows ever" that the tech media bots and AI sound byte consumers made it out to be.

        In fact, later on, when The Verge reached out to Microsoft to officially clarify this, they
        responded, "Recent comments at Ignite about Windows 10 are reflective of the way Windows will be delivered as a service bringing new innovations and updates in an ongoing manner, with continuous value for our consumer and business customers.. We aren’t speaking to future branding at this time... We look forward to a long future of Windows innovations."

        Six years later, enter... Windows 11. What's new in Windows 11? It seems as if it's a facelift when it comes to look and feel so far. And by facelift, I mean ripping off making it look more like MacOS. See for yourself:



        Image:Windows 11: Wiindows 10 Is Not The Last Version of Windows Anymore
        https://www.apple.com/macos/big-sur/

        Image:Windows 11: Wiindows 10 Is Not The Last Version of Windows Anymore
        https://www.microsoft.com/en-us/windows/windows-11

        Most obviously (the elephant in the room), the version numbers now match (Big Sur is Mac OS 11). Further notice how the Windows 11 Task Bar has now looks much like the MacOS Dock. Similarly, they've killed off the whole tile thing and gone back to widgets, just like MacOS. Also see how they've curved the window borders just like Big Sur does.

        What else is new? Well, lots of Windows 10 features are
        going to the recycle bin, for example Timeline and Wallet. And a warning for you Snipping Tool holdouts, it's finally going to be removed in Windows 11. But Snip & Sketch is going to be there, renamed to Snipping Tool. Sneaky, eh?

        Windows 11 will be coming "later this year". Minimum system requirements can be seen
        here. To summarize, almost all PCs manufactured in the last few years should be able to handle it.

        If you are looking to upgrade your business' PCs or just keep them running, we can help with that. At Trusted Computer Consulting, LLC we help fellow small and medium sized businesses better leverage and mange their critical IT infrastructure including their PC's, Macs, Servers, Network and Storage Devices, and more.
        Give us a call today!

        New Version of Our Instant Support App!

        Ben Erickson  May 22 2020 12:54:11 PM
        Ben Erickson
        We are happy to announce a new version for our Instant Support app! It is not only much faster and even more secure than its predecessor, but for the brief moment it is on your screen until the connection is established (faster, remember?), it even looks a bit more dapper, wouldn't you say?

        Image:New Version of Our Instant Support App!

        As we've noted
        earlier, nearly the entire computer support industry has moved to cloud solutions for remote support. You've probably used them before: LogMeIn, GoToMeeting, TeamViewer, WebEx, etc. What do all these have in common? They are web-based and they connect to a third-party provider. This means there is by definition a "man in the middle" that can by definition view everything and do anything with the computer being viewed. This is a big security no-no.

        We have avoided this and always provided direct connections to our client's PCs when we need to go in and fix something. It's super easy: all you have to do is visit our
        support page, and click download program. Once you allow it to run, the (strongly) encrypted connection is made directly to our network and we can help you instantly. When we're done, the connection is closed and since it's a single file you don't have to uninstall anything. You can simply delete it or keep it around in case you need it again.

        Whet's new?

        • Cryptographic Key-based authentication instead of password-based
        • Signed with a Windows Defender-recognized Digital Signature so you only have one "Yes" to click
        • No session ID for us to type in, so you get help faster!
        • Starts with "run as administrator" so you don't have to click anything for us once the session begins

        We hope this provides our clients with a better support experience moving into the future. Especially now while we are doing so much more of our support remotely due to Covid-19 concerns. If you need help with your business' computer network, give us a call today. We're ready to help!

          I Assure You We’re Open

          Ben Erickson  May 12 2020 12:09:13 PM
          Ben Erickson
          Based on current events, some people are wondering, are we open? Long answer first.

          Yes, as a local computer consulting provider, we are on the front lines helping local businesses to create ways for their workers to work from home- maintaining safety from a health as well as a network perspective. We can not close any more than a doctors office or a utility can close because without us, some businesses would be either not operating or operating in an unsafe manner. To adapt, whenever possible, we are doing our work remotely instead of on-site. When on-site work is unavoidable, we are taking care to maintain social distancing and sanitize all equipment we touch before and after use.


          Short answer, please reference this nostalgic scene from simpler times. Clerks (1994). =)


          Image:I Assure You We’re Open
          "...bunch of savages in this town."

            Covid-19 Update from Trusted Computer Consulting LLC

            Ben Erickson  March 25 2020 09:05:15 AM
            Ben Erickson
            Over the past few weeks, the business landscape has changed due to the global threat that is Covid-19. On March 23, 2020, Governor Kate Brown issued the “Stay Home, Save Lives” Executive Order to flatten the curve of infection rates across the state. Certain types of retail businesses have been ordered to close and others have been restricted in how they conduct their business.

            Other non-retail business with offices within Oregon that remain open have been ordered (effective date today, March 25th) to "facilitate telework and work-at-home by employees, to the maximum extent possible." Further, the order states, "Work in offices is prohibited whenever telework and work-at-home options are available, in light of position duties, availability of teleworking equipment, and network adequacy" (Page 5, "Workplace Restrictions" section, Point 9). Whenever possible, we are doing our work remotely instead of on-site. When on-site work is unavoidable, we are taking care to maintain social distancing at all times and sanitize all equipment we touch before and after use.

            Further, as a local computer consulting provider, we are on the front lines helping local businesses to create ways for their workers to work from home- maintaining safety from a health as well as a network perspective. With a configured VPN combined with the built-in or free remote desktop applications available to Windows and Macintosh computers, most knowledge workers can work from home. We have been helping businesses do this for nearly two decades now. The only difference is that the need now is is greater.

            We all have a responsibility to our families, businesses, and the greater community to reduce the impact of this virus. We can help by configuring your firewall with a VPN to accept only encrypted, authenticated connections from your staff into your network to access their business workstations remotely with all the other network resources just as if they were sitting at their desk. This simple, proven technology configuration requires no third party, no monthly fees, and allows business operations to continue without risking non-compliance with the governor's executive order.

            Please give us a call today so we can help you implement these possibilities for your business.

            Technology and Business Taxes

            Ben Erickson  January 23 2020 07:05:00 AM
            Ben Erickson
            One of the more interesting ways your technology decisions can impact your bottom line is how you capitalize your expenses, which relates to Section 162 of the Internal Revenue Code. By default, you usually have to capitalize and depreciate your major expenses for any tangible property like routers, switches, or servers. Depreciating means you are spreading out the tax effect of that expense over several years instead of the year in which it was purchased. With many technology expenditures, it makes sense (but check with your tax preparer first) to fully expense them in the year they were purchased and have the full benefit of that tax deduction that year.

            What is the de minimis safe harbor election?


            The de minimis safe harbor election is an attachment that is made when filing your taxes which states that as permitted under Section 1.263(a)-1(f), your business will be taking the option to fully expense tangible property purchases up to $2500 (for each tangible item) in the current year. This does not mean you can't capitalize those expenses, it just means that you can do it. If you have an AFS (applicable financial statement, see your tax preparer), then this amount can go up to $5000. Here is a
            link to the IRS Website's web page regarding the de minimis safe harbor election.

            Once again, you'll want to discuss this with your tax preparer, but it's safe to say in general that this option provided by the IRS, when taken advantage of properly, can reduce a lot of administrative overhead and taxes for many small businesses!

            Windows 7’s Last Patch Tuesday, Unless....

            Ben Erickson  January 14 2020 02:40:53 PM
            Ben Erickson
            Today is the last "Patch Tuesday" for Windows 7. Today, the 10-year old operating system reaches the "End of Support" phase of its lifecycle.

            Image:Windows 7’s Last Patch Tuesday, Unless....

            But what about all the businesses that still are running Windows 7 for program compatibility reasons? Yes, many businesses use specific versions of software to run their business. And they need to keep them on Windows 7 because they don't run properly on Windows 10. Businesses are not consumers. They don't simply chase the latest fads. They go with what works- so they can work.

            For those business, there are Extended Security Updates. You can buy them for one year at a time for Windows 7 Professional for $61/year per machine. But you can't buy them directly from Microsoft and you can't get them at any retail stores. They are only available from Microsoft Partners who are also Cloud Solution Providers (CSPs). Like us! =)

            We offer a free initial consultation to find out your needs. We get to know your business and you get to know us. Then we can see what makes most sense for you- migration to Windows 10 or Windows 7 Extended Service Updates. Don't wait-
            call us today!
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