Stories by James E. Gaskin

NAS appliances: Not just raw storage anymore

When we did a roundup of Network Attached Storage devices seven years ago, the products boasted an amazing (for the time) 1TB of disk space. This time around, we're testing six units that sport 8TB or larger storage capacities. While the disk space has exploded, the investment remains modest, sometimes at a lower actual dollar figure than the first batch back in 2005.

Supersize your WAN

Six years ago, we tested dual-WAN routers as a way to pump more bandwidth into small businesses that couldn't afford a T-1 and were stuck with relatively slow DSL and cable connections.

Netbooks in the enterprise: Get ready

Netbooks in the enterprise are coming, some observers believe. And whether it takes a year or five for netbooks to catch on in Corporate America, it behooves IT managers to get ready sooner rather than having to clean up a mess later on.

Clouds now strong enough to support your business

Technology makes life easier for small businesses, even if you can't see that while cursing your personal computer for some problem or another today. Not only have hardware costs dropped by an order of magnitude over the past two decades, you can now run your business quite well without any hardware beyond one laptop or netbook for every employee. The fuzzily-named “cloud” can support your business without any local hardware. And when you do want local hardware appliances, they should be tied into the cloud as well for disaster recovery support.

Backup here, backup there, backup everywhere

Nag, nag, nag is what I feel like sometimes when talking about backups, but I'm compelled to help people in spite of themselves. The bottom line is simple: lose data, lose dollars. When you talk about some type of disaster, such as fire or theft of your computer hardware, the survival rate for stricken companies without disaster recovery tools and good backups drops into the “hope and prayer” realm of IT management. So lets talk about ways to insulate your company from disaster by playing like the Boy Scouts and being prepared.

The Wacky World of WiFi

In honor of the 802.11n WiFi standard getting close to arriving after wandering through the desert for 40 years, let's look at wireless. Our focus today is on helping you WiFi better, even if it means doing less WiFi.

To tape or not to tape, that is the question

Mention Shakespeare and everyone spouts "To be or not to be." Mention backup, and the question becomes, "To tape or not to tape?" Is tape dead, or do tape-based backup systems still have a place in the modern small business?

Seven ways to improve your e-mail messages

You are judged by the writing style, tone, language, and mistakes in your e-mails every single day. We're all so optimistic we believe people will overlook our e-mail typos and mistakes, while at the same time we privately label those who send us sloppy e-mails as careless, confused, or ineffective.

Choosing between netbooks and notebooks

What goes up must come down, and lately what's coming down are netbooks, as more and more articles talk about the compact computers disappointing customers. However, we can't blame netbooks for that. We can only blame vendors who overhype and customers who underbuy. Before you buy a smaller, cheaper and less powerful netbook, determine if you need a notebook instead. If so, you can spend about the same money and get more power, albeit in a larger package.

Transferring files without e-mail

E-mail and the Mazda Miata are both great examples of successful products, but they share a similar weakness: neither can carry much baggage. If you want to carry two people in a Miata, you're good. But if each of those folks has a big suitcase, you're in trouble. And if you want to send a file via e-mail that's more than a few megabytes in size, you also need another option. Say hello to FTP (File Transfer Protocol) and the new ways you can use one of the oldest Internet protocols.

Adventures in e-mail marketing

A writer's group I belong to wants to put on a conference this summer. Since I've written about two of the leading e-mail marketing services, Constant Contact and VerticalResponse, I volunteered to manage the messaging process and send out the e-mails. It's been interesting, meaning there's both good and bad details to report, but mostly good in that the messaging part of my job was pretty easy. The non-technical parts got a bit wonky, however, and I have three lessons to pass on.

Full disk encryption comes to workgroups

Losing your laptop can be expensive in three ways. First, you'll spend hundreds or thousands of dollars to replace the hardware. Second, you'll suffer the time and aggravation of restoring your data, all the while hoping you have everything backed up properly. But most expensive? Surviving the backlash and legal consequences of losing customer data, financial records and private company information.

Trends coming together make a plan for small business

George Peppard said as his character Hannibal Smith on The A-Team, "I love it when a plan comes together." Several trends, if not a plan, are coming together in interesting ways in technology for small businesses. Mix equal parts of online applications, netbooks, and constant wireless networking together, and you get new ways to do more work in more places for less money.

Better sales compensation management

Figuring a good sales compensation plan is like making oil and water blend smoothly. Sales people always think management is cheating them out of commissions. Management always thinks sales people are stealing them blind. Owners of smaller companies who manage the sales people themselves often focus on the dollar paid in commission rather than thinking of the associated $20 of company revenue.

Tighten up your customer focus

In sports, successful athletes narrow their focus during crunch time. They may concentrate on footwork, technique or increase their margin for error. Technology providers must do the same thing during tough economic times. You must focus on your customer and nothing but your customer, whether the customer is a consumer, another business, or internal departments needing technology and support.

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