Importance of a VPN

VPN

First let’s start by answering the question, what is a VPN? A VPN is known as a Virtual Private Network. A VPN allows us to connect to our work and have a secure tunnel connection to the office. It can also provide us with a secure way to pass traffic from our smartphone or computer while we are using public WIFI.

Why are either one of these important to us? When you are sitting at home and you are working on your office computer and you use a VPN your computer will act just as it does when you are sitting at your desk. This happens because when you connect the VPN you are basically running a network cable from your office network back to your home. But with the power of the Internet and a VPN connection we don’t need the wire, hence the Virtual Private Network. Once you connect to your office all of your traffic is going through a secure tunnel. This will keep hackers from intercepting your traffic and using it against you or your company. But even more so it allows you if you are a technology person to work on your network and bring up servers just as you would sitting at your desk.

So what can a VPN offer if you are just on your smartphone in a coffee shop? Again the VPN will provide your traffic to be secured from anyone in the coffee shop who might be scanning for Internet traffic. All of you traffic will be going out of your office or home Internet connection. Remember it will act just as if you are sitting at your desk.

Wonder if you don’t have a VPN at home to connect to? Can you still use a VPN and be safer when you are accessing your banking from a public Internet connection? There are many FREE VPN services on the Internet that you can set up an account on and connect to them for that same piece of mind. I found this site for you that has a listing of FREE VPN sites you can use. FREE VPN SITES.

Think of it this way. It will take you one extra step before you access any secure sites on the Internet such as your banking site. You will have to first connect to the VPN then open the sites you want to use. But then again wouldn’t it be easier to just open your car door and run to the mall? None of us would do this, we would first turn off the car and lock the doors. Think of the VPN and locking the door on your Internet traffic.

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Cloud Storage

Cloud Storage

When it comes to cloud storage I often ask myself which one is the best for your day to day working environment? The truth is they all have their own strengths and weaknesses.

As many of you know I work in a public school setting and we are always looking for ways to better serve the students and staff while still maintaining a balance of reliable technology for everyone.

I look at my own cloud storage and find that I am using four main ones. Google Drive for all my school-based work, Onedrive for all of my company work, iCloud for most of my personal work and then DropBox just because I have had it the longest and I still have a lot of my work on their servers. So how do you pick just one?

I have been struggling with this for some time and I think I have found the true direction to guide people in. Use whatever ego system you are working with the most. If you are a 100% Microsoft shop and work in the Office products all of the time then you would use Onedrive. This will allow you to work on files on your computer and then on the road jump into Office 365 and pick up where you left off. If you use Google Apps all the time then use Google Drive. If you are using a Mac most of the time I would suggest iCloud and also suggest buying more storage from Apple. If you use many different apps and don’t relay of web-based apps then I would suggest DropBox or Box. The real trick is to work within the ego system you choose.

At the end of the day, all of the companies out there providing cloud-based storage are very good at what they do. Your work will be safe and sound no matter where you keep it. I would however always suggest using some form of backup. I dump my files onto an external drive for safe keeping. In today’s world, nothing is beyond hacking.

I would love to hear your thoughts on this subject. Drop me a comment and let me know what if any cloud-based storage you may be using?

Posted in Apple, Chromebooks, Cloud Storage, Computers, Education, Internet, Mac, Media, Office 365, Reviews, Technology, Thoughts | Tagged , | Leave a comment

Two Step Authentication 

Keeping your personal data safe from others is always a up hill battle. Seems like everyone and every company is getting hacked these days. Most people don’t even think of securing their own data. How many times I walk into a office to work on a machine and find the password written on a post-it-note and see it sticking to the monitor. Or when I see people sitting in a coffee shop at the mall checking their banking accounts using public WiFi or their cell data just kills me.

I know using Two-Factor Authentication is a pain in the butt but it will be even more of a pain to try to recover money stolen from your bank account. Even more it will be bad for you to apply for that shinny new car you want to have the dealer tell you that you have no credit available. 

In today’s world and with all the having going on it is better to play it safe. I would suggest that you turn on Two-Factor Authentication on all of you personal accounts. I have found I can even use Google Two-Step on many sites. You should even protect your cloud based file storage. 

So check your banking accounts and your credit account today and see if they have a Two-Step you can turn on. At most when you log in you might get a text message with a one time access code that changes each time you check your accounts. You work way to hard for your money. Now you need to work a little more to keep it safe.

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Mac’s In Business

Mac Computers

When I first started my career in the computer field it was all about the PC and the Windows operating system. We would go into a business and set up a Windows Server and Windows Workstations and install Microsoft Office. Mostly everyone in the office was familiar with Windows because that is what they had at home.

Today’s business world is changing. If you are in the IT field now you may walk into an office thinking you will be troubleshooting a PC issue and find an entire office full of Mac’s?  Will you be ready to take on the challenge or will you be running for the door?

I relate this back to our children going to school. I have found more and more school districts using Mac’s in their classroom rooms for one purpose or another. I also see more young people going to college and taking a Mac Book with them. They might also be carrying an iPad and an iPhone. Students become comfortable with using the Apple products and when they leave school they want to stick with the platform.

If you are reading this and you are a technical person I would suggest to start learning the Apple ecosystem.  If you really want to support the Apple clients pick up a Mac Book or to start maybe a second hand newer Mac Mini and begin to learn what makes an Apple computer tick. Chances are you have an iPhone in your pocket right now and maybe even an iPad?

So you may be asking am I a Mac guy? Well, I use Mac’s at home as well as work. But I also use a lot more Windows machines at work then there are Mac’s. But I enjoy both for different reasons. I would like to hear your take on this subject.

 

Posted in Apple, Computers, Education, EducationTech, Mac, Software, Technology, Thoughts | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Wireless Printing The Future Is Here

Wireless Printing

Let me first start by saying my wife and I print very little. With that said, my wife has fallen in love with Groupon’s. Every time she finds on her phone she has to email to herself so that she can print it for the location we are going to. I do like the ones that allow you to show your phone to a clerk and have it read that way. But many times we have to have a sheet of paper to turn it into the location.

I have had an old printer in my office for years. And it has not worked for years. I guess it was more of a fixture than anything else. Even when we were both job searching we would have to go to our local library and pay .15 a sheet to print our resumes. But as I said before we print very little.

Last Saturday when looking at the local Target Ad I found a wireless printer on sale for $50.00. My wife was out the other day so I asked to stop and pick one up. Couldn’t hurt to have a printer in the house.

I opened the HP 2600 All In One this morning and set it up. The wireless didn’t setup as easy as the instructions said.  Once I downloaded the software set up was very simple and easy. I then setup my iPhone with the App from the App Store and I was wireless printing. My wife setup her iPhone and she was printing her Groupon in no time.

With all of us in the world today having wireless devices it makes sense to have a wireless printer in your house. You no longer will have to run to your computer to print something. I will have to play around and see if this printer will do wireless scanning?

Posted in Andriod, Computers, Gadgets, Internet, IPhone, Networking, Printing | Tagged , | Leave a comment

The Power of Google Suite

We all know that Google Suite is the tool for educational institutions everywhere. I think this is because Google started off on the right foot when the allowed all educational institutions to use Google Suite for free. When Microsoft first got into the game they were trying to charge per student. Microsoft then wondered why everyone was not running to 365? I know working for schools for over 20 years that they are strapped for funds. If you can teach typing, spread sheets and presentations for free how can you go wrong? I am with a new school district now and find myself deep into Google Suite once again. I am also proud to say I am a certified Google Admin. Today I will dig into renaming accounts using the balk tool GAM or Google Administration Management. 

Our school still teaches Office and will continue to do so since students need to learn more then one tool. Think of it this way, in shop class we don’t only teach the student to use a hammer. Schools have also embraced Google Chrome books but that thought will be a post for another day. 

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IPad Keyboards

Having a keyboard for an iPad is really just you trying to turn it into a laptop, Right? Not really it is just a way to make the iPad easier to use to create content. The only issue I have ever found with iPad keyboards are that most of them are not very good. I bought a keyboard that is blue tooth and sits away from the iPad. I find these keyboards are more like a normal keyboard in that the keys have some travel room. The ones like the picture above really have no travel on the keys. If feels like you are typing on a table top. I have also found most of those keyboards have very small keys. The best one I have seen and I can’t afford it is the clam shell cases. They turn your iPad into a MacBook Air look alike. From what I hear they are very good and allowing you to type just as you would on a normal laptop. The bottom line is buy and try. If you buy from Amazon you can always return it if it just does not feel right.

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Google Chromebook or Windows Cloudbook

ChromebookorCloudbook

I have been reading across the web that Microsoft is releasing a Chromebook killer their words not mine on May 2, 2017. Will this be a knife in the side of Google or a knife in the side of IT Administrator in schools trying to rush to buy this new product? I wanted to give you my thoughts from the IT Administrator side. I have been working in the IT field in education for the past 20 years. Again these are my views on the subject.

I have been using Microsoft products since I started in computers some 30 years ago. I have watched the company struggle to innovate on every level. I am not saying their software is not great, I am saying they normally are not the first ones to the table or playing field. Does anyone remember Bill Gates saying “The Internet is just a Fad”? Well that statement didn’t work out to well. To catch up to other big players in the Internet field Microsoft began to give Internet Explorer away with Windows. If you can’t build something better then NetScape, just giving yours away and try to crush the computation.

Now let’s move forward some 20+ years. Google releases a Chromebook, at first not a promising product. I remember watching their product release and the Chromebook didn’t boot well and sometimes hung when trying to use it. After some years of work and getting the Chromebook to shine they started getting the attention of people like me, IT Administrators in schools. Why not give this device a try? Google has been supplying our education market for years with Google Apps and FREE email services, which I jumped on that wagon 15 years ago. This is a company that is building on a foundation and building slow and steady. Now let’s jump to today.

Now on May 2, 2017 it is said that Microsoft will launch a Chromebook killer? Microsoft has always tried to do this build off of everyone’s success. Remember they don’t innovate! I really don’t think the schools that have adopted the Chromebook will drop them to run back to Microsoft. I also don’t think that a brand new product to hit the market will be accepted with open arms by very many IT Administrators in schools. Will they get a few nibbles? Maybe? But I know the field well and I know the people doing this very stressful job and none of them need or want a new player in the field of Internet based devices.

A final thought on market share for education. The Chromebook has played a major role on cutting Apple and Microsoft into lower shares of the education market. Is it only price that sets these devices apart? I as a person who has had the pleasure of managing Chromebooks have to say it is also the ease of administration. I can go into one web based console and manage every aspect of the Chromebook. Recently we looked at changing from iPad’s to Chromebooks as a budget move. In our final minutes of crunching numbers Apple made a smart move, they lowered the price of the iPad. This will help them maintain some market share. Microsoft made a move such as this a few years ago by giving Office 365 to education for FREE. This will keep office products in the reach of shrinking budgets across education. But bringing a Cloudbook to the education market might just prove to be a little late to the game? Anyone remember the Windows Phone?

Posted in Cell Phones, Chromebooks, Computers, Education, EducationTech, Google Apps, IPad, Office 365, Surface, Technology, Thoughts | Leave a comment

Network Cables Are Not All Equal

Network Cables

If you are new to networking or even if you are an old hand at running networks you might be missing out on a very important piece of information? All network cables are not created equal. As we build our networks and expend the amount of data speed we want to achieve with new switches and faster wireless you may find your network at the end points not getting the total speed you thought you should be getting. When most networks were installed using Cat 5 cable we were hitting speeds of 100 MBS. And the gear at the time was only hitting a maximum of 100 MBS. Now we fast forward to today’s gear and we are pushing 1000 MBS or 1 GIG connections. I have seen this at many sites over the years. New switches are purchased and new wireless access points are but into place and we find at the end points we are getting much lower speeds then expected. I have seen young techs go back and look over their config files and tune everything they can and they still only pull the slower speeds. In reality the bottle neck is in their cabling. Cat 5 cable was only rated to carry 100 MBS so no matter what you do to your gear the cables can’t handle the traffic. If you have Cat 5e you can handle 1000 MBS.  If it is only Cat 5 then step up to Cat 6 which can handle speeds up to 1000 MBS or 1 GIG.  And if you are rewiring and thinking about the long term then have Cat 6a installed it will handle up to 10 GIG connections. Use this chart I found on the net as your guide if you are planning to rewire your network it will save you time and money knowing the exact cable you are having installed. Also always remember to be careful of your total length of the runs.

Cable Chart

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Network Switching

Networking Gear

Network Switching gear has been around for ages now. It is the backbone that runs every network large and small. I have been a Cisco guy for years. I understand the way that Cisco wants you to setup your VLAN’s as well as setting up ports for security. I recently started programming a new line of switches from another company. When I first began to program I tried my normal Cisco commands and quickly found out that the commands would not work. Then I started researching on Google for programming using this companies IOS. I quickly learned one thing important. The commands were different but the basic idea of laying out VLAN’s and configuring ports held to the same understanding from my Cisco training. It is sort of like programming, once you learn one language it is easy to allow your mind to see the code and write using any coding language out there. I always tell everyone that has ever worked with me. Don’t ever think that you can’t do it because it is different. Always set out to do your best and give it your all. So now after programming ten of these new switches I have the commands down and I am on my way to building a new high speed 10 GB network. I live by the Can Do Attitude! If it computes then I can and will fix it.

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