Thanks for visiting us online! Here’s where we sort through the infinite memory dump on technology information for what we feel will be of most interest to our clients.
This will be a compilation of anecdotes assembled from our consulting encounters, emails and calls from clients, and research and reading on the web.
After working over 20 years in high-reliability space and medical software development, I’ve come to appreciate the importance the KISS (Keep it Simple, Stupid) principle. With regards to backups, high-reliability is crucial and I’ve seen too many proprietary backup tools fail when they’re needed most (during a critical restoration). We do use proprietary backup tools, but we almost always combine them with a low tech system of simply copying files to a backup destination (typically an external or NAS hard drive). These file copies do not require proprietary software to view or restore, and thus can be easily opened on almost any system.
Although the core technology is low tech (simple file copies), behind the scenes we utilize high tech tools to improve the reliability further, increase efficiency, and to support flexible scheduling. Microsoft’s “shadowcopy” technology allows us to take a snapshot of files at an instant in time, often supporting the backup of open files (such as Outlook email files). We also use Microsoft software which copies multiple files at the same time and which only copies files that have changed, thus allowing backups to run much faster (this becomes critical when backing up Gigabytes of files, particularly when these are going over a slow VPN!). Finally, custom scripts allow us to save to any combination of daily, weekly and monthly backups, and to maintain detailed backup logs that tell us exactly how well the backup is functioning.
Using simple file copies for backups is only one component of our backup strategy, but it’s the one that’s almost always present, simply because it’s so bullet-proof. Sometimes, low-tech paves the way to simpler, more flexible and in the end, more reliable systems.
“Cloud Services” like hosted Exchange are beginning to offer most of the advantages offered by in-house servers, and generally at substantial cost savings. With this, as with any major change in IT infrastructure, it is important to look closely at the upside and downside of the change. We would like to share a dialogue held recently with one of our customers about migrating from a conventional email host to Microsoft 365 online. We have also moved clients to hosted Exchange solutions with GoDaddy, Mailstreet and RackSpace:
- What are the major advantages of a hosted Exchange email server compared to our current POP mail server on XYZ Internet Services?The main advantages of 365 Online Hosted Exchange are synchronization, automatic backup, improved webmail, and a larger mailbox size. Synchronization means that no matter what device you use to access mail you see the same mailboxes, contacts and calendar. Exchange email is also displayed more completely on an iPhone or Android device than regular POP mail. Automatic backup is important because the local Outlook files on your computer, called PST files, can be large and hard to back up. With hosted Exchange, you can rely on the enterprise-level backups carried out by the host. If you do need to restore a PST file, the process is more complicated that reconnecting to your Exchange mailbox. Outlook webmail, called Outlook Web Access, is preferred by most Outlook users to the webmail email interfaces offered by Internet Service Providers like XYZ Internet Services. A larger mailbox may only be an issue when comparing Microsoft hosted Exchange (also called 365 online) to other hosted Exchange platforms. Other hosts typically limit storage to 1gb to 4 gb. The Microsoft 365 Online hosted Exchange plan 25 gb of storage per mailbox at a very reasonable monthly rate.
- How will hosting my email on Exchange affect my email marketing campaigns managed through my ISP or by a third-party email marketing service?ENewsletters and other email marketing campaigns typically sent out email to thousands or even hundreds of thousands of recipients of a single message. Hosted exchange plans will not permit this type of mass mailing. However, your email marketing provider can work around this issue. They can alias an outbound message that will appear to a recipient as if it is being sent by firstname.lastname@example.org, for example, even if the message is not going out via the Exchange server. If you would like to be able to receive replies sent to email@example.com, you can create a virtual mailbox called a distribution group, and route that email to any of the real mailboxes in your Exchange email system. You may want to set up a mailbox for a representative of your email marketing provider in order for them to more easily maintain your marketing lists, monitor replies, etc.
- How will moving my email to Microsoft 365 Online hosted Exchange affect my relationship with XYZ Internet Services?We can’t answer that question completely—you would probably need to discuss that with them directly. However, we can say that most likely hosting email is a side venture for XYZ Internet Services offered largely as a customer convenience. Assuming it doesn’t interfere with their primary service to you as your marketing consultant, they will likely be fine with it. If they are committed to keeping your email business, and they are not able to offer comparable services to the hosted Exchange plan offered by Microsoft, it is easy to become an email reseller with MS and we have no objection to purchasing your plan with XYZ Internet Services as the partner of record rather than Leschi Consultants. There is a migration process from your existing email setup to Exchange. Again, this is something that we would be glad to help with, or perhaps XYZ Internet Services would prefer to offer that service as well.
“I’ve really enjoyed working with Larry and Rick on our computer makeover project. They have been excellent at explaining our options and planning every step of the project. As a result things went very smoothly and our efficiencies have significantly increased. They are always quick to respond when a problem shows up, and all of our managers report excellent service from them. Leschi Consultants has helped me make good decisions on technology and they are great at keeping our systems running smoothly.”
Staci Molzahn, CFO
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We made more changes in our technology infrastructure during four months last year than in the previous 10 years put together. After the first month I realized that I could rely on Leschi Consultants to pull the pieces together just as carefully as if I did it myself–except that I don’t have the time, the knowledge or the detail focus for the project. Larry and Rick kept us moving ahead through every phase of the project without significant downtime.
–Mike Rooney, Executive Direction, Mt. Baker Housing Association
See more about how Mt. Baker Housing Association innovates within the affordable housing industry at www.mtbakerhousing.org
“Leschi Consultants has been an excellent resource to our 100+ satellite offices for the past four years. Their staff knows our program types and our software and hardware needs. They work both on site and remotely and they are always patient with our users. If there are costs involved over our expectations, they always ask for approval before purchasing fixes. They have helped us obtain PC systems at a discount, they are reasonable with their pricing; they make good recommendations and communicate well. We have a great business relationship and we would be lost without their assistance.”
–Patricia Smith, IT Program Specialist, Quantum Management Services
“Rick and Larry from Leschi Consultants are the best IT people I’ve ever worked with. First of all, they actually like working with people and not just machines. Beyond that, they appreciate that I really don’t like technology. They make things work, and they do it in a way that’s easy to use without costing me a fortune.”
–David A. Gagley, Principle
The Gagley Law Firm (www.gagleylaw.com) offers estate planning and personal injury services in Kent, Washington; they actually publish fees for common legal services.
“I’ve been in the restaurant business for a long time. I help owners identify promising opportunities, launch those businesses successfully, and run them profitably. I know the restaurant business, but I don’t know computers. Larry Faust has designed a system that puts the information I need at my fingertips. If anything goes down I know I can call him, and within an hour or two everything will be working again. I feel very confident recommending Leschi Consultants to my clients.”
See more about how Arnold Shain helps restaurants become profitable at www.restaurantgroup.com
We never forget that our job is to support computer users and help them work efficiently and successfully. We take care of your employees in a friendly, respectful way designed to reduce their CSI (computer stress index).
Rick and Larry from Leschi Consultants are the best IT people I’ve ever worked with. First of all, they actually like working with people. Beyond that, they appreciate that I really don’t like technology. They make things work, and they do it in a way that’s easy to use without costing me a fortune.
We approach technology the perspective of business function and cost-effectiveness, not selling clients on technology that is more complex than what they need. The result: Cost-effective IT systems that fit your needs.
Business Oriented/Smith quote: Leschi Consultants has been an excellent resource to our 100+ satellite offices for the past four years. Their staff know our program types and our software and hardware needs. They work both on site and remotely and they are always patient with our users. If there are costs involved over our expectations, they always ask for approval before purchasing fixes. They have helped us obtain PC systems at a discount, they are reasonable with their pricing; they make good recommendations and communicate well. We have a great business relationship and we would be lost without their assistance.