“Hey yourname” from earthlink.net emails – spam

Just a quick post to show you some spam emails I’ve been receiving. My fantastic spam filter (http://www.ctscleanmail.com/) has been quarantining this stuff, but the subject AND the fact they are coming from the same domain name earthlink.net made me curious enough to do a little more research.

Spam list earhlink.net

Spam list earhlink.net




A quick internet search shows that while earthlink.net is a valid email provider, it has been known to have issues with spam from user’s accounts in the past, especially spam that has been coded to include your name in the subject. See this July 2011 blog post http://blog.onlymyemail.com/endless-spam-from-earthlink/

So, delete I go! Moral of the story: Don’t trust emails just because someone has mentioned your name.



To the cloud .. or not? (A personal account)

To the cloud .. or not? (A personal account)

This isn’t intended as a comprehensive argument on how to evaluate if Cloud Computing is right for you or not.  I’ve written it to show where we use Cloud Computing in our own business, and where we don’t.  As most of my readers aren’t IT Providers, you may find something relevant in this, or you may not.  But I’m a firm believer in recommending the best solution to a client for their individual needs, so our own decision on Cloud Computing has been based on our current business needs.

To the Cloud … Website, System Monitoring, Ticketing & Job Management

Website – We have our own server, and it currently hosts our http://www.ctaspley.com.au website (as at Feb 2012).  We did this because we could, when we started our business nearly 8 years ago. It gave us full control of the website and a chance to practice with website publishing, in an environment that wasn’t too critical (and was backed up).  Since then, our franchise has developed WordPress sites with common themes on a hosted server at another location.  I’m slowly customising (re-writing) the content of those pages and when I’m happy with it, we’ll change our website address to point to this new site.  Our website will then be ‘in the Cloud’ .. so to speak.  The downside? I won’t have full control over all of the design elements. But you know what – I don’t really care. I’m happy with the structure and as long as I can update the content to suit, I don’t need to change the design.  In this case, we are the exception to the rule, as most businesses don’t host their own website anyway.  And if you did want full design control, there are plenty of hosting companies that will let you have that.

System Monitoring –  Now we use some pretty amazing software that monitor’s the health of our client’s computer systems, especially those errors that are screaming silently into the event log. Our access to this is through the Internet to a server managed by a fellow Computer Troubleshooter in New Zealand, who also provides access to North America and the UK.  Whilst the company we buy this software from doesn’t have this internet hosting capability, our NZ group have paved the way for our global franchisees to use this in the Cloud. Once again, I have no control over the server. Once again, I don’t care. As the information on this system is only really useful when it’s real-time, it will re-generate on the current status of the systems when it comes back up.  There are also other monitoring providers that have cloud-based systems as an option (or the only option).

Ticketing & Job Management – Details of our work, including billing hours, are stored in a cloud-based system. This is far more advanced that the previous in-house effort, for a fraction of the cost, plus it has the advantage of the input from thousands of other IT providers in terms of functionality requests, bug reports etc.  At worst, we stand to lose our historical data to some extent – the data centre has hourly backups and offsite backup storage. This information is transferred to our accounting software too, so we have two sources (one in-house, one in-cloud) of our billing information.  And once again, as long as the system works, I’m happy to do the data entry and let the provider take care of the systems administration.

Not in the Cloud … Financial software, Applications, Email and File storage

Financial software –  Our financial software is something that I would have considered using a Cloud-based version of. The problem is that Cloud versions are not compatible with the integration we get from our Job Management software. In English, if I do a job and bill some time, I can transfer that invoice directly to the financial software installed on my PC. I can’t transfer it to a Cloud-based financial system.  So, to save double data entry, the financial software is staying on my PC.

Applications & Email – As an IT Provider, we’re fortunate to get a great deal from Microsoft on their computer software. This includes the latest versions of pretty much anything, so we can use them, learn them and recommend them.  And while some may argue that many Cloud apps are free, I like my Microsoft benefits and most of my clients run Microsoft software too.  It’s a bit hard for me to troubleshoot or duplicate an Outlook\Exchange problem if I use gmail, or a Word problem if I use OpenOffice. Ever heard the term ‘eat your own dog food’?

File storage – Our files are on our server, because we could. Once again, we had the means to have our own server, support it ourselves and experiment with it. Primarily, it provided our email, website, file storage and printing.  We could also experiment with it. So it made little sense to place our file storage in the Cloud, with our local server handling the job quite nicely and also giving us remote access to these files from the Internet anyway.  Yes, it’s backed up.

We did contemplate switching our server to ‘play only’ mode – making it a box that we ran up when we needed it, instead of it being on 24×7. After moving our website, we could have setup a print server box, a Network Attached Storage device (NAS) for our files (or gone Cloud), and moved our email back to our franchise headquarters (as a POP only service, which would have limited some of our functionality).  But we like having a server because it keeps our skills current.

So, as you can see, it is possible to run a mix of in-house and Cloud IT solutions in your business.  You have to weigh up the pros and cons of each, and also look at the big picture. What’s the point in moving to Cloud for email if you still have a server doing file and print?  Where do you think you will save money? If you think that IT support is expensive, have you looked into a Managed Service (with a fixed price and a results focus) instead of support at an hourly rate?

I’m not saying ‘don’t investigate the Cloud’. It’s enabled us with some capabilities that would have been significantly more expensive to do in-house.  And that’s where I think it absolutely rocks for small businesses.

If you want to look at Cloud Computing, make an informed decision that looks at the bigger picture of your business needs, your current IT infrastructure and your support costs.  Whatever route you decide to go, as long as it supports and enhances those three principles, you’ll be on the right track.

Cloud computing picture


How to save yourself after accidentally deleting an email folder on your iPhone

In the tradition of ‘physician, heal thyself’, I’ll come clean and confess to a slight user error with my iPhone. I will also let you in on the secret of how I recovered from it, which you may also be able to do WITHOUT calling your IT department.

So, this iPhone thing is all new to me. I’m usually an early adopter, but my HTC phone was still under contract when the first iPhone came out and then I procrastinated about the iPhone vs Windows Phone debate so I managed to launch straight into a 4S.  Setting it up was rather straighforward – until I tried to add another email account.  Said second email account is on a server that isn’t mine, and all I had was a wedmail address & the login details.  I can figure this out, surely.

Well, partway through, I got confused. See, if you add a New Mailbox into an existing account, that New Mailbox has an icon that makes it look just like a folder. And if you already have an existing folder with exactly the same name, and you decide to delete the New Mailbox cause you’ve put it in the wrong place, you may accidentally delete your folder. Even when it warns you that you are deleting the contents too, you click ok, cause you think you are deleting the new, incorrect Mailbox. Ooops.

If that whole last paragraph lost you completely – ignore it.  Pretend for a moment that you’ve just managed to accidentally delete an entire folder out of your email account including it’s contents, on your iPhone.  Ooops.

Having such great connectivity meant that my iPhone had already told my actual mailbox on our Microsoft Exchange email server that yes, I really did want to delete that folder and all of it’s contents.  Gulp.  However, my saving grace was my Microsoft Outlook offline storage file (OST).  Sitting dormant on my powered-off laptop, this little gem of a file had not talked to my server yet and had no idea that I wanted to delete that folder. And all of it’s contents.  So, here’s the magic trick:

I started up my laptop with it connected to the LAN and I logged in.  (It was quicker to do this connected than to wait for the laptop to realise it had no network and had to used my local info.)   I then DISABLED my Wi-Fi connection and UNPLUGGED my LAN cable.  The I started Outlook.  Outlook was sad that it had no connection to the Exchange server, but it happily displayed the cached, offline copy of my mailfile, including my deleted folder. And all of it’s contents.  #joy!

In Outlook, I then made a COPY of this folder (and it’s contents) to another location within my mailfile and gave it a new name.  Then I plugged in my LAN cable.

Outlook greeted the Exchange server, received the request to delete the orginal folder and sent back a request to please create a new folder in a new location with this new name and a copy of all of the contents, which is just what I had done when my Outlook client was disconnected.  Ta da!!

The folder still lives and so does it’s contents.

Now, don’t roll your eyes at me if you’re a seasoned Exchange Administrator because I’ve just posted something that’s sooo 1997.  This workaround did the trick nicely, is fairly straightforward to do, and might help somebody someday.  Unless they start their Outlook client when they are connected to the network and synchronise the deletion first. That would be bad. Then they might need to call their IT department.