Monthly Archives: January 2014

Something is Wrong With My Browser

ogden_nash_incompatible_quoteI’m sitting at my desk this morning on yet ANOTHER snow day due to sub-zero temperatures outside. Although the snow day is not a particular problem for me, the kids are grown and dealing with their own snow day issues, and I work at home. BUT I am having trouble reaching people this morning. So I did whatever any bored worker does – log in to Facebook. But it’s down!!! Then I got to thinking about our latest customer’s issue…her browser wasn’t displaying pages the way she expected. So, I thought I would give some helpful tips about that.

When a web designer is coding a site (composing the site in a language that the browser can interpret), they will use the most current version to make sure they are compliant with the newest standards. However, as time passes, the standards change. To rewrite the entire site to keep current is an undertaking most companies can not afford. That’s usually not a problem until a couple years pass.

When a website is old, it may contain coding that is no longer supported by the current browser. You may see pictures that are broken up or buttons that don’t work. If you are using the latest version of Internet Explorer (IE), you can switch to Compatibility Mode and see if that helps. Compatibility Mode makes the browser act like its older version, possibly the version the site was originally written under. To find Compatibility Mode, note the version of IE you are using and Google “Compatibility Mode for IE 10” (or whatever version you have). Same thing holds true for other browsers (Firefox, Safari, etc.)

If that doesn’t work, you may have something else wrong. First try to clear your cache and cookies. NOTE: clearing cache and cookies will remove stored logins to your sites where you’ve asked to be kept logged in. Again, Google “clear cache in [your current browser and version]” for instructions.

If that doesn’t work, you may have a virus of some kind. You should probably take it to your favorite techy…Strohm Consulting perhaps??

Oh, and if you want to know if your favorite website is down or not, try this website: www.downrightnow.com. They list several popular site and report known issues.

Do You Really Need to Backup Your Computer?

backupA lot of our IT business comes from people whose computers have crashed – or are about to (running slow, etc). Their first question to us is “Can you get my files?” Thankfully, the answer is quite often yes, but anytime we have to say no, it really hurts. It’s happened to us, so we know! We feel your pain!

Here is an outline of the ins and outs of backups.

How to decide if you need backups.
  • What information do you have on your computer?
  • How much of it can you afford to lose? Think about how long it’s going to take you to recreate all that information.
 What is likelihood that you’ll really need a backup?
  • Loss of data can be caused by a malicious virus that either creates an inability to access your data, or destroys the data entirely. Sometimes you will get symptoms like a noticeable drop in performance (really slow), but not always.
  • Loss can also be cause by the hard drive dying. When that happens you get no warning.
How often do you need to backup?
  • How much work do you want to risk losing?
    • If your computer usage is just personal, and you store everything in the cloud, backing up your settings once a month would be sufficient.
    • If you use your computer occasionally, like once a week, for volunteer committee work, back up those files once a month.
    • If you use your computer every day for volunteer committees, school projects, or working at home, back up those files once a week.
    • If you use your computer ALL day, every day, back up your files every day.
What kind of backup is for you?

Computer to computer: exchanging data files between two or more computers so that each computer has both its contents and the other computer’s.

  • Cost: no additional software or hardware is required. Expect to spend 1 to 2 hours setting it up
  • Pros:
    • It can be scheduled to run at specific times.
  • Cons:
    • Computers need to be networked together
    • Both computers need to be running
    • You need to remember to do it if it’s not scheduled
    • There is only a single set of data backed up and available for retrieval
    • It is not fire/disaster proof

Computer to External Drive: files are written to a “box” that sits on your desk

  • Cost: ~$100 for hardware & software, plus 1 to 2 hours setting it up
  • Pros:
    • Back up destination is always available (not reliant on another computer to be on).
    • Multiple sets of data are available
    • The device can be used as portable storage (think of a huge jump drive)
  • Cons:
    • Extra box on your desk
    • Not easy to share data with other users
    • It is not fire/disaster proof

Computer to Network: backing up contents of computer to a specific network storage device (NSD)

  • Cost: $100 for NSD + $50 for software + 2 hours to install
  • Pros:
    • NSD can also be used to easily share files
    • Backup destination is always available
    • Multiple sets of data are available
  • Cons: It is not fire/disaster proof

Computer to Internet: Backs up data or contents of computer to web-based storage

  • Cost:
    • Free “Personal” Account with a 2 gig limit (any number of computers)
    • $5/month/computer “Personal” Account with unlimited storage
    • $7.50/month/computer “Business” Account with 3 gig storage per computer (more available for additional cost). The business account includes installation, monitoring, and help retrieving data when it’s needed.
  • Pros:
    • It is offsite
    • It is disaster proof
    • It is secure
    • It is in the US
  • Cons: Retrieving files from a web-based service can be time consuming.

 

Here’s Your Website New Year Check List

As you head into 2014, don’t forget to take a look at your website and update it.

  • Start with the date. Update your copyright date. Make sure your calendar of events is updated for the new year. Archive old articles/blogs
  • Take a backup copy of your website. Not only is this a great safeguard, it gives you a history of your website. The frequency of your backup is determined by how often you update your site. Hopefully, you are updating something on your site at least every month (to increase SEO). In that case, a quarterly backup is sufficient. If you update once a week, do a monthly backup. Once a day would mean a weekly backup, etc. If you are updating your website less frequently than once a month, consider adding a regular (weekly or monthly) blog. Fresher sites get higher search results.
  • Review your contact information. Is everyone still there? Are their phone numbers current? Phone extensions? Consider adding a photo of everyone, if you don’t already.
  • Check to make sure all your links are valid, especially external links (those linking to outside sites).
  • Have you had your eye on a new domain name or extension? Now is the time to see if it is available.
  • Review the website itself. Is content still relevant? Did you miss a grammar error last year? Does the design still reflect your company image?
  • Check your website statistics. See how last year compared to previous years. Is it now time to see what steps you can take to increase traffic to your website? Are your meta tags (description, keywords, title) reflecting current business practices? Maybe last year you added a service or product and it needs to be added to your keyword list.

Here’s to a remarkable 2014!

New Year Goal Setting

SMART Goal Setting

or How to Keep Your New Year’s Resolutions!

While some managers would believe it is sufficient to urge employees to ‘do their best’, there are clear contradicting views on this. People who are told to ‘do their best’ will not do so. ‘Doing your best’ has no external reference, which makes it impossible to elicit specific behavior. To reach a goal, it is important that employees have a clear view of what is expected from them. A SMART goal is important because it helps to formulate a clear path to success. However, when goals are established at a management level and simply laid down, employee motivation with regard to achieving these goals is suppressed. In order to increase motivation, the employees not only need to be allowed to participate in the goal setting process, but the goals have to be challenging as well.

The impact of goal setting:

A study of a Yale University graduate glass found that only 3% had written goals. A follow-up 20 years later found that this 3% had a combined wealth exceeding the other 97%.

Everyone will benefit from goals and objectives if they are SMART. SMART, is the instrument to apply in setting your goals and objectives.

S – Specific

Goals should be straightforward and emphasize what you want to happen. Specifics help focus your efforts and clearly define what you are going to do.

Specific is the What, Why, and How of your goals.

• WHAT are you going to do? Use action words such as direct, organize, coordinate, lead, develop, plan, build, etc.
• WHY is this important to do at this time? What do you want to ultimately accomplish?
• HOW are you going to do it? (Do you need to enlist someone’s help, do you know how to overcome the inevitable obstacles, etc.)

Ensure the goals you set are very specific, clear and (if you have more than one goal) range from easy to difficult. Instead of setting a goal to lose weight or be healthier, set a specific goal to lose 2 inches off your waistline or to walk 5 miles at an aerobically challenging pace.

M – Measurable

If you can’t measure it, you can’t manage it. In the broadest sense, the whole goal statement is a measure for the project; if the goal is accomplished, there is success. However, there are usually several short-term or small measurements that can be built into the goal.

Choose a goal with measurable progress, so you can see the change occur. How will you know when you reach your goal? Be specific! “I want to make five new sales before the end of the month” shows the specific target to be measured. “I want to sell more” is not as measurable.

Establish concrete criteria for measuring progress toward the attainment of each goal you set. When you measure your progress, you stay on track, reach your target dates, and experience the exhilaration of achievement that spurs you on to continued effort required to reach your goals.

A – Attainable

When you identify goals that are most important to you, you begin to figure out ways you can make them come true. You develop the attitudes, abilities, skills, and financial capacity to reach them. You begin seeing previously overlooked opportunities to bring yourself closer to the achievement of your goals.

Goals you set which are too far out of your reach, you probably won’t commit to doing. Although you may start with the best of intentions, the knowledge that it’s too much for you means your subconscious will keep reminding you of this fact and will stop you from even giving it your best.

A goal needs to stretch you slightly so you feel you can do it and it will need a real commitment from you. For instance, if you aim to lose 20lbs in one week, we all know that isn’t achievable. But setting a goal to loose 1lb and when you’ve achieved that, aiming to lose a further 1lb, will keep it achievable for you.

The feeling of success which this brings helps you to remain motivated. If you reach your goal you can reset it to something beyond your initial benchmark.

R – Realistic

This is not a synonym for “easy.” Realistic, in this case, means “do-able.” It means that the learning curve is not a vertical slope; that the skills needed to do the work are available; that the project fits with the overall strategy and goals of the organization. A realistic project may push the skills and knowledge of the people working on it but it shouldn’t break them.

Devise a plan or a way of getting there which makes the goal realistic. The goal needs to be realistic for you and where you are at the moment. A goal of never again eating sweets, cakes, and chocolate may not be realistic for someone who really enjoys these foods.

For instance, it may be more realistic to set a goal of eating a piece of fruit each day instead of one sweet item. You can then choose to work towards reducing the amount of sweets gradually, and then this feels realistic for you.

Be sure to set goals that you can attain with some effort! Too difficult and you set the stage for failure, but too low sends the message that you aren’t very capable. Set the bar high enough for a satisfying achievement!

T – Timely

Set a timeframe for the goal: for next week, in three months, by year’s end, by retirement. Putting an end point on your goal gives you a clear target to work towards.

If you don’t set a time, the commitment is too vague. It tends not to happen because you feel you can start at any time. Without a time limit, there’s no urgency to start taking action now.

Time must be measurable, attainable and realistic.

Other tips:
Write it down! Goals that are written are real! Put your goals in a place that you will see regularly (the desktop of your computer, a poster on your wall, your refrigerator, etc.), that helps keep it in the forefront of your thinking.
If you are faced with a decision about production, (I can easily produce 4 widgets an hour, should I go for 5 or 6 as my new goal) go for the harder goal. This will force your mental creativity to come up with alternative ideas to get the job done.
Share your goals with someone (this is important) who will support them. Stay away from naysayers!
If your goal is going to take a year to accomplish, break it down into shorter sections so you can see your progress.
If you have more than one goal: prioritize them – ask “what is most important to focus on for the next 30 days”; stager your due dates; work on the “easier” one first (The simple goals motivate you as you accomplish them rapidly. The difficult goals keep you challenged and growing.); look for ways to combine tasks – take a vacation (one goal) at a wilderness resort where you can take classes in wildlife photography (another goal); strive for balance – don’t set ten career goals and neglect your family and friends.

Keep in mind:
The definition of insanity: Keep doing the same thing, expecting a different result.
Corollary: If what you are doing isn’t working, try something else!!

If you feel “stuck” when it comes to goals, here is a great article I hope will help: How to Set Goals When You’re Feeling Stuck