Horse Sense #61
In this issue:
The New Internet: New Browsers, New Java
There has been a sea change in Internet software circles in the last month. Microsoft’s Internet Explorer 7.0 (IE7) is out as is Media Player 11 (MP11) <http://www.microsoft.com/downloads>. IE7 is faster and safer than IE6, but not 100% compatible with IE6. While it is safer than IE6, it still is not as safe, as fast, or as compatible with Internet standards as the new (Iron Horse recommended) Firefox 2.0 <http://www.getfirefox.com>. As IE7 is closely tied to the operating system, upgrading can improve your security, and we recommend installing it. If you have been keeping up with your automatic downloads on Windows XP, IE7 will automatically download for you. IE7 and MP11 will not install on anything but an XP Service Pack 2 workstation or better (64 bit and Windows 2003 servers are OK, too). Firefox and other browsers work fine with older Windows operating systems. MP11 is even more restrictive as it works only on 32 bit versions of XP. In addition, both IE7 and MP11 require extra “validation” steps to counter piracy that are very visible and slow the installations significantly. Microsoft’s antipiracy software slows up the computer, takes up memory, and can cause stability and licensing issues. Windows Vista will use similar technologies to validate your software over the Internet. We dislike technologies that burden legal users in an often futile attempt to catch wrongdoers. Like older versions of IE, you cannot remove IE7 like you can any other program. We have never been in favor of Microsoft making an application so integral to the operating system that its removal is (almost) impossible.
Complementing the new browsers is the new Java Runtime Environment 5.0 update 9 <http://www.java.com>. You will want to download this update to enhance your security and compatibility. The new Java version will not replace older versions. As a Java installation is over 100 megabytes, you can save a lot of space on your hard disk by removing older versions. You can perform this task under Windows by opening Control Panel, choosing Add/Remove Programs, and picking the Java versions that you want to delete. While you are there, remove old programs which you no longer use.
Symantec Revamps its Products, Licenses, Support and Part Numbers
Symantec upgraded their market share leading Backup Exec to version 11d. Among other things, this new version allows for continuous data protection of Microsoft Exchange e mail boxes. This feature will allow you to recover an individual Exchange mailbox to any point in time. In other words, it will now be much easier than before to recover a critical message that you erased. Enhancements were also made to Microsoft Active Directory and SQL backups. Encryption of the backups has been added to the base product with no increase in cost. There is also a new Small Business Server product that costs less than the old Backup Exec product it replaces. See more at <http://www.symantec.com/smb/products/overview.jsp?pcid=bu_rec&pvid=bewin_svr>
Symantec has “simplified” their licensing. Now, the part numbers from Veritas, Symantec and the way products are licensed in general are more consistent. But this also means that hundreds of thousands of part numbers have changed, and the procedures are very different. This licensing change will have an effect on an enormous number of end users.
Perhaps the most interesting change is that Symantec has made it easier to buy 24x7x365 support for all of their products and the cost is very reasonable. Previously, this support was extremely expensive and only the largest organizations could afford it. More and more manufacturers are offering 24x7x365 support and we are recommending this support to our customers, even for 9 to 5 businesses. As networks become more critical business tools, the hardware and software they need to operate become more critical too. A manufacturer's product may not "break" between business hours, and it may not be possible to fix it during business hours, so 24x7x365 agreements are becoming a necessity for businesses of all sizes.
How Printing is Changing
The paperless office is NOT here. Now that documents can be printed on demand, people are printing more than ever.
The Gartner Group did a study: 1-3% of all the money spent by a typical organization goes towards printing costs. 40-60% of all help desk calls are printer related. 10-30% of those costs can be saved with better management techniques. Furthermore, Giga Information Group estimates that paper output is growing at 21% per year. IDC estimates that 7.5 billion documents will be printed this year, amounting to 4.5 trillion pages.
Multi-Function Printers (MFPs) are rapidly replacing standalone printers for a number of reasons. They meet the need to:
(1) produce paper documents as well as the need to convert paper documents into digital form.
(2) save space, power, and costs relative to single function devices.
(3) reduce training and support costs relative to single function devices.
New MFPs are so feature-rich that they are competitive with the standalone products. They are often much more capable than the equipment that they are replacing.
There are some dramatic shifts in the business printing market. MFPs, especially laser MFPs, are replacing standard printers for the above reasons. Color lasers are replacing black and white ones. Besides producing more dramatic, visually interesting, and useful output, color lasers have dropped dramatically in purchase price and operating costs. Even if you mostly print in black and white, a color laser's extra capability easily offsets the price difference. Color lasers are also replacing color ink jet printers because they are faster, can handle more complex documents, and are easier to maintain. The printing computer's performance is taxed less with a laser. Lasers also have better output for business use, cost less per print, and their purchase price has dropped dramatically over the last couple of years.
Printers are getting smarter. Take the new Xerox WorkCentre 4150 MFP (available at Iron Horse, but we’re sure you guessed that already). Xerox builds upon strong printing features. The 4150 has a separate toner and drum which tends to lower printing costs. Its 20,000 page toners last up to 10 times as long as small laser toners. Long-lasting toners lower the cost per print and require less user maintenance, purchasing effort, and storage space. Its 55,000 page drum does not have to be replaced when a toner cartridge runs out, lowering the cost per page further. This tough printer can print 200,000 pages a month at 45 pages per minute. It can print on very thick paper (53lbs/200gsm), use four 500 sheet input trays, print on both sides of the page, collate, and staple through a 50 page document. Xerox backs it up with a one year on-site service warranty.
As a new generation laser, the 4150 is extremely powerful and smart. In fact, it may have more memory, processor power, and RAM than other computers on your network. The 4150, like many of the Xerox business printers, comes with a memory card that carries its configuration. If a printer fails, you can take this card, plug it into a like unit, and all the configuration settings will transfer. Your network will think the same printer came back on line. You can almost eliminate critical printer downtime with another 4150 with which to swap cards.
Xerox printer drivers are some of the best in the business. You can securely manage individual printers through a web browser. You can have them send an alert if they are out of paper, have a jam, or need toner. You can even use software to arrange for different departments to be billed for their printer usage.
The 4150 has some new features that can be real work savers. Many organizations need copies of both sides of an ID card. On the 4150, you merely tell it that you want to copy an ID card, press copy, flip the card, and press copy again. Only then will the printer print. Both sides of the ID will show on one side of the same printed page. Another feature allows you to “print around” another job. A typical printer performs jobs in order in which they were received. Most existing MFPs stop copying, faxing, and scanning until the previous print job completes. Not the 4150. If you tried to print on non-existent legal sized paper, the job is put on hold while other jobs process. Later, when you put in the correct paper stock, it will print. You can also scan while printing or copy while faxing. Sensitive print jobs will not print until you enter a security code. In very secure environments, you can instruct the printer to overwrite a job that has been completed, ensuring that no one can retrieve the information from the printer.
The 4150 has powerful fax functions. Received faxes can be sent to any email address you wish. Anyone on the network can “print” to the fax portion of the printer, causing it to send out a black and white or color fax. Scanned black and white or color documents can be emailed or stored on a network hard drive. They can also be processed through optical character recognition engines and imported into document management systems.
Avoiding Costly Computing Errors
When working with your IT providers, use these tips that I have learned from over 20 years as a computer consultant to save money, time, and headaches. If you have a favorite tip or story, please write us about it!
No one is an expert in everything. And, even if you CAN do it yourself, it is often better not to. I drive a car and know where to find many of its parts. I have read books and articles on car repair. However, I do not work on my own car when it breaks down. Yet, many people think that they should fix their IT problems themselves.
Hiring someone to help you, especially with unfamiliar or one-time tasks, can save a lot of grief and money. Investing in training, preventive maintenance, support contracts, design, and other tasks outside your expertise is a good idea too.
Case in point: Almost 20 years ago, a major US intelligence agency wanted the largest, fastest hard drive available for a server at $1000. We offered to install and configure the drive for $25. And, if we did it, we would take care of any warranty issues with the drive and provide a rapid replacement. If not, they would have to deal with the manufacturer who would take at least 4 weeks to send a new drive. They declined our offer, saying that they could handle it themselves. Two days later they walked in the door with a drive that had burn marks on it. When we asked what had happened, they told us that they hammered on the connections, started it, and it blew up! They wanted a replacement for the defective drive. My technician and I were stunned. They had managed to force a connector that is keyed to go in one way backwards onto the drive. When they turned on the drive, applying power to circuitry that was not expecting it, it blew up. We declined to replace the drive, citing our policy and conversations, and told them to take up the issue with the manufacturer (who was sure not to replace it).
The lesson? Get the help you need. A running back without blockers isn’t going to get very far. Do what you do best and have someone else help you with the rest.