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Best Practices: Green Up Your Office Technology

Reduce the amount of energy used and the waste generated in your day-to-day operations – with green technology practices and equipment procurement.

Twenty-five years ago, few businesses had a CTO, an in-house IT department, or even a server room next to the break room (or, as we’ve seen, a server stack IN the break room.) Now technology is a major player in every office environment, and it’s unheard of to have a break room that doesn’t have a recycling bin it.

Initially, technology was imperative for increasing the speed and efficiency of business transactions. Thanks to a continuing new stream of products and initiatives from the tech sector, technology also has a growing role to play in lowering your company’s carbon footprint.  By making informed choices, your business can enjoy the benefits of going green well beyond your waste-recycling program.

Two Shining Examples

“We are so proud that the finished product is not only the most eco-friendly GM dealership in Western North Carolina but also the most customer-friendly. We could not be more pleased that Sunshine Chevrolet is the first in America to be recognized as a GM Green Dealer!” states Don Elliott, President and Owner of Sunshine Chevrolet.

In March, TSAChoice customer Sunshine Chevrolet (Arden, NC) was recognized as the first recipient of General Motors’ Green Dealer Recognition program for its proven track record in areas such as energy reduction, renewable energy use, water conservation efforts, recycling and community outreach. Energy efficient LED lighting with state-of-the-art programmable capabilities, advanced building techniques, and high efficiency cooling and heating are just a few of the specific ways Sunshine implemented environmental features on its site.

You can view a short video that shows how Sunshine Chevrolet worked with TSAChoice to use smart technology throughout its facility here.

TSAChoice customer Kanuga Conferences, Inc. was also recently recognized for seeking ways to reduce its carbon footprint. The Energy Solutions Center awarded Kanuga Conferences and PSNC Energy with its Partnership Award for Innovative Energy Solutions for working together on a large-scale conversion from propane to natural gas in 2014, resulting in more energy efficient heating and hot water supply for Kanuaga’s lodging, program buildings, kitchens and staff housing.

Talk (Clean) To Me

TSAChoice is able to help its customers in Asheville and Greenville reduce energy use and costs simply by choosing the right phone system. Mitel, for which TSAChoice is an Exclusive Partner, is a world leader both in product recyclability and e-waste decommissioning.

Recyclability is included in the design of all Mitel products: MiVoice IP Phones are at least 66 percent recyclable by weight and Mitel has a comprehensive recycling program that diverts up to 65 percent of Mitel’s waste from day-to-day operations. In the US, Mitel has partnered with Global Investment Recovery Inc. (GIR), a signatory to the Electronics Recycler’s Pledge of True Stewardship.

Other Mitel recycling activities include:

• All telephony equipment designated as e-waste is decommissioned at local area facilities.
• Equipment decommissioning and destruction practices are respectful to the environment.
• Scrap metal and precious metal components are recovered and recycled for reuse.

Continuing the Green Revolution via Office Technology

For its own facilities and operations, TSAChoice either recycles or safely disposes of electronic waste and utilizes the services of Resolution Recycling. TSAChoice staff utilize online forms, use smart devices for scheduling and service calls, and recycle day-to-day items all to reduce energy consumption and office waste. TSAChoice is also in the process of converting to e-billing so look for more information about that switch soon.

As we continue to drive these improvements, we love to hear stories about our partners doing the same. Share your green best practices with us.

If you have questions about how your business or organization can “green-up” through your technology practices, please send an inquiry and a TSAChoice tech engineer will be in touch.

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Best Practices: Reducing Security Breaches by Increasing Human Awareness

Dell shares that a whopping 70% of security breaches are attributed to the human element, via a study completed by Ponemon Institute.

There are many layers involved in protecting yourself and your company from viruses/malware and ransomware.  Normally we think of these layers in the form of firewalls and antivirus software. For small to medium businesses we think of this protection in a four pronged approach.

However, there is a fifth element that should be taken into consideration.

One of the most effective ways to protect your PC or network is human awareness and making sure that privacy and security settings inherent to different applications are setup appropriately. There are so many simple things we can do (with little effort!) to provide these additional layers of protection.

EMAIL

One of the biggest points of weakness we tend to have as humans is curiosity.

When you receive an unexpected email with an attachment or link, a little further investigation doesn't hurt prior to clicking on the surprise that awaits.

  1. If you know the person from which the email was received, shoot them back a quick email or make a phone call to ask if they have sent something before proceeding with what could be the click of death for your digital information.
  1. Check the link using the Trend Safety Center. (TIP: good shortcut to add to your web browser)
  1. Use your search engine to see if you can find any information on the email address, subject used, topic or the document link name.
  1. If you are concerned that it isn't safe and it doesn't look important, just delete it and move on.

Passwords

Passwords are a huge part of protecting information and should not be taken lightly.  This is the easiest security that you will ever put into place and the most frequently used.

The key is to not make your passwords something obvious, something personal, or something directly related to anything around you.  Here are a few rules to keep in mind when setting them up:

Do's

  1. Combinations of upper, lower caps, letters and symbols is a must.
  1. The longer the better.
  1. Reset your passwords on a scheduled basis.
  1. Use different passwords for each account.
  1. Password protect important documents.

Make sure password recovery method questions are not easily answered. For example, your mothers maiden name is probably pretty easy to find, while the name of your first pet, may not be as readily available.  Adding an extra unexpected word to the response is also an easy method to strengthen this process.

To keep track of these passwords use a tool such as Last Pass to not only track passwords, but to help in generating them.

Password No-No's
Birthdays, initials, family members, cars, your address, your social security number, your pets name, your best friends name, boyfriends name, address, year of birth, your name, your husbands name nothing related personally to you.

Applications

We use so many applications today that have additional security settings that allow protection of our information beyond the initial password protection.  The secret, they only work if they are adjusted in privacy and security settings of these apps.

For example, many applications such as Facebook and Dropbox allow setup of a notification email or text if your account is being logged into from an unknown device.

Two step verification is a process by which when logging into your account, a code is generated and in most cases sent to your mobile phone or device and is then required to be entered prior to a successful login.  Examples of applications using this process currently include Google, Facebook, Last Pass, Dropbox, LinkedIn and others.   For a list of other applications using this feature you can access the Two Factor Authorization website.

Encryption

Setup encryption on your mobile devices; this function basically turns all of your information into unreadable data, unless the correct authorization is used to access the device.  Encryption can be easily setup on both Android and iOS devices.

Encryption can effect performance for Android devices and cannot be reversed.  Read complete information for encrypting your Android device prior to starting the process.

Read information for encrypting your iOS device.

This is a case where offense is definitely your best defense.  We place software and firewalls on our systems to protect ourselves and our companies, sometimes forgetting that without common sense it is all for naught.  Take a few minutes review and share this information with friends, family, coworkers and employees to make sure we are all doing our best to protect our data.

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Microsoft Server Migration Planning: Assessing Software

Procrastinating about making a server migration plan can be easily done based on the daunting task at hand.

There are four primary steps to planning your server migration. Steps 1 and 2 are where you determine what is necessary, what can be removed from your plate, and provides a platform for planning a schedule.

If you don't already have a list of all your software types within your server, then this is where you will start.  Use this spreadsheet to get started.

First, list all Microsoft Server roles, Microsoft applications, third party applications and any custom applications associated with the Server.

Once you have a complete list of the software on the Server, for each type, determine criticality, complexity and risk associated.  Criticality will determine what is necessary to migrate, while the complexity and risk factors will assist in determining schedules for migrating software.

Criticality will also assist in step 3, determining the location for the software, whether it is a physical server, virtual server or if the software in question will be moved to the cloud.

Criticality

Based on Microsoft recommendations, criticality is determined based on the following:

  1. Mission Critical-
  1. requires more resources,
  1. is required for compliance,
  1. planning is critical,
  1. or planning needs to start immediately
  1. Important-
  1. provides a competitive advantage,
  1. could doing something different provide more value
  1. Marginal-
  1. consider usage,
  1. what is the business value,
  1. retire or move to a different solution
  1. Retire-
  1. serves no benefit

Complexity

Complexity, just as it sounds, entails the challenges you may face when making this software conversion.  These complexities include the ability to move due to time challenges, the time required, and other integrations that may be affected.  For example, a software program that is being used by only a handful of people and a few hours a day will be easier to move than software that is accessed 24/7 and pulls information from other software sources.

Risk

Risk, or the chance of losing data, can be a concern, especially if you don't have proper backups or a disaster recovery plan in place.

Complexity and Risk will both be rated on a low/medium/high scale or possibly a 1-10 scale if you wish to be more granular.

Once the risk is assessed, this program provides an at-a-glance table to assist with what can be retired, items that will be simple to transfer to another platform, and others that will require more diligence.

For assistance completing an operating system (OS) migration.

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Clean Your Computer Day

We all know that the software on our PCs need attention every so often, but don't necessarily realize how important is to keep those internal components clean in order for computers to run at optimum levels.
Clean Your Computer Day

Cleaning Your Computer

If you were to take the cover off your PC, chances are you would find dust collected so thick you could just lift some of it out.  If you have never looked at the inside of your PC, you would be surprised at what all it picks up.  Fans running on the inside keep your computer components cool as well as, collect anything in the air.  Pet hair, smoke, ashes, particle dust, food, if it is in the air around your PC and is small enough, you will probably find it in there. Disgusting? Yes, pretty much.

Frequency of Cleaning

Clean Your Computer Day was created as a reminder of this important task, it comes once a year, so if you are in a nice clean office environment this once a year cleaning is fine. However, if you are in an area that tends to have more things floating in the air, then you might want to think about going through and at least blowing out the dust in your PC every 3 to 6 months.

Warning Signs Your Computer May Be Giving You

When internal components such as fans, circuit boards, heat sinks, and power components become covered with layers of dust this can create small problems that act as warning signs.

For Instance:
Fans may become loud or quit altogether
Computers may become slower
PCs may crash at random times

Choosing to Ignore the Warning Signs

If these warnings are ignored and dust bunnies are left to themselves to create havoc in their playground of fans, drives and boards, additional costs may be expected.

  • Equipment will more than likely have to be retired more quickly (this could be components or a complete replacement.)
  • Electrical costs may be expected to rise due to internal components working harder.
  • PCs may operate at less efficient speeds.
  • Large collections of dust and the heat associated with internal components could be a fire hazard.


Cleaning Your PC

Cleaning out a PC can be a tedious task and needs to be completed carefully because while cleaning you don't want to damage any of the external or internal components. 

Here is a quick and easy way to clean your PC:

  1. 1. Grab a screwdriver, a can of compressed air and a microfiber rag.
  1. 2. Locate an area to clean PC, you will be creating a whirlwind of dust.
  1. 3. Turn off computer
  2. .
  1. 4. Unplug power, components (ie mouse, monitor, printer), if you are on a network remove that cable from PC.
  1. 5. Move just the PC to the selected work area.
  1. 6. Using the screwdriver remove the cover, if you are working with a laptop, this can be a little more difficult.
  1. 7. Attach the skinny straw that came with the compressed air onto the nozzle.
  • **Warning: If you have never used a can of air before, read the instructions prior to using. Be aware that the can will get cold as you are using it and may spit tiny drops of liquid. This is normal. **
  1. 8. Holding the can 2 to 4 inches away from components, blow the dust off the internal components, do not spray the fans or into a DVD/BlueRay or CD-ROM, as you could damage them.
  1. 9. Blow the dust off the back grill of the PC.
  1. 10.Use a damp cloth or a microfiber cloth to wipe down the fans.
  1. 11. Replace cover and re-connect devices.

Here is a more thorough approach to cleaning your PC and components.

If you aren't exactly into DIY, click here in order to place a maintenance cleaning or other type of appointment for your PC with one of our Bench Engineers.



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Meet the TSAChoice Team: John Israel, Inhouse Bench Engineer

John Israel's career has been a long one and he has seen a lot of changes in his twenty years with TSAChoice.

John is actually one of the original employees from what was Choice Computers, starting to work on 01/24/1995, fresh out of AB Tech.

John is our bench service tech for PC's and Servers. When viruses, malware and spyware attack, he is the computer Dr. that makes everything right again. He is so awesome that when Asheville had the flood in September 2004, 10 servers were brought in from businesses located along the Swannanoa River, these servers had been under water for days. John was brilliant enough to retrieve all of the information needed off all of the Servers except for 1.

John enjoys hitting Asheville's brewery scene on the weekends and hanging with family and friends. He loves a good sunrise, sunset and photography.

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TSA"Choice" Awards for 2014

At TSAChoice, we jokingly like to say that we are the best looking tech team around. Now physically, I don't know if that is true, but if you believe that true beauty comes from within, you will not find a team that has more heart than TSAChoice.

We currently stand at around 60 employees. In our group as a whole, you will find a team that strives to stay on top of the latest technologies, that is honest, smart, and empathetic to our customer's needs, and that is also very involved with their communities and peers.

This week we had our awards dinner. Our management team was in charge of voting for each of the trophies being awarded, with the exception of the Teammate of the Year award. The difficulty they had in choosing only one person from each division was enormous due to the great talent and positive attitudes they see every day from this group of people.

While we see all the employees at TSAChoice as "winners," we did want to take a moment to share who went home with the trophies.

Rookie of the Year: Adam Laughter

IT Tech of the Year: Matt Smith

Voice Tech of the Year: Bill Keehan

Low Voltage Tech of the Year: Gary "Woofy" Luyckx

Engineer of the Year: Pat Jones

Administrative Person of the Year: Jennifer Silver

Salesperson of the Year: John Mills
Teammate of the Year 2014

 

The last trophy that was given out was for teammate of the year.  This trophy is very special because it is determined by employee vote.  For 2014, Teammate of the Year went to Patrick Jones.

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Section 179 an Early Gift from Government

The end of another tax year is just a few days away! This year, however, the game has changed thanks to legislation signed by President Obama on December 19, 2014 which includes Section 179 and Bonus Depreciation.
Section 179 an Early Gift from Government

Section 179- before it is too late

What does this do?  It reinstates the $500,000 limit and a 50% Bonus Depreciation for businesses.

Computers, off the shelf computer software, office equipment and more apply.

For more information about Section 179.

Because TSAChoice offers these services, and you, our great customers, utilize them, it is important for you to gain the most you can out of the lowered cost of equipment.  In order to do so, Section179.org offers a calculator so that you may be able to estimate the lowered cost of equipment after tax savings.  We recommend that you reach out to your tax advisor to confirm the benefits this provides your company.

Leasing options are also covered by Section 179. TSAChoice has special leasing options worked out with Great America Leasing including a Bakers Dozen promo that allows payoff of equipment within a 12 month period,  and 6 month promo to allow your company time to decide the best way to pay.

Section 179 has provided a last minute opportunity for your company if you are seeking to upgrade what you already have or are looking to purchase new equipment; do not let this opportunity pass you by!

To receive assistance with any last minute technology needs, please contact your account executive directly, email us, or call 828-254-4464.

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I Code, You Code, We All Code

Mrs. Garner's class at Isaac Dickson Elementary was preparing to participate in the Hour of Code and needed an extra set of hands.

I was invited to assist through the Asheville Women in Technology group.

As intimidating as it is to walk into a classroom full of first graders that have been embracing technology since before they were able to walk, they made me feel quite comfortable.  Fortunately, I arrived early and was able to get treated to a few songs as they were preparing for their holiday show and Mrs. Garner let me assist with preparing some graham crackers that later in the day would be turned into little gingerbread houses, it was a very festive atmosphere.

It wasn't school as I remember it, we didn't even get a computer room until I was in high school and then everything was MS-DOS based. The educational posters, cubbies for work/personal items were still the same, but that was where the resemblances ended.

In place of the chalk board there was a white board.  In place of the film projector or TV that would have been checked-out from the library, there was a permanent mount projector pointed towards a smart board.  The teacher had her own PC (completely unheard of back in the day) that with a few key strokes can bring up a wealth of information to share with her eager students. Students also had an option of using one of four fit balls, instead of their chairs when working at their tables.  The audio visual resources were as good, and even better than many businesses.

Where we would have headed to one designated computer room in school for a project or class,  for their project, Mr. Emry was bringing the technology to the students in the form of mini iPads.  These children were pros, after all, this was the second year of participation in the Hour of Code project for most of them.  

Our Hour of Code Project was Frozen , in which the princesses Elsa and Anna would be guided via code programming to create simple geometric designs, eventually leading to snowflakes.  We worked four exercises together, excitement and clapping would abound as we moved through each challenge.  It was then time to separate into groups of two, where they would work on the additional 16 exercises to complete their Hour of Code project.

It was complicated but through perseverance, and using their reading, math, and engineering skills they were able to solve challenges as they were presented.  It was very exciting to watch this room full of first graders successfully coding.  

The Hour of Code projects are scheduled through next week.  If you are interested in volunteering, just contact Asheville City Schools, or your local school system and request to speak to the volunteer coordinator.  This Hour of Code is free and available to everyone, complete your own project.

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Walking for Charity Challenge

TSAChoice issued a 10,000-step walking challenge to its customers to benefit charity and encourage healthy lifestyle. The challenge was accepted by seven local companies in WNC and upstate SC.
Walking for Charity Challenge

TSAChoice employees taking a walk break

TSAChoice, Inc. announced a healthy competition for its customers: a 10,000-step challenge during the month of December to help promote healthy lifestyles as the new year approaches. And TSAChoice made the deal even sweeter: it will donate $500 to the charity of choice for the company team with the highest average steps per person. If TSAChoice is the winner, then it will donate $500 to the charity of its choice.

The challenge has been accepted with eagerness and zeal by seven local companies: Commerce Services Corporation, Council on Aging, Express Employment Professionals, Henderson County IT Department, and Western Carolina Medical Society in Western North Carolina; and Spartan Felt Company and Piedmont Reproductive Endocrinology Group in Upstate South Carolina.

“We are excited about participating in the 10,000-step challenge,” says Lorinda Collins, Office Manager for Spartan Felt Company in Roebuck, SC. “We have all been talking about getting healthy and this is a great motivational tool for a great cause.”

“A competition like this not only will encourage a healthy lifestyle but also give great support to wonderful non-profits in our community,” says Gary Gallagher, owner of the Western North Carolina Express office. “Express Employment Professionals is walking, running and crawling (if necessary) for Eblen Charities. We’re excited and thankful that TSAChoice approached our Asheville team.”

Lynn Banks, a Sales Engineer with TSAChoice who organized the competition, says that TSAChoice had already challenged its own employees, but thought it would be fun to put their team up against their customers’ teams. “This challenge takes place during December, the season of giving, so we thought the donation to the winner’s charity would be a great motivator for everyone to get out and move, while providing a neat way to interact with our customers’ employees.”

Addendum- update for the winning team.  It was a tough competition, but in the end, the Henderson County IT Department "walked" away with the bragging rights.  Thanks to Mountain Express for publishing the final results.

TSAChoice-Walk-Challenge

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Saint Nicholas Project- Drop Off Location

If you live or work around the Enka Candler area and would like to drop off a toy for the Eblen-Kimmel Charities Saint Nicholas Project, please feel free to come by our office.

Eblen-Kimmel Charities works hard every year to make Buncombe County a better place for everyone.

The Saint Nicholas Project has grown from working with 125 children to over 4000 last year, and they are expecting the need to be even greater this year.

If you would like to drop off toys in the Enka-Candler area, we are located at 108 Asheville Commerce Parkway (behind Schwans), our normal hours of operation are Monday - Friday 8AM until 5PM.  If we need to make other arrangements to accommodate, please call Lynn at 828-225-3397.

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Tech Talk
Best Practices: Green Up Your Office Technology Best Practices: Green Up Your Office Technology Reduce the amount of energy used and the waste generated in your day-to-day operations – with green technology practices and equipment procurement. Read more… 2015-03-30
Best Practices: Reducing Security Breaches by Increasing Human Awareness Best Practices: Reducing Security Breaches by Increasing Human Awareness Dell shares that a whopping 70% of security breaches are attributed to the human element, via a study completed by Ponemon Institute. Read more… 2015-03-19
Microsoft Server Migration Planning: Assessing Software Microsoft Server Migration Planning: Assessing Software Procrastinating about making a server migration plan can be easily done based on the daunting task at hand. Read more… 2015-03-11
Clean Your Computer Day Clean Your Computer Day We all know that the software on our PCs need attention every so often, but don't necessarily realize how important is to keep those internal components clean in order for computers to run at optimum levels. Read more… 2015-02-09
Meet the TSAChoice Team: John Israel, Inhouse Bench Engineer Meet the TSAChoice Team: John Israel, Inhouse Bench Engineer John Israel's career has been a long one and he has seen a lot of changes in his twenty years with TSAChoice. Read more… 2015-02-04
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