Too often, cloud hosted VoIP gets a bad rap on the internet. People bashing provider A because call quality stunk. Or giving provider B a tough time because staff constantly had "fishbowl effect" issues with the service. I've read many of the reviews out there, and I'm here to set the record straight about cloud VoIP: the majority of these negative reviews are pointing fingers the wrong direction.
Much of what people see online about cloud hosted VoIP negativity is FUD -- partially being peddled by customers with poor networks, and partially by some nefarious traditional premise-based VoIP telco providers trying to stem the wave of customers moving to the technology.
I owe Sony a lot of credit. It wasn't the original Xbox and the young Xbox Live service that gave me my first taste in console online gaming. It was my beloved PS2 that connected me to the early adopters skating around Tony Hawk Pro Skater 3, and wannabe commandos practicing flanks together in the original SOCOM.
With an add-on Ethernet adapter and LAN cable strung halfway around my house, the PS2 allowed me to engage in an activity that gamers on most modern consoles take for granted. Getting online with PS2 games was part test of patience and part geekdom experiment. PlayStation Network wouldn't launch for another four years or so, and one console later -- on the PS2, you were truly on your own when it came to navigating online gaming.
No less than a week ago, young Dylann Roof, a self-described hardline racist, decided to take nine wonderful lives in Charleston, SC. This was an individual who, through a manifesto since unveiled, had shaped his worldview so narrowly that he irreversibly joined the corrupted fringes of society.
But what really killed nine innocent people here? As much as our President wishes to believe it so, a gun wasn't the real cause of Roof's killing spree; it was an accessory to murder. Nor was the Confederate flag; this was merely hijacked window dressing to glorify one man's twisted reality. With as much debate currently focusing on these non-issues, the real causes which bred a monster by all definitions are sadly diluted from discussion.
Microsoft made it pretty clear: Windows 10 Technical Preview for Phones is still only meant for serious technical testers only. Of anything I've learned after one full week using my daily Lumia 925 on the preview release, it's that this OS is far from ready for primetime. But that's not necessarily a bad thing, per se.
I decided to write up some of my thoughts about Windows 10 Technical Preview for Phones 10051 before I rolled back my phone to Windows Phone 8.1. Yes, willingly, I spent the last work week using my daily Lumia 925 on preview build 10051, the latest and only second release Microsoft has publicly doled out for the community.
There was a very frank question pegged towards Slashdot readers a few months back, which I happened to stumble upon just by chance during some Googling. It was a pretty simple question that merely asked: for the non-coders out there, especially ones taking advantage of open source software, why aren't more of you contributing back to the open source community?
A legit, honest conundrum that is likely true for most who use such software.
There's no need to ask for a show of hands. To get a sense of how long the Windows RT hate-train is, you can just spend a few minutes Googling. A few weeks ago when Microsoft let loose that official Windows RT devices, like the Surface 2, were not getting Windows 10 in any proper shape, the anti-RT chorus cheered that they have been finally vindicated.
Stories like this one which adorned The Verge planted their flags pretty clearly: "Windows RT is officially dead".
Two of the largest network gaming services, Xbox Live and PlayStation Network, took unplanned hiatuses on Christmas Day 2014. And for their credit, both Sony and Microsoft were not the culprits for the outages. Newly infamous hacking group Lizard Squad used DDoS attacks against the gaming networks to chalk up part publicity stunt and part targeted advertising for their new DDoS-for-hire service.
At this point, the who and why of this story aren't anything new if you've been watching IT news the last few weeks. But something that hasn't gotten as much attention is the "how" of Lizard Squad's Xmas Day barrage last year.
There's a reason we are in a cultural, military, and cyber messaging war with a twisted group called IS -- still widely called ISIS, its old name. It doesn't call itself HISIS; they don't claim to represent Hinduism. Nor BISIS; they aren't Buddhist radicals. CRISIS and JISIS would also be incorrect, since they aren't Christian or Jewish radicals, either.
They may not represent mainstream Islam, but they wholeheartedly believe in their evil calling to establish a global Islamic caliphate based on a radical Sharia ideology -- affectionately and simply called the Islamic State.
When scoping out new servers for customers, we usually look towards Dell, as their boxes have the right mix of price, performance, expandability, and quality that we strive for. RAID card options these days are fairly plentiful, with our sweet spot usually ending up on the PERC H700 series cards that Dell preinstalls with its midrange to higher end PowerEdge server offerings.
But recently we were forced into using one of its lower end RAID cards, the H200 PCIe offering. This internal card was one of the few dedicated RAID options certified to work in a refurbished server we had to put back into production, a Dell R210 1u rack unit. The specs looked fine and dandy in nearly all respects, except for one area that I like to avoid: the lack of dedicated battery backed flash cache.
Most of us have hopefully managed to get off the sinking ship that was Windows XP. As much of a recent memory as that has become, a new end of life is rearing its head, and it's approaching fervently for those who haven't started planning for it. Microsoft's Windows Server 2003, a solid server operating system that's now about eleven and a half years old, is heading for complete extinction in just under 300 days. Microsoft has a fashionable countdown timer already ticking.
Seeing as we just finished our second server migration in a single week (a personal record so far), sharing some of the finer aspects of how we are streamlining these transitions seems like a timely fit. This braindump of sorts is a collection of best practices that we are routinely following for our own customers, and they seem to be serving us well so far.
A few weeks back, I finally had a really good chance at stress testing our company's still-fresh hosted Lync solution from CallTower. Merging calls. Transferring calls. Starting ad-hoc conference calls with clients. All the while IM'ing my internal staff and fellow clients, and checking voicemails that were coming through as MP3s in my email along with associated text transcriptions.
If you think I was sitting at the comfort of my desk with the power of a desk phone at my side, you guessed wrong. I was nearly 900 miles away from our home base in Park Ridge, out in the beautiful city of Stamford, CT helping clean up a messy VoIP rollout for a customer who needed some dire help.
As overused as it may be, the old mantra still holds definitively true: you're only as strong as your weakest link. This goes for sports teams, business divisions, vehicles, and most anything else in life where multiple links make up the entity at large. It shouldn't be surprising that IT systems and networks follow the same logic.
Yet this very notion is what causes me to cringe when in discussions with new and existing clients. There is a large disconnect when it comes to the average small business owner, as to what technical improvements will actually lead to better stability and resiliency -- all encompassing what they truly care about: uptime.
Of all the mobile platforms out there, Windows Phone 8.1 was literally the absolute last option I ever thought I would land upon. I had a burning hatred for Windows on the mobile side, seeing that I was forced into using a Pocket PC 6700 (Windows Mobile 5) years ago while working for a former employer. To say that experience soured my opinion of Windows Mobile is an understatement.
Frankly, and I don't care what the diehards say, Windows for phones prior to Windows Phone 8 should very well be erased from memory for anyone who had to deal with it. From unintuitive interface design, to cludgy touchscreen navigation with a stylus, it was a Picasso of a mobile OS for exactly all the wrong reasons.
For many organizations under 100 users or so, there has been a trend on the rise that is either decimating formal IT departments entirely, or trimming them down to bare minimum levels. Many in the IT industry wouldn't notice it, because, of course, they may likely be working for such a department themselves. It's hard to have an objective viewpoint when you're part of the status quo.
As an outside consultant, who works with a variety of organizations small and large, I see my clients and their support structures from a different lens. Being an outsider here has its advantages, namely in being able to see many of these IT departments for what they are.
After Google chopped off the umbilical cord from the oft-used Free Edition of its Google Apps suite back in late 2012, users were left wondering where they could take their custom email domain needs to. One of the best remaining alternatives was by far Outlook.com, Microsoft's free email service which I use in place of Gmail now. I penned an extensive how-to piece on getting Outlook.com working as your own custom domain host for email last year.
How the tables have turned in just over a half year. In an about-face, Microsoft recently announced on its custom domains page for Outlook.com (called the Windows Live Admin Center) that it is no longer accepting new applications for the service. PC World and ZDNet actually reported on this back in April, but I have been so busy with client work that I forgot to post this news over here for all the curious potential Outlook.com custom domain converts.