Here at Sterling Technology, we work with quite a few non-profit companies. As a result, we frequently get asked about the advantages for a non-profit in the technology world. The benefits of being a non-profit organization extend beyond tax implications. As a result of the generosity of large technology companies, non-profit organizations can fulfill their technology needs at a fraction of costs that a for-profit company would incur. We’re going to discuss of some of the low-hanging fruit that non-profit companies can take advantage of in the technology world.
TechSoup (www.techsoup.org) is a no-brainer for non-profit companies. It’s a simple & easy to use website that includes hardware, software & services all at a deeply discounted price for non-profit companies. It’s very easy to find the product you want by searching by vendor, type of product etc.
Microsoft products in particular are very commonly found on TechSoup. Whether your non-profit needs Microsoft Office, Windows, Server operating systems or other licensing, just about everything can be found on TechSoup. What is the most impressive is how deeply those products are discounted. To give you some idea, here are some of the products we purchase the most from TechSoup compared to their regular retail cost.
Office 2013 Standard
Server 2012 R2 Standard
Server 2012 CALs
Remote Desktop CALs
Several other big name vendors like Symantec, Intuit (makers of Quickbooks) & Adobe make their products readily available and discounted on TechSoup. These are all products that can both increase efficiency and worker productivity at a non-profit. Here are a few examples
Adobe Acrobat XI Pro
QuickBooks Premier 2015
Symantec Backup Exec
TechSoup also offers a variety of new and refurbished hardware a fraction of what it would cost a standard business. This equipment includes but is not limited to desktops, laptops, monitors, routers, and switches.
In addition to making their products available on TechSoup, Microsoft offers non-profits discounting for its Office365 suite of products & services. Our most commonly used Office365 products are Exchange Online email hosting, Microsoft Office (Outlook, Word, Excel, etc.), Sharepoint, Skype Pro instant messaging and email encryption. Microsoft offers deep discounting for each of these products for non-profits.
In our opinion, non-profits are crazy not to take advantage of Microsoft’s free email hosting via Office365. Microsoft Exchange Online email hosting is 100% free to non-profits. Our for-profit customers pay $48/year for each user for this same exact service. The non-profit version is 100% fully functional Exchange online. There are not catches or surprises. It’s just free.
If you’re a non-profit, make sure you take advantages of everything the technology universe offers you. The savings can really add up quickly!
Google announced a few months ago that they’ll be bringing their high speed fiber internet service to Charlotte. Here are answers to the most commonly asked questions we get about Google Fiber.
What is it?
Google Fiber is essentially ultra high speed internet provided Google. The typical internet speeds that you experience today, from other internet service providers, range from 2 Mbps to 30 Mbbs (megabits per second). Google Fiber allows you to reach speeds up to 1 Gbps, or 1000 Mbbs. While this gigabit speed is the ideal scenario, most users will most likely experience a speed that is slightly slower. With that being said, the average American will still receive internet speeds 100x faster than they are currently being provided.
Why do I need it for my home?
The main benefits for a home users are the faster download speeds. Users will see huge benefits by streaming HD video with no delay. Downloading entire movies will take a matter of seconds instead of hours. Gamers, Netflix & Hulu users will see an enormous jump in performance. Today most of your common software for your computer, tablet or iPhone is available via the cloud. With Google Fiber, these downloads will be done in a matter of seconds. Google Fiber will essentially cut down on your time spent waiting.
Why do I need it for my business?
Business users will see a variety of improvements with Google Fiber. Users will be able to browse websites & receive emails quicker. Additionally updating the various software components in your business will be much faster. Offsite backup services will also work much faster, allowing business to backup much more data offsite than they ever were before Google Fiber.
Can my current equipment support this?
It’s very likely that your computer is already capable of gigabit internet speeds. Home users will not likely need additional equipment, unless you prefer to user your own wireless router instead of the one provided by your internet service provider. In that case you’ll need to make sure your device is a gigabit device. Business users will need to make sure their router, firewalls & switches are all gigabit devices.
When can I get Google Fiber?
Google Fiber is currently only available in Austin, Kansas City, and Provo. But don’t fret! It is coming to a city near you! Google is already underway to bring Fiber to Charlotte and Raleigh. While there is no timetable set, Google has been drawing up plans for Charlotte since early May. These plans have also prompted internet providers, such as AT&T, to begin developing their own gigabit fiber service. If you want to find out more information about Google Fiber you can visit https://fiber.google.com/about/.
A Dropcam can be a very helpful device in both your home and business. As Dropcam was recently purchased by Nest, it’s certainly to gain more and more exposure in the coming months. These devices are becoming more and more popular, but many people don’t even know what they are. A Dropcam (www.dropcam.com) is a very small camera that connects to your wireless network. It streams live high quality video from the camera to your Dropcam account, which is viewable on their website and also on the Dropcam smartphone apps. The Dropcam has a power cable that must be plugged into a wall outlet and also must be placed within the reach of your wireless network. Simple plug the camera in and “drop” the Dropcam in the desired location within the range of your wireless network and it just works.
Simplicity is one of the features we’ve enjoyed the most about the Dropcam. Upon opening the Dropcam box, we first noticed the Apple-like quality of the packaging. After unpacking the camera, the first step is to connect the device to your computer via the included power cable that doubles as a USB cable. Your computer should automatically prompt you to browse the Dropcam much like a regular digital camera. When doing so users are given the option to click on one of two setup files (Mac & PC). Choose the appropriate file and the setup process begins. You will be prompted to create a Dropcam account by entering your email address and password. Next you’ll be asked to choose your wireless network and enter the password. After doing so, the Dropcam is connected to your wireless network and you’re free to place it in the location of your choice. It’s that simple.
The bottom line is the Dropcam just works as long as it has a good wireless signal. If you place the Dropcam on the outskirts of your wireless network, you should expect to have connectivity issues as will be evident from a yellow flashing light on the Dropcam itself. Users will enjoy the simplicity of moving their Dropcam around to various locations. Just unplug it and plug it back in at the new location. As long as you place it where you have a good wireless signal, you should be good to go.
One of the great features of the Dropcam is that it has audio capabilities. Not only does it stream the audio feed from the Dropcam’s built-in microphone, users can actually talk through the Dropcam with its built-in speakers. When viewing your Dropcam in the smartphone app, there is a small microphone button. Simply press the button and speak into the smartphone. That audio is then heard from the Dropcam through its built-in speakers.
Dropcam also allows you to add multiple Dropcams to your account for those users that need multiple cameras. Another nice feature is their recording service. For ~$9.95/month, Dropcam will store the recorded video from your camera in the cloud. You can view it anytime by logging onto your Dropcam account.
The cost for the Dropcam is $150. The Dropcam Pro is $200, which has a wider 130-degree field of view and an 8x zoon. For most users the standard Dropcam will do just fine. These devices are an easy way to be able to remotely view your house, office, nursery, etc. on the go.
Skype can be a very useful tool in the home and at your business. Purchased by Microsoft a few years ago, the world is going to see Skype more frequently in the future. Skype is basically 100% free and is an effective tool to communicate with people all over the globe. In a nutshell, Skype is messaging software that allows users to communicate with other Skype users via video conference or instant messaging style texting. Through Skype, users can communicate with other Skype users very easily whether they are right down the hall or on the other side of the globe. Skype can be downloaded and installed on a Windows computer, Mac, tablet or smartphone.
One of the more useful features of Skype is the smartphone & tablet app. Once installed on your cell phone, Skype can use your cellular data plan to connect to the internet. This gives you all the major functionality of Skype while you’re on the go. You can receive video conference calls or Skype messages right on your cell phone. Need to video conference between an Apple device and an Android device? That’s no problem for Skype.
Another feature we really enjoy about Skype is its ability to make and receive phone calls. While there is a charge for these features, we’ve found Skype’s pricing to be extremely cost effective. As part of its built in features, Skype allows you to call any phone number in the world. They have a flat rate per minute for each country. The money is automatically deducted from a credit you place in your Skype account online. On the go and need to call China? That’s no problem for Skype. Simply use the smartphone app and Skype will do the rest. You’ll love how simple it is!
Skype also allows you to receive phone calls as well. For a small yearly fee of around $60, you can get assigned a real phone number in the area code of your choice that will ring directly to the Skype software. Whether you’re at home or abroad, if someone calls that phone number, it will ring directly to your computer or smartphone app.
Skype can be a very helpful tool when traveling abroad. In most developed countries, finding Wi-Fi at a coffee house somewhere is usually pretty easy. Hope online and enjoy video conferencing and messaging 100% free. Should you choose to purchase a foreign data plan, Skype will work over that connection as well. Just be mindful that foreign cellular data plans can be pricy and Skype video conferencing can use a good bit of data.
Apple’s built-in parental controls on iPhones, iPads, and iPod touches leave a lot to be desired in terms of flexibility and customization. They tend to be an all-or-nothing affair (e.g. turn Safari on or off, whereas most folks would prefer something like time limits. Macworld has a nice tip for setting time limits on internet access on your kids’ iOS devices.
Two important things to note with this:
The article is written with owners of Apple wireless routers in mind, but most other brands (NETGEAR, Linksys, D-Link, etc) have the same feature that assigns time limits based on a MAC address. Log into your router’s control panel and look for a setting such as “parental controls”, “restrictions”, or “time limits”.
This trick will also work for other devices on a network, such as a PC, Mac, Xbox, etc. You’ll need to find the device’s MAC address, which is typically listed under “Network Settings” or “About”, depending on the device. Here are instructions for finding it in Windows, or finding it on a Mac.