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Don't Worry About IT

You'll have access to a team of IT experts who become an extension of your company, take ownership of your technology needs, and put your IT as their top priority. Your new team of certified technicians improve, document, and monitor your computer systems using best practices. Your IT will run more reliably than ever.

Based in Cranberry Township, you get reliable and predictable IT that reduces risk and increases profit for small businesses in Pittsburgh, Wexford, and throughout western Pennsylvania.

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Small Business IT Solutions, Managed Services, IT Consulting - Pittsburgh, Cranberry Twp, Wexford

Not just IT Support
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We will help you achieve your goals.

Technology is a critical tool if it is applied the right way. We will align the right technology with your business goals, training and supporting your team to take full advantage of it.

During this process, we will:

  • Proactively solve technology and business challenges
  • Provide superior service and reliability
  • Increase company morale by reducing employee frustration with technology.
  • Lower overall technology costs by increasing efficiency and productivity - leading to better profit margins.
  • Help you achieve a better work/life balance.
  • Do what's best for your company
  • Give you peace of mind.

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Small Business IT Solutions, Managed Services, IT Consulting - Pittsburgh, Cranberry Twp, Wexford
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Our Technology Articles

Technology Trends Relevant to Pittsburgh Small Businesses, Written by Us

How a Good IT Service Manager Will Handle Vendor Relationships for You

When you think of an IT service manager, what probably comes to mind first are common tasks like helpdesk support and network management. But there's another aspect of IT management that's easy to overlook: vendor management.

Let's take a look at what vendor management entails and how good IT service helps keep your business running smoothly in this area.

What Is Vendor Management?

In the realm of IT, vendor management is essentially the practice of letting your IT service provider handle your company's relationships with vendors of technical products. These include your internet service provider, companies that you purchase computers and equipment from, and software vendors that you use in your business.

As a branch of your company, a managed service provider acts to represent your business when you need to reach out to one of these entities. Let's look at some of the ways that this often plays out.

Handling Phone Calls and Emails

Business-Call-Vendor

It's a waste of your employees' time to wait on hold when your internet service goes down or someone needs to get in touch with a software vendor. Not only does this distract them from doing their job, but the vendor also might give them instructions that are unhelpful or too basic.

Technical IT staff are able to speak to the vendor directly and bypass the fundamental troubleshooting steps they've already done. This avoids your employees wasting time on getting the runaround and gets you to a solution faster.

The same goes with email or other methods of contacting a vendor. Allowing IT staff to email a vendor back and forth to provide explanation on an issue frees up your staff's time and prevents them from having to inefficiently relay information back and forth.

Finding the Best Vendor for New Services

Handshake-New-Vendor

If your company decided it wanted to use a new CRM tool, would you know where to look? What if your computer cloud backup provider went out of business and you had to pick a new one? Instead of you having to spend time researching and comparing companies for a new service like this, letting your IT staff handle it is much more streamlined.

Your managed services provider likely has a list of recommended providers for various services like this, saving you the time of manual research. They'll be able to find the best plan for your company's needs that does what you require without costing too much. And since they're already familiar with that product, they can set up and configure it much faster than you would be able to on your own.

And of course, once you've added the product to your environment, having the backing of your IT team to support something they know well is another benefit.

One Less Worry for Your Company

Every business has a lot of relationships to handle, which can become overwhelming before long. Allowing your IT staff, who have more technical knowledge than others in your company, to mange relationships with tech vendors is a smart move.

You can provide your IT provider's contact email to your vendor so one of your staff members isn't bothered when problems arise with it. IT can handle the details and then provide you with a quick summary when needed. Otherwise, you get bogged down in the details that you probably don't care much about anyway.

If this aspect of IT management is new to you, why not familiarize yourself with the most important components for great IT support next?

What Is an Unlocked Phone, and What Are Its Benefits?

You might have come across the term "unlocked" to refer to mobile phones. But what does it mean when a phone is unlocked, and how is having an unlocked phone beneficial?

Let's take a look at what having an unlocked device means, how to check if yours is unlocked, and other considerations around this.

What Is an Unlocked Phone?

When we talk about an unlocked phone, we don't mean the device's lock screen security. Having an unlocked phone doesn't rely on any particular kind of device security, like Face ID or a PIN code. It's also not the same as jailbreaking or rooting, which are advanced methods people use to break out of the boundaries set by device manufacturers.

Instead, an unlocked phone is a device that is capable of working with any mobile carrier. If you have an unlocked phone and are on T-Mobile, for example, you could cancel your T-Mobile service, bring your phone to AT&T, and activate it there with little trouble.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kYMhNWH-71I

On the other hand, a locked phone is designed to only function with one carrier. In this scenario, say you had a phone locked to Verizon and decided to take it to AT&T instead. AT&T wouldn't be able to activate the phone on its service because it's locked to only use Verizon's network.

Aside from carrier functionality, a locked phone doesn't differ from unlocked devices in any major way. It can run apps, access Wi-Fi and use your carrier's cellular network, and do everything else you expect.

How to Check if You Have an Unlocked Device

If you have an iPhone running iOS 14 or higher, there's an easy way to check if your iPhone is unlocked. Otherwise, you'll have to use a more cumbersome method to be certain.

On your iPhone, go to Settings > General > About. There's a lot of technical info on this page; scroll down to the last block above Primary and you should see a field titled Carrier Lock. This will say No SIM restrictions if your device is unlocked. If it says something else, your phone is most likely locked to your carrier.

iPhone-No-SIM-Restrictions

If you don't have an iPhone or use an older version of iOS, then you'll have to use a different SIM card to see if your device is unlocked. Try borrowing a SIM card from a friend who uses a different carrier. If this isn't an option, you can buy a prepaid SIM at a store like Walmart.

Once you have a SIM card from another provider on your phone, turn your device off and swap your current SIM card with the new one. After turning your phone back on, try making a call. If the call goes through, your phone is unlocked.

A locked phone will not allow you to make a call with a different SIM card inserted, and may show a message about entering a SIM unlock code. This isn't something you can do on your own; it requires your carrier to help.

Locked vs. Unlocked Phones

Chances are that if you bought your phone through a carrier, especially if you're locked into a contract for the device, it's locked. Once you pay off your phone and complete your contract, your carrier may unlock the device for you.

You can call your provider confirm if your device is locked and ask them to unlock your device if you're not currently in a contract. However, your success will depend on your particular mobile provider. Some are more willing to do this than others.

In the future, if you're interested in using an unlocked phone, you should look at buying your device directly from the manufacturer. For instance, when you buy an iPhone from Apple, you can choose a provider or select to buy it SIM-free.

iPhone-Unlocked-Example

Buying the device right from Apple (as well as Samsung, Google, or another manufacturer) lets you take it to nearly any carrier you want. And if you decide to leave that carrier after a while, you take your device with you.

If you aren't able to pay for a phone in full upfront, most manufacturers let you pay in installment plans just like a carrier does. It's definitely an option to consider next time you buy a smartphone.

Unlocked Phones Give More Choice

Now you know the difference between locked and unlocked phones. Like a lot of mobile carrier behavior, locking phones is a frustrating practice that's mostly designed to make cellular providers more money. But with a bit of planning ahead, you can get an unlocked device and use it wherever you prefer.

For more on mobile terminology, have a look at our explanation of 5G next.

How to Fix Common Network Issues When Working From Home

Home network issues are always irritating, but they're a particular problem when you're working from home. Knowing how to diagnose common network troubles can save you hours of productive time when working at your home office.

Let's take a look at some general tips to help you fix your network issues when you can't get online. Go through them in order, as the earlier steps are easier and more likely to fix your issue.

1. Reboot All Affected Equipment

Whenever you have any issue with your computer or similar equipment, rebooting should always be your first step. Rebooting resets all the processes on your computer, allowing anything that was messed up to start properly again.

If your computer suddenly won't connect to the internet, save anything you're doing and restart it. If that fails to fix the issue, reboot your router and modem next. On some models, you can flip or press a physical power switch to turn off these devices. With other units, you'll have to unplug them and plug them back in to perform a power cycle.

Keep each device unplugged for at least a minute to allow a full discharge of power. Once everything reboots, try to connect again. If it doesn't work, move onto the next step.

2. Review Device Cables and Lights

Next, you should make sure that there are no physical issues with your devices. If your computer is connected to your router via Ethernet, confirm that the cable is still connected properly. Double-check the Ethernet cable connecting your router and modem, too. Perhaps it fell and yanked out the plug.

After your modem and router reboot, take a look at their lights to make sure everything looks normal, too. This will depend on your exact model, but if there are no lights, you might have a dead piece of equipment. Red or abnormally flashing lights can indicate that your modem isn't receiving a signal from your ISP.

Router-Closeup

If you use a laptop, make sure it doesn't have a physical button that shuts off the wireless functionality. You might bump this by accident and suddenly disable your wireless connection.

3. See If It's a Website or ISP Problem

Next, you should double-check to see whether your issue lies with just a single website. It might also be a problem with your ISP, meaning that you can't do much other than wait it out.

To check if your issue lies only with one website, try visiting several others. If you can't reach any website, chances are that the issue lies with your computer or network. But if it's just one website, it might be experiencing problems. Try down.com to see if the site is down for others, too.

The easiest way to see if your ISP has a known issue is by Googling on another device. A search similar to "Comcast down Pittsburgh" will bring up websites like Downdetector, which collect reports of outages so you can see if other people are having an issue. This may also show you the company's official status page, which will have info on whether its services are down.

Down-Detector-Comcast

4. Check Other Devices and Try the Windows Troubleshooter

Once you've confirmed that your network equipment is working properly, chances are that only your computer is having an issue. To confirm this, try to get online using your phone, tablet, or another computer. If this works, you can troubleshoot your computer specifically. If not, you have an issue with your network hardware or ISP.

Windows includes a built-in tool to detect and fix network problems. When your computer is the only device that won't get online, it's worth trying this. To open it, go to Settings > Update & Security > Troubleshoot. On this page, click the Additional troubleshooters text to show a menu with several utilities.

Select Internet Connections > Run the troubleshooter and Windows will look for issues. Hopefully, it will find and fix them, letting you know what the issue was.

Windows-Internet-Troubleshooter

5. Check If Your Computer Has a Valid IP Address

Our final troubleshooting step before you probably need to get help from your IT department is to check if your computer is receiving an IP address from your router. This helps you narrow down the problem further, after the above steps already confirmed that the problem is only on one device and doesn't lie with a specific website or your ISP.

For this, you'll need to use the text-based Command Prompt. It might look scary, but it's not difficult to run these commands. To open a Command Prompt window, type cmd into the Start menu's search bar.

Once there, type this command and hit Enter to run it:

ipconfig

In the results, find the connection type you use (Ethernet adapter for wired connections or Wireless LAN adapter for Wi-Fi). If the IPv4 address under this connection begins with 169, then your computer is not receiving a valid IP from your router.

IPconfig-Results

You can possibly fix this by typing the two following commands, one at a time:

ipconfig /release

ipconfig /renew

This makes your router give your PC a new IP address. If you still can't get online after this, try connecting your PC to your modem directly with a network cable. Should this work, you know that your router is not functioning correctly.

Get Your Home Office Back Online

These are standard troubleshooting steps when you can't get online at home. While they won't fix every problem, they should patch up a lot of issues and save a call to IT or your ISP for help. And if you do have to call for assistance, you've saved time by performing these steps before they guide you through them.

While we've focused on downed network connections here, we've also showed how to speed up a slow home Wi-Fi connection.

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Certified IT Processes

CompTIA has certified Houk Consulting for proven operating procedures, best practices, and the right systems and tools for delivering services.

The CompTIA Managed Services Trustmark is a vendor-neutral, business-level credential designed to qualify and differentiate organizations providing remote IT services via a managed service business model. This serves as a reference to the quality of the services that MSPs provide, and the commitment they make to their clients. To Receive the CompTIA Managed Services Trustmark, an IT service organization must provide managed services in a competent manner, strive toward industry best practices, agree to a code of conduct, provide customer references, and submit an application covering a detailed list of criteria.

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