400 Servers In Under 4 Hours

In the immortal words for Forrest Gump, “it happens.”  In technology, truer words might never have been spoken.

But when “it” does happen, Azzaron’s team of system admins and network of support personnel work very hard to ensure “it” has little impact on end users.

Responding to a critical outage of its entire storage infrastructure, Azzaron engineers were able to shut down, repair, and restore over 400 virtual servers in under four hours!  The coordination involved the installation and subsequent upgrade of an entirely new storage rack system and a full upgrade of Azzaron’s switch infrastructure.

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Is My Internet Fast Enough?

One of the most frequent questions we get asked at Azzaron during the testing process is "will my Internet connection be sufficient for hosted desktops?"

Azzaron uses sophisticated compression technology to improve the customer experience, but there are some minimum specifications for enhancing usability and system speed.

Many IaaS users take advantage of mobile and consumer-grade connections that work great for a few employees.  When an office has more than ten users, a business-grade Internet connection is typically recommended.  A good rule of thumb when purchasing business-grade services is to calculate 1Mb of Internet connection per every two users (i.e. an office of 40 people should have a minimum 20Mb Internet connection).

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Three Reasons to Cloud Connect Your File Server

Half of your employees love the file server, since it is fast, easy, and centralizes all work files in a single location on the network at the main office. The other half of your of employees likely hate the file server, since they must login remotely and more often than not, they often are missing critical files when they are in the field. The problem is especially acute for employees who are always remote. Over time, difficulties with remote access cause employees to get out of sync with the rest of the company, leading to data sprawl for corporate documents and to critical content becoming trapped in personal silos.

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How Many IT Guys Does It Take To Change a Lightbulb

Tonight I replaced the lightbulbs in my kitchen.  Sweating near the ceiling I was pondering all the good jokes about how many country western singers it takes to change those things.

Really, the little twist-in glass globes that we rely on so much to see are a perfect analogy for the IaaS model that Azzaron is bringing to small businesses all around the country.

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Paperclip Problem

I’m overrun in paperclips.  Big ones, little ones, and those really fancy ones with the bendy handles.  Some are plastic coated with patterns like hearts, but I have no idea where those came from!  I don’t really know what I’m going to do with them.  Maybe the kids can make holiday decorations or something.

This weekend my desk filled up with paperclips.  And it’s not the first time it’s happened.  It all started when I decided to turn some old papers at my storage unit into secure digital files.  After all, finding papers in storage is difficult and time consuming.  By scanning some more of my old stuff, I now have access to it from anywhere in an instant, it’s backed up, and I’ve reclaimed real estate which would be much for valuable for other uses.  I can retain my information without worry about longevity, accessibility, or backup; I know my files are easy-to-find and safe.

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Data Recovery Communication

The following is a e-mail with a vendor:

VENDOR: Thank you for choosing us for your data recovery needs. Unfortunately we have not been successful in performing a recovery for you. There is just too much damage for us to get any type of reading from the media. Please know that every effort has been made in attempting to retrieve your data. It is very disappointing for us to be unable to achieve our goal in getting you the data that you requested. If we can be of any other service please do not hesitate to ask. If needed, please let us know how you would like us to get the media back to you.

ME: Yikes. Um, I guess just toss it. I'll go jump off a cliff.

VENDOR: Oh my god – please don’t! I’m so sorry we could not get this done for you.

ME: Sorry. I'm sort of a sarcastic guy. I'm heartbroken, but I'll survive. Thank you for your concern. : )

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Software Support

Okay, so you've probably seen this one on the Internet. It was just too good for us to pass up, though.

Actual dialog of a fired WordPerfect Customer Support employee:

Tech: "Hello, How may I help you?"

Cust: "Yes, well, I'm having trouble with WordPerfect."

Tech: "What sort of trouble?"

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Bad Day In the Sales Dept?

The following is an ACTUAL e-mail conversation between myself and a potential (well, not any more) vendor:

ME: "Looks pretty good. I do need to have a total of 12 36GB drives though (2 x 6) and 6 72GB drives (1x6). Can you please update?"

VENDOR: "Excellent I will get this to you shortly. Do you still need the Microsoft? :)"

ME: "Is there anyway to get this broken down by system? It's rather confusing to an end-user."

VENDOR: "This is our quoting system and there is no way to break down."

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Which XP?

A customer called with a problem regarding their Microsoft Office. They were having a problem with the only computer that could check the company e-mail account. A quick Google search turned up a known Microsoft issue (what else?). I dialed into their computer and started the Office updater. I explained very clearly that they would need the Microsoft Office XP disc to continue.

Not Office 2000. Not Office 2003. But Office XP. I got in the car to head to the next appointment and called to check in with the customer.

"Only 33 minutes left," they told me.

"Hmm, that''s a long time for a Service Pack," I told them.

"Yeah, but we can wait. It had a problem with tape drivers, though. Will that be an issue?" they asked.

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A customer called our office and explained that a program he was working on had closed itself while he was in a document. The customer was not concerned about the lost document (which he had not saved), but wanted to know when he re-opened the program, how could he get all the programs on the Task Bar back in the right order. Apparently he always opened his computer the same way each day with the same programs and didn't know how to work when they were "out of order" on the bottom of the screen.

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A customer of was having bandwidth issues for nearly two weeks when he called us. After monitoring the line and making sure the ISP and firewall were good, we still couldn't find where the leak was coming from.

After some internal investigation, the customer dropped us a quick e-mail. Apparently, the sales staff had started watching a webcam of an African watering hole around the same time everyday.

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Internet For Dummies

The following conversation is repeated in some form or the other every week with a customer.

ME: Okay, please open Internet Explorer and go to www.logmein123.com.

CUSTOMER: Okay. I entered that. Do I want the official site?

ME: No, enter that site in the address bar.

CUSTOMER: I did and it came up with a bunch of results.

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Where'd It Go?

Okay, so I just have to write this one and get if off my chest. For the third time in as many months, the same customer just called me about missing files. Here we go again.

HIM: "There's something wrong with the computer system," he tells me, "half of the company documents just disappeared."

ME: "When did you notice they were gone?"

HIM: "Well, I was trying to select some and then they were gone."

ME: "Did you possibly drag them into a another folder?"

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CD-ROM 101

The following is an actual conversation with a customer:

ME: Okay, I can fix this issue, but first I'll need to to put the Microsoft Office CD in the drive.

HIM: I found the disk, but the comptuer is standing up. It won't go in.

ME: Find the little tabs and slip the disc in.

HIM: I can't. It just slides out.

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Shut Me Down

The following is an actual phone conversation with a customer.

THE SETUP: A high-strung customer called freaked out that he could not drag an drop files into an e-mail. Okay, so the nerdy punchline is that he had clicked Attach File already and was trying to drag a folder from the Insert window to the e-mail, so of course it wasn't going to work. Meanwhile, the conversation was pretty priceless.

HIM: Can you tell me what's wrong with the computer? I can't drop-and-drag files into e-mail.

ME: Okay, let me get into your computer.

HIM: I can't believe this. Why is this happening?

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Stocks and Bonds

You could say that I’m somewhat a geek when it comes to business news and watching the stock market trends throughout the day. You see, I was influenced at the very young age of 8 to the marvels of Wall Street by a game called, “Stocks and Bonds.” My parents owned the original 1964 Readers Digest version equipped with a stock board for recording opening and closing numbers and a cool slide calculator for the bear/bull market which told you if you’ve had a Happy Monday or a Black Friday. This game literally transported all who dared play it to Wall Street. The object of the game was to become the wealthiest stockholder in the game by choosing the best markets to purchase and/or sell stocks and bonds. And yes, I was only 8 years old when I was hooked on this game. (I had an older brother and sister who influenced me).

As our economy continues to be quite sluggish, I’m reminded about the game I played and all the external forces that contribute to the type of market we’re in. And, given this significance of all the technological advances today and associated cost, the importance of being able to compete leveraging best in class technology could not be more important and true. After all, customers not only want ‘Quality’ products and services but want the best price delivered the fastest way possible, right?

Working for an IT company has opened up my eyes to the endless possibilities that technology affords and at varying price points. I’ll be blogging on this soon so stay tuned.

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Benefits of "outtasking" for your SMB

What are the benefits of outsourcing/outtasking for SMB’s?

The term outsourcing sometimes carries a very negative reputation when you think of large scale companies laying off thousands of their workers when transferring their factories of administration services to developing countries in particular to the BRIC nations. (Brazil, Russia, India, and China). But this popular misconception doesn’t even begin to touch the surface of what the term outsourcing really means, and it fails to address many of the clear benefits that outsourcing can have for many SMB’s (small-medium businesses).

When a company outsources an entire division to an off-shore site then this is known as Business Process Outsourcing (BPO) but it’s the concept known as outtasking that can serve the needs of SMB’s perfectly. This concept refers to the outsourcing of specific tasks or processes that are outsourced to an external freelancer or contractor because the required expertise or skill cannot be found within the existing company. Why is this so useful for SMB’s then?

If you are operating a start-up or an SMB then of course a lot of the work will have to be done by a small number of employees as you don’t have the luxury of a large budget in order to hire a large number of experts in a variety of fields. Moreover, it is conceivable that when you are founding your company there are certain tasks that only need to be undertaken once, and thus your company does not need the service of a full-time in-house employee. The most stringent example could be within the creation of your brand, where you can outsource the task of creating a company logo design to an expert designer on a temporary basis. Furthermore, by choosing to
outsource certain tasks then this leaves SMB’s more time to concentrate on what they do best - developing business strategy.

Quality and expertise
Another clear benefit that outsourcing can bring to your SMB is that when you choose to award your project or need to a specific freelancer or contractor, you can be sure that this individual will bring professionalism and experience to the task. When choosing to use an outsourcing platform, you are free to view the references provided by each service provider in order to ensure their quality and expertise.

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Can technology really boost employee productivity and satisfaction without risk?

All the so-called “feel-good” psychological methods of improving employee satisfaction and  productivity metrics are great, but they’re useless without the right tools. And the right tools mean the right technology. For an employee to be efficient and productive in today’s job environment means equipping employees with the right tools. (I.e. remote access via a phone connection or an unsecured wireless link, smartphone access to check emails outside the office, a netbook while traveling, web applications, social media networking sites, etc.) Companies that fail to upgrade or ignore the necessity for these tools run the risk of diminished employee productivity.

Here’s the problem though – traditional security models in which company information is protected by secure network perimeters only around the office environment are becoming obsolete. This is due to more mobile employees accessing systems remotely from outside the office. As IT departments come under pressure to effectively manage and protect employee behaviors enabled by these tools, threats to the company network are becoming more sophisticated.

Where’s the balance? In conjunction with employee education and internal safety/security policies, it is essential that your IT division/company is taking a proactive approach to securing your computer network. They can make sure your network is secure from viruses, hackers, and annoying spyware thus reducing downtime and losses with up-to-date firewall and Unified Threat Management (UTM).

Some examples of what internal policies should cover include (in addition to technological advances to protect your network):

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Azzaron's Q2 Survey Results

At Azzaron, we strive to improve our service level and expand our product offerings on a continuous basis.  The respondents of our latest survey for July-2011 have already provided us with a lot of information but you are always welcome to send us suggestions and comments by email as well to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Our customer satisfaction survey ran during the month of July and we were very pleased with the tremendous participation rate–even higher than the last one! The overall survey results showed that 85 percent of our clients are satisfied with us and 95 percent of those responding would recommend us to friends or colleagues.

Last month, we heard your feedback for wanting us to be a bit more patient and to slow it down when dealing with your technical difficulties.   We are pleased to report that this score did improve so we’re headed in the right direction (see report).  Customer Service and meeting your needs is of the upmost importance to us at Azzaron.  We thank you for your feedback to help us improve both our products and services to you.

An area we need to focus on more (and we will) is our Help Desk Ticketing system.  The question is looking for feedback on the process being both helpful and informative in terms of logging a ticket and getting follow-up on the ticket disposition.  Overall, we dropped by 11% on this question with the gap being from those of you responding ‘undecided.’   That tells us we have more work to do.  As we didn’t get any specific feedback comments on this question, we will continue reaching out to you for that feedback as well as making enhancements along the way.  Please feel free anytime to provide us feedback.

Lastly, we would like to congratulate Michele A. with Pinnacle Lien.  Her name was randomly drawn to win the $10 gift card for completing the July client survey - 2011.  Congrats Michele!

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Signs that you need a cloud solution

In my last blog, I talked about the value of outsourcing IT with a focus on the cloud and how you can save money – my ultimate passion! Well, did you get your arms around this yet? Do you really want to save money and become more productive? As promised, I have listed below a few simple signs that could mean it’s time you took a look at the cloud:

  • Your software licensing is a mess. You don’t know which PCs or users have licenses for which packages. And you constantly have to delete licenses from user profiles in order to free up more versions of the software.
  • Your server workload fluctuates wildly and sometimes unpredictably.
  • Users are constantly reporting frustrations with a slow network, access to the database etc.
  • You are several iterations behind on the latest versions of crucial applications that underpin your business.
  • IT tells you that you need to take the server offline in order to install upgrades, but your business can’t afford the downtime.
  • Your workforce is frustrated – they want to have a more mobile productive working environment but your IT constraints means their locked to your legacy desktops.
  • You want more flexibility – in applications, storage and services.

If one or more of the above are affecting you and your business, you should strongly consider moving to the Cloud. It’ll save you money, allow for better organizaton and productivity, lead to increased employee satisfaction, and will give you the competetive edge in the marketplace.

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