The New 4G Race – Can AT&T Make it Rain on Verizon?

They say 4G is super-fast and we’ll love it, since it’s better than the ancient 3G…, Right? But not all 4G is created equal.  Even when you’re talking about the same kind of 4G – (Long Term Evolution or “LTE”). Now that AT&T has launched its LTE network in a few cities that allow a better side by side and apples to apples comparison with Verizon, can we ask, “Who’s the fastest? ”

Will consumers continue to smile happily upon Verizon’s “Can you hear me now?” call, or can AT&T finally deliver on its sometimes overly ambitious “You will!” claims?  More to the point, is Verizon’s network still faster than AT&T?

Can ATT make it rain in Chicago with LTE 4G? Or are they just all wet?

A recent study released  by the wireless analytics company Metrico set out to discover which LTE network was faster: AT&T or Verizon.  The firm performed data and web speed tests on five devices in three cities where both carriers have LTE networks. Metrico collected 24,000 samples from five locations in each of those cities.

After the data tests were performed, Metrico determined that in this side-by-side review AT&T was on average 30% faster, according to their controlled (but not fully scientific) study.  That’s a surprise to  some of us knowledgeable with the technical landscape of the U.S.  cellular  market.  It’s probably also a surprise to wireless customers, since consumer opinion mirrors the conventional wisdom that Verizon is considered to have a better network (or at least a better performing, less congested network) than AT&T.

We haven’t gotten down and dirty in the details of the Metrico report, but it certainly piques our interest.  Why did they get these results? Was it due to types of phones or devices used? Was it the amount of users on the network, or the given  locations?  Were the results skewed or valid?  Check it out for yourself.  Tell us what you think.

FTIL 2 – The Time of the Season

What is this world coming to?  Something good, perhaps?  People continue to show that there are changes more significant and meaningful than the unpredictable march of the modern business cycle, and I’m pleased to discover that there’s a new kind of improvement in productivity that affects people’s lives directly, not just through some abstract macroeconomic statistics.

Nowadays, folks are happy campers harvesting grapes, stomping them, and hauling away the sap amidst the blistering Calistoga sun or bitter chills of Halifax winds.  I’m not talking about agricultural employees, I’m talking about the consumers!  Though many could avoid the additional expense and effort through a quick swing through their local store, more and more people will pay handsomely to participate in the vinification process, from performing sweaty vineyard chores to listening in on lectures on the art and science of wine making. 

A growing number of vineyards around the world are more than happy to oblige, customizing sessions and tasks to seasonal needs of the vineyard.  Catering to this new customer demand with titles like “Wine Camp for Beginners” and “Grape to Bottle,” the vineyards’ goals are to demystify the subject and present their wares to the people so that consumers can better appreciate their products, as well as the care and expertise necessary to make them special.

Aside from learning cool words like “riddling” (dislodging sediment to the neck of the bottle) and “disgorging” (removing sediment from the bottle) and, of course, drinking the fruits (no pun intended) of your labor, the biggest benefits of these camps have little to do with wine itself.  They are the laughter, spending time with your family and friends, and crafting memories that last a lifetime.

Oh by the way, if you happen to find yourself in NorCal’s winery region, it’s worth a quick trip to Sonoma for a private tour of facilities at Sonoma-Cutrer Vineyards – my wife and I have many memories of tasting sessions from the barrels in the barrel room with former head winemaker Terry Adams (Terry, hope you are enjoying your retirement pal).  And V. Sattui Winery is the best kept BBQ secret in Napa.

Here’s to finer things in life.  Worry less about the trends, enjoy the seasons.  Cheers!

Year-End Reconciliation for SMBs – Federal and State Compliance (Part 1 of a 3 Part Series)

Small businesses dread this time of the year.  Heck, I dread it…   I’ve seen enterprises of all shapes and sizes put off this crucial task as long as they can, hoping it would somehow go away.  However, year-end reconciliations, for both IRS compliance and internal records and P&L purposes, don’t need to hurt as long as you stay organized. smb tax compliance

Key compliance tasks for year-end reconciliation of federal and state tax matters include:

  • Employee Wages and Taxes – each quarter, you should have sent the federal government a Form 941-SS, which summarized your employees’ wages and withholdings.  At the end of the year, you will need to send the Social Security Administration a W-2 form showing how much each employee was paid, and how much was withheld, in addition to W-3, which is a summary of all the W-2 forms.  Lastly, if your state has an income tax, you must send in an annual reconciliation along with copies of the W-2s. 
  • Contractor 1099 Payments – similar to W-2 employees, each contractor gets a 1099 at year-end, and you will need to send a 1096, which is summary of all 1099s, to the federal government.

Regardless of how independent or self-reliant you may be, bear in mind that the market provides you with a sound way to avoid creating a year-end rush and a long-term operating issue.  For a minimal fee your payroll services provider will file all compliance paperwork and mail W-2s and 1099s for you.  You will simply need to verify transactions and documentation with your agent.  Stay organized through the year and leave the hard work to payroll provider at year-end.


Year End Reconciliation for SMBs – A Three Part Series

Part 1 – Federal and State Compliance

Part 2 – Accounting and Close

Part 3 – Forecast and Budget

Small Solutions for Big Problems – NAS Data Storage

Centralized file storage for your SMB

If you have 2 PCs or more in your business and can’t afford a file server (or don’t want the hassle of maintaining one), a NAS is a great investment. Each person has their own files on their PCs and makes changes to those files when necessary. Though, what if you have files that need to be shared by everyone or by specific users in the business? What if multiple people need to make changes to a single file or worst their computer crashes? Things can easily get complicated very quickly, causing wasted time and resources consumed by emailing files back and forth.  Not to mention the follow up calls or hallway chats devoted to making sure the person received it, etc…  “Did you get that document?  It was in that message I sent.”

This is where having a network and a NAS comes in handy.  A NAS, otherwise known as Network Attached Storage, is basically a networked hard drive that can be accessed anywhere from your business, wirelessly and even remotely without the need for a file server. With a NAS system, data can be centrally stored and set up with permissions for either all or certain users in your business. This way, files may be shared both instantly and efficiently. Another great thing about a NAS is that it is easily backed up so that your data is safe and your PCs don’t even have to be on overnight.

Survey Says! Tablet Adoption on the Rise

AUSTIN, TX – November 9, 2011 – A new study reveals that small and mid-sized businesses (SMBs) continue to embrace advanced technology – including tablet computers, cloud services and virtualization technology—at a rapid pace. According to the results of the recently released State of SMB IT survey, nearly half of SMBs have adopted tablet computers and cloud services, while IT budgets for the second half of 2011 saw the greatest jump in more than two years.

The Spiceworks State of SMB IT survey is a semi-annual global study that investigates the latest technology purchasing, usage and staffing trends among companies with less than 1,000 employees. The study of 1,200+ IT professionals was conducted during the fall of 2011 via the Spiceworks Voice of IT® Market Research Program.

Survey highlights include:

  • Tablets are becoming more popular among small and mid-sized businesses.
  • Fifty percent of SMBs have deployed or plan to deploy tablet devices, such as iPads, within the next six months.Adoption of cloud services continues to rise rapidly among SMBs, while virtualization is still their top IT initiative.
  • Cloud services are now used by 46 percent of SMBs, a significant rise over the 28 percent that reported using cloud services in the first half of 2011 and the 14 percent that reported doing so mid-year 2010.
  • Virtualization continues to dominate the SMB market. Currently, 61 percent of small and mid-sized businesses use virtualization, which is up from the 54 percent that reported using virtualization during the first half of 2011.
  • IT budgets see the largest increase in two years as SMBs continue to add IT staff.

Overall IT budgets in the second half of 2011 grew 9 percent when compared with IT budgets for the first half of 2011 – the largest increase in two years. The average annual IT budget for SMBs now stands at $143,000, up from the $132,000 previously reported for the first half of 2011.

Nearly one in three SMBs, or 31 percent, plan to hire IT staff – which is consistent with data reported for the first half of 2011. “Despite market fluctuations, 2011 proved to be a great year for disruptive technologies as SMBs increasingly adopted tablet computers, cloud services and virtualization technology,” said Jay Hallberg, co-founder and vice president of Marketing for Spiceworks. “The results of our most recent survey show SMBs making similar strategic technology investments with expanded budgets – pointing to a stronger market for IT products and services among small and mid-sized businesses in 2012.”

Quick PC Performance Tip of the Day!

Why use TV commercial ads to make your PC faster?

After using your PC for a while, you may notice that it seems to take longer and longer to start up. This can be extremely annoying, especially if all you want to do is turn on your PC for a quick peek at your bank account or check email.  So, something that may take a minute to do, will now take 10 minutes because your PC has to load up all of those programs at startup.

Here’s a quick tip on how you minimize those start-up times to get them closer to being acceptable.

1. For XP: Click Start -> Click Run -> Type msconfig -> Press EnterFor Vista\7: Click Windows button ->In the search area, Type msconfig -> Press Enter

2. You will notice the System Configuration Utility pop-up.

3. Click on the Startup tab

4. This lists every program that starts up with Windows

5. Very carefully sort through the list. Some of it may not make sense. For example in XP: Apple‘s Quicktime program is actually called “qttask“. To disable this program from starting up, uncheck the box beside “qttask” -> Click Apply -> Restart the computer.

To see a better description of each file, expand the width of the “Command” column, up near the Startup tab. I recommend only unchecking one item at a time, to make sure that nothing goes wrong during the next restart.  Please be extra careful with this, as some of these files are necessary for either Windows to work correctly or maybe even your corporate software.  Also, look for items that are blank or have no description as they may be signs of a virus, adware or spyware. Disable them first and restart to see if your PC’s performance increases.

It’s quick. It’s simple.  It’s less hassle than responding to a 2 a.m. informercial!

Richard’s Finer Things in Life (FTIL 1) – Olive Oil

When’s the last time you gave more than a minute of thought to olive oil?  Not very good for high heat cooking – that’s the extent of my knowledge of juices from this simple fruit…  Virgin oil is manually extracted or pressed without using heat or chemicals.  Extra virgin has low acidity thus good for cooking and salads.  But in all seriousness, any gourmet worth his salt knows that Tuscan-style olive oil pairs well with arugula and radicchio with its peppery character.

On the other hand, butter lettuce and micro greens should be dressed with less assertive traits, perhaps those from Alpes de Haute-Provence with its distinctive fruity flavor…  Olive oil is a deep and passionate subject for enthusiasts who characterize varieties using a vernacular familiar to wine, coffee and scotch.  Small North American producers are downright psychotic about making exquisite boutique oils that cater to finer tastes.

I believe it’s important to experiment and develop your own palette for refinement.  Try different varietals, brands, and the stores that carry them. Oh, why not?  Some experiments will turn out to be an absolute triumph, while others can be utter disasters…   But even then, they will be your own disasters, and at the end of the day, it should be fun to blaze some new trails.  Lastly, this FTIL does not necessarily have to be an expensive hobby.  Walking along the isles of a discount outlet, my wife and I were surprised to find a small bottle of Lambda at quite a reasonable price…   Here’s to hoping that you too will also enjoy finer things in life.  Cheers!

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