Winter Storm Brings Metro Atlanta to Its Knees

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Photo Courtesy of Snowed Out Atlanta

It’s been all over the news. On Tuesday afternoon, January 28th, 2014, snow began to fall in Atlanta. What started out as a light dusting continuously came down to quickly form 2 inches…and it stuck. Any snow that ever falls in Atlanta rarely sticks to the ground, as it stays generally pretty warm. However, weeks of below-freezing weather had primed our area for the best (worst?) conditions for the storm dubbed “Leon” to have its reign of terror. Roads began to slush up, and with temperatures rapidly reaching the 20s (and eventually the teens overnight), Atlanta became Rockefeller Center (but without all the cocoa and smiles). Seemingly everyone in the immediate universe left work at the same exact time at about 1pm that day, causing a massive gridlock worthy of Walking Dead proportions.

The chaotic scramble to get home turned into an 18-hour ordeal for some. Children were stuck in schools and, even worse, in buses that were in transit at the time of the gridlock. Little to no preparations were made by the city as far as treating the roads ahead of time (this writer didn’t see a single plow truck or vehicle salting the roads on his 2-hour drive home). As a result, folks abandoned their vehicles (mostly on I-285) and trekked through the snow to find shelter and food for the day. One of planIT HARDWARE’s very own employees, Doug Love, was a victim of this gridlock, and ended up taking part in the exodus (and occasional fun) that ensued. Before finding his own shelter in the form of a friend’s not-too-far house, Doug snapped a few pictures to post on Instagram, one of which became virally shared by publications like Business Insider and Buzzfeed in their coverage of the spectacle.

We’re very proud of Doug for not only surviving (good job, Doug) but also helping others out, having fun and becoming an unwitting Field Correspondent via his snapshot. The silver lining in all this is that this storm brought out the best in people in our community (like the folks who started the Snowed Out Atlanta page on Facebook, which led to hundreds of people connecting and helping one another amidst the crisis). There are many articles from various media outlets highlighting the do-goodery that ensued; I suggest you give it a Google.  

We Want to Thank You…

planit hardware warehouse banner, planit hardware, planithw, used it hardware, used network hardware, used cisco reseller, used cisco, computer networking hardware, network hardware, it hardware, nib, nob, eol Hey folks! Like a young infant, progressing from having the limited mobility of a capsized turtle to stumbling about like a club-footed drunken sailor, 2014 is just getting its footing (*insert ‘they grow up so fast’ sentiment here*) and we’re happy to say that with this new year comes a new planIT HARDWARE.

Did you hear that we’ve moved into a new location? We wrote about it here.

Yep, we’ve settled in to our official new location in Smyrna, just outside of Atlanta. The warehouse is bigger and comfortably houses all of our inventory (with enough room for a new, half-court basketball setup). There’s a workout room with mirrored walls and a mounted flatscreen TV, a full kitchen with dishwasher (no more pruney fingers for this keyboard) and industrial Keurig machine (“Coffee? Sure, give me 45 seconds.”), and a large open-floor cube farm (hi guys!). On top of this, we’ve got a new, dedicated testing lab that our head technician, Paul Saunders, is quite pleased with. All of these factors add up to one thing: our company is growing.

For those of you who have been following our journey in one way or another, 2014 was a big year, and after two award wins and 2 new hires in 2013 (not to mention our fourth consecutive year of revenue growth), we’re ready to keep growing. Now we have a place to grow into.

Thanks to all of our clients, vendors, end-users, and readers of the blog. It’s one big family at planIT HARDWARE, and we like to think of you all as part of that.

3 Simple Ways You Could Be Compromising Your Mobile Security

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In two years, internet traffic (IP traffic) from wireless devices will exceed traffic from wired devices. With greater percentages of total global web traffic originating from mobile devices (this includes both smartphones and tablets), it’s time bust out your inner Kevin McAllister and step up your defense game. Ever notice how there’s no McAfee or Symantec on the average person’s iPhone or Kindle Fire? That means it’s partly up to you to make use of best internet security practices when going mobile. Here are just a few tips:

Connecting Over Unsecure/Public Wi-Fi:

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photo credit: Don Clark

Right now, major mobile carriers have abolished the old unlimited data options and are charging plenty of money every month for very small caps of usage. 3 GB just doesn’t cut it anymore, what with all the streaming services that have become a normal part of everyday web use. So, now more than ever, everyone is more meticulous than ever about making sure they’re connected to every wireless network and hotspot possible. And if you can find one that doesn’t require a password, even better, right? Well, not quite. You never know who you’re sharing that network with and for what purpose they’re using it. Additionally, hijackers can gain access to your device via apps with certain security vulnerabilities. Bottom line: if you can get access to the password by walking up and asking the barista, do it; it’s better than taking a risk on that sketchy open network, ‘BOBS_DEN,’ that’s open nearby.

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Use That Passlock Feature:

I cannot stress this enough. It is a rather simple but effective way to ward off unnecessary hackings. For the slight nuisance of having to thumb-in four digits every time you pick up your phone (and this is even being relieved by new technologies such as the 5S’ finger scanner), you can soak in the dividends like peace of mind when your phone goes missing, knowing that no one can snoop through your contents and providing yourself with a nice buffer period to attempt to track the device down–or wipe it remotely.

 

Careful with That Bluetooth!:

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Bluetooth is a really great feature that allows you to invisibly (wirelessly, really, but it sounds much cooler this way) stream content to a number of powerful devices (first, home stereo systems; now, cars) from something as singular as your pocket-sized smartphone. Bluetooth is also annoyingly vulnerable. While I would never leave mine on (total battery hog on my already-weak-iPhone 4S), I know many people that do, either because they have headsets for work, driving, home stereo systems or any combination of peripheral devices that incorporate the technology. Leaving Bluetooth on could make your device discoverable to someone shady who is looking to hack unwitting users. The best practice here is to turn that Bluetooth off when you’re not directly using it. Period.

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planIT HARDWARE Shaves Goodbye to Movember

moustache man, planit hardware, used cisco, fundraising, movember, mustache, spiceworksplanIT HARDWARE raises awareness and donations for Movember, the mustache-themed prostate cancer and general men’s health awareness month.

Movember has officially ended, and with it a whole trend of beard growing and a voluntary ban on facial hair shaving. Expect to see those who played by the rules rocking their mustaches in full glory for the next few days (or weeks, for the truly dedicated). According to the official rules (as per us.movember.com) participants start the month of November clean-shaven, spending the next 30 days growing and grooming their new crumb dusters, with no shaving allowed. Some opt to grow just the mustache out, while others bring in a full beard (or whatever they can muster up) before shaving all but the focal area off. As they do this, some are asking for contributions and sponsorship to donate to men’s health organizations, mainly through the Movember website, while all others are raising awareness of these issues (such as prostate and testicular cancers) just by sporting the new look.

“Globally, the funds raised…support world-class men’s health programs that combat prostate and testicular cancer and mental health challenges. These programs, directed by the Movember Foundation, are focused on awareness and education…and research to achieve our vision of an everlasting impact on the face of men’s health.” (via us.Movember.com)

planIT HARDWARE launched an awareness campaign last month on the online IT community Spiceworks. For every mustache picture posted in our message board thread, we donated $10. We gave the most upvoted, popular ‘stache pics some cool prizes, including shaving kits and a grand prize of a year-long supply of craft beer. As of yesterday, the company has raised nearly $450 for the Movember Foundation and men’s health issues.

So, now that it’s December, you can boldly rock the ‘stache or wipe the slate clean, but don’t forget to stay healthy and conduct yourself like a true country gentleman! [A big shoutout to all the Mo’ Sisters who put up with all of the unkemptness flying around this month.]

In an Effort to Push Upgrades, Cisco Raises Prices on Older Switch Units

Cisco, Price hike, network hardware upgrade, used IT hardware, price increase, push upgrade, older switch units, catalyst 6000 series, planIT hardware, refurbished, used cisco resellerAccording to Network World, Cisco is increasing the price of older Catalyst switch units, hoping to motivate consumers towards the purchase of newer equipment. Price hikes are as high as 67% in some cases, with replacement parts and associated accessories being marked up as well.

The main targets in this change are some switches in the Catalyst 3000, 4000 and 6000 families. No new switching products will see a price increase, according to Cisco, but the company does confirm the price increase on older gear. “There is a slight price increase for a very small subset of older Catalyst models that now have a next generation option available to customers,” said a Cisco spokesperson.

Those products that are older, however, are seeing an average mark-up of $14,000. A Catalyst 6000 chassis bundle with the item number VS-C6506E-S720-10G, for example, will see an increase from $33,995 to $47,995.

This move by Cisco is an alternative to placing some of their more popular older units on end-of-life status. With a reseller like planIT HARDWARE, consumers can still purchase these products at 60-90% off list price, even less than purchasing the lower-priced next generation upgrades directly from Cisco. We are reliable, dedicated, and our products are all tested and certified, so you can be sure you’re working with a trustworthy vendor to provide you with first-rate products at secondary market prices.

These new price increases go into effect starting November 2nd.

The Walking Dead of IT Hardware

walking dead, IT hardware, used cisco reseller, planIT hardware, refurbished network hardware, eol, eol network hardware, discount cisco “Walkers” is what the show calls them. The increasingly popular, ratings-record-breaking AMC horror-drama series, The Walking Dead, has just returned to television with a season premiere that has become the most-watched cable entertainment show of all time. For a show about zombies, it’s got a lot of people looking alive every Sunday night.

In the show’s mythology, the undead are human beings with a latent virus of sorts who have died. After death, the virus becomes active and the corpses become walkers, brought back to “life” and reanimated to live until killed again by brain trauma.

At planIT, we specialize in walkers…although, our walkers are much more refined and stable than their savage television counterparts, and more intelligent too, for that matter. We bring decommissioned IT hardware back to life, refurbishing it to a state as adequate as when it was plugged in out of the box. While the same cannot be said for the monsters marauding about Atlanta in the popular series, who are clearly in far worse shape than when they were living, it’s fun to think of our lab and warehouse as a place where life goes on, where you can’t kill a piece of hardware until you smash its motherboard right in the head. This is a testament to our skilled in-house technicians and our warehouse team.

Look alive, planIT has some great deals waiting for you, both new and…undead.

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The Power (Or Lack Thereof) of PoE

poe, power over ethernet, cisco poe, cisco, ac, green solutions, green it, energy efficiency, energy efficient, energy solutions, data center, internet traffic, 1993, 2011, data capacity, storage capacityEarlier in the year, we referenced New Order and looked at how “everything’s gone green.” Remember that? Wasn’t that fun? Managers of data centers are still constantly seeking out ways to increase their energy efficiency. Like the Holland Tunnel–or just about any major road in The Garden State (no, not that silly movie)–the internet has become an ever-congested, high-traffic route, The Information Superhighway, as it was once so endearingly called. In response to heightened demands, data storage capacity has increased exponentially and continues to (even as you read this–ever looked at GMail’s data capacity ticker?), but what’s equally as necessary is a continuance of energy solutions. Just as cars are becoming more fuel efficient, hybrid, electric, etc., network hardware is condensing its technology to save both physical space in the datacenter and to cut costs and usage on power. The last large innovation in this particular area of concern would had to’ve been the introduction of power-over-ethernet (PoE) technology.

Server equipment such as routers and switches require a lot of electricity and power to run, and there are more of them running concurrently than ever before. In 1993, global internet traffic totaled about a couple hundred terabytes (TB) per year. In 2011, almost two decades later, internet traffic reached at least this much data per *second*. The bulk of data centers’ operating expenses (more than 50%) is spent on cooling mechanisms–air conditioning and fan try operation–to keep these units from running hot. Inefficiency has plagued the data center manager for decades as internet traffic has continued to peak, and, with the ubiquity of web connectivity via mobile devices and public WiFi hotspots, it continues to climb ever higher. PoE allows for both a device’s data and power to course through the same Ethernet infrastructure, and in recent years it has begun to offer solutions to the energy conundrum.

PoE technology may not have been perfect when it first debuted, but, like most practical innovations, took a few years to really shine. Now, PoE is not simply a novelty or an alternative to traditional AC (alternating current) power. Since its introduction, it has allowed for versatile structuring and configuration within a data center. And since the power and data share an infrastructure, it has the potential to be a very efficient solution, with no separate installations or repairs for AC or cable. On top of this, PoE offers remote shut-off and power preservation technologies that simple AC power bricks cannot. When a server is running all night long, but no one is using it, PoE is able to idle or power down conditionally under unique circumstances. Perhaps the office’s IP phones should be off during the weekend or over a holiday break–well, PoE is versatile enough to where you can make that distinction from a central station. The best part of all of this is that PoE still has potential, a few plays left in its deck, and it will continue to show off its abilities in the years to come, as we save precious resources and precious, precious dollars.