Why China’s Biggest E-Commerce Site, Alibaba, Is About to Go Public in the US (and Why You Should Care)

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All work and no play makes Jack a happy boy, apparently.

On Tuesday, Alibaba filed for a $1 billion IPO in what’s being predicted as the largest tech offering the US stock exchange has ever seen (and yes, that includes Facebook).

We at planIT HARDWARE are frequent users of Alibaba, but perhaps you’re only just hearing about it lately amidst all this buzz. No worries, I’m here to hopefully explain the significance of this event so you’re not left scratching your head while all of your tech/business-savvy friends nerd-out around you.

Think of Alibaba as the eBay of China. Add to this the fact that it is also kind of the Amazon of China. Then add to that the fact that it makes sales figures higher than both of those e-commerce behemoths combined. Alibaba is smart, because it has a corner on just about every aspect of online shopping; like a truly digital mall. The Alibaba Group has so many subsets, it’s hard to keep track, but one thing’s for certain: they’re all wildly lucrative and successful.

Jack Ma is the CEO of the Alibaba Group, and responsible for what some call the first Chinese internet company, China Pages. In a truly ‘90s-thriller-fashion, this entrepreneur came to the US in 1995, was held hostage at gunpoint in an L.A. mansion for two days, saw the Internet and flew back home to start forming companies and dot-coms. Inviting friends and media over, he showed off the power of the Internet over an extremely slow dial-up connection, waiting hours on a single page to load. Now, he has Yahoo as a major investor of his multi-billion dollar company and is ready to take it public in the US at an unprecedented amount.

Listing on the US market has the benefit of offering a larger pool of potential investors in addition to giving a brand/business more credibility and trustworthiness. The offering is expected to hit the market this summer, and don’t be fooled by that $1 billion figure—that’s simply a ‘placeholder’ of sorts that’s intended to balloon well past the $15 billion mark and make history.

Net Neutrality: What It Is and Why You Should Care

planit hardware, net neutrality, isp, court of appeals, FCC, federal communications commission, broadband service, network equipment, IT hardware, used Cisco reseller, secondary IT hardwareThe term net neutrality has been popping up a lot over the last few years. It’s seemingly become everyone’s favorite buzzword, sure to light a controversial spark wherever it’s mentioned and rouse the ire of millennials everywhere. With the World Wide Web having just celebrated its 25th birthday, it seems appropriate to start by reviewing what it is that makes the internet so powerful and innovative, even all these years later.

What has always made the Internet fascinating and appealing from the start, I think, is the ability for the end-user to explore and journey. Imagine adventuring through a daunting terrain such as a massive forest or desert; the only thing hindering you being natural law, the physical limitations of this planet and your body. Suddenly, we were introduced to a world where those limitations weren’t really much of a factor, especially as the technology fueling that world continued to advance and mature exponentially. Sure, we were left to experience things differently, with nothing tangible but buttons, keys, screens and the mouse; if we got tired in this realm, it was only from staring at the screen for too long.

The main tenet behind all this is simple: ISP’s (internet service providers—e.g., Comcast, AT&T, etc.) and the government do not get to discriminate amongst websites, content providers, end-users and the like, as to who gets any sort of preferential treatment in the delivery of data; all content is delivered neutrally and with the same preference. The current battle is whether this neutrality should be required by law, so as to protect status quo.

Back in 2006, Jon Stewart made a big show of the net neutrality debate, long before most were aware its now-looming existence. He made jokes that if ISPs could give preferential treatment to pages by sending their data faster to the end-user, then sites like “ihate(nameofISP).com” would take forever to load. As the debate waged on for another four years, the FCC decided to finally take some action to protect the fairness of the internet. In 2010, they enforced the Open Internet Order, which made sure that ISPs couldn’t interrupt the flow of certain kinds of traffic (streaming video or downloading files, for example) simply because it wasn’t in the immediate interest of their business to do so.

As of January of this year, however, that Open Internet Order was nullified and declared unenforceable in the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals. Now, the race is on between the FCC and the giants of broadband service; both will try and quickly make the case for legislation that favors their side of the fence. If the ISPs get their way, they could, for example, slow down streaming services to push users toward their own digital media service. The FCC is in the middle of tightening up its legal approach to the matter while the public is becoming increasingly vocal about which side they are on.

Our business here at planIT HARDWARE is to provide the best deals on the secondary IT hardware market. The biggest part of what we do is enabling both individual end-users and corporations as a whole to have smoother, faster and safer web experiences. We feel it’s important to protect the integrity of the internet and hope that a resolution is reached soon.

BONUS: Here’s Stephen Colbert breaking down Net Neutrality like a boss.

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In Anticipation of Final Month of Obamacare Enrollment, Gov’t Makes a Dramatic Move

planIT Hardware, healthcare exchange, obamacare, healthcare.gov, cisco, used cisco reseller, CMS, HHS, network equipmentBig money was dropped recently in the world of network equipment.

The HHS (Department of Health and Human Services) is anticipating plenty of traffic in the last month of open enrollment for Obamacare (the deadline is March 31st). After the now-infamous debut snafu of Healthcare.gov, the government is taking preventative measures to ensure a smooth registration process for those still holding out until the deadline. As a result, the HHS has recently ordered $2.5 million worth of IT hardware to bolster the anticipated bandwidth.

Surprisingly, only $56,782 of this large order was spent on Cisco devices; these were purchased for a firewall upgrade.

Unfortunately, the agency within the HHS that’s responsible for the purchasing, CMS (Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services), was not legally able to partake in the competitive bidding process that’s typical of most large IT infrastructure buildouts. According to a quote on freebeacon.com, “‘CMS is not in a position to take the time to compete the added capacity requirements and successfully implement the exchange program as mandated by law.'” Basically, they’re spending a fortune for the sake of time.

If only they’d gone through us! (Oh well…there’s always the next government buildout)

planIT HARDWARE has both new and refurbished network hardware at 60-90% off list prices. Contact us for a quote on whatever parts you need.

Speaking of urgency, looks like the POTUS is eager to get the news out about the deadline by whatever unconventional means necessary:

Über-Fast Google Fiber Internet Service Considers ATL, Eight Other Metro Areas For Expansion

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It’s about time someone new came around to put Comcast in a headlock.

Google Fiber, the wicked-fast internet and TV service from the web behemoth we all know and love, is in a new stage of expansion. The company is planning on bringing the service to nine new metro areas, including Atlanta.

Up until now, Fiber has only been available, for some reason I can’t begin to explain, in Kansas City, Kansas and Provo, Utah (not the most obvious of candidates); by mid-year, it will be fully deployed in Austin, Texas. The service features gigabit speeds (1000 mpbs), making it 100 times faster than today’s average broadband speeds. To illustrate: I used the Google Fiber “race” widget on their website to compare speeds. I chose the option ‘Download HD Movie’ and set my speed at 10 mbps (the next highest tier was 50 mbps, which is not as close to my average work/home speed of 20mbps). Here were the results:

Google Fiber Speed ComparisonGoogle is now in the stages of purveying these incredible speeds in nine new metro markets. These areas are only potential spots, as the company is simply in the talking/planning stages with these interested parties. The metro areas announced as being in talks are the following: Portland (OR), San Jose, Salt Lake City, Phoenix, San Antonio, Nashville, Charlotte, Raleigh-Durham and Atlanta. Within these metro areas, there are 34 specific municipalities/neighborhoods/cities that are being considered.

Aside from surveying the physical region and determining its appropriateness, Google will also have to ensure that the cities it’s working with hold up their end of the process. Google has given each interested party a ‘checklist.’ This list consists of three main categories of information that a hosting metro would have to deliver to Google: provide information about existing infrastructure; help ensure access to existing infrastructure; help make construction speedy and predictable. If a city chooses not to complete this checklist and does not desire to make the necessary preparations, this would keep Fiber from coming to that area. If you live in any of the above metro areas, keep your fingers crossed!

Oh, yeah…and the price points/packages in the two existing cities are nuts, so expect a good deal:

There’s Gigabit + TV for $120/mo (includes 200+ HD channels and a FREE Nexus 7 tablet), Gigabit Internet for $70/mo, and Free Internet. Yup. Free. If Uncle Herb only needs 5 mbps to take care of business, then he can pay a flat construction fee of $300; this can be done up front or monthly ($25) for a year. On top of this, the Free plan has no service contract (unlike the prior two plans) and is “guaranteed for at least 7 years per address.” So, once you’ve paid off that construction fee, you could have up to 6 years of practically (can’t avoid taxes/fees) free internet.

If your business or home needs better IT infrastructure now, contact us for a quote on any number of network hardware devices. Google Fiber plus the heavy artillery of planIT sounds like a match made in fiber-optic heaven.

Excitedly awaiting the day I call Comcast/Xfinity and blast this over the phone:

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Young Abe Lincoln Says: “Happy Presidents’ Day from planIT HARDWARE!”

planit hardware, network hardware, used cisco reseller, presidents day, abe lincoln, young abe lincoln, february 2014Happy Presidents’ Day 2014!

Today seemed like the perfect day to let my co-workers here at planIT HARDWARE have their fun with their running ‘Young Abe Lincoln’ joke, so, here’s that.

If you’re fortunate enough to have the day off, enjoy it! Spring is just around the corner and some areas in the South are starting to see those temperatures climb; the fair Georgia lady has shone her golden radiance down upon the northern slush.

On the other hand, if you’re at work, good for you…so are we!

Snowpocalypse 2.0 (Winter Storm Pax) Descends Upon ATL, 90% Chance of Panic

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It’s Coming…

The Snowpocalypse (v.2.0) is upon us…or, in this case, what I’m going to go ahead and dub ICEPOCALYPSE.

Yes, the threat of Icepocalypse is very real. What’s the fuss? you might ask, after failing to notice a single snowflake, It’s only a little rain…

This is where you are dead wrong, friend.

All you need to do is step into a metro Atlanta Kroger and you will see pure chaos, the likes of which you’ve never seen. Milk shelves are empty. Chicken breasts? Gone. As for the bread shelves, paleo diets are out….carbs are way, way in. AND SOMEONE TOOK ALL THE KRISPY KREMES!

Okay, maybe we’re not getting the most snow/ice possible, but it’s enough for folks down here to react strongly enough to, so mind the panic. We hope that all those in our community will stay safe regardless, and we’re looking forward to seeing/hearing about more acts of do-goodery by our fellow ATL denizens.

Also, pre-packed, sodium-filled deli meats were apparently in high demand:

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:

unsecure wifi, planit hardware, don clark, used cisco reseller, mobile security, best practices

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.]