Season of Giving Leads to Reflection

As we move into December and I reflect on our annual Season of Giving, it has caused me to think about the past year at NGL Connection. There have been many changes, most are a result of wanting to Give Back to our existing customers as well as to potential new customers in the outlying areas.  Some of those changes included:

  • Going from 18 Full-time Employees in January to 23 Employees in November (and it looks like we are not done with adding to our staff)
  • Purchase of the Kemmerer area to complete our link northward.
  • Acquiring additional office space and equipment to house our support services.
  • Upgrade of equipment & maintenance on 26 tower sites.
  • Restructuring our organization to better meet the needs of our customers, externally as well as internally.

Just looking at the list is exhausting!  And, of course, none of this happened without working through some major pain points.  That being said, we are grateful to those who have hung in there with us – customers and staff alike.  We could not have done it without you!

On the flip side, all this work has also allowed us to build better relationships.  As a company, we have the right people in the right seats, but hiring new staff and restructuring the organization does not come without a lot of training, practice, and, yes, a few mistakes along the way.  Externally, it has been a year of getting out to our service areas, talking to people, hearing their concerns, and finding ways to be more involved in their communities.  As a result, two major decisions were made:

1.     Our Season of Giving this year will be to give back to the Senior Center Meal Programs in all of our areas served.  It became apparent that we have meal programs in all of the areas that NGL Connection provides service and that there is a need for support.  Consequently, for every NGL Customer who pays their December invoice by the 20th of the month, $2 will be donated to the Senior Meal Programs in January 2018.  It will be divided equally between the 6 Senior Center Meal Programs in our service area.

2.     As we got out to all our service areas, the other “Aha” moment was when we realized we needed to be more involved in all our communities.  Consequently, it was decided that the theme for 2018 would be “Local Is As Local Does”.  It is our goal to focus on community events and happenings throughout the year on a monthly basis. (2017 theme was “Together We Can Do More” where we focused on local businesses and organizations every month but all were in the Evanston area.)

At NGL Connection, it has definitely been a crazy year – lots of changes, lots of growth.  That being said, we are so very excited to be able to Give Back to our entire service area.  As for 2018, if you know of a community event in your area this coming year, please give our Marketing Department a call at 307-288-5491, ext 712 or email us at marketing@nglconnection.com.

Avoid Becoming Just Another Statistic

According to the 2016 Statistic Brain Research Institute, 40% of all U.S. households have been affected by computer viruses.  To take it a step further, the estimated cost to U.S. households for viruses, spyware, and phishing is $4.55 billion – Holy Moly, who’s got that kind of cash!  

As much as we would like to believe this would never happen here in Cowboy Country, the truth of the matter is that every computer connected to the internet is susceptible.  And once your computer becomes corrupted, it just goes from bad to worse impacting productivity, causing frustration, perhaps data loss, and eventually, you may even need to buy a new computer.  Think about it in terms of your vehicle – you rotate the tires, change the oil, check other fluids, and, at the very least, clean it out from time to time.  You do all of this to keep that expensive investment running well as long as possible. Your computer is the same, otherwise it slows down and can’t keep up with all your needs and eventually becomes obsolete.

But what if you had “Computer Geeks on Call” and they could service your computer without you ever having to leave your home!  Low and behold, there is such a program which we call Remote Monitoring Management (RMM).  Let me tell you how it works:

1.    Software is installed on your computer by NGL Connection which notifies you and our tech support team about critical issues.

2.    If your computer experiences a problem, a small notification will automatically appear with information about how to contact NGL Connection.

3.    A built-in contact form allows you to contact us with any issues that you experience.

4.    Benefit:  You receive faster repairs, quick access to support and a higher quality of overall service.

I can sincerely attest to the value of our program as I do have this installed on my home computer.  The main reason I signed up for RMM is because I am the type of computer user who doesn’t care how the computer works nor am I willing to learn – I just want my computer to work all the time, every time.   Additionally, I never know when I get a request to download an update or an alert about a possible virus, what should I do…. Or not do.  NGL takes care of this for me and I don’t have to think about it.  Just recently, I had a pop-up say I had to reinstall some software; I wasn’t sure whether I should do it or not.  So, I sent a message on the contact form to NGL Connection (this was on Sunday).  The next day, they called me and said that they needed to remote into my computer so I followed their instruction which allowed them the access and the computer tech took it from there.  It was so easy!

Depending upon the package you choose, there are many other benefits, as well.  Additionally, as long as you have access to internet -- any internet service -- we can still reach you remotely and provide service.  Give our computer service department a call today at 307-288-5960, and they can answer all your questions as well as help you decide if this is the right product for you.

Your Router -- Is It Haunted or Dead?

In our “August Tech Talks” newsletter, we briefly touched on the life span of routers.  Upon further research, I realized that your router plays an integral role in quality internet service.  Your internet service could be just fine and yet you find yourself constantly having to reboot your router, having intermittent service and/or slow internet speeds. Consequently, I thought we should talk more about this topic.  That being said, what do you really know about your router (other than you should have one)?  

-- Routers have a lifespan of about 3 - 5 years.  It’s not that they necessarily die on you, it’s just that technology changes so much that your older router cannot keep up.  The older a router is, the harder time it has working through the “noise” as well as supporting multiple devices.

-- Routers have antennas -- some are on the outside while most have them on the inside.  So, how do you know if your antennas are bad?  For the most part it is trial and error but usually if you have a low signal even when you are relatively close to the router, that is a sign that they are bad.  Also, only the screw on external antennas are replaceable; internal antennas are not replaceable so you have to get a new router.  

-- Location, location, location. If your router is located far from your devices, your internet speed will not be optimal.  Also know that physical obstacles placed between the router and your devices, especially water and metal, can reduce internet speed.

-- Routers can either be single-band or dual-band.  Both have pros and cons so you need to do your research.  Some of the differences include:  

Single-band routers are usually less expensive than the dual-band.

Single-band routers broadcast on only one band whereas a dual-band has two network signals which is far less crowded and offers more channels.  This is extremely helpful for those who connect different devices during the same time ie. one person can stream Netflix while another can be on the internet on another device.

So, that is probably way more than what you ever wanted to know…. But my trouble-shooting buddies at NGL Connection keep telling me that knowledge is power.  Personally, I don’t need anymore power…. I just want it to work!  On that note, some easy trouble-shooting things you can do on your own:

1.  Always double-check cable connections - I know this sounds silly, but stuff happens -- kids, pets, etc.

2.  Reboot the router - disconnect completely from the power source for a full 10 seconds before plugging back in. (Personally, I do it for 20 seconds because I am of the opinion that more is better!)

3.  Clean the vents -- if your router is shutting itself down intermittently, for no apparent reason, it might be overheating.

4.  If your router’s ethernet cable is plugged into a PoE (a black box about the size of a deck of cards which goes to the antenna), make sure that the cable is not loose and the PoE has a light showing. If your PoE does not have a light, the problem could be that your PoE is not getting power for some reason.  You may want to check the power source.

5.  Last but not least, consider leasing an Eclipse Access Device from NGL -- this is a router that we can monitor, maintain, and remotely access, if necessary.  Additionally, when there is a firmware update for this equipment, it will automatically occur via NGL Connection so you will never have to worry about whether or not your router is up-to-date.

If you should have additional questions or are interested in leasing our Eclipse Access Device, feel free to give us a call at 307-288-5491.  Our Customer Support staff is always happy to help! Also, if you are not receiving our monthly “Tech Talks” and would like to, you can subscribe by going to our website at www.nglconnection.com or our NGL Connection Facebook page.

Spread Your Wings and Fly Away

During my recent and random on-line reading, I came across this -- "…1. Irritating old people who come down to Florida from Northern states, drive like maniacs, and should be illegal.  2. Disgusting old people from northern states who wear speedos on our beaches.  God help us all….”

According to the Urban Dictionary, that's the definition of a Snowbird.  I am pretty close to snowbird age myself, but this just made me laugh!  I really don’t care how they define a Snowbird, I want to be one!  Further reading revealed there really is such a thing as a Snowbird – Merriam-Webster dictionary defines it as “…a widespread and variable junco with gray or brown upper parts and a white belly….” – who knew?

So, you may be asking, “How does this apply to my wireless internet?”  Since you asked....   If you are a Snowbird -- or even if you need to take a break from your internet service for an extended period of time – at NGL Connection, you can!  I mean, why pay for internet service that you are not using, right?  There are a few things you need to know:

1.     Call us in advance of leaving so that we can schedule your turn off date.

2.    If you are renting an Eclipse Access Device (EAD) from us, you have two options:

a.     Pay $2.00/month to keep your device hooked up.  This can be paid prior to your leaving.  The benefit of leaving it in place is that if there are any firmware updates that occur in your absence, your device will be automatically updated.  You just need to remember to leave your device as well as your antenna plugged in so the updates can occur.  Plus, it is one less thing to worry about as you prepare for your trek southward.

b.     OR - unplug your EAD and return it to NGL Connection and there will be no charge.

3.    Should you need to extend your time away from our blustery Wyoming winter, please give us a call and let us know.  We will update your account with the new return date.

And that is all there is to it!  If you want to take advantage of our Seasonal or Voluntary Suspension, just give us a call at 307-288-5491.  And, while you sit on your patio, sipping on your glass of chardonnay (or sparkling water), be sure and think of me sitting here in snow up to my-you-know-what counting the days until I get to be a Snowbird too! 

Does Your Computer Play Nice with Others

Last month I went out and bought myself a whole new computer set up – new screen, computer tower, keyboard, wireless printer (which I already had), wireless adapter  – I bought the works!  I took it all home and could hardly wait to get it all put together.  I was all set up, but it didn’t work!  Not really - afterall, I do work at NGL Connection so I do have connections!  But what if you don’t work here…. or, you don’t have a child or grandchild who lives nearby to get you hooked up?  (We all know they can do this stuff with their eyes closed!)    Maybe you have a business with 3 or 4 computers, 2 printers, a fax machine, a scanner, etc. – now the set-up becomes even more complicated.  

Simply put, a computer network is nothing more than a bunch of equipment connected wirelessly or by cables so that they talk to each other.  The network can be as small as my set-up at home (a one-person network) or as large as the one at NGL Connection where we have 23 employees all with their own computer set-up connected to each other as well as to printers, scanners, servers, etc.

Just a few things to think about:

1.      If you are adding on to an existing set-up, are you adding on brand new equipment to older equipment?  For example, I had a 7+ year old lap top and bought a brand new wireless printer.  I could never make the printer work wirelessly and had to get a cable for it because my printer could not speak to the router.  (Speaking of routers, how old is your router – they do have a life span and unfortunately, do not last forever! Their average lifespan is about 3 years -- not because they break, but more because technology changes that fast!)

2.     Often times the size of the network will determine how you connect your network.  Wireless connections are very common for home set-ups whereas wired connections are often more widely used in businesses.  Additionally, the bigger your network the more extra parts you are going to need to make it all run efficiently.

3.     Maybe at your home each family member has their own lap top, but only one is connected to the printer….. do you just use the one lap top to print things from?  You can connect all the laptops to the one printer.  (Of course, I don’t know how to do it, but I know people who do!)

4.     You work in an office with 4 computers, 2 printers, a scanner, a fax machine… and now you need a server to make sure they are all talking to each other.  I am not going to even pretend to know what you should do next, but I do know that you basically have three options:  become an expert (in all your spare time) as a computer networking  tech OR hire an IT person and pay their salary, benefits, taxes OR contract with NGL Connection for your own IT expert at a minimal monthly fee.

Computers are useful tools that mean different things to different people.  Some of us just want to do basic tasks and we couldn’t care less about how it works while others actually like modifying their computer set-up and are tech-savvy enough to make it happen.  Personally, I am in the first group of people and fortunately have access to computer geeks (I say that affectionately) to assist me when I want to change something in my network at home.  No matter what your needs, give us a call today at 307-288-5491.

 

Those Were The Days!

Those were the days when you got a new Easter bonnet and all gussied up in your favorite dress to go to Sunday school.  These little girls are all grown up now, but their picture lives on as a memory in my computer along with a lot of other family photographs, holiday gatherings, and special events.  I used to put them in hard bound albums, but now it has become so easy to store these keepsakes on computers, in external hard drives, on phones or even on a USB flash drive.  

We keep so much information electronically, ranging from business-critical documents, such as Quickbooks and Outlook files, to treasured photographs, videos, term papers, music, etc. Unfortunately, all of this can be lost in an instant and there are dozens of things that can cause it:  virus attacks, accidental reformats, hitting the wrong key, or even spilled coffee!  No matter who, what or how it occurs, the result is the same.  We go into panic mode -- but thanks to data recovery, all may not be lost!

 To start with, data recovery can be put into two categories:

  • Logical Problems:  your hard drive is working perfectly, but, for some unknown reason, you have deleted files, formatted your drive, and/or lost data.  (Side note: Just because you delete a file and empty your recycle bin, you may think that your file is gone forever…. That is not the case and there is a good chance your file can be recovered.)
  • Physical Problems: your hard drive and some mechanical or electrical components of the drive no longer work -- maybe your computer has been in a fire or a flood.  (In my case, it was spilled coffee all over my laptop keyboard.)                                                

The good news -- no matter what the problem, often times the data can be recovered.

 So, what causes data loss?

Deleted Data: Files can be deleted on purpose or by accident -- no matter the reason, they can be found (even if you have already emptied your Recycle Bin.)

Corrupted Data: Your files can be corrupted in a variety of ways -- these too can be recovered.

Dropped External Hard Drives: These are portable devices and are fragile -- if dropped, it can compromise data.

Power Loss/Electrical Surges: Both situations can cause unexpected data losses.

And there are many other situations that can cause data loss, but I think you get the picture!  

If you find yourself in any of these situations, don’t despair -- there are steps you can take to try to recover your data.  

  1. There are software applications out there for data recovery.  Should you choose to go this route and download an application from the internet, you need to make sure it is from a trusted source.  An untrusted source could destroy deleted data and/or change the contents of the drive.  
  2. Contact your friendly computer technician at NGL Connection.  They can run a diagnostic on your computer to determine the issues impacting your data before any work is done.  (Trust me, I know -- I have had to do this more than once.)
  3. If the damage is minimal, the work can be done in-house and an estimate would be provided to you.  If there is major damage and we are not able to recover data, you can opt to have your computer service technician send your computer out to a data recovery specialist.

 So there you have it! Hopefully, you found this information helpful, and maybe even a little relief. You do have options and you don’t have to hit the panic button the next time you accidentally hit “delete”.

 

How's Your Line of Sight?

Oh My Goodness -- I thought winter would never leave!  Spring has finally sprung -- the grass is green again, the flowers are in bloom, and my allergies are running full throttle -- okay, that part is not so good, but I do love Spring and Summer in Evanston, Wyoming.  Unfortunately, this time of year can also impact your internet service by obstructing the wireless signal at your home.  

Installers generally refer to the path from your antenna to the tower as “The Line of Sight”. This pathway must be unobstructed for wireless signals to be transmitted from one device to the other.  It pretty much works along the same lines as when you point  a remote control directly at your television to change the channels.   There is also a  “Fresnel Zone” which can impact the internet signal, as well.  Think of this as the area directly above and below the line of sight.  Reflections from objects within this area can also decrease signal power.

Let’s look at a few scenarios.

Scenario #1:  Your internet service in the late Fall and Winter is pretty decent (except when there is an ice or wind storm), but every Spring and Summer, your service is “hit and miss”.  It could be due to the leaves (which are full of water) that are now on the trees.  This can cause interference with the line of sight from the tower to your antenna.  And then, if the wind blows, even if the trees are not in the line of sight, they could be blowing in and out of the fresnel zone which can impact your internet signal.

Scenario #2:  My service is fine until I have friends and family come visit for an extended period of time.  If they are coming from afar, are they arriving in a large RV which they park in an area that blocks your antenna?  This creates an obstruction between your antenna and the tower and you may need to move the RV to another area.  (And, as mentioned in a previous blog, if all those friends and family are connecting up to your wi-fi while visiting, that may also slow the internet speed at your house due to the number of devices.)

Scenario #3:  I used to have great internet service, but lately it doesn’t seem to connect as well.  If you live in an area where the wind continually blows, your antenna may have moved and is no longer pointing toward the tower.  If you think that this might be the case, give us a call.  One of our techs can do some troubleshooting, and if need be, have an installer come out to re -aim the antenna for you.

Now that I have pretty much exhausted my wealth of knowledge, my parting words of wisdom: When you get the urge to plant some trees this summer, be cautious where you dig the hole -- those trees are going to grow up one of these days!  If you have additional questions and/or concerns, please give us a call at 307-288-5491.

To Tune-Up or To Not Tune-Up -- That is the Question

It seems the more miles traveled, the more often you need a tune-up -- the car gets checked regularly, the snowblower or the lawn mower gets tweaked before the next season, and even I seem to be getting more tune-ups on a regular basis!  But what about your computer -- when did it have it’s last check-up, and, at what point do you choose to move on and put the old dinosaur to rest?  (I’m talking about the computer!)

If you have a brand new desktop or laptop computer, you are in good shape -- it has the latest and greatest software, a lot of memory available, and it probably runs pretty fast.  But if you are from the “keep it until it dies or breaks” generation, your computer may not be running as fast or as smoothly as it once did, sound familiar? Some of the signs and symptoms your computer might be exhibiting include:

  • Longer startup times
  • Slow speeds
  • Loss of internet connection
  • Inability to use multiple programs simultaneously

Inability to use programs that have a lot of graphics.

There are some things you can do yourself, if you are not technologically-challenged, to improve performance.  This might include:

  • Uninstalling unnecessary software (like I would really know what is necessary and what isn’t)
  • Removing viruses, spyware, and other malware (again, I wouldn’t have a clue where to start)
  • Adding memory might help an older computer, but then you have to know if it has a 32-bit operating system or a 64-bit operating system (yep, here again, I am clueless!  And, by the way, what constitutes an older computer anyway - 1 year, 3 years, 5 years.  Technology is constantly changing!  I have been told that a computer more than 6 years old slows down the internet speed it is connected to while it tries to figure out how to operate.  I have files on my laptop that were created in 2010!  But I have digressed…..)

A computer set-up can be an expensive investment.   More importantly, you don’t want to run the risk of possibly losing important information such as photos, saved documents, music, etc. A regular tune-up can be done to inspect and clean your computer inside and out.  Recommendations can be made by the computer technician as to the benefit of adding memory and/or a hard-drive to improve performance.  

The bottom-line is three-fold:

  • My computer obviously needs a tune-up and maybe even a burial!
  • If performance can be improved, wouldn’t it be less costly than having to buy a new computer.
  • Wouldn’t you want it to be done by someone, other than me, with the technical expertise to do a full diagnosis?

Give our computer services technician a call today and be sure to mention the $5.00 discount on a tune-up, memory or hard-drive upgrade.

Internet Speed Sometimes Slow, Sometimes Fast -- What Can I Do?

Ever wonder why sometimes your internet speed is slow and other times it seems faster.  I always thought it had something to do with my internet service provider -- dang them!  Why couldn’t they provide consistently good service all the time?

A few months ago, I was listening in on one of the NGL Techs who was doing some troubleshooting with a customer over the phone.  The customer was having issues with slow speeds and intermittent internet connection issues.  As part of the troubleshooting process, the Tech asked questions about the number and type of devices in their home.  It turns out it was a family of four who all had their own cell phone, each had their own tablet or laptop, one hard-drive computer setup, and one television where they streamed Netflix -- ten devices that could potentially be accessing their internet service simultaneously!  I had never really thought about the number of devices impacting my internet speed…..and that’s when I had my “A-HA” moment!  

Let’s use the family of four scenario.  If there was one person streaming Netflix or Hulu (approximately 6 Mbps), another checking their emails (approximately 2 Mbps), and two people on-line surfing (about 2 Mbps each), they would be needing approximately 12 Mbps.  If this is a rare occurrence, then no big deal, but if this is an everyday situation, then you may need a larger internet package to meet your needs.

Other things to consider:

  1. If you have out-of-town visitors for long periods of time who want access to your internet for their cell-phones -- you would need to count these devices, as well.
  2. If your computer is more than 6 years old, it’s processing power slows your internet speed down while it tries to figure out how to operate.
  3. Subscribe to a package with a little higher speed than your actual needs. 

Ultra Package - 20 Mbps

Gamer Package - 15 Mbps

Streamer Package - 10 Mbps

Basic Package - 5 Mbps

As for me, after listening to that call, I went home that night and assessed our internet usage  -- there is only the two of us.  Sure enough, as soon as I walked in the door, my phone connected to our internet, and my husband was streaming his favorite show on Netflix AND checking his email on his laptop.  I knew immediately that if I even tried to get onto the internet via my laptop, it wasn’t going to be fast!

Moral of the Story:  Too many devices spoil the speed!  

For more information or if you need help with assessing your current usage, give us a call at NGL Connection, 307-288-5491.

An eBook Guide To Ransomware

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Click Here To View eBook

You've heard us throw around the term "malware" (or malicious software) before, but we've never really delved too deep into the different types of malware that are out in the world. That's all about to change, because this month, we'll be discussing one of the most dangerous and costly forms of malicious software- ransomware. 

2016 saw a significant rise in businesses and home internet users targeted by ransomware attacks. In this eBook, we'll discuss exactly what ransomware and the threat it poses, we'll take a look at it's key characteristics and how cyber criminals pick their targets, and finally we'll look into how you can protect yourself. 

This eBook is designed to give you, your family, friends, or your business an edge in the fight against malware, so don't hesitate to pass this information along by sharing it to your own social media accounts.