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Informal Small Business Relationship Survey

Pull up a chair by the fireplace, it’s time to talk relationships.  🙂


Over the years, I’ve seen a fairly consistent set of conditions in small businesses and not for profit organizations that makes me wonder about the relationship status of small businesses to their IT providers. I’ve consistently witnessed businesses with IT infrastructure that is either failing them, and/or putting them at significant risk from a security perspective, and I often wonder what led to this? Office management frequently has no substantive information about why certain decisions were taken, who authorized certain purchases, or even what the Admin password to their own file server is. I’ve seen offices that routinely change the tapes for their data backup drive without realizing that nightly backups haven’t been successfully running for over 6 months. The tapes are empty. Yikes!

As an IT consultant, I always try to make sure my customers understand what they are buying, why they need it, how it should be maintained and of course what kind of financial and operational commitment is needed. Then I document this for the client as well, so that the sands of time do not wash away the decisions and maintenance requirements.

1. How is your relationship with your IT/IS service provider? Good/Bad/Indifferent?
2. Do you think your business is getting the full attention of your provider?
3. What should your provider be doing better to service your business?
4. Are you shopping for an IT service provider, if so, why?
5. Does your provider schedule annual, semi-annual or quarterly complimentary CIO visits with you?
6. If you have a great relationship, what is it that they do for your business that keeps you satisfied?


LastPass Password Manager

Anybody that has accounts on multiple websites has probably suffered the frustration of having to create complex passwords for every website they frequent. Adding to the frustration is of course having to remember all those passwords. Worse yet, some of us use the same passwords for multiple sites, thus increasing the risk of being hacked in multiple places if one site password is compromised. Please tell me that you don’t do that. 🙂

LastPass**** is here to help ease your password pains.

LastPass is a multi-platform and online password vault that takes most of the hassle of managing passwords off your shoulders. I’m amazed that more people don’t know about this service, especially since it’s largely free.

Here are some of the great things about LastPass:

  • Remember only one Master Password to unlock LassPass, and let LastPass remember the rest for you.
  • You can use LastPass online…meaning you can access your password vault from any web enabled computer you trust.
  • LastPass supports all the most popular browsers and allows for “automagic” login to most websites. (I’ve had a few instances where the site used a popup for login or an Adobe Flash form, and LastPass did not recognize these as password forms, but it’s pretty rare).
  • LastPass recognizes when a new website is asking you to register a password, and provides a simple to use strong password generator to keep things simple.
  • LastPass is not only useful on computers, but also on Tablets and Mobile phones via the LastPass App. Now all your website passwords are synchronized across all your devices. (Note: There is a small annual fee for Mobile device use.)

In a nutshell, we find LastPass to be an extremely useful utility for managing the many website passwords we accumulate, and the level of functionality is amazing for a free product. The small annual fee they ask for supporting mobile devices is very small indeed compared to the daily usefulness of this tool.

One note: Despite my confidence in their security, encryption capability and stability as a company, I am still not willing to store my bank passwords with any third party, including LastPass, and I suggest that approach to others. Better safe than sorry.

LastPass Receives a Somertech Score of 9 out 10, for usefulness and utility.


WPS Office – Microsoft Office Clone

If you haven’t guessed already, WPS stands for Writer, Presentation and Spreadsheets, which should further tell you what this program suite is about.

Having installed and briefly looked at these applications, I am somewhat astonished that Microsoft has not aggressively pursed legal action against the makers of this software. It is a complete rip off of the Microsoft Office 2007 user interface.

Having just discovered this suite, we haven’t done a battery of tests yet, stay tuned for that, but we did evaluate file compatibility with a few Microsoft Word 2010 files, and found there to be no issues in our brief test.

So, for businesses strapped for cash that need a functional and FREE alternative to the core Microsoft Office applications (Word, Excel and Powerpoint) , WPS Office might just be the ticket. It looks and feels exactly like Office, so users should be able to adapt almost instantly. However, we will update this article in the coming weeks after a more complete evaluation can be performed.

Unrated at this time.




Zello – Walkie Talkie App

For the small businesses that long for the old Nextel push-to-talk phones of years past, there is a relatively new App called Zello, that turns your smartphone into a push-to-talk walkie, reminiscent of the now extinct Nextel Motorola phones.
A certain carrier still offers this service with their carrier branded app, but Zello isn’t shackled to a particular carrier and also works across phone brands and platforms. Which is perfect for employees that bring their own devices to the workplace.

• Android, iOS, Windows and BlackBerry phones are supported

Businesses can opt for the Zello for Business service which is free for the first 5 users, and as of this writing  $6/user/month there after.

Receives a Somertech Score of 9 out 10, for usefulness and utility.

Zello Screenshot_2015-11-30-22-25-36



PangoBright Screen Dimmer

If you are like us, you’ll sometimes find yourself working on your computer late into the evening, and wishing that you had a reliable and simple means of dimming the screen on your Windows Laptop or Computer Monitor.
Well, disturb your mate no longer. PangoBright, is a great little utility for reliably adjusting the brightness of your Windows computer monitor, especially useful when working in the dark.
This utility is very small, coming in at only 110 Kilobytes, stays out of the way when not needed, and sits in your Windows tool tray at the ready when you do, and best of all, comes at our favorite price of $0.00.

Receives a Somertech Score of 9 out 10, for usefulness and utility.



Own Cloud – A free alternative to DropBox and Google Drive

Drop Box, Google Drive and other cloud services where you can store your files online are a tremendous convenience to consumers, but in some cases storing your business’s data in places unknown is not the most comforting of solutions, and in other circumstances may actually be prohibited by law or regulations such as HIPPA.

So what are you to do in such cases where storing sensitive data in the cloud is unavailable, and yet you need to be able to access this data remotely? The answer is to deploy a private cloud.
Platforms like Own Cloud give you secure remote access to the data files on your business network, using easy to use Mobile applications for your Mobile Phone or Tablet, thus enabling your business with your own “private cloud”.


This capability is particularly useful for businesses with geographically dispersed work forces that need to collaborate on business documents using simple browser based tools. Not only does this type of solution ultimately save you from paying monthly fees for online storage, but it allows you to maintain the control you need over your digital assets in the one place that matters, inside your business.

Somerville Technology Solutions can perform the implementation of Owncloud in your office, train your employees to power user status, and help you with the deployment of the mobile apps to mobile devices. Never be without your critical business data again.

  • Android
  • iOS (Apple)
  • Mac
  • Windows
That sounds great! How do I find out more?
Contact Us..

Group Office – Your Online Office

Strictly speaking, Group Office isn’t a pure CRM (Customer Relationship Management) solution in our view, despite the fact that it has CRM like features. It is; however, more like the Swiss Army Knife of office collaboration tools, neatly rolling up multiple key applications into one package, and we thinks it’s great.

bandicam 2015-11-12 18-48-01-892

Group Office’s web based interface is all business without the fluff and distractions other solutions sometimes pile on. However, despite being a bit stark, the user interface is well thought out and easy enough to learn after a bit of time with the application. Furthermore, considering how packed full of features this application suite is, it doesn’t overwhelm, as the features are arranged in modules that can be disabled based on assigned user privilege. In other words, you can relegate some users to a single application like email, or group calendar, and yet others can take advantage of the entire suite’s features.

This suite is particularly suited for employee collaboration; however, because it is web based, it can also be made available to customers and partners, albeit in a more restricted manner. One such application that comes to mind is the Files module, which is essentially a document library. This could allow an organization to seamlessly share customer or partner facing documents with outside parties quite elegantly. FTP and Faxing is so last century, as web based file sharing is part of the newer paradigm of information sharing that we enjoy today.

The Professional edition of Group Office includes mobile synchronization, allowing you to sync your calendar(s), address book(s), and task list(s) so that you are always up to speed with new developments, even while on the road.

Somerville Technology Solutions views GroupOffice as an excellent option for small businesses looking for an affordable office collaboration solution that elegantly ties group calendar, email, address books, billing, customer service, and more into a single unified application suite that doesn’t require installing software on every employee’s computer.

Group-Office with Chat

I’d like to know more about Group Office
Know More..

Moodle – Sell Online Courses.

Moodle is the open source platform that lets you build the perfect education solution for your needs.

Expand your capacity to offer educational courses by selling courses online.
Moodle is an Open Source and Free software platform that allows educators to offer courses online, and without the constraints of a physical classroom or facility. This allows many more students to participate during any given course period, and also eliminates the inconvenience of travelling to and from a class site.

The following is a short list of Moodle Features:

  • Offer many courses at the same time using the same platform
  • Designed to be responsive and accessible, the Moodle interface is easy to navigate on both desktop and mobile devices.
  • Collaborative tools allow working and learning together in forums, wikis, glossaries, database activities, and much more.
  • Convenient file management allows dragging and dropping files from cloud storage services including MS Skydrive, Dropbox and Google Drive.
  • Notifications allow instructors and students to receive automatic alerts on new assignments and deadlines, forum posts and also send private messages to one another.
  • Moodle’s built-in media support enables you to easily search for and insert video and audio files in your courses.
  • Offer quizzes and tests online, simplifying grading and grade management


Somerville Technology Solutions can help you integrate Moodle into an ecommerce platform in order to automate the enrollment of students – from course selection and payment, to course completion.


Monetize your expertise by offering courses online.
Call us today..

Desktop Support

Your desktop computers are more than just tools, they are the gateway of your business’s contact with customers, suppliers, partners and more. When they aren’t running efficiently, that represents lost productivity, lost time and possibly lost opportunities and revenue. Continue reading