Would you trust your business servers to AVG Antivirus?

Can free really be good?

Millions of people trust AVG Antivirus to protect their home computers.  I don’t have any hard statistics, but given that the product is free, I’m guessing that it’s one of the most widely used security programs in the world.

The fact that AVG is free does give it a bit of a stigma, however.  Companies like NortonMcAfee and ESET charge $40 or $50 per year for their AntiVirus programs.  Could a free program really be as good?

This stigma is particularly true in the business world.  A free antivirus program might be okay for your home computer, the common wisdom holds, but for your business computers you need serious malware protection.  This is even more true when you talk about file and web servers, right?  Typical security software for a server costs hundreds of dollars each year.  You wouldn’t trust that valuable information to a company known for hawking free software, would you?

I’m about to find out.

Let the experiment begin

Today I’m replacing the $400 ESET security suite that has been protecting our development server with the $39.99 equivalent from AVG.  I’m about to find out if you really do get what you pay for when it comes to virus protection.

The machine in question is running Windows Web Server 2008.  Security software from big name threat protection companies would cost 10x more than what AVG File Server 9.0 costs.  What I want to know is:  Do you really get what you pay for, or are the big name products just overpriced?

I’m not going in to this blind, mind you.  I have used the free AVG desktop software for a while now in some of my virtual machines.  So far, so good.  The reality is that the most important component of any threat protection program is common sense.  Don’t download files from sites you don’t trust.  Don’t open attachments unless you’re sure they’re safe.  Run a firewall on your router, etc.  The harsh reality is that we people are usually the weakest link in the security chain.

And so, the adventure begins.  I’ll post here in a few months to let everyone know how this little experiment goes.

Google Apps

This weekend, I converted all of Axeva’s email over to Google Apps.  After years of running our own Exchange Server, the time had come to throw in the towel and move to the cloud.

So what is Google Apps?

In a nutshell, Google Apps is Gmail for your business.  It’s a way to host your corporate email in the cloud without all the mess of running your own servers.  Google provides everything a small business needs: giant 7 Gb email accounts, shared calendars and even basic document collaboration.   The best part?  It’s free.

Google does offer a Premier Edition, which offers a few more services.  For $50 per year, they’ll increase your email storage up to 25 Gb, let you hold video chats and provide 24/7 support.  In reality, however, the Standard Edition is more than enough for most small companies.

As with Gmail, one of the big advantages of Google Apps is that you’ll have full access to your email from the web, your desktop email client of choice (Outlook, Mail.app, Thunderbird, etc.) and your smart phone.  In other words, your email goes where you go — home, the office, the airport — everywhere.

A Few Tips to Ease the Transition

To their credit, Google makes it very simple to get started with Google Apps.  I had our account setup in a matter of minutes.  Creating your email accounts is dead simple, and you can even create alias accounts that redirect to your main email address.  For example, you could create bill@yourcompany.com as your mail email, then create an alias for william@yourcompany.com that dumps the email it receives into your bill@ account.

The difficult part is migrating your existing email over to the new system.  As you might expect, Google makes this fairly simple for their paying customers (those with Premier Edition accounts).  For those of us with Standard Edition accounts, you have to jump through a few hoops.

Google Email Uploader

If your employees are using desktop email programs today, the first thing you should try is the Google Email Uploader utility.  This tool, created by Google, will look at the email on your computer and assist you in sending it to your new Google Apps account.

In my experience, the tool works pretty well if you’re using Outlook on Windows.  On the Mac side, we saw mixed results.  For normal POP or IMAP accounts under Mail.app, the Google Email Uploader worked like a charm.  When we tried to upload email that was stored on the Exchange server, however, the utility didn’t even recognize the account.  On both Mac and Windows, you’re limited in the size of the upload however.  No individual email can be larger than 16 Mb.  If you’ve got a few messages with large attachments, for example, they won’t be uploaded.

These hiccups aside, I would strongly recommend you use the Google Email Uploader if possible.  When it worked, the tool was fantastic.  It wasn’t lightning fast, but it produced great results.  Your mileage may vary, however.

The Google Email Uploader is available for Mac or PC, and it works with most major email clients.

The Hard Way

If you can’t get the Google Email Uploader to work, there is another trick you can try to migrate that old email.  Nearly all major desktop email clients allow you to configure more than one email address.  They also allow you to drag and drop an email from one account to another.  Simply open your inbox in the old email account, select all the messages, and drag them over to the inbox in your new Google Apps email address.

It’s not pretty, but it works.  No one ever said that it has to be elegant to be effective.

And Away We Go…

We’re about 24 hours in to the brave new world of Google Apps.  I’m sure there will be a few more ups and downs along the way, but right now I’m happy with the results.

If you have questions about Google Apps, or have a few tips of your own about how to get the most out of system, please leave your comments below.  I’d love to hear your thoughts.

UPDATED:  3/2/2010

Joe Kissell has written a fantastic article explaining how to get the best results when using Apple Mail with Google Apps.  I highly recommend that all Mac users read this:

Achieving Email Bliss with IMAP, Gmail, and Apple Mail, by Joe Kissell

Rapid Reaction: The Apple iPad

Apple just announced their newest wonder device — the iPad — to great fanfare. There’s no doubt that it’s pretty, but I’m a bit skeptical that it’s a gadget we all need.

The iPhone seemed like a no brainer when it was announced. If Apple could make it work — a big IF back in those days — it seemed like a knockout. Who wouldn’t want their Phone and iPod as one device instead of carrying two? Being able to surf the web, view email and play games at the same time was just icing on the cake.

Apple iPadWith the iPad however, I’m not entirely certain I see the need…

It won’t replace my iPhone. It’s too big to fit in my pocket when I’m headed out the door.

It won’t replace my desktop. It’s not powerful enough for process intensive work like video, data crunching or serious gaming.

It might replace a laptop, but only if it can do everything my laptop already does. Is typing on the iPad as easy as typing on a real keyboard? Probably not, since Apple is offering a full keyboard as an add-on. That only makes the device more awkward to travel with, however, and it inflates the cost.

It also won’t run Microsoft Word or Excel. Apple did make a point of porting their iWork suite to the device, but I don’t think it’s enough. I’ve used iWork. When I first made the big switch to Apple I purposely bought a copy with the intent of trying to live the full Apple lifestyle. In the end, I went out and bought Office for the Mac. iWork is fine if you’re printing up the PTA newsletter, but you can’t easily exchange documents with the rest of the world using Microsoft Office. Like it or not, Word and Excel are what the real world uses for business. Unless Steve Jobs can convince Steve Balmer to make and iPad version of Office, this isn’t a business device. Which means you still need your laptop when you travel.

I’m sure there will be some niché areas where an iPad will fit in nicely. It’s probably great for presentations, and it should make for a great entertainment device.

When I think about how this device might fit in to my life, only one thing comes to mind. It would probably be a nice way to surf the web when I’m on the couch at night watching TV. I’m not sure I would pay $500 for that though…

In the end, I’m not certain where this device fits in the 21st century lifestyle. It doesn’t seem to replace any current gadget we may already own. That puts Apple in the tough position of needing to carve out a niché for the iPad to dwell in. No easy task.

It’s not often a smart move to bet against Apple, so I wouldn’t be surprised to look back on this post two years from now and marvel at how dense my current observations are. Based on how the world looks today, however, I’m struggling to see the iPad match the success of the iPod or iPhone.

5 More Reasons why Internet Explorer 6 Must Die

The folks over at Mashable have just posted an excellent article on why everyone — individuals and businesses alike — need to stop using Internet Explorer 6.  I have been screaming this from the rooftops for years now, so it’s great to see it receive more attention.

Internet Explorer 6 is not safe.  Period.

Surfing the web using IE6 exposes you to potentially dangerous security risks, including viruses, spyware and identity theft.  Even Microsoft recommends you stop using their browser.

It has reached the point that everyone needs to upgrade to FirefoxChromeSafari or even Internet Explorer 8.

Please read the full Mashable article for the details:



How to create unique passwords that you’ll never forget

It’s the dirty little secret that we all share.  We all know that we should have unique passwords for each web site we use.  Your bank.  Your Facebook account.  Your PayPal account.  Each should have a different password, but who can remember them all?

What do we end up doing?  Using the same password everywhere.

Sound familiar?

Here’s a trick to give you have a strong, unique passwords on every web site you visit — and you’ll never forget it.


Step 1:  Start with a word that you can remember.  It could be a band name, a place, an object — anything.  Ideally, it should not be something obvious, like your own name, the name of your wife, etc.  Also, make sure at least one of the letters in the word is Upper Case.

For the purposes of our example, we’ll use a band name — Beatles. This is all we need to remember.


Step 2:  Replace the vowels in your word with numbers or symbols.  A password that includes Numbers and Symbols along with Letters is much more secure, and much harder for someone else to guess.

To make sure it’s still easy to remember our password, we’re going to replace the vowels with numbers and symbols that look similar to the letter they’re replacing:

  • The letter a becomes the symbol @ because it looks like an a.
  • The letter A becomes the number 4 because a four looks like a capital A.
  • The letter i becomes the number 1, because a one looks like an i.
  • The letter e becomes the number 3 because a three looks like a backwards capital E.
  • The letter o becomes 0 (zero)
  • I also tend to replace the letter s with the number 5.  It may not be a vowel, but since the two look so similar, it just seemed to make sense.

Using this method, our original word — Beatles — now becomes B3@tl3s.  Now we have a nice, strong Base Password.


Step 3:  Having a strong password is a great start, but it’s not enough.  What we really need is a strong, unique password for each site.  If someone manages to get a hold of our Facebook password, we don’t want them to be able to get in to our PayPal account, right?

So how do we get a unique password for each site?  We incorporate part of the web site name into the password.

Let’s say, for example, that we need a password for a Yahoo account.  Take the first two letters – y and a, and tack them on to your Base Password.  That gives us yaB3@tl3s.  Bingo!  We have a unique password for Yahoo.

Our password for Google would be goB3@tl3s.

Our Amazon password would be amB3@tl3s.


It’s that easy!

You never need to memorize dozens of passwords, just one small word and a simple method for recreating the password.



Updated: [6-7-2011]

CNet brings us this sobering news:  Cheap GPUs are rendering strong passwords useless

Looks like we need even longer and more complex passwords than most experts believed.  My advice?  Shoot for 15 characters.  Instead of using a short word like “Beatles” as your base word use something longer, such as “Ringo Starr” or “Eric Clapton”.  Be creative — it’s dangerous out there!

Updated: [1-20-2014]

SplashData has issued their annual list of the 25 most common passwords found on the Internet. “Password” unseated by “123456” on SplashData’s annual “Worst Passwords” list

If your go-to password is on this list, you’re in trouble…

How To Choose a Great Domain Name

Choosing the correct domain name is critical for the success of your web site. A poorly chosen name can make it difficult for your audience to find the site, and remember it for later.

When looking for a new name, you should consider these key criteria:

  • It must be easy to say, easy to spell, and easy to remember.
  • It should not be easily misspelled or have multiple spellings (Hair & Hare, for example). If there are multiple spellings, you must be able to register them all.
  • Ideally, it will start with a letter at the top of the alphabet — like ‘A’, ‘B’ or ‘C’. That helps in the phone book and in many online directories.
  • It should be relatively short.
  • It should not have any numbers in it. Me2.com could easily be mistaken for MeToo.com
  • Ideally, it will tell something about what you do. AWorldApart.com is a catchy name, but it doesn’t say a lot about what you do (Travel Agent? Shipping Company? Outreach Program?). JoesPlumbing.net, on the other hand, tells you a lot.
  • Ideally, it will also conjure up a visual image that will make it easier to remember. “Purple Cow Farms”, for example, isn’t something you would easily forget.
  • If possible, avoid hyphens.

For each name you are considering, consider these four aspects:

  • Memorability – Is the name easily remembered?
  • Positive Image – Does the name portray a positive or negative image?
  • Professionalism – Does the name conjure visions of a solid, professional organization, or a one man/woman show?
  • Accuracy – Does the name best reflect the business you are in?

Finally, a word about the .com. Although many companies have tried to take the luster off the .com suffix with alternatives like .biz, .us, .info and .me, the original is still the gold standard. The average person thinks .com is the web. If you choose another domain suffix, you’re going to really have to work hard to train your customers where to find you.

So, while domains like del.icio.us or ma.tt are very creative, and look great on paper, they’re going to be very hard for the average person to remember. Unless you’ve got a big advertising budget, stear clear.