Digital Data is Amazing, Part 2

Last time, we broke down how much data is stored in a typical book, and how much data every book in the Library of Congress contains. This time, let’s really show you what that data consists of, and some other really neat comparisons to put things into perspective. Buckle up!

A Piece of Data is a Bit, but What Is a Bit, Really?

Last time, we mentioned that data is composed of ones and zeroes, called bits. There are 7 bits in an English character, and 8 bits in a byte. Why do we break down bits by simple ones and zeroes?

 

Throughout most of the last 70 years, and technically even before that, we’ve stored digital information in a very simple, easy-to-comprehend way. Imagine a row of 7 lights. Any single light can either be lit up, or dark. There is no in-between. A one, or a zero. Depending on which lights are lit and which lights are dark, gives you a different character. It could be a number, it could be a letter, or it could be a symbol. Now multiply that row of 7 lights thousands, or millions, or billions of times, and you’ll have a massive array of lights that can convey large quantities of data.

 

For the last 70 years, most of our data storage has used this concept, mostly by using magnets.

 

Inside the traditional mechanical hard drive are multiple spinning platters. To the common eye, they look sort of like CDs stacked on top of each other. They spin incredibly fast, usually at 72,000 RPM. On these platters are billions of tiny little magnets. There’s a little arm that floats just over top of the platter as it spins, and it reads and manipulates the magnets as you read and write data to the drive.

 

The sensitivity of this device is absolutely incredible. Imagine taking a single human eyelash, and holding it in the palm of your hand. Your hand wouldn’t even recognize its weight, right? If we were to cut that eyelash into 100 little pieces, and place one of those pieces on the arm of a hard drive, it would dramatically bend it. This arm is designed to detect forces billions of times smaller than that.

 

Kinda makes you realize the importance of data backup, right?

 

This miraculous little marvel of engineering has been the cornerstone of data storage in every single computer over the last several decades.

 

More recently, modern computers have started using Solid State Drives (SSDs) which store data as an electrical charge in tiny little transistors. These drives don’t rely on mechanical movement or magnets, which is much better for mobile devices as it uses less electricity and can survive being jostled around much more in your pocket compared to a mechanical drive.

 

Either way, these devices contain billions or trillions of pieces of information.

How Much Data Can I Hold in My Hand?

Last time, we came up with the amount of data of all of the books in the U.S. Library of Congress. It was about 51 Terabytes based on our estimates. We said that, right now, you can’t really hold that much data in a mobile device. You could, however, hold that much data in the palm of your hand.

 

Take a look at the image above for this blog post. That’s a Micro SD card. Many digital cameras, smartphones, and other mobile devices use them to store data. At the time of writing this blog, you can purchase a Micro SD card that stores 1 Terabyte of information in a form factor that is about the size of your own thumbnail. 1 Terabyte could hold just under a 50th of the entire Library of Congress.

 

One of these tiny little cards can hold about a million books.

 

Dozens of these little Micro SD cards can fit into the palm of your hand—you could easily keep hundreds of them in your pockets.

 

If you weren’t the reading type, you could use your 1 Terabyte Micro SD card to hold:

  • 200,000 songs
  • 250 full-length movies in full HD
  • 5 million pages of PDF documents
  • 250,000 photos taken with a 12 megapixel camera
  • Essentially every video game from the 80s and 90s.
  • Or you could store 10,000 copies of Windows 95 and Microsoft Office 95.

How Much Data Has Humanity Produced?

As of the end of 2020, the entire digital footprint of all of humanity is 44 zettabytes. That would require 44 billion of those 1 TB Micro SD cards. By the end of this year, that number will have doubled. By 2025, it’s estimated that our digital footprint will be higher than 200 zettabytes.

 

We produce a massive amount of data. With more than 62 percent of the world population on social media, and 300 billion emails sent every day, information is constantly being moved around.

 

Every single minute, 500 hours of video are uploaded to YouTube. That equates to approximately one of those 1 TB Micro SD cards every minute.

Data is Critical To Your Business

Every day, your business generates data. Your staff sends and receives emails, produces documents, updates and stores customer information, and so much more. That data is fundamental to keeping your business operating smoothly.

 

That’s why data backup is so important. It’s so easy to lose all of your data. Ensuring that your data is properly backed up will ensure that you can continue operations in the event of a mistake, hardware failure, or major disaster.

 

If you want to discuss properly backing up your organization’s data, give us a call at 651-234-0895.

 

Digital Data is Amazing, Part 1

Do you ever think about how incredible technology is? In a world where it’s easy to take advantage of technology and devices that were practically inconceivable just a few short decades ago, it’s really amazing to just look at how far we’ve come, and how something so small can fit so much information.

Breaking Down What Data Actually Is

Let’s go back to before there were modern computers and smartphones. The prominent form of data storage throughout the centuries has been the book.

 

A typical novel has somewhere between 60,000 and 110,000 words (unless you are reading something by Brandon Sanderson—his novels tend to be three or four times that).

 

How much data is that though? If you want to parse this down into smaller numbers, we can look at one of the most common forms of bite-sized information on the planet, the text message.

 

A text message has a maximum length of 160 characters. You can usually squeeze 1-3 sentences into that on average. Characters in the English language are 7-bits. A bit is represented by a 1 or a 0. The letter “A” is translated to 01000001, and “B” is 01000010. We’ll get back to this shortly.

 

A text message can contain a maximum of 160 characters, or 1120 bits (1120 ones and zeroes). There are 8 bits in a byte, which means a text message is 140 bytes.

 

There are 1,000,000 bytes in 1 Megabyte. Figure that the average word is around five characters, so a novel could have somewhere between 300,000 and 550,000 characters

 

Take 550,000 characters and multiply that by 7 (the number of bits in a character) and then divide the result by 8 (the number of bits in a byte) and you’ll get 481,250 bytes, or 0.48125 Megabytes.

 

That means a book on the larger side of things is technically around half a Megabyte of information. Once you add some of the hidden meta information, the cover, and some other data, a typical ebook sits around 1 Megabyte. If there are illustrations or images, then there is a lot more to calculate, so we’ll just assume that we are dealing with text for this thought experiment.

How Much Data Does a Library Hold?

Many books are much larger than the average novel, considering that there are textbooks, encyclopedias, dictionaries, massive reference books, and a lot of other larger format texts out there. Plus, it’s easier to work with round numbers, so let’s just assume that on average, a book rounds out to about 1 Megabyte.

 

A typical library tends to hold somewhere between 5,000 and 500,000 books. The world’s biggest libraries tend to put their book counts in the millions. The US Library of Congress holds more than 51 million books, and 75 million manuscripts, plus millions and millions of other items.

 

Let’s assume those 51 million books are all text. How much data would that actually be?

 

51 million Megabytes is 51 thousand Gigabytes, which translates to 51 Terabytes. It’s pretty common to buy 1 or 2 Terabyte drives for a home PC, so if you were conservative about your data, you could easily fit the entire Library of Congress book library in a pretty small office with 25 or so computers. Of course, you could just put multiple 2 TB drives into your workstations and store the entire Library of Congress on fewer machines too, or build a media server with an array of high-capacity drives… you get the idea.

 

We’re not quite to the point where a mobile device can hold that much information, but we’re getting there.

 

Keep in mind, this is just assuming we are taking the text. If instead, you wanted to scan every single page as a grey-scale image, you would be looking at an average size of around 8 Megabytes per book, so it would take about 408 Terabytes to store the Library of Congress. At that point, you’d be looking at a large rack-mounted device or a very small section of a data center.

How Much Data Does Your Organization Produce?

We’re going to make this a two-part blog since there is still a lot more to talk about! Next time, we’ll break down how much data human beings have ever produced, how much data you can fit into the palm of your hand, and more! Be sure to subscribe and bookmark our blog and keep coming back for more!

 

3 Things to Know About Hosted Desktop Solutions

We’ve seen a lot of technology leaders appear hesitant to hosted desktop solutions because they want to keep their team close and committed to their workspace. But we’ve also seen that when workers are given the freedom to take their work elsewhere, productivity often increases. Hosted desktop solutions, also known as Desktop as a Service, or Daas, is essentially a cloud-based service designed to enable the functioning of a desktop environment on a virtual machine hosted in a local, private data center. Point North Networks provides this to a number of local businesses and these are the top things we like our customers to know about this solution:

They can reduce your cost

Many assume that implementing a hosted desktop solution is an extra expense, but the investment can save your business in the long run. When your workspace goes remote, you’re eliminating the need to spend thousands of dollars on high-end desktops and laptops. We just charge a low monthly fee for the computation.

You’re extra protected

Putting your data in someone else’s hands can be scary but security is our top priority, especially these days. Point North Networks’ hosted desktop environments are backed up several times daily to off-site encrypted storage with 90 days of retention. Customers can restore lost or deleted files within minutes. Additionally, our environments are built with controls for physical, network, and application security such as multi-factor authentication and a dedicated security engineering team.

Your team will thank you

A hosted desktop service allows your employees access from anywhere: home, office, coffee shop, etc. The whole Microsoft Office Full Suite is installed so they can still use Word, Excel, and all their favorite products they’ve grown accustomed to. Life has its demands and when an employee isn’t tied to their physical workspace in order to complete their job, they have a lot less to stress about. On top of that, the access is truly hassle-free.

Contact Point North Networks today to explore expanding your office to the cloud and opening up more possibilities. 

3 Bad Results of Outdated Business Technology

We recently asked our LinkedIn audience how frequently they find themselves having to work with technology that doesn’t, well…work. 43% of our respondents said they encounter this problem every single day at work.

At Point North Networks, one of our major roles, when we partner with a local business, is to ensure their technology is up to date and that they have the best possible functionality and ability to scale. This is a priority to us because we know what effects outdated technology has on a business. Here is what we most often see as a result of old technology:

Decreased employee morale

When employees have to use equipment that is faulty or slow, it does not make them feel valued. They will begin to question whether they are valued at their company if the company cannot invest in setting them up for success with working technology. We prioritize listening closely to employees’ needs when it comes to being able to do their job effectively in order to make worthwhile recommendations on technology upgrades, while balancing the company’s budget needs.

Lost productivity

Just about anyone can attest to the experience of wasting an entire morning’s time dealing with technical difficulties instead of being able to do their jobs. Spending hours with customer support teams can be downright infuriating. At Point North Networks, we aim to prevent this from being a need in the first place. We keep this in mind when advising the businesses we work with about what technology they should invest in.

Not only can updated technology increase productivity, but think about the money saved when technology works just right. Replacing technology may seem like a large upfront cost, but it offers huge savings in the long run.

Not progressing

A business that does not keep up with the times does not survive. A company has to adapt to new technologies if it wants to keep up with its competitors. A smart IT partner will help you stay on track with or ahead of industry standards.

Contact Point North Networks today if it’s time for your business to update its technology.

7 Benefits of a Cloud Hosting Desktop Solution

Independent software vendors, business owners, IT managers, and managed service providers can all benefit from using a cloud hosting desktop solution. A hosted desktop service, also known as Desktop as a Service, or Daas, is essentially a cloud-based service designed to enable the functioning of a desktop environment on a virtual machine hosted on the cloud. Here is what that can mean for any company that uses technology to operate.

Hassle-Free Access

Regardless of the time or location of your employees, a hosted desktop service allows them to access all necessary desktops in the most seamless manner possible. They can enjoy this browser-based access to all desktops and apps with optimal security, too.

Security that Counts

Only those who you want to have access will be able to use this feature as Point North Networks can implement multi-factor authentication, proven compliance levels, and more.

Locally Managed Facilities

You’ll want your IT partner to be able to provide services made and certified to simplify moving your infrastructure to the cloud. Point North Networks’ hosted infrastructure is wholly built and managed by our engineers in our own data facilities in Minneapolis, Eagan, and Kansas City.

Reduce your Operation Costs

High-end desktops and laptops for all your employees add up enormously. Using a locally managed data center for a monthly fee is a much more affordable cost.

Data Loss Elimination

Hosted desktop environments should be backed up several times a day and contain at least 90 days of retention storage to allow you to quickly restore files.

Run Any Application

Don’t have Microsoft Office suite on the device you’re using? No problem, a hosted desktop solution can even run Cad Applications.

Stay Compliant

You won’t break any rules with the right hosted desktop solution. Your provider should follow all the right security controls so that you can follow the rules even when handling controlled unclassified information data.

Contact Point North Networks today to implement a cloud hosting desktop solution for your business.

3 Tech Tips to Improve your Hybrid Work Environment

Hybrid work environments are the new reality for companies all over the world. After functioning a couple of years in the work-from-home environment, employees have formed their location preferences and it seems no company can please all of them. What does please everyone, however, is flexible options that actually make switching between the office and work from home totally seamless. Here are 3 ways you can improve your technology to make the best of your hybrid workspace.

Make your most-used applications work on a web browser

Point North Networks has solutions that allow companies run Windows applications on Web, iOS, Android, and ChromeOS without the need to install or configure any client-side software. Your employees don’t even have to bring their work computers home, they can access these applications from any device and continue to multi-task and even print from wherever they may roam.

Move your infrastructure to the cloud

Long before a pandemic shook the world, it was still important to give team members a way to access their network from anywhere. Now that it’s necessary for so many, technology has just made it easier and more secure to do so. There are remote desktop solutions that can mix browser access to VDI, VM’s or RempoteApps as well as Unix machines. Point North Networks has private cloud hosting services that make remote access safe.

Increase your project security

So many IT leaders are skeptical about the security of their data when they don’t know where or when their team is accessing it, which is a legitimate concern. Luckily, remote desktop solutions are advanced enough to have authentication processes in place to enforce policies by either groups, users, or devices. You can set Single-Sign-On schemes with a number of identity platform options or use protocols to create a 2FA experience.

Do you need to improve your hybrid work environment that is still adjusting and evolving in many ways? Contact Point North Networks today to improve your IT setup.

What to Look for in a Good IT Consultant

Companies everywhere and of all sizes are bringing in IT consultants to better evaluate the efficiency and effectiveness of their existing operations. A good IT consultant wants your business to succeed and will identify opportunities for you to save money while exceeding objectives. Here are 3 qualities to help you decide whether a consultant is the right fit for your business operations.

Good IT Consultant

They keep up with digital transformation

A good IT consultant knows that technology changes constantly and that they cannot afford to recommend the same thing year after year. They have to keep up with change and seek out opportunities to improve upon systems your company has adopted, even if the change did not happen long ago.

Good IT consultant

They have years of experience

It goes without saying, but the most seasoned IT consultants utilize their tech expertise for the better, always. As frequently as technology might change, a lot of the same problems ring true for companies over the years, especially growing pains. A good IT consultant has helped companies get through the most common problems time and time again, even if the way he or she has done so has evolved.

They communicate

If you have a good IT consultant, you shouldn’t be left guessing whether your business operations are set up in the best way possible. Your IT consultant should instill confidence in your systems and be checking up on them frequently. A little bit of communication and knowledge-sharing goes a long way, especially when it comes to your business’ technology.

Contact Point North Networks to start talking to an IT consultant today.

Network Vulnerabilities

3 Common Network Vulnerabilities

Network vulnerability is an increasingly hot topic that companies of all industries and sizes need to be paying attention to. However, only a minority of small businesses consider their ability to mitigate cyber attack risks as effective. Network vulnerabilities come in a number of forms, but here are 3 common ones that we at Point North Networks help people navigate and/or avoid every day.

Malware

Malware is malicious software that is installed on a machine or a host server. They can come in the form of Trojans, viruses, worms, and more. If your system is infected with malware, it might run slower, randomly reboot, or start unknown processes. It most frequently occurs through a phishing email that encourages a user to take an action like clicking a link or downloading an attachment that has malicious code.

Misconfigured firewalls

A firewall serves as a buffer between the internet and your internal network. They act as a defense to your online traffic. When your internal network gets exposed, hackers can easily compromise your traffic and steal your data. A great way to protect your network is by regularly performing firewall penetration tests to make sure your controls are effective.

Social engineering

A social engineering attack fools users into giving up personal information like their logins to a number of accounts. This is where internal users pose the greatest security risk to an organization and employees need to learn to recognize these threats. These attacks also come in the form of phishing emails and a number of other methods including whaling, pharming, tailgating, dumpster diving, and more.

Point North Networks is your trusted IT partner for empowering your business against malicious threats. Contact us today to get started.

is your PC ready

Is Your PC Ready for Windows 11?

Microsoft has officially unveiled Windows 11, the latest in its line of PC operating systems, as well as detailed its system requirements. Will your business be upgrading to Windows 11 when the time comes? We think a lot of it will depend on its current IT infrastructure and whether or not you meet the minimum requirements right out the gate. Let’s dive into the details and what you need to know about Windows 11.

First, a short disclaimer–Windows 11 does not release until fall of this year, and even if you can’t get your hardware up to speed before then, Windows 10 will remain supported until 2025. As for the hardware requirements themselves, that seems like a good place to start.

Windows 11 Hardware Requirements

Before we dive into Windows 11’s requirements, let’s first provide a little bit of context. The current system minimum requirements for Windows 10 are a 1GHz processor, either 1 or 2 GB of RAM, depending on whether you are using a 32 or 64-bit OS, and a display with at least a 800 x 600 resolution. Of course, these are bare minimums. You won’t get much mileage out of a PC with these specs.

 

Windows 11, on the other hand, has more stringent requirements for its operating system. Windows 11 will require a 1GHz multicore processor, but it doesn’t have to be top-tier to run the operating system. In terms of memory, Windows 11 will also need more of that as well; at least 4 GB of RAM will be required to run Windows 11, as well as 64 GB of onboard storage. Furthermore, the display requirements are also a bit higher, needing a resolution of at least 720 pixels.

 

For more on the specific requirements of Windows 11, check out this document from Microsoft.

 

For the most part, modern PCs won’t have an issue running Windows 11, but for now, we don’t recommend installing it on a PC that you need to use everyday for work.

Get Ready for Windows 11 Today

While Windows 10 will still be around until 2025, we want you to start thinking about your update strategy now. The reason for this is simple; you don’t want 2025 sneaking up on you out of nowhere (and trust us, it can and will sneak up on you if you let it). The last thing you want is to wind up in a situation where you are using an unsupported operating system in much the same way that many Windows XP users did all those years ago.

For Help, Contact Us!

If you can’t tell the difference or don’t know the difference between your various components and hardware specifications, we would be happy to help you make a determination about your current system specs. If you want to make sure your business can seamlessly transition to Windows 11 upon its release, Point North Networks, Inc., can help with the acquisition of new hardware, installation, and monitoring/maintenance. To learn more, reach out to us at 651-234-0895.

 

communication tools

Businesses Have Access to These 3 Powerful Communications Tools

What kinds of communication tools does your business utilize on a daily basis? Chances are that your communication infrastructure can benefit from some of the latest and greatest solutions on the market. Communication is one aspect of your business that you definitely do not want to skimp on, as failing to implement the proper tools can bleed into other aspects of your organization, including operations and, in return, your bottom line.

Here are three technology solutions that all small businesses should implement for their communication infrastructures.

Email & Instant Messaging

We know what you’re thinking—obviously a business needs email to communicate properly both internally with its team and externally with clients and vendors. However, we urge you to reconsider the way that your email solution is currently set up. Do you host it yourself on-premises? Is it properly secured? Can you access your work email on any approved device? Are you able to access it through the cloud? These are important questions to ask for the sake of productivity and efficiency. We at COMPANYNAME recommend that you work with us to set up a cloud-hosted email solution so that your business can focus on maintaining operations rather than managing an email server.

 

Instant messaging is another great tool that modern businesses can leverage to great effect. It’s perfect for moments when you don’t want to wait for a response to an email or for more urgent matters. That said, you need to be careful with how you implement instant messaging, as improper setup and training can turn this great productivity tool into a distraction.

Intranet Solutions

Consider this scenario: have you ever been neck-deep in a project only to find that important documents detailing the process for a certain task simply cannot be accessed for some reason? Unfortunately, this is often the case; documents can get scattered all over, and some employees simply won’t know the needed workflows or how to access certain accounts. This is why an intranet solution is such a valuable tool.

 

An intranet solution is a great place to house internal documents for helpful information such as workflows, portals to various services or tools you utilize on the regular, and more. Don’t discredit the value of having a single place you can go to locate just about everything your employees need to succeed in their day-to-day duties. Think about it as the “single point of contact” for any resources your employees need.

Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP)

Similar to email, all businesses have a phone solution that they use for both internal and external communications. The unfortunate truth, however, is that the landline is a tool of the past. Whenever you have to add a user to the network, you have to run new phone lines, hook up new hardware, assign extensions, and so much more. This makes for a solution that is not growth-friendly and can work against your business’ interests.

 

VoIP has the potential to change the way your organization handles telephony in the workplace. Essentially, it takes your entire phone infrastructure and shifts it to the cloud where it can be accessed on any device through a desktop or smartphone application. This allows you to use your work phone number to make calls on a personal device through the Internet. All of the features of traditional telephony solutions are present here (and completely scalable), including call forwarding, routing, conference calling, and even some features that might not be present in your ordinary landline, such as video conferencing, IMs, and more.

 

Not sure how to get started thinking about your own business communication infrastructure? Point North Networks, Inc., can work with your organization to implement the best tools for its specific needs. Don’t wait any longer; get started with a phone call to Point North Networks, Inc., at 651-234-0895.