Thursday, December 11, 2014

New Article: Protection from Ransomware

There’s a lot of talk going around about the newest type of malware called ransomware. I just released an article for publication that addresses how to make certain you are protected from this potentially costly nuisance, and you can see a copy of it on our website here:

I hope you find it helpful!

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

2015 Standard Mileage Rates Announced by IRS

Today the IRS announced the 2015 Standard Mileage Rates for 2015. They are:
  • Business Miles:  $ .575  (up from $ .56 in 2014)
  • Medical & Moving Miles:  $ .23 (down a half-cent from 2014)
  • Charitable Miles:  $ .14 (unchanged)

Friday, November 14, 2014

MBS' Recommended Backup Strategies

A client recently asked why we spec the backup solutions we do. It was a great question!

First, let me say that anytime you get ten network engineers in a room and ask for the best way to do something, you'll likely get at least ten different answers. That doesn't mean they're all wrong, just that based on each one's experience a particular strategy has become their preference.

MBS' Recommended Backup Strategies
We did some fairly heavy research not too long ago on the subject of backup systems. There are lots of possibilities, but we found that tape was still preferred by most of corporate America that had small-to-medium sized networks-- and even some very large systems like digital media archives.

Here's what we learned:
  • Large networks rely on SAN devices (Storage Area Networks) in larger onsite and offsite datacenters, and their replication capabilities make backups unnecessary. Those devices typically cost a minimum of $25-$30 thousand each, and larger units cost six figures. (Some people try to accomplish SANs on the cheap using Drobo and Buffalo drives, but they're unreliable; in our opinion they're not enterprise grade.) For our largest clients we recommend using SAN devices.
  • Online backup is good for restoring single files or folders, but is inadequate for restoring entire servers in a disaster. And disaster recovery is something that must be planned for. This is the strategy we only recommend for our friends' home computers.
  • External hard drives seem like a good idea except that they have many moving parts that, when transported offsite (which should happen often as part of the disaster recovery plan), can-- and often do-- fail. The manufacturers will replace them under warranty, but without any data on them; not good if that happens during a disaster recovery scenario. We never recommend this strategy.
  • Tape technology continues to move forward in development. Our clients typically only need LTO5 or LTO6 (Linear Tape-Open) specs (1.5tb and 2.5tb native capacities), but LTO7 - LTO10 are slated for release. I'll be surprised if they get there, however, because an organization with that much data will usually be at the size where they're investing in SANs.
MBS' Datacenter
In our datacenter we use SANs that send their backups to another enterprise-grade device called a NAS (for Network Attached Storage) that has large capacity. We use that strategy in the datacenter because we're not there to change tapes on a daily basis.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

2015 ChMS Article Posted!

Every year I get the privilege of writing an article that lists the leaders of the church and donor management software providers. There are a few other similar ChMS selection tools available, but this annual article is the most referenced tool out there! Perhaps because of its comprehensive simplicity. Perhaps because of its objectivity. Definitely because of The Lord's favor.

The Church Network (formerly NACBA) is the publisher, and they do a great job with it! It's also published by other publications and associations, and I post a copy on my firm, MBS's website.

If you'd like to see a copy of the article, here's a link to it on MBS's website:!

Monday, November 3, 2014

iOS 8.1

Apple released iOS 8, then iOS 8.0.1, then iOS 8.0.2. And that was good.

Then they released iOS 8.1, and it was very good! I recommend upgrading as soon as you can! And if you've got an iPhone 6 or 6+ or one of the newest iPads, you get to enjoy secure purchase transactions via their excellent Apple Pay app! (see for more info on Apple Pay)

Friday, October 31, 2014

New Article about CITRT - The Community of Church IT People

Most people who work at churches and ministries are in behind-the-scenes positions. There is a group of these modern day heroes of The Faith who focus on IT that began gathering as peers in 2006 to and encourage each other. They have formed the Church IT Network, and their impact is huge!

If you'd like to read this article, click here!

Monday, October 20, 2014

OSX 10.10 - Yosemite

Apple released the latest version of their Mac operating system last week, OSX 10.10, dubbed Yosemite. It is the second version of OSX after the big cat series (Tiger, Leopard, Snow Leopard, Lion, Mountain Lion), and like it's predecessor (Mavericks) is a free update. But is it ready?

A Little History
Mavericks (OSX 10.9) was free, but made a lot of folks unhappy with the file read/write issues it had. Apple tried to fix them, but never did. So we recommended skipping over Mavericks unless you couldn't avoid it ('cause you bought a new Mac) or because you needed to use an app that required it.

Yosemite may be ready, but it's too soon to tell. Files seem to open faster, and that's good! But even though files open more quickly, it seems to use a lot of memory, and so far we've seen some system crashes. Let's give it a month and see if it stabilizes, and see if we can give it a thumbs up.

Update (10/31/2014)
I'm running into the following issues which Apple has not yet been able to resolve:
  • Though files open a little faster than in Mavericks, I still see a lot of spinning color wheels that weren't there with Mountain Lion and its predecessors. It has been suggested that the way I connect to the network may be the cause, so I have ceased connecting to our network and only work locally now. Still, the issue persists.
  • Apple thought they found the cause in my sound setting bouncing from device to device, but it still happens. I think the issue may be related to me having two Thunderbolt Displays daisy-chained together, but that is an acceptable configuration with Apple.
  • Talking with colleagues, the problems they are seeing is printer drivers and some apps.
So, upgrading from Mavericks is probably okay (check out your printers and third-party apps for compatibility, though). But if you're on Mountain Lion or Lion, I suggest waiting this out for a bit to see if it improves.

Update (11/19/2014)
I've installed 10.10.1, hoping for significant improvement. The same issues persist, but I've also seen enough of a pattern to identify another. Preview often crashes when opening PDFs, and sometimes cannot print. Opening the same files in Acrobat works without error. I think they may have broken Preview...

Update (4/21/2015) - Go For It!
The update to 10.10.3 seems to have solved most issues, and I think folks can finally move forward! Files that open with native Apple apps, like Preview, open at a reasonable speed now, and that is key. Files that open with non-native apps (Microsoft Office, Adobe, etc) take longer than I'd like, but I think Yosemite is finally good to go!

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

No More Fax!!

I am so excited to announce that we no longer have a fax line! w00t!!

For years 99+% of fax traffic into our office has been junk fax. But there were a couple of clients that still preferred to communicate with us via fax, so we had to keep the fax phone line up and running. We cut our line costs by switching it to a service via (we were able to keep our original fax phone number), and they would email us incoming faxes. But guess what! Those were almost all junk too! Which makes sense, really.

Today we got word from those last clients that preferred fax that they could switch to sending us scanned attachments via email instead. So I wasted no time and cancelled our fax service! I feel so free!!  ;)

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

New Article on Video Calling

With video calling technology so prevalent and, truly, at most of our fingertips, why doesn't it take off? Why don't we see (pun intended) more people making video calls?

Click here to read my brief article on video calling!

Friday, September 26, 2014

iOS 8.0.2 -- Thumbs Up!

We've been testing iOS 8 and, with the latest update (8.0.2) like it!

The one feature I like more than any other is the ability to use an add-in keyboard. I like the Swype keyboard a lot, and with the most recent update, find that it works as well as it did on my Android! Nice!

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

New Article: Digital Wallets

I've been using digital wallets for many years; they're terrific! Having all of my credit card, ID, and password information with me at all times is very convenient. But it can also be dangerous, so how do you accomplish that safely?

Click here to read my brief article on this important topic!

Saturday, August 23, 2014

IT Can Be Amazing!

Yesterday our team had a scheduled maintenance day in our datacenter. Our goals were rather large:
  • Remove two retiring Dell PowerEdge Servers (R710s, 96gb RAM, 4-Core Processors)
  • Add three new Dell PowerEdge Servers (R620s, 128gb RAM, 8-Core Processors)
  • Increase RAM in two 1-year-old R620s to bring them up to 128gb
  • Expand RAM in our VCenter Server to 96gb
  • Apply firmware updates to all hardware
  • Shuffle everything in the rack
  • Move the entire Hypervisor system (the basis for our private cloud computing infrastructure) from VMware 5.1 to 5.5
Our intention was to do this live, with approximately 100 client servers and services running. We were in different locations around the country as we worked on this project:
  • I was the only one at the datacenter, about 12 miles south of Las Vegas, NV
  • Gary, our lead engineer, was in his office in Nashville, TN
  • Rick, one of our engineers, was in his office in Milan, IL
  • Ed, one of our engineers, was in his office in Columbia, SC
We had a plan, we had each prayed for God's grace and wisdom, and we began at about 7:15am Pacific time. We had a GoToMeeting conference call session running the entire time, so we were in constant communication via our telephone headsets and could share screens when helpful. It was as though we were all in the same room together!

I had emailed each of our clients earlier in the week, so I knew we were being prayed for. And God was merciful; he delivered! Here are our company tweets throughout the day (so clients would know how it was progressing):
  1. I am in the datacenter, staging the upgrade!  (8:26am) [This was a little more than an hour after getting to the datacenter, unboxing the new servers, and getting them to our rack.]
  2. One old host (#1) is out of the rack! Its space has been filled with two new hosts, currently in place and being configured.  (9:15am) [A physical server, when used the way we use them to serve clients, is referred to as a host.]
  3. 1st new host is live! Servers have been moved to it and it's/ they're happy!  (11:18am)
  4. 2nd old host is out of the rack! Configuration of 2nd new host in process.We're making good progress! 2 old hosts retired, 2 new hosts configured and running. 1 add'l new host in and ready to configure!  (12:14pm)
  5. So far, zero downtime for our clients. w00t!!  (2:06pm)
  6. Well, always plan for the unexpected in IT! One of the hosts that is surviving this update just had a redundant power supply issue! We're on it!  (4:24pm)
  7. Ok... the three new hosts are running perfectly! All servers relocated to them and running happily as we resolve issues on the two 1-year-olds.  (5:36pm) [This is a great testimony to the maturity and power of VMware. There's a reason it runs more than 70% of cloud servers!]
  8. I work with a GREAT team! All issues have been defeated on the two 1-year-old hosts, and we are upgrading their VMware!  (7:14pm)
  9. Whew! We're almost done! Hosts 4 & 5 are nearly done! It's been a great day, and our clients were up and running the entire time! #blessed  (7:45pm)
  10. What a great day! We are done! Just a little load balancing and that's it! Thanks to everyone who was praying for us!  (8:13pm)
And then I packed up my gear and began the nearly 4-hour drive home.

As I reflect, the things that stand out to me are:
  • God's grace and mercy as he worked through our team. Our clients are all churches and ministries, whose mission is the most important work on Earth. He made it possible for our clients to keep about their tasks without interruption while we did all that!
  • The Lord has given us a terrific team! I am truly blessed to be working with these guys.
  • Technology, when it works, is terrific! The fact that we were in different parts of the country and yet were working as though were all in the same room is amazing!

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

New Article on Which is Better: iPhone or Android Smartphones

Yup! I'm entering emotional smartphone NeverNeverLand! If you'd like to read about my evaluation, click here to access a free advance copy of this article I just released to the publisher!

Thursday, July 24, 2014

New Article: Protecting Your Data-- Is It Worth the Hassle?

The value of some church assets is difficult to assess. Personnel, congregational goodwill, and data are just a few examples of assets whose value is usually understood only once it’s gone. None of us would say our data has no value to the organization, but trying to figure out what it’s worth so we can adequately protect it is challenging.

Data is one of the most valuable assets a church has. Protecting it isn’t difficult, but must be approached as deliberately and strategically as fire and security protection.

To read the article (always free!), click here!

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

New Article on Common Church IT Mistakes (Part 1)

I’ve had the privilege of serving The Church as an IT consultant and strategist for many years. In that role I’ve seen a wide spectrum of how churches approach IT and, as you’d imagine, I’ve seen patterns of good and of not-so-good approaches. In this series I will cover some of the most common mistakes churches make in this vital area that impacts church ministry.

To read a free preview of this article, click here!

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

OSX Mavericks (10.9.x) Still Problematic

Last November I blogged about Apple's newest and free operating system: Mavericks. I recommended waiting before implementing this version of OSX (click here to read that post).

Mavericks' third service pak is out (10.9.3), and the problems when opening files still have not been resolved. If you have a Mac and are considering upgrading it to Mavericks, I recommend not doing so unless there's an app that you really need and that requires Mavericks. Otherwise you will be frustrated by many spinning color wheels/ beachballs. And it doesn't matter if the files are local (on your computer's hard drive) or on a network share.

If you're buying a new Mac that has Mavericks on it, it's probably not worth the time and energy to reinstall the OS and go back to Mountain Lion (10.8.x), so I recommend just going with it.

So, I'm sorry to say, it looks like Mavericks may be the Mac equivalent of Microsoft's Vista-- an OS worth leapfrogging.

Friday, April 18, 2014

New Article: Using Technology to Track Worship Attendance


While at a meeting of church business administrators of very large churches recently the topic of taking attendance came up. This common topic challenges most in church management. In this particular meeting, however, someone shared a technological solution they're using that is bringing good results! To see my article about it, click here!

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Church IT Network & Apple

The Church IT Network, sponsor of the Church IT Roundtable (#CITRT), has apparently caught the attention of Apple! In a demonstration of the growing importance of this effective group of church IT people and the indirect impact they are having on people's lives, Apple has decided that all iOS upgrades will now launch ONLY when CITRT events are happening!

Welcome aboard, Apple! Microsoft? Google? We're waiting!

Friday, March 7, 2014

New Article on Surprising Email Facts

There is a surprising vulnerability in email most don’t know about that I’ve written a brief article on. I also included a brief section on how email and internet traffic is routed that may surprise you.

If you’d like to read it, it is freely available on our website… just click this link:

Friday, February 14, 2014

The Most Expensive Thing I Ever Bought

At our church small group last night we were asked what the most expensive thing was we ever bought. One guy said it was his wife's engagement ring. Another said his house, and another said his car. I said it was an ice cream cone!

The Rest of The Story
After my first date with Grace, my wife, I decided we needed to break up. So I went to her apartment the following day and told her. She lived on the third floor of her building, and by the time I was in the stairwell I knew I'd just made a big mistake.

When I got to the ground level I walked out to the parking lot below her open balcony window. I yelled up, "Yo! Grace!" She came out on the balcony to see what I wanted. I yelled up, "Want to go get an ice cream cone?"

Since then that ice cream cone has cost me engagement and wedding rings, our home, cars... and I'm STILL paying!

It was the largest and best purchase I ever made.

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

New Article on What To Do If You Still Have WinXP Computers

Yup! They're still some XP computers out there! And because of Microsoft's announcement about XP's end of support date (April 8, 2014), some folks are panicking!

Here's a link to a brief article I wrote on what to do if you still have some XP computers... click here to read it.

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Fun at the Datacenter!

This week we increased our hosting capacity by 25% and doubled our backup data storage capacity! It's so exciting to see how The Lord is using MBS as a private cloud host for Christian churches and ministries!

MBS is hosting more than ninety servers in our rack after just two years of offering this service to The Church, and we're barely scratching the surface of our capacity! Here are some of our stats; we have:
  • One rack in The Switch SuperNAP datacenter in southern Nevada (four legs of power, 29 internet trunk connections). The rack is about two-thirds full, which means we have plenty of room to add hardware as we continue to grow.
  • Two 1gb fiber internet connections plugged into two cross-connected DMZ switches for HA (high availability). Our peak data throughput volume, though we're capable of 1gb (1000mb-- and can scale to 10gb), is just below 20mb. Lots of room to grow there.
  • More than 500gb of RAM alone!
  • Our Barracuda SPAM Filter 600 processed more than 70,000,000 emails last year! (About 85% were SPAM of some sort and got rejected.)
It was fun going up there and expanding our capacities as we get ready to add more hosting services! We hope that by Valentines Day we'll be hosting data file storage and synchronization that works a lot like Dropbox-- very simple and easy for users, but more secure and private.

Friday, January 17, 2014

New Article on Why Churches Change ChMS Solutions

Churches and ministries change database and accounting solutions at a surprisingly high rate. There are reasons why, and this new articles addresses them and how to improve the future.

Click here if you'd like to read it now for free on the MBS website!