The Computer Peeps proactively monitor and maintain all of the computer systems for Michele @ Repeat Street in Mississippi. In addition to Repeat Street, Michele also owns Orange Peel and Revolution Consignment.
The primary/database server PC @ Orange Peel started triggering File System Corruption alerts:
Now, File System Corruption can happen outside of hardware failure (e.g. sudden system shutdowns, no battery backup in-place, etc.) but we also monitor the hard disk health. Shortly after the system started triggering File System Corruption alerts, it triggered a sudden and severe Disk Health drop:
The drive is reporting Bad Blocks as well. So combined with the age of the drive (~4 years), File System Corruption, and the clear drop in health, this hard drive is on its way to imminent failure.
This is where a system that’s not monitored, would turn into the following:
‘Out of the blue’ system failure.
Given the age of the computer, we opted for replacement. This system is the database server for Orange Peel, serving data to both itself, as well as a secondary inventory intake workstation.
All of The Computer Peeps’ MiniPeep consignment computer systems are built-to-order. This system will be utilizing a 250 GB Samsung EVO mSATA SSD, 8 GB of Crucial Certified RAM, and an Intel i5 processor. We perform a clean installation of Windows 7 Professional 64-bit on each system, install all system drivers, install all Windows Updates, and properly harden the system via Peeps’ Configuration Protocol, utilizing a combination of Group Policy and industry-standard best practices. This ensures the system remains running perfectly without the concern of “Did an employee change/do something?” and it also is a requirement of the PCI DSS.
We’ve just released the new v2.08 for Peeps’ Consignment & Resale Software! We continue to enhance, update, and improve based on store owners’ feedback + our own over-attention-to detail. 🙂 We know we’re the only consignment software company that stays up late at night, thinking about how we can improve this, enhance that, make this easier, make that perfect for every store, etc.
I wish someone could sit in my seat all day and see just how many calls The Computer Peeps get that seem to be issues with consignment software, tag printers, receipt printers, etc…only to find, it was a power-related issue.
Power — it’s essentially everything. In a consignment store, you might not always have the *best* power available. Whether it’s a limited amount of outlets, older buildings with older wiring, or outlet location (which means things like jewelry case lighting, vacuums, fans, etc. are plugged-in where computers are plugged-in), power-related issues are probably one of the most common calls we receive.
First, here’s a list of some do’s and don’ts:
Avoid those cheap, white, plastic power strips (notice I didn’t call it a surge strip) like the plague. Many of them don’t work and if you have thermal tag printers, thermal receipt printers, and/or laser printers plugged-in to these, they can easily be overwhelmed, which causes your printers to stop working…which depending on your consignment software, causes it to crash or misbehave.
Don’t use extension cords for printers or computers.
Make sure each computer is on a managed battery backup — i.e. one that has a USB cable and software that will email you when there’s a power alert. This alone, has helped us identify issues such as printers plugged-in to a battery backup, so we can help our customers avoid bigger issues down the road.
Never plug-in fans, printers, lamps, vacuums, or anything other than your computer, its monitor, and its USB hub to a battery backup.
Your electrical setup is your foundation. On top of that, your computers, printers, and consignment software all reside. Unstable/overloaded/unreliable power = unstable/unreliable systems. All of the above can lead to Windows damage (which means your computer is down until Windows is repaired/restored/reinstalled), or even hardware damage…and if backups aren’t in place, now we’re talking about losing data, consignor info., sales history, etc.
If you do have to use a surge strip, The Computer Peeps recommend something like this APC SurgeArrest — notice it’s rated for over 3,000 Joules.
For battery backups, The Computer Peeps recommend CyberPower in conjunction with their PowerPanel Business Edition software. Furthermore, label your battery backup like this — you’d be amazed how many issues this prevents:
We also include, at no additional charge, off-site backups via Backblaze:
In addition to The Computer Peeps’ custom written suite of consignment software database backups + file-level backups…
We also include Macrium Reflect at no additional charge. This provides a complete system backup each night, keeping a minimum of 15 days’ worth of backups, so any file, or even the entire system can be recovered in one-click:
And even though we have multiple, automatic disk health monitors with alerts in-place, we manually test our clients’ hard drives + alert them to any aging issues — i.e. if systems are over 3-4 years old:
We also alert our clients to any battery backups that have been in service for over 3 years:
Our goal being, to keep storeowners’ systems up and running 100% of the time and to be able to instantly recover any file, or the entire system itself.
We are the only service provider that guarantees your data is backed-up and guarantees your systems are secure and free from infection.
We’ve been managing and maintaining systems for consignment and resale stores for nearly a decade and working with consignment stores for nearly 15 years. We do this not only because we are paid to do so, or because our reputation is at stake — we do this because we take great pride in knowing our clients — fellow business owners — are able to run their businesses successfully and free from worry @ backups, security, PCI compliance, and up-time.
The most common complaint I hear about computer systems is, “My computer is slow!” There’s the usual litany of items that can cause this, including:
Too many programs running
Most computers either aren’t properly configured from jump, or aren’t well-maintained. Those that are though can still seem slow at times. Even with a decent amount of RAM and even if you have an i5 or i7 processor, take most any modern-day consumer or business-class system and it can still *feel slow*. You’re simply not going to be able to tell the difference between a system with an i3 and an i5, under most circumstances.
It’s Your Hard Drive
So what’s slowing things down? Chances are, your hard drive is slowing things down. Traditional hard drives consist of a series of platters which rotate. Much like a record player, an arm moves back and forth across the surface of the spinning platters. Spinning isn’t instantaneous though, so there can be delays while the disk spins-up. Then, that little arm has to move around to read/write data. Think about what it’s like when you put in a CD or DVD – it literally has to spin up before you can begin using it. Hard drives work in the same manner.
Since all of your files, data, and programs reside on your hard drive, you *feel* the slowness when you open a file, open programs, or work with your consignment software’s database.
It’s Time for an SSD
Leaps and bounds have been made in recent years, allowing hard drive capacities to grow. That’s just it though, the capacities have increased, but not the speed. Thankfully, SSD prices have dropped.
What the heck does SSD mean?
Great question! SSD stands for Solid State Drive. You’ve used and even held similar technology in your hands if you have a smart phone or if you have a little USB flash drive. SSDs are typically the same size as laptop hard drives @ 2.5″ (or even smaller). You can install an SSD in a desktop PC which provides a tremendous performance boost.
We only recommend Intel SSDs:
SSDs contain no moving parts, so unlike traditional hard drives, you don’t have to wait for the disk to spin-up. If you want speed, the final frontier is your internal hard disk. Replacing your traditional hard drive with a Solid State Drive, will give you a dramatic performance boost. Systems with solid state drives typically boot from a cold power-off to a usable state, in 25 seconds or less. Applications launch nearly instantly. There is a substantial difference in perceivable and actual performance, by upgrading to SSDs.
So if your friend, your software vendor, or a local tech recommends a new system, don’t focus on the processor as much as the hard drive. If your consignment software vendor is trying to sell you a computer system, unless it has an SSD, it’s not worth the price. 99% of the time an Intel Core i3 CPU is going to be *more* than fine for what you’re doing. Even an Intel Celeron is fine for POS and inventory workstations. It’s the hard drive that’s going to make or break the system’s performance, so always, always go with an SSD.
I’ll take a system with an i3 and an SSD over an i5 with a traditional hard drive any day.
So, I went to the USPS the other day to drop-off a few packages. While I was there, I inquired about PO Boxes. The clerk handed me a pamphlet with details about how to apply for a PO Box. The pamphlet didn’t list any prices though and instead, tells customers to visit a website for pricing info.:
Seems like a nifty little domain name someone involved in marketing came up with. I first visited the site on my mobile device and got this:
That’s weird, why is the website calling me a ‘UPS Customer’, when I’m visiting a website the USPS told me to visit? While I use Firefox with uBlock Origin ‘locked-down’ pretty tightly @ ads, redirects, etc. uBlock Origin still allowed that fake site through and the redirect to take place. Also, look at the address bar — I’m not at ‘yourotheraddress dot com’ anymore, I’m at some ‘survey’ website. Neat!
When I try visiting that page on an actual computer, using Firefox with NoScript and uBlock Origin, I get the following:
Someone’s clearly tried to make the page look like an ‘official’ shipping website, but that’s a pretty janky looking website — and definitely not the USPS’.
So who owns this domain name? Not the USPS. If I do a whois lookup on the domain, it’s registered at a domain registrar in Shanghai and the server is located in Australia:
While I didn’t detect any immediate malware from these redirects, this is a pretty serious issue. The USPS registered a domain name to use for advertising purposes. In 2011, they forgot to (or just didn’t) renew the domain. Someone else came along and bought it, taking over ownership. That new owner has created a fake shipping website to try and make it look like what visitors expect, when they’re told to go there by the USPS. Ads lead to malware, but more importantly, the owner of this domain can redirect visitors to anywhere they’d like.
So due to the USPS neglecting to keep hold of a domain name they used in advertising, they’ve created a bit of a security hole and are putting customers at risk.
I contacted the USPS directly by phone and they referred me to a customer service department. I was told this new department would be able to look into this and get to the bottom of it. That wasn’t the case though. When I spoke with customer service, they were a bit confused as to what I was explaining and simply asked that I go back to the USPS office where I was first handed the pamphlet, to let them know about the issue.
I tweeted USPS about this as well, but never heard back:
Since the USPS isn’t taking ownership of this issue and since they’re relying on me, a customer, to go around to each of the local post offices to tell them about this, there’s really nothing I can do other than bring this to the attention of those who utilize the USPS — specifically, anyone who inquires about a PO Box and wants to find out how much one costs.
The moral of this story — big companies, even the government, make major mistakes and let simple things fall through the cracks, putting individuals at risk.
Pushbullet is free software which you install on your mobile devices, desktops, and/or as a plugin in your web browser. You can even access Pusbullet online without installing any software.
Once installed, Pushbullet lets you “push” things from one device to another, or one device to ALL devices. You can also send and receive SMS messages from your computer, without ever having to touch your phone. 🙂
How Do I Sign-up for Pushbullet?
Visit https://www.pushbullet.com/. You don’t even need to create an account. You can securely sign-in using your Facebook or Google account. Dead-simple.
What Can I Push?
Text, pictures, and links. As mentioned above, you can also send and receive SMS messages from your computer.
Pushbullet also has Channels you can subscribe to, to receive alerts from your favorite companies. See The Computer Peeps’ Pushbullet channel below. 🙂
How Can I Use This In My Consignment Shop?
Maybe it’s just a message. Let’s say, you’re at home and you remember, “Crap! We didn’t put up our sale signage!” You could simply push a quick pop-up to all of the computers at your store, to let your employees know they need to get the signage up before the store opens.
Or maybe an employee is at an in-home buyout and has a question about a set of items. Instead of texting you and you possibly missing the text, they can push the picture with a note to all of the computers at the store. You’d see the pop-up no matter which computer you’re at or which device you’re using. 🙂
Pushbullet also mirrors your mobile devices notifications, so if anything happens on your phone – e.g. new voice mail, a notification from a specific app, etc. it’s immediately mirrored to your computers:
Who the Heck Develops Pushbullet?
A team of developers who are transparent with their product/service and who actively participate in community feedback for both feature requests, as well as bugs. Something the major consigment software vendors could definitely learn from.
Is Pushbullet Secure?
As with any 3rd party service that interconnects devices through the Web, security is a concern. Pushbullet recently added end-to-end encryption. This says a LOT about the company and its developers, considering the consignment software vendors sell their software for $1,000+ and they don’t even encrypt your (and your consignors’ + customers’) data as they upload it from your computer to the Web. 🙁
If you utilize Pushbullet for sending and receiving texts, any images you send are hosted on their servers. Users have raised concerns about both privacy, as well as accessibility. Pushbullet utilizes obfuscation to make ‘guessing’ image names virtually impossible.
Just remember, your Facebook and Google images are also 100% public, so if someone knows the URL, any of your private images are 100% available to the public.
Pushbullet lets you ‘subscribe’ to Channels. So you can subscribe to a Channel and as soon as the Channel posts a new message, blog entry, etc. you’ll be instantly notified on all of your devices!
The Computer Peeps have already established a Pushbullet channel for store owners, so if you’d like to be notified the instant The Computer Peeps post a new blog article, you can subscribe by clicking the following button:
As always, if you have any questions or if you’d like to know how Pushbullet can help your consignment or resale store, feel free to comment below, send us a message on our Contact Us page, or give us a buzz toll-free @ (888) 374-5422.
It’s Saturday. You’re not working at your store today, but an employee is opening and running the store for the day. They go to get online and realize there is no Internet connection. They try to use the consignment software on the computers throughout your store, but they get error messages. The credit card system is down too!!!
Do your employees know how to identify your Internet modem, network router, and any network devices on your network? When we receive a call from a store that’s currently down, one of the first things to check is to see if the modem/router is powered-on and online. Next, is to reboot/power-cycle it.
This is the point where we find most employees do not know where the modem/router is or how to identify it.
Instead of setting your employees up for a crisis, it’s worth setting aside some time to show employees where the following devices are located:
[info_box style=”notice”]Some locations might have a separate modem and router, others might have an all-in-one ‘gateway’.[/info_box]
Maybe print a label for each of these devices and snap a picture with your phone, so you can create a “to do” list if Internet goes down. Just power-cycling these devices, typically resolves most ‘Internet is down!‘ issues.
By empowering your employees with the ability to identify your Internet modem/router, Internet going out won’t feel like such a major issue. 🙂
If you would like The Computer Peeps to help you document your network configuration, give us a buzz at (888) 374-5422!
We’re proud to announce our Consignment Hardware Summer Sale!!! Have you been putting off replacing an old Point of Sale or Inventory Intake PC? Now’s the time to act!
We recently announced our new MiniPeep systems, which are faster, stronger, and more affordable than the alternative.
We currently have 10 of these units available and at this price, they won’t last long!
*Sale ends Friday, June 26, 2015.
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[heading type=”h3″ no_top_padding=”true” underlined=”true”]Summer Special #1 | Budget POS/Inventory PC[/heading]
[highlight]$885 $685[/highlight] – Peeps’ POS w/ 19″ Monitor and a 1 Year Peeps’ Overnight Replacement Warranty. Our Peeps’ Point of Sale systems are fully tailored to suit your consignment software. Peeps’ systems are blazing fast with Solid State Drives (SSDs), as well as compact in design.
System includes a minimum 60 GB SSD, 4 GB RAM and a 4th Gen Intel Celeron CPU
Includes Windows 7 Pro 64-bit + Peeps’ Rescue Discs
Includes a 1 Year Peeps’ Overnight Replacement Warranty – what’s this?
10 USB ports
Suitable as a Point of Sale workstation or item-entry workstation
Includes a clean Windows installation + Peeps’ Configuration Protocol
Includes professional installation & configuration of any consignment software (licenses not included)
Fully configured, from off-site backups, automated consignment backups and system backups, to antivirus, anti-malware software, and enhanced Web protection (licenses not included)
OpenOffice suite with word processing and spreadsheets
Configured as per the PCI DSS
Want touchscreen? Add $300 for a 22″ LCD touchscreen!
You could buy two of our POS systems WITH touchscreen, for the same price as one touchscreen POS system from other vendors!
What is this system best-suited for?
Our Budget POS/Inventory PC is not only perfect for, but compatible with the following configurations:
As a Liberty Point of Sale or Inventory Intake computer.
As a ConsignPro Point of Sale or Inventory Intake computer.
As a ConsignmentTill Point of Sale or Inventory Intake computer.
As a SimpleConsign Point of Sale or Inventory Intake computer.
What this system should not be utilized for:
As a Liberty database server computer.
As a ConsignPro database server computer.
As a ConsignmentTill database server computer.
And don’t let anyone tell you, “Oh, it’s a Celeron.” 🙂 With a 4th gen Intel Celeron, combined with a Solid State Drive (SSD), this system is plenty-capable of running any of the major consignment programs for Point of Sale or Inventory Intake.
If you have any questions or would like to place an order, please call (888) 374-5422.