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In this issue: Announcing Sentinel; The latest on operating systems; Tip o' the day.
MacAtoZ LLC
February 2015 MSS Newsletter

Announcing Sentinel

MacAtoZ is proud to announce Sentinel, an ongoing service program offering 24/7 Macintosh monitoring, maintenance, and security. Boy howdy, do we think it's neat! 

Sentinel is designed for home users who want to spend their time using their Mac—not updating, fixing, or protecting it. We're not saying you're nuts if like to tinker with your Mac's hardware or software, but if so, Sentinel is not the service for you.

On the other hand, if you want to simply use your Mac without having to update and manage it, Sentinel provides 24/7 proactive monitoring, maintenance, and security of your Mac so that you, the home Mac user, can worry less and enjoy more.

Why Sentinel?

The computer support industry has operated for years on what's called the "Break-Fix" model: a computer has a problem, the user calls us, and we come out and fix it. This is a reactive process, meaning (1) it's not much fun because people call while in a crisis and (2) something that might have been a small problem initially often ends up as an enormous problem by the time the computer consultant arrives on the scene. (One example we hear frequently: "It's been running really slowly for a few weeks.") If only we could have known about this when the issue started....

With Sentinel, we can.

But that's just monitoring—being notified of a problem. What if we could also proactively solve issues? What if we could run the appropriate maintenance routines, upgrade software automatically, run a malware scan, fix common disk errors, test memory, repair permissions, and more? And what if we did these things when your Mac was idle, so that you weren't interrupted in the work you want to do? (Awesome, right?) 

With Sentinel, we can.

Security is an increasing problem, even on a relatively secure platform like the Mac. When we set up Sentinel on your Mac, we create an Administrator account that we manage, and we reduce the permissions of your account to that of a Standard user. Should you accidentally get malware on your Mac, the reduced permission set of a Standard account will help prevent it from completely wiping out your system. Sentinel also uses Apple's xProtect anti-malware system, automatic Security update system, and ClamAV (antivirus) to guard your computer. Sentinel monitors both your local Time Machine backup and your offsite backup systems to ensure they are current. We turn on FileVault 2 (if not already enabled) and store the Recovery Key for you. We also store User Account and local Wifi passwords in case you forget them. Our goal is to affordably secure your Mac.

With Sentinel, we can.

Requirements

- Your Mac has to be running one of the latest three OS X operating systems (Mountain Lion 10.8, Mavericks 10.9, or Yosemite 10.10). Since Apple only issues security updates for these versions of OS X, we cannot maintain the security of your Mac if you are running a different version.

- You need to commit to have a local Time Machine backup and an offsite backup (typical cost ~$5/mo)—something we can set up for you if needed. In short, we won't have your data being lost on our watch.

- Membership in our MacAtoZ Service Suite (MSS) remote support program (starting at $49/yr + one-time $20 set up fee) is required. That's because it may be necessary to help you ASAP should there be a malware issue or other time-sensitive problem. 

- If you have a Mac laptop, you must have a Virtual Private Network (VPN) service (~$3/mo). We've seen multiple clients hacked because they didn't use a VPN. We won't have that happen to you. 

 

Who is Sentinel for?

- Residential clients. (We have a separate program for businesses.)

- Clients who just want their Mac to work; they don’t want to tinker.

- Clients who want to “do it right” and want the peace of mind that comes with having a professional Information Technology company oversee your computer.

Cost

- Single Mac: $29/mo with one-time $10 setup fee (billed automatically to any major credit or debit card)

- Family plan covering all Macs in a household: $39/mo with one-time $20 setup fee (billed automatically to any major credit or debit card)

Sentinel has no contract. You may quit at any time.


Beta Testers Wanted

Although we've run a similar corporate program for over a year, we want to make certain that Sentinel gets off to a proper start for home users. For the first month, we're going to run a 10 person beta program, gather feedback, and make sure that everything is running exactly as we anticipate. 

We currently have only seven beta slots left. If you're interested in participating in the beta, please contact us as soon as possible. (Beta testers will get a month of Sentinel for free, have the Sentinel setup fee waived, and receive a free year of our MSS remote support program.)

Unless the beta reveals some show-stopping problem, Sentinel will formally launch in March. 

 

The latest on operating systems

Since last month Apple released iOS 8.1.3 and OS X Yosemite 10.10.2. Users of iOS 8 will want to upgrade to 8.1.3 when convenient, unless you're already on 8.1.2 which we believe is better. Our testing has shown 8.1.3 to be a reasonably good but not as stable as 8.1.2 for iPhones, iPads, and iPod Touches. Like much of Apple's recent software, it's not an OS without flaws, but if you're already on iOS 8—excepting 8.1.2—it's worth moving forward. 

The OS X Yosemite 10.10.2 upgrade has had a few hiccups, mostly with the installation. Assuming that it will install for you—it won't for everybody, though presumably Apple is working on that—it appears to be an excellent upgrade. It has fixed the persistent wi-fi bug that otherwise caused Yosemite to be a hair-pulling experience for many people (myself included).

So here's how things stand: For security reasons, OS X 10.6 and 10.7 users should upgrade to Mountain Lion (10.8), Mavericks (10.9), or Yosemite (10.10) immediately. Mountain Lion can be purchased from Apple for $20. Mavericks is unavailable (though if MacAtoZ comes to upgrade your Mac, we can put it on your machine), and Yosemite is available from Apple for free via the Mac App Store. 

If you're already on Yosemite, you should upgrade to 10.10.2.

If your Mac is running Mountain Lion (10.8) or Mavericks (10.9), you should know that the most egregious bugs of Yosemite have likely been squashed by the 10.10.2 release. You may now upgrade relatively safely if you wish, but if you prefer to wait for the 10.10.3 release, that's certainly a reasonable stance. 

Please contact us (503-507-0410) or support@macatoz.com if you should wish any help upgrading your Mac's operating system. We've done a lot of them!  
 

Tip o' the day

One of the great features of 10.9 Mavericks and 10.10 Yosemite is Dictation. On a good day, I type around 70 words per minute, and Brittany is in the 80-90 wpm range, but Dictation is faster than either of us. 

Put your cursor in a text field (like in Pages, Mail, TextEdit, Word, etc.), tap a button twice (the Function key by default), speak your words including punctuation, then tap the same button once to stop. Your Mac will take your speech and convert it to text both quickly and relatively accurately. 

To enable Dictation, go to System Preferences > Dictation & Speech then click Enable. You can also enable Enhanced Dictation for offline use and continuous dictation with live feedback. 

Give it a try!
Apple Consultants Network
MacAtoZ LLC provides technical support, upgrade, installation, networking, training and tutoring, web design and hosting, and remote support services for Apple products like Macintosh computers, iPhones, iPods, and iPads. Ty Davison, our senior technician, is the only Apple-certified, Apple Consultants Network 
member serving both residential and small business clients in Oregon's mid-Willamette Valley.

MacAtoZ also provides Social Networking consulting services, providing help to individuals and small businesses with FaceBook, Twitter, Tumblr, and more. 

MacAtoZ has been providing computer services for clients in the Salem area since 2006 (and since 1999 as SiteRev.com). Our technicians are certified by Apple and carry $1 million in business liability insurance. We frequently present and are well-known at the Salem Macintosh Users Group (SMUG). You can count on us.

At $120 an hour, MacAtoZ offers one of the lowest Apple certified on-site rates in Oregon. Our innovative remote support program, the MacAtoZ Service Suite (MSS), also provides a wide-range of remote support features at incredibly low-prices.
MSS

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