|December 2015 Newsletter
An end and a beginning
Thank you for the opportunity to serve you during 2015. We are so very grateful to have the chance to do what we love to do: Help people with their Apple technology. This has been a whirlwind of a year for MacAtoZ—details below—and much of it has been great.
One concern that has stood out is our need to seriously revamp our residential services.
As you know, MacAtoZ is the only Apple Certified, Apple Consultants Network (ACN) consultancy in Salem. In fact, within about 45 miles, we’re the only ACN members who help residential clients at all. The reason no other Apple-certified professionals help home users is that the business market is more lucrative. From the beginning, I took on the challenge of helping home users because I knew that people needed it. And I still believe that.
After 10 years, we need to make some significant changes to our residential programs and services.
- Throughout 2016 we will be ending the Remote Support/Remote Support+ programs as stand-alone products. We will honor the membership of everyone who has signed up or renewed during 2015 through their renewal date in 2016.
- Going forward all home clients will need to be in BOTH Remote Support ($4/month) or Remote Support+ ($5.75/month) AND Sentinel ($9.99 per month per Mac) or Sentinel+ ($19.99 per month for one Mac—$10 per month for each additional Mac).
- We are extending our 30-Day Free Trial and waiving the account set up fee for all Remote Support/Remote Support+ clients who sign up for Sentinel/Sentinel+ during 2016.
- We will make a one-time exception for new clients so that they can learn about MacAtoZ and so that we can determine if we're a good fit, but otherwise we will only work with residential clients who are in Sentinel or Sentinel+.
- For Remote Support+ clients who are only interested in domain registration, web hosting, and email services, we will continue to provide these services at $69 a year. Other companies may offer a better value since this fee will no longer include remote support services, but we will not cut adrift anyone who would prefer to continue using MacAtoZ for their web services or email.
For those already in Sentinel or Sentinel+ no action is required on your part. We'll contact to you about changing the Remote Support billing from annual to monthly, but there is nothing you need to do.
For those not yet in Sentinel or Sentinel+, we are asking you to spend an additional $10 to $20 a month to protect your Mac. (Or a little more if you have more than one Mac.) It's reasonable to ask why.
With 24/7 monitoring on a Mac we can be alerted immediately when there's a problem. With our ongoing maintenance and security services running on a Mac, many of the problems that we used to have to fix are automatically resolved. This leads to dramatically better outcomes and in the long run can be significantly less expensive in terms of time and money.
Here's an example: If your hard drive directory starts to have problems you may not notice if for months. Eventually you might call us ("the Mac is really slow") and we might do a remote session, determine that, yup, that directory is messed up, then coordinate a time for us to come onsite, make sure you have a recent working backup of your data, erase your drive, re-install the data, and present you with a bill for our time (of several hours).
By contrast, Sentinel+ would have detected the hard drive problem when it happened, notified you and us, and attempted to repair the problem immediately. Assuming it was just a directory issue, Sentinel+ would have solved it, too.
This isn't a random, theoretical example. We have dozens of Macs with this level of protection, and the above scenario happens at least monthly. Without Sentinel/Sentinel+, we can't serve you to the best of our ability and protect the investment that is your Mac and its data. And we refuse to knowingly give our clients less than our best.
For Remote Support/Remote Support+ members, we will contact you before your renewal date about transitioning to Sentinel or Sentinel+.
If you want to make that move sooner, you are welcome to contact us first at email@example.com or 503-507-0410. The do-it-yourself sign up is available at www.macatoz.com/client
Finally, I want you to know that I'm not making these changes lightly. After 10 years, I had the choice of eliminating our residential clients—which I certainly was not going to do—so I had to make it viable for the business to grow, and I had to leave the decision up to you on whether this is important enough for you to stay with us. I truly hope that it is.
Sentinel's hard drive monitoring system just got a major upgrade. We're now using an embedded version of SMART Utility by Volitans Software. This allows Sentinel monitoring to detect hard drive problems with a much higher degree of accuracy than ever before
. This is crucial because we want to know ASAP if a hard drive is going bad so that we can make sure we've got a current backup in place, and make plans for a replacement drive (or warranty coverage if the Mac is still under AppleCare).
Sentinel monitoring, with version 6.4, is now roughly 100-150% faster at checking the roughly 150 data points it looks at every hour. Monitoring wasn't exactly slow before, but who doesn't like more speed?
2015 in review/Looking ahead
We started 2015 by talking to the Salem Mac Users Group (SMUG) about the "no, no, no do-not-upgrade" state of OS X 10.10 Yosemite, an operating system that we could only start recommending mid-year. (Expect the same for El Capitan 10.11, Apple's latest OS X version which is also presently at "no, no, no do-not-upgrade" status.)
We added Dynée Medlock as an Apple Technician & Web Designer, significantly expanding our ability to help clients. To wit, MacAtoZ served more clients in 2015 than in any previous year.
The introduction of Sentinel, our monitoring, maintenance, and security service, started with a beta test. The beta team's feedback led us to lower the price of the service and split Sentinel into two pieces: Sentinel for those who only want 24/7 monitoring, and Sentinel+ for those who want monitoring, maintenance, and security. The feedback from beta testers was enormously positive, and to date every former beta tester is a paid Sentinel+ member—which we think speaks volumes about the value of the service.
We gave our annual Security & Privacy presentation to SMUG in April. It is, unfortunately, always timely, but perhaps never more so than in 2015: The Mac platform saw more malware this year than ever before. We foresee it being as big a problem in 2016.
Dynée gave a presentation on the Changing Face of Healthcare in July. Apple is doing so many wonderful things with healthcare, from AppleWatch to ResearchKit. It's truly remarkable—and also an honor to be associated with such a company.
After about 18 months at Chemeketa's Center for Business & Industry (CCBI), MacAtoZ moved to new offices in South Salem. "Moving Day" of July 30 turned out to be both high temperature and high comedy because at 106 degrees it was the hottest day of the year and one of the hottest of all-time in Salem. We are still telling tales of our strength and fortitude in surviving that day. Truly, it was epic.
We revised our MacAtoZ Service Suite (MSS) in September, changing the name, eliminating Tier 3, and moving all kinds of features from Tier 3 into Tiers 1 and 2. We renamed MSS Tier 1 as Remote Support and MSS Tier 2 as Remote Support+.
We gave our final 2012 SMUG presentation in October. The topic was Photos, Apple's photo storage and editing replacement for the long-in-the-tooth iPhoto and Aperture, the professional photo software that very few people actually used. By and large, we've found Photos to be pretty decent, especially in its upgraded facial recognition.
Mid-December brought the sad news of the death of Tom Cederlind, an ancient coin dealer in Portland and one our longest standing clients. Our work with Tom sustained MacAtoZ in the early years, and his friendship and business acumen will be sorely missed.
Looking at 2016
As was the case at the end of last year, MacAtoZ now serves more clients than at any time in our history. It's thrilling to help so many people, but we're really focused on is how we can serve you better. Getting everyone on Sentinel and Sentinel+ is a big part of that.
We will have some exciting news coming in 2016, and we can't wait to share it with you. In the meantime, our best wishes to all of you for a wonderful holiday season. We are so deeply grateful for your support.
As in previous years, MacAtoZ will be closed for the holidays (from December 23 through January 4). Nonetheless, you should feel free to call (503-507-0410) or email (firstname.lastname@example.org) if you have technical support problems. Although it may take slightly more time than usual to get back to you, we set aside time to help Remote Support/Sentinel clients and remain eager to assist with any issues you may encounter. If Sentinel notices a problem, rest assured that we'll be watching and will contact you during the break if necessary.
El Capitan 10.11.2 update
Short form: The OS X 10.11.2 update bricked a bunch of Macs, leaving them unable to even boot up. So we're obviously still not recommending it, though new Macs have it pre-installed and it seems to do okay generally once it's there. We remain hopeful that the 10.11.3 update, which we think will be delivered in the February time frame, will be something we can recommend. (It's in beta right now.)
In the meantime, Ty will be giving
the January SMUG presentation on El Capitan on January 12 at 7 PM at Comfort Suites on Hawthorne Avenue NE in Salem. Mark your calendar to come hear Ty bemoan what Apple's done with OS X El Cap so far. It's sure to be a can't miss event.